10 May 1536 – What were the charges laid against Anne Boleyn and the men?


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/

Related Post

2 thoughts on “10 May 1536 – What were the charges laid against Anne Boleyn and the men?”
  1. The term Bring Up the Bodies sends a shiver up my spine as it suggests that the men are dead already. The jury at Middlesex tried alleged crimes at Hampton Court and Whitehall. Another jury, that of Kent would be giving similar lurid details tomorrow.
    Where did these juries get chosen from? Was it random or did they simply choose men of note in a certain area?

    Sir Giles Heron as the son in law of the late Sir Thomas More would have had no problems conducting these proceedings. More, himself had nothing personal against Anne but he opposed her as a choice for Queen because Henry’s annulment from Katherine of Aragon was not lawful in his experience and the second marriage therefore was also not lawful. Snne was later blamed for the death of Thomas More by the King and his family would continue to be difficult for years. Ironically More was fair ehen it came to the laws of the country and I believe even he would have had trouble with this set up of the Queen. The Jury had more or less been told to do its duty the day before. Anne was going to be convicted and the members of her Jury were chosen with that result in mind.

    I am not going to go into details here, they are all there to read, but the language was deliberately shocking. Anne was painted as a witch and a wh*re, totally out of control and as hating her marriage, her husband and as a murderous fiend. She is described as some unnatural creature and we are very much meant to have sympathy for the King. Henry cannot simply say she slept with one man as he would be seen as having no control over his wife. His honour as a King and husband is on the line so Snne has to be seen as someone nobody can control. Although Anne wasn’t charged with witchcraft, the language suggests that she used charms and spells and these men were clearly unable to stop themselves, so under her spell were they. She allured them into bed with words and gifts and they couldn’t rest her. This is what we are meant to think.

    The worst charge was that of incest. This was truly shocking, that people who shared the same blood should act in a shameful way sexually with each other. A father and daughter, mother and son relationship was bad enough but the children were innocent. Two siblings consenting to this terrible sin was truly shocking. Incest would actually carry the death penalty in a few more years, it was that hateful to the righteous society of the sixteenth century. In England adultery and Incest were still sexual sins dealt with by the Church, so Anne couldn’t be executed on this charge. As terrible as it was, bringing public shame and the threat of Eternal Damnation, there was an even greater crime that Anne had been found guilty of, one which sentenced her and these men to death.

    Anne and her lovers were found guilty here of conspiracies against the King’s life. Anne was charged with using sexual favours to get them to agree to marry her if Henry died and to plan snd plot to kill the King. They were charged as having done this individually and together. Anne had made this promise to Henry Norris and to each of her alleged lovers. They had agreed and that was high treason. Anne was also charged with not caring about the legitimacy of the royal children, thus putting the future heirs at risk. Endangering the succession by having a child with a lover, by passing it off as the son or daughter of the King was definitely high treason. These charges were now added to ensure the death penalty. Not that Anne had any children who could have affected the inheritance but Elizabeth was her daughter and she was recognised legally as Henry’s heir. Her paternity was about to be put yo the test.

    1. I found that such an interesting observation, Banditqueen, that Thomas More might well have stood against anything clearly untrue in the allegations. How ironic. X

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *