Posted By Claire on April 23, 2013
Less than a month before he was executed, George Boleyn suffered a blow which some historians take as a warning sign (hindsight is a wonderful thing!). At the annual chapter meeting of the Order of the Garter at Greenwich, on 23rd April 1536, votes were taken for the election of a new knight to the order. Queen Anne Boleyn had put forward her brother’s name but he was unsuccessful, the Order elected Sir Nicholas Carew, a man who is believed to have been mentoring Henry VIII’s new flame, Jane Seymour,1 and who was the leader of Anne’s opponents at court.2
Here is the record of the election:
“On St. George’s Day, 23 April 28 Hen. VIII., a chapter of the Order of the Garter was held at Greenwich, at which were present the King, the dukes of Richmond and Norfolk, the earls of Northumberland, Westmoreland, Wiltshire, Sussex, Rutland, and Oxford, lord Sandys, and Sir Wm. Fitzwilliam. It was determined to hold the feast on May 21, the earl of Northumberland taking the Sovereign’s place, assisted by the earls of Rutland, Westmoreland, and Oxford, and Sir Wm. Fitzwilliam. Votes were taken for the election of a knight; and the next day, after mass for the dead, the King declared Sir Nic. Carew elected. He was installed when the feast was kept, on May 21. On this occasion the earl of Northumberland was seized with vertigo and weakness, so that it was feared he would not be able to take his part as deputy, but he recovered. The next day the hatchments of the deceased were offered up.”3
Eustace Chapuys, the imperial ambassador, recorded that “the Concubine has not had sufficient influence to get it for her brother”,4 so definitely saw it as a sign that the Queen’s power was waning. However, Henry VIII had previously promised Francis I that Carew would be considered when a vacancy in the Order arose, so it may have had more to do with that than a warning that the Boleyns were on their way out.
The above record also shows us the state of Henry Percy’s health. We know that he collapsed at Anne’s trial on 15th May 1536 and here we have him suffering from “vertigo and weakness”. He was obviously a sick man at this time. He died on 29th June 1537.
You can see where this event fits into Anne Boleyn’s fall on The Fall of Anne Boleyn: A Countdown timeline – click here.
P.S. Knights are still appointed to the Order of the Garter on St George’s Day. Today the Queen appointed “Air Chief Marshal The Right Honourable The Lord Stirrup, GCB, AFC, ADC, to be a Knight Companion of the Most Noble Order of the Garter.” See http://www.royal.gov.uk/LatestNewsandDiary/Pressreleases/2013/NewappointmenttotheOrderoftheGarter.aspx. You can find out more about the Order of the Garter at http://www.royal.gov.uk/MonarchUK/Honours/OrderoftheGarter/OrderoftheGarter.aspx
Notes and Sources
- Weir, Alison (2009) The Lady in the Tower: The Fall of Anne Boleyn, Jonathan Cape, p88
- Ives, Eric (2004) The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn, Blackwell Publishing, p301
- L&P, x. 715
- L&P, x. 752