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:-
- Henry Norris, Groom of the Stool and Chief Gentleman of the Privy Chamber, has been taken to the Tower of London.
- Mark Smeaton, Court Musician, has been racked and has confessed to adultery with Queen Anne Boleyn.
- George Boleyn, Lord Rochford, the Queen’s brother, has been taken to the Tower of London.
- 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.
- 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
- Six Wives: The Queens of Henry VIII, David Starkey, Chapter 69: The Tower
- The Chronicle of King Henry VIII, “The Spanish Chronicle”, online version p61
- “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
- LP x.782
- LP x.784
- The Lady in the Tower: The Fall of Anne Boleyn, Alison Weir, p132 of hardback version
- Starkey, Chapter 69
- LP x.793