In a letter to Cromwell, dated the 16th May, Sir William Kingston, the Constable of the Tower, mentions the visit that day of the Archbishop of Canterbury. Kingston writes of how the King had informed him that the Archbishop was to be Anne’s confessor, but that was not the reason for Cranmer’s visit.
As Alison Weir writes, in “The Lady in the Tower”, Cranmer was actually visiting Anne Boleyn to get her to confess to an impediment to her marriage and to obtain her consent to dissolve the marriage and to disinherit and bastardise her daughter Elizabeth. Weir theorises that Anne was offered some kind of deal to get her to agree to this and I have to agree with her. What she was offered we just don’t know – it may have been the more merciful death by sword (something that Henry had already arranged anyway) or perhaps she was offered some hope of escape. In the same letter to Cromwell, Kingston reported that “Yet this day at dinner the Queen said she would go to “anonre” [a nunnery], and is in hope of life”, which suggests that Anne was offered a deal by Cranmer, a deal that would be broken of she really was promised a new life in a nunnery.
I guess we’ll never know if Cranmer was himself being misled by Cromwell and the King, or whether he was lying to Anne.
While Cranmer was visiting Anne in the Tower, Jane Seymour was receiving guests at her lodgings in Chelsea – courtiers who were there to court favour with the woman who was sure to be their new queen. As for Henry, he was signing death warrants, one of them his wife’s.
- LP x.890, Letter from Kingston to Cromwell, 16th May 1536
- “The Lady in the Tower” by Alison Weir