Sir William Brereton

I have written two articles about the life and fall of Sir William Brereton, one of the men who was executed for adultery with Anne Boleyn. He was not a Jesuit priest sent to assassinate Anne Boleyn, as “The Tudors” portrayed him, so find out more by reading the following articles:-

  • Sir William Brereton Part 1 – Who exactly was Brereton? What was his position at court? What was his reputation and what was his connection to Anne Boleyn and the Boleyn faction.
  • Sir William Brereton Part 2 – An article examining the allegations against Brereton, his arrest, trial and execution, and the consequences of his fall from grace.

9 Responses to “Sir William Brereton”

  1. Verity says:

    That Anne was unjustly convicted on trumped-up charges of the vilest kind and murdered by her monstrous and tyrannical husband is certainly true but that she ever loved Henry is disputable. She was a highly intelligent, manipulative, ruthless and politically motivated woman who kept Henry dangling for seven years, the price for her surrender being Queen Katherine’s crown and nothing less – as, doubtless, you know.

    The penalty for a woman convicted of treason was to be burned alive. The penalty for a man was to be hanged and eviscerated whilst still living. A lesser end rested on the king’s pleasure! None spoke out upon the scaffold – and who could blame them? The full penalty could be exacted at the last moment upon the whim of the King, He just needed an excuse to regret his ‘mercy’. All of them, apart from George Boleyn, Lord Rochford, had estates and families to protect and none more so than Anne herself. She needed to protect the life and dynastic rights of Elizabeth. Hers was a brave, touching, eloquent and extremely generous farewell to her murderer, a man responsible for the deaths of over 23,000 people! She was a hard political realist who failed in her ultimate ambition and paid the price. The very qualities that so captivated Henry initially, he came to loathe ten years later. No princess with powerful relatives, she! You have to admire her courage and resolve but as relentless ambition drove her, she knew the pitfalls but felt they did not apply to her and so it is impossible to feel sorry for her, although entirely possible to feel sorry for the manner of her end. I have to say that it is her victims, both real, to whom she was pitiless, and those unintended, that I regret; Queen Katherine and Cardinal Wolsey, harried and hounded to their deaths, Thomas More et al and all those murdered and despoiled during the Dissolution of the Monasteries. Lives shattered, laws broken and religious belief tossed aside and all for her. If Henry had died following his catastrophic fall in full armour, his horse having landed on top of him, (thus rendering him deeply unconscious for over two hours, during which time he was reported to have died), Anne may have been made regent for Elizabeth, who at that time was the heir to the throne. Certainly her uncle, Norfolk, would have moved quickly to take the throne using Elizabeth as a pretext. She was, too, carrying a child that proved to be a boy. It is fair to assume that she would have moved quickly to kill Mary, the true heir. She had, after all, tried hard previously to encompass her death.

    I feel very sorry for Simon Weston, only 25 and father of a baby son, her brother, Henry Norris, the king’s best friend, William Brereton and poor Mark Smeaton. Their deaths were not her fault but she was the cause and the cause, too, of many others for whom she expressed no regret. Her end was, indeed, a great tragedy and a huge affront to the rule of law and natural justice – given how basely it was accomplished and who died with her, but she played the game, played it well but overplayed her hand in the last analysis. Love? What’s love got to do with it? Theirs was not a romantic idyll but a cold-blooded and implacable progress driven by self-obsession on both sides that stamped on the face of the nation and cost the lives and happiness of those closest to them. I see her for who she was and I view her with both admiration and distaste. The irony is that she did, in fact, succeed dynastically in granting Henry his greatest wish and need. She gave him a prince who was arguably the greatest monarch in English history. He just happened to be a girl.

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    BanditQueen Reply:

    I think you mean Francis Weston!

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  2. eoghan brereton says:

    sir william brereton is one of my ansesstors

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    Kat Dudley Reply:

    Me too! His father, Randall was my 16th great grandfather.

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  3. Helen says:

    There is an area or village in Cheshire called Brereton. What connection has this place with William Brereton the groom of King Henry V111? And why has this same man the tiltle of ‘Sir’ in many writeups?

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    Ole Brereton Reply:

    The son of William built the house along with queen Elizebeth.
    I am a direct descendent of William as well. There are many of us.

    Ole Loftus Brereton

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  4. Judi Turner-Buzer says:

    I have just traced my lineage and I am from the Brereton line too. The family are named after the location Brereton, as in those days people didn’t really have surnames, so they would use the place they came from or occupation as surname.

    Knights had to meet several criteria, including land and wealth to be made and retain their knighthood. And the Brereton line had significant wealth right through the 1500s and beyond. Therefore they were able to maintain their titles :-)

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  5. Glyn Hall says:

    My half brothers are direct descendents of Sir William Brereton who was beheaded.
    The crest of the Brereton family is a bears head. However, after the execution, Sir Williams line of the family had a muzzle placed on the bears head as their crest.
    There is a pub/inn/hotel in the village of Brereton called the Bears Head.

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  6. Pamela Johnson says:

    I am also descended from the Breretons, one of the most prestigious families in medieval England. There is great controversy about them because their lineage includes Ada de Huntingdon as wife of Ralph Brereton, and there is a tomb in at St. Mary’s Astley with effigies of Ada and Ralph Brereton, as well as next to them two others, a knight (Wiliam Brereton supposedly) and a churchman (Gilbert Brereton) who was rector of St. Mary’s for many years. The Brereton’s have used the coat of arms of the Royal House of Scotland since 1285; the royal house had been slowly been exterminated by Henry III and then Edward I, through murder, poison, dispossession of lands, etc. Henry was kept Ada’s son captive (called a “ward”) throught his youth to his majority. He only lived for years after that. Ada’s father, David Canmore, Earl of Huntingdon, had made a treaty with Henry in 1244, part of which stipulated that his family would not be subjected to English courts, as hereditary laws were different in the two countries, and he probably knew what Henry was up to. Ada was married until 1250 to Henry Hastings; here is where the dispute lies. After Henry Hastings died in 1250, Henry III grabs her lands and titles to hold for the heir in his captivity. There is already much war going on the border with Scotland. Ada’s brother, John le Scot has died of poison at age 30, and so it leaves the 4 sisters as the heiresses. At this point Henry said he would not let the women inherit Scotland,, as they had the right to do, and Ada’s vast estates are transferred to the Crown. She is never declared dead, just land transfers (which one historian claims prove her death, I dispute, especially since she has a dated tomb and entire clan in Brereton). The Brereton family claims she then married Sir Ralph Brereton. Ever since, the English crown has recognized their incorporation of the royal Coat of Arms of Scotland in the Brereton Coat of Arms. This is key, because the king had to award letters of patent, which are confirmed in the 14th century, for them to be able to use this coat of arms. By this time I suspect Ada is running for her life, but Ralph is a very powerful marcher lord, and they are far away from London. There are two sons next to the tombs, ibid.
    So down the generations to Henry VIII and why an old, paranoid king had to get rid of William Brereton. Because everyone knew who he descended from, and he was very powerful among the Marcher Lords who were like princes unto themselves in northern England, and could have posed a real threat to Henry’s sucession. He was 50 or tereabout when Henry had him executed, not a young man like in the Tudors.

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