13 May 1536 – A cross Henry Percy – The Fall of Anne Boleyn


On this day in 1536, 13th May, Henry Percy, Earl of Northumberland, got rather cross and exasperated with Thomas Cromwell and refused to be bullied in any way.

Poor Cromwell, Percy wouldn’t play ball!

Find out what Thomas Cromwell was trying to get Percy to do any why, and what it had to do with the fall of Anne Boleyn, in today’s video.

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.

You can click here to read articles on today’s events.

Related Post

19 thoughts on “13 May 1536 – A cross Henry Percy – The Fall of Anne Boleyn”
  1. Good for Percy. These proceedings were such a sham and here is proof of Cromwell wanting someone to perjure themselves. It seems there wasn’t any real attempt to even try to make this look legit.

  2. I am not surprised Henry Percy wrote Cromwell a scathing letter he must have thought ‘here we go again’, why on earth should he agree to a pre contract just to please the King when he had already sworn on the sacrament in front of churchman earlier that there had been no such thing between him and Anne, Henry expected people to conform to his will all the time, ‘yes sir no sir three bags full sir’ just because having tired of his wife, he wished to get rid of her, Iv always thought Percy did the right thing there, because swearing on the sacrament as we know meant a lot in Tudor times, that was why Anne swore on the sacrament herself in front of witnesses that she had been a faithful wife to the King, people took it very seriously as they believed to lie on the sacrament meant eternal damnation, Percy must have been aghast and could not believe it, Cromwell was expecting him to renage on the vow he had made years before which meant that he Percy was not a man of honour and all this just so the King could get rid of Anne Boleyn, he must have thought about the time they had loved one another years before and wished to marry, then they had been cruelly seperated and yet now they were in a sense being thrown back together, how he must have seethed at the King and his unscrupulous first minister, then he had been in the household of the great Cardinal Wolsey a callow youth, he had been humiliated in front of others when he had upbraided him for his folly in loving Anne Boleyn, that foolish girl he had called her, he had sent for Percy’s father when the lad had argued with him and he had bellowed at him in anger he was a wastrel nothing more, those scenes must have stuck in his mind when he wrote to Cromwell refusing to give him the co operation he wanted, Cromwell must have turned the letter over and pondered on his next move, he could not force Percy who was now the Earl of Northumberland and powerful enough in his own right to consent to his request, this seems strange as Anne was about to be beheaded anyway, which would make the King a free man he would be a widow, so why the need for Percy’s agreement that he had been contracted to Anne?, any child he would have with Jane if he were a son would be Henrys heir apparent anyway, it could be as we know full well after her death, that Henry just wanted her obliterated from memory so he felt the need to have her marriage with him declared null and void, as like with Katherine, of course he also wished to make Elizabeth illegitimate like with Mary as he wished his upcoming marriage with Jane Seymour to be his first and only real legitimate marriage, therefore both daughters had to be bastards, but it was such a faff the way Henry V111 carried on with his wives and the succession issue and even more so, because later on in his life he placed both daughters back in the succession anyway, after his son Prince Edward, I must also comment on the other event – the disbanding of Queen Annes household, this I feel was very sad as it was another occurrence in the downfall of the queen and abandonment by her husband, little by little her life was falling apart and it must have been very upsetting for some of her staff who as Claire mentions must have been her friends and loyal retainers, to have your mistress suddenly taken to the Tower and then to be taken to Cromwell and be interrogated for several hours one assumes, must have been very distressing and then when the queens household was broken up they must have felt their positions were at risk, however as we all know they did not lose their positions for long, and were soon back in attendance on the new queen Jane Seymour, but how they felt one can only wonder, the arrest and death of their mistress must have invoked strong feelings of sadness and anger, the loyalty they would have felt towards her even if there were some who did not like her, must have felt that she had been badly treated especially after prim faced Jane Seymour took her place, it all happened so shockingly quickly that they must have all been in a state of utter bewilderment, I should imagine there was some resentment towards the new queen to but of course they daren’t show it.

  3. I forgot to mention the disbandment of Anne’s household. To break up her house and dismiss servants before she was even tried and convicted shines anothet bright light on this travesty. How stupid did the king and Cromwell think people were that they wouldn’t notice? I know Tudor trials were rigged but this whole travesty goes beyond the pale. No subtleties here.

    1. Disbanding a household before conviction was Tudor SOP (Standard Operating Procedure) — IIRC, they did the same to Thomas Seymour’s household before he was convicted.

      Also, I think it significant that Percy’s failure to “play ball” would not have had any effect on the criminal case (adultery/treason) but only on the validity of the marriage (which was annulled on different grounds in any event). First, only annulment would bastardize Elizabeth — and this was necessary to insure that, if Henry died, the throne would at least go to a close-to-adult bastard (Richmond or Mary) instead of an infant bastard.

      IMO, what the Percy incident shows is Henry’s pressing desire to be seen as “the victim” — if the invalidity of the marriage was due to lies about the pre-contract, it isn’t Henry’s fault, but if the invalidity of the marriage was due to Henry’s affair with Anne’s sister, then it is his fault.

      1. I completely agree. I am Henry please see me as the victim here and co operation would be appreciated. How pathetic! Anything just so as it’s not his fault. Good for Henry Percy making him find the only other reason, his previous sexual encounters with Anne’s sister, which as you say is Henry’s fault.

        Thanks for your legal take in the situation. Henry Viii didn’t half create himself some legal messes and come up with some weird solutions or rather his lawyers did.

        The Third Act of Succession in 1544 even leaves the two Princesses as illegitimate while putting them sensibly back into the succession after Prince Edward because there is a device which more or less allowed anyone to be named. This guy just couldn’t ever accept he was wrong because he would just look foolish and his years of trying for an annulment with Katherine of Aragon, his declaration about his first marriage being null and void, the chaos he caused and bloodshed for his Supremacy, would all have been based on a lie, all be for nothing and make the now huge monarch look small and foolish.

        There was nothing sinister in breaking up the Queen’s household, she wasn’t coming back and it was normal practice when someone faced treason charges, because you didn’t normally get found guilty. We shouldn’t read too much into it as it happened to everyone.

  4. Just like to comment on the death of Doris Day Iv just seen on the news, one of the Hollywood greats, she was terrific in Calamity Jane such a funny film she had a wonderful voice, Iv got an album of hers and Move Over Darling is one of my fave songs RIP Doris.

    1. There is nobody in the entertainment business today I can think of who can replace these icons of the past. Goodbye Doris.

      1. There isn’t your right there Michael and not only that but each star was different in looks they had their own type of beauty, unlike today where most of the actresses are painfully thin and all seem to resemble each other with the same hair dos and the cosmetic make up they have, I saw a pic of Angelina Jolie yet she looks gaunt with stick thin arms, the actress’s of yester year would never have starved themselves like they do today.

        1. I know what you mean. I read an interview with Alex Kingston quite a while ago where she mentioned that she wasn’t wanted on ‘Desperate Housewives’ because she was too curvy!

  5. Being too thin does bring its own health risks too, osteoporosis can occur in later life if a person is seriously underweight, and that can be very debilitating who wants to go around looking like a skeleton anyway, but it’s very sad if these actresses have to lose weight just to get parts especially if their a healthy size in the first place, I remember Olivia Newton John saying in an interview that the producers of Grease wanted her to lose a lot of weight for the role of Sandy, she was already very slim but they wanted her to look really skinny, and in the black leather trousers she wore at the end you could see how very thin she actually was, her legs looked no bigger than my wrists, actually I think she’s undergoing treatment for cancer again so I hope she recovers ok.

  6. Good to have your legal perspective Esther, especially as I was framing to myself the question of what this whole Percy incident might tell us.

  7. It seems to me there is a lot of petty spite going on, not just against Anne but against all the Boleyns. In a sane situation a guilty woman’s family and friends would be pitied and allowed to quietly retire to the country or its equivalent until it was all over. But here there is evidence of a nasty vicious mind that has a grudge against anyone who might have any affection for the queen. Forcing her father, her uncle, even her old boy friend to take a prominent part against her is unusual even in the barbaric context of the Tudor court. Was it Henry’s mind or Thomas Cromwell’s?

    1. I agreed with regards to Henry Percy, although there was a political purpose here, but Norfolk was the highest peer of the realm and it was his duty to sit in judgement as was her father, as Earl of Wiltshire, it was his duty so really force or any other emotions don’t come into it. These families had a certain status and they had to sit in judgement in the Courts and especially in treason and other high crimes as part of their public duties in the counties in which they lived and represented and as part of their duty to the crown. Anne’s father was actually given leave and didn’t attend the trial as a judge over Anne and George. He was, however, one of the Judges at the trial of the other four men, who as commoners were tried separately. Norfolk probably didn’t care less in any event and did his duty regardless, but yes, it probably was cruel of Cromwell and the King, to order him onto the Commission who tried the others because he would have investigated his own son’s alleged incest with his daughter. That must have been heart breaking and as the father of the accused obviously it wasn’t appropriate for him to try Anne and George. Unfortunately, these trials were conducted by peers of the realm and gentlemen and as a JP Wiltshire had taken part in many trials and commissioned oyer and terminer in his own county of Kent. That was in the job description and unfortunately sentiment didn’t come into it. He was allowed to retire for a short period afterwards but duty brought him back to Court later in the year.

      1. I still say that if the people in charge had any decency they would have been excused those particularly duties. But it is not worth arguing about.

        1. No you are quite right, unfortunately Henry and Cromwell left all sense of decency behind a long time ago or this miscarriage of justice would not have been happening. It was harrowing to see this, and I agree, from our point of view, family members should have been treated with more respect and dignity and allowed to withdraw from such responsibility. It’s not something I would like to do, sit in judgement on someone I knew or a relative, but I doubt Henry and Cromwell cared; you weren’t really given a choice, and yes, it was cruel and spiteful, regardless of the time they lived in. As to whose mind it was in, both of them; Henry was the boss, Cromwell happy to oblige. Even when Thomas Boleyn was at home at Hever in June 1536 Cromwell was bothering him over his obligation as a father to get money released for George’s widow, Jane. His reply was fine but otherwise leave us alone to grieve. In July he was commanded to give up his position of Lord Privy Seal and so as Cromwell could attend the ceremonial official stuff which went with it and didn’t have all the geer Thomas even had to lend him his own garter and chain. Those in charge in Tudor times certainly didn’t think about how someone felt and acted with very little regard for family members forced to either take part in the trial of a loved one or their plight if they lost everything as so many people did. They were still more or less forced to do their duty, to carry on and return to service at Court. Thomas had to return to serve the King who had condemned his son and daughter, because loyalty demanded he did so or he would not be able to survive. He served on a commission to raise troops to put down the northern rebellion in October 1536 and was commanded to attend the baptism of Prince Edward in 1537. Retirement in the country just wasn’t an option, attending the baptism of the son of the woman who replaced his daughter might be a great honour but it was cruel as well. Anyone with any sense of decency would have spared him that surely? On the other hand Henry paid tribute to Thomas Boleyn for his loyal service when he died and paid for several masses for his soul. People around the King just carried on regardless; there was little choice in the matter and the King paid little attention to the feelings of those around the condemned, duty and loyalty came first, decency and sentiment second, but I agree that’s how they should have acted, especially in a much more religious society.

  8. Henry Percy, Earl of Northumberland has more honour in his little finger than Henry Viii had in his whole being.

    He literally refused to play ball and said no to Cromwell and the King. Well the Earls of Northumberland are iron born, although at one time this one seemed not to quite meet the mark, giving in to pressure as he did when he was bullied into giving up Anne Boleyn, although to be fair, dad, the King and Cardinal are pretty tough to say no to, so now he was his own man he was living up to their name. Besides, he was being asked to lie. Remember Percy had taken a sacred oath back in 1532 on the Blessed Sacrament i.e the Host or consecrated Bread representing the Body of Christ Present in the Alter usually in a special beautiful crafted golden sun shaped item called a Monstrance to house the Host, a very sacred item, the central of Catholic belief and worship. So his oath before this was very sacred and on the peril of his soul if it wasn’t true. It was also made in the presence of two Archbishops of York and Canterbury and nobles representing the King. We don’t know if Percy originally swore the truth but he certainly could not go back on it now and he probably did for another reason.

    Henry Percy was married to Mary Talbot, daughter of the Earl of Shrewsbury, of higher rank than Anne Boleyn (in the male line, yes, I know her mother was a demoted Howard) and their marriage was something of a disaster, probably never consummated. In 1532 just before the marriage of Anne and Henry for some reason which we don’t know, Mary declared that her marriage to Northumberland wasn’t the legal affair everyone thought it was. She declared that Anne had been in a sexual relationship with her husband and they had been betrothed which means they were lawfully married under canon law. Mary Talbot made this public, the King was in an uproar, Anne and her family in an uproar and the oath sworn above was the result as well as the fact that Anne also persuaded Henry Viii it wasn’t true. The Earl had been given a golden opportunity to get rid of his wife and didn’t take it, because his honour when it came to protecting the name of Anne was clearly more important. Nor was Mary granted anything on the grounds of her own marriage being not consummated. Now a second opportunity arose but Northumberland said no he wasn’t going to lie and say his affair with Anne Boleyn had been consummated. Henry Viii would have to look elsewhere if he was going to get out of his second marriage.

    The death of Anne Boleyn would leave Henry a widow but he would be left with a three year old Princess Elizabeth as his heiress and that didn’t fit his needs. His first marriage had been declared null and void in order for him to get a son with Anne, leaving Princess Mary, who was most certainly more legitimate than Elizabeth as a, as being made legally illegitimate by Parliament and now the same fate awaited his second wife and child. With all three children, including his son, Henry Fitzroy, illegitimate, this left the way clear for a fresh start with wife no three, on speed dial near Greenwich, to have children who were unchallenged as rightful heirs and for an odd back up plan. This also meant Henry in case of not having sons with Jane Seymour, something he was no longer banking on as he did with Anne, according to Ives, he could legitimise Henry Fitzroy and make him his back up heir. He was doing something similar to John of Gaunt with the Beaufort children he had. Although he had legitimate children, his son and heir, the future Henry Iv, after he married their mother, Katherine de Rote, 25 years after the birth of John Beaufort, the Pope legitimized his four Beaufort children and Parliament followed, allowing them to inherit any land and title going. The words which excluded them from the “royal dignity” the crown, were only added later by Henry iv as King. He may not have acted correctly but that is open to debate and now Henry Viii, himself a part Beaufort through his grandmother, Margaret, was about to put through the Second Act of Succession in July 1536, which made Henry Fitzroy his heir after his children and only his children with Jane Seymour. Henry wanted Northumberland to play ball for the sole purpose of making Elizabeth illegitimate and the same status as Mary and to specifically exclude them both from the succession. He didn’t need the Pope of course, his own Church would do the same job.

    Henry of course, we know went on to have Cranmer declare the marriage null and void possibly on the grounds that he had a sexual relationship with her sister Mary, whom he had asked a dispensation for before he married Anne. The actual reasons behind his annulment are actually obscure but this was one of the reasons given in the sources. Anne was visited on 16th May, with what people assume was an offer if she agreed to this annulment but it was more likely to inform her that her marriage was being annulled and work had gone on for some time. The visit by Cranmer was a pastoral one and any hope Anne gained from it, sadly was her own imagination.

  9. A great book I recommend to anyone interested in the Beaufort line is ‘The House of Beaufort’ by Nathen Amin published in 2017.

    1. I second and third that. We had a fantastic talk with Nathan on the Beaufort family on the Tudor Society. He is founder of the Henry Tudor Society website which you can explore for free. His book is excellent. They got about, as Queen of France and Scotland, Countess of Westmoreland, thus heading the Neville and Holland families and many more and of course, the Tudors. Well worth a read, in paperback, hardback and on Kindle and no, I am not being paid for the advertising.

      1. I don’t remember how I first found out about him but I picked up his book on Tudor Wales which was excellent and then I heard an interview with him on the podcast Talking Tudors and he talked about the Beaufort book. I really enjoy his writing style and the amount of research he does.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *