The Court Gate of the Byward Tower, Tower of London
The Court Gate of the Byward Tower, Tower of London

At dawn on 2nd May 1536, Sir Henry Norris, Henry VIII’s Groom of the Stool and great friend, was taken to the Tower of London. He had been held at York Place overnight after being interrogated by the King, but “would confess nothing to the King.”1

Mark Smeaton had also been taken to the Tower, and the imperial ambassador, Eustace Chapuys, wrote to Charles V on 2nd May telling him that George Boleyn, Lord Rochford, had been taken to the Tower around lunchtime. George had been arrested at Whitehall, not Greenwich, suggesting that he had an inkling that all was not well and was on his way to see the King. Interestingly, Las nuevas de Ynglaterra de la presion de la Manceba del Rey reported that Rochford was “imprisoned for not giving information of her crime”2 so it may be that the incest charge was ‘cooked up’ later.

Meanwhile, Anne Boleyn was watching a game of real tennis at Greenwich when she was disturbed by a messenger telling her that the King had ordered her to present herself to his privy council. Anne left the tennis match and presented herself in the council chamber in front of a royal commission consisting of the Duke of Norfolk (her uncle), Sir William Fitzwilliam and Sir William Paulet. There she was informed that she was being accused of committing adultery with three different men and that Smeaton and Norris had confessed. Anne was then taken to her apartments until the tide of the Thames turned and then, at two o’clock in the afternoon, she was escorted by barge to the Tower of London.

Anne entered the Tower by the Court Gate of the Byward Tower, not Traitors’ Gate, where she was met by Sir Edward Walsingham, the Lieutenant of the Tower. Walsingham escorted her to the Royal Palace, where Sir William Kingston, the Constable of the Tower, was waiting for her. Kingston recorded what happened at their meeting in a letter to Thomas Cromwell:

“On my lord of Norfolk and the King’s Council departing from the Tower, I went before the Queen into her lodging. She said unto me, ‘Mr. Kingston, shall I go into a dungeon?’ I said, ‘No, Madam. You shall go into the lodging you lay in at your coronation.’ ‘It is too good for me, she said; Jesu have mercy on me;’ and kneeled down, weeping a good pace, and in the same sorrow fell into a great laughing, as she has done many times since.

She desired me to move the King’s highness that she might have the sacrament in the closet by her chamber, that she might pray for mercy, for I am as clear from the company of man as for sin as I am clear from you, and am the King’s true wedded wife. And then she said, Mr. Kingston, do you know where for I am here? and I said, Nay. And then she asked me, When saw you the King? and I said I saw him not since I saw [him in] the Tiltyard. And then, Mr. K., I pray you to tell me where my Lord my father is? And I told her I saw him afore dinner in the Court. O where is my sweet brother? I said I left him at York Place; and so I did.

I hear say, said she, that I should be accused with three men; and I can say no more but nay, without I should open my body. And there with opened her gown. O, Norris, hast thou accused me? Thou are in the Tower with me, and thou and I shall die together; and, Mark, thou art here to. O, my mother, thou wilt die with sorrow; and much lamented my lady of Worcester, for by cause that her child did not stir in her body. And my wife said, what should be the cause? And she said, for the sorrow she took for me. And then she said, Mr. Kyngston, shall I die without justice? And I said, the poorest subject the Kyng hath, hath justice. And there with she laughed.”3

How ironic that Anne was imprisoned in the Queen’s Lodgings of the Royal Palace, the same apartments that Henry VIII had had refurbished for her coronation in 1533.

While Anne, Smeaton, Norris and Rochford were being imprisoned in the Tower, Henry VIII was meeting with his illegitimate son, Henry Fitzroy, Duke of Richmond. Chapuys recorded their meeting, writing that the King broke down in tears and told Richmond “that both he and his sister, meaning the Princess, ought to thank God for having escaped from the hands of that woman[Anne Boleyn], who had planned their death by poison”.4 Chapuys went on to say that from the King’s words he could conclude “the King knew something of her wicked intentions.” Was it bluster and crocodile tears or did Henry VIII really believe that Anne had been planning to kill Richmond and Mary?

Here is the arrest scene from The Tudors series. It contains a few inaccuracies (e.g. Anne was not sewing, Brereton did not confess and had not been arrested yet) but I find the interaction between Anne and Kingston very moving.

Notes and Sources

  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. LP x.784
  3. LP x.793
  4. Calendar of State Papers, Spain, Vol 5 Part 2:1536-1538, 55

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62 thoughts on “2 May 1536 – To the Tower”
  1. while reading the above document ,I see anne said ,”I hear say thet I be accused with three men,oh Norris hast thou accused me ? ,thou art in the tower with me,and thou and I shall die together, and mark thou are here too ,.now I did not realise that anne was aware of the other arrests,i thought that it was all done so swiftly that none of them knew about the others arrest,also she asks about her father which Kingston replies he had seen him in court afore dinner ,I was wondering about Thomas Boleyn and what was his input to the fact his daughter and son had been arrested ,what if anything did he do ?

    1. When she was arrested she was told that Norris and Smeaton had confessed to adultery with her and that she was being arrested for adultery with them and a third unnamed man.

      We have no record of where Thomas Boleyn was at the time, when he found out, how he reacted to the news and what he did about it. We don’t know what any of the courtiers or families did about it, apart from Cranmer writing a letter to the King, Weston’s family and the French Ambassadors, Antoine de Castelnau (Bishop of Tarbes) and Jean, Sieur de Dinteville, pleading for their life, and Jane Boleyn reassuring George that she would make suit to the King. What is frustrating is that documents have been lost and many were destroyed or damaged in the Ashburnam House fire so it is impossible to know everything that was going on at the time. There are whole sections of Kingston’s letters missing.

    2. What I could never understand is why H8 fell out of love with Anne so quickly. After all those years of fighting the church, his own country, etc just to marry her, in less than 3 years his fervent love has vanished. I just cant think of how that happened. Was Anne so difficult to get along with? And to to kill all those others along with her. H8 had to know that anne, at a minimum, would not stoop to sleep with a man such as Smeaton. I am convinced that he knew it was all a sham. only his new romance with Jane explains any of it. And isnt she stupid for wanting such a king who would so easily kill an existing wife to get to a new one…

      1. Joy,I really do not think it was ,he crossed over the line, from his love for Q’Anne to hate Q’Anne ,and just move on tooJane Seymour,but his obbsesion to have a male son, too take the throne.It is’nt any wonder that ,Q’Anne miss carried the male son,when she was under so much pressure to live up to the getting of ,Henrys son.Q’Anne new he was a cheat, and had already dised her sister Mary, after he broard with her,and on to the next women.That was Henrys nature,can’t get a son out of this one, so on, too the next.I’m sorry that Q’Jane died after the birth of ‘Edward,but just think of the rage!! for Q’Jane he would have,had the King lived ,too see his beloved son die,Q’Jane surely would had found herself ,under the same pressure as ,Q’Anne.Just my thoughts on Henry V111’s MO. Kind Regards Baroness x

  2. also can these papers be relied on for any sort of accuracy ,because if ,anne ,did mention Norris and mark smeaton,well a remark like that is pretty damning to her in others eyes and ears,just wondering ,anyway .

    1. Kingston’s letters are incomplete as they were damaged by a fire, but they are records of what Anne said to him and what she allegedly said to the ladies who served her in the Tower. These ladies fed back information to Kingston who then passed it on to Cromwell. I don’t believe that what she says is damning, she is trying to make sense of what is happening and she states “for I am as clear from the company of man as for sin as I am clear from you, and am the King’s true wedded wife”. She was told that Smeaton and Norris had confessed to committing adultery with her so it seems, from her words, that she is trying to understand what is going on, why they have accused her. She is always emphatic that she is innocent and after Mark’s execution she cannot understand why he didn’t retract his confession.

      1. Claire,When Q’Anne was arrested,by Walsingham,was it the same Walsingham,that Q’Elzabeth had at her court???Her most trusted at ,Q’E1 ‘s court? ThX Baroness

        1. She wasn’t arrested by him, he just met her at the Tower and he was the Lieutenant there. No, that was Francis Walsingham but Edmund was the uncle of Francis so there was a connection.

        2. Claire,Q’Anne was arrested by The Duke Of Norforlk her uncle,am I correct on that?? THX Baroness x

      2. Claire,Was it the Lady Kingston who stayed with, Q’Anne in the Tower,as everything Q’Anne said was to be documented

  3. I find in all that to be such a tragedy for anne but what can you expect from a ruthless king But at the end it had to happen it was destiny it was written Although the daughter she left behind would Reign for years which were good on all accounts but she too was lonely with no man in her life its difficult to even think what it was like for her well I guess they will remain in history as being the most interesting families of all time. Thx Maritzal xoxo

    1. hi mairtzal,Yes how tragic for all!! I think Q’Elizabeth made her choice not too marry,but to marry, her England and her people,to show her strenght to all,pretty powerful women she was.I also think she felt that ,most of the men she loved betrayed her in one way or another,so you have that trust factor aswell.But still a very lonely lifenone the less. Kind Regards Baroness x

      1. Elizabeth was I would think lonely enough,but she kept herself safe in the one way she could by not marrying therefore keeping the control herself .

        1. Hi margaret,I agree she must of had a lonely life,with out anyone too share her good fortune as a Queen,but I think it was a smart move too marry her ,England and her people.She did a fine job without having a husband,look at what happend to her mother Q’Anne! Perhapes that also had alot too do with why ,she did not marry aswell.Look at what dad did to mom!! THX B x

  4. This story never grows old for me. The drama, the tragedy of it–how Henry couldhave done it….how incredibly frightening it must have been for Anne…I hadn’t realized Paulet was so involved but I should have known. Thanks!

    1. Anne,I too agree with your comment,Q’Anne ,and the others must have been terrified,and in Schock aswell, of what was going down. Kind Regards Baroness x

  5. Hi Claire, thank you so much for posting. In honor of Anne, I have put her likeness on my computer screen :))

    I hope this day finds everyone well!


  6. I have been interested in Tudor history for years and especially Anne Boleyn. All points of view are so interesting and I never get over reading about this subject. I just wonder what the people involved really looked like. I am sure Anne Boleyn’s portraits have not been accurate.

    1. Elizabeth Smith,I am pretty sure there are, a smalll amount portraits of ‘Q.Anne, on Exop, at Hever,but not many,as the King ,rid himself of her as much as ,he possibily could,with the help of the Seymours?Just what I can see?with that said I really am not sure of what she really looked like?I olny went to the arcive,to read of her likeness as, Chaupys talk of her likeness.Claire maybe, can give you the true likeness? I have portraits from the ‘AB Files ,when I bought the mini’s of ,Q’Anne.Either way I think she must have been ,a very stunning women,if she was not Henry? would’nt of had such a desire,too have her for his own.7 years to gain a womens love ,is a very long time, by todays standerds!I said she did not look like Nanny McVie ,with mole snaggle tooth of an eye sore.Just my thoughts. Kind Regarsd Baroness x

  7. “And then she said, Mr. Kyngston, shall I die without justice? And I said, the poorest subject the Kyng hath, hath justice. And there with she laughed.”

    This speech makes me love her more than I actually do.
    Who in this world would say this with so much class before one arresting? She had one amazing spirit of mind.

    I believe that Henry was completely sick. Who know’s what he was thinking about ? One lie repeated many times may become true. In this case he honestly believed in everything agiant her.

    1. Yes. Anne chose her words well but not always wisely but very well never the less and I agree there had to be something wrong with Henry. Maybe there was even something wrong with Anne.

      1. Yes. Maybe both of them had a kind of problem. As much I learn about them the more I can perceive that they had a controversal personality. They have had great changes in the humor during all the relationship…

        1. Ingrid,Thats for sure there was something wrong with, Henry V111 and Q’Anne, they both had a TEMPER to match,with that said,a very dangerous,combination!!! Well as for the Queen. Kind Regards Baroness x

    2. It makes you wonder just what sort of a man King Henry actually was!? To either believe lies brought against Anne, or to make up lies and believe them? Just to be rid of her this way? What a ruthless guy he must have been!

      1. M’Lady, I believe that he had done the same as Catherine case’s.
        He believed with heart and soul that his marriage with his window brother was not blessed by God. He only saw this when he falled in love with Anne. Before this he was just a sorrow king believing that maybe someday God would bless him with a son. ( borned by Catherine)

        In Anne’s case, I don’t have idea when it have happened but… “someday” he woke up believing that Anne was the mad woman. She was the ONLY responsible for all the bad things. In my opiniion it doesn’t make any sense… but well. I think it is too hard to understand what he was thinking or feeling. But I feel very hurted to read that he could say something so cruel as : “that both he and his sister, meaning the Princess, ought to thank God for having escaped from the hands of that woman[Anne Boleyn], who had planned their death by poison”.

        So to me : He lied to himself as someday it became suitable.

        1. Hi Ladies,I really think, Henry believed what he ,in his mind wanted to beleive,and people with his MO,saw the world out of ther own eyes ,and mind.There was no way too talk to the ,King or no telling him he was wrong!He said ,and I think used God as his right hand man,and that made it right, in Henrys mind,when God spoke, he said he listend. Nice convenent cope out!! Just a very easy way to make Henry always right. Thx Baroness x

        2. and where did he ,henry,get the idea thatmary and Edward were in danger of being poisoned by anne.

      2. M’Lady,I really think Henry was just a, spoiled ,selfish,self serveing ,monster,and no one wanted to cross him,you would surely pay if you did.I also believe all the crimes, Q’Anne and the others were bought and paid for !Like everything else to get into the, Kings Favour.Everyone at court with Henry ,wanted to climb the Royal latter. When these types of people always get what they want, they always think there right,yes he paid Cromwell with favours and well!! Henry really did start to believe,or pretend to believe ,all the lies in his mind set,thats how alot of people are even to date ,people of a certian nature really believe there lies.I was married too a man,who had the same MO!well I left and never looked back.But weather or not he pretened, to believe or he really believed that the Queen was guilty of these crimes,I think common sence tells use the whole thing was a farse,bought and paid for from Henry V111. Kind Regards Baroness

  8. I cannot imagine the lack of hopelessness she must have felt. She could do nothing but wait with no knowledge of what was to be..and for me, this is one of the hardest things to cope with, the not knowing

  9. Speaking of Thomas Boleyn:
    What happened to him and his wife after Anne was executed? And what happened to Anne’s sister, Mary?

    1. Annamarie,Claire would know that better then I,but I really think after all the poston the site, that Mary just faded way,very silent,smart move on her part! The Boleyns were still some what in the,favour.I no that they were never put to death by the ,BIG H V111!! But also he too began to get ,Rid of the family Boleyns ,perhapes demote, Thomas,how ever nothing really happend to the ,Queen’s mother Katherine? that I no of,perhapes ,Claire or another AB Friend can shedd some light,on the down fall of the Family Boteyn .I know that ‘The Duke of Norforlk, was beheaded,that was Katherines bother uncle to, Q’Anne.Really good Qs As why did Henry behead The Duke Of NorForlk CLAIRE??? Regarsd Baroness x

      1. Anne Boleyn’s mother was called Elizabeth, not Katherine, and was a sister of the third Duke of Norfolk. She died in 1538 and was buried at the Church of St Mary-at-Lambeth.

        Thomas Howard, third Duke of Norfolk was not executed, and lived another 18 years, until August1554.

        1. THX,Marilyn,I new that I don’t no why?? I called her Katherine so ,I stand corrected thanks so much,what was I thinking??when dealing with the Tudors, seems averyones name was ,Katherine or Elizabeth,Mary ,Henry ,Edward on and on OMG… Kindst Regarsd Baroness x

        2. Thanks Marilyn ,I thought he, was beheaded??What happend to him?? was he still in the Kings favour,after Q’Annes death??Or was he demoted as were the others?? THX Baroness x

      2. As Marilyn says, Elizabeth Boleyn died in April 1538 – see Thomas died in March 1539 – see – and Mary Boleyn died in July 1543, see

        Some of the Howards got tangled up in the fall of Catherine Howard – see Marilyn’s series of articles – but were eventually released. However, Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk, and his son, Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey, were arrested in 1546 and found guilty of treason in January 1547 – see They were both sentenced to death and Surrey was executed on 19th January 1547. Fortunately for Norfolk, the King died before his scheduled execution. He was kept imprisoned in the Tower during Edward VI’s reign but released in 1553 when Mary I pardoned him.

        1. Claire,Why was the Duke Of Norfrolk beheaded????Elizabeths brother?? THX for the other Info it’s great to know. Kind Regards Baroness x

  10. Hi Claire, just wondering where you can find to read actual document transcripts of all the events happening here? I’m from Australia, so I’m not entirely sure where to start looking.

    1. M’Lady,I think if you go too the National Arcives ,too the arrest ther it will give you some good info on what happend,I read from ,The Arcives,what was documented and it’s really interesting,also the late Sir Eric Ives is really good aswell. THX Baroness x

      1. Thanks Baroness for the info. I find these times so fascinating that I want to read everything I can.

  11. She knew: game over. And after all the years of waiting, then negotiating with Rome, marriage, childbirth, being Queen – I believe I can understand her bursting out with laughter as she wept. Game over. She knew she was lost.

  12. I remember watching ,Anne of The Thousand Days,when she lost the son ,my heart sunk,she surely was finished,but she new well thats was, Henry V111 ,most wanted in his life ,SONS ,so with that said the rest surely is History as for Q’Anne,poor soul. THX Baroness x

    1. AB Friends,I viewed the Tudor series on the y-tube on this post and all though,It was based on fiction,It still was chilling to watch the domed Queen Anne ,go walk to her death,up the steps of the scaffoled ,it the sky you hear and see the ,black ,Ravens just before her life came to an end.What I find strange is ,that all those people came too watch the slaugther of a Queen,even ther children?? So Sad Baroness x

  13. those people watched many slaughters not only queens ,well it was “entertainment” back then ,my mind boggles at what they thought of a day out ,horrible!.

    1. margaret,I wonder the mind set of the people back then,taking your children to view that beheasding,burning,or splt down the middle and disenboweld!!Well they surely got there point across,if you mess with the Kingdom,you could be next.I often wonderd aswell, why anyone would what to be in Henrys court ,or for that matter a wife too him??They new his MO!! Kind Regards Baroness x

      1. yes baroness ,who in their right would want to join up with that nutter ,mary Boleyn was the luckier one in all this mess as you said she just faded away to the country but then shed had a taste of court life and knew the goings on ,lucky for her henry got sick of her ,not so lucky for anne though.

  14. a question for someone out there,well mainly Claire,i red ,and don’t know if this is true,that anne could not have escaped even if she had help,to any other country because of some treaties signed forbidding another country(maybe france for instance) to help or shelter a person awaiting trial or having been accused of some crime ,wondering if its true .

    1. I don’t know, I’m afraid, Margaret. Legal history is definitely not my strong point and I don’t remember coming across any mention of such treaties, but I really don’t know. Sorry.

    2. margaret,I do not think Q’Anne new what was comming, and how fast they were going to make the arrest?Even if she new what ,Henry was up too she still could’nt get away and go to another country,and I really think she just wanted to make sure that, Elizabeth was in line too the throne,being a bastard was shamefull, back in those days.That just my thought on the subject. THX Baroness

  15. hi baroness ,I just found where I read this ,luminarium encyclopedia project and it mentions what I was asking about,i just wondered if true or not,Iknow that the speed of which happened to anne would not have given much time for any sort of escape and also the articles also says that even if anne had managed to “run for her life”she would be seen to have been guilty,personally I would have run anywhere rather than face what she did ,she was condemned guilty even before the trial so she had no chance anyway.

    1. margerat,Im with you on that one!!!I would have got Elizabeth out faster then you could slap a tick!!With that said ,I really don’t think Q’Anne saw this comming,or she would have taken measures into her own hands.But even so ,she still would not have been able to fade in with everyone else,she was a Queen,and as I said,her mission was to make sure Elizabeth was in line to the throne.I would have gone to an ,Abby and taken the Vail,with my child.I have oftend wonderd why people did not go to the church for safety,that perhapes could have help her as a safe havin,as there were people that did go to the church ,so they would be protected.But Henry broke with Rome ,so he was King and Head of the Church.I think thats how, it went down ?The word is Sacuarey,I may have spelled that wrong ,but you no what I mean.ThxBaroness x

      1. yes def agree with you and I actually never knew that about people taking refuge in a church or maybe it never entered my mind in the case of anne ,oh its so terrible to think of her locked up with no one to help ,and take out that joke of a person who called himself head of his own church ,I wonder how long he would last these days in the 21 st century ,not long!

  16. also Elizabeth was still declared a bastard and remained one all her life so that didn’t stop that from happening.

    1. Know she did not remain a bastard,thats why Q’Anne gave up her life,so that Elizabth would not be a bastard.She remained the Princess Elizabeth.Although Chaupys always called her the bastard.Thats the reason why Anne lost her head,she would not give up all the rights and divorce Henry,she died a Queen,it was’nt til after her death was the divorce.Pretty sure on that one,the Adultiry charges were because she would not divorce Henry so he could marry The Lady Jane Seymour,the charges were just bull sh… Cromwell and the King.Henry also was a very inpaitent man when he wanted something he wanted NOW not LATER!As we can see how fast he went thourgh women one after another OMG what a mess this King was!! Thanks B x

      1. marraret,I think this is how the list went,The princess Mary1rst ,The Duke of New Richmond2nd,Edward,3rd and The princess Elizabeth was 4th ,on the list.Beessi Blounts son was the bastard,but the King gave him a title.If I’m wrong Claire let me NO?? Regards Baroness x

      2. No, unfortunately, Elizabeth, like Mary before her, was made illegitimate when her parents’ marriage was annulled. On 1st July 1536 Parliament declared that both of Henry’s daughters were illegitimate:
        “The late Princess, Lady Elizabeth, is by Parliament pronounced also illegitimate.” LP xi. 29

        Mary overturned her parents’ annulment in the first Parliament of her reign, making her legitimate, but Elizabeth never did anything about her status, she preferred to let sleeping dogs lie, I think.

        1. Thanks Claire,I had always heard her called ,The Princess Elizabeth,even when Mary 1st had her arrested,learn something new every day,I thought Chaupywas always calling her bastard by name?What happened to ,The Duke Of New Richmond??Bessie Blounts son ,by the King,I no he was sick can you tell use from what and the year he died?? Thanks Claire x

        2. Claire,Have a BIG Q’sA”S??Did Henry V111 ever enter into the ,Tower of London in his life time, for any reason or did he stir clear of that Death Tower??I Really would love to no that!! Thanks Baroness x

        3. The Tower wasn’t just a prison, it was a royal palace and was traditionally used by monarchs before their coronations. Henry stayed there before his coronation in June 1509. He was also there to greet Anne in 1533 when she arrived to stay there before her coronation and the couple stayed there that night.

        4. Claire,I just wanted to say how much you have tought all of ,The AB Friends!I have learned so much from your site!! I sit and type,as in just days our beloved, Queen Anne ,will walk to the scaffold ,and be put to death,my heart is very heavy with this sadness,much like, I am already mornning her death,as I am sure many others on your site are.It’s a very strange feeling over wellming,and wish we all could be there too save her,but that too is not possible. I know she dwells in ,The House Of Our Lord,and looks down from the Heavens onto the world as it is now,but still feel such saddess this ever came about.I wonder if God really does have a plan for us, or is it just fate?I dread the day that comes soon far to soon,for such a youg women ,who meant no harm at the hands of a greedy man ‘Henry V111.Thank you again Claire ,for being such a great teacher too all. God Bless Queen Anne Baroness xxxx

  17. I bet he didn’t set foot in the tower after anne was murdered though ,too many memories of her there for him to take in ,since he mostly destroyed everything else to do with her ,what was he going to do ,tear down the tower ,I wouldn’t have been surprised.

  18. I love history and have always found medieval European history fascinating, particularly 15 & 16th century England. The power of the Catholic Church, the power of Royalty,the poverty, the visciousness of those in power….so much food for thought!! , I hope some day to go to England and see the places where all this history took place! I do believe that Henry Tudor had a rare blood disorder, that caused him to have the behaviors and the physical problems he had. I’ve read about it and it makes perfect sense.. In order to understand why things happened the way they did back then, one must stop thinking in a “modern” frame of mind…..we are so much smarter now than people were back then!! But human nature is human nature, whether we’re talking about someone’s greed, lust, and power in Tudor times or in the 21st century, wouldn’t you agree? Anne Boleyn is a heroine, for sure!! It took a lot of strength for her to do all she did and achieve what she was able to achieve. I truly admire her strong spirit and willingness to be her own woman! What a trailblazer for women’s rights!!

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