10 May 1536 – The Middlesex Indictment

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

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