16 May 1536 – The Men Prepare for Death

Posted By on May 16, 2014

Sir Francis Weston

Sir Francis Weston

On 16th May 1536, George Boleyn, Sir Francis Weston, Sir Henry Norris, Sir William Brereton and Mark Smeaton prepared for their deaths by confessing their sins to Dr Allryge (or Alridge), the chaplain sent to them. Sir Francis Weston wrote out a list of his debts, which can be found in Letters and Papers, and then wrote a farewell letter to his parents, which was to be included with the list of creditors:

“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.”

As Alison Weir points out, Weston is not confessing to his alleged crimes; he is simply asking his family’s forgiveness for the sins he had committed during his lifetime. Tudor people believed very strongly in the concept of original sin and their sinful natures.

As well as making his confession to Dr Allryge, George Boleyn seems to have spent his last hours worrying that his death could cause financial ruin to others. In a letter to Cromwell dated 16th May, the day
after George’s trial, William Kingston wrote, “Sir, the said Lord [Rochford] much desires to speak with you, which touches his conscience much as he says, wherein I pray you I may know your pleasure, for by cause of my promise made unto my said Lord to do the same.” In a second letter, Kingston repeats this plea, “You must help my Lord of Rochford’s conscience”. It is touching that George’s main concern at such a time was for those to whom he owed money, and for those who owed him money, and who would suffer if forced to repay the debt to the King.

Notes and Sources

  • The Fall of Anne Boleyn: A Countdown by Claire Ridgway
  • George Boleyn: Tudor Poet, Courtier and Diplomat by Clare Cherry and Claire Ridgway
  • The Lady in the Tower by Alison Weir
  • The Life of Cardinal Wolsey, George Cavendish, p459.
  • LP x. 902

16 thoughts on “16 May 1536 – The Men Prepare for Death”

  1. I love this site, I always feel very sad around 17/19th May, I pray for these poor innocent souls may they R.I.P it must be awful to die for a so called crime you never commited and thes men and Queen Anne herself just felt for other people they left behind….

  2. Deanna Jolly says:

    I also am enjoying this site very much…..and learning so much. Thank you.

  3. What a horrible, horrible thing!!!! To be put to death. And to be executed for something you did not do. And knowing that no-one was going to listen to you. These poor guys!!!!! And so young, all of them.

  4. Harry says:

    Each time I open this site it is almost….or is… welcome back to the 16th century. History unfolds .. stories are told… and this is something we should never forget. There is a new book out called ‘Investigating Cromwell’ about Oliver a future relative of Thomas. The chapter on Thomas is most intriguing leaving no room for sympathy for Thomas Cromwell. The author presents a picture that Oliver wasn’t much different than Thomas…. lies, backroom deals, twisted propaganda and finally the head of a King as opposed to a Queen. Keep up the great work… Love this site

  5. BanditQueen says:

    These preparations are so touching and personal and give us a real insight into the minds and concerns of the men for their families and associated.

    Thanks

  6. bethjanelle says:

    As a life longer learner and a lover of all things British, I am very pleased to have found this site. I appreciate the thoughtful remembrance of these dark days and the souls that were lost to vanity, jealousy and vice by those who were sworn to up hold the laws of the land and King. Thank you all for the wonderful work you do!

  7. Karen Holmes says:

    Thank you for all the hard work you put into this site. I have loved learning about the Tudors all my life and the way you breathe life & incite into these magnificent times is a joy.

    1. Claire says:

      Thank you, that’s kind of you to say. I’m so glad you enjoy my posts.

  8. Vilma Bean says:

    Thank you for your site. Cannot tell you how much I enjoy it.

    Why do you think that Henry had to execute Anne? Couldn’t he just have annulled the marriage and sent her away. And all those young men…so horrible. It seems as though it was very dangerous to be friends with Henry or have any type of close connection with him. Also it appears that flirtations were out of control. I guess that in this day and age it is hard for me to comprehend “courtly love”.

    1. Ann Sharp says:

      Henry’s problem was that he urgently required a son and heir who would be recognized by the world as legitimate.

      If he died without a clear male heir to succeed him, he had every reason to think that England would fall right back into Wars of the Roses, Part Two. He and his father had killed off most of the legitimate Plantagenet heirs, but his mother’s younger sisters had descendants and his mother’s cousin, Margaret Pole, did as well.

      Henry’s marriage to Anne, and Elizabeth’s birth, had taken place during Catherine of Aragon’s lifetime; SHE couldn’t die conveniently since she was the Emperor’s aunt, Ferdinand and Isabella’s daughter, and related to all the royal houses of Europe. So no matter what legal knots Henry tied or untied, Elizabeth was not an heir who could be recognized as legitimate outside the country.

      However, once Catherine had died, if Anne was also dead, no one could argue that Henry wasn’t perfectly free to remarry.

    2. Sheajesster says:

      Also he had already divorced one wife, and broke with Rome to get this wife. If he had been bewitched it woukd have explained that , and made him look like he wasn’t to blame for Catherine’s divorce, and all that happened after – it was Anne’s. Also, If he just divorced Anne he would have looked fickle as heck, which he was already being accused of.

  9. Angela says:

    Thank you for all your dedicated historical work on this site. I thoroughly enjoy all you you put on here.

  10. peter says:

    Let’s Redo the faulted 1536 trial, now. I, we all can foresee the results of that trial. Beloved, Brave, Eternal Queen Anne Boleyn, Not Guilty; Henry and Cromwell, guilty as charged on all counts. Anne would have them, under guard, to live out their lives in monasteries on the Isle of Skye. She would have been England’s most Wonderful, Fair, Passionate monarch, with her daughter, Elizabeth! The people could have cried, and we cry now, May God save Queen Anne! Amen.

  11. Patricia Brereton says:

    Are there any letters or family notes written by Sir William Brereton? He is my husbands ancetor.

  12. Maryann Pitman says:

    By our standards these were young men indeed. By the standard of the time, not really. Death was a constant companion-the average life expectancy was below 40 at the time. And no one was safe from any number of diseases which periodically swept through-at this time it was the sweat, but smallpox and other killers were endemic and indiscriminate.

    Execution is bad enough, but to be killed for something you did not do, yours and your family reputation blackened-and the fear you might bring down more friends and family with you-what a catastrophe it must have been for them!

  13. Susan says:

    what sort of person was Henry how on earth did he live with himself he was cold as ice . He used people for his convienance then discarded them like rubbish but he was never to blame he had an ego the size of a truck . What must Ann and those poor men have gone through its heartbreaking !!!

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