2 May 1536 – The arrests of Queen Anne Boleyn and George Boleyn, Lord Rochford – The Fall of Anne Boleyn

Posted By on May 2, 2019

This day in 1536 was the day of the annual May Day joust. All seemed normal and happy, and nobody watching could have known that the leaders of the challengers and defenders would soon be imprisoned.

Find out what happened at the joust, and what happened when the king left abruptly with his good friend and groom of the stool, in today’s video.

I’m doing these “Fall of Anne Boleyn” videos daily until 19th May and I started on 24th April. You can catch up with them on the Anne Boleyn Files and Tudor Society Youtube Channel.

You can find out more about my book The Fall of Anne Boleyn: A Countdown at http://getbook.at/fallanneboleyn.

If you prefer reading articles to watching videos, you can click here to read my article from a few years ago.

12 thoughts on “2 May 1536 – The arrests of Queen Anne Boleyn and George Boleyn, Lord Rochford – The Fall of Anne Boleyn”

  1. Michael Wright says:

    It makes me want to cry when I think about Anne’s fear as she entered the Tower. She knew Henry well enough to know by this time most who entered did not leave. She probably expected an end to her marriage and perhaps a long imprisinment or banishment but certainly not death in just over two weeks on what she and others onew were lies. Henry’s comments to Mary and Fitz Roy about Anne poisoning them was attrocious.

    Did Anne know yet that her brother had also been arrested?

  2. Christine says:

    I cannot understand the callous behaviour of the Duke of Norfolk for his treatment of his queen who was after all his neice, he did not much care for her we know but he should have taken into account his sisters feelings, Annes mother for she would be terribly upset about her darling daughter as would Sir Thomas, as for Fitzwilliam he sounds rather odd sitting there in a dream whilst the Queen of England was told she was charged with adultery, and would have to go to the dreaded Tower of London an unprecedented shocking act in English history and yet he acted as if it were perfectly normal, maybe he was thinking of his dinner, whatever Anne thought would happen to her, and she knew something was about to, she could never have dreamt in a million years that it would be this, yes she knew she had failed the King, she had not given him a prince, she knew he wearied of her tantrums and sharp retorts and that he was seeing Jane Seymour one of her women, they argued and she did not respect him as she should, but to be told her musician Smeaton and the Kings courtier and friend Henry Norris had confessed to adultery with her, must have sent her head spinning with amazement, that is if she was innocent as we believe her to be, for one thing it was a damned lie for Norris in fact had defended her honour and his own, it is an old trick the oldest in the book, say someone has confessed and try to trip you up, but Anne vehemently denied all charges, and in a fluster she went back to her private apartments to take her personal belongings with her which she would need during her stay in the Tower, she must have been shaking with shock fear dismay and also, the realisation that this must have been a plot against her, fot innocent as she was she knew Smeaton and Norris could not admit to something they hadn’t done, she must have realised that pressure had been put on them, we know something had definatly happened to Smeaton and she must gone over in her mind the remark she had made to Norris about ‘dead men’s shoes’, was that why he was in the Tower had her husband and King suspected they were lovers, Chapyus account of her companions in the barge did not include Cromwell as the other source tells us, and he was usually correct in his despatches and I hope for Annes sake he was not, to have her sworn enemy sit facing her whilst she was rowed upstream with a smug look on his face would have done nothing for her peace of mind, more likely he was dealing with other affairs at court or he could have been with the King or at home, but I doubt he would have accompanied her to the Tower he was not one of the gentleman at Greenwich when she was told the dreadful news, the accounts we have tell us she was in a state of hysteria, Anne had never been calm and she had been agitated for months over the loss of the Kings love and she had suspected for some time that something was going to happen to her, all her emotions opened like floodgates and she wept and laughed alternately, Sir William Kingston tells of how she sank to her knees and implored them to speak to the King for her, she was then led to her beautiful apartments where she had stayed during her coronation, surely she could not have felt worse, for then she had been feted and adored by the King, she was about to be crowned, now she was back but as a prisoner and her husband did not wish to see her,this was the fate of all Henry V111’s victims, he never saw any of the condemned after they had been arrested, be it old friends aquitances and queens, they could never plead their case with him they could never look into his eyes and beg for mercy, cast out they would be left to their fate, and with his two wives this has made Henry V111 go down in history as England’s Bluebeard, Anne knew how he had dealt with Wolsley and More and Buckngham, Katherine also and Mary most of those he had loved yet he deserted them all, with hindsight she must have known her days also were numbered, when the door closed on her apartments she must have sank to her knees and prayed fervently for justice and mercy, in the dreadful days ahead she was to receive neither she would be publicly shamed and disgraced, her name a byword for deceit and betrayal, like the Biblical Delilah and Messalina the wicked wife of the Roman Emperor, as she languished in the sumptuous apartments fit for a queen she had no idea also that her beloved brother would shortly be joining her, in another part of that grim fortress, as yet the charge of incest was not added but it soon would be, for now she could do nothing but wait, whilst the forces of darkness gathered around her.

    1. Michael Wright says:

      Hi Christine. Youhave probably noticed in the past I referred to Norfolk as a weasel. He truly was. According to Robert Hutchinson in his book on the Howard family he treated most members of his family pretty poorly except for his so Surrey. When the two of them were arrested at the end of Henry’s life authorities went to Norfolk’s home to inventory everything and noted that his daughter Mary had little more than the clothes on her back and a few jewels of little value she was allowed to keep. His mistress however was much better off. He had gotten in trouble a few times working with family members to aquire more influence and when caught would write a pleading letter selling out the family and saying he was innocent. Excerpts of these letters are in the book. It seems his entire life the only person he looked out for was himself so his ‘tears’ at Anne’s trial to me were tears of relief that he was not implicated. He was unliked by many family members.

      1. Christine says:

        His treatment of his wife was well known in court circles and he also flaunted his mistress in front of her, even managing to acquire a place for her in Ann Boleyns household, although she was nothing but a common washerwoman, he tried to extricate himself from his young neice Queen Catherine after her fall, writing the King a grovelling letter in which he hoped the kng would not hold him responsible for the shame his neice had brought not only to the King, but to her own house, he quarrelled violently with Anne once calling her a great whore and he does not seem a very likeable man, but one historian claims he was of good humour and quite affable, to his friends he must have been, but he does come across as self seeking and concerned only with himself and his own fortune, his son although a talented poet was a vain foolish braggart who lost his head to the block and yes he was noted as having tears in his eyes when he read out Annes dreadful sentance, I’m not sure about Thomas Howard he could well have found the trial overwhelming and felt real emotion when he sentenced his neice to death, suddenly realising that he was not looking at the Queen of England but his own flesh and blood whom he had known since she was a baby, and maybe bounced upon his knee, maybe his tears were for his sister who he knew would be distraught, he also like other members of his family were to find himself in the Tower but fate was to be on his side and he managed to evade the axe, because the old King was to conveniently die before he could sign his death warrant, he was released though still in disgrace and with his son dead, he probably thought his life as he had known it was over, he is painted in fiction and in films and drama too as being a bully, someone who likes to manipulate his family members, they may have found him rather bossy and overbearing, I’m not surprised he was not very popular with his family, and his daughter Mary who you mention Michael seems to have had it quite hard, she lost her husband when young and never remarried, if he was as mean as you say possibly he resented having to pay out for another dowry.

        1. Banditqueen says:

          Norfolk didn’t approve of Anne being Queen in the first place and he only treated her as such because he had no choice. Now she was about to fall from grace he saw no reason to carry on doing so, to him these charges are true and Anne should not deny them. His response is very business like but cold but then that is how Norfolk was. I can’t comment on his feelings at her trial but I suspect he felt guilty and some sadness that the family name had come to this. His House was a proud one and his niece had brought shame on it. He may have had some genuine feelings for Anne as family, but here he is the King’s man first and foremost.

          Yes, Norfolk did treat his wife badly, there are cases brought by both of them for domestic violence.

        2. Christine says:

          I thought the portrayal of him in Wolf Hall was dreadful, he was forever swearing and he was saying swear words which are used today, did they use such words then I wonder? Actually I was astounded when I realised the actor Bernard Hill was the same one who played the captain in the film Titanic.

  3. Such tragedy to know the lies n beteayl fears for Elizabeth but her speech at the end was marvelous. I wonder if people really did kneel in her honor and respect her she gave so much to the needy what a brave women n how terrible for Jane to be acting as next queen while another is awaiting death

  4. Banditqueen says:

    Anne started her day as normal and went to a tennis match but was called to the Council and she came, there to be confronted by Norfolk and Oxford and informed that she was being accused of adultery with three men, one unknown but the others were Mark Smeaton and Sir Henry Norris. They told her Mark had confessed but also that Norris had, which was probably a lie as he denied this, saying he was tricked into saying something but not confessing to these crimes. The other man was probably her brother, George, who was also arrested on that day. Anne complained that she was ignored by some of the Council, her uncle looked at her and disapproved and she was treated without respect.

    At the Tower, Anne didn’t arrive by the mythical Traitors Gate, and neither did anyone else, but by the Bynard Tower and she was very distressed and fell to her knees in fear and shock. She prayed for mercy from Jesus and asked for the Blessed Sacrament to be placed in her room, she started to babble and she made some very odd statements. Anne wondered where her brother was and Kingston told her George was still at Westminster, either to keep her in the dark or to spare her from distress. He assured Anne that she would receive justice and that she would be held in the same apartments as she stayed in three years earlier as she prepared for her coronation. How ironic that she should see her greatest triumph and her greatest sorrow in the same place. Her own daughter, Elizabeth would be held here in 1554, after she plotted against her sister, Mary, being released on 19\tg May, the anniversary of Anne’s execution. Of course a royal Queen or Princess would automatically be held there, as nowhere suitable was available other than this for their status, unless of course they were needed for a coronation. Anne must have felt a sense of wonder at this whole thing, how things had changed and thought of those days and now, why was this happening?

    Anne was concerned for her mother, who was ill, fearing the shock and shame would kill her and she had been close to her mother. Anne was also concerned for her friend, Elizabeth Browne, Lady Worcester, wife of Henry Somerset, Earl of Worcester who was pregnant and whose baby had not quickened in her womb. This same Countess of Worcester was the named accuser although we don’t know the details. Her gossip had been used by her brother, Anthony Browne, to give evidence to Cromwell, a few days before any arrests and he probably used his wife to get more evidence. He had a political motive as one of the accused, William Brereton was his brother in law, but he disapproved of him. Browne and Cromwell also had political interests in Wales and he was in the way. Cromwell had a had good reason to get rid of a rival in North Wales, he was an independent and active notable in the region, who would probably have opposed the legislation to go through Parliament for the Unification of Wales as one country. This would centralize royal power and bring the entire country completely under English control. Judge Spelman in his report on the trial named Lady Worcester as giving testimony. However, we don’t know exactly what she said or the pressure she was under to help the prosecution. Ironically, her baby was born later that year and named Anne in honour of the late Queen. Her other sister was the late first wife of Charles Brandon, one of Anne’s impeccable enemies and her Judge. He and Sir Anthony Browne were still the close friends of the King and their loyalty was why they were involved in the trial and set up of Anne and the others.

    George was also arrested, although at this point it was unclear that he was about to be charged with treason and incest. His crime was hiding the truth behind his sister’s alleged crimes, but later he would be charged and executed with the others. Even Chapuys expressed surprise at this arrest and couldn’t find any reason for it, denying any of the rumours about Anne trying to get pregnant by her brother. However, he was taken to the Tower and his life was on the line.

    Lastly, Henry had visited his illegitimate son, Henry Fitzroy, Duke of Richmond, who actually liked Anne because she had favoured his marriage to Mary Howard, the daughter of the Duke of Norfolk. His purpose was definitely to blame Anne for everything and turn his son against his stepmother. Henry cried as he hugged his son and told him that he should be glad that Anne had been found out because she had planned to poison him and his half sister, Mary. There is no evidence that she intended to do this, although at some point Anne had sent some herbs to be given to Mary when she was ill and they had made her worse. Mistress Sheldon had written to Anne in a panic and ceased giving them to her. Chapuys reports that on a number of occasions Anne had wanted Mary dead. She said that if Henry went abroad she would order her execution. Anne was afraid of Mary. Now her foolishness had come back to haunt her. While there is no evidence Anne ever tried anything against Mary, people at the time took this sort of talk seriously. This wasn’t karma or any of that rubbish, but Anne had made enemies by such comments or rumours and it was a pro Marian faction who had ousted her, replacing her with their own Queen, Jane Seymour. Henry intended to make his son realise how far Anne would go to harm him, their father and he and Mary were in danger from this evil woman, this sexual predator, drunk with power. We don’t know if Henry Fitzroy fell for this ploy but we know that Mary certainly blamed Anne for everything which had happened to her mother and father and saw Jane as the answer to her prayers. Unfortunately for Mary, Henry insisted on her signing her rights away before he allowed her back to Court, even though Jane did try to help Mary. It was a shock to find out that her beloved father had approved of at least some of Anne’s mistreatment of her. Anne wasn’t actually charged with attempting to poison Fitzroy or Mary, but Henry gave the impression that this was part of the reason she was being put on trial.

  5. Christine says:

    Anne had remarked about Mary that she was her death and Anne hers, after Katherine of Aragons death Mary became the focal point of opposition to her, she was a threat to Annes position and that of her child’s, she probably feared her popularity and how many people supported her right as the true heiress of England, not Elizabeth, Henry knew that not many would mourn over the death of Anne as she had never been popular, he misjudged the situation entirely really because he failed to take into account the Englishmans sympathy with the underdog, the English have always had an inherent belief of what is right and wrong, what is fair and what is unjust, many on hearing of the arrest of the queen and five men could not fail to notice how Henry cavorted around the court acting as if nothing had happened, there were rumours he was seeing another lady and soon people were muttering against the King and feeling some sympathy for the deserted queen languishing in the Tower, also the charges when known were ludicrous, Henry did go to see Richmond and I heard Mary was with them to when he embraced them both and sobbed that they should be grateful they had escaped that accursed whore, it probably was play acting and quite nauseating when we know he was trying to deceive both his children into thinking the worse of Anne, Mary had no need of help there but yes as Bq says, she had arranged his marriage with her cousin the Lady Mary Howard, therefore he was a friend and supporter of the Boleyns, did Henry V111 really think Anne was guilty or did he make himself believe it because he wanted to? But however sick he was of Anne he would still feel jealous at the thought of her betrayal, many men long after they have tired of a woman do not like the thought of another man having her, it’s a case of they don’t want you, but they don’t want no one else to have you either, Henry V111 must still have had some feelings for Anne his initial attraction to her I think had been sheer lust which grew into a very deep love when it was unrequited, she was elusive and all the more fascinating to him because of that, but when married their relationship became hum drum like many couples and she no longer appeared fascinating to him and dangerous to her, he became tired of her difficult behaviour, he was King and he had married her now she must act like his queen and not a demanding mistress, Anne as mistress was in no danger at all and really it was a role which best suited her, although her tragedy was that she never realised that, she strove to be queen and yet she was totally unsuited as she had not the manner or bearing of a queen, even though she did her best and her household was well run, she tried to help the poor and many in her service, but to many she would always be the wicked woman who had took their King from good Queen Katherine who they had loved and worse, she was seen as responsible for the split from Rome, all this was in Henrys favour as he believed people would think the worst of her, but in fact the way she was treated gained her a lot of sympathy from many.

  6. Michael Wright says:

    Hi Christine. I didn’t see Work Hall but from Robert Hutchinson’s description of Norfolk he would not have talked like that and would have disapproved of anyone who did. Why the writer wrote him that way who knows.

    1. Banditqueen says:

      Not saying they didn’t swear but it was disapproved of in higher societies. It was for sailors and the tavern. Even the yoeman didn’t swear, certainly not at table or in company. It’s to pander to the easily bored modern audience who probably wouldn’t even watch historical drama unless it was full of sex and swearing. Actually made it through one episode of Game of Thrones without sex or the F word, but then most of the characters were too busy fighting an army of dead people, which just gets added too when everyone else died. Most people in Wulfhall are portrayed in a pretty naff way, apart from Cromwell, of course, who is Hilary Mantel ‘s hero.

    2. Christine says:

      Yes he was a nobleman and brought up like one, and alright they must have had swear words back then, but they way he spouted filth I was disgusted and I’m no prude, I thought it was unecessary, as for Mark Rylance he was too thin to be a believable Cromwell I thought, they should have padded him out a bit, in ‘A Man For All Seasons’ the actor who portrayed Cromwell was brilliant he not only looked like him but I think he caught his mean rough character to, his cruelty towards More for one thing and you couldn’t help but hate him, whearas Rylance was quite likeable, it’s true they put swearing and raunchy sex in television to appeal to a wider audience but it really isn’t necessary.

Please note: Comment moderation is currently enabled so there will be a delay between when you post your comment and when it shows up.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.