Today is a sad day at The Anne Boleyn Files. Our roving reporter, Sir Tim Ridgway, has heard four pieces of bad news at court today:-

  1. Henry Norris, Groom of the Stool and Chief Gentleman of the Privy Chamber, has been taken to the Tower of London.
  2. Mark Smeaton, Court Musician, has been racked and has confessed to adultery with Queen Anne Boleyn.
  3. George Boleyn, Lord Rochford, the Queen’s brother, has been taken to the Tower of London.
  4. Queen Anne Boleyn has been interrogated by the Council at Greenwich, arrested and taken to the Tower of London.

We can’t quite believe it and are saddened and shocked by the speed of these events and what this all might mean for our beloved Queen Anne Boleyn. Sir Tim Ridgway is now going to give us more details on these awful events…

Henry Norris Taken to the Tower

Those of you who read my report yesterday will know that the King interrogated his dear friend, Henry Norris, on the ride back to York Place from yesterday’s May Day joust, and promised him a pardon if he told the truth. Norris’s servant, George Constantine, told us that Henry Norris “would confess nothing to the King”1, so he was held at York Place overnight. It appears that Mark Smeaton gave certain information to Cromwell which then resulted in Norris being taken to the Tower of London this morning, at dawn. Constantine has talked to Norris’s chaplain and he is under the impression that Norris has confessed to something, but nobody else knows anything about this.

Mark Smeaton Confesses to Adultery with Queen Anne Boleyn

According to George Constantine, who I have spoken to again today, Mark Smeaton was “grievously racked” and Sir David Starkey points out that it was 6pm when Mark was admitted to the Tower, yet he did not get taken to his cell until 10pm. Starkey goes on to say “Probably he was put to the torture as soon as he arrived. His ordeal lasted almost four hours.”2 The Spanish Chronicle give details of the torture they believe Mark Smeaton suffered:-

“Then he [Cromwell] called two stout young fellows of his, and asked for a rope and a cudgel, and ordered them to put the rope, which was full of knots, round Mark’s head, and twisted it with the cudgel until Mark cried out, “Sir Secretary, no more, I will tell the truth, ” and then he said, “The Queen gave me the money. ” “Ah, Mark, ” said Cromwell, “I know the Queen gave you a hundred nobles, but what you have bought has cost over a thousand, and that is a great gift even for a Queen to a servant of low degree such as you. If you do not tell me all the truth I swear by the life of the King I will torture you till you do. ” Mark replied, “Sir, I tell you truly that she gave it to me.” Then Cromwell ordered him a few more twists of the cord, and poor Mark, overcome by the torment, cried out, “No more, Sir, I will tell you everything that has happened.” And then he confessed all, and told everything as we have related it, and how it came to pass.”3

We have no corroborating evidence of this and Lancelot de Carles, secretary to the French ambassador, said that Smeaton was interrogated, but not tortured, and that “he deliberately said that the Queen had three times yielded to his passion.”4 It sounds to me that Smeaton’s confession was co-erced, either by torture or psychological pressure. We all know what Cromwell and his men are like when they want information!

Lord Rochford Arrested

The Imperial ambassador, Eustace Chapuys, took me to one side earlier today and gleefully told me the news that George Boleyn, “the Concubine’s brother”5, was taken to the Tower of London around lunchtime today. “Las nuevas de Ynglaterra de la presion de la Manceba del Rey”6 corroborates this news, reporting that Rochford was “imprisoned for not giving information of her crime.” I have been unable to find out anymore about Lord Rochford’s arrest, I’m afraid.

Queen Anne Boleyn is Taken to the Tower of London

According to my informants at court and in the Queen’s household, the Queen was watching her champion play tennis7 when a messenger arrived, telling her that she was to present herself before the Privy Council on the King’s orders. The Queen obeyed and presented herself before a royal commission which included her uncle, the Duke of Norfolk, Sir William Fitzwilliam and Sir William Paulet. Queen Anne Boleyn was informed that she was being charged with committing adultery with three men and that Mark Smeaton and Sir Henry Norris had confessed. Queen Anne was obviously shocked and angry and she argued with her accusers but her arguments came to nothing and she was taken to her apartments until the tide turned, when, at two o’clock, she was escorted by barge to the Tower of London. Her escort consisted of the Duke of Norfolk, the Earl of Oxford (Great Chamberlain) and Lord Sandys (the Lord Chamberlain of the Household)8. At the Tower of London, the Queen was met by Sir William Kingston, the Lieutenant of the Tower. A worried Queen Anne Boleyn asked if she was going to be put into a dungeon, but Kingston reassured her that she was being taken to lodgings in the Royal Palace, the same lodgings she used before her coronation (how ironic). I managed to interview Sir William Kingston and he said that at that moment the Queen fell to her knees and broke down in tears, saying “It is too good for me” and then “in the same sorrow she fell into a great laughing.”9 It sounds like the Queen was overcome with fear and sadness. Thank you, Sir Tim, for updating us on what is going on. Here at The Anne Boleyn Files studio, we are all frightened for the Queen and for these men, we just hope and pray that the King will put a stop to this nonsense as we all know that the Queen is a virtuous and honourable woman. These are very dark days.

Back to the present day…

It is 475 years today since Anne Boleyn’s arrest on 2nd May 1536. Obviously the big news of today in 2011 is the death of Osama Bin Laden but let’s also remember the awful events of 1536.


  1. From “A Memorial from George Constantyne to Thomas Lord Cromwell” which can be read in Anne Boleyn: In Her Own Words & the Words of Those Who Knew Her by Elizabeth Norton, p205
  2. Six Wives: The Queens of Henry VIII, David Starkey, Chapter 69: The Tower
  3. The Chronicle of King Henry VIII, “The Spanish Chronicle”, online version p61
  4. “English Summary of the Poem on Anne Composed by Lancelot de Carles, a Member of the French Embassy in London on 2 June 1536” in Anne Boleyn: In Her Own Words & the Words of Those Who Knew Her by Elizabeth Norton, p261
  5. LP x.782
  6. LP x.784
  7. The Lady in the Tower: The Fall of Anne Boleyn, Alison Weir, p132 of hardback version
  8. Starkey, Chapter 69
  9. LP x.793

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22 thoughts on “2 May 1536 Anne Boleyn is Arrested – Game, Set and Match to Thomas Cromwell”
  1. I think it was game, set and match to Henry. Cromwell just did his job properly. The ‘evidence’ against Anne would never have convinced a loving husband of his wife’s guilt. Henry was many things, but he wasn’t stupid and I doubt Cromwell would have moved against Anne without Henry’s blessing.

    Claire, I’m glad you’re treating the Spanish Chronicle like the gutter press it was. It can really be treated with a pinch of salt. It gets things hoplessly wrong and where the writer didn’t know something, he just made it up. A lot of it is exaggerated fiction; a bit like the Sunday Sport!

    1. Cromwell was going to get the ‘evidence’ that Henry required one way or another. wasn’t her? Just as the guilty verdict was predetermined and even the executioner sent for a week before Anne died.

  2. Wishing I lived anywhere near where I could visit where she was executed so I could leave something for her.

  3. If Henry’s open political corruption began with his repudiation of his lawful wife and queen, it reached full blossom in his scandalous mtreatment of Anne Boleyn, her brother Rochford, her musician, and the king’s own blameless courtiers. What a disgusting, disgraceful thing.

  4. I find it really sad that we know so little about George’s arrest. All we know, from a letter written by Kingston to Cromwell, is that he was arrested at York Place (Palace of Whitehall), or at least that’s where Kingston said he left him. The arrest must have taken place very secretively and at the time it wasn’t know that he was going to be charged with incest (probably George didn’t know either). He had gone from principal jouster at the May Day joust to being a prisoner facing certain death. What a shock, not only for Anne but also for her poor brother.
    I hate 2nd May, although not as much as 17th and 19th May. I visited the Tower on 2nd May a couple of years ago, and I had more of feeling for George there than I got from visiting Hever. I found that really sad.

  5. At this time in the evening 475 years ago she might have arrived at her final destination…the Tower, not really aware, that she would not leave it again

  6. When I watched the royal wedding, I kept thinking how much Princess Catherine looks a bit like Anne…her long dark hair, her slender figure. ANd how much William might have resembled Henry with light, reddish (receding) hair and so tall. Beginning such a hopeful event as a wedding, I hate to think of how Henry changed in three short years. After all that time of courting Anne, once he ‘caught’ her, he was no longer faithful. I wonder how much her own behavior (opinionated, intelligent, flirtatious and not willing to take any )**& from her husband) may have contributed to her demise. But then, Henry was crazy about Anne’s cousin, Catherine, and he had her beheaded, too. In the very thick of his passion for her, I think. Wish I had a time maching for just one day!

  7. Real shame indeed. It is know that Queen Anne and Cromwell developed a strong dislike for each other and after this fight it would either be Cromwell or the Queen to go down and Cromwell made sure it wasn’t himself.
    It is a scam, that his accusations base rather on hearsay than on real true facts. He conviniently twisted half truths and hearsay so he’d have points to accuse the Queen of.
    But those hearsaythings and alledged confessions from women in the Queens household, how could they speak ill of the Queen when there was a law (from 1534 if I remember right) that forbid to speak ill of the king and his consort, making it treason to do so.

    The accusations of the location wherethe Queen alledgedly speant time were also often inaccurate, it happened a few times that the locations were not right. They claimed her to be in Whitehall (York Place), while she was in Greenwich, or that she was in Hampton Court while in fact she was in Whitehall.

    I’m also sure, that Cromwell used the King’s name and title for his own purposes, doin things “in the name of the king”, while it was just his own interests. Would that not be treason aswell I wonder?
    And yes, he did his job properly and made sure, she’d be eliminated, since she also had big influence on the King and surely would put the king up against Cromwell some day.

    Pity that the King believed this cheap “comedy” to be true, but I guess at this point it was just very convinient, since the Queen had so far failed to giving him living male issue and he had gotten a fancy for Jane Seymour, who was said to be out of a very fertile family with lots of male members, so he was hoping to get his long longed-for male heir from her and it would surely throw a bad light on him if he had another divorce. And as soon as the King had cast somebody out of his life, that was it, he would never see tem again, it was as if he automatically erased those out of his mind as if they never existed. )-;

    Poor Anne the victim of this with not even support of her own family, being sent to the tower unaware of what she was accused off and then she’s being told ridiculously absurd accusations. She must’ve known by then that her life was at stake. And then they didn’t give that poor woman a chance to defend herself. Mark -as already mentioned – probably under torture- was made confess something, while the others till the end protested their innocense. I guess Mark was to sensitive and crumbled under the treatment. Poor man!

    Very sad that it turned out the way it turned out with som many innocent people suffering just for some people’s greed for power and other people’s convinience to get rid of a wife…real shame!

    I;m currently reading “The lady in the tower” btw…

  8. It is indeed a sad day. All during the month of May, I mentally “walk” with our Anne as her time draws near. Here in Massachusetts everything is coming into flower (Spring comes slowly here) and I can just imagine her sorrow being locked in the Tower in the Spring.

    The countdown begins…

  9. …Pity that the King believed this cheap “comedy” to be true……i dont think he believed that, i think he was part of that and Cromwell had his blessing. Henry wanted to get rid of Anne and Cromwell knew if he would fail, his head would be chopped off. He had to win this part for his sake. In Mr Ives` book there are doubts whether Henry planned it or not. Ives suggests that Henry didnt mean to kill Anne…because why he would made Chapuys to recognize her, sending orders to his ambassadors (dont remember the name now) to keep pressing French to recognize his marriage etc….it could have been a cover, so Anne would not panic too much early and she wouldnt realize she is in danger.
    ok, gonna go, working day in front of me.

    1. I think Henry asked for Anne to be recognized for two reasons. Firstly because the Emperor had through Chapuys made requests which to Henry were unthinkable (recognize the validity of his marriage to Catherine, reinstate Mary as legitimate and his heir, reconcile with Rome) so he retaliated by making his own unacceptable offer. He and Charles were for want of a better word haggling. Secondly by doing so he was lulling Anne and her faction in to a false sense of security.

  10. I’ve recently come across where you can download famous articles by Eric Ives and G. W. Bernard about Anne’s fall and the plot or otherwise by Thomas Cromwell. The EHR is celebrating its 125th birthday, so it’s all free. Unfortunately, I personally haven’t been able to open any pdfs of them for some time now (it was no problem a few years ago), and I am very angry about that. It really can’t be my adobe reader, I have tried version 9 and now 10, the newest, and I always get the same error message, while I usually have no problems with pdfs.

    I wonder if more people have this problem? I’d love to read some of the other free articles there, about Charlemagne, the Huns, Iconoclasm and the Thirty Years’ War.

    1. Christine

      I went to the Oxford Journals and tried to download the pdf file of Eric Ives “The Fall of Anne Boleyn Reconsidered” I couldn’t download or access the pdf file from Firefox so I tried a different browser Sympatico here in Canada. I was able to download, save and print the article. So, if you would like me to send you the article I will be glad to. If anybody else would like me to send it to them let me know and I will be happy to. Couldn’t find G.W. Bernard’s articles for free nor could I find the lecture that Eric Ives is referring to.

      If anyone would like this article emailed to them please contact me @

      1. Thank you Sherri,

        it seems to be the same with with Explorer: it is indeed possible to open and download some articles, whereas with Firefox nothing goes. Sadly, only very few articles on that birthday list seem to have free access (contrary to what they say, perhaps it will change over time?).

  11. I think that this is made up by Henry to get rid of Anne so he can marry Jane. This is so made up, why else would they accuse Anne of adultery with her brother?

  12. Interesting read- The Other Boleyn Girl by Phillippa Gregory. Read and see the story unfold, day after day

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