1 May 1536 – A fun May Day joust turns sour – The Fall of Anne Boleyn

1st May was the day of the annual May Day joust at the Tudor court and 1536 was no exception.

The jousting began at Greenwich, and all seemed happy and normal, but a storm was brewing. The leaders of the challengers and defenders would soon be arrested.

Find out what happened at this joust, including King henry VIII leaving abruptly with his groom of the stool…

Here is the transcript:

1st May 1536 was the day of the annual May Day joust, which King Henry VIII and his wife, Queen Anne Boleyn, attended at Greenwich Palace.
George Boleyn, Lord Rochford, the queen’s brother, led the challengers and Sir Henry Norris, the king’s groom of the stool and good friend, led the defenders. Lancelot de Carles, secretary to the French ambassador, describes in his poem on Anne Boleyn’s life and death how everything seemed perfectly normal and happy at first:

“The King was amicable with everyone,
And touched them with his own hands,
Cloaking their impending ruin.
Seated high up, the Queen watched
The combatants, and often sent
Her sweet regards, to embolden the heart
Of each of them to become the champion.”

He writes of how when Norris’s horse refused to run that the king stepped in and offered his friend his own horse so that he could compete. However, all of a sudden the king got up and left the joust, heading for Westminster and taking Norris with him. George Constantine, one of Norris’s servants, describes how the king interrogated Norris on their ride and “promised him a pardon in case he would utter the truth”. But, as Constantine says, Norris “would confess no thing to the king”.

Had the king heard of Anne’s conversation with Norris, the one in which she’d mentioned “dead men’s shoes”? It’s hard to know. But Norris was taken to the Tower of London the following morning.

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