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Was Anne Boleyn Innocent?

Posted By on March 25, 2009

If you read last week’s blog, you will know that I am convinced that Anne Boleyn was completely innocent of all charges and should not have been found guilty or executed.

Anne Boleyn in the Tower

War Veteran Fights for Justice

I haven’t gone as far to prove her innocence as Battle of Britain veteran, Wing Commander George Melville Jackson, did in 2005, but I fully support his actions.

Wing Commander Melville-Jackson called on the Home Secretary of the time, Charles Clarke, to pardon Anne Boleyn because he felt that she was “obviously innocent” of treason, adultery and incest, the crimes that led to her being beheaded in 1536.

Mr Melville- Jackson was also asking for Anne’s remains to be moved so that she could be laid to rest alonside her famous daughter, Queen Elizabeth I of England.

Mr Melville-Jackson said of his request:-

“Ideally, I would like her to be posthumously declared not guilty of the crimes she was convicted of because a pardon only means that you are being excused the crimes you have committed…But I got a barrister’s opinion and it seems that we would not be able to go to court to get a judicial review because, after nearly 500 years, there was not much of a chance of being able to come up with new evidence. So a pardon is the next best thing.”

Mr Melville-Jackson wrote to the Queen, the Home Secretary and historian Simon Schama, who has stated that he believes that Anne Boleyn was tried by a kangaroo court, but his efforts were in vain. It seems that we are just too late to prove her innocence. Although there is no way on earth that Anne Boleyn would be found guilty in today’s courts, there just isn’t enough evidence remaining to prove her innocence.

My Thoughts

As I have said before, Anne Boleyn being accused of treason, adultery and incest (even witchcraft) just does not sit comfortably with the evidence that points at Anne being a highly religious woman, a Reformist  and an intelligent woman who knew her husband well. Anne had high morals and was not stupid, there is no way that she would risk committing such crimes.

I cringe at the bit in “The Other Boleyn Girl” where Anne begs her brother George to sleep with her so that she can give Henry VIII an heir to the throne. Yes, I can see that Anne would be getting desperate after two miscarriages, but incest would be against all of her fundemental religious beliefs.

Other reasons why I think Anne Boleyn was innocent:-

  • She had alibis – As I said last week, Eric Ives, a biographer of Anne Boleyn, points out that there is evidence in at least 12 cases, that Anne could not have been with the men that she is accused of committing adultery with.
  • Mark Smeaton was tortured – The only real evidence against Anne was that Smeaton confessed to sleeping with her. However, most historians agree that he was racked and had a knotted rope put round his head, which was gradually tightened (you probably saw that in “The Tudors”), and a confession produced by torture cannot be really trusted.
  • The men pled “Not guilty” – All the men, except Smeaton, pled “not guilty”, and seemed shocked by the allegations.
  • Jane Boleyn’s confession – Before her execution in 1542, Jane Boleyn (Lady Rochford), George Boleyn’s wife, confessed to lying when she falsely accused George and Anne of incest.
  • Cromwell had an axe to grind – Eric Ives, and other historians, believe that Cromwell had to bring down Anne and her family in order to survive. She was a threat to him and to England’s foreign policy.
  • There was no marriage – Henry actually managed to get his marriage to Anne Boleyn annulled before her execution, on the grounds that her sister Mary Boleyn had been his mistress. How could Anne have committed adultery if she was not even married?

Those are just my own personal thoughts combined with historical evidence and the opinions of historians. Please add your own comment on whether or not you believe Anne Boleyn was innocent and why.

Comments on
"Was Anne Boleyn Innocent?"

28 Responses to “Was Anne Boleyn Innocent?”

  1. Danielle Kerby says:

    I think that everyone knows she was innocent. The evidence is irrefutable. The evidence that she was guilty was ridiculous. So she dropped something, and Henry Norris picked it up to give it to her. Those whores! And her told her brother that she was pregnant, so she MUST have had an affair with him! Give me a break.

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  2. admin says:

    Hi DanielIe,
    I know! She was so framed! And how cruel to make her former sweetheart, Henry Percy, cast judgement on her. It is said that he was physically sick after she was found guilty.

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  3. Bassania says:

    While Anne may have been innocent and the trial unfair, it was decided before it even began, you need to realise that in tudor england (by the way, do you think you could put some background information on here. People cannot be expected to get a clear idea, if there is no background.) people were a lot more suspicious (and while henry really should have noticed another finger and a mole on her neck) if the word witch was muttered than it was instant death to the one accused. You may also note that she was also accused of heresy, at the time she may had been of the right faith, but past beliefs were enough to condemn a person, while the country was roman catholic, she wasn’t following that religion, she was reading forbidden books, and forming heretic opinions.

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  4. Bassania says:

    You are focusing on the adultery charges, there were other charges against her!

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  5. admin says:

    Hi Bassania,

    I have mentioned the other charges and, in my eyes, the adultery charges are what it all boiled down to. Anne was accused of soliciting and having intercourse with the four men and committing incest with her brother. It was alleged that she had corrupted the men with gifts, conspired to procure the King’s death (by promising to marry her lovers when the King was dead), holding the King up to ridicule and treason against any issue or heirs from the marriage (“slander, danger, detriment and derogation of the heirs”).

    Other allegations also came out at court but were not actual charges – poisoning Queen Katherine, plotting to poison Mary etc. They were used to muddy the waters and hint at Anne’s dangerous character. Eric Ives in his biography points out that Anne and the men were arrested first and then allegations made up later from Anne’s ramblings and worrying in the tower. Jokes that she had made about Henry Norris being attracted to her and her comment “You look for dead men’s shoes”, and the flirtations of “courtly love” were all used as evidence against Anne and the men.

    I know that there were other charges against Anne, Bassania, but you have to admit that everything really rested on the adultery.

    As far as the Tudor England background was concerned, yes, people were more suspicious in those days. I am constantly adding to this blog and will be giving more information on Tudor times. Regarding heresy, Henry was also reading these books and actually used arguments from these books to break with Rome.

    Thanks for your comment. I love to hear other people’s opinions and ideas on what you’d like to see on the site.

    Claire

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  6. Paul says:

    Anne was guilty of not producing the male heir.
    She was guilty of being highly spirited and cowed to no one, not even Henry. The genes that produced one of England’s greatest soverigns were not Henry’s alone.

    That’s probably all she was guilty of. Perhaps if she had been meeker, Hernry would have just found a way to divorce her.

    Execution of Anne and her brother (and the other poor saps) was really a travesty.
    Anne probably will never be pardoned by the Royals of today. They live in a fragile world themselves and if they started turning over bones and reconstructing history, they could resconstruct themselves right out of the role they currently hang on to. For similar reasons, don’t expect them to step up for DNA tests. No telling what surprises might be revealed.

    So things will have to remain as they are. I personally would carefully locate Anne’s remains in the Tower Chapel and move them to a special place of reverance near those of Elizabeth in Westminster Abbey. But it won’t happen.

    Ha, even the burly Beefeaters at the Tower glance away when asked about Anne’s guilt. They are much quicker to pounce upon Catherine Howard.

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  7. Claire says:

    Anne definitely deserves a pardon. We know from historical evidence and sources that the evidence used at the trial was fabricated – a confession taken under torture, dates that just don’t add up, a witness statement retracted later (Jane Parker) etc. I don’t think it will ever happen but we can carry on with what we’re doing, educating people about the truth about Anne Boleyn.

    I think I would actually leave Anne’s body alone. I think she is at rest at the Chapel and her soul is not there anyway. Let her resting place stand as a testimony to her story.
    Thanks for the comment, Paul.

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  8. Kate Jones says:

    Re moving her body ………..if this had been her or Elizabeth’s desire then it would have been effected during Elizabeth’s Reign let her rest in peace whatever her story ……it is interesting of all the executions at the time many of which would have been through falsehood and chance through people’s desire to progress at all costs, that Anne has captured the imagination so perhaps because she was one of the first when Henry’s England stepped away from the more usual course of courtly love

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  9. Claire says:

    Hi Kate,
    I agree that Anne should just be left at rest. I think it’s the fact that Anne was Queen that has made her stand out. It must have shocked the whole of Europe when Henry executed one Queen and quickly married another!
    I’d never thought about England stepping away from courtly love but you’re right, Anne’s death which was due to courtly love being “twisted” would have affected this old English tradition. Interesting!

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  10. Karl says:

    First, Anne Boleyn was a queen who God loves. I, too, think she is innocent – of all charges. I guess it was really her time to die. If she didn’t then she wouldn’t be as famous as she is now. And we would not see her as a great queen who is strong, decisive and indisputable. It is of no doubt we all look up to her. The strength of her soul did not die with her beheaded body. She got her head chopped off but at least it was ordered by the Henry right? A man so powerful who was probably intimidated by such a strong woman.

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  11. mandie says:

    anne should be pardoned. the only crime she committed ( if you can call it such ) is that she did not have a son.

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    Rebecca Reply:

    Yes, and the utter irony is that today we know that the father is responsible for the sex of a child!!

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  12. Lucy says:

    Hey,

    you raise some really good points about Anne Boleyns innocence.

    I was wondering what book the Eric Ives thing was from…about 12 claims of alibies?

    Also, do you know of any historians who agree with the murder of anne boleyn and that she was guilty and why?

    Thank xx

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  13. Claire says:

    The Eric Ives book is “The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn”, which is an excellent biography of Anne and is very fair and balanced. Most historians now believe that she was innocent and was framed by Cromwell but G W Bernard has a book coming out in April I think (Anne Boleyn: Fatal Attractions) and he does feel that Anne may have been guilty of something, it will be an interesting read.
    Thanks for the comment, Lucy!

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  14. Carole says:

    Yes. I completely and 100%ly agree with you. Anne Boleyn was an innocent woman.
    Another piece of proof was her last confession. Since she was so religious, why would she lie to a priest? As is today, anything you confess can not be used against you. She would’ve confessed the truth. She was innocent of all charges. The only treason she commited was not producing what the King wanted.

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  15. Dinah says:

    Carole, you have a valid point, but allow me to play devil’s advocate. You say that “as is today, anything you confess can not be used against you, at least not in a court of law… so why lie to a priest?” Well, since her last confession would never and should never be known for obvious reasons, how can one say whether this is proof to her guilt or innocence?

    I bring up another point that I have read. Henry trusted his advisers and his advisers would have done everything in their power not to disappoint the King on pain of execution. The fact is that whether Henry knew that Smeaton for example had been tortured or not, the confession came from Smeaton’s lips. I quite agree that this would not stand up in a modern court of law, but the laws of Henrician England were quite different and the general opinion of the time was that the devil himself kept Smeaton quiet for so long and that only physical pain would bring out the truth. Therefore confession under duress was not only acceptable but necessary in a superstitious world like that of Henrician England just as it would have been during the Spanish Inquisition.

    As for the accusation of incest. It is true that Anne and her brother were close. But perhaps so close that it could be misconsrued as incest, even if there was no intercourse. Their public displays of affection would have been proof enough if indeed my last statement is true. But I guess the only one’s who really knew the truth were Anne and her brother and they will or have answered for that already – I mean at the pearly gates.

    It might be a good idea that others who wish to comment further on this subject should first consider the social dynamics of the time. I of course refer to the charge of treason. It is unlikey that Anne acted solo; she would have been following orders from her father, uncle and even her brother as was befitting of a girl or woman of the time. Girls from a young age were taught that they were inferior to men and so odedience to men would come as second nature once the girl had hit adulthood. This I believe is enough to prove her not guilty of treason because the intention of committing such a crime would have come straight from whoever Anne acted under. Both her uncle and father had reason to proceed in this way. Cardinal Wolsey and his allegience to France, which was rumoured to be above that of England and the lack of progress of the Reformation. A man listens to his lover, so placing her in his bed, so to speak would seem the obvious choice after all, they had already tried with Mary, Anne’s sister and failed because she was meek unlike Anne who clearly had strong and convincing arguements.

    I have read a fair amount on this subject and based on the evidence I have seen and theories I have supposed, I can say with all confidence that Anne was not guilty of the charges against her because the evidence is not beyond all reasonable doubt as a modern court of law would ask it to be. The very fact that everyone on this website has comments on the subject would appear to prove that there is doubt regarding the evidence put forward at her trial.

    I personally do not think it a good idea to exhume her remains as to do so would not only be disrespectful but also the equivalent of removing the Statue of Liberty or Nelsons Column. Perhaps it would be better if a monument were errected instead celebrating the juxtaposition that is the search for justice.

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  16. Roy B says:

    I am neither an historian, nor an authority on the Tudors, which may be the reason why I am so puzzled by the whole affair. Firstly, did Henry really believe Anne to be guilty? Although his actions have been described as monstrous, I find it hard to accept that he condoned the framing, in order to be free to marry Jane Seymour. He did, after all. rid himself of Anne of Cleeves without resorting to such drastic measures.

    Equally puzzling is the number of treasonable acts with which Anne was charged. If Henry simply wanted rid of her, a single act of adultery would have sufficed. There were clearly other forces at work, and other people who wanted, for whatever reason, to blacken her name so badly that incest was included. Perhaps the conspirator’s hatred of the Seymour family was an influence.

    Finally, Anne was executed by the sword, because the king felt that the common axe should not be used to execute a queen. Would he have accorded her that honour, if he believed her guilty of all the crimes with which she was charged?

    After much reading, my own conclusion is that Henry really did believe her guilty of adultery, but not on the scale alleged.

    Henry has been described as an, intelligent and powerful monarch. Could it be that he was easier to manipulate than is generally supposed? Certain factions wanted rid of Anne, Henry’s infatuation with Jane Seymour gave them their chance. and Henry was weak (yes weak) enough to let them have their way.

    By the way, the waters have been muddied, don’t you think, by all the films and TV series?

    .

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  17. julie says:

    There is no doubt that she was innocent! The worst of it as I can see it that her remains still lay almost unmarked in a grave within the tower walls. The only crime she was really guilty of was not prodcing a male heir. Had Henry Viii had a crystal ball he would have seen that although Elizabeth was a girl she was a far stronger monach and left the country at the time in a most prosperous state!

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  18. Shell says:

    She is Innocent!!!

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  19. Leanne says:

    My sister in law is distantly related to the son of Mary Boleyn and I can say Ann was 100 percent innocent in all charges against her. I believe she was set up by certain members of the kings chambers. !!!!!!

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    Bethany Reply:

    I’m sorry, but are you using the fact that your SIL is related to the son of Mary Boleyn to support your believe that Anne Boleyn was innocent?

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  20. Angela says:

    Of course Anne Boleyn was innocent, she was a highly intelegent woman, and would not have went behind the kings back, especially in a court where everyone was watching for her to make a mistake, Anne truely loved Henry.

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  21. Annette says:

    I personaly believe Ann was innocent. Her sister-in-law was jealous of her, the fact she was a reformer in her religous beliefs also made her enemies. Also I think King Henery probably deep down thought she was innocent, because he let her be beheaded by a French swordsmen which was more merciful, but Catherine Howard went under the ax.

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  22. Athina says:

    Personally, I believe what happened to Anne was unfair and completely ridiculous. A few confessions aren’t enough to prove someone guilty; yet, I have to remind my self that this was the 16th century and back then thats all the had. But to be honest I think even the king himself new she was innocent. Back in the day he would have moved the heavens for that woman; there is no way he didn’t love her. But a male heir was more important than anything which could have lead to him believe all the rumors were true. Of course, Cromwell must have had a say in the matter as well, along with Anne’s other enemies at court including Charles Brendan.

    Whether guilty or innocent, I still admire Queen Anne and think that she plays a massive role in the way England has turned out today. Her intelligence, her determination, her love and her wit are characteristics women in the 21st century dream of having.

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  23. Rebecca says:

    I think you would all be interested to read C.J. Sansom’s “Dissolution”. I was interested to read in this about Anne Boleyn being framed for adultery with Cromwell as the main conspirator. It inspired me to look at what the accepted belief about her is and whether she was innocent or not. it eventually led me to this page!!

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  24. BanditQueen says:

    I think that Anne began to be in danger as early as the Spring of 1535. Henry’s relationship with France began to suffer at this point as Henry failed to have the Ambassador from Francis agree to a marriage contract between their daughter Elizabeth and his second son. Anne felt that she was being betrayed and spoke in some desperation with the French Ambassador asking him to speak up for her as she feels that she id in danger if he does not. I know it is a very strange request but there is some gossip at least that Anne had been unstable since losing a child earlier in the year. She began to think that she was being set upon by enemies all around her and that the King would abandon her to make Mary heir to the throne again. For some reason Anne was afraid of Katherine at this time and did not feel that she could have a child while both of them were alive. There is no evidence that Anne did any harm or wished any harm to either Mary or Katherine, but she was afraid of a conspiracy to remove her.
    Henry may have quarreled with Anne over the death of Thomas More and over other policy changes that he had made, and there is some evidence that she fell out with Cromwell over the monastic houses.
    Although Anne and Henry went on to the progress around a variety of religious houses in 1535 and this was a triumph according to David Starkey; Anne still had enemies and for some reason it seemed that this last pregnancy was somehow her last chance. Anne was clearly pregnant with the King’s son by the end of the progress and her position should have been safe. The death of Katherine of Aragon in 1535 January 7th should have made that position even stronger, but Henry was looking elsewhere and had an extra marital affair probably with Jane Seymour, that was to turn out to be more than just another affair.

    Two incidents happened that then turned the tables on Anne: Henry had a jousting accident on 24th and Anne was told that the surgeons believed he would die. He was out cold for 2 hours and it was a terrible injury. Anne was frantic with worry. She then may have come into the room also and found Jane on Henry’s knee. This is a colourful story and may also only be gossip. On 29th January 1536 a distressed Anne went into premature labour and miscarried of a male fetus, according to Nicholas Sander which was a mass of flesh and so may be hard to identify as such. Henry was angry and distressed but he refused to talk to Anne until she was well. A distraught Anne then pleaded with Henry but he walked out and she was left feeling abandoned.

    This was the turning point: Henry clearly now believed that his marriage to Anne was not going to provide him with a son. He wanted an annulment and he indicated to Cromwell that he believed his marriage was bewitched and he would take another wife. Yet for some reason Henry was slow on the uptake going down this road. Three months later he had still not done anything to rid himself of Anne. However, by April Henry was now in love with Jane Seymour and seeing her regularly in the presence of her family.

    It is indicated by several authors that a conspiracy may have existed led by Cromwell to bring Anne down. He had been approached by the Imperial Ambassador about a new alliance with the Emperor. In his opinion Anne would stand in the way of such an alliance. Cromwell had also seen that Anne also objected to the Emperor’s request that Mary be restored to the succession and that she stood in the way of peace. Chapryrs and Cromwell seem to have come to an accord and also formed an alliance with the Seymour clan. Cromwell had another falling out with Anne over public policy in which she threatened to have him executed. Anne had to go and since Henry was slow on the procedure for an annulment there was only one other way to get rid of her. Sinister as it may seem, but in the eyes of Cromwell and others Anne had to die.

    But how? Simple, Anne had a lot of young men around her and kept a happy court with dancing and lots of parties. She flirted and was not guarded in her speech. She had made some very silly comments recently to one of them Sir Henry Norris and according to de Carlos there were rumours about Anne started by the wife of Francis Weston, when she was accused of being a whore: Elizabeth called the Queen the same thing. Cromwell could make a case out of all this by turning rumour into accusations. He started an investigation with Henry’s consent and then after questioning Mark Smeaton a musical person in her household. He accused others and arrests were made. Cromwell made a case against five men including her brother and the Queen and the men were tried. True or not, Henry was convinced of the truth of the charges and so were the lords of the jury. They were all found guilty and the rest is history.

    Anne was innocent but with Cromwell determined to set her up she did not stand a chance. All five men where also linked or supported the Boleyn faction at court. This may have been a purge. I know that the conspiracy theory is not popular but there is something in it. It is the only thing that explains why Henry waited five months from the miscarriage of his son to May to arrest and proceed against Anne. If he wanted rid of her why did he not start divorce proceedings at once. Now his own laws where in place it would have been easy to find grounds for a divorce in England and to pay Anne off so she did not make trouble.
    Where the Boleyns still too powerful in Jan-April or had Henry still remote hopes of a reconciliation and another child? His words in January had been spoken in anger and grief, so he could have changed his mind about an annulment. He had also arranged to go to France with Anne on May 4th and insisted on her being recognised as Queen although that may have been a smokescreen to conceal his true intentions. In any event I believe that Anne was set up for a fall as Henry had now decided that he was fed up with Anne, wanted to marry Jane and Cromwell was only too ready to arrange things. He had his own agenda and Anne was in his way: he wanted to remove her and he put his plans in place to ensure that she was not going to get away with it.

    It was treason to slander the Queen so Cromwell took a big risk. That is why he had to ask so many questions and even use torture to get information out of so called witnesses to help him to prove that Anne had not just committed adultery, which was not a crime punishable by death, but had committed treason. He also made a case that Anne had planned to get pregnant by one of her lovers and had so put the future of the succession in danger by passing the child off as Henry’s heir. Cromwell also tried to prove this amounted to Anne and at least one of her lovers plotted the King’s death or at least spoke about it. Under the treason act of 1534 it was treason to imagine the King’s death and this plot clearly would be doing just that. So a disgruntled Cromwell may have come up with a very elaborate but plausible plot to kill the king and marry a lover in order to get rid of the woman he now saw as a danger and a liability.

    Anne may have been innocent but she was set up for a fall because she was vulnerable after the death of her last child. Her paranoia also gave Cromwell food to help bring her down and the jury that were chosen were her enemies waiting in the wings. In some ways her own fears and predictions had sadly and perversely come true. If Anne feared she would die and was not safe: may-be it was because she was not; and when the time came; the laws put in place to protect her from slander where used to undo her. She was the victim of her own paranoia: Cromwell knew she had fears and nightmares: his plots and conspiracies, and the web he spun to trap her just fed into them. In a world in which Anne was watched and suspected and unpopular then she was not able to find anything to defend herself or to find anyone to defend her. The movement against her was simply too strong, and Henry was too much in love with Jane Seymour to listen to anything that may have shown Anne as innocent. He was clear now that he wanted out of the marriage and did not care how it happened. The charges of treason and adultery just made it that much easier.

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  25. Paris says:

    I believe Anne Boleyn was innocent, but apparently Jane Boleyn never said ‘I die today for the witness I bore against my husband and Queen Anne. The things I testified to then were not true.’ The French ambassador stated that Jane gave a ‘long discourse’ and a merchant named Otwell Johnson said that she apologised for her ‘many sins,’ but neither man’s accounts supports the later legend that she spoke at length about her late husband or sister-in-law.
    Jane Boleyn really fascinates me, I wish that there was more information on her. I’ve always wondered what her relationship with George Boleyn was like. . . But like many things we’ll never know.
    :)
    Anyway If Anne was stupid enough to sleep with someone I’m sure it wouldn’t be her brother, even though he was a person she could trust.

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  26. Clara says:

    I believe Anne was innocent but the reasons for her downfall are incredibly complex. I don’t believe it was engineered by the Henry VIII for want of Jane Seymour as the incident in the chapel just a few days before Anne’s execution suggests that Henry VIII staged a political coup where the Spanish Ambassador was forced to recognise her as Queen despite calling her a whore. Why would Henry VIII have been planning her removal if at the same time he was staging an event where Spain officially recognised her as Queen, thereby strengthening her position.

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