16 May 1536 – Queen Anne Boleyn is in hope of life – The Fall of Anne Boleyn


On this day in 1536, the condemned Queen Anne Boleyn’s spirits seemed to have lifted and she was hoping for mercy.


What could have made her so hopeful?

I look at what happened to Anne on this day and also talks about the five men, who were preparing for their executions.

I’m doing these “Fall of Anne Boleyn” videos daily until 19th May and I started on 24th April. You can catch up with them on the Anne Boleyn Files and Tudor Society Youtube Channel.

You can find out more about my book The Fall of Anne Boleyn: A Countdown at http://getbook.at/fallanneboleyn.

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4 thoughts on “16 May 1536 – Queen Anne Boleyn is in hope of life – The Fall of Anne Boleyn”
  1. I don’t know if Anne was grasping at straws or if she just was unable to believe that Henry was was actually going to kill her. The full reality may not have hit her until the 17th when the the the 5 men were murdered by the state.

    I say murder because though the proceedings may have been legal the accusations were made up.

  2. Anne is said to have quite cheerful as she dined in her apartments in the Tower and said she may be allowed to go to a nunnery, all this after she had a meeting with Cranmer so it is inferred by his visit that he had said something to her to make believe such a thing, I believe he had tried to raise her spirits a little as she had only been condemned to die the day before and she could not have been more despondent than she was then, it could be that the sight of Anne distressed Cranmer so much that he told her a little white lie, it could not have been easy for him. especially if she was weeping and showing signs of hysteria and he wanted to cheer her up, or maybe he had been deceived by Cromwell himself that the queens sentance would be commuted to banishment, it would have been natural for them to believe surely they would not execute a crowned and anointed queen? It had never been done before and so Anne possibly had every reason to think she would live, and she must have remembered the passion Henry had once had for her, he had loved her with an all consuming passion surely that same man would not condemn her to the block or the awful ignoble death by burning? Cranmer must have given her some comfort by his very presence alone and something he had said, had definitely made her think she would leave the Tower one day, alas it was a misconception wether Cromwell had mentioned it in conversation with Cranmer or the King himself had talked of it, it is clear that Cranmer had misunderstood and had given the queen false hope, because like Claire I cannot believe that Cranmer would deliberately deceive Anne as they were good friends, and he was devastated at her death, Kingston had to report everything back to Cromwell what she said and so he wrote of her wish to go to a nunnery ‘she was in hope of life’ but her good spirits were not to last long, I can see master secretary smirking to himself as he read Kingstons note, he would not suffer her to live she could not live, alive she would be an eternal thorn in both his and the Kings side, the King wanted a clean break, and so poor Anne chatted we suppose somewhat amicably with her ladies and all the while, the swordsman from Calais was on his way to carry out his dreadful duty, he was probably already crossing the stormy seas of the channel, her co accused were in their cells making their peace with their maker and young Weston wrote a beautiful letter to his parents whilst poor George Boleyn Lord Rochford spent his last hours on earth worrying about the debts he had accrued, it is very sad to think of someone about to die and being plagued by thoughts of money, he was a brilliant courtier and diplomat like his father, he was witty lively and cultured like his sister a talented poet, he was probably only about thirty when he died and he had lived a brilliant life, Norris and Brereton must have written letters to their families as well and it’s a pity we have no account of how his fiancée Madge Shelton felt, Brereton must have known Cromwell had it in for him and he was dying because of that, Mark Smeaton the youngest and the most wretched of all must have spent many sleepless nights in his cell which would have been most uncomfortable since he was low born, unlike the others whose cells would have been better furnished, but low born he may have been, at least he was to escape the traitors death of partial hanging, followed by disembowlment, we can suppose with his relief came great feelings of remorse the result of a guilty conscience, it is too easy to forget these five men because in the events of May 1536 it is Anne Boleyns name that dominates, but they also suffered with her and their families suffered and it is important that like Anne they to are never forgotten.

  3. I have wondered just what went on between Anne and Thomas Cranmer on this date for years but as nobody was privy to their conversation, anything we guess that they spoke about is merely speculation. However, on this visit one thing he came to do was inform Anne of her annulment and get her consent. Like a number of people I have speculated that Anne was promised something in order to get her to agree but more recently, McCullough and Lauren Mackay have all poured water over this theory and it is clear that Cranmer visited for a pastoral visit only, because Anne had no choice. The annulment had been worked on for some time and this was a formality. It would be confirmed in three days time. Even Ives shows that Cranmer could not bash an annulment together within twenty four hours as he did on 19th/20th May. That was merely the publication of the sentence and the documents. I really can’t see what Cranmer would have said to her which made Anne be “in hope of life” or that she would go to a convent. (Convents did still exist and the larger religious houses were not closed in the first wave,_but after the later legislation was passed after the Pilgrimage of Grace. In fact at least one convent was given a stay after negotiations took place in the chambers of Jane Seymour of all places. No doubt it went as well before the last houses surrendered in 1540).

    The logical explanation for Anne’s rise in spirits at dinner with Kingston was that she had worked out that historically Queens had not been executed and assumed her status would protect her. Either that or she was relying on Henry’s old love for her. Perhaps because Henry had annulled their marriage she assumed she would be spared but it was a day dream. The more likely explanation is that Anne’s mood had swung again and it was wishful thinking. Let’s face it, Anne was a dead woman walking, why wouldn’t she hope for a pardon or a reprieve? She thought Henry was testing her and it is possible that she misinterpreted something Cranmer had said. His visit had lifted her spirits and to be honest I think the poor woman was delusional and just trying to hold on to the last piece of hope she had left.

  4. Now let us turn to the five men preparing for death in other parts of the Tower. In the Beauchamp Tower George Boleyn had carved his own memorial to his sister, a falcon, uncrowned but significantly this meant loyalty and purity and fortitude and steadfast. He was very concerned about the people who owed him money as the King would take over the debts as with the people he owed money to. The constable wrote to Cromwell to ask him to visit George with regards matters “touching his conscience” and he wanted to talk about some people who couldn’t pay him back. A monk whom he and Cromwell had promoted to Abbott owed £100 but his monastery was now repressed and he didn’t have any way to repay the debt. George was worried about him. In 1538 another religious owed money still and his debt was taken over by the crown but it was discharged by a third party. George was quite concerned and he hoped to make peace knowing people would be assisted.

    In another cell Francis Weston wrote a touching letter to his parents and his beloved wife. He asked for his very long list of bills to be paid, his wife to forgive him, he remembered himself to those he loved, he was a sinner as are we all and he asked for prayers and their love. I find these words of the men very moving. It’s so sad to read a list of mundane items and people he wanted to pay, his servants, his baker and crafts people in his household. Friends and family and acquaintances are listed, his father’s cook, his tailor, a poor woman in the village, the goldsmith, a lady he knew who had repaired his clothes, so many, every penny accountable, just over 9176 pounds and seven shillings. He sent his love and blessings to his children and wife and family.

    We don’t have much information about the others but they would have discharged their conscience, heard Mass, sent last words to loved ones, received spiritual help and made confession. They prepared their souls as well as their body for death. Goodness knows how Mark Smeaton coped with all this, knowing he had lied and would say nothing to undo that lie tomorrow on the scaffold but he was terrified of his fate being changed and that’s between him and his soul. Anne wasn’t very pleased when she heard he hadn’t cleared her on the scaffold and Wyatt condemned him in his poem in memory of all five of his colleagues. It is not for us to judge, but to be honest I feel slightly sorry for him, he must have been absolutely terrified. These five innocent men were to die within a few hours; in public and through violence, it must have been awful awaiting the last moments before an execution.

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