26 April 1536 – Anne Boleyn and Matthew Parker’s meeting – The Fall of Anne Boleyn
Posted By Claire on April 26, 2021
On this day in Tudor history, 26th April 1536, Queen Anne Boleyn had a meeting with her chaplain, Matthew Parker. The words she spoke to him that day, just six days before her arrest, had such an impact on him that they stayed with him for the rest of his life and made him take a job serving her daughter, Queen Elizabeth I, that he just didn’t want.
What happened? What did Parker say about this meeting?
Find out in this video, or in the transcript below:
According to Matthew Parker, Archbishop of Canterbury in Queen Elizabeth I’s reign, it was on or around the 26 April 1536, or as he said, six days before Anne Boleyn’s arrest, that he met with Queen Anne. He was serving as one of her chaplains at the time.
On that day in 1536, Anne spoke words to him that made him feel so bound to her daughter, Elizabeth, who was just two years old at the time, that when Elizabeth asked him to be her Archbishop of Canterbury over twenty years later, when she was queen, he took the office even though he did not believe he was right for the post or fit enough to take it – he’d just had a nasty fall from his horse.
In a letter to Sir Nicholas Bacon, in March 1559, Parker wrote:
“[…] though my heart would right fain serve my sovereign lady the Queen’s majesty, in more respects than of mine allegiance, not forgetting what words her grace’s mother said to me of her, not six days before her apprehension, yet this my painful infirmity will not suffer it in all manner servings…”
He also referred to this promise in a letter to William Cecil, Lord Burghley, in May 1572:
“Yea, if I had not been so much bound to the mother, I would not so soon have granted to serve the daughter in this place…”
It is impossible to know what Queen Anne Boleyn said to him that day in 1536, but as historian Eric Ives pointed out in his biography of Anne: “That charge, and the debt he felt he owed to Anne, stayed with him for the rest of his life.”
It was enough of a promise for him to take a job that he didn’t want. Whatever Anne had said to him, he felt bound to serve and help her daughter. Had Anne got wind of a plot against her? Or was it just a big coincidence? Did she ask Parker to simply look out for her daughter’s spiritual welfare or was there a bit more to it? We’ll never know.
However, as historical novelist Robert Parry has noted in his research on Elizabeth I, Matthew Parker was part of an influential group of men that aided Elizabeth in her rise to power and that she depended on before she was queen and after she became queen, men like John Cheke, William Grindal, Anthony Cooke, Roger Ascham, John Dee and William Cecil, so if Anne had made Parker promise to help her daughter, then she was putting her in very good hands.
So, we don’t know what really happened between Anne and her chaplain on this day, but it was something that had a real impact on Parker.
You can read Robert Parry’s article on these men that surrounded Elizabeth I here.
Also on this day in Tudor history, 26th April 1540, Catherine Carey, daughter of Mary Boleyn and niece of the late Queen Anne Boleyn, married Francis Knollys.
Find out more about this Tudor couple in this video:
And on this day in Tudor history, 26th April 1564, the Bard, William Shakespeare, was baptised at Holy Trinity Church, Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire. This was just three months before the plague hit the town, wiping out a fifth of its population. Fortunately for him, and us, Shakespeare didn’t catch it – phew!
Find out more about the plague and its outbreak in Stratford-upon-Avon…
2 thoughts on “26 April 1536 – Anne Boleyn and Matthew Parker’s meeting – The Fall of Anne Boleyn”
Although we don’t really know what Anne said to her chaplain Matthew Parker, it is very true, we can assume that it was something to do with the future of Princess Elizabeth. There was no chance of Henry harming her but there was a chance he may choose people to care for her who would raise her differently to how Elizabeth felt. Anne was of the Reformation circle and Henry orthodox, despite his break from Rome. He may choose devout Catholics to raise his daughter and his rejection of her in part after Anne’s death was due to her being declared illegitimate. However, even illegitimate children of Kings were spoilt and recognised as important. Her marriage would still be a question of royal degree and importance, even if it wasn’t to a King necessarily. Henry was a good father and he did love his daughters, even if he insisted on them obeying him and on submission.
Anne was aware that something was up, even if she didn’t know what. She was aware of the tension around her and she felt that she should take precautions. Anne must have committed Elizabeth to his care and Father Parker gave her his promises to do his best. He did remain in the service of Henry and Queen Jane and then accepted the service of Queen Elizabeth because he was bounden to her mother. He owed much of his career to her and he was a gentile man. He became part of the inner circle around Anne and a growing Elizabeth which was probably as fulfilment of his promises to watch over Anne’s daughter.
True, Henry had split from Rome which had allowed the reformation to take hold yet, he was still very much a Catholic at heart, he had split with Rome because the Pope would not allow him the dispensation to marry Anne, but he was still very much Catholic in his heart and he died in the old faith to, I think Anne must have been aware Henry had plans to abandon her and she was very worried she would not see her daughter, she was aware of Katherines fate and how the king had separated that miserable woman from her daughter, even though it had been largely because she had refused to go quietly, Anne was I believe a shrewd judge of character she after all knew how ruthless her husband could be with those who displeased him, and she wanted to make sure if anything happened to her, that Elizabeth would have a champion of her mother to guide her in the right direction, in her religious beliefs and as a man who knew her character well, these actions by Anne are proof that she knew something ominous was about to happen to, storm clouds were gathering, and her and Henry had probably not got back on an even keel since the death of their baby in January, it is easy to assume that he was still angry with her blaming entirely the miscarriage on her, in those days the mother was blamed for most things, the sex of her child, if he/ she were deformed or not, unnatural sexual practices by the mother were said to be the cause if the baby was born deformed or lame, those few months must have been dreadful for Anne, she knew her influence over the king had gone Chapyus reported the king had not spoken to her for two weeks, and Anne being the sort of woman she was, highly strung and emotional must have found the tension extremely difficult to bear, hardly surprising when she was in the Tower she broke down into a fit of hysterics, Mathew Parker was her chaplain and she had been his patron, the two of them must have been close for her to have relayed her fears to him, yes we will never know what was said as it was private and yet, it must have been down to her child’s spiritual welfare, Parker being the man he was of deep faith and loyalty, kept his vow to Anne and in the years ahead, became Elizabeth’s spiritual mentor, he eventually became her archbishop even though his heart was not in it, he must have told Elizabeth of the conversation he had had with her tragic mother, as he himself said, ‘he was bound to the mother’, Anne had indeed some good and loyal friends amongst the vipers at court who were only all to eager to bring her down.