On 13th May 1536, four days before her trial, Queen Anne Boleyn’s royal household at Greenwich Palace was broken up and her servants were discharged. Some of her servants would be back at court in just a few weeks serving the new queen, Jane Seymour. Those who served both Anne and Jane included William Coffin, Anne’s master of the horse; Sir Edward Baynton, Anne’s vice chamberlain; John Smith, Anne’s surveyor; Jane Boleyn, Anne’s sister-in-law; Anne Gainsford, Lady Zouche; Bess Holland and Margery Horsman.
While Anne’s household was being disbanded, an exasperated Henry Percy, Earl of Northumberland, was writing a letter to Thomas Cromwell regarding the alleged pre-contract which was said to have existed between himself and Anne Boleyn before she married Henry VIII:
“I perceive by Raynold Carnaby that there is supposed a pre-contract between the Queen and me; whereupon I was not only heretofore examined upon my oath before the archbishops of Canterbury and York, but also received the blessed sacrament upon the same before the duke of Norfolk and other the King’s highness’ council learned in the spiritual law, assuring you, Mr. Secretary, by the said oath and blessed body, which afore I received and hereafter intend to receive, that the same may be to my damnation if ever there were any contract or promise of marriage between her and me.”
Percy had already denied the existence of a pre-contract in 1532 when his wife, Mary Talbot, had sought an annulment of their unhappy marriage. Back then, Percy had sworn an oath on the sacrament in front of the Duke of Norfolk and the King’s canon lawyers, and the matter had been settled. It was being brought up again now in teh hope that it could be used to annul the King’s marriage to Anne Boleyn.
Notes and Sources
- Wriothesley, A Chronicle of England During the Reigns of the Tudors, from A.D. 1485 to 1559, 37.
- LP x. 764