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10 May 1536 – The Middlesex Indictment

Posted By on May 10, 2013

Anne Boleyn On 10th May 1536, Giles Heron, foreman of the Grand Jury of Middlesex and son-in-law of the late Sir Thomas More, announced that the jury had decided that there was sufficient evidence to suggest that Anne Boleyn, George Boleyn, Mark Smeaton, Sir Henry Norris, Sir Francis Weston and Sir William Brereton were guilty of the alleged crimes carried out at Hampton Court Palace and Whitehall, and that they should be indicted and sent to trial before a jury.

Here is the full Middlesex indictment drawn up by the Grand Jury of Middlesex:

“Indictment found at Westminster on Wednesday next after three weeks of Easter, 28 Hen. VIII. before Sir John Baldwin, &c., by the oaths of Giles Heron, Roger More, Ric. Awnsham, Thos. Byllyngton, Gregory Lovell, Jo. Worsop, Will. Goddard, Will. Blakwall, Jo. Wylford, Will. Berd, Hen. Hubbylthorn, Will. Hunyng, Rob. Walys, John England, Hen. Lodysman, and John Averey; who present that whereas queen Anne has been the wife of Henry VIII. for three years and more, she, despising her marriage, and entertaining malice against the King, and following daily her frail and carnal lust, did falsely and traitorously procure by base conversations and kisses, touchings, gifts, and other infamous incitations, divers of the King’s daily and familiar servants to be her adulterers and concubines, so that several of the King’s servants yielded to her vile provocations; viz., on 6th Oct. 25 Hen. VIII., at Westminster, and divers days before and after, she procured, by sweet words, kisses, touches, and otherwise, Hen. Noreys, of Westminster, gentle man of the privy chamber, to violate her, by reason whereof he did so at Westminster on the 12th Oct. 25 Hen. VIII.; and they had illicit intercourse at various other times, both before and after, sometimes by his procurement, and sometimes by that of the Queen.

Also the Queen, 2 Nov. 27 Hen. VIII. and several times before and after, at Westminster, procured and incited her own natural brother, Geo. Boleyn, lord Rocheford, gentleman of the privy chamber, to violate her, alluring him with her tongue in the said George’s mouth, and the said George’s tongue in hers, and also with kisses, presents, and jewels; whereby he, despising the commands of God, and all human laws, 5 Nov. 27 Hen. VIII., violated and carnally knew the said Queen, his own sister, at Westminster; which he also did on divers other days before and after at the same place, sometimes by his own procurement and sometimes by the Queen’s.

Also the Queen, 3 Dec. 25 Hen. VIII., and divers days before and after, at Westminster, procured one Will. Bryerton, late of Westminster, gentleman of the privy chamber, to violate her, whereby he did so on 8 Dec. 25 Hen. VIII., at Hampton Court, in the parish of Lytel Hampton, and on several other days before and after, sometimes by his own procurement and sometimes by the Queen’s.

Also the Queen, 8 May 26 Hen. VIII., and at other times before and since, procured Sir Fras. Weston, of Westminster, gentleman of the privy chamber, &c., whereby he did so on the 20 May, &c. Also the Queen, 12 April 26 Hen. VIII., and divers days before and since, at Westminster, procured Mark Smeton, groom of the privy chamber, to violate her, whereby he did so at Westminster, 26 April 27 Hen. VIII.

Moreover, the said lord Rocheford, Norreys, Bryerton, Weston, and Smeton, being thus inflamed with carnal love of the Queen, and having become very jealous of each other, gave her secret gifts and pledges while carrying on this illicit intercourse; and the Queen, on her part, could not endure any of them to converse with any other woman, without showing great displeasure; and on the 27 Nov. 27 Hen. VIII., and other days before and after, at Westminster, she gave them great gifts to encourage them in their crimes. And further the said Queen and these other traitors, 31 Oct. 27 Hen. VIII., at Westminster, conspired the death and destruction of the King, the Queen often saying she would marry one of them as soon as the King died, and affirming that she would never love the King in her heart. And the King having a short time since become aware of the said abominable crimes and treasons against himself, took such inward displeasure and heaviness, especially from his said Queen’s malice and adultery, that certain harms and perils have befallen his royal body.

And thus the said Queen and the other traitors aforesaid have committed their treasons in contempt of the Crown, and of the issue and heirs of the said King and Queen.”1

The language used in the indictment and the details of the alleged offences aim to shock those reading or listening. Anne Boleyn is described as “seduced by evil” and having malice in her heart and “frail and carnal appetites”, and then we have the details of her seducing her brother by “alluring him with her tongue”. Anne was being painted as the Devil incarnate, a woman so possessed with evil and lust that she would even seduce her brother, and who appetites were so insatiable that rather than just taking one lover, she took five! Her lust and appetite knew no end. Shock was the aim and shock was what was achieved.

The Queen was accused of:-

  • “Entertaining malice against the King” and following her lustful desires.
  • Procuring her servants to be her lovers.
  • Seducing and committing adultery with Sir Henry Norris, Sir William Brereton, Sir Francis Weston and Mark Smeaton.
  • Committing incest with her brother, George Boleyn, Lord Rochford.
  • Encouraging the men with gifts.
  • Plotting with the men to kill the King.
  • Agreeing to marry one of them after the King’s death.
  • Never having loved the King.
  • Causing harm to the King.
  • Committing treason by her actions.

The five named men were also obviously accused of these crimes, but there was no mention of Sir Richard Page or Sir Thomas Wyatt who were also among those imprisoned in the Tower of London at that time.

The Middlesex Indictment had covered all the bases – Anne Boleyn and the men were guilty of adultery and high treason (by plotting the King’s death), and Anne was an evil seductress who had caused the King great harm. Any problem with the dates chosen for the alleged offences was covered by “divers days before and since” and “several times before and after”, wonderful catch-all phrases which made it impossible to refute these dates. The Crown must have been pleased with itself – the jury would be shocked by Anne’s behaviour and also by the harm done to their lord, the King, and they would surely want to please the King by doing his will. Anne Boleyn never stood a chance.

Arrangements for Trial

Also on 10th May 1536, Sir William Kingston, the 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. at Westminster, on Friday next after three weeks of Easter”,2 i.e. 12th May. Both Alison Weir3 and Eric Ives4 point out that this order was sent before the meeting of the Grand Jury in Kent and may even have been sent before the Middlesex meeting. Sir John Dudley wrote to Lady Lisle on the 10th May:

“Is sure there is no need to write the news, for all the world knows them by this time. Today Mr. Norres, Mr. Weston, William a Brearton, Markes, and lord Rocheforde were indicted, and on Friday they will be arraigned at Westminster. The Queen herself will be condemned by Parliament. Wednesday, 10 May.”5

Obviously Dudley did not realise that Rochford, like the Queen, would be tried on the 15th May, but he correctly predicted that she would be condemned.

(Taken from The Fall of Anne Boleyn: A Countdown by Claire Ridgway)

Notes and Sources

  1. LP x. 876
  2. 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
  3. Weir, Alison. The Lady in the Tower: The Fall of Anne Boleyn.
  4. Ives, Eric. The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn
  5. LP x. 837

38 thoughts on “10 May 1536 – The Middlesex Indictment”

  1. M'lady says:

    Oh my god, what a story. Shock is exactly right. Imagine what the people present thought of all this, those that weren’t in the know and up to speed with the real goings on behind the story. Of course you would find her having to stand trial if you were presented with evidence like that! It’s a sad thought, but I hope they all went to a better place after the executions, because they were ruined here on earth, guilty or not.

  2. Louise says:

    None of this equates to evidence. It only equates to allegations. There’s a big difference. It’s working purely on the basis that if you throw enough mud then some of it sticks.

    1. Tudorrose says:

      I agree with you there!

  3. margaret says:

    where did the allegations come from ?how did they come up with this and from whom ? there seems to be something missing here I don’t know what !

    1. Baroness Von Reis says:

      margaret,Pretty much think Cromwell and the King came up with! The king paid Cromwell with, land title money,crafty gents were’nt they.Too start with ,Smeaton who they knew would be easy pray,just a meek singer ,scared easy,perhapes a little tourture would make one confess??and then came the domino effect, and they all feel down,with Q’Anne.It just takes one person too start such visous rumours,but none the less thats how It all began. Doomed all of them too death to,and I do not think any of them saw it comming,or believed that Henry could be that cruel!!! Regrads Baroness x

  4. Kara says:

    Sounds like Anne was so busy seducing these men, however did she find the time?
    Why couldn’t anyone see how ridiculous it all sounded?
    And if her marriage was null/void how could she commit these crimes?
    H8 made Anne out to be a cheating seductress, whore.
    Sad
    Sad

    1. margaret says:

      I .agree when you say it sounds ridiculous but it stuck unfortunetley

      1. Tudorrose says:

        Me three! Agreed!

  5. margaret says:

    why do I get this notion in my head ,that despite anne being innocent that it was a courtly love thing misconstrued with her and the others and maybe one or two people thought not fitting behaviour for a queen ,a lot in the court would have remembered Katherine of aragon and compared the two ,which were to the extreme in terms of personality,and also henry getting older fatter and impotent,wathing these displays and getting angrier because he could not come to terms with his own problems ,his youth gone,no baby son by anne as promised,this would have been fanning the flames and not helped by her enemies ,anne knowing what was going on with the seymours would also made her upset and needing reassurance that she was still attractive to henry but was not ,henry had definitely moved on from anne a good while back and he was indifferent to her by this stage the fact he had no son by her would have eaten away at him day and night so along comes jane and his hope in life is renewed.anne did not deserve death but it was the way things were done in henrys court .not a nice place to be .

    1. Claire says:

      But courtly love was a huge tradition at court, it was the norm. Henry himself loved the tradition. I just don’t think it could have been courtly love misconstrued, but perhaps completely twisted. I look at this in my article https://www.theanneboleynfiles.com/courtly-love-flirtation-and-the-fall-of-anne-boleyn-part-two/ and I conclude:

      “Anne’s words, the climate of courtly love in her household, her flaw of speaking without thinking and her love of joking were not the cause of her downfall, but they were used against her and provided convenient ammunition for those who sought to bring down the Queen and the Boleyn faction.

      Some of you may think that the whole tradition of courtly love was just trouble waiting to happen, and perhaps it was, but it was a convention of that time, it was the fashion and it was expected for Anne to have that type of “climate” in her household – she was queen afterall and her husband thought he was King Arthur, the master of chivalry. It’s just sad that something innocent and traditional was twisted by Anne’s enemies.”

      1. Tudorrose says:

        How something little can be turned into something big! And also where did it say that the “Game of courtly love” could not be played by a “Queen?” Because if this is what it was or had been that the “Game” that she was playing had been misread mistook or misunderstood in some way and then used against her should it have not excluded the “Queen?” And nowhere did it say that excluding the monarch the Queen or the married or even the taken!

      2. margaret says:

        I agree with you Claire ,it was normal and henry did enjoy it ,certainly when he and anne were “courting” but once he married her I think he thought that he could continue with the courtly love tradition but any wife of his could not,the wife in question had to change from lover to “wife just shut away having babies” .anne ,given the alledged personality that she was bestowed with could and would not have been able to change her ways like that ,but henry expected her to ,ie shut up and put up with other women ect .it was far too dangerous for her given the amount of enemies she had .

      3. Baroness Von Reis says:

        Claire,I agree!! think before you speak people have a way of ,turnnig something so innocent into lies,you no the rumour mill,or the grape vine,with that said it olny take one person ,and then everybody knows. ThX Baroness x

  6. Anne Barnhill says:

    These charges are quite provocative and I’m sure they had their intended result–shock and disgust with the queen and the men. Of course, if Henry had done away with the queen only, these important men would have taken up her cause…Henry knew he had to do away with Anne and all her supporters if he was to marry Jane without problems. He never shied away from murdering those who stood in his way. She was so vilified that even in Elizabeth’s reign, her name was not mentioned. I guess they gave her an eternal scarlet A.

  7. Tudorrose says:

    Over the top and far fetched.

  8. Dawn 1st says:

    It always amazes me how many people seem ‘swallow’ all this as truth, but did they? many didn’t like her, so they didn’t care. No one would dare say different as they knew the consequences.
    Then there were lots of gullible folk too, who believed what they would hear with out question.
    Superstition was rife then, many believed in witchcraft, spells, omens etc. they wouldn’t see the impossibility of it all.
    Nothing much changed then… 🙂

    1. Baroness Von Reis says:

      Hi Dawn 1st,I agree Dawn,but what really sunk Q’Annes ship was her being charged with cheatting on the Big H V111,I would think they would be affraid, if infact they really thought she was a witch??She could have cast evil spells on the whole kingdom,boooo!!I really have too laugh at the witch rumour,they would hang them,so if you lived you were a witch,now if someone hangs a person ,we pertty much no there going too die,and they also would put them in drowning chair.Well at least they did it here in, Salem too the, so called witches,of croase they all died.Because they were not witches.It truely makes one wonder there mind set,but Henry wanted too make sure there were enough charges against her ,so if one did’nt work he had his back SH. Have a Great Day! Kind Regards Baroness

      1. Dawn 1st says:

        In those days Baroness, I think any one who was ‘different’ could be seen as a witch, especially in the poorer walks of life, and if something bad happened that needed a scapegoat, some poor woman, or man in some cases got the brunt of it. It was a very basic and cruel time.

        Personally, I think the worst charge on that list, which would have made everyone sit up was ‘Plotting with the men to kill the King’, am I right in thinking, correct me if I’m wrong anyone, that this was the only Treasonable Act’, the others where not punishable by death
        Though it may seem surprizing for Henry to have it openly stated that he was a ‘cuckold’, he cushioned that blow to his ego with a large dose of sympathy and shock, that came from the charges of Regicide and incest. His Ego and personal perception of himself was well intact, it was being made very clear that he was the severely betrayed ‘injured party’.

        1. Baroness Von Reis says:

          Hi Dawn1st,Been really busy with the luanch of ,Blings and Things OMG!!I SO !!!Agree with you and your point is spot on!! It was OK for the King too sleep around on his Queens,what do you call that,its adultrery same thing,Henry V111 should have been charged,eones ago.We don’t even have a head count of his Bastards????To ba,Q’Anne was’nt a witch,she could have casted a real bad spell on him,you think???? Kind Regards Baroness X

  9. miladyblue says:

    Part of the reasoning behind how shocking and provocative the charges against Anne were might be because whoever was behind them – Henry, Cromwell, or take your pick of ANY of Anne’s enemies at court – was to blacken her reputation so much that no one would question how swiftly the sentence was carried out, or how absurd. At least not in time to save Anne or the men who were executed with her.

    Another reason might be because many knew Katharine of Aragon had been seriously wronged, and Anne was blamed for it, despite Henry being the King, and Henry having the power to commit those wrongs against Katharine. Nobody could CONCEIVE, at this point, of “Bluff King Hal” being capable of being such an unkind, unjust churl as to turn against a good, virtuous and faithful wife as the worthy Princess of Aragon. The only explanation was that “whore” had to be the one to poison Henry’s mind against his lawful wife.

    Thus, the charges against Anne seemed “logical” so long as no one had any real time to think about it.

    As for the speed of the charges against her, I wonder how long many of Anne’s enemies had been concocting things anyway, to use as unkind gossip. Now, somehow, it was made clear to them that Henry wanted out of his marriage, and they were willing to step forward with “evidence” to make it all the more convincing that she was guilty of something. The trial and Anne’s execution was a spectacular success, perhaps more than some of the plotters against her could have hoped for. I seem to recall that many of them ended up on the block themselves – such as Nicholas Carew, Thomas and Edward Seymour, Cromwell, and so on and so forth.

  10. The thought of a Queen actually be accused, convicted, & condemned is just so off the charts. I guess Henry thought he could do anything he darn well chose ….and he did. No-one would have had the temerity to stand up to him, or against him. Anne
    was lost from the beginning of this entire debacle. Not enough people to stand in her corner, and nothing they could have done, at any rate. It was a for-gone conclusion as to what the out-come would be. I think people were excited and overwhelmed that a Queen would actually be put to death. And put to death for such obscene reasons.

    1. Chuck says:

      Henry killed over 70,000 Catholics. Entire towns and monasteries. A few more heads here and there was nothing.

  11. suzie says:

    The whole gang would have said anything to please Henry and stay on his good side.

    1. Ashok Patel says:

      agree with you suzie.

  12. M'lady says:

    Hi Claire, I might be missing something, but why didn’t Henry just divorce her the way he did Catherine? Seems like an easier option. Or did Cromwell despise her that much that she had to die? what a conniving, devious man he must have been.

    1. Baroness Von Reis says:

      M’Lady,Q’Anne, refused too a divorce which meant Henry would have too go through all that timely divorce stuff again.Q’Katherine apealed too all judges and took her case too Rome,and of croase the Pope backed the Queen,and the Spanish were not going against this Princess of Spain.I think she died Henrys wife and Queen,after her death the marriage was nil and void,and she was demoted too dowedger princess.I think thats how Henry did it . Regards Baroness x

  13. Ashok Patel says:

    Anne was known to be an intelligent woman, had spent enough time in various royal courts and surely must have known the games that were being played there and aware of palace intrigues by likes of Cromwell and the gang. She would have created her own power center within considering the maddening obcession Henry had for son, his rowing eyes and philandering ways, to protect her, rather defend her in case…… I wonder, no powerful gent had the guts to defend this amazing lady from the absurd charges and onslaught of Cromwell and his cronies to get rid of her. Whatever, I admire our Anne.

  14. Baroness Von Reis says:

    Claire, have QA how did Henry get away with making Mary ,Q’Kates and Henry V111 in a true marriage,a bastard,that was his child,everyone knew that?? Baroness x

    1. Claire says:

      He argued that their marriage was contrary to Biblical law because she was his brother’s widow and therefore it was incestuous. He argued that the papal dispensation for the marriage should never have been issued. He used a verse from Leviticus – “If a man marries his brother’s wife, it is an act of impurity; he has dishonoured his brother. They will be childless.” but then Deuteronomy says “If brother’s dwell together and one of them dies and has no son, the wife of the dead shall not be remarried outside of the family to a stranger; her husband’s brother shall go into her, and take her as his wife, and perform the duty of a husbands brother to her.”

  15. Miranda says:

    Dear Claire,

    Hi my name is Miranda Reed. Wow is this really true that if a brother dwell together and one of them dies and has no son, the wife of the dead shall not be remarried outside of the family to a stranger; her husband’s brother shall go into her, and take her as his wife, and perform the duty of a husbands brother to her.” Is that really true Claire? Oh and what exactly does this mean If brother’s dwell together and one of them dies and has no son, the wife of the dead shall not be remarried outside of the family to a stranger; her husband’s brother shall go into her, and take her as his wife, and perform the duty of a husbands brother to her.”? What does that mean Claire? And what does her husband’s brother shall go into her?

    Sincerely,

    Miranda Lynn Reed

    1. Claire says:

      Both those quotations are from the Bible, in the Old Testament, and give very different instructions regarding a man marrying his brother’s widow. Leviticus 20:21 says:
      “If a man marries his brother’s wife, it is an act of impurity; he has dishonoured his brother. They will be childless.”
      So instructs against it.
      But Deuteronomy 25:5 says “If brothers dwell together and one of them dies and has no son, the wife of the dead shall not be remarried outside of the family to a stranger; her husband’s brother shall go into her, and take her as his wife, and perform the duty of a husbands brother to her.”
      So is saying that a man should marry and provide for his brother’s widow.
      Obviously they contradict each other and there’s an interesting article on this at http://unamsanctamcatholicam.blogspot.com.es/2009/06/perhaps-this-is-inspired-by-research-i.html. Here is a quote from that article:

      “The best resolution for these two verses – the one adopted by St. Augustine and also St. John Fisher in the Henry VIII case (but also Ambrose, Chrysostom and Aquinas) – was that Leviticus was to be interpreted maximally as forbidding a man to marry his brother’s wife under any circumstances – whether she was a widow or not – with one exception: if that brother had died without issue. This interpretation has the benefit of being true to the context of each Scripture, does not rob Leviticus of its binding nature but gives full room for a man to fulfill the obligation of Deuteronomy. Thus, Deuteronomy can be seen as the one exception to the general rule laid out in Leviticus.

      But if marrying a brother’s wife is always bad, how does it suddenly become good just because the brother had died without heir? St. Robert Bellarmine agreed that a union between brother and sister-in-law was base, but that the good that would come out of the marriage outweighed the baseness of the union. The marriage, which would have otherwise been forbidden, was made “honest” by the good that was expected to come from it (De Matrimonio).”

      That article explains it far better than I can and I hope that helps.

      1. Baroness Von Reis says:

        Claire ,I always thought it was a sin in Gods Eyes too marry your brothers wife,and the Catholics were really striked on that one!Well now anything goes,but I would have thought that it would be one of the biggest NO NO’S!! Baroness x

  16. Susan Lutz says:

    A wonderful article, as I have come to expect from you, Claire, and I have never been disappointed. I only wish I had found you years ago. I am confused about the dates in the indictment, such as 6 October 25 Henry VIII. What were the actual dates cited, and what was the custom for citing them as they did? Thank you… and keep up the good work.

    1. Claire says:

      “25 Henry VIII” means the 25th year of the reign of Henry VIII and is just the way that they dated official documents back then. It’s also how chronicles, like Edward Hall’s, are laid out.
      Thank you, I’m so glad you’re enjoying my articles.

  17. BanditQueen says:

    Heron was the son in law of the late Thomas More and the head of the jury: talk about a set up!

  18. Maryann Pitman says:

    The fun part of the Leviticus claim is that Henry was well known to have had an affair with Anne’s sister, which may have resulted in issue, however unacknowledged. This is the exact same situation, except we know that relationship was consummated, where it remains somewhat ambiguous regarding Katherine and Arthur. Henry wasn’t going to try and use this a second time
    Cromwell would have been highly motivated to make sure there was no question regarding the legitimacy of Henry’s children with Jane Seymour. The only way to accomplish this was to make sure Anne was dead before Henry married Jane.
    Witchcraft and/or heresy would have done it, but might have required Henry to testify personally, and it could pose risks to Cromwell himself.
    Adultery was historically, the way to go.

    1. Claire says:

      I think even adultery wasn’t the way to go and was just used as the reason for the queen plotting to kill the king. Plotting to kill the monarch was high treason and, therefore, punishable by death, whereas adultery with the queen did not constitute treason. The sexual relationships and the promise of marriage etc. gave a reason for the queen and the men to want to kill Henry VIII.

  19. Banditqueen says:

    If we examine the indictment we can pick it apart and show it is invented and ridiculous, but anyone listening to those lists of sexual acts would be absolutely shocked. You can practically see the looks of horror on the jury’s faces and understand how these indictments were believed. They couldn’t know that the men or Anne were not present at many of the locations noted on the dates stated, they wouldn’t have given it that much thought. They were under pressure to do as the King and Cromwell wanted and the leader of this Middlesex Jury was Giles Heron, the son in law of Sir Thomas More. Henry blamed Anne for driving him on to execute More and Heron was a traditional Catholic as well. He was the sort of person who was perfect as a trigger to control the others and ensure that nobody questioned the evidence too closely. These allegations are very detailed, they paint a very black picture of the Queen and they say she is capable of every crime going. We know Anne and the others were innocent, but these indictments are designed to shock people into acceptance of guilt.

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