26 April 1536 – Anne Boleyn and Matthew Parker’s meeting – The Fall of Anne Boleyn


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…

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