11 May 1536 – Queen Anne Boleyn and her incredibly hectic lovelife
Posted By Claire on May 11, 2021
On this day in Tudor history, 11th May 1536, another jury, this time the Grand Jury of Kent, met to rule on the alleged offences committed by Queen Anne Boleyn and her alleged lovers in the county of Kent.
They drew up an indictment listing the offences and giving all the details, and in this video I share all those ‘juicy’ details. If we’re to believe the jury, Queen Anne Boleyn had a very complicated, and very busy, lovelife!
Here is the transcript:
In yesterday’s video, I told you all about the Grand Jury of Middlesex that met on 10th May 1536 to rule on the alleged crimes of Queen Anne Boleyn, her brother Lord Rochford, Sir Henry Norris, Sir Francis Weston, William Brereton and Mark Smeaton committed at Whitehall Palace and Hampton Court Palace. Well, on this day in 1536, the 11th May, another Grand Jury, that of the county of Kent, met to rule on these people’s alleged crimes committed at Greenwich Palace, East Greenwich and Eltham Palace.
The grand jury met at Deptford and was presided over by Chief Justice John Baldwin and six of his colleagues. Like the Middlesex grand jury the previous day, they decided that there was sufficient evidence to send the queen and the five men to trial. The indictment they drew was nearly identical in wording to the Middlesex one.
The offences listed in the indictments went from October 1533, just a month after the birth of Henry and Anne’s daughter, Elizabeth, all the way to 8th January 1536, when Anne was pregnant with the child she miscarried at the end of that month. If we combine the dates and offences of the two indictments, we get the following:
- Two dates in October 1533 – Anne procuring Sir Henry Norris to violate her at Westminster.
- Two dates in November 1533 – Anne alluring Sir Henry Norris “to violate her” at Greenwich.
- Another two dates in November 1533 – Anne and Sir William Brereton at Greenwich.
- Two dates in December 1533 – Anne procuring Sir William Brereton “to violate her” at Hampton Court.
- One date in April 1534 – Anne procuring Mark Smeaton at Westminster.
- Two dates in May 1534 – Anne procuring Sir Francis Weston at Westminster.
- Two dates in June 1534 – Anne alluring and then sleeping with Sir Francis Weston at Greenwich.
- One date in April 1535 – Mark Smeaton violating Anne at Westminster.
- Two dates in May 1535 – Anne alluring and then sleeping with Mark Smeaton at Greenwich.
- One date in October 1535 – Anne and some of the men plotting the King’s death at Westminster.
- Two dates in November 1535 – Anne procuring her brother George Boleyn, Lord Rochford, “to violate her” at Westminster.
- Another date in November 1535 – Anne giving gifts to the men at Westminster.
- Two dates in December 1535 – Anne alluring and then sleeping with her brother George Boleyn, Lord Rochford, at Eltham Palace.
- 8th January 1536 – Anne plotting the King’s death with Rochford, Norris, Weston and Brereton at Greenwich.
She was a busy lady!
As I said in yesterday’s video, historian Eric Ives noted that ¾ of the alleged offences can be disproven because they were impossible – either Anne or the man concerned was not at the places listed. Today, I’m sure the defendants’ lawyers would get the case thrown out, BUT in Tudor times, you were guilty until proven innocent, and, as Clare Cherry and I wrote in our biography of George Boleyn, “The defendant was often unaware of the actual evidence being adduced against him until he attended court at his trial, and therefore had no hope of rebuttal”. In these cases, the jury also knew what was expected of them. I don’t believe that any of these people had a hope of real justice.
The names of those sworn into the grand jury and the indictment can be read here on the Anne Boleyn Files website – https://www.theanneboleynfiles.com/11-may-1536-the-kent-indictment/
3 thoughts on “11 May 1536 – Queen Anne Boleyn and her incredibly hectic lovelife”
They really meant to degrade this woman did they not? They really meant to make Anne Boleyn look as wicked as vile as possible, it was not enough that she was charged with adultery with five men, and plotting to kill the king her husband, the father of her child and who had done her much honour by elevating her to her current position, no they had to make her out to be a depraved unnatural monster who sexually desired her own brother, and who had been involved in a relationship with him, contrary to gods law, the charge of incest was more shocking than the others it rightly revolted people then as it does today, and whoever’s idea it was it had the desired effect, it did shock people when they heard the queen had been charged with it, the grand jury of Kent was just another like the jury of Middlesex and it was all just talk of porn, it had Anne carrying on like she was a sex addict, and for three years, how could anyone actually believe the queen had been able to betray her husband for such a length of time without being discovered? Where were her ladies when all this was happening surely one of them had noticed something? And was it not strange that not one of her women were charged with aiding the queen in her infidelities because surely she would have needed their help? Queen Catherine had the help of Lady Rochford and there was another few, Jane Bulmer who knew also she was meeting with Culpeper, because she exclaimed one night how surprised she was that the queen was still not abed! With the rigged and shameful case of Anne Boleyn I believe Cromwell irked a little at the thought of bringing innocent women into the frame, there were five men who had to die and the queen, I believe he did not wish to shed more women’s blood, it really makes one shudder at what they called Tudor justice because really, it was not justice as we know it today, the law decreed you were guilty and thus you had to prove your innocence, unlike today where you are innocent until proven guilty, and Henry V111 made a mockery of it, as he would determine their fate not the jurors, they had to do the kings bidding, as we know a person was rounded up and arrested before an investigation began, so people were arrested really on hearsay, there were no lawyers to give the accused advice and to argue their case for them in court, the defendants had to defend themselves, and as Claire points out, in most cases people did not really know the full details of the cases against them, Ives was correct in pointing out the dates did not tally with the queen or the men being present at these places when they were said to have been sleeping with each other, so where was the evidence? In face there was no evidence at all, and these judges who presided over these shameful juries were just conspirators in a wicked plot to bring down the queen, they were Henry V111’s yes men, the grand juries of Kent and Middlesex were assembled just to give people a sense of what was right and lawful, going back to 1533 when she was said to have first betrayed the king, Anne had just begun sleeping with him, when she decided to consummate their relationship because she knew now the king would marry her, the couple obviously hoped she would fall pregnant and she did, Elizabeth was born in September of that year, why on earth should Anne risk her future happiness with the king by sleeping around, the king had promised to marry her properly, they had already gone through an informal marriage and now he decreed she would be crowned as soon as possible, she had held him of for years, therefore why should she suddenly start risking her position by betraying him with any courtier who took her fancy, what we know of Anne is she had self control and was morally very chaste and pious, her behaviour bears this out during the ten long years of waiting to be married, there was never any scandal attached to her then, therefore these charges merely looked ridiculous and rigged, one of the times she was meant to have slept with Norris was when she had just given birth and as Alison Weir noted, she was going through the custom of churching, which is a sacred ritual when the mother abstains from sex and gives thanks for her and her child’s safe recovery, as the historian points out, she was probably still bleeding, in fact after having just endured the very painful ordeal of childbirth she may have thought she never wanted to have sex again ! Yet according to the juries she procured Norris to sleep with her, then the next month twice in November, then she took it in turns with the others and her own brother and even her own musician, as she herself allegedly wrote in a sad little poem whilst she sat in the Tower, ‘defiled is my name full sore’…… defiled indeed it was, and whilst his queen was locked in her prison praying and hoping for justice, Henry V111 and Jane Seymour were probably nauseatingly, discussing their forthcoming marriage, by which only with the current queens death could go ahead.
Anne was indeed a busy lady. Alison Weir believes that some of the dates between October 1535 and January 1536 are deliberately chosen to frame Henry Norris as the father of Anne’s last baby. Like Eric Ives she pointed out that at least two thirds of these charges could be easily disproved and many of them involved the periods when Anne was pregnant or in her confinement. There is no way she would have risked her baby by having sexual relations with men other than her husband or even Henry, which was something they believed to be bad for the child back then. There was no way Anne or any woman wanted to have sexual relations immediately after giving birth as alleged by the Kent Jury, which was just as bent as that of Middlesex. It was impossible for Anne to have had affairs while she was withdrawn from the world after having a child, for 40 days until the time of her Churching, a public religious ceremony in which prayers were said for the safe delivery of the mother and in which she was blessed and cleansed before entering public life again. Women were confined during this time and for weeks before the birth in a comfortable padded cell, with only women for company, with no men allowed in, not even the King, only coming out for Mass and for their Churching. The idea was to protect the mother and unborn child and to make her comfortably resting for a safe delivery. The room was hung with heavy but bright tapestries with calming pictures, the widows were covered but one was left for air and light and her ladies attended her every wish. No men could have entered her rooms and these charges are so made up.
In any event, in the normal course of events, Queens were never alone and people always slept in their rooms. In order for her to have a love affair, one or more of her women would have had to help her by bringing the men to her or by standing on watch for danger. Nobody was charged with helping Anne and so this too throws everything into doubt. Most of the people involved were at a different place to that at which the alleged crimes took place, although that didn’t bother Cromwell. That nobody questioned these factors is incredible, even for the standards of the day, when the defence had to prove their innocence. Of course that wasn’t the job of the Grand Jury who decided again it was sufficient evidence for a trial. They had only a couple of days in which to view the so called evidence and they had already been told to more or less find for the King. Again the men on the Grand Jury were chosen to give the right decision. The decision was made and Anne and the five men were sent for trial. It was a lost cause for the condemned and it didn’t matter how ridiculous these Indictments appeared to those bringing them or to us today, because the King and Cromwell had already determined that these men and the Queen would be tried and condemned to death regardless.
Yes the dates where Anne was said to have unfaithful to the king in 1535 we’re probably chosen to cast the parentage of her last infant into doubt, the sad little mite who perished in the womb, and those who were present when Elizabeth was born and those in her house hold would have known she was going through her churching period, during that time she probably surrounded herself with just her women, and her little baby whom she adored, a lot of mumsy talk would have taken place and it was just impossible for Anne to have slept around so frequently then, what we know of Anne she was a very maternal woman and wanted to be with Elizabeth as much as possible, I cannot see any new mother wanting to be with her lover over her child, everyone at court knew deep down the queen was innocent but they daren’t say it, to speak up on her defence then would have been tantamount to treason, she had run a very strict moral household her men were not allowed to indulge their time whoring in brothels, she kept a beady eye on her women and whilst flirting went on in the courtly love style there was mother untoward happening, one contemporary said later how well organised how moral was Anne’s household and in fact, it was never run better than in her day, the charges tried to make this queen look depraved, in fact all it achieved was to look a set up job.