On this day in Tudor history, 10th May 1536, the Grand Jury of Middlesex met. The reason for this meeting was to decide on whether Queen Anne Boleyn and five of the men imprisoned in the Tower of London – George Boleyn, Sir Henry Norris, Sir Francis Weston, William Brereton and Mark Smeaton -should be sent to trial.
Predictably, the grand jury ruled that there was sufficient evidence to try the queen and the men, and they drew up the indictment.
In this video, I explain what happened and give a summary of the charges.
Here’s the transcript:
On this day in 1536, the 10th May, 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 there 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, poet, courtier and diplomat Sir Thomas Wyatt the Elder, and Sir Richard Page, a gentleman of the privy chamber. However, there was no mention of these two men in the indictments drawn up this day.
So, what were the charges laid against the queen and the five men by the Middlesex Grand Jury?
Well, I’ll give you a link to read the indictment for yourself, as it’s rather long, but here is a list of what they were charged with:
Queen Anne Boleyn was charged with:
- “Entertaining malice against the King” and following her lustful desires.
- Procuring her husband’s servants to be her “adulterers and concubines” by “base conversations and kisses, touchings, gifts, and other infamous incitations” so that some of them “yielded to her vile provocations”.
- Seducing and committing adultery with Sir Henry Norris, Sir William Brereton, Sir Francis Weston and Mark Smeaton.
- Seducing her own brother, George Boleyn, Lord Rochford “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” so that he “violated and carnally” knew her.
- Encouraging the men with gifts.
- Conspiring “the death and destruction of the king”.
- Agreeing to marry one of them after the King’s death.
- Never having loved the King.
- Causing harm and peril to the King through her “malice and adultery”.
- Committing treasons “in contempt of the Crown, and of the issue and heirs of the said king and queen” by her actions.
The five men were accused of violating her and plotting with her to kill their master, King Henry VIII.
Although various dates were mentioned for their offences, and historian Eric Ives has mentioned that ¾ of dates mentioned in the Middlesex and Kent indictments don’t make sense and can be challenged, because either the queen or the man was not at the place listed, or it was impossible, any problem with the dates chosen for the alleged offences was covered by “divers days before and since” and “several times before and after”.
The language used in the indictments was designed to shock those who’d attend the trials. Anne was described as having “frail and carnal appetites”, using “vile provocations”, alluring her brother with her tongue in his mouth and his in hers. Shocking and lurid!
Also on this day in 1536, Sir William Kingston, the Constable of the Tower of London, was ordered “to bring up the bodies of Sir Francis Weston, knightt. Henry Noreys, esquire. William Bryerton, esquire. and Mark Smeaton, gentleman. at Westminster, on Friday next after three weeks of Easter”, i.e. the 12th May. This order was sent before the Kent Grand Jury met, and may even have been sent before the Middlesex grand jury met.
Sir John Dudley wrote to Lady Lisle on 10th May to update her on goings-on at court:
“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.”
He was wrong about George Boleyn, he was not tried with the other men by the commission of oyer and terminer, he was tried on 15th May by a jury of his peers, like his sister, Anne.
Here is a link to the article I mentioned, where you can read the indictment for yourself – https://www.theanneboleynfiles.com/10th-may-1536-the-grand-jury-of-middlese/