11 May 1536 – The turn of the Grand Jury of Kent

On this day in history, Thursday 11th May 1536, the Grand Jury of Kent, presided over by Chief Justice John Baldwin and six of his colleagues, met at Deptford to rule on the case against Queen Anne Boleyn, Sir Henry Norris, William Brereton, Sir Francis Weston, Mark Smeaton and George Boleyn, Lord Rochford.

Like the Grand Jury of Middlesex, that had met the day before, the jurors ruled that there was sufficient evidence to send the queen and the five men to trial for the alleged crimes committed in the county of Kent at Greenwich Palace, East Greenwich and Eltham Palace.

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Picture: The Great Hall at Eltham Palace, cc-by-sa/2.0 – © Marathon – geograph.org.uk/p/5137321

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7 thoughts on “11 May 1536 – The turn of the Grand Jury of Kent”
  1. This was another set of shockingly outrageous allegations of sexual and traitorous conspiracy between Anne and at least five men, which can be proved according to a second set of men, which must have made people look at them as guilty. Henry had already sent out the orders for the trial to take place and this is only the confirmation of the charges made in Middlesex. Two juries are needed as the offences took place in two different jurisdictions. Imagine the U.S.A and crimes in different states, leading to legal arguments in different states. There may even be more than one trial in different states. The Court moved around so of course these crimes took place in different palaces and these are in different political areas.

    The two juries have mirrored each other. It is further evidence that the whole thing has been guided from the outset and set up to trap those accused in a web from which there was no escape. I end by repeating my other comments that the dates are invented, don’t make any sense, that the accused had sound alibies and that Anne was pregnant or confined after birth in a room full of women, unable to leave and had no contact with men. She would have needed help to have the gentleman brought to her or to move to them at a different palace. Nobody was prosecuted for misprison of treason, so how did she do it? Well of course, she didn’t. It was a coup to bring down a loyal and loving Queen and it was terrifyingly successful.

  2. The juries of Kent and Middlesex both echoed one another, it was just one more step towards the destruction of Anne, how she and her co accused felt we can only imagine, she knew her world was falling around before her and she was alone and powerless, she must have suffered many a sleepless night and the sarcastic mutterings of her women did not help, she must have been haunted by her daughter who she may have feared she would never see again, she had to get through the horrendous ordeal of the trial where she knew she would be publicly shamed and then what, what would happen to her then, she knew her husband and how he had treated his enemies with no mercy in the past must have made her very anxious, he had sent many to the block and although no queen had ever been put on trial before she must have known she was to go down in history as the first one, she had just eight days to live unbeknown to her and this last week of her life was to show what mettle she was made of.

  3. Can you imagine those women being there, who didn’t like Anne? Some of them were her own relations. Yet, they were told to spy on her and report her every word. Today they would have worn a wire with Cromwell and his men sat listening on a computer somewhere. Every word could have led to another accusation. All Anne was probably told was she was charged with adultery and treason with the five men and incest with her brother, but given no details so could not make a defence. I am very surprised at how calm she was and how well she did try to defend herself before the Judges and 2000 people at the Great Hall in the Tower. Anne must indeed have been going out of her mind, especially for her little daughter and her mother, whose health she was concerned about. This really was a trying and frightening time.

    1. It must have been so horrendous for her and it shows how spiteful Henry could be for making her endure those women’s company, as she bewailed her fate to Kingston, it was cruel of him to set about her those whom she never loved, when she was first arrested she mentioned her mother which shows how close they were, however Elizabeth Boleyn received the news about her daughter and son is unknown and it was probably Thomas who informed her, but it must have come as a dreadful shock and couldn’t have done her health any good, and yes Elizabeth must have been on her mind constantly as well, it does make you wonder how she retained her sanity, the hysteria she showed on her arrival did go when the initial shock wore of but Kingston noted she continually wept and laughed, she possibly did not eat much either as constant worry can make the appetite vanish, she had to prepare herself for the ordeal of the trial and was determined to make a good defence, it was dreadful for this poor woman went through and not forgetting the men either.

  4. Reading Claire’s Countdown, on a daily basis, as I guess we all are? and I’ve opened it at page 132. From the Lady in the Tower, a letter, a cri de coeur, begging, ‘Try me, good King, but let me have a Lawful Trial, and let not my sworn Enemies sit as my Accusers and Judges; yes, let me receive an open Trial, for my Truth shall fear no open shame, then you shall see, either mine Innocency cleared, yout suspicion and Conscience satisfied, the Ignominy and Slander of the World stopped, or my Guilt openly declared.’
    Whether Anne’s words or not, they must surely speak with her heart, as she sat there, in her Tower, with images of the pale Jane Seymour flitting through her mind. ‘That party’, the letter said, ‘for whose sake I am now as I am, whose Name I could some good while since have pointed unto.’

  5. Anne was only granted one thing that she asked for, an open and public trial, but then Henry wanted everyone to know how much the Queen had hurt and betrayed him. Unfortunately for Henry it was also embarrassing as both Anne and George Boleyn were bold and when George read out the statement about the King’s alleged inadequacies in the bedroom, everyone laughed and Henry was humiliated. Anne gave a brave account of herself. I am not keen on the Philippa Gregory The Other Boleyn Girl, but the look on the face of the actress playing Anne and her bearing are the best way of presenting this for a long time. There was to be no justice and no revelations of her innocence, just a questioning of every act Anne had ever done. She was judged by those who were her enemies despite her appeal and all of her bold defence was in vain. This was a show trial, even though Anne gained a lot of sympathy. She may well have been cleared if she had a just hearing, so good was her defence, such was her cleverly crafted responses, but this was not a fair hearing and she was doomed.

    1. It only occurred to me something else which disturbed Anne this morning. Not only has she got women marking her every word and reporting it to Kingston, who I actually have some sympathy for because he literally is merely doing his duty as Constable of the Tower, but she was informed that Henry Norris had confessed, something he denied. It is a common tactic today to get someone to flip on other suspects and do a deal as a crown witness by letting them think someone has confessed blamed them. Anne must have been in anguish over this. Why would someone she trusted do this? When he openly denied it in Court, Norris was told he had confessed but he had been tricked and stuck to what he had told the King. Let’s face it, if the guy was going to confess it would have been to Henry as his status precluded torture, unless by direct orders and there were none. Studies on Tudor trials and interrogation have found that the idea of common use of the rack and torture is a myth. It was used, but to gain more names, not just a confession. As most of these charges were more or less laid down in advance and the dates invented it is pretty certain that confessions were not sought via the rack. Milder forms of torture could be used and most people cracked at this point but again, bully tactics seem to have been used here, not torture. George Constantine, a servant of Norris thought it had been used, but he couldn’t be certain and it was not confirmed. Only Smeaton confessed and it is likely that had the others been tortured, they would have confessed as well. People could resist torture, but we are talking about those trained to do so, and some of remarkable faith and mental resources. A number of Catholic priests resisted under torture, but they had been conditioned to do so, just as a special forces person is now, Anne Askew suffered terrible and relentless and illegal torture but gave none up nor denied her faith, although she did sign something asking for pardons, there are various opinions as to whether or not Smeaton was tortured, but they are not reliable. More interrogations actually took place in the Tower in the cells, according to one unreliable source, the Spanish Chronicle, which is agreed by another source. However, again, nobody confessed. Now the agony of waiting and the trials.

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