10 May 1536 – Queen Anne Boleyn to stand trial

On this day in history, Wednesday 10th May 1536, just ten days after the first arrest, the Grand Jury of Middlesex convened. Their foreman, Giles Heron, son-in-law of the late Sir Thomas More, announced that they had decided that their was sufficient evidence to suggest that Queen Anne Boleyn, Sir Henry Norris, Sir Francis Weston, William Brereton, Mark Smeaton and Anne’s brother, George Boleyn, Lord Rochford, were guilty of the alleged crimes carried out at Hampton Court Palace and Whitehall Palace, both in the county of Middlesex. The accused were to be indicted and sent to trial.

Two other men had been arrested and taken to the Tower of London, Sir Thomas Wyatt the Elder, poet, courtier and diplomat, and Sir Richard Page, a gentleman of the privy chamber, but no mention was made of them in the indictments drawn up.

What were the charges laid against the queen and the five men?

You can click here to read the Middlesex indictment listing the charges.

Three years earlier, Queen Anne Boleyn was pregnant and under a month away from her coronation and on this day in 1533, Archbishop Thomas Cranmer opened a special court at Dunstable to rule on the validity of the marriage of Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon. Click here to read more about that.

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13 thoughts on “10 May 1536 – Queen Anne Boleyn to stand trial”
  1. This is something we can never know but I am curious how many of these men in their hearts knew or had a strong suspicion that the charges were untrue but also knew if the verdict went the wrong way their heads would also roll. This whole proceeding was a bad joke.

    It is reported that Norfolk teared up when the verdict was read. From the things I’ve read about him I think this had less to do with his niece being condemned to death than his concerns about his own future.

  2. Not only would she need help to arrange all of this but to procure all of these men daily she would need an excessively aggressive sex drive, time and energy. She had to be in two or three places at the same time, leaving the Palace without being missed, probably with at least one attendant for safety, for London was a dangerous place and she would probably be assaulted or worse if she was alone at night and her ladies had to help her to leave or receive men who also had alibis for the dates on these Indictments.

    Much of this I have said in my previous post yesterday, but Anne was meant to have risen from childbirth and had sex with various men, including a musician. Yet Anne was confined to a room where no men could go legally and was not allowed out as she had not been Churched which happened after 40 days after the birth, to bless the mother and purify her and give thanks for her safe delivery. The room was only full of women and even Henry had no access save on two days, the birth and the blessing before the baptism. It was also considered dangerous to have sex during and immediately after pregnancy. Anne was hardly going to be in the mood to do so anyway. I don’t have children, but I know a lot of people who do and they all say how tired they were for the first days and weeks afterwards. Again, her ladies would have needed to help and none were named as her accomplices.

    Anne was also pregnant in November 1535 with the Kings son and as it was dangerous to the child to have sex during this time, why would she risk this by having a lover? She was also happy as she had a triumphant progress which had seen her and Henry enjoying one another. Having a lover now was ridiculous. Everyone knew it was nonsense, but nobody cared to challenge these dates which are invented.

    Please note that the jury member, Sir Giles Heron was the son in law of the late Sir Thomas More. Other jury members and judges had some connection with those most likely to be relied upon to find Anne guilty. This was a set up and the events now moved very quickly, with lightening speed and a rush to justice.

  3. Reading this Indictment again oddly enough put me in mind of an article i’d read some time ago: because when I read that article I immediately thought about Cromwell and Henry VIII.
    See what you think.
    This quote is from a Guardian article entitled “The Persuasive Power of Rupert Murdoch” by Nick Davies … ‘but above all, the fear is generated by the people he hires to work for him. “He loves thugs,” as one of his senior executives put it. Roger Ailes at Fox TV; Kelvin Mackenzie at The Sun; Col Allan at the New York Post; Sam Chisholm at SkyTV; they all came out of the same box, marked ‘BULLY’. And when Murdoch’s men bully, their victims really feel it. All these members of the power elite (gathered at Rebecca Brooks wedding 2009) have seen what Murdoch’s news outlets can do, using their stories in the same way muggers in back alleys use their boots, to kick a victim to pulp. `’Monstering,” they call it – a savage and prolonged public attack on a target’s life, often aimed at the most private and sensitive part of their existence, their sexual behaviour, inflicting maximum pain and maximum humiliation.”
    This Indictment, drawn up by Henry’s chief bully, Thomas Cromwell, strikes me as a piece of legal ‘monstering’ and did the work of kicking Queen Anne’s reputation to pulp.

    1. Yes, I agree especially with regards to the S ~n, the rag of lies and false allegations, especially Kelvin Mackenzie, may he be cursed forever for his monstoring of our fans and those killed at Hillsborough. This blackening of the names of people with no proof and no evidence is just as you say and is monstrous in itself. The hypocrisy of these so called journalists with their so called moral high ground is shocking as their own lives, put under a spot light would not meet with any standards whatsoever.

      1. With you there BQ.
        Another newpaper quote, from the MailOnline, Oct 2009, by SJ Sanson, and this time actually about Cromwell, concerning his move against the monasteries. Sanson wrote;
        He (Cromwell) sent his own commissioners to the larger monasteries to offer priors and abbots either a pension and a peaceful retirement – or deep trouble. The commissioners murmured that they knew about the abbot’s mistress or his illegitimate children.
        Already, in the blackest propaganda, Cromwell ordered the circulation of a bluntly p*rnographic pamphlet, actually called ‘The Black Book’, describing in salivating detail the very worst of the natural and unnatural lusts that the commissioners had been able to unearth.’
        Of course, the bully always operates for and in the interests of, the main man. Henry.
        But this procedure of ‘monstering’ the chosen victim continues today, presumably because it works.

        1. Yes, indeed and they hound people, taking silence as the signal to attack more. The rumours themselves are enough to set the lie and malicious tale in motion without anything else. It only has to appear on Twitter to be accepted as true. We believe the lies because it is too much hard work to think and work through to the truth ourselves, so the bully wins and delighted readers revel in another destroyed reputation.

          There was almost a template for the alleged wrongdoing of the monks and nuns and the people were meant to just take the experts word as the Valor Ecclesiastes was hardly going to be read outside of the Royal scholars. Unfortunately for Henry few ordinary people believed them and he faced three serious revolts in the middle and North of England. Reformers obviously accepted them as true, although not all agreed with the full assault on monastery property. Anne for one disagreed. She was for reform, not destruction. Others could not wait to tear down the alters, but in fact Henry and Cromwell had to get men from abroad who were more “Protestant” zs most English people shrank from such things. The Black Book must have laid the foundations of lies, so the lies were already written, before they were “found” to be true on visitation. We have letters from learned men to the King and Cromwell asking for reprieve from Dissolution as the commission found nothing wrong, yet they had been targeted. They were as it were all tarred with the same brush. If you are told retire or hang, which would you choose? The bully won because they had state power behind them and had already had the black legend believed. There is nothing worse than state sponsored bullying or vandalism. You have no recourse in law or for justice or recompense. You are totally and utterly defeated.

          Yes, it does still work today, especially when it is agreed by those in authority that what they are being told about a person or set of people is true. This was never truer than with Hillsborough. The Sun published The Truth and that was it. That it was shown to be a lie in various Court hearings made no difference. The media believed the lies, Government believed and spread the lies and hid the real truth for 27 years. Unfortunately, the victims came from that loud and thankfully determined group of people, football fans. 96 people died but 60,000 people were viciously lied about and falsely accused of being responsible for 27 years. Families were destroyed, survivors maligned and the bullies thought they had won. However, we are a big, loud, angry family in Liverpool and the bullies found that out very quickly and we fought back. It took many years for the truth to come out, what we knew everyone knows now. The lies were invented by the police but believed because it was already “known” that fans are animals and our reputation killed. The real truth is now out that the police killed the fans through negligence and lied and the state made sure it was hidden. Now 96 people can rest a little easier. Now their families can mourn and not have their lives taken fighting the lies. The lies still work. Bullies still win, but today we can fight. In 1536 if you fight back you were called a rebel and a traitor and the bully won even if you did.

        2. The accusations are made even more dangerous then because you were presumed guilty not innocent until the middle of the eighteenth century. The emphasis was on Anne and her colleagues to prove they were innocent, giving the state the advantage and all without a counsel. Today you are meant to be innocent until proven guilty, but unfortunately in the case of sexual crimes, the natural revulsion and press interest means anyone accused, innocent or guilty are tried by public opinion and social media. Reputations are destroyed regardless because we assume the “victim” is being truthful. Unfortunately, this is not always the case, people do imagine or make stuff up and act out of greed of malice. We have had a whole parade of famous people accused of ancient sexual abuse and the media have gone mad for details and people assume the stuff is true. It has gone to the extreme by allowing hundreds of people to make copycat allegations, most of which are not true, plus several of the celebrities have been cleared. It is a terrible thing when someone is genuinely abused in this way and we have to listen and protect those who come forward, but we also have to properly investigate before releasing the names of men and women who are targeted because they are famous and rich. In several cases the accused person is dead and can’t defend themselves or answer for their alleged crimes. The reputation of even the innocent is destroyed because the bullies have published just what they please, especially if someone refuses to talk to a hounding journalist. It is claimed to be in the public interest, but what of the interests of the children of someone accused of such horrible crimes? The accused is the real victim if they haven’t done anything wrong. The sad thing is the police treat them as if they are guilty, so the methods of Thomas Cromwell are not as dead as they should be. How many people come to accept something must be true if they are questioned for hours, without breaks and refreshments? People who are innocent often do not ask for a solicitor either because we wrongly assume our modern system of justice to be fair. If the police are under scrutiny and pressure to get a conviction, which they are once a matter is public, fairness quickly disappears. The crimes Anne and her friends were accused off, including plotting the Kings death (adultery was a sin, not a crime) are painted in the same way as a modern rag would, with as much detail as is possible. She is painted as a sl*t who will stop at nothing, not even Regicide in order to satisfy her carnal desires. The guilty lie has destroyed her even before a Grand Jury has looked at the evidence. Given that Anne was not the most popular woman in England, a woman who according to her enemies has lurred the King away from his lawful wife and child, it was a lie easily believed. Henry was banking on her former reputation as his mistress being his wife’s undoing. Anne and Henry had according to many committed adultery and bigamy, so what else could they expect from such a woman, and because she was the woman, she was blamed. The woman was always the one who beguiled the man into sleeping with her, men the innocent victims of the lust of a woman. Anne, by virtue of her sex was deemed the more guilty. In that nothing much has changed, in the media, in the popular imagination, in fiction, in the press, even in Court cases were she is the victim, it is the woman who is on trial and whose morals are questioned. The media has always allowed the bully to win and the reputation of the victims to suffer, especially if they are female.

  4. When Anne was informed she was to stand trial she must have known deep down that she was doomed, she knew her husband was weary of her, he had been seeing Jane Seymour behind her back and quite possibly they had not slept together since they had lost their baby son in January, she had lost her hold over the King and this was apparent in the way her brother did not get the post he was hoping for earlier in the year, she had lost her influence over Henry when in the past, he could not do enough for her, the ardent lover who had once declared years before when she was lying on her sickbed that he would willingly endure half her pain to cure her, the same lover who had hurried hot fot to Hever in pursuit of her whenever she left his court, who wrote such adoring letters accompanied with a heart, the devoted husband who had said he would rather beg from door to door than forsake her, who had ousted his faithful queen of nearly twenty years to marry her had long gone, like the going down of the sun before twilight, Anne knew she was in her twilight and she must have in a sense blamed herself, her hot temper and overbearing manner had brought her to this, quick witted and highly educated, blessed with that certain something which we call charisma, having lived in three of the most sophisticated courts in Europe, she had learnt how to conduct oneself, how to dance and sing, she is said to have had a beautiful singing voice! she had elegance and her own innate sense of style, today we call it chic, she could converse with learned scholars and people, possibly women as well as men buzzed around her like bees round a honeypot, she had possessed all the attributes of a queen but not the character, and she had dared to castigate Henry for his infidelities, she had argued with him publicly and behaved more like a kitchen wench than the queen, too late she realised humility was her best weapon, she had failed him in every sense for she could not give him a prince and that was one of the reasons he had married her for, throughout history queens were really just brood mares, that’s all they had to do, to give her husband sons, daughters were fine as they could be used to make important alliances, but all Kings wanted sons, Hemry was not alone in this desire and the queens knew it was their duty to give their husband and the realm an heir and possibly another one or two, apart from that they were decorative ornaments and never interfered with the running of a kingdom although some queens have had some influence, for Anne a crowned and anointed queen to have been arrested and placed in the Tower was unprecedented, it would be another three hundred years before another queen, the slightly potty Caroline of Brunswick was to find herself in the same position, she must have realised with growing horror that Henry was determined to rid himself of her one way or another, and that his docile mistress Jane was going to be his next queen, the indictments are ridiculous when we look at them now, and was an insult on Hemry V111s integrity and intelligence as much as the queens, she was made out to be another Messalina who wh*red around the eternal city whilst her elderly husband Claudius was attending to affairs of the state, Anne had waited so long to be queen it had been exhausting, and I do not believe for one minute she would have emperiled her position by giving into her frail and carnal lists as it states on one of the indictments, she had been faithful to Henry through their long courtship as he had to her, if she was as sex mad as they were trying to make out, she could well have indulged in some affairs then, why wait till she was queen when the consequences were likely to be far more fatal? Why rock the boat now, all these questions must have been on everyone’s minds at home and abroad then, and they must have come up with the same conclusion that we have today.

  5. What is also fascinating is that the order to make ready for the trial of Norris, Brererton and the others was sent before the Grand Jury confirmed that there was enough evidence to convict Anne and for a trial. Today a Grand Jury would vote on testimony or evidence to decide if charges should be brought at Trial but no trial would be made until the Indictment had gone to the Attorney General and the charges confirmed. However, it appears that the decision to go to trial was made before the Grand Jury declared it’s decision, which meant Henry and Cromwell knew or anticipated their decision in advance.

    Anne and five of the seven men arrested between 30th April and 5/6 May were now informed that they are to stand trial and presumably something of the charges against them. Anne has been accused of some of the most heinous crimes going and of not loving the King, but deceiving him on everything and of being a wicked woman. She was accused of conspiracy to kill Henry with each and all of the man, of the most vivid sexual activities, we might as well be watching internet p*rn as read the details, so vivid are they, of sexual perversion on a daily basis and of insulting the King and her marriage. It is shocking. It was meant to be. Henry had to look like a victim and the worse that Anne and the others were painted, the more likely they were to be condemned.

    Anne could only have gone through a series of emotions when she was informed of her upcoming trial, despair being one of the deepest. Anne had tried to appeal to her husband, directly, with a heart felt letter, but it is unclear if he saw it and it is disputed as whether or not this was genuine, although I believe it was, but Henry had ignored her. Her husband was putting her on public display, humiliating her, attacking her reputation, accusing her of the most vile things and he was even risking her very life. She must have been terrified, for although she had been promised justice and may even believe Henry would ensure she received it, but she had seen others, close to him found guilty and executed for far less. Now she had but a few days to prepare for the fight of her life.

  6. This letter she allegedly wrote was found amongst Cromwells personal belongings and has perplexed many people since its discovery, many historians have dismissed it as a forgery and some do not even mention in in their biographies, Alison Weir noted that the way Anne signed it was unusual, instead of the customary Anne the Queen she sighed it Anne Bullen which is suspicious, as if she was not Henrys anointed queen or even the Marchioness of Pembroke but just plain Anne as she had been before her elevation, also the letter at the top has written ‘The Lady In The Tower’ like it’s just a piece penned from a book of sonnets, her correct title is absent and this she would have used right upto her death, it’s very frustrating but I think it’s one of those letters of which we will never know their true origin, some experts have said it sounds more like Elizabethan, maybe a supporter of her daughters and Anne herself could have written it so ‘the truth be told’, and to garner sympathy for the wronged defamation of her character but we will never know, like the infamous casket letters which directly implicated Mary of Scots in her tragic husbands murder, It’s something we can only speculate about till the tides come in.

    1. Sarah Vasoli has written an excellent book on the letter and while I take on board all the arguments against, there is just something about the internal phrases that ring true. Of course, it could be a copy of the original as well and there is one suspicious thing about it. If it’s a forgery why is it with Cromwell’s hidden paperwork? Why isn’t it in L and P state papers? Answer, he didn’t want Henry to sed it knowing the power Anne had over him. On the other hand, why not destroy it?

      Answer. All letters were copied. Most letters were not hand written by the noble person but by a scribe. A copy was made for the records. The hand was copied exactly. A learned scribe could copy any hand. When the Torah is copied it is done so exactly, with no variation and with great care because it is a sacred work. Scribes in history were highly skilled. You couldn’t tell between the original and the copy unless you knew exactly what to look for. Most historians are not hand writing experts and most don’t even bother to employ one but repeat what has been said previously. It is claimed to be a forgery or Elizabethan because someone said it before. Vasoli has looked at the letters freshly and disagreed with many earlier observations. However, she does keep an open mind as we can’t fully know the real origins of the letter as there is a gap in the history of it.

      The main problem with it’s authentication is of course the signature. Why Anne Bullen and not her title? You may as well ask Why Shake-speare and not Shakespeare? Anne didn’t use the same way of spelling her name and maybe she didn’t use her title as she was addressing Henry as a supplicant and not a Queen. The main cause for concern is the use of The Lady in the Tower and I agree, but again if she was also under pressure, maybe she wasn’t allowed to use her title. The rest of the letter is a deep appeal for justice and from a wife to a husband. Some people also believe the signature to have been added or altered and it could be we have the copy and not the original. There are numerous things to debate, but in any event Anne did try to appeal to Henry via those who were her jailors with different requests, so even if this beautiful letter is not genuine, Henry knew his wife was asking for justice. He ignored her.

      Again we now have the other jury saying the same horrible stuff about Anne and all seemed doomed. I actually feel very sad today reading all of those horrible things, even 500 years later I want to cry. I know it all happened a long time ago, but in all truth, it may as well be now.

      1. Yes Sandra has been featured on here regarding her book she has written about this mysterious letter, its true also that historians are not experts when it comes to authenticating documents, just as an art historian can tell a genuine Van Gogh from a copy so can a handwriting expert tell when a document is a forgery compared to the original, but this letter is important because if it was indeed written or dictated to by Anne then we have a good idea of her feelings during this most traumatic period of her life, maybe some day we will know the truth.

        1. Anne’s feelings if she did write the letter are very strong, with a deep appeal for a fair and just trial and open one and she also expresses a hidden anger at Jane Seymour, for whom she knows she has been set aside. Jane is not mentioned by name but a phase suggests this is who she has been imprisoned for. It is a heartfelt plea of a wife to her husband for mercy and justice. She speaks of her love and all they have been to each other. Anne is in despair and turmoil, afraid and traumatised, yet the letter is bold and hopeful. It is the only real insight we get that comes from the soul of Anne herself, in her last week, that is not second hand and I really hope that we will know if these are her words or not. The letter certainly expresses something of what Anne might be going through, perhaps words given life by someone who knew her.

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