11 May 1536 – Queen Anne Boleyn’s busy lovelife – The Fall of Anne Boleyn

On this day in 1536, 11th May, the Grand Jury of Kent met to rule on the alleged offences committed by Queen Anne Boleyn and her alleged lovers in the county.

In today’s video, I look at the dates, places and crimes, cited in the indictment. If we’re to believe the jury, Queen Anne Boleyn was a very busy lady!

I’m doing these “Fall of Anne Boleyn” videos daily until 19th May and I started on 24th April. You can catch up with them on the Anne Boleyn Files and Tudor Society Youtube Channel.

You can find out more about my book The Fall of Anne Boleyn: A Countdown at http://getbook.at/fallanneboleyn.

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8 thoughts on “11 May 1536 – Queen Anne Boleyn’s busy lovelife – The Fall of Anne Boleyn”
  1. There are more and more aspects of this that make it look like a complete set up. The almost identical wording of the indictments from two different counties chief among them.i had mentioned in an earlier post that the seven days to investigate was way too fast. Think about the number of charges against the six accused and how many locations. There isn’t only the interviews and other gathering of information but then putting that information into a coherent form to present to the grand jurors. Today an investigation like this in the US or UK would take weeks or more. I really feel that Henry and Cromwell assumed most people (except themselves or course) were ignorant and wouldn’t notice. Thankfully they were wrong.

  2. Historian Eric Ives made the interesting point that adultery wasn’t actually a secular crime. Meaning Anne couldn’t be proceeded against and punished by the government. It was at the time, only considered a moral and religious sin that would have been dealt with by a Church court.

    That said, the charge that Anne plotted with Henry Norris to kill the King would have sufficed to get rid of her. Ives believed that the various indictments of infidelity were to give the alleged regicide plot context. That is, Anne wanted the King dead because she was madly in love with other men, and she wanted Henry VIII out of the way.

    It’s astonishing how the authorities went into overkill with the long list of ridiculous charges, and adding incest to the mix too! As Claire mentions, Anne was supposedly ‘a busy lady’!

  3. Again it’s Anne Boleyn p*rnography star if you believe these allegations. Roland is quite right, five lovers and a mass conspiracy wasn’t needed to send Anne to the block. A decent case could actually have been made against Henry Norris and the Queen, however, the most dangerous evidence, i.e “dead men’s shoes” wasn’t even on the list of charges. Sir Henry Norris was constantly around, although he had other genuine reasons to be in the Queens rooms, they had known each other for some time, they had stuff in common and he had been rumoured to “come into the Queen’s presence more for her” which is code for he admired and possibly loved her from afar. Adultery in one’s heart was the same sin as actual adultery according to scripture although it probably wasn’t that bad under the law, because how do you decipher the heart? By adultery of the heart it means lusting after someone, so if you are all looking at people and desiring them in a lustful way, well beware, so that’s everyone, although being serious it is more than that it is coveting the person who belongs to someone else. I doubt admiring Anne was even close to this. But he wasn’t up on that either, so just what did the prosecution base it’s evidence against Norris and the Queen?

    Norris was named by Mark Smeaton and there is another piece of hearsay which may have provided the evidence; the rumours or supposed evidence that was given which said Norris was the father of Princess Elizabeth. I don’t know what Norris looked like but the Tudor red hair is a genetic giveaway as to the real father: King Henry Viii. We then have the so called testimony of Lady Worcester, based on the argument with her brother, Sir Anthony Browne and in this she mentioned Henry Norris as well as George Boleyn and Mark Smeaton, but especially mentioned Norris, twice. I have already mentioned the political reasons her brother may have had to use this testimony; the nuisance Sir William Brereton and Wales, as he allied himself with Thomas Cromwell. He could have made his sister give this testimony, it benefited him and he went to Cromwell who told the King because now he was in a position of misprison of treason. Adultery wasn’t a crime, but planning to conceive via a lover was as this put the succession in doubt. So technically one could imagine that Anne was using the men to see who would agree to father her children and well she might as well plot to kill Henry as well. Norris will do as a target, he has now been mentioned by a few people as Anne’s lover so he will be a believable target. We need to say they are conspiring together because Henry wanted to get rid of Anne permanently and only a charge of treason would do that. I am not certain how an adulterous woman was usually punished by the Church Courts in England but I am guessing it involved some form of public punishment and penance, so maybe a flogging and walking with a candle through the streets in a smock.

    The Government really went for overkill here with the most disgusting criminal intercourse they could come up with, incest with her own brother, purely invented to make everything else seem possible. The indictments were meant to shock and scandalized the Court. Anne was painted as a wh*re of Babylon woman, a siren, a harpi of the Greek and ancient legends. She was out of control, a sexual predator, it was truly horrifying behaviour. Not only that she had married the King with the intention of living such a debauched life. I don’t think I need say any more, I think you all get the picture Cromwell and the Grand Juries painted in the name of the King. Their case was so ridiculous that only a whole set of conspirators and lovers would do to make the indictments believable. No such rumours which had come out now appears to have existed before April 1536 and I am certain that Eustace Chapuys would have reported anything scandalous about the concubine as he called her occasionally if there had have been. We would be reading a sixteenth century version of the sixth century Secret History about the wife of Justinian who grew up in a brothel as a slave. The wonderful “Spanish Chronicle” which we can more or less dismiss gives the impression that Anne really was guilty and had an insatiable sexual appetite which obviously not one man could satisfy and was at it all the time, with the help of her servants . However, no women were blamed or pardoned for hiding her sexual crimes and conspiracies and few of them seemingly were aware of much other than tittle tattle and the odd misunderstanding. No woman was blamed for helping her. None of the women who gave evidence received pardons for covering up Anne’s alleged adultery. When Kathryn Howard was entertaining men late into the night it wasn’t just the unfortunate Jane Boleyn who helped her. While Jane did most of the procurement of Thomas Culpeper, others knew what was going on but turned King’s evidence and were pardoned. This didn’t happen ever with Anne’s ladies, without whom her wild sexual adventures could not have taken place. So the Jury and the trial Judges were carefully selected and the worst crimes in the world, incest, conspiracy and murder were added to ensure the charges of adultery were not only believed but ensured the death penalty was delivered. However, not everyone believed this nonsense and Anne and George won some support at their trial and afterwards.

    The five men are often overlooked in all of this, but in the coming days we will remember them and that they were innocent. Even Chapuys was amazed and declared they had been condemned on little testimony and hearsay and very little evidence. When your implacable enemy questions your guilt, then at least you can hope history will also question it.

  4. Something just occurred to me that I would like everyone’s thoughts on- remember when Henry started divorce proceedings against KofA? Wolsey had a quick and easy idea of how to go about it but Henry was adamant that it had to be based on the passage in Leviticus and it took forever. What if Cromwell was going to base treason charges on the ‘dead men’s shoes’ comment and Henry nixed that idea and wanted it based on the queen being a terrible person. She obviously couldn’t commit adultery by herself so some convenient men were thrown in. We already know from past actions that Henry had no compunction about executing his friends if it would get him what he wanted. This idea seems a bit out there but it was just a thought.

    1. We don’t know why Henry stepped over the “dead man’s shoes” comment and he appeared to let it go at first, probably because Anne was the aggressor and not the man in her love game but Norris repelled her and was horrified. Henry changed his mind after Smeaton confessed. Henry’s decisions and his temper turned on a pin at this time, he was terribly unpredictable. Cromwell may well have suggested one thing and Henry was so determined in his hatred of his wife that he wanted her entire family and her reputation ruined. It does all sound like “Look what this evil, horrible woman has done to me and my kingdom and look at what she has plotted against me and my family” so yes, your theory makes sense. Henry defiantly wanted to destroy Anne and her name for future memory and this was the best way to do it. Charging her simply with treason with one man as her lover wasn’t good enough. Steve has just said it’s a wonder the charges stuck, and he is right, but of course you load the jury and add a phrase like “on various dates before hand and afterwards” and you can pretty much do anything in Tudor times. Henry Viii was now all powerful and if he wanted rid of his wife, anything went.

      1. Thank you BQ. I appreciate your response. I agree with Steve. I believe the charges stuck because the jurors were told in no uncertain terms that there would be dire consequences for each of them if they didn’t.

  5. Anne would indeed be a busy Queen, hoping from one bed to another, one man to another, one palace to another, night after night, especially on 12th October 1533 when she was still confined after giving birth to Princess Elizabeth. One date was 8th January 1536. This was the day after Katherine of Aragon died and Henry and Anne were meant to be triumphant at this time and had a party to celebrate. Anne was pregnant with the King’s son as well, which made her likelihood of having sexual intercourse impossible as it was believed to be dangerous for the baby. Anne was pregnant for a further three weeks until her unfortunate miscarriage. In fact she is accused of sleeping with different men during a period which basically covered the entire time of her last pregnancy. It has been argued that she was now desperate to get pregnant and deliberately went off and slept with her own brother at this time, of all people. She was also buying gifts and plotting the King’s death with all of them and no doubt promised to marry one of them. Well sleeping with and promising to marry her brother was kinda pointless wasn’t it? She couldn’t marry her brother. Perhaps Anne could not make up her mind who she wanted to be the father of her child because she is accused of conspiracy with four of the men in December 1535. Was she trying to get one of them to agree to kill the King and what did she hope to gain from marriage to a commoner who couldn’t be King anyway? Anne was no Isabelle of France, Queen of the deviant King Edward II and sister and daughter of Kings of France, who took over the throne, imprisoned her husband and lived with his murderer, her lover, Roger Mortimer, himself a powerful noble, who ruled on behalf of her son, Edward iii who was thirteen. None of her alleged lovers could rule with her, she was not of a noble house and she didn’t yet have a son and heir to be a regent for and the only way she could rule with her would be as her advisor if she was regent for her son. There wasn’t a precedent for a Queen in England acting as a regent for an infant King and it was highly unlikely Anne would be granted such a role either. Henry Viii didn’t have male blood relatives i.e brothers to take that role but Norfolk would more than likely head a Recency Council with Anne having a paternal or guardianship role and say in her son’s education. This was all academic in any event as Anne miscarried at the end of January 1536, which again brings me back to the question, what had she to gain by promising to marry so many lovers? The answer is absolutely nothing. That doesn’t preclude conspiracy to do away with the King so as she would be free of a man she didn’t love and then as a free woman, ride off with him into the sunset. It doesn’t preclude her being put in charge of the heir and like Katherine de Valois illegally marrying her lover anyway, despite her child being minors. Without that marriage, the Tudors would not exist. However, there is no evidence that Anne did any of this and of course I am only speculating from the point of view of the prosecution to show that the entire idea of Anne planning to kill Henry is ludicrous.

    Anne had been with Henry Viii for ten years. She wanted to be Queen from the time that Henry accepted she would not be his mistress and offered marriage. He was already looking for a new wife but he was in love with Anne Boleyn, completely consumed by her. She returned his love and promised him sons. She had stayed with him during the difficult years of the annulment and helped him find ways to end his marriage by using theological arguments rather than legal ones. The use of Leviticus v Deuteronomy is ironically a legal argument under canon law in Tudor England but the efforts of Thomas Cranmer to find authorities from old laws and books from history and other disciplines turned the old arguments on their heads. Henry was persuaded to find his own solution, outside of Rome and Anne stood by him, despite her loss of youth and childbearing years. Anne did show her frustration once and threatened to leave but Henry begged her to return. She showed the same determination to achieve the crown as Katherine of Aragon had to remain as Queen. Anne had triumphed and found herself with child in February 1536, which is when she shared the news with friends after her marriage to Henry. She wanted nothing more than to give him a son. However, she was to be disappointed and they had only a daughter. Now Anne was a devoted mother and yet, she still tried to have a son. She may have been pregnant in 1534, but some historians see this as a phantom pregnancy but she looked pregnant for several months. She was most certainly pregnant by October 1536 and her fatal miscarriage of what appeared to be a son at between three and four months old at least, left her vulnerable to attack. Anne had too much invested in a Queenship which was active and hands on and sometimes too political. Henry had too much invested in her as well: she was crowned with both the crown of the Queen consort and that of Saint Edward, the King’s crown to emphasise her as the one legitimate Queen. Anne was desperate for a son for her King, one which he was the father off and some people believe that she would sleep with another man if Henry failed to get her pregnant. However, there is absolutely no sustainable evidence that Henry Viii was impotent during his marriage to Anne Boleyn and her own remarks to her sister in law should be dismissed as biased being those of an angry wife and hardly impartial. There is no other evidence and Anne’s age could well account for her irregularity of getting pregnant. On the other hand was there any problems with conception? Anne was pregnant by December 1536 and carried Elizabeth to full term. She was again pregnant within weeks of coming out of confinement if she was pregnant and I believe she was up to July 1534. There is controversial debate as to if Anne had problems between the Summer of 1534 and 1535 but a number of things could account for an inability to conceive during this period. Anne feared the continued influence of Mary and Katherine had on Henry and said she would not have a child while they lived, which to me seems she was suffering from post partum depression or psychosis. Her relationship with Henry was poor during this period and there are reports of rows and that he hardly spent any intimate time with her. Human beings do not conceive children to order and there could be any number of reasons why such a gap existed between pregnancies, physical, psychological, ill health, separation and of course intermittent impotence or a brief infertile spell. Even if Henry did have some sexual problems during this period, it would be particularly stupid of Anne to try to get pregnant with someone else as Henry was bound to work out that he wasn’t the father. Kings and Queens didn’t share a bed, he visited her when he wanted to make love with her, but if they were on difficult terms, then it is also possible Henry wasn’t visiting his wife as often and Anne was worried. However, following a triumphant progress in 1535 Anne became pregnant for the final time. Her pregnancy ended in tragedy due to Henry’s activities at the joust and maybe his flaunting a new girlfriend on his knee. It was after this that he probably ceased sexual relations with her and set about looking for a way out of the marriage, although it was a few months before Henry did anything about it. Notice as well that no accusations exist after January 1536 and nothing for April 1536 which is when Anne’s fall began. Anne tried to do her duties in public during all of these times, she was a generous Queen, she was a more political Queen than Henry wanted, she had a say in policy decisions and fulfilled her full ceremonial duties as Queen to the best of her ability. Anne saw herself as having a reforming role as Queen and wanted to influence religious and social change. Why on earth would a woman who apparently enjoyed her role as Queen and took it seriously want to risk it by sleeping around? And this is before mentioning that she promoted a strict and virtuous household. Her household was run in a way quite the opposite to the one being portrayed in this list of indictments. Here Anne is lewd and her household must be one of loose living where the Queen satisfied her wild sexual appetites as she pleased and nobody said anything for almost three years. It is more like her being the high priestess in the Temple of Babylon imagined by Herodotus, being sexually serviced by numerous priests and the god Marduke himself, which was actually nonsense. In reality her household were forbidden to swear, use rude language, act in a lewd manner or go to brothels, were dismissed if they were not virtuous and had very strict rules of conduct. It was impossible for Anne or anyone to come and go at will, let alone entertain men late into the night, at least not without someone knowing about it.

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