On 29th April 1536, Queen Anne Boleyn had two separate encounters with male courtiers, men who would soon be accused of sleeping with her and plotting with her to kill King Henry VIII.

You can read more about Anne’s encounters with Mark Smeaton, a musician, and Sir Henry Norris, her husband’s groom of the stool, in an article I wrote last year – click here – but I also wanted to give you links to other articles about these men.

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6 thoughts on “29 April 1536 – Anne Boleyn and two courtiers”
  1. Not really related to the article, but why is Alison Weir’s Facebook page reiterating the nonsense that the Lady Bergavenny portrait is a portrait of Anne Boleyn to mark her coronation in 1533? Claire has already convincingly disputed this: https://www.theanneboleynfiles.com/lady-bergavenny-turns-anne-boleyn/

    Weir is not an authority on Anne Boleyn: Eric Ives, Retha Warnicke and Susan Bordo can claim to be. Amy Licence and Suzannah Lipscomb too. I would recommend Eric Ives for an excellent discussion of Anne’s portraiture, which did not include this image of Lady Bergavenny.

      1. The portrait was also good enough to look convincing to Tracy Borman, but actually a number of websites have compared it to Elizabeth Boleyn not Anne Boleyn which makes more sense as the sitter is older than Anne. Many Tudor portraits have been misplaced or misnamed. It takes years of active study of a given portrait from the materials to the style to earlier descriptions of the portrait and sitter to correctly identify a disputed portrait. I personally think it looks more like Elizabeth Boleyn, as a portrait meant to be by Lucy Hornholt has a likeness of a younger Elizabeth or a missing Anne Boleyn. A problem with any of this is we don’t have any verification of a contemporary portrait of Anne Boleyn, although scientists did attempt a forensic match of the Nibb Hall portrait and the pendant likeness of Anne Boleyn, using facial recognition. It was admitted that the research was in its infancy and more work needed to be done, but some initial results were favourable. I don’t recall if there is an identified portrait of Elizabeth Boleyn, but so many appear disputed now it’s difficult to really be certain of any of them. Look at Jane Grey and Katherine Parr. A famous portrait of Jane Grey on the numerous earlier books was later identified as Katherine Parr, then disputed to be either and the portrait on the Ives book was recently identified as a previously unknown portrait of Jane Grey. No national portrait of Bonnie Prince Charlie is him, they are all his younger brother, Henry. A four years hunt ended in a private small country home hidden away in a darkened hallway behind curtained protection. The provenance was all there and verified. It was fully examined and taken to well known experts and even the portrait in the National Gallery in Scotland was removed and relabelled correctly as Henry Stuart, not Charles Edward Stuart. The experts agreed that the newly discovered portrait is indeed a lost Bonnie Prince Charlie. The portrait is still with the family, now in their great hall and if the National Gallery want to buy or even borrow it, it has a value now in the several millions. The find just goes to show how even experts can be wrong for centuries. Alison Weir is not an art expert but she is entitled to her opinion, even if its incorrect. She won’t be the first or the last historian to be wrong about portraits, unfortunately and I don’t think AB consistently attacking her on here is fair. Some of her ideas are not always verified, but many are and numerous other historians quote from her. It’s not even relevant to the article of the day.

        1. Tracy Borman is a huge fan of Weir, so it’s no surprise she agrees with everything Weir says, including her belief that Jane Boleyn was evil incarnate.
          As for it looking more like Elizabeth Boleyn, I don’t know of any existing portrait of Elizabeth to be able to make that assessment.
          No, Weir isn’t an art expert, she’s trying to sell a book by promising more than she can deliver. There is plenty of evidence, as Claire and a number of others have documented to argue against this being Anne. Weir is entitled to an opinion, but based on what? It’s a theory based on nothing.
          Weir is quoted by other historians such as Borman, but I find that frightening. Weir, I’m assuming, has read the opinions of art experts when it comes to this portrait, but she has chosen to ignore it in order to use her theory as a hook to sell her book. I find that disgraceful.

        2. I can retrace my own research and find the links but as I clear my history it will take time . I don’t necessarily accept the assessment of those who may identify this as Elizabeth Boleyn, but some debate exists and will always exist once the identity of any portrait is questioned. As a historian I try to weigh everything before coming to a conclusion as all evidence should always be critically assessed carefully, in the context it comes from and that may mean looking at Weir, Ives, Wilkinson, even Retha Warnicke, the articles on here, original sources from all sides, poetry, chronicles, sagas, pictorial evidence, inscriptions, letters, everything in context, including academic papers…you cannot just ignore something that you disagree with. You can assess it in the light of other scholarship or whether its a hostile text or not, but you cannot just ignore it. So Tracy Borman favours Alison Weir, so what? That doesn’t mean she automatically agrees. I enjoy Weir, but I don’t agree with everything. I prefer Ives and other scholarship, but there are times that Weir balances their views. Even Claire has quoted her, although with a cautionary note and I would do the same but I won’t ignore her or attack her. I didn’t say the portrait was Anne Boleyn or Elizabeth Boleyn, just that as discussed in articles here and academia, there are other views on this. I don’t know if the portrait is Elizabeth Boleyn or Lady Agrervenny, I merely pointed out that I thought the same portrait on a different site looked like Elizabeth Boleyn. I have read the articles you refer to and you don’t need to be academic to see it’s unlikely to be Anne Boleyn, only a pair of eyes, as the portrait is of a much older woman. What we dont have are authenticated portraits of Anne Boleyn so people out there are desperate to find one. Tracy Borman is an excellent historian, although like so many when it comes to her book she needs to check her final brief at the printers before allowing editorial and glaring printing errors. The son of the Duke of Suffolk was not the Earl of Surrey or the son of Sussex as the caption by his portrait in her book on the private life of the Tudors. They all do it and it’s annoying. However mistaken, however, Weir and Borman are entitled to their opinion and the debates about many more portraits will go on until finally decided by s team of experts.

  2. I can’t add much to what I said yesterday that will add much, but this first encounter with Mark, which comes from second hand knowledge as it was reported based on Anne’s words in the Tower, was totally innocent and should have been taken as such. Anne’s words to Henry Norris are more problematic as they could be taken as treason. Although Anne and the men were also accused of plotting to kill the King, strangely enough, this particular conversation wasn’t used against Anne or Norris. Anne, I doubt intended anything more than angry teasing about her cousin not being the focus of his attention and then said he would seek her hand if Henry died. Norris was outraged and Anne later that day realised that she had made a reckless and dangerous error which could have put both at risk. She sent her almoner to swear that she was a good woman and to make amends. She later argued with Henry who may have heard the whole thing and there is the moving letter to Queen Elizabeth I about this incident from Alexander Alias who reported seeing “her most religious mother” with Elizabeth in her arms, pleading with Henry. He couldn’t hear as he saw from a window but the King and Queen were arguing and Henry was certainly angry. It has been assumed that Anne was pleading for a new start and to save their marriage but we really don’t know. The letter is very moving. It’s very clear that two and two made five when Norris was named as the Queen’s lover by Smeaton and Henry’s confrontation of his old friend was perhaps because of this personal element of his accusations. Henry would offer Norris his life if he confessed, but did he really believe the lies or had the reports of Norris and Anne’s exchange ser itself into his mind? Was he shocked at news that his oldest and closest friend had betrayed him? Would he really have spared Norris? Why didn’t he believe him when he swore his and the Queen’s innocence? Did it simply suit his motivation to believe that Henry Norris was guilty as it was convenient or was he convinced by whatever Cromwell told him and Smeaton’s confession was true? Most of these questions cannot unfortunately be answered, but Henry’s motives in accepting this may depend on whether you believe Henry or Cromwell or both were behind Anne’s fall or the combination of both and a lot of unfortunate incidents. I think there was a time when Henry would have given more weight to the protest of innocence from a man he had known intimately all of his life but now there was a different side to Henry. He was reported at this time as going through increased mood swings and paranoia. Part of his reception and acceptance of this evidence may be based on this paranoia or his hatred of Anne could have warped his mind and perception of everything completely. Henry wanted to end his marriage ended and he simply didn’t care how it ended and who he took down in the fallout. Cromwell provided the means, a few events helped him to pick his targets and a Queen and five innocent men were brutally executed as a result. Anne and all five were innocent, mentally, physically and spiritually of adultery, incest and treason.

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