Posted By Claire on October 28, 2009
I think we are all guilty (or perhaps you’re not!) of glossing over the men who were executed for adultery with the Queen and just concentrating on Anne Boleyn, after all, we don’t set up websites about these men, write books on them or write to the Queen asking for pardons for them, but, as I said last week, they were all innocent victims too.
What were they guilty of? Nothing apart from being friends of Anne, members of the Boleyn faction and a threat to Cromwell and his plans for the future.
It has been a wonderful journey these past few weeks researching these men and finding out who they really were, and today I’d like to introduce Sir Francis Weston to you, the man who got missed out of “The Tudors” series!
Who was Sir Francis Weston?
It is thought that Sir Francis Weston was born around 1511 and so was only 25 when his world came crashing down and he was executed for adultery with the Queen. He had worked his way up from being a page, a job he obtained in 1525, to being a gentleman of the Privy Chamber, a position which he took in 1525.
Sir Francis Weston was the son of Sir Richard Weston, a former Under-Treasurer of the Exchequer, and Anne Sandys who had been one of Catherine of Aragon’s ladies. In 1521, Henry VIII gave Sir Richard Sutton Place, a beautiful house and estate near Guildford in Surrey, and this became the Weston family home. In May 1530, Sir Francis Weston married Anne Pickering, the daughter of Sir Christopher Pickering, and the couple went on to have a son, Henry, in 1535. At Saffron Walden Museum, in Essex, you can see a beautiful oak marriage cupboard which bears portraits of Anne and Francis, and the portrait which accompanies this post, which is found at Parham Park in Sussex, is thought to be of Sir Francis Weston because it is of “Weston Esq. of Sutton, Surrey”.
As a gentleman of the Privy Chamber, Weston was often chosen to sleep in the King’s bedchamber and attend to the King’s every whim, and historical sources show us that he was a favourite of both the King and Queen (Anne), a friend of Lord Rochford (George Boleyn), a member of the rising Boleyn faction and a popular man of the King’s court. He was also a talented lute player, a first class athlete and often played tennis, bowls and cards with the King. In fact, in 1532, the King paid over £50 out to Anne Boleyn, Sir Francis Weston and Sir Francis Bryan in card games.
At Anne Boleyn’s coronation in 1533, Weston was made a Knight Companion of the Order of the Bath, showing that he was a royal favourite and on the rise.
Quotes about Sir Francis Weston
George Cavendish, Wolsey’s biographer, says of Weston:
“in active things, who might with thee compare?”
Thomas Wyatt, Weston’s contemporary and a man who was also imprisoned, albeit briefly, in the coup against Anne Boleyn, said that Weston was “pleasant” and “well-esteemed”.
Both Cavendish and Paul Friedmann, Anne Boleyn’s biographer, wrote of how Weston received a number of grants and pensions from the King, showing what a favourite he was, and Cavendish commented that Weston was “daintily nourished under the King’s wing”.
As well as praising Weston’s athletic abilities, Cavendish also wrote about Weston’s not so wonderful traits:
“Weston the wanton…that wantonly lived without fear or dread,…following his fantasy and his wanton lust” and said “hot lust kindled the fire of filthy concupiscence”
Thomas Wyatt wrote in his poem “In Mourning Wise Since Daily I increase” (a poem about Anne Boleyn’s fall):
“Ah! Weston, Weston, that pleasant was and young,
In active things who might with thee compare?
All words accept that thou diddest speak with tongue,
So well esteemed with each where thou diddest fare.
And we that now in court doth lead our life
Most part in mind doth thee lament and moan;
But that thy faults we daily hear so rife,
All we should weep that thou are dead and gone.”
Sir Francis Weston: Libertine, Ladies’ Man or What?
If we are to believe Retha Warnicke, then Sir Francis Weston and the other four men arrested, tried and executed in the coup against Anne Boleyn were all known libertines. Warnicke writes of how “libertines were expected to move in a progression from adultery and fornication to buggery and bestiality”. If we are to believe Philippa Gregory, who used Warnicke’s text to research “The Other Boleyn Girl”, then Sir Francis Weston and George Boleyn, Lord Rochford, were lovers. But is there any truth in this.
As far as I can tell from my research, there is no historical evidence to back up the idea that Weston was Rochford’s lover or that he committed the sin and illegal activity of buggery. We cannot even prove that he was a ladies’ man, although it is thought that he may have had an affair, or at least a flirtation, with Anne Boleyn’s cousin and lady Madge Shelton. In the Tower on 3rd May 1536, when Mrs Coffin, who had been asked by Cromwell to attend Anne and act as spy, told Anne of how Weston was being interrogated, Anne “said she more feared Weston” because he knew Henry Norris’s feelings for her. She then went on to tell Mrs Coffin about a conversation she’d had with Weston on 24th April when she had reprimanded him for flirting with Madge, who was betrothed to Norris, and when she wondered aloud why Norris had not married Madge yet Weston replied that Norris “came more to her chamber for her than for Madge”.
It strikes me that Weston was a normal man of Henry’s court – a popular man who was friends with the King, Lord Rochford and Sir Francis Bryan, a flirt who loved to play his part in the ritual of courtly love, a family man from a distinguished family and a trusted man servant to the King. Nothing more, nothing less.
In my next post, I will look at what happened to Weston when Cromwell decided to move against Anne and her faction and also what happened to his family.
- “The Lady in the Tower” by Alison Weir
- “The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn” by Eric Ives
- “The Rise and Fall of Anne Boleyn” by Retha Warnicke
- Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII
- Parham House and Gardens, Sussex