10 May 1536 – The charges against Queen Anne Boleyn and the men – The Fall of Anne Boleyn

On this day in 1536, 10th May, the Grand Jury of Middlesex met to decide on whether Queen Anne Boleyn, George Boleyn, Sir Henry Morris, Sir Francis Weston, William Brereton and Mark Smeaton should be sent to trial.

The jury decided that there was enough evidence to try these people and then drew up the indictment.

In today’s Fall of Anne Boleyn video, I explain what happened and gives a summary of the charges laid against the queen and the five men.

I’m doing these “Fall of Anne Boleyn” videos daily until 19th May and I started on 24th April. You can catch up with them on the Anne Boleyn Files and Tudor Society Youtube Channel.

You can find out more about my book The Fall of Anne Boleyn: A Countdown at http://getbook.at/fallanneboleyn.

Here is a link to the article mentioned, where you can read the indictment for yourself – https://www.theanneboleynfiles.com/10th-may-1536-the-grand-jury-of-middlese/

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10 thoughts on “10 May 1536 – The charges against Queen Anne Boleyn and the men – The Fall of Anne Boleyn”
  1. The Middlesex indictment proclaimed they had enough evidence to bring the queen and men to trial, what utter nonsense it was all scandalous gossip and hearsay, they disregarded the facts that the queen and her alleged lovers were in other places when the so called offences took place, so where was the evidence? The wheels of injustice were moving with alarming speed for Queen Anne and they had only one purpose in mind, to bring her down to disgrace her and condemn her, so that was unfit to be the wife of the King, unfit to be his queen consort and to eradicate her completely, Sir Giles Heron was the ex son in law of Sir Thomas More so I think he must have been satisfied at Annes fate, the whole More family had suffered the sad loss of their beloved mentor so there must have been some feeling that his death was about to be vindicated, the so called evidence concerning Anne and her brother kissing is disgusting and yes, I can well understand how it appeared to the 16thc mind, nothing’s more revolting than incest and it revolts us now, back then it just goes to show the lengths Cromwell went to, to make this tragic queen look so evil and corrupt that people would think the worst of her, at her trial all the jurors were no friends of her and her family, they were biased against her, which would not happen today and thus we can see by the very speed at which the indictments of Middlesex and then Kent were going, that it was all designed to bring down the queen, yesterday we discussed the fall of Catherine Howard, the investigation into her alleged offences was much much slower, that was because it was done in a proper way, she was interviewed several times by Cranmer, something which Anne did not have the luxury of, she had been told Smeaton had confessed to adultery with her and she was to go to the Tower, no audiences no nothing, but with Catherine the Kings behaviour was completely different because he did not want to lose her, he loved her and hoped that all the investigation would show was malicious gossip nothing more, she was confined to her quarters but that was all, she did not go the Tower till much later, and then from Syon House, with Anne she was bundled off that grim prison immediately, right from the start Henry V111 had acted with an air of impatience with his second queen, a load of rubbish was used as evidence and the words condemned were even used before her trial, no wonder there was incessant grumbling, all this was happening whilst Anne was locked up in her prison absolutely powerless to stop it, all she could do was to pray for the justice we know she deserved, as history tells us she received none, Brereton Weston Norris and her own brother to could do nothing but plead their innocence, Smeaton alone in his cell must have been completely wretched knowing his false accusation had brought this to pass, yet he was just a scapegoat and I am sure Cromwell would have found another scapegoat to confess to adultery with the queen if he had not, as the month of May wore on one of the biggest injustices and bloodiest murders in English history was about to happen, it was to be talked about and debated on for centuries after.

  2. Ive read the charges against Anne and the five others many times and they are terrible and shocking but I noticed hearing them read to me that they weren’t only shocking but came across as over the top and ridiculous. It made me wonder if any contemporary person HEARING the charges may have thought the same and that this reaction may have contributed to the doubt that we all still have today?

  3. They were utterly ridiculous Michael and in fact laughable, yes laughable because it made the queen out to look like she was bed hopping all over the place which just was not possible, and no other women were involved either, another fact which makes the charges look rigged, because it would have been impossible for the queen to have successfully committed these offences without the help of some of her women, Catherine Howard had the co operation of some of her women, notably Lady Rochford who kept an eye out whilst the queen was in a private chamber with Culpeper, but Queen Anne according to the indictment had managed to do it all herself, this was an error because Cromwell had Page and Wyatt arrested then later released to make it look believable, so really he should have arrested some of Annes women then release them to, that would have carried more weight but really, most thought it was so rushed as to appear unreal anyway, it was the actual speed which makes the whole sorry affair look like Anne and her alleged lovers were framed, it looked suspicious at the time and in fact all Cromwell managed to achieve was the fall of Anne Boleyn which ended in her subsequent death, he did not manage to make it appear that she DESERVED the death, merely that she was easily disposed of, a dreadful dreadful miscarriage of justice and it ruined Henry V111’s reputation for ever.

  4. OMG this is horrible every time I read it it gets worse. I didn’t realise Anne Boleyn lived in a brothel or was a p*rn star, I thought she was the Queen of England and was watched day and night. This was indeed shocking but it was very dangerous as well, because it brought down a Queen and four members of the inner sanctum of both King and Queen and a young rising popular musician. Laws made in 1534 had protected Anne and the heirs Henry would have with her from slander and criticism, but now those very laws were turned against her. It was Anne herself who had endangered the realm, the legitimacy of the lawful succession and her marriage as well as insulting the honour of the King. It was about sexual dominance and the control over the household, his masculinity and Anne’s behaviour was a challenge to this. The more lovers she had however, the better for Henry because a woman of this kind was out of control, nobody could control her and she was a sexual predator and dominatrix, no man could resist her, she procured the men to her evil intent to violate her. Henry could not be expected to tame such a woman.

    The indictments can be taken apart and have been by Professor Eric Ives and they really don’t make any sense. Without going into specifics we know on certain dates Anne was pregnant or believed herself to be pregnant or confined after or before the birth of Elizabeth. She was supposed to have committed adultery in October, November and December 1535 for example, but we know Anne was pregnant at this time. On other dates the people accused were in different places and Anne was never alone and couldn’t sneak out to have a rendezvous with a lover, not without help and someone knowing, no matter what Professor Bernard or Hilary Mantel argues. This isn’t The Three Musketees where Queen Anne of Austria sneaks out of the palace to meet the Duke of Buckingham in the Paris washhouse. Even then she is helped by two ladies and a Musketeer. Now Anne of Austria did have an affair with Buckingham, but it wasn’t sexual and her husband found out. So clearly she couldn’t get away with sneaking out of the palace either. Anne was watched, attended night and day and there wasn’t any scandal before this time, despite her being called a wh*re by many common people who are probably referring to her affair with Henry Viii while he was married to Katherine of Aragon. The terms “goggle eyed wh*re” and “that naughty wh*re” are used, not “adulterous wh*re” or “aduteress” which suggests they refer to how her relationship with Henry was viewed and not that she was sleeping around. It was virtually impossible to have lovers without someone knowing about it.

    Sir Giles Heron of course was the son by law of Sir Thomas More and he headed the Grand Jury of Middlesex. Henry had key people who could influence the decision in his favour and here they decided that there was sufficient to go to trial. I would love to know exactly what imaginary evidence they saw but it was enough to proceed. Henry had blamed Anne in July 1535 according to one source for driving him to kill Thomas More and certainly their marriage led indirectly to his death because of the laws requiring oaths to support it challenged his traditional Catholic loyalty. Maybe this was some kind of odd kind of revenge and a nod towards the family of More of who was really to blame for More’s death, although of course it was Henry who was to blame, but this is political polemic, not truth.

    Thomas Boleyn had originally been named to the Commission of Oyer and Terminer for Middlesex but not for Kent according to his biographer Lauren Mackay but he wasn’t on the Grand Jury which investigated the accusations against his son George. The legal mechanisms now moved forward as the men were to be sent to trial. William Kingston was told to “bring up the bodies” to send them for trial on Friday , May 12th 1536 and this was the beginning of the end for four of them. The order may have been sent before the indictment and certainly this is true before the Grand Jury of Kent had declared its decision on 11th May. Norfolk had sat on both Commissions and remember he sat at the trials of the four men and Queen and George Boleyn but Thomas was discharged from trying his son and daughter for obvious reasons. Whatever evidence these Grand Juries looked at or didn’t see they declared the men guilty and the Queen culpable and they made their decision with frightening speed and we can see from the letter of John Dudley to Lady Lisle that Anne was already condemned because he says she will be condemned by Parliament, not tried but condemned. Anne, however, was tried in public and it wasn’t as easy as Henry hoped. She gave a good account of herself and she won over the public who showed sympathy for her. She was calm and dignified and her speech was of a woman confident of being innocent. Again we get the impression that this was all being put into place in advance.

  5. On a BBC special, “The Last Days of Anne Boleyn”, historian David Starkey said that “it’s the magnitude of the charges that makes them convincing.” and stated that since Anne was perceived as breaking all the rules, charges that showed massive rule breaking would be more “in character”. I also think that the number of charges made them more accepted, but I am not sure if this was because the charges stunned people’s critical faculties, or because the nature of the charges showed how roundly Henry had turned on her.

    1. I’m not so sure people really were convinced. The controversy and doubt over these proceedings has been going on since May 1536. Even Eustace Chapuy who hated Anne with a passion wasn’t convinced of her guilt. The blackening of Anne’s name didn’t really seem to take hold until half a century later with the writings of Nicholas Sanders and that unfortunately seems to have done more damage than the original charges. I like David Starkey but I disagree. I think the charges are so outrageous that they seem less credible.

      1. I no what Starkey meant, Anne was not a product of her age – the dutiful Tudor wife but more like a woman of our time, somewhat of a feminist a woman who broke as he said the rules and conventions of the society in which she lived in, because of this the charges did seem more credible as she was a woman who was not like others, but to those who lived and worked at the court it was obvious to them and the King himself that adultery in a queen was well nigh impossible, particularly for the amount of times Anne was said to have indulged in immorality.

    2. In other words it was so unbelievable it had to be true, Annes forceful personality her confidence and ruthlessness was unique in a woman living in that man dominated age, but an outspoken ruthless personality does not mean that person is weak morally, however had she been more like Jane Seymour demure and quiet, the charges levelled at Anne would have appeared highly incredible.

      1. I actually think David Starkey is right up to a point, the number of things Anne was charged with, the more believable it was, at least within certain circles, but some who really grasped Henry, like Chapuys saw how ridiculous they were. The charges may sound convincing but the evidence, the bones of what and who and where don’t and didn’t. I doubt anyone bothered over that point and to be frank we don’t really know what the majority of people thought. The mere shock could well have been enough to convince the public and members of the Court. Anne’s own flirtatious nature and behaviour made it easier to bring these charges in the first place and imagination did the rest. You have to remember Anne Boleyn wasn’t popular. She was tolerated as Queen because nobody dared not tolerate her or the axe awaited. I personally don’t believe an awful lot of people believed them but that is going by the remarks people made about her up to this point. A number of notable people who knew Anne or her reputation commented in such a way that we know they didn’t accept these charges to be true and were generally surprised but others were convinced. The one thing we can know for certain is that if people in that packed hall at the Tower were convinced before they went in, they were asking questions when they came out and many took bets that George would get off scot free. Henry’s own behaviour gave him no credit and there was certainly shock at his hasty remarriage. How the indictments were received among the wider population, unfortunately, we have little to go on.

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