26 April 1536 – Anne Boleyn Meets with Matthew Parker, Her Chaplain

Matthew ParkerAround 26th April 1536 Anne Boleyn met with one of her chaplains, her “countryman” Matthew Parker. We do not know what was said at this meeting, but from letters written by Matthew Parker in Elizabeth I’s reign we can infer that Anne asked Parker to watch over her daughter, the two year-old Princess Elizabeth, if anything happened to her. It appears that Anne was entrusting him with her daughter’s spiritual care.

So what evidence do we have for this?

We have two letters written by Matthew Parker, one in March 1559 to Sir Nicholas Bacon and another written in 1572 to Lord Burghley. In the first letter, Parker refers to Elizabeth I wanting him to serve her as her Archbishop of Canterbury. Parker is unwilling, referring to his ill health, which was caused by a fall from a horse when “flying in a night”1 during Mary I’s reign. However, he also refers to his duty to serve his Queen “not forgetting what words her grace’s mother said to me of her, not six days before her apprehension”.2 In his 1572 letter, he writes to Lord Burghley saying that he would never have agreed to serve Elizabeth I if he had not felt such a duty to Anne:

“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.”3

Historian Eric Ives wrote of Anne’s meeting with Parker:

“… less than six days before her arrest, Anne seems to have laid a particular responsibility on him to watch over her daughter. That charge, and the debt he felt he owed to Anne, stayed with him for the rest of his life.”4

He put aside his doubts and his health concerns to serve Elizabeth I as Archbishop because of his duty to her and her mother. He was Archbishop of Canterbury from 1559 until his death in May 1575.

Interestingly, Parker was a member of an influential group of men who were responsible for Elizabeth’s education and aiding in her subsequent rise to power. You can read more about these men and their influence in Robert Parry’s article The Cambridge Connections.

What do you think about this meeting? Do you think that Anne was aware of what was going on and that she was taking precautions and protecting her daughter’s future, or do you think that it’s just a coincidence?

Matthew Parker’s Correspondence can be downloaded for free at Google Books

Notes and Sources

  1. Parker, Matthew The Correspondence of Matthew Parker, D.D., Archbishop of Canterbury:
    Comprising Letters Written by and to Him, from A.D. 1535, to His Death, A.D. 1575 (edited for the Parker Society by John Bruce, and Thomas Thomason Perowne, 1853), p59
  2. Ibid.
  3. Ibid., p391
  4. Ives, Eric (2004) The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn, Blackwell Publishing, p267

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18 thoughts on “26 April 1536 – Anne Boleyn Meets with Matthew Parker, Her Chaplain”
  1. Anne may or may not be aware of the games being played by Thomas Cromwell and his gang at her back but certainly motherly instinct and or sixth sense must have prevailed upon her to protect her daughter and her future. I wonder what Elizabeth I thought about her mother !! It also amazes me as how devoid of emotions Henry must have been that he did not think of little Elizabeth, just over two years old, before executing Anne. How traumatic it must be for the hapless little daughter.

  2. I don’t think it was coincidental. Anne wasn’t stupid. She would have been aware of Henry’s changing attitude towards her. I think she saw herself in the same position that Catherine had been in previously. Catherine had been separated from her daughter and cast out. If Anne saw that as a posibility then she was laying the groundwork. However, I think Anne could have had no idea of the eventual nature of her fall or the callus and false accusations which were to be laid against her.

    1. Yes, I agree with you. I read a comment on a Facebook page the other day and the person said that although they felt sorry for Anne Boleyn, she wanted that life and knew the risks. I promptly slammed my head down on my desk! How could she know the risks when she was the first queen to be executed like that? Even if she was a social climber, ambitious at any cost etc etc. how could she have any inkling of what would happen to her?

      1. I think the comment meant that anne ,though she had no idea of what was ahead ,the tragic ending for her and others,she did know the risks with henry and she did enjoy her life as queen ,she was intelligent and I don’t think she went into this relationship with henry without knowing the very precarious position she would be in ,how could she not,she was brought up in this lifestyle and she did know the risks involved and look what happened to Katherine and mary.

        1. That comment probably so but I get so many emails from people saying Anne deserved what she got because of her overreaching ambition and that she knew what she was getting into. She just couldn’t have known.

  3. Hi Claire,

    A little off-topic, but during my research on Katherine Howard I found that Matthew Parker’s wife bought Katherine’s old home, Norfolk House, opposite Lambeth Palace ( Ref:P.R.O., C.P. 25 (2), 225 Surr. Mich., 4 and 5 Eliz.). I have a note somewhere that she did so because Queen Elizabeth, herself a frequent visitor to Lambeth Palace, did not approve of an archbishop’s wife living on the premises! Margaret Parker died in 1570 and left Norfolk House to her son, also called Matthew, and when he died in 1575 he left it to his brother.

    I know very little about Matthew Parker; was there any family connection to Jane Parker, George Boleyn’s wife?

  4. I think she must have known on some level. She was very bright…almost ahead of her time it seems. That is one reason we love her (:

  5. Whilst I agree that Anne had ambition I believe she was greatly manipulated by her family. Certainly her Father increased his fortune by her association with Henry but also the Howard (Duke of Norfolk) family did well also. Neither of these family members were innocent in both Anne and her brother George’s eventual tragic demise.
    Despite the break with Rome which saw Henry as effectively head of the Church of England I think Anne must have known that divorce was not an option after the protracted political negotiations concerning Katherine. Anne must have suspected that Henry would not tolerate a repeat of that debacle. However I don’t believe Anne suspected she would be executed, rather to be banished to a convent maybe. I think Anne was probably strong willed and resented being used by her family and some of her behaviour could be viewed as that. I think it is important to view this historical period in that epoch where women were customarily chattels with little or no rights. I feel for her though leaving her Daughter to the machinations of Henry. She must have gone to her death very fearful for her Daughter Elizabeth. How could she know Elizabeth would become one of England’s greatest Monarchs!

  6. How dreadful for Anne, especially having to leave a two year old innocent little girl behind. As a mother her first thoughts must have been full of Elizabeth and her fate. Whether she knew or not what her ultimate fate would be she must have constantly wondered about Elizabeth, motherly instincts would have set in. I always find that very last scene in Anne of a thousand days brings a tear to my eye. ” My Elizabeth shall be Queen and my blood would have been well spent” You can almost imagine that scene as having been completely true, when she screams these words at Henry VIII in the Tower. The lonely little girl that walks off into the sunset as these words are said in the film are truly poignant. Anne was without doubt brave until the last. It’s a shame she never managed to witness the greatness of her daughter.

  7. I agree Louise and Claire, I don’t think this was coinsidental either.

    Anne knew Henry well, he had changed towards her, it’s possible she had picked up on different attitudes towards her from his close confidants at that time too. She would have seen through his pretence of ‘Everything is OK Sweetheart’, she had seen his behaviour towards Jane Seymore, and her family maybe becoming more confident over the months. There must have been an underlaying atmosphere running through the court, like when you can feel a storm brewing, it becomes oppressive.

    So I believe she put 2 and 2 together and made 4, and was taking precautions too, she didn’t want Elizabeth to be in the same boat as Mary, cast aside with no to care for her well being, especially as she was still such a young child.

    Though I bet Anne, even in her wildest dreams could not have imagined that she would have to tread the boards of the scaffold for him to be free of her.

  8. Very sad for Anne, she was living her 2 year old daughter. I do think that when Anne was getting into the relationship with Henry she the risks that he could easily divorce her and make her life a living hell. She did not expect to be executed, it was a shock for everyone including Chapuys.
    I do feel sorry for Henry’s first 3 wives queen Katherine, Anne and Jane, they left their children behind not knowing what would become of them. But i have more sympathy Queen Katherine, she was married to Henry the longest, had his children only one reached adulthood and then he tossed her away like she was nothing. To top it all her daughter Mary is one of the most unsuccessful monarchs to have reigned, at least Anne’s Elizabeth was great monarch but for Katherine she was to history a disaster.

  9. Anne must have seen the handwriting on the wall……… that Henry was interested in Jane and that Jane was playing the same game that Anne had played with Henry, by keeping him at bay with her ” honor” and that he might have her virginity only in marriage.
    No way did Anne ever think at this date, April 26th, that Henry will kill her to have Jane.
    She had to be worried he would replace her with Jane, by divorce, to have a son.

  10. I think Anne would have felt the growing indifference to her from Henry. After all, she knew how ardent he could be, and he just wasn’t . She’d already caught him with Jane on his lap and she wasn’t stupid. She knew the man and she knew her place was precarious at best. I think she was very concerned that Elizabeth be brought up by more liberal minded and well-educated people. I think she was a good mother.

  11. I think there could be three reasons for Anne’s behavior. First, she began to worry for her incoming disgrace; second, elizabeth is about to be three years old and there might be talk of her elementary education and Anne wants her daughter to have it the right way; and three,maybe Anne is again pregnant or suspect herself to be pregnant and wants to make sure of her daughter’s future. I know it’s crazy and there is no evidence but I remember that she entrusted Elizabeth to one of her lady during one of her pregnancy.

  12. It must have become obvious to Anne that the Seymours were rising and the Boleyns were being pushed aside. I don’t think Anne ever thought that she would be executed but I do believe she thought Henry, as the Supreme Head of the Church, would divorce her. After her miscarriage Anne knew her time as Queen was drawing to a close given Henry’s blatant attention to Jane Seymour.

  13. Comments about Anne’s ‘overreaching ambition’ really do grate me as comments like that tend to leave the mouths of the inadequate, the insecure and the envious. Since when has ambition been a crime. Was it not the ambitions of doctors, lawyers, scientists, humanists, philosophers etc that advanced us in, medicine, law, science etc, to a better society, compared to what we had before. Whilst no society will ever be perfect, these AMBITIOUS people strove to make us that little bit better. Wasn’t Jesus Christ ambitious (whether you believe in him or not) look at his story. Fact or fiction it is the story of a man who tried to help us help ourselves, and look what was done to him. Did he deserve it? Did he ‘overreach himself’? I personally have never met anyone who thought so.
    Ambition DID NOT kill Anne Boleyn. GREEDY DESPOTIC MEN DID.

  14. I would love to know at what stage during those three years Henry began to change, or why. Was it a case of being careful what you wish for. He had practically moved heaven and earth to have her and in three short years was prepared to kill her.

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