A 15th century illumination of Justices of the King's Bench
An illumination of Justices of the King’s Bench

The day after the Grand Jury of Middlesex met at Westminster, 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. Their task was 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 in Kent, at Greenwich Palace, East Greenwich and Eltham Palace.

The Baga de Secretis, as transcribed in the Appendix of Wriothesley’s Chronicle, lists the Grand Jury panel members. The dots show those who appeared and the word “jur.” appears after the names of those who were sworn in.1

. Ricardus Clement, miles, jur.
. Willelmus Fynche, miles, jur.
. Edwardus Boughton, miles, jur.
. Antonius Seyntleger, armiger, jur.
. Johannes Cromer, armiger, jur.
. Johannes Fogg, arrniger jur.
. Thomas Willesford armiger, jur.
. Johannes Norton, armiger, jur.
. Humfridus Style, armiger, jur.
. Robertus Fysher, gent. jur.
. Thomas Sybbell, gent. jur.
. Johannes Lovelas, gent. jur.
. Walterus Harynden, gent. jur.
. Edwardus Page, gent. jur.
. Thomas Fereby, gent. jur.
. Lionellus Ansty, gent. jur.
Willelmus Buston, gent.
Stephanus Astyn, gent.
Thomas Grene, gent.
Thomas Chapman, gent.
Willelmus Iden, gent.
Marcus Aucher, gent.
Robertus Brograve, gent.
Willelmus Swan, gent.
Thomas Swan, gent.

Here is a transcript of the Kent Indictment:

“Record of indictment and process before Baldewyn, Luke, and others, in co. Kent.
The indictment found at Deptford, on Thursday, 11 May 28 Hen. VIII., is precisely similar in character to the Middlesex indictment, except as regards times and places; viz., that the Queen at Estgrenewyche [East Greenwich], 12 Nov. 25 Hen. VIII., and divers days before and since, allured one Hen. Noreys, late of Est Grenewyche, to violate her, whereby he did so on the 19 Nov., &c.; that on 22 Dec. 27 Hen. VIII., and divers other days, at Eltham, she allured Geo. Boleyn, lord Rocheford, &c., whereby he did so, 29 Dec., &c.; that on the 16 Nov. 25 Hen. VIII., and divers, &c., at Est Grenewyche, she allured one Will. Bryerton, late of Est Grenewyche, &c., whereby he did so, 27 Nov., &c.; that on the 6 June 26 Hen. VIII., &c., at Est Grenewyche, she allured Sir Fras. Weston, &c., whereby he did so, 20 June, &c.; that on the 13 May 26 Hen. VIII. &c., at Est Grenewyche, she allured Mark Smeton, &c., whereby he did so, 19 May 26 Hen. VIII.

And further that the said Boleyn, &c. grew jealous of each other; and the Queen, to encourage them, at Eltham, 31 Dec. 27 Hen. VIII., and divers times before and since, made them presents, &c.; that the Queen and the others, 8 Jan. 27 Hen. VIII., conspired the King’s death, &c., and that she promised to marry one of the traitors whenever the King was dead, affirming she would never love him, &c.”2

As the editor of the Baga de Secretis points out (and as is pointed out in the record of the indictment in Letters and Papers), the indictment is “nearly identical in wording with the like precept to the Sheriff of Middlesex” so it is little wonder that the Grand Jury of Kent also decided that there was sufficient evidence for Anne and the men to be tried for their crimes.

As I mentioned in The Fall of Anne Boleyn: A Countdown, if we combine the Kent and Middlesex Indictments we get a clearer picture of the dates of the alleged offences:

  • 6th and 12th October 1533 – Anne “procured” Sir Henry Norris “to violate her” at Westminster.
  • 12th November and 19th November 1533 – Anne “allured” Sir Henry Norris “to violate her” at Greenwich.
  • 16th and 27th November 1533 – Anne and Sir William Brereton at Greenwich.
  • 3rd and 8th December 1533 – Anne “procured” Sir William Brereton “to violate her” at Hampton Court.
  • 12th April 1534 – Anne “procured” Mark Smeaton at Westminster (date for Anne procuring Smeaton).
  • 8th and 20th May 1534 – Anne “procured” Sir Francis Weston at Westminster.
  • 6th and 20th June 1534 – Anne “allured” and then slept with Sir Francis Weston at Greenwich.
  • 26th April 1535 – Mark Smeaton “violated” Anne at Westminster.
  • 13th and 19th May 1535 – Anne “allured” and then slept with Mark Smeaton at Greenwich.
  • 31st October 1535 – Anne and some of the men plotted the King’s death at Westminster.
  • 2nd and 5th November 1535 – Anne “procured” her brother George Boleyn,Lord Rochford, “to violate her” at Westminster.
  • 27th November 1535 – Anne gave gifts to the men at Westminster.
  • 22nd and 29th December 1535 – Anne “allured” and then slept with her brother George Boleyn, Lord Rochford, at Eltham Palace.
  • 8th January 1536 – Anne plotted the King’s death with Rochford, Norris, Weston and Brereton at Greenwich.

As historian Eric Ives3 pointed out in his book, The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn, these dates actually do not make sense. Three quarters of the alleged offences can be disproven because either Anne Boleyn or the man she was alleged to have slept with were actually not at the place cited in the indictments. I find it interesting that the final weekend of April 1536 is not mentioned in the indictments, yet we know that Anne reprimanded Smeaton for mooning over her and had the fateful “dead men’s shoes” argument with Sir Henry Norris. Does this suggest that the indictments were drawn up before those events? It’s impossible to know.

The Grand Juries obviously believed that Anne Boleyn had the time, energy and means to sleep with five men. How odd that nobody noticed before April 1536!

Notes and Sources

  1. Wriothesley, Charles. A Chronicle of England During the Reigns of the Tudors, from A.D. 1485 to 1559, 206, Appendix, Baga de Secretis Pouch VIII
  2. LP x. 876
  3. Ives, Eric. The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn, 344

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7 thoughts on “11 May 1536 – The Kent Indictment”
  1. Why two indictments? One was enough was it not. The Tudors did have a way of doubling everything although did they not! More was more. I like the way one came straight after the other and the places that they had been taken in. The latter being Anne Boleyns hometown. I wonder although what part? And if so it would not just so happen to be Hever would it? Or somewhere near by. 🙂

    1. To cover the offences allegedly committed in the two areas – the royal palaces were in Kent and Middlesex, so two legal jurisdictions.

        1. Surely, the above are accusations not evidence. Was there no need to have interviewed the accused before the indictments were made.

        2. The legal process was for the charges and evidence to be laid out in front of a grand jury (in this case two juries because the alleged crimes were committed in two counties) who then decided if there was sufficient evidence to indict the person and send them for trial. Unfortunately, Anne and the men, who had to defend themselves, would have been unaware of the evidence to be presented against them. Defendants were also “presumed guilty” unless they could prove their innocence.

          Smeaton and Norris were interrogated, and it appears that the others were, but this was to get evidence from them.

  2. Think about it-the Queen was never alone, she had dozens of ladies, there would have had to be accomplices for her to have trysts with men (think Katherine Howard). Who would she trust most? Lady Rochford was her sister-in-law. She would have needed the co-operation of others as well. No ladies were executed or imprisoned with her as with KH. She was imprisoned with ladies who had orders to report her every word to the authorities, not her own ladies. Her ladies were questioned, but no one was charged with anything. Not Henry’s style at all. Had she been guilty, they would have known and been called to testify at the very least. Assisting the Queen to commit adultery is a pretty serious offense. All they had was innuendo.

    Anne was easy to frame. Think about her appeal. She was provocative. Not beautiful. She was also aloof, but if she wanted to make Henry jealous to bring him back, she might have been a bit less aloof in those early months of 1536. A woman like Anne tends to generate dislike in other women, and to some extent in the men she has ultimately refused as well.

    Her relationship with Lady Rochford is a mystery. We do know that the Boleyns had high standards of achievement, in many arenas. Look at what happened to Mary, who had the misfortune of being widowed early. The family did not treat her well at all. If George’s wife failed to measure up in some way (no children?) perhaps she was made to feel it, as Mary was. Then there is that lack of children in her marrriage. Jane and George were both at Court. Surely there were opportunities for them to have relations. Infertility or disinterest? It was not a love match, but an arranged marriage. They may not have liked each other. Jane may have acted out of a sense of duty in writing to the Tower, or on instructions from Thomas Boleyn. We just don’t know

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