13 May 1536 – Queen Anne Boleyn’s household is broken up


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, Sir William Fitzwilliam, Treasurer of the King’s Household, and Sir William Paulet, Comptroller of the Household, broke up the Queen’s household at Greenwich and discharged her staff.1

Anne had not even been tried yet, but four of her alleged lovers and conspirators had been found guilty so her guilt was a done deal.

Some of Anne’s servants were only discharged temporarily, some of them went on to serve Jane Seymour, who became queen eleven days after Anne’s execution. 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.

Notes and Sources

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

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17 thoughts on “13 May 1536 – Queen Anne Boleyn’s household is broken up”
    1. I am curious, why her sister would have stayed on. What was the emotional climate in those day’s amongst her loyal servants? I just finished watching the series Wolf Hall, and my interest has been peaked because of it. I know Jane Boleyn was a mistress to the King at one point, but were these servants to Anne loyal to their Queen (Anne) in anyway, where they would rather retire their duties than honor a work ethic so strong, that it would involve serving the next Queen? We’re their decisions fear based only, or was it greed, or ignorance or all of the above? Or were they not allowed to just leave? I just can’t imagine what it must have been like to lose a sister in such a manner, and then continue like nothing happened. I would be sobbing all over the place and then I would be angry! And the irony is that Elizabeth l would prove that she was a Queen like no other King! What a travesty and a waste of lives to get there. (Cathy from California)

      1. I think you’re confusing Jane Boleyn and Mary Boleyn. Mary Boleyn, sister of Anne, wasn’t serving Anne at her fall in 1536 and it’s not known where she was exactly. She was safely away from court though. Jane was Anne’s sister-in-law, being married to George Boleyn.
        I don’t think any of Anne’s servants had any choice in the matter, their duty was to the king and they served who they were told to. It must have been very hard for them, particularly Jane Boleyn.
        I agree, Cathy, a real travesty and waste of lives. Poor Jane was executed herself in 1542 for helping Catherine Howard to meet with Thomas Culpeper.

        1. Thank-you for your reply. Interesting. So I am confused to who the woman is in Wolf Hall that flirts with Cromwell and is said to have been mistress to the King before her sister? Is that Mary who also is not seen again in the series? It would be interesting to know how she got out safely. I am planning a trip to England and will visit Hampton Court Palace. I have been there before, (my husband is English), but I didn’t know anything about King Henry Vlll wives at all when I visited. This time I will pay more attention. Thank-You for this site.

        2. Yes, that was Mary Boleyn. Mary was banished from court in 1534 after she got married without her family’s consent. Her banishment saved her from being involved in the downfall of the Boleyns.
          Do make sure you visit the Tower of London too, it’s a wonderful place to visit.

        3. Cathy,
          To know more about Mary you can read The Other Boleyn Girl. I love that book and you will learn alot about the Howards and Boleyns.

      1. Thank-You Claire and thank-you for the recommendation Kathy! It sounds good. I love the name of it. “The Other Boleyn Girl”.. I went to the Tower many years ago when I was 19. (1976) This time around I will know why I am looking at things, instead of mindlessly gushing over the Crown Jewels. 🙂

        1. The Other Boleyn Girl is fictional and gives a rather warped picture of the sisters, however, it is a good read. If you want to know about the real Boleyn girls then I’d recommend reading “The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn” by Eric Ives and “Mary Boleyn: in a Nutshell” by Sarah Bryson, or see https://www.theanneboleynfiles.com/category/mary-boleyn/ for articles on Mary Boleyn.

        2. I always loved Historical Fiction as a teenager and found how soon at the university that the details not always based on fact and correct time.
          Since then, I read carefully this type of genre. So much of the Tudor story is misrepresented, and information on Anne Boleyn subject of innuendo by those in power at the time of her life.
          But THE OTHER BOLEYN GIRL was good reading… atk

  1. Was it common during the Tudor era to break up a household before the trial? IIRC, the same thing happened when Thomas Seymour was arrested during the reign of Edward VI, but I don’t know if those two cases were unusual or not.

    1. Hmm…say if the person had been found innocent although then what I wonder would they have had to of re-assembled it all again but the majority of the time none of them came out alive for that to happen or if it did it was very rare. Like in the case of Wyatt and Page.Which was a rarity believe me oh and in the case of the Duke of Norfolk later on in life.

  2. Alison Weir wrote a book about “Mary Boleyn” which is quite interesting even with the slim amount we know of her, as Claire said. She had a happy ending as she inherited family estate, but she died pretty young.

    I loved the British version f the film “The Other Boleyn Girl” but Claire is right, it isn’t history per se as it is based on a novel.

  3. In hindsight you could say it would be normal practice to break up the household of an ex, late or divorced queen, given we now know this will happen to each of Henry’s queens, some before their fate was known. However, Anne has not yet been tried, she in theory could have been vindicated and returned to the throne, but this action shows Henry was not going to have Anne back, no matter what and he was content, even sending signals that he expected her to be found guilty. Is this more evidence that Anne was being set up and behind the scenes her guilt was being demanded?

  4. Interesting detail in Anne Boleyn life after losing her crown and authority… Were n”t Anne’s staff followers of Thomas Cranmer? Since they were loyal and anti Catholic, would n’t this be the point that appeared to Henry 8th a reason for keeping these staff members on for Queen Jane Seymour? ATK (They were trustworthy)

  5. They break up the household even before her trial has begun should they have not waited until they reached a verdict? One way or another. This shows that it was planned from the beginning and they did not waste time. :O

  6. The executioner was from France, wasn’t he, so he had to have been sent for before the verdict in order to arrive when he did. Anne’s trial was on the 15th of May and she was executed on 19 May. I could be wrong, but would it take more than 4 days to make that happen?

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