A Miniature of Thomas Cromwell

On this day in history, the 27th April 1536, writs were issued summoning Parliament and a letter sent to the Archbishop of Canterbury asking him to attend Parliament. Here is section from the Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, which pertains to this:-

“Summons to the archbishop of Canterbury to attend the Parliament which is to meet at Westminster, 8 June; and to warn the prior and chapter of his cathedral and the clergy of his province to be present, the former in person and the latter by two proctors. Westm., 27 April 28 Hen. VIII.

ii. Similar writs to the different bishops, abbots, and lords; to the judges, serjeants-at-law, and the King’s attorney, to give counsel; to the sheriffs to elect knights of the shires, citizens, and burgesses; also to the chancellor of the county palatine of Lancaster; to the deputy and council of Calais to elect one burgess, and to the mayor and burgesses to elect another.”1

In “The Lady in the Tower”, Alison Weir writes of how these writs summoning Parliament were “paving the way for any legal process against the Queen to be formally endorsed.”2 Although in the end events moved very fast and Anne Boleyn was dead well before the 8th June, Weir is of the opinion that Anne Boleyn was the reason for Parliament being called. Weir also points out the various meetings taking place at this time and we can see reference to these in the documents in Letters and Papers:-

28th April 1536, Letter from Thomas Warley to Lord Lisle:-

“The Council has sat every day at Greenwich upon certain letters brought by the French ambassador, who was at Court yesterday and divers other times.”3

29th April 1536, Letter from Eustace Chapuys to Charles V:-

“The day after the courier Gadaluppe left, the King sent for the French ambassador, and there was great consultation in Court. As I am told by one who is in the French ambassador’s secrets, the King asked him to go in post to his master on certain affairs, which the ambassador agreed to do, and next day made preparations for leaving, then returned to Court on the day appointed, viz. Tuesday; but the Council, which was assembled in the morning till 9 or 10 at night, could not agree to the dispatch, and the ambassador was put off till Thursday.”4

Weir writes that Chapuys is referring to Tuesday 25th April and that although both he and Warley refer to meetings regarding the French ambassador “it is more than likely that the matter of the Queen was also extensively discussed.”5

In this same letter to Charles V, Chapuys writes:-

“The Grand Ecuyer, Mr. Caro [Sir Nicholas Carew], had on St. George’s day the Order of the Garter in the place of the deceased M. de Burgain (lord Abergavenny), to the great disappointment of Rochford, who was seeking for it, and all the more because the Concubine has not had sufficient influence to get it for her brother; and it will not be the fault of the said Ecuyer if the Concubine, although his cousin (quelque, qu. quoique? cousine) be not dismounted. He continually counsels Mrs. Semel [Jane Seymour] and other conspirators “pour luy faire une venue,” and only four days ago he and some persons of the chamber sent to tell the Princess to be of good cheer, for shortly the opposite party would put water in their wine, for the King was already as sick and tired of the concubine as could be; and the brother of lord Montague told me yesterday at dinner that the day before the bishop of London had been asked if the King could abandon the said concubine, and he would not give any opinion to anyone but the King himself, and before doing so he would like to know the King’s own inclination, meaning to intimate that the King might leave the said concubine, but that, knowing his fickleness, he would not put himself in danger. The said Bishop was the principal cause and instrument of the first divorce, of which he heartily repents, and would still more gladly promote this, the said concubine and all her race are such abominable Lutherans. London, 29 April 1536.” 6

It is hard to know whether Chapuys is simply repeating court gossip or whether he does actually know the facts, but here he is accusing Carew of coaching Jane Seymour and is writing of how he was told by Lord Montague’s brother, Geoffrey Pole, that the Bishop of London (John Stokesley) had been approached to see if the marriage between Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn could be annulled

In a letter written on the same day to Granvelle (Nicholas Perronet, Seigneur de Granvelle, the Emperor’s adviser), Chapuys reports that “Dr. Sampson, dean of the chapel, has been for the last four days continually with Cromwell.”7 In “The Lady in the Tower”, Weir writes of how Dr Richard Sampson was the Dean of the Chapel Royal and also an expert on canon law and that Cromwell may well have been discussing with him “possible grounds for annulling the King’s marriage to Anne Boleyn”8. Weir speculates that Sampson’s appointment to Bishop of Chichester in June 1536 could have been his reward for helping Cromwell and the King with this matter and for acting as “the King’s proctor” when Thomas Cranmer heard the case.

Again, with hindsight, it is easy for us to see these meetings as suspicious and as the beginning of the end for Anne Boleyn, but they may have been about other matters and we may be reading far too much into the events and into the words of Chapuys, a notorious gossip. What we do know is that from the 30th April there were moves against the Queen and that just over 3 weeks later a Queen was dead, along with 5 members of the Boleyn faction.

Notes and Sources

1 – L&P, x. 736
2 – The Lady in the Tower: The Fall of Anne Boleyn, Alison Weir, p94
3 – L&P, x. 748
4 – Ibid., x. 752
5 – The Lady in the Tower: The Fall of Anne Boleyn, Alison Weir, p94
6 – L&P, x. 752
7 – Ibid., x 753
8 – The Lady in the Tower: The Fall of Anne Boleyn, Alison Weir, p94

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