On this day in history, King Henry VIII, Thomas Cromwell and the Boleyns scored a bit of a victory over Eustace Chapuys, the man who represented Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor, at the English court. They manoeuvred the ambassador into a position where he was forced to pay reverence to Queen Anne Boleyn, thereby acknowledging her as queen, something which he had not done before.

Chapuys had just turned down an invitation from the king to “go and visit and kiss the Concubine”, the Concubine being Anne, so Lord Rochford, the queen’s brother, conducted the ambassador to mass and managed to position the ambassador behind the door by which Anne would enter. As she came through the door, Anne, knowing full well that the ambassador had been placed there, turned to him and bowed, forcing Chapuys to do the same to her. Clever!

You can read more about what happened in my article from 2016 – click here to read it now.

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47 thoughts on “18 April 1536 – To bow, or not to bow…”
  1. From the first time I read about this incident I thought it was so funny. Chapuy disliked Anne so much and to have that trick pulled on him. This kind of joke we can all relate to today which really shows off their humanity and makes these people more than dry historical characters.

    1. I think you are right … that it was some kind of a joke on Chapuys. I don’t see why it gets treated as some sort of diplomatic coup. After all, nothing changed — Charles didn’t think the gesture bound him in any way, and neither he nor Chapuys ever recognized Anne as queen (or Elizabeth as legitimate)

      1. I think it was a game of one-upmanship. Chapuys had refused to meet Anne at the king’s invitation so Henry made sure it happened anyway.

        1. You might well be right … I wonder if Henry even recognized how (comparatively) meaningless it was.

  2. After years of referring to Anne as merely the concubine and not Henrys wife and queen he was tricked into acknowledging her as such in a space of a few seconds, though this was not his fault Mary was horrified as she saw it as a slur on her mother and herself, but Chapyus no doubt soothed her with words he had been caught in a difficult situation, he had been tricked etc, but I doubt she was satisfied with his version of events, by bowing to Anne he had in a sense acknowledged her as queen and Anne was very happy about it, she expected to see him at supper afterwards but he was absent, she was expecting too much if she thought he would also dine in her company, he was no doubt spitting bile and had no appetite for food! he was still her enemy but this one act was a triumph for Anne and Henry and their friends, and Chapyus was left seething at it.

    1. Hello, Michael, it is Eustace Cbapuys as a young man. From the portrait credits in Lauren Mackay’,s book on the life and letters of the Ambassador during his observations on the six wives: Portrait d’,Eustace Chappuis . Anon.1711 Muse -chateau, Annecy, France.

      Inside the Tudor Court: Henry Viii and His Six Wives through the writings of the Spanish Ambassador, Eustace Chapuys. Lauren Mackay, available in hard and paperback and Kindle.


        1. I am not certain who the painting is but it looks likes one kept in Ripon Cathedral in Yorkshire. It says it is from 1533 but it is probably a copy of a lost original. I don’t actually like it as the neck looks very odd, very long. Maybe it’s symbolic as Chapuys didn’t like Anne very much. It would be good if there is more information. I saw this on display in the Cathedral although it is normally in the Treasury. I don’t remember much about it though, but it is an image I recognised. I don’t know, there is something very odd about it. Sorry I don’t know more than that.

  3. I have to agree, this is a well contrived game of one upmanship. Henry and Anne had to pass by the people at the bottom of the stairs leading down from the Royal Chapel private box to make an offering or take the Sacrament. Eustace Chapuys was with George Boleyn and others behind him and as Anne and Henry pass by and in the small space, they know that those there will have to bow as protocol demands. Chayuys has avoided coming face to face with Anne for four years and now he had no choice. Anne nodded and he bowed. However, the interpretation from both points of view is very interesting and he saw this as being polite, not an act of homage. I agree.

    His actions, however, upset Mary who saw this as Henry and Anne did as acknowledging Anne as Queen on behalf of the Emperor, something he had never wanted to do. It was a small but very important victory for Henry and Anne and the Ambassador had a lot of explaining in his letters. He saw this as courtesy and he explained it as such, saying Anne was charming and he seems to have had a good opinion of her briefly. Henry was still promoting Anne as his lawful wife and he had shut down Cromwell and his foreign policy towards the Emperor earlier that day. Was this a double game?

    Anne was arrested two weeks later, Henry had talked about his marriage and had consulted a canon law expert on annulment, then looked more committed and then ordered an investigation into rumours about the Queen’s behaviour. Was Henry putting on a good public face or did he now want out of his marriage but was not certain which path to take? All of these are hypothetical questions and Henry’s behaviour is very odd during these few weeks, but I think he was definitely delighted in his small victory and this game.

    1. I checked the dispatches on British History on line …. the Emperor seems to have accepted Chapuys’s explanation, as there is not a word on the incident. While Mary would have been scared and upset for a bit, it doesn’t seem to have had a long term effect on her relationship with Chapuys. I

      Whether this incident reveals anything about the state of Henry and Anne’s marriage, is much more difficult. After all, Henry lied through his teeth in his speech at Blackfriars (falsely claiming that he hoped the marriage to Katherine of Aragon would be found valid) so other actions in connection with Anne … such as this one, which could also show that Henry was dumping Anne on his terms, not the Emperor’s … can’t necessarily be taken at face value

      1. I completely agree. As Lauren Mackay remarks Chapuys didn’t give it much significance. The entire pantomime of these two days was one show after another, with the meal with Anne, her making a big show of insulting the French Ambassador, the whole explosive audience with Henry, Cromwell and the Ambassador were he had a melt down, then the smoothing everything over at the Council, the next day, goodness knows what Henry was up to. A very odd affair indeed. I often wonder if Chapuys viewed the English Court as some kind of mad house. I absolutely agree with everything you say.

        1. On the contrary, I think Chapuys did give it signficance. He felt the need to explain himself and he mentions Mary being upset by what happened. I don’t, however, agree with those who see the episode as being evidence that Henry was still committed to his marriage to Anne, I think it was more to do with getting one over on Chapuys and his master. It was to do with power, not about Anne.

        2. Allow me to rephrase, I agree he was concerned that Mary was upset and certainly explained his actions to put her mind at rest, but I don’t think he placed too much to it personally and it didn’t have much affect on him or the Emperor. In that, he didn’t find it to be too significant. He sees it more as an act of courtesy than homage.

          I don’t believe this was Henry promoting his commitment to his marriage either, but playing his own game of power, yes, I would agree with that, deceit, political manoeuvres and one upmanship. I think behind the scenes something sinister was stirring and Henry was trying to keep everyone on their toes, of the scent and from knowing something was afoot, to whit investigation into the possibility of bringing a case to end his marriage to Anne, although the means had not yet become clear.

  4. Thank you BQ. That’s more than I knew before. The neck is too long and doesn’t flow naturally into the body. It almost looks like she is a puppet and you can operate her head from underneath. The face is nice but overall not the best image. How frustrating to not have a contemporary portrait of her by a master such as Holbein other than that sketch marked ‘Anna Boleyna’. ( Not sure of the spelling on the sketch)

      1. Yes, cheers, good information on the link. The sketch is the nearest image we have of Anne and some people think the picture of her in the Garter Book is from 1534 as is an image in the National Portrait Gallery or Hever, but both are questioned because of a common belief that Henry Viii ordered everything destroyed, although I don’t know of a contemporary source for this. He certainly got rid of everything in his palaces and her devices were destroyed and replaced with those of Jane Seymour. Anne’s coat of arms can be found under the main gate at Hampton Court as it was missed, but we don’t really know now if any portrait dates from her time or not. We have a precious Book of Hours and prayer book in which she wrote a note to Henry. It is such a shame not to know much about what someone looked like. I never knew my grandfather for example, but I have a photo from his early life with my nan before the War and I can imagine him because of that and his letters and her memories. Although we have some letters from Anne as Queen and a few letters as a child, we don’t have her replies to Henry as he courted her or even very many personal things. I do think some effort was made to erase Anne but not everything was lost. I think the Holbein sketch is real but most are much later, although they may be copies of earlier portraits. We just don’t know. Such a real shame.

        1. I do think that Roland Hui’s theory regarding the Garter Book image is compelling and I think it is Anne. Unfortunately tests on the NPG portrait show it to date to Elizabeth’s reign but that means it was produced in living memory of Anne. The Hever portraits are also believed to be later than Anne’s lifetime. It is a shame.

        2. That’s them out of the frame, then, well that makes sense. I think the Garter Portrait is a very pregnant Anne, who some sources indicate may have been so at the time of the portrait in Spring 1534. I love the golden robes in that portrait and it would make sense to show of Anne if Henry thought she was having his son and was in a triumphant/benevolent mood. Interestingly the Garter portrait shows a lady with reddish brunette hair and there is some poetic evidence that Anne may have had that colour hair and Roland Hui is an expert art historian so I accept his expertise.

    1. Thanks for mentioning this (the ‘Black Book’ Garter image).

      The most compelling arguments for it being Anne Boleyn are of course the ‘AR’ (‘Anna Regina’) pendant that she wears, and that the book is dated 1534.

  5. Anne may have had reddish hair but she has always been depicted with dark brown/ black hair and I find it hard to see her as anything but a brunette, to visualise a red haired Anne is quite difficult as on films and television drama series and in novels she’s depicted as a dark haired temptress, apparantly her hair was so long she could sit on it which meant it reached to her knees, heavens! It must have taken ages to dry after washing but it was her crowning glory, and along with her magnificent eyes a very noticeable feature and one she was enormously proud of, she wore it loose when she was made marchioness of Pembroke and at her coronation were it was noted she had gems interwoven in it, they glittered in the darkness it was said, she could however have had very dark brown hair with a hint of red in it which is very attractive also.

  6. For me the other incident that day was more significant than this neutral bowing between Anne and Chapuys, because historians argue over whether or not it had any part in the fall of Anne Boleyn. Now it is important but it is more important if you believe Thomas Cromwell was responsible for this or not. Alison Weir argues that it is at this point that Anne was in his way, but that is probably a stretch although this day played a part.

    The incident was Henry’s hissy fit during a famous private, but all too public audience later this same day between Thomas Cromwell, Henry and Chapuys. Before this meeting the Ambassador and Cromwell had been in contact to build a case for a rebuilding of strong foreign relations with the Empire and Spain. One of the conditions for such an alliance was the placing of Mary back in the succession. Henry had shown interest in the alliance since early that year and this was not purely the brainchild of Cromwell. However, it seemed that Henry had a different view of what that alliance would be and the terms than Cromwell and Chayuys certainly hoped.

    Henry listened and all appeared to go well and then certain remarks by one or other party derailed the whole process. The King said that he wanted the whole terms placed in writing and Chapuys was reluctant. The next thing was Henry had a monumental melt down and everyone heard. He demanded that the Emperor apologised for everything he had done to Henry, demanding he not be treated as a child ( even though he was now acting like one), saying the way he treated Mary was his business and why shouldn’t he have sons as he was a man like any other. Chapuys was mildly embarrassed but Cromwell was chewed out and came out of the meeting looking as if he was about to collapse. He turned white and called for water and then left court. The next day he went home and returned only to be given authority to arrest Mark Smeaton and to discover rumours about Anne and Henry Norris and their conversation floating about the court.

    Now those who argue for Cromwell being the instigator for Anne’s fall see this as the point that he finally decided she was in the way, that his plans for a new foreign policy, his support for Mary, his past fall outs with the Queen and now his humiliation by the King, pointed to a need for Anne to go. However, others see him as merely acting on Henry’s orders and maybe there is a bit of truth in both and maybe the events of the last few days of April 1536 fell into place by accident, with Cromwell and Henry both all too willing partners in a conspiracy to frame Anne, but there is no doubt this day was a turning point. From 18th April onwards things began to unravel for Anne behind the scenes and then deteriorated rapidly in a 48 hour period. Alison Weir may be right, he may have concocted some kind of conspiracy while away, but he might also have been working to find a way to rid Henry of Anne on his orders. He couldn’t investigate or interrogate anyone without the King’s consent and order, but he could come up with initial allegations, rumours, evidence and persuade the King of the need to investigate. The innocent conversations of courtly love and unfortunate conversation of Anne and Henry Norris brought to the King’s attention fit well with those rumours and Cromwell was only too willing to put two and two together and get five, while Henry was only too willing to believe the then invented findings and Smeaton’ s confession and arrests followed. Now, I am only speculating but whatever the truth of Cromwell and Henry’s role in the fall of Anne Boleyn, something changed after Cromwell was chewed out by the King and some form of turning point happened over this Easter week in 1536, something was happening behind the scenes and dangerous games were being played.

    1. Yes apparantly after that incident with Henry Chapyus and Cromwell, the latter excused himself for a few days claiming he was sick, though possibly that was just an excuse to dream up the plot to rid himself of Anne who he knew would not agree to Mary being put back in the succession, he suspected more than likely that she would try to persuade Henry to quash the alliance, she was a Francophile anyway and hated Spain as Katherine had been from there and for years they had tried to stop the divorce, whilst staunch allies at the beginning Anne and Cromwell had turned into enemies and she was furious that he had given Jane Seymout his suite of rooms, he knew that Anne had lost her strong hold over the King and he was very taken with Jane, like rats that desert a sinking ship he realised that Anne was not worth supporting and Henry must have confided in him on the days they had quarrelled that he was fed up with her, there was one incident where he had not spoken to her for two weeks, Cromwell could well have inferred to him that he would be better off without his troublesome second wife who everyone hated anyway and who could not give him a son, just imagine the fatal conversation, ‘I want a way out of this marriage and I give you leave to think of a way’ thus spoke Henry and Cromwell could well have answered ‘ I will try to make it as swift and easy as possible and make sure no criticism extends to you’, whatever was said we will never know but sometime during the mild and drizzly month of April the downfall of a queen was being plotted with devastating consequences.

  7. Historian Retha Warnicke (‘The Rise and Fall of Anne Boleyn’) offered a completely different – and weird! – explanation for the Anne and Chapuys ‘meeting’.

    She argued that Anne was no longer in favor with the King because of the January 1536 miscarriage (and of a deformed child at that; no doubt the product of witchcraft and adultery/incest!). Anne, according to Warnicke, was tricked by Henry VIII into meeting Chapuys by the church door as to humiliate her and to signal his public disapproval of her as his wife and queen. Persons disagreeable to royalty, Warnicke said, were normally never allowed to come close to them, as Chapuys did before Anne at Mass that day.

    Warnicke’s argument has been widely rejected by historians. Anne was known to still be in the King’s favor in the spring of 1536. Chapuys’ coming to court was meant to get the Emperor’s acknowledgment that she was truly Queen with the recent death of Katherine of Aragon.

    1. Hmmm… interesting, but I don’t think it makes sense. I think it was more about Henry and the empire and really nothing to do with Anne. It was about power.

      I don’t think Anne was still in favour by 18th April. I think that the king had decided by this point that he was going to replace her with Jane, he just didn’t know how. It was only 6 days later that the commissions of oyer and terminer were set up so I think that although the “how” hadn’t been quite decided upon, the plan was already afoot. I think Cromwell’s time away from court was spent putting the king’s desire into action, organising the how. I, personally, don’t believe that Cromwell acted by himself, I believe that he was doing the king’s bidding.

      1. That is what Weir says in her book The Last Days Of Anne Boleyn, I think most historians are of the same view that Cromwell had Henrys blessing, he would not have dared move against her otherwise, he could well have ended up with his head on a pole instead.

        1. I think Professor Warnicke has done her research but her theories are a bit odd. Her theory regarding Anne’s fall is based on the theory that Anne had given birth to a deformed foetus, which of course is a myth written by Nicholas Sander many decades later, a very alien source. She also puts forth the idea of sexual heresy, that people may see her loss as proof of sexual misconduct. Two thesis existed that proposed such a notion, but it wasn’t a general belief. However, there is no evidence that Anne had anything more than a tragic but perfectly natural miscarriage and her little son was not deformed.

          Next her theories are connected to the men involved being deviants, that is homosexual or bisexual, forbidden at the time and proposed this is why they were selected as Anne’s alleged lovers in order to say they are capable of any depravity, sleeping with the Queen, incest, killing the King and Anne is capable of anything as it was believed she was a witch. There is no evidence to support any of this and none of it actually makes any sense, even if it is a well argued theory. Two statues were passed in 1536 that could have been used to kill both the men and Anne had this been true and Henry really believed Anne was casting spells on him or his friends were involved in sexual practices forbidden by law: one to condemn witches to death and one to condemn sodemy as punishable by death. So why not use them? Why not wait for these to pass and use such statutes if any of this was true? The answer is, it was not even something which came into the scenario. No suggestion of sexual heresy as above are in the charges against them, save the charges of incest and adultery, certainly nothing about the men being homosexual or Anne a witch and nothing about her harming her baby. Anne’s fall was certainly concocted and five innocent men either accidentally or by accusation fell into the trap to frame her. While I am certain Professor Warnicke has worked hard and her work is respected, most historians don’t agree with it, because the contemporary record does not support her ideas. I have never understood why she placed so much emphasis on Sander when he wrote 50 years later and was a propagandist.

          Anne, her brother, Henry Norris, Weston, Brereton, and Mark Smeaton were accused of serious crimes, all of which could bring the death penalty, conspiracy to kill the King, adultery and treason, and Anne and George, incest. No charges of witchcraft were brought and no mention of their sexuality is mentioned. They could have been every sexuality in the book for all we know, but no evidence supported this and it was not the reason they were tried. The verses in the second volume of Cavendish Life of Wolsey are used as being suggestive, but these are controversial because their origins are hostile and mere fantasy. The last speeches of George Boleyn on the scaffold are also taken as evidence of forbidden sexual practices, but here we have a devout man merely repenting his sins as convention demanded and putting his soul in order before meeting his Maker. Everyone made such speeches at their execution. The men were picked on because they were convenient and were all connected to Anne or her family in some way or because of an innocent and flirting conversation later recalled. Anne was charged because Henry wanted to get rid of her and he didn’t want another Katherine of Aragon hovering in the background while his new wife tried to give him a son.

          Cromwell went home and probably on Henry’s desires, but certainly in order to think up a way to bring about Anne’s downfall and a set of unfortunate conversations and circumstances allowed his investigation to flourish and find fault were none lay. The rest he simply made up. I don’t believe Henry was still committed to his marriage on 18th and 19th April. I believe he wanted to create as much of a show and confusion as possible in order to put Anne and others of their guard and observe their reaction. He was a master of deceit and he was like a puppet master pulling the strings.

  8. I think some of Warnickes theories are rather far fetched to be honest, I wouldn’t read any of her books.

    1. The only book of hers I have read and because I agree with you about her will probably be the only book of hers I will read is ‘The Marrying of Anne of Cleves’ (Royal protocol in Tudor England). Very detailed and very interesting. You might want to give that one a try. I don’t think Retha did much damage in that book.

      1. Hi Michael, yes the details about the protocols of Royal Marriage and the research is very much worth a read. Professor Warnicke is no light read, but this one is very well put together and I would recommend it. Retha is very well thought of in academic circles, but her theories on sexual politics and the fall of Anne Boleyn are not shared by most historians. At least she accepted that all parties were innocent of the charges brought in May 1536.

        1. That book took me over a year to read. I took a break in the middle and read some other books because it was so filled with detail. It was worth it though. I disagree with many of her conclusions on Anne’s fall also.

      1. Yes, Michael, the majority of historians disagree, although they don’t all agree on the actual instigator of Anne Boleyn’s fall. Cromwell is a popular fall guy because the theory is that there is evidence for his feeling threatened by Anne remaining as Queen, but his biographer, John Schofield points out that the Queen and him had more in common, such as social reform, that his imagined political division. Susanna Libscomb believes it was just that Anne looked guilty and a series of misunderstandings resulted in her fall but Clair for example, believes that Henry was to blame. The truth was more complex than that and it is more likely a combination. In the end Henry wanted a new wife, he was the instigator because he was in charge, a powerful King thanks to his Supremacy and he gave Cromwell orders or permission to find a permanent way out of his marriage. Cromwell investigated what may well have been rumours because it’s treason to slander the Queen, but more likely he is putting the legal apparatus in place in the hope he can soon build a case against Anne Boleyn. What happened next was a series of unfortunate and innocent playful conversations provided Cromwell with ammunition, the King gives him permission to arrest Smeaton, he is interrogated and confesses and a bomb goes off. Sir Henry Norris, the Groom of the Stool, Henry’s close friend is arrested and then the others followed, George Boleyn, William Brereton, then the Queen the next day, then due to Anne’s ramblings, Francis Weston. Henry was either totally convinced that his wife was guilty or he simply wanted out of his marriage, without another Katherine holding on to her crown for a few years. Most people believe that at some point he hated Anne and many other things lay behind that, her public arguments, her interference, these coupled with the loss of her last baby, a boy, the gossip of her enemies, perhaps Cromwell framed her, all came together to fix this stitch up into place.

        The sexual heresy theory of Professor Warnicke doesn’t hold water because the evidence about the sexuality of these men is too sketchy. This is only valid in reference to the charge of incest between Anne and her brother. Anne was charged with incest purely to malign her name further and to say that she was capable of anything. A statute making sodomy a crime punishable by death was passed in 1533 so if these men were targeted because of their sexual preference, which made them deviants under that law, then why not round them up on that charge and how did that fit in with adultery with the Queen? The theory that Anne was killed because of her miscarriage of a deformed foetus is nonsense, four contemporary sources say her baby was a boy, none mentioned any deformity. Therefore the sexual heresy theory goes out of the window. Believe me, Michael, I have read this book several times and it really takes some doing.

  9. Maybe leave this sort of topics to the experts.
    I for one, have NEVER heard of a ‘Professor’ Ridgeway.

      1. Claire, by the power invested in me by the University of Life, I hereby make you Professor Claire Ridgway, and you certainly deserve it with the knowledge and research you have done.

        1. You’re welcome, Claire, I had a troll following me around five sites I have done reviews on but got him back with my security and called him the same thing someone else had, a Bitter Old Troll, because that is what he is. He stopped bothering me some time ago, especially after my i.d switched several times and he realised he was being ignored and outwitted. They are just morons and not worth engaging. They probably know nothing. Keep up the good work.

    1. Another ignoramus making useless comments, I have never heard of a Professor Genieve either, unless you specialise in the field of moron?

  10. People like that generally have a chip on their shoulder and think it’s smart to leave rude comments, they are to be pitied more than anything.

  11. Anonymity and Obscurity …Quote; Online forums, the comment sections, allow people to make up names or handles that are not linked to their real world identities. The ‘online disinhibition effect’ suggests this anonymity may drive more deviant behaviour. Also, those who identify with a group or have an affiliation with a group or cause, may feel empowered to behave in a way they might not otherwise. Trolls are all too human.
    If the ABF annoys some people, I would hazard a guess it is simply because it has a voice and a voice which isn’t afraid of digging and digging to get at the truth, no matter which interest is disturbed in the process. Trolling may therefore be one weird sign of success?

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