26 April 1536 – “not forgetting what words her grace’s mother said to me of her”

Matthew ParkerIn 1558 Matthew Parker became Elizabeth I’s Archbishop of Canterbury. “What’s that got to do with Anne Boleyn and April 1536?”, you may well ask. Parker did not want the position, he did not believe that he was right for the post or fit enough to take it (he’d just suffered a nasty fall from a horse) and the only reason he did take it was because of a promise he’d made to Elizabeth I’s mother, Anne Boleyn, in April 1536 when he was one of her chaplains. Parker wrote to Sir Nicholas Bacon:

“[…] 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 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…”

We don’t know what exactly Anne had said to him six days before her arrest, around 26th April, but as Eric Ives points out “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. Did Anne Boleyn know that there was a plot against her? Was it just a coincidence that she spoke to Parker about this just days before her arrest? Was it just Elizabeth’s spiritual welfare she was talking about? We will never know because Parker does not give any more detail about the conversation.

Matthew Parker was a member of an influential group of men who were responsible for the future Elizabeth I’s education and for aiding in her subsequent rise to power, so Anne was putting her daughter in good hands. You can read more about these men and their influence in Robert Parry’s article The Cambridge Connections.

This is one of the events of Anne Boleyn’s fall which always moves me and makes me think that Anne knew exactly what was going on and that she needed to ensure that someone she trusted would be keeping an eye on her daughter. Yes, I may be reading far too much into this event but Anne’s words certainly had an impact on Parker. Interesting.

Also on this day in history…

  • 1540 – Marriage of Francis Knollys and Catherine Carey, daughter of Mary Boleyn and William Carey, or, as some historians believe, Henry VIII.
  • 1564 – Baptism of William Shakespeare at Holy Trinity Church, Stratford-upon-Avon. Shakespeare was the third son of John Shakespeare, a glover and whittawer, and Mary Arden, who lived in Henley Street, Stratford-upon-Avon.

Notes and History

  • 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 and 391
  • Ives, Eric (2004) The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn, Blackwell Publishing, p267

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8 thoughts on “26 April 1536 – “not forgetting what words her grace’s mother said to me of her””
  1. He must have thought a lot of Anne to want to keep his promise, she did inspire devotion in quite a few people therefore she couldn’t have been as black as she’s painted, it is said she was extremely loyal to her friends Cranmer was also an admirer of here.

  2. Very interesting. I too believe that in April 1536 Anne did not exactly KNOW but certainly suspected that something was going to happen to her. I’ve always thought that she had some sort of premonition of what was to come; actually I think that she had always had an inkling that hers would be a tragic fate- “A queen of England will be burnt…” I think it is said that at some point she told one of her maids, “I’m determined to have Henry, no matter what will become of me” or something like that. This touch of tragedy and destiny is one of the things that fascinates me so much about Anne and her story. It’s strange and strangely satisfying indeed that in the end it was HER daughter who was so successful and turned out to be everything Henry had looked for in a son. Anne was triumphant in the end, her blood indeed well spent.

  3. I am moved that Elizabeth remembered the small but comforting service that Matthew Parker had done for her mother, who obviously trusted him and commended her daughter to him and his care, in her promotion of him to this illustrious position of Archbishop of Canterbury.

  4. Anne, having crossed swords with Cromwell, must have realized he would protect himself. The only way he could do so would have been to get rid of her, and she had plenty of enemies ready to help him, as she well knew. She was a gambler, and this time she lost. Cromwell was a more careful man, who covered his back……until the Cleves marriage, that is….

    Elizabeth was well known to be loyal to her friends, something she must have inherited from her mother, for her father as we well know, seldom was.

  5. I think Anne asked Matthew Parker to look after her daughter’s interest or to care for Elizabeth if he could and to keep an eye on her well being. I believe Anne felt something was up, but didn’t know what and committed her daughter to a few she could trust. Matthew Parker remembered his promise and in his personal commitment to service of Elizabeth I he recalled that promise and passed it on to her daughter.

  6. Regardless of everything Anne’s death was a tragedy. I truly believe Henry may have really loved her and would have remained with Anne, however, I also believe that his mental condition resulting from a jousting accident, which is now believed to have resulted in frontal lobe damage to his brain, affected his mental and physical capacity to a point where Henry had problems making logical decisions. It has been written about his character change, loving someone in one instance and then sending them to the Tower for the slightest of infractions. Even Cromwell himself became a victim of Henry’s radical behaviour.

  7. Anne was a very astute woman ahead of her times. As a mother, I’d have moved heaven and earth to protect my child, just as Anne did. She didn’t know what was going to happen to her but she knew that she was in great danger. So she planned for her daughter’s wellfare with those she trusted. I must confess that my original opinion of A B was not good. I saw her as a bad, selfish, ambitious, oportunistic woman who went hell bent to destroy and usurp the great Catherine of Aragon’s place. She was extremely mean & ugly to Mary. Perhaps it was her feelings of guilt over how she treated Mary that moved her to plan for her daughter. I don’t believe that she was guilty as charged. Henry had loved & admired Catherine and look at how badly he treated her. Anne was very aware of this! Catherine was too proud and religious a woman. Catherine didn’t play her cards right. In a time in history, when religion, status and pride consumed people of some status; I think that in the end, Henry, Anne & Catherine all got a bad deal out of their own making. That’s my opinion with the benefit of my view of history.

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