16 May 1536 – Anne Boleyn thinks she could go to a nunnery – The Fall of Anne Boleyn

Posted By on May 16, 2021

On this day in Tudor history, 16th May 1536, just the day after she had been tried, found guilty and sentenced to death, Queen Anne Boleyn was suddenly hopeful and seemed to think her life might be spared.

Why? What could have made her so hopeful?

Find out more about what happened to Anne on this day, and about the five men, who were preparing for their executions, in this video:

Here is the transcript:

On this day in 1536, 16th May, Sir William Kingston, Constable of the Tower of London and Queen Anne Boleyn’s gaoler, reported something strange in his daily report to Thomas Cromwell. He wrote that “this day at dinner the queen said that she should go to a nunnery and is in hope of life.” Yet this was just a day after Anne had been found guilty of high treason and sentenced to death. How very strange!

Earlier in the day, Anne had received a visit from her good friend, Archbishop Thomas Cranmer., who had been sent to the Tower to act as her confessor and to obtain her consent to the annulment of her marriage to Henry VIII. Had something happened at their meeting to lead Anne to believe that she might yet be saved.

Perhaps Cranmer had offered her some kind of deal – if she consented to the annulment then she could be sent to a nunnery instead of being executed. Or was Anne just clutching at straws? We’ll never know. But it’s odd.

In another part of the Tower of London, five men were preparing for their executions which were scheduled for the next day. They were waiting to make their last confessions. Sir Francis Weston took the time to write a letter of farewell to his parents, which he included with a list of his debts for them to pay on his behalf. He wrote:
“Father and mother and wife, I shall humbly desire you, for the salvation of my soul, to discharge me of this bill, and for to forgive me of all the offences that I have done to you, and in especial to my wife, which I desire for the love of God to forgive me, and to pray for me: for I believe prayer will do me good. God’s blessing have my children and mine.
By me, a great offender to God.”

George Boleyn, Lord Rochford, also had debts on his mind. He had fretted about this issue the whole time of his imprisonment, worrying that those he owed money to would not be paid and that those who owed him money would end up getting into trouble if they had to pay the King instead. It is so sad that his final days were spent in worry for others.

1 thought on “16 May 1536 – Anne Boleyn thinks she could go to a nunnery – The Fall of Anne Boleyn”

  1. Christine says:

    I too cannot believe Cranmer promising Anne she would be allowed to go to a nunnery instead of death, he was her close friend, she was his patron he had annulled the marriage of Henry V111 to Katherine of Aragon, and had declared her marriage with the king lawful, I believe he too could have been misled by Cromwell and / or the king knowing of his closeness to Anne, on her arrest he wrote to the king declaring himself ‘ sheer amazed because I never had better opinion of woman than I had of her’, therefore something must have been said between them after he had seen her, she was noted as being quite cheerful as she sat down to dinner instead of being miserable and resigning herself to death, therefore it is obvious that Cranmer had mentioned her retiring to a nunnery, but how cruel to give someone that hope of life, it is like offering a drowning man a rope only to pull it away, poor Anne, no wonder at the end she declared to Kingston she had long been prepared for death, the salvation to an end of torment, in another part of the Tower five men were preparing themselves for death, we can only imagine how they must have felt, these five men who fortune had smiled on, Sir Henry Norris who had long been at court had been the kings loyal friend and companion, groom of the stool, did he write to his young sons and his poor wretched fiancée Madge Shelton? If he did we have no record but they must have been uppermost in his mind, Sir William Brereton must have wondered how he had got caught up in this web of injustice, though he must have had an inkling it was merely political, he was not in the queens circle, he was no young dashing gallant and the least likeliest one of them all to have committed adultery with her, he was a groom of the stool like Norris, and a Cheshire landowner and in recognition for his work, he had several large grants gifted to him in the Welsh marches and it is thought his administrative work there angered Cromwell who according to Ives, ‘had plans to reorganise and centralise the local government’, so that was one troublesome man dealt with, he also had two sons, Sir Francis Weston who had been a favourite of the king, young being only in his early to mid twenties, he had been a minor member of the kings circle and often beat him at bowls and cards, he had not been married long and had a baby son, he would never see him grow up, his letter to his wife and parents is very sad very poignant, they must have believed in his innocence, a portrait of him shows him to have been a most pleasant looking young man, there was George Lord Rochford the queens younger brother, a talented poet and surely one of the most attractive young men at the court, now his name was tainted with the ugly word of incest, he was worried about his debts which must have been plenty,
    , it is very very sad I agree that George spent those last hours of his on earth worrying about his financial burden, there was also lying alone in his mean little cell the queens musician Mark Smeaton, he had arrived at court and his talent had enchanted the king, he was soon in his employ and then he became Anne’s favoured musician, it is said she gave him gifts of money and saddles for his horse and fine clothes, it was said he used to strut about at court angering the other nobles, chief of these were Norris and Weston and Brereton who all vied for her favours, he had been the first and the last to confess to adultery with the queen, and it must have preyed on his conscience that it was all for a quick and merciful death, none of these poor souls were allowed visitors, all they saw was Kingston who must have tried to comfort them in his grim task over the past few weeks, alone with their thoughts we can only imagine their anguish, George is said to have composed a sad little poem named ‘ My Lute Be Still, it is a melancholy little tune , Anne is also said to have written a equally sad little poem the first line which reads ‘Farewell My Pleasures Past’, there was a debate on television some years ago about whether both poems were composed by sister and brother, the origins are unknown but they could be from the 17th century, it is like the letter supposedly written by the queen to her husband, we will never know if that is authentic or a forgery, these five wretched men were waiting for their confessors to arrive so they could unburden their souls, belief in the almighty was very strong and he would give them some absolution for their misery, they now only had a day left to live and must have spent the last few hours in constant prayer.

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