Tower of LondonThe following account of George Boleyn’s arrest is taken from George Boleyn: Tudor Poet, Courtier and Diplomat by Claire Ridgway (me!) and Clare Cherry…

George Boleyn was arrested on the afternoon of 2 May 1536 at Whitehall.1 This did not become common knowledge until the following day, which must mean it was orchestrated to be carried out as privately as possible. Upon hearing that he was in the Tower, not even Chapuys could come up with an explanation as to why he had been arrested. It was initially believed that he was an accessory to the charges brought against his sister: “Her
brother is imprisoned for not giving information of her crime.”2 When the charge of incest became public knowledge there was general shock and disbelief.

George had been taken to the Tower from Whitehall, arriving at approximately 2 p.m.. His sister Anne arrived shortly afterwards at approximately 5 p.m.. She had been arrested earlier that day while attending a tennis match, and had
initially been interrogated at Greenwich. It is not known whether George was aware of her earlier arrest, and had himself been arrested while making frantic attempts to see Henry in order to protest his sister’s treatment – this would explain George being at Whitehall, rather than Greenwich when he was arrested.3 He may, however, have been completely unaware of Anne’s arrest and simply walked into a trap.

Notes and Sources

Extract from George Boleyn: Tudor Poet, Courtier and Diplomat by Claire Ridgway and Clare Cherry, p230

  1. Wriothesley, Charles. A Chronicle of England During the Reigns of the Tudors, from A.D. 1485 to 1559, p36.
  2. Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, Volume 10 – January-June 1536, 784.
  3. This theory is put forward by Eric Ives (The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn, p328).

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2 thoughts on “2 May 1536 – The Arrest of George Boleyn, Lord Rochford”
  1. As you say not even Chapuys can come up with anything to explain why George was arrested, which meant that he was shocked and that no rumours of the so called incest had been circling around the court. Chapuys was also shocked at the queens arrest and he went on to say later that he did not believe that she was guilty of the charges against her. As her enemy you would have thought that he would be delighted but even he is horrified and sees these trials and executions as miscarriages of justice. If Chapuys did not see Anne or the others as being guilty then why should anyone today?

  2. Royalty enjoyed little if any privacy. Conducting several affairs at the same time without a number of people knowing all about it seems unlikely. Yet the evidence is the most ephemeral gossip, without solid witnesses, beyond Smeaton, whose testimony is questionable because he may well have been tortured and or bribed. They couldn’t even be bothered to pick viable dates in many cases.

    Cromwell wanted her gone, and in a manner that would completely destroy her reputation.
    This accusation was the only one that would work. Heresy would not work, as he himself was vulnerable on that score. Henry himself would not have wanted to go down that road as he had no interest in going back to Rome. He wanted the money and power to be had by stripping the Church bare.

    Anne played the game. She always knew it was dangerous. But how horrible when she realized she had lost!

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