13 May 1536 – The breaking up of Queen Anne Boleyn’s household

Sir William Fitzwilliam, Earl of Southampton and Treasurer of the Household.
Sir William Fitzwilliam, Earl of Southampton and Treasurer of the Household.

On 13th May 1536, two days before her trial, Queen Anne Boleyn’s household was broken up, and her staff discharged, by Sir William Fitzwilliam, Treasurer of the King’s Household, and Sir William Paulet, Comptroller of the Household.1

Fitzwilliam and Paulet would only have dared to do this on the King’s orders. Of course, Sir Francis Weston, William Brereton, Sir Henry Norris and Mark Smeaton had been found guilty of high treason, for sleeping with the Queen and conspiring with her to kill the King, so the Queen had no chance of being found innocent at her trial; it was a foregone conclusion.

Some of Queen Anne Boleyn’s staff were back at court within just a few weeks, serving the new queen, Jane Seymour. These included William Coffin, Anne’s former master of the horse and the husband of one of her attendants in the Tower; Sir Edward Baynton, Anne’s former vice chamberlain; John Smith, her surveyor; Jane Boleyn, Lady Rochford, Anne’s sister-in-law, Anne Gainsford, Lady Zouche; Bess Holland, mistress of the Duke of Norfolk, Anne’s uncle, and Margery Horsman.

Notes and Sources

    1. Wriothesley, Charles (1875) A chronicle of England during the reigns of the Tudors, from A.D. 1485 to 1559 Volume 1, p. 37. The notes in Wriothesley’s Chronicle name Sir Edward Poynings as Comptroller, which is why I have always stated that, but after further research I found that Poynings served in this position until 1519 and died in 1521.

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2 thoughts on “13 May 1536 – The breaking up of Queen Anne Boleyn’s household”
  1. Anne may make a good defence as she indeed she did, giving clever answers and a good account of herself, even gaining support from those present, but she didn’t stand a chance. Anne didn’t stand a chance anyway because she was being set up to be found guilty by a hand picked hostile jury but she was implicated by the guilt of the four men already tried and condemned. Henry knew this and he knew his wife would not be coming back so her household was broken up in preparation for a new wife, a new Queen, a new start. Many of those who were dismissed went on to serve in the household of Jane Seymour. It all seems rather callous but it was about survival and moving on, putting Anne aside and that was how Henry wanted it. He wanted a clean start, he wanted Jane to be treated as his first and only wife and to wipe the memory of Anne from his life. All five accused, the Queen included were dead men walking. Henry’s actions confirmed that.

  2. By the time one’s household was broken up, it was all over except for the shouting. . . the order to break up her household would have been a chilling sign that her life was effectively over.

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