15 May 1536 – The Trials of Queen Anne Boleyn and George Boleyn, Lord Rochford

Posted By on May 15, 2015

Anne BoleynAccording to Eustace Chapuys, the imperial ambassador, on the morning of the 15th May 1536 Jane Seymour received a message from the King informing her that he would send her a further message at 3 o’clock regarding the “condemnation” of Anne Boleyn. Henry VIII was sure that Anne Boleyn was going to be found guilty and she really didn’t have a hope of acquittal after Norris, Smeaton, Brereton and Weston had been found guilty.

The Boleyn siblings were tried on 15th May 1536 in the King’s Hall of the Tower of London in front of an estimated 2,000 spectators. A great platform had been erected in the hall so that everybody could see the proceedings. Norris, Weston, Brereton and Smeaton had been tried by a commission of oyer and terminer, but Anne and George were given the privilege of being tried by a jury of their peers, presided over by their uncle, the Duke of Norfolk, as Lord High Steward.

The chronicler Charles Wriothesley, recorded that after her indictment was read out, Anne “made so wise and discreet aunsweres to all thinges layde against her, excusing herselfe with her wordes so clearlie, as thoughe she had never bene faultie to the same”. The Queen defended herself admirably, denying all of these preposterous charges and admitting only to giving money to Sir Francis Weston, just as she gave money to many young gentlemen at court. Notwithstanding, the jury were unanimous in their verdict: “guilty”. The Queen was then stripped of her crown and her titles, all except that of Queen. With tears running down his cheeks, Anne’s uncle, the Duke of Norfolk, pronounced the sentence:

“Because thou hast offended against our sovereign the King’s Grace in committing treason against his person, and here attainted of the same, the law of the realm is this, that thou hast deserved death, and thy judgment is tis: that thou shalt be burned here within the Tower of London on the Green, else to have thy head smitten off, as the King’s pleasure shall be further known of the same.”

The Queen kept her composure. Although she did not argue against the sentence, she said that she “believed there was some other reason for which she was condemned than the cause alleged”. Anne Boleyn was then escorted out of the court by her gaoler, Sir William Kingston, with the axe turned against her to show that she had been sentenced to death.

While Anne Boleyn was taken back to her lodgings in the Tower of London, her brother, George Boleyn, Lord Rochford, was taken to the King’s Hall to stand before the same jury. All witnesses agree that George put up a good fight in the court room that day. In his Chronicle, Charles Wriothesley recorded that after George pleaded not guilty, “he made answer so prudently and wisely to all articles laid against him, that marvel it was to hear, but never would confess anything, but made himself as clear as though he had never offended” and Lancelot de Carles commented on George’s good defence and his eloquence, which de Carles likened to that of Sir Thomas More.

George defended himself so well in court “that several of those present wagered 10 to 1 that he would be acquitted”, but he was also rather reckless. Perhaps he realised that there was no hope of justice and thought he had nothing to lose, for when he was handed a note regarding the King’s impotence, George recklessly read it aloud even though he had been commanded not to. George had allegedly joked or gossiped about the King’s sexual problems, his lack of sexual prowess, and he had also joked about Elizabeth not being the King’s daughter. This meant that he had unwittingly committed treason because this kind of talk impugned the King’s issue. What was worse was that George had disobeyed instructions and read out this note in court, embarrassing the King and not endearing himself to the jury. Unsurprisingly, George was found guilty and sentenced to a full traitor’s death. Like his sister before him, George Boleyn was then taken back to his prison in the Tower to prepare himself for death.

(Based on an excerpt from my book On this Day in Tudor History)

You can read more about their trials in the following articles:

57 thoughts on “15 May 1536 – The Trials of Queen Anne Boleyn and George Boleyn, Lord Rochford”

  1. Clare says:

    As it would appear he may have got off if he hadn’t read the note out loud then perhaps George really was the fool depicted in fiction, and an arrogant fool at that.
    If he joked about the King’s sexual problems and Elizabeth’s paternity, he could well have deserved all he got, especially if he really was a rapist.

    1. Claire says:

      He may have been reckless in his actions, both in court and with what he, Anne and Jane had discussed, but I’ve never seen George as a fool. Anne had already been found guilty of incest with him so there was no way he was getting off, and Anne had no chance of getting off after the four men had been found guilty. I often wonder about George’s reasons for reading the note, whether he wanted to get his own back on the King or whether he was simply wanting the court to understand what he was being accused of. He knew he was a dead man before he even entered that court but it didn’t stop him putting on a good show, so good that people thought he might be acquitted.

      1. judithRex says:

        I agree with you, Claire. He was reputedly respected for his intellect and wit, but disliked for the arrogance, at the least, that apparently came along with it. Not a fool in general.

        The reading of the words is a fascinating bit of history; did Cromwell set him up knowing George Boleyn’s nature would keep him from discretionary silence? Or did Boleyn surprise all by not following the direction given to not read it out loud? Or was George, foolishly (not saying he is a fool, but acted foolishly in the moment) reading it out loud against instructions to show how ludicrous the charge was?

        I have read that the response by those listening was the guy clearly was not even discreet enough to follow instructions in court so goodness knows what he would do in other circumstances – like being brother to the King’s beloved. The words were so awful and so inflammatory that I really have trouble believing Cromwell would have wanted them read a loud. On the other hand, the voicing of them sealed Bolyen’s fate..

        1. Claire says:

          Yes, I think he, like most courtiers of his rank and age, was arrogant and proud, but he definitely had his good points and was incredibly gifted.

          I don’t think reading those words sealed his fate at all. There’s no way he could have been found innocent when his sister had already been found guilty of committing incest with him and conspiring to kill the king with him. I think George knew that there was no way out and wanted those present to hear exactly what he was being accused of. Why should what he was being accused of be kept from those present? It was reckless but it couldn’t have changed anything.

      2. Jean Roughley says:

        I think that once Henry decided that Ann couldn’t give him an heir and that Jane Seymour might, all of their fates were inevitable.

    2. Trisha says:

      What evidence is there that George was a “rapist”? First time I’ve heard that. I’m currently attempting to write a novel on Jane Boleyn and I simply can’t find any evidence anywhere that hers and George’s marriage was unhappy, or indeed that she had any part to play in the trial. I think in the centuries following their deaths there was a huge amount of “chinese whispering” going on, but I don’t believe there is any reliable, primary source evidence to any of these assertions.

      1. Claire says:

        Clare is being sarcastic because she gets rather fed up of the constant “George Boleyn was a rapist”, “George Boleyn mistreated his wife” etc. kind of comments you see on Facebook and social media when you mention George Boleyn. In “The Tudors” series he raped Jane on their wedding night and some history books make him out to be a cruel husband. Alison Weir, in “The Lady in the Tower”, theorises that George was probably cruel to Jane and perhaps subjected her to unusual sexual practises. She also suggests he may have committed acts of rape. She bases this on the poetry of George Cavendish. See Clare’s article at https://www.theanneboleynfiles.com/the-marriage-of-george-and-jane-boleyn-by-clare-cherry/

      2. Esther says:

        In George Cavendish’s “Metrical Visions”, he has George Boleyn saying things like “I forced wydowes, maydens I did deflower. … ” I think this is what gave rise to the “George as rapist” myth; this is a poem, not evidence.

        1. Clare says:

          I totally agree, Esther.

        2. Christine says:

          Ha ha the words they used then were so quaint, ‘maidens I did deflower’, now they say ‘a good roasting’ yuk I’m not a prude but the sexual references are off putting.

    3. Tudor Rose says:

      Maybe he should not of read the message out aloud but he was stubborn and what did he have to lose. He had already lost everything. 🙁

  2. JudithRex says:

    I agree that George was not a fool in general. But he didn’t do himself or his reputation any favors by reading the quote.

    I do wonder if Cromwell set George up knowing he was was too arrogant to follow the directions to read the content but not aloud. If so, genius stroke. On the other hand, the contents were so shocking and such a smear on Henry (no wonder he was enraged) that I just don’t think Cromwell would want that made public. Wasn’t t it a packed huge room? It’s tricky, because afterward Cromwell spoke well of his intellect.

    Why did George read an indiscreet quote?
    Did Anne write or dictate an indiscreet (in her circumstances) letter?
    Why did Smeaton confess?
    What did Norris confess and then withdraw?
    If Jane Boleyn was a paid snitch, why did it take a long time and a begging letter for her to get access to any money?

    The answers are really difficult to get to for me.

  3. JudithRex says:

    SO SORRY FOR DOUBLE POST! Please feel free to delete one as they are pretty receptive – I thought I didn’t press send on the first….

  4. Anne Barnhill says:

    I think George knew his fate was sealed and this was a funny, ribald way of getting back a little at the king’s expense. Wise? Not really. Human? Certainly.

    1. Claire says:

      Yes, I certainly would have read it if I knew that I was going to die anyway. Very human and understandable.

      1. JudithRex says:

        Well, I am not sure about what you would do as I do not know you, but if I read something that was totally disgusting to me and attributed to me, I would not read it out loud, I would probably drop it like it was a piece of something from my kittens litter box and say it is too repugnant even for me to read, let alone out loud.

        But we do know that people at that high status were supposed to comport themselves with the manners of the time. One did not smear the King in public under any circumstances. That he did not hold back, even in a public room with hundreds of witnesses, for whatever reason, could be seen as a reflection of lack of restraint and self-control easily reached in semi-private, which is pretty much what he was being accused of.

        1. Claire says:

          But if you were being accused of that repugnant thing, you were being charged with it and it was treason, wouldn’t you want the court to hear the accusation? I would. I would want the court to know what was going on. It may have shown a lack of restraint and control but this was a man being accused of things he hadn’t done, knowing he was going to his death for things he hadn’t done, and I think he showed remarkable restraint.

      2. Lisa H says:

        I don’t think Cromwell set George up. Cromwell would have been well aware that public talk of the King’s impotence would be prejudicial not only to Elizabeth’s paternity but also against any future children Henry might have. Thus the do-not-read-out-loud paper.

        George knew his fate going in. He likely understood that this whole show was not just to justify the murder of the accused, but to convince all of Europe and posterity of the magnitude and certainty of their guilt. The thought that Anne would go down in history as the Queen of England who slept with half her court until she finally required beheading, and he the morally bankrupt brother who had crawled into her bed as well – that would have been enough reason to take whatever chance he could to get some sort of revenge, justice not being an available option. His only other chance would have been on the scaffold, but one did not speak against the King on the scaffold if one wished for a clean beheading!

        With the court so obviously having pre-prepared their verdict, no matter that the public thought he might be acquitted, reading that paper out loud might have been the only vengeance George thought he could exact for himself, his sister, and the men unjustly accused with them.

        1. Claire says:

          I agree, I don’t think Cromwell set George up either and like you I think his reading it out stemmed from vengeance or his desire to let the whole world know what was going on.

    2. Tudor Rose says:

      I agree not to mention stubborn as well as. A man who did not listen. 🙂

  5. Christine says:

    I say good for him, he knew he was going to die, his sister had been slandered with the most awful accusations, he and four other men were being sacrificed to get rid of her just so Henry could marry another why shouldn’t he read it out? It was the sheer hypocrisy that angered him he wanted everyone to know just how ridiculous the accusations were, and that they were all condemned no matter how much they could disprove them, I bet there were a lot of red faces in that courtroom.

  6. melissa says:

    I think it was so very appropriate for George to read this statement out loud. I find it hilarious and justified. After all, he knew he had nothing left to lose. The men chosen to seal his fate and that of the queen and the others, had much to lose and more to gain from Henry by railroading the innocent. These trials were meant to give the appearance of legality and propriety. In my view, these were cold blooded murders.

    1. JudithRex says:

      I hear ya Melissa, but he actually did have something to lose if it was of value to him.
      He was showing the prosecution was right; that he had a loose mouth and little discretion and probably did say it exactly how they say he did. If one doesn’t have the dignity to follow conventions of behavior when directed in court, how does one conduct themselves when there are no outside constraint? if you are right and he thought it was funny to behave that way, well he made himself look bad…and by extension the child Elizabeth whose parentage he had put in doubt.

      But in the end, if he didtn’t care he would not have tired to take it back when he saw people took it as verification of his guilt. , Which he did but it was way too late.

      1. Banditqueen says:

        What is your evidence that George Boleyn spread lies questioning the parentage of Elizabeth, the King’s daughter and still legal heir, and why would he scandalize his own neice. It was another false accusation to add to the list of the other nonsense charges invented by Cromwell, which George flatly denied in open court. He was too intelligent to cause the type of trouble that would end with treason charges. Whatever else George Boleyn was capable of, there is no evidence that he said anything to cause Henry to doubt that he was Elizabeth’s father. This idea seems to have originated with Mark Smeaton naming Sir Henry Norris as Anne’s lover and her dead man’s shoes remark. This event, however was not raised against either Anne or Henry Norris, but it was believed by Henry for some time after Anne’s execution. However there is no evidence that this accusation was true either. All of the charges against Anne Boleyn and the five men were nonsense, and Hilary Mantel has not shown how Anne and the others could be in two places at once, that was merely her stated opinion.

        1. Claire says:

          I was trying to clarify what Judith meant and I think she’s saying that George later regretted “mouthing off” in court or that he said that he hadn’t done that in court, but I’ve never read that anywhere. That’s what I was trying to clarify with her as I didn’t understand what she was getting at. I’m not sure.

        2. BanditQueen says:

          Hello, Claire, I have no idea what she is talking about most of the time; I can only find evidence that George and Anne gave whitty and dignified answers, were calm and clever and many people felt sympathy for them in court. Oh well, lol.

  7. Crystal says:

    Anne & George were going to be executed one way or another. Henry wanted Anne gone. The trials were a ludicrous attempt to seem fair and legal. George knew that and decided ‘to hell with it’. His attempt to humiliate Henry wasn’t wise by any means, but there wasn’t really anything for him to lose.

    1. JudithRex says:

      Hey there – see my answer to Melissa as I reply the same to you. If he had meant to just be a jerk and didn’t care what people thought of him, then he would not have tired to take it back. Which he did,

      Sorry, but I don’t buy the idea that he was so brave and cocky cause within less than a minute he was protesting the meaning of his own action. Hardly a man who thought nothing he did mattered. More like a man who realized too late that it was time to start acting like an adult and show some restraint or not only was he going to be “found” guilty, everyone was going to believe he actually was.

      1. Clare says:

        What the hell are you talking about? He took what back?

      2. Banditqueen says:

        George and Anne were innocent of the charges against them, he openly denied the accusations of rumour spreading implied by Cromwell on the paper he read for humour, he was not stating that he agreed with the lies and he made a statement that the words on the paper were never spoken by him. He did not say anything to indicate that everything he was accused of was true, nor did he act guilty. In court he was eloquent and gave a good account of himself. That is not mouthing off.

        1. bruno says:

          I find you right again Bandit Queen (like in another post).
          I feel sure we have to give George Boleyn and his sister another chance of being sincere souls- as Claire said, the charges invented by Cromwell are so hideous that it is impossible to any human being not to react .
          He had nothing to lose – he was a dead man before saying a word to his judges – and when seeing what he was accused of – having sex with his own sister and queen – he certainly lost his mind . This moment of emotion, we must admit.
          We French have the same problem with queen Marie-Antoinette – I am not royalist at all, but among the stupid (not proved when not totally crazy) charges she had to fight during her trial before the “tribunal révolutionnaire”, she was accused to have perverted her children.
          That was too much for a woman known to have been a so caring mother to them.
          And it was on this occasion she displayed so much dignity – I guess it made her judges feel uneasy, even if they certainly forgot all that very soon after.
          There was some audience (not well-intentioned, often) and we still know about that; in this moment – when being accused to plot against revolutionaries – she was great – a true heart dignified by the circumstances, even if it was the trial of a past shallow little girl, who acted as a fake farmer in Trianon.
          I dare say it sounds the same about George’s feelings.
          The – probable – love he felt for his sister being treated that way certainly made him feel so superior to his vile judges in moral terms …
          I am surprised – I discovered this site not long ago – to see persons seeking faults in every of H VIII’s queens.
          H VIII is a terrible character – Tudors struggle for life and power made them mean and sometimes cruel but we can understand when thinking of how threatened they were (by inner- or outter-forces).
          But a Cromwell – consciously torturing innocents, chosing obedient judges to kill so much persons, royal or not – is a real historical monster.
          We have created psychiatry, and when we – kind-hearted, modern souls – feel like being shocked by horrible acts, we say they were commited by insane persons and don’t dare imagine these are cold, cynical minds…
          H VIII must have been grateful to such a true servant not to witness the ways used to get rid of a woman to whom just three years before he adressed passionate poems.
          George was just a “collateral victim” his life didn’t matter to these minds
          All that was to show “Nan Bullen” (fallen queen) as a witch who had stolen an angel heart.
          Nothing based on this could appear convincing enough…
          Ultimate refinment, the old duke of Norfolk was forced to sentence his own nieces (Anne Boleyn, some years later Katherine Howard) guilty of incredible facts.
          We must take for sure these “judges” were able of anything to kill possible witness of past splendours.

  8. JudithRex says:

    Claire re this:

    Yes, I think he, like most courtiers of his rank and age, was arrogant and proud, but he definitely had his good points and was incredibly gifted.
    I don’t think reading those words sealed his fate at all. There’s no way he could have been found innocent when his sister had already been found guilty of committing incest with him and conspiring to kill the king with him. I think George knew that there was no way out and wanted those present to hear exactly what he was being accused of. Why should what he was being accused of be kept from those present? It was reckless but it couldn’t have changed anything.”

    Yes, I read comments about George Boleyn in various books wherein people did think he was worthy if not for arrogance or whatever. Lie his sister, he may well have been exceptional but let people know he knew it a bit too much. That’s hard to say from here.

    Point taken on the reading, but I don’t know if it is completely true, bit after he spoke indiscreetly he was cooked. In any case, he himself said “I did not say it” or some such after to defend his mouthing off so I am not sure he himself would agree he did it out of spite or being “human”. He himself said otherwise.

    1. Claire says:

      “Point taken on the reading, but I don’t know if it is completely true, bit after he spoke indiscreetly he was cooked. In any case, he himself said “I did not say it” or some such after to defend his mouthing off so I am not sure he himself would agree he did it out of spite or being “human”. He himself said otherwise.”

      I don’t know what you mean by “he himself said otherwise”. He didn’t say that he didn’t read it out in court. Chapuys reports:

      “This he was not openly charged with, but it was shown him in writing, with a warning not to repeat it. But he immediately declared the matter, in great
      contempt of Cromwell and some others, saying he would not in this point arouse any suspicion which might prejudice the Kings issue.”

      In other words, he read the allegation out but he did not admit that it was true. What’s your reference for him saying that he didn’t ‘mouth off’ in court?

      1. JudithRex says:

        No,, after he read it out in court he said he didn’t not SAY it – meaning in real life as he was accused.

        Of course I am not denying he read it in court, that would be in complete contradiction to everything I am saying.,

        1. Claire says:

          So what do you mean then?

  9. JudithRex says:

    I really have no more to say on this one. Boleyn made himself look bad with his behavior in court. if he cared about family reputation at all and had some dignity, I don’t think it was particularly smart to act agains the court’s directive and he himself tried to correct the image he gave off by reading aloud what he was instructed not to. He tried to take it back when he realized how it was perceived.

    i think he did say it as accused just as he said it in court and people may be right here that he did it to be funny and witty just as when he first overheard saying it. It is a n old lawyer trick to get a defendant to do something that shows the charges are true – like rile a man to rage who had been accused of assault. And if Cromwell did set this up, then bingo!

    Gotta go train now – best to you all.

    1. Claire says:

      I’ve never read of him trying to take it back or backtrack, that’s what I’m saying, that’s why I didn’t understand you I think. We’re talking at crossed purposes I believe.

      Have fun training!

      1. Clare says:

        Weir has him saying ‘I didn’t say it’ but she gives no reference and I’ve never read it in any of my research.

  10. Clare says:

    It’s virtually impossible to change general perceptions. There’s the perception that Jane Boleyn gave evidence for the incest allegation against Anne and George, and that she and George had an unhappy marrriage. Julia Fox’s book has made very little difference to that perception, despite showing there is no evidence to sustantiate it.

    There’s the perception that Anne was responible for the cruel treatment of Catherine and Mary, that she was an ambitious, ruthless woman who would step on anyone to get a crown on her head, and that she was indeed guilty of the crimes alleged against her (presumably she owned a motorbike). But whether gulity or not, she had it coming because she was a shrew. Ives, despite years of intensive research, has done little to overcome these perceptions.

    Alternatively Anne was used by her family, particularly her father and uncle who threw her at the King (an allegation almost solely perpetuated by fiction).

    Then there’s George, that famous homosexual rapist, who was fooilsh and thuggish and who trailed on the coat tails of his sisters. That perception continues to flourish despite our biography on his life published last year, which, from researching primary sources, paints a very different picture.

    Most of these perceptions stem from fictional accounts and are perpetrated by people who cannot see beyond the likes of Mantel, Weir, Hirst and Gregory.

    Maybe the Boleyns were despicable, maybe Anne was guilty, maybe George was a rapist, and maybe the men executed with Anne all acted in a play about Wolsey. Anything is possible, although that doesn’t make it probable.

    Many people prefer to believe something merely based on what is possible. But there are a wealth of factual books out there which are written from extensive research of primary sources. I really wish some of the people who comment on FB etc would read them before making assumptions based on fiction, mindless supposition and myth.

    1. Hannele says:

      To Clare

      You are right in saying that anything is possible, although that does not make it probable. And that is where history and fiction differ from another. As already Aristotle said history tells us what happened, fiction tells us what might have happened.

      So let us not accuse Mantel, Hirst and Gregory that they have done what they their job is to do: to tell a captivating story. And in order to do it properly, they had to show us the strong motivation why f.ex lady Rochford would have testified against her husband, otherwise we could not believe it.

      Of course they had an easy job because they had so much centuries-old material upon which they could build upon and, most of all, even older myths of “whore” to whom it is easy to believe – especially if you have been betrayed by your husband or are afraid that you can be.

      Instead, it is really difficult to most people to try to abandon their prejudices and change their minds even when the facts say otherwise.

      I think that Julia Fox shows clearly that lady Rochford had not anything to gain by telling deliberately tales about Anne and George, on the contrary she had much to lose, in fact she would have ruined herself socially and financially. Surely if she had done so, she would have made a deal and she would have no cause to beg Cromwell’s help afterwards.

      The situation was quite different if, as Fox assumes, Jane Boleyn was interrogated when Cromwell searched for evidence against Anne and George and he had already got that from other ladies-in-waiting. Then Jane was forced to tell because she was afraid that otherwise she would be accused and condemned. That is probably correct so far as it was about matters that other people knew.

      But if it was matters that she had told to George about Anne or vice versa, then she could have assumed that George would not tell them, so she could have kept them in secret. One can of course understand that she could not think clearly in the circumstances what she should tell and what not.

      1. bruno says:

        Hannele, in France we used to say that “testimony is the king of legal evidences” (but since this, things have much changed in our legal system).
        So be sure that Cromwell, as a “professional”, was well aware that he wouldn’t find sturdy evidences, ie based on material facts(only he had worked the whole thing since the beginning and was perfectly conscious it was a lie against a powerful queen, dangerous for him; it was her or himself in his mind) unless he could get false witnesses (easily with the methods he was confident in).
        By questioning men and women the way he did, he knew he could obtain anything .
        We don’t have to blame Jane, née Morley-Parker (a half great-niece to Margaret Beaufort, if Im not mistaken, that is to say that K H must have given orders or at least permissions to torture such persons as his own cousins) for having feared being tortured, if not beheaded
        Of course, we prefer heroes – heroic wives dare jeopardize their own life when it is a matter of life or death for their “much respected and beloved husband” – this of course in case they made a love match and that is dubious at a time when marriages used to be arranged among nobility – and especially when a noble girl was “offered” to a royal mistress brother (we can well fancy she could feel like being under-rated then, I just mean why not).
        After that, ok I can’t explain why such a woman was silly enough many years afterwards when “helping” queen Katherine (Howard) to play her own silly games.
        The case of the countess of Rochford is of course rather critical.
        I have heard (where?) she became not only crazily nervous but really mad when sentenced guilty . Maybe her whole behavior needs some explanations…?
        On the contrary, young Katherine Howard (whom she betrayed the same way she had betrayed her own husband in 1536) is reported to have been a dignified girl at the time of her death.

  11. Sally says:

    I’ve only recently discovered this site despite being a lifelong Boleynophile. I’ve loved reading the events leading up to the execution ‘in real time’ over the last few weeks. And the discussion between other commenters is thought provoking and enlightening. It really is a fantastic site, so glad I found it (via a recommendation in ‘The Creation of Anne Boleyn).

    1. Claire says:

      Welcome, Sally, and thank you for your kind words. There are some great discussions on here and I’m so pleased with how how people interact on this site.

  12. Sally says:

    I’ve only recently discovered this site despite being a lifelong Boleynophile. I’ve loved reading the events leading up to the execution ‘in real time’ over the last few weeks. And the discussion between other commenters is thought provoking and enlightening. It really is a fantastic site, so glad I found it (via a recommendation in ‘The Creation of Anne Boleyn).

  13. Banditqueen says:

    There is no evidence whatsoever that George Boleyn was a rapist or homosexual or that he slept with his sister. There is no evidence whatsoever that Jane Boleyn was a paid mouth or that she turned King’s evidence against the Queen. There is no evidence whatsoever that George Boleyn spread rumours about the parentage of Elizabeth, or that the talk of the King’s impotency originated with him. It was more likely to have come from Anne, moaning to her sister in law when Jane visited Anne in order to get her help with George who appeared to have been neglecting his duties as a husband. This piece of paper was given to George to read at his trial in the hope he would read it out and own the words, knowing that George had a full on sense of humour and would see some whit in this statement.

    The statement was a trap, but by reading it George caused amusement and tried to deofuse the fact that the prosecution used this paper to show that George Boleyn had spread these things about the King. He was an arrogant, cocky ambitious courtier, he made no secret of the fact, he did not always snaffle his tongue, but he was also intelligent and could show a remarkable cool head. When Anne was making stupid remarks about killing Katherine and Princess Mary when Henry next went abroad, George rebuked his sister, telling her to hush and not be foolish. So why does he not show the same wisdom here? Simple, he has nothing to lose, he and Anne have deduced this whole case is a set up. Both defended themselves eloquently, both knew that they had been denied justice.

    Anne Boleyn gave an excellent account of herself, she made a spirited denouement of the accusations, she remained calm and her case was so strong that she won a great deal of sympathy from the 2000 strong crowd in the Tower Great Hall. Anne could have been cleared, a normal jury would have thought her innocent, but her fate was already decided. The condemnation of her alleged lovers a day or two before this almost made her trial and condemnation into a fate accompli. However, George Boleyn was being tried separately from the others and he still stood a chance, in theory that is. George could have used humour to win over the jury, but most of the jury were enemies of both Anne and George, neither of them really stood a chance. Anne was clear that she was faithful to Henry; she was dignified and queenly, Cromwell was humiliated by the Boleyn siblings and I believe that he ensured both were railroaded.

    I don’t believe George Boleyn was foolish to read out the paper, I believe that he was human, doing just the thing we are told not to do. I also believe George had a direct and confident sense of humour. When he saw what was on that piece of paper he could not resist, he read it out. Nor do I believe that this is why he was found guilty. The information was embarrassing for the King, shockingly amusing and Cromwell must have been made to look foolish. He was condemned because the jury believed the charges and his enemies had made their minds up, this was what was expected, no other outcome was possible.

  14. Jenny McFie says:

    Thank you so much for your post always very interesting and informative
    The more I read of your post on Anne the more I begin to understand her I believe
    She was wrongly charged Henry wanted rid of her I don’t think he could have put her in a convent as she would always there to remind him and I don’t think the Seymours would have been happy with that arrangement either But I think we will always have these myths
    and assumptions about her .

  15. Tudor Rose says:

    How fast everything moved and really without any real ‘proof or evidence’.How unjust. :/

  16. Hannele says:

    I also think that George knew the was already condemned. The order of the trials was on purpose such that after the four commoners were condemned, Anne was going to be condemned as nobody can be guilty of adultery alone, and after Anne was condemned, George was going to be condemned as nobody can be guilty of incest alone.

    It did not matter what the audience thought for the jury that decided the matter had already seen the paper. By reading alone George probably wanted to show his contempt to Henry and Cromwell and revenge for his sister in the only way he could in the circumstances.

    In addition, it is perhaps wrong to assume as self-evidently that George wanted to save his life and in foolish and proud rashness throw his only chance away. What if he did not even want to live without Anne whom he greatly loved?

    Anne and George Boleyn were in many ways different from Hans and Sophie Scholl of White Rose but there is perhaps one similarity. When Hans Scholl decided to confess after the evidence was shown to him, he tried to protect his sister. But after learning his brother’s confession Sophie did not seize the opportunity to save herself but made also a confession, probably because she felt responsibility for their actions, especially for the last act in Munich university when they were caught, and therefore wanted to share her brothers’s fate.

  17. Lisa Johnson says:

    How I would give anything to have been a fly on the wall during that trial!

  18. BanditQueen says:

    Anne was remarkable in the face of death and in the face of condemnation in this show trial; she may not have been popular, but I really believe that by the end of this trial many people had a great deal of feeling of compassion for her and also for the men. The crowd at their executions probably made the normal noises that people do at these events, but we also have evidence that they prayed for the men and for the Queen and that they won people over. 2000 people came to see the trial of George and Anne Boleyn and there is evidence that they were being won over, that they had sympathy and the jury were afraid that they may have to find them not guilty. If the entire thing had not been a stich up; it is possible that they may have been accquited they gave that good account of themselves; they answered the points and questions put to them and they did not waiver. They were credible witnesses. Goerge may have read out the words on the piece of paper for fun but he also strongly denied them. He remained dignified for the rest of the trial. Anne was very queenly; her answer and her speech is ever as good as that of Katherine of Aragon at Blackfriars. The Queen and her brother were accused of terrible acts of incest and plotting to kill the king and adultery; they may have known that they were already condemned but they were going to fight for their lives and innocence and I admire them for this. Good on them.

  19. dawn young says:

    Pardon my ignorance, but why are there so many questions regarding AB’s guilt/innocence and her subjects? Was evidence destroyed? Where can one find transcripts of the trials? And why, if they were all innocent (with the exception of Smeaton), didn’t they protest? Everything I’ve read on Anne and the events leading up to the big event seems to show her meekly accepting her fate. Why wouldn’t she protest? She never seemed to have an issue with speaking her mind … Why wouldn’t the others as well? I don’t believe the charges, but she obviously did something to really push Henry (or Cromwell)over the edge. And what was AB and Henry arguing about in the days leading up to her arrest (where she was beseeching him with Elizabeth in her arms)? And why for God’s sake after all these hundreds of years are these events still a mystery? It’s easier to piece together who Jack the Ripper was or the mysteries of the pyramids.

    1. Jane says:

      I suspect that the relative meekness of Anne and the gentlemen had a lot to do with not wanting to make the fate of those they were leaving behind any worse than it already was. The estates of convicted traitors could be seized by the crown, but there were instances where at least some of the property and/or money was remitted to the family to save them from destitution. So perhaps that’s how they were thinking, go quietly and save further vengeance being worked on their family.

  20. Maryann Pitman says:

    George was a dead man and he knew it, worse, his sister was going to be killed. I’d bet he cared very little at that point to spare the King’s dignity, in fact, I am sure he meant to inflict what pain he could for the wrong done to his family. He made a point of defending himself to the utmost so that all present knew him to be innocent, and he struck his blow at the King when the chance offered itself.
    The Boleyns were quick witted and quick tongued. It served them well, and perhaps in the end, not so well.
    The truth is difficult because we don’t know enough. We don’t know Anne’s actual date of birth. If she was born in 1501, then at the time of her execution she may have been as old as 35, at the outer edge of her childbearing years. This would have been a powerful motive for Henry to need a new wife. She had parted ways with Cromwell, and threatened him. Politics had gone against her as Henry(or Cromwell) wanted a renewed alliance with the Emperor, and France had no interest in assisting her. And then there was Jane Seymour, patiently waiting in the wings.

    Henry would never again be messed around in ending a marriage. He would also not risk having the legitimacy of a future son questioned. So, she had to die. Cromwell had to turn Henry against her completely, and this was the way. Henry would not regret the loss of a faithless wife. It was the best possible cover for Cromwell.

    Did Henry really believe in her guilt? Maybe, for a little while, but he said enough to show he had other ideas on the subject. We’ll never know for sure.

  21. Banditqueen says:

    George Boleyn and Anne both defended themselves admirably and have to be given credit for making a fight in the face of being falsely charged with incest and adultery and planning to kill the King. The evidence must have been slim, however, as Cromwell used a dirty tricks tactic by getting George to incriminate himself and embarrass the King by reading a statement concerning Henry’s stamina in bed. Cromwell gave George this statement, told him not to read it, knowing what he would. George perceived that he was being set up and revealed all to the 2000 people in the court. It was reckless but he had nothing more to lose, he saw the trial as a farce and revealed all. Henry must have been seriously embarrassed, this was in public, which may also account for the fact that he did not place Katherine Howard on trial. The Boleyns gave a good account of themselves, Anne won many people over, both were courageous and innocent.

  22. Maryann Pitman says:

    Sounds like George was a womanizer. If there really was trouble in his marriage, indiscriminate philandering might have been the source.

    George Boleyn was like his sister in many ways. There was always that reckless streak.

    It was ambition with a healthy dollop of arrogance that killed the Boleyns. Not adultery or incest, or recklessness.

    George was a dead man going in. He had to know it. He wasn’t going to play by their rules because he had nothing to lose. He would go out his way. The Boleyns had nerve. Both gave a good account of themselves. They spoke for the future, knowing there would be no exoneration in the present.

    Bully for them!

    1. Claire says:

      “It was ambition with a healthy dollop of arrogance that killed the Boleyns” – I don’t think so, I think it was a king who saw his second marriage going the same way as his first and who was obsessed with having a son. In my opinion, that’s what it boiled down to, the need to get rid of Anne at all costs.

  23. James H Hess says:

    The sad thing is that the Emperor Charles V did not patch up his quarrel with King Francis of France and together joined forces to invade England, depose Henry VIII ad then first castrate him and then behead him. His daughter, Mary, was old enough to rule by 1536 and with her on the throne, England would have remained Catholic, the so-called Reformation would have failed, and history would be quite different. Consider that a century later, King Charles I was beheaded by Oliver Cromwell for far less serious abuses of power. Damn Henry VIII and those who supported this ungodly and cruel tyrant.

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