Eltham Palace, where some of the alleged crimes were said to have been committed.
Eltham Palace, where some of the alleged crimes were said to have been committed.

On 11th May 1536, the Grand Jury of Kent met at Deptford in front of Sir John Baldwin (Chief Justice of the Common Pleas), Sir Walter Luke and five other Justices to rule on the alleged crimes of Queen Anne Boleyn, Sir Henry Norris, Sir William Brereton, Sir Francis Weston, George Boleyn (Lord Rochford) and Mark Smeaton committed at Greenwich Palace, East Greenwich and Eltham Palace.

Unsurprisingly, following the decision of the Middlesex jury the previous day, the Grand Jury of Kent decided that there was sufficient evidence for Anne and the men to be tried for their crimes.

You can find out all about the jury members and the salcious details of the indictment in my article from last year – 11 May 1536 – The Kent Indictment.

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12 thoughts on “11 May 1536 – The Grand Jury of Kent”
  1. I always like seeing the Latinized names — Willelmus this and Edwardus that, but Thomas just remains plain Thomas. It seems obvious to us that these were impossible charges, and I think we have a tendency to assume that deep down, the juries knew it too, but I wonder. Considering much more recent events — the daycare Satanism hysteria, just for example — they may have been so stunned by the sheer audacity of the charges that they felt it was impossible *not* to convict. After all, if there was a chance that it was true, how on earth could these evil people be left to roam free? After all, if someone nowadays accuses a celebrity of something hideous, how many people sit back to consider and how many will rush to condemn and wallow in all the (supposed) details of what happened? The juries may not have been cynical or disbelieving at all.

    NB — I believe William Brereton was not a Sir, just William Brereton. (Eric Ives mentions that specifically in a talk which is transcribed here: http://www.brereton.org/professor_eric_ives.htm (it’s a bit down the page). I still find myself calling him Sir on occasion as well — it seems to fit in much better with the other non-musical accused men.

  2. Actually the opposite is true; the sexual charges were
    Considered understandable to people in light of
    Anne’s taking up with a married man, making threatening
    Noises toward her former mistress and her daughter, encouraging
    The King to break with the Pope (!!) and sleep
    With a marrieds an if a man nog her husband and
    Become pregnant.

    The above were Shocking to people especially those
    Who had a stake in the status quo. We dismiss them,
    But we have lax moral rules compared to them.

    Re the other charges, there can be no doubt that
    Anne had an unguarded tongue and if those things
    Were actually said re impotence etc then she and her
    Brother questioned the royal line and that was a recent
    Treason law that she may actually have approved
    When it meant people like More would die. I have zero
    Doubt her judges appreciated the irony.

  3. Re the indictment’s use of “and divers days before and since” and similar phrases —

    I recently read Evelyn Waugh’s biography of Edmund Campion, who was hanged, drawn and quartered at Tyburn in 1581 and is now a Saint. The charges against Campion used the same device of giving a specific place and date and then adding something about unspecified days before and after.

    So it may have been quite standard at the time to use that sort of vagueness in the charges to make them harder to refute.

    1. It’s still done. I was a juror a few years ago in a case of sexual abuse and part of the indictment said something along the lines of “The State is not required to prove the exact dates of the offenses alleged.” There were no exact dates given in that case at all. It makes sense when you think about it — if you’re talking about non-injurious crimes committed several years ago, it would be very hard to prove exact dates unless there were special circumstances surrounding them. Of course, in that case, you’d better have some really good circumstantial evidence that the crimes did, in fact, happen — more than one terrified servant, anyway.

      1. That’s very interesting, and it makes sense that there would sometimes be no need to prove the exact dates. Thanks for posting it.

        However, I still wonder quite what the Tudor approach was up to when using specific times and dates plus a vague reference to other times and places.

  4. The alleged dates Anne was to have slept with Smeaton, 5/13 and 5/19/1535, a little “coincidental ” to Anne’s date of execution 5/19/1536??

  5. She would have been one very busy lady if proved to be true. Where did she get the time to do all this and without being seen or without it being made controversial. I mean someone would have noticed surely. Little did they actually know what they were doing was actually a treasonable offence I am sure if they knew they would not of done it and they most certainly could not of known that it would risk them their lives. They would have had to of been mad crazy to do so. The question is was it all worth it? Either way. They were obviously no saints but they were no sinners. The King although did say at the beginning give yourself up body and soul and he meant it obviously. They say actions speak louder than words but not in this case. He meant what he said and said what he meant.

  6. Having read the list of dates and places from both juries Anne did a lot of aluring and procuring and had a lot of violtating going on: she must have been very busy indeed. Had any of these charges been true then she and they deserved everything they got: plotting treason and adultery and so on were serious crimes; although adultery with the Queen was not as yet a capital crime, but imagining the Kings death was. However, of course on close examination the evidence is a load of rubbish. Not that Queens had not had lovers in the past; but to have so many all at the same time and on numerous occassions, in the same place was highly dangerous and foolish. What if Anne did get pregannt and pass of the child as the Kings? That would be treason. But again with closer examination the entire case collapses. Anne was pregnant with Elizabeth, giving birth to Elizabeth or still in a room with only women after the birth of Elizabeth when some of the dates occur. The men could also be placed elsewhere on some dates as could the King and Queen. Just how many fall apart I am not sure, but historians claim at least one third do if not more. Even Chaprys says he does not believe the charges of incest so the case of her brother falls apart or at least seems incrediable even to an enemy of Anne’s.

    There is one fact that led many people to question Anne’s guilt afterwards: on the day before she died she swore on the Host as she received Our Lord in her confession to Cranmer that she was innocent. Not only that but she made sure that the Constable of the Tower was present at the time and Cranmer asked him to ensure that people knew about her last declaration of innocence. To those who witnessed this and heard it: this was proof of her innocense as she had sworn on the Sacrament; and this was her last confession and reception of the Body and Blood of Christ. To swear falsely in such a case would to people of faith have been to condemn her soul and this was not something Anne would risk as her death drew near. It was concluded and still is concluded that this act proved her innocence. This, a dying declaration from a woman about to be executed, about to face the judgement of God; about to take the sacred Body and Blood in Holy Communion, to me, as a woman of faith, above everything else shows Anne to be innocent.

    I do not agree that we have a lower standard morally today. Some people might but there are still a number of people who condemn sleeping with another persons spouse. This would have been shocking and may-be some around the court believed that if Anne slept with the King prior to marriage or lurred him away from the true Queen Katherine; then they would also believe that she could be guilty of these ridiculous crimes. However, there were also those who believed Anne had kept herself from the Kings bed until the divorce was all but done and dusted and only then did she allow Henry to have his wish. Others today believe that the holding out was mutural or the Kings idea; but that neither side gave in until they were about to plan the marriage. Whatever people believed of Anne before her marriage: I suspect the majority of people were shocked at the rumours about her and these men. I am even more convinced that everyone believed the rumours to be true. Anne may have flirted and had fun but she was also a woman who made strict rules governing the conduct of the young men and the women in her service. Anne hated foul language and lude behaviour and she dismissed from court anyone who did not behave within a code of conduct. This sort of moral code does not sit well with a woman accused of sleeping regularly with five men plus her husband. Yes, Anne had enemies and yes, I am sure there were those who wanted to bring her down and believed these charges, but I also think many people would have doubted her being capable of adultery and believed in her innocence.

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