24 April 1536 – Legal commissions are set up

Posted By on April 24, 2017

On this day in history, 24th April 1536, two commissions of oyer and terminer were set up by Sir Thomas Audley, Henry VIII’s Lord Chancellor, for the counties of Middlesex and Kent.

“What on earth were commissions of oyer and terminer?” You may ask. Well, the term came from the French for “to hear and to determine” and it was a legal commission formed to investigate and prosecute serious criminal offences committed in a particular county, in this case, the counties of Middlesex and Kent. Crimes covered included misprision, treason, rebellion, felonies, murder, homicide, rioting, plotting, insurrection, extortion, oppression, contempt, concealment, ignorance, negligence, falsities, deception, conspiracy and being an accessory to these crimes.

It is impossible to say what the original purpose for these commissions was, but these two commissions were used in May 1536 to try Sir Francis Weston, William Brereton, Mark Smeaton and Sir Henry Norris for committing adultery with Queen Anne Boleyn and plotting to kill the king.

Was this all just a big coincidence or was this part of a well-thought-out plan to bring the queen down? What do you think?

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