Hampton Court Palace, where some of the alleged offences were said to have been committed.
Hampton Court Palace, where some of the alleged offences were said to have been committed.

On 10th May 1536, Sir William Kingston, Constable of the Tower of London, was ordered “to bring up the bodies of Sir Francis Weston, knt. Henry Noreys, esq. William Bryerton, esq. and Mark Smeton, gent.” for trial at Westminster on 12th May.

These four men, as commoners, were going to be tried by a special commission of oyer and terminer, whereas the Queen and her brother George Boleyn were going to be tried by a jury of their peers.

It is not known whether this message was sent to Sir William Kingston before the Grand Jury of Middlesex met that same day to rule on whether there was sufficient evidence to suggest that Anne Boleyn and the men were guilty of the alleged crimes carried out at Hampton Court Palace and Whitehall, and that they should be indicted and sent to trial, but it was certainly sent out before the meeting of the Grand Jury in Kent.

You can read all about the meeting of the Grand Jury of Middlesex and the indictment they drew up in my article 10 May 1536 – The Middlesex Indictment.

Also on this day in history…

Three years earlier, on 10th May 1533, a special court at Dunstable was opened by Archbishop Cranmer to rule on the validity of the marriage of Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon. On 23rd May, Cranmer’s court ruled that the marriage between Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon was against the will of God, and declared that the marriage was null and void. On 28th May 1533, Cranmer proclaimed the validity of Henry VIII’s marriage to Anne Boleyn after a special enquiry at Lambeth Palace.

Notes and Sources

  • Wriothesley, Charles. A Chronicle of England During the Reigns of the Tudors, from A.D. 1485 to 1559, 201, Appendix, Baga de Secretis Pouch VIII.

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6 thoughts on “10 May 1536 – Bring Up the Bodies”
  1. Remembering these men, I found a poem by Theodore Roethke (1908-1963) called ‘Reply to Censure’, which I’d like to share with you:

    Repulse the staring eye,
    The hostile gaze of hate,
    And check the pedantry,
    Of those inveterate

    Defamers of the good.
    They mock the deepest thought
    Condemn the fortitude,
    Whereby true work is wrought.

    Though just men are reviled,
    When cravens cry them down,
    The brave keep undefiled,
    A wisdom of their own.

    The bold wear toughened skin
    That keeps sufficient store
    Of dignity within
    And quiet at the core.

      1. Yes they had family’s too it’s very very sad, I read in Norah Lofts biography of Anne that Francis Westons family raised a huge amount of money to try to get him released but it was fruitless, how Cromwell slept at night il never know, he knew they were innocent but they had to be sacrificed to get rid of Anne, a bit like the conspiracy theories regarding Princess Diana, it didn’t matter that the driver the bodyguard or Dianas boyfriend were killed as long as she was to.

  2. A lovely poem and so sad. The term bring up the bodies seems to give the impression that the men are now considered almost as corpses without any real rights. Hapius Corpes or remove the body was said to be either to remove a person from prison or to bring out a dead body although a writ of hapious corpes (excuse spelling) could be granted to remove a live person as if they were dead in the eyes of the state. The term used here seems to be treating the men as if they are already dead: it seems very callous and as if they are being treated as if they are already condemned. I also believe the time scale of this arrest, trial and executions of the men and the Queen, less than three weeks is very hasty and suggests that very little investigation other than people being frightened into admissions and questioned seems to have gone on. The evidence could only have been invented and cobbled together and I doubt anyone did any checking either before the trials, the juries or afterwards. What a complete misarriage of justice and I would even bet that had the legal system that was in place been examined; by the standards of the time; it would become clear that not even what so called safe guards there were have been used here. I cannot help but think of the Salem Witchtrials in which none of the normal procedures of law were observed and think this entire process to be a set up and a shambles of justice and law.

    I agree with Claire also, the men are often over looked; we forget that five other innocent people are condemned and accused with Anne and do not know much about them and what happened to them. It is only following a day to day account like this that you can even gleem the information about their imprisonment and ordeals during this time. Historians tend to focus on what was going on with Anne as she is the main accused and the Queen and of course the most well known of the people involved and we are tending to be fascinated with her in any event. And because of this the men, sadly get neglected and mentioned only in terms of the list of names accused with her or at their executions, with may-be her brother George being the exception.

    George Boleyn is focused on as the Queens brother and the most well known of the men; probably as he was tried with Anne and is tied so close to his sister in all of these events and her life in general. But, ironically George is also the focus of speculation because of the unusual nature of the charges facing him; incest with his own sister is particularly a horrifying crime and there are many people who wonder if it was actually true. Of all the men, George’s sexuality gets the most attention and wrongly he has been accused of having sexual relations with one or other of the other men accused. This load of nonsense has tended to draw us away from the real story here: that five innocent men have been accused of crimes they did not commit and their reputations unfairly sullied. Now, they may not have been the most lovely of people, or they may have been womanisers, or they may have been reformers or whatever, but that does not make them guilty of treason or adultery or incest or plotting the Kings death. Neither is there any evidence that can be found to say that any of them are guilty of sexual crimes with each other. This, on the part of a certain historian, is pure speculation. But it seems to be what comes up when looking at the men involved with Anne and not the question of their innocence or what they went through during this 17-19 days of hell and terror.

    Anne’s words were recorded and her every action reported; this gives us details of what became of her in the Tower. But what about the five men? What was going on during their time in the Tower? Apart from a message from his wife; up to now what was happening to George Boleyn? Did the men have any visits? Did they have any contact with family members? What sort of conditions did they stay in? Anne, even in her despair and hysteria, early in her imprisonment asked about the beds that had been provided for them. Where they too wondering if anyone had lied about them or what so called evidence had been used to implicate them in such a shocking series of events? Did George write any of the poems that emerged about these last days during his prison time? Did any of them write to the council, Cromwell or the King? Is there evidence of how they felt or what they said or did but it is lost? It is really sad that the sources are practically silent about the men in the Tower and even worse, apart from the documents of the charges and details of what Anne was accused off and with whom and dates, many of the other documents from the trials and evidence have vanished. For all that history tells us what has gone on about them: they may well have been corpses coming out for trial; save that we know they are alive at the time of the trials, but little else. At least we can remember them.

  3. I totally agree. The men do get ignored to a degree not wholly and fully but to a percentage. The main focus is on the the King the Queen and Cromwell but that is only because they were the main figures in and of it all. We may never know the whole truth or the full truth to the full extent of what happened or what may of happened but even if she and the men were guilty it does not justify what happened to them at the same time. It was an overreaction to it all they were scared in fear there may have even been some jealousy amidst it all and where they all felt under threat. :/

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