29 November 1530 – Cardinal Wolsey cheats the axeman

On this day in history, 29th November 1530, at around 8 o’clock in the morning, Cardinal Thomas Wolsey died at the Abbey of St Mary de Pratis, Leicester.

Wolsey had been arrested at his home, Cawood Castle, at the beginning of the month and was on his way to London to answer charges of treason. He had been taken ill with dysentery on the journey, causing his escort to stop at Sheffield Park, home of the Earl of Shrewsbury, from 8th to 24th November before continuing on to Hardwick Hall, Nottingham and then Leicester. By the time the group had arrived at Leicester, Wolsey’s health had taken a turn for the worse and Wolsey is said to have told the abbot, “Father abbott I ame come hether to leave my bones among you.”

Historian J.J. Scarisbrick writes of how Wolsey “cheated his master of the final reckoning” by dying naturally before he could be tried for treason, and presumably found guilty and executed.

Click here to read more about Cardinal Wolsey’s death and click here to read more about his life and career.

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27 thoughts on “29 November 1530 – Cardinal Wolsey cheats the axeman”
  1. Such a tragic end for a man who had served his master so faithfully for so many years. I have no doubt that had he made it to London he would have been found guilty of treason, most likely with many of the charges trumped-up. The problem with having King Henry VIII as your friend was that you were only his friend as long as you were useful to him. R.I.P Thomas Wolsey.

  2. I think Cardinal Wolsey was very fortunate to die when and as he did; the alternative was awful. If I recall correctly, wasn’t the Earl of Northumberland who arrested him the same Henry Percy he had chastised for involvement with Anne Boleyn?

  3. I really don’t understand why Showtime or rather Michael Hirst as he wrote the entertainment called The Tudors, showed this deeply religious and good servant of the King as committing suicide, an act which condemned his soul to eternal damnation as it was thought in the sixteenth century, would have him buried at a crossroads and his head taken from his body and placed at his feet. Thomas Wolsey was many things, had a mistress and two children, enormous wealth and power, but he was still a religious man of his time and cared about his immortal soul. Henry relied on this cleric from the word go and he was very much his chief man. Henry was only seventeen on his ascension and like most men of that age, an over grown school boy. He wanted to party, something the Tudors got right and he was a sports superstar. While Henry did this for his first few years, Thomas Wolsey, Richard Fox and a few others ruled for him.

    From 1515 onwards as a new Cardinal and Chancellor of England Wolsey was Henry’s first minister and his friend and right hand man. He was dependent on Wolsey for every political and important piece of statecraft. Wolsey was his adviser and his fixer and his minister of war and peace and his main representative. He was the King’s hardworking and devoted servant and it was only his failure on the matter of the divorce which cost him his position, his fortune and the royal favour. Having escaped imprisonment for embezzlement or false charges of keeping money intended for the Treasury, Cardinal Wolsey was exiled to his own seat of York but he was also pardoned and given a generous pension. His enemies, led by Thomas Boleyn and the Dukes of Norfolk and Suffolk first had him lose his Chancellorship and finally Henry was persuaded to bring charges of treason. He sent the Earl of Northumberland to arrest the aging Cardinal and bring him back to London to face trial and possibly execution.

    Although his final days must have been uncomfortable and painful, I am glad that Henry was thwarted from making such an awful decision. Henry may have granted a pardon because he was not yet the tyrant of his last ten years and still had mercy in him. I don’t believe he was actually convinced that his old servant was a traitor. He was being influenced by others but he was still in two minds and he was genuinely sad about the Cardinals death. Wolsey escaped a possible dreadful fate and I am pleased he died before any of that could happen. He was a good servant for many years. I have been to the site in Leicester Abbey Park which marks were he was meant to be buried. It was quite moving.

    What some people may not be aware of is that Wolsey was very popular with ordinary people, especially in his own Diocese of York and when he left to go south crowds came out to wish him well and lined his route to London. Even with all of his wealth, he was still a priest and people came to seek his help and his blessing.

    Henry of course did very well from his Cardinals fall, with Hampton Court Palace and the Manor on the More, the future temporary home of Catherine of Aragon, amongst the rich and luxurious large properties that came into his hands. Henry only had to say he liked Hampton Court and Wolsey gave it to him, but it was only on his downfall that the entire property portfolio came to the crown. Henry would turn them into even bigger, richer palaces. Katherine and Henry had been his guests many times and now he changed them for the Lady Anne. York Place in London on the river became the grand rambling establishment of a city of palace complex which was the grandest in Europe, the Palace of Whitehall. You can trace the old palace along from Charing Cross down Whitehall to Horse Guards, the sites of Henry’s tournament grounds, to the House of Commons and Downing street and to the site of Saint James Palace and the new royal palace. The Banqueting House is still to be seen and the wine seller of Wolsey and Henry’s tennis courts are inside modern Government departments. The Jewel House remains stand at the back of Downing Street and Henrietta Maria’s Chapel Royal still is in use. Wolsey in the end left us a great legacy, even if it was Henry who usurped and expanded it.

    1. I appreciate your information about Wolsey’s popularity with the common people. Most things I’ve read about him are in connection with his dealings with the king and the nobility.

    2. True of course, to take ones life was a sin against God and the church, those who did were not buried in consecrated ground, hardley the sort of thing a man of the church would commit, I liked the Tudors but I couldn’t believe it when they showed Wolsley slashing his wrists, it’s all done for the drama, like when they showed Henrys sister Princess Margaret murdering her elderly husband the King Of Portugal, she was up in Scotland at the time possibly with a bad case of chilblains, why writers think it’s more entertaining to alter the facts I have no idea, you cannot alter the past, and as history as shown time and again, truth is stranger than fiction, there was much drama going on at Henrys court without having to add bits here and there. In Anne Of The Thousand Days Norfolk and some others dropped in on Wolsley when he was in bed with his mistress and he told her to make herself scarce for decencies sake, did make me laugh but it could well have happened, he may have been a man of the cloth but he was a man like many and did have some children, but he wouldn’t have flaunted her, I also read that he used to get drunk quite a bit and was often in the stocks, very human apparently no wonder the common folk liked him, his nemesis was Anne Boleyn who was determined to destroy him, maybe God who had deserted him had smiled on him after all by taking his life before the King could, in either way it was a miserable death and quite possibly he did not care at that moment, he was finished and he knew it, Wolsley had been the Kings good friend and adviser since his early days, he had governed England and had served him the best he could, his only crime was he failed to secure the divorce, it was a sad end for one who had risen high from humble beginnings, his friend the King had deserted him, his fall from fortune was typical of the manner in which Henry V111 detached himself quite coldly from his friends and those who had been close to him, when he decided they had failed him, and his second wife was also to feel the same anguish and desolation Wolsley had in the coming future.

      1. His mistress was called Joan, I believe and apparently she wasn’t just that, she lived with him and took care of him. I think he actually provided for her and their two children, unofficially at least. Everyone seems to know about her, so she must have been an open secret. Of course when a visitor came you would have to send the poor woman out of sight, for decency sake.

        The Tudors and Philippa Gregory have a lot to answer for with their mangled history. It’s better just to think of them as entertainment. Princess Margaret was meant to be a mixture of Mary and Margaret, but it just didn’t work. As Michael says the real story is dramatic enough without a complete rewrite. I know some things need to be done for drama, but a complete rehash is unnecessary. I am currently watching the White Princess on Drama which is obviously not good enough for the BBC, which is the following up after the White Queen. It’s Elizabeth of York and Henry Tudor and it’s terrible. Why am I watching it? Actually to see if it improves. It has everything wrong, in the wrong order, Elizabeth has a terrible reputation, E W is still a witch and don’t get me started on Margaret Beaufort. Although now played by the excellent Michelle Fairley or Caitlin Stark, which is one redeeming thing in the drama, she is an old dragon. Henry is a twit and cowers everywhere and well the rest of it is fantasy. It has improved a bit after four episodes and got a bit more interesting but it’s very lame even for a Philippa Gregory. The White Queen was well done, even if it did give the usual PG version of history and witchcraft and everything is cursed, but I have a suspicion this was rushed and lacking in some better writing. I am not even sure I would call it dramatic or entertainment, just a flight of fantasy with the odd good bit. Merlin is more believable and that is fantasy. Sorry, I am off topic again, but the Tudors, for all of its entertainment and drama and good acting was not one for giving us history. It does get better, but it still went off the deep end. I just hope these are not used as teaching tools in schools.

        Wolsey certainly didn’t deserve his possible fate and is a perfect example of how politically motivated charges of treason were. If the King didn’t support you anymore you were vulnerable. The term “naked to my enemies” was something he used in a letter about his predicament and it sums it up perfectly. Whether he intended to or not by allowing Wolsey to be removed from office and exiled did indeed open him to attack from those who had reasons, real and imagined, to plot against him. They weren’t content to let him retire, up in Yorkshire, were he was probably doing very little else other than trying to keep warm and well, out of harms way. No, they feared he may come back to court and moved in for the kill. Look at who benefited, besides the King, the very men who had worked against him, Norfolk, Suffolk and Thomas Boleyn, and the worm that turned, who sought his fortune now that his master was gone, Thomas Cromwell. I hate to say this, but Anne herself has to bear some responsibility for his fall, because she argued with Henry over letting him off with a fine in the first place when he was charged with embezzlement of funds from monastic dissolution. This was used to do up his colleges for poor students at Cambridge and other Universities, but some should have come to the crown. It was also partly backed by a scheme invented by Cromwell to sell these lands to religious guilds and make a profit. Ironically, he now took his place at court and was the genius behind the reforms and the complete dismantling of the religious life in England and Wales. Anne too of course had to benefit because now the way was at least starting to open up for her to be Queen.

        It was another ironic thing that the Earl of Northumberland, his old servant and Anne’s boyfriend who Wolsey is meant to have told off over his courtship of Anne many years ago, who was sent to come and arrest the old Cardinal. Northumberland was sensitive to his age and needs and allowed him to slowly progress to his destination. He made sure he had everything he wanted and at least it was good that someone was caring for him in his last days. Northumberland seems to have grown and matured into a much better character than most of the other nobles who swaned around the court and it’s a pity his marriage was such a disaster. He showed great decency when asked about him and Anne Boleyn and refused both times to implicate her in scandal, before her marriage and at the point of her execution on false charges. Henry was the man behind all of this, but again he had let himself be manipulated by others and this was a sign of his weak character.

        1. Something that just drives me nuts is I don’t know how many programs I’ve seen where Philippa Gregory is introduced as a ‘Historian’ and is treated as an expert on what happened during these times. I think she is one of the worst people to talk to if you want accurate information

        2. I agree and although she introduces herself as a historian, has a blogsite with historical articles, I am afraid her ideas are on the edge and have an alternative take on history to everyone else. She is a lovely woman, but presents ideas of her own as history, not theories and that is her problem. She honestly seems to believe that Anne Boleyn slept with her brother to get herself an heir, for example, even though it has been more or less debunked by every historian going, including Claire who has examined the evidence closely around Anne’s fall, showing the dates and accusations to be false and invented, presenting her ideas as if they are proven fact. If she said, I am writing fiction and this is just an idea I had for a story, well fine, but she thinks its true. I am all for historical entertainment and fiction, but somehow PG has gotten such a reputation as a great writer and historian that many people think the Other Boleyn Girl is absolutely true. Even though the Tudors is entertaining and drama, some people were taken in, but they have made it clear they meddle with history and it’s so obvious in some places, they didn’t seem to care. Natalie Dormer was excellent as Anne Boleyn but she had to have it out with the producers as she didn’t want Anne seen as a beautiful temptress. She knows a thing or two about Anne and is interested in the authentic Anne and she persuaded Michael Hirst to write her better in season two with an emphasis on her part in reforms and active role as a hands on Queen. The Second Season did a good job as a result. It’s a great pity they had to treat Wolsey so ill in Season One.

        3. I too watched the White Princess and whilst I loved the White Queen I found that one dreadful, I was really excited about watching it to, switched off after about fifteen minutes, I thought I just couldn’t stand watching anymore of this rubbish, in Thomas Wolsleys case a lot of debate has come up about why Anne actually disliked him, some historians and novelists too have conjectured it’s because he broke up her old love affair with Northumberland, it’s true he made some deragotory remarks about her, she wasn’t good enough to marry a Percy and he called her a foolish girl, wether Anne harboured resentment towards him over that is unclear but her later behaviour towards Mary Tudor and others shows she could be quite vindictive towards those she thought had done her wrong, but Percy was pre contracted towards the Earl of Shrewsburys daughter and it was something both his and his fiancées parents did not want broken, Percy was a member in his household and therefore he had to show him where his loyalties lie and also, the King himself had decreed it should be so, some have said Henry fancying Anne and wanting her for himself told Wolsley to break them up, if that was so then Wolsley was only obeying his masters orders, yet Anne was furious at Wolsley and blamed him for it, calling her a foolish girl did not help, and he berated him quite hardly which made him burst into tears, so just maybe Anne did still resent him even after all those years, there are still surviving two letters (I think) which Anne wrote to Wolsley, one is a warm affectionate latter where she praises him for helping her and Henry with the divorce, the second one is quite cold when he fails to do so, I can just see Wolsley reading it and quaking in fear at what she was saying to Henry behind closed doors, when Anne and her family learnt of his death they put on a masque which some thought quite distasteful, celebrating the fall of a great man who had tried so hard to please her and her lover must have appeared shocking at court and it was said that Henry did not attend, he had known his old mentor from when he was a youth raw and inexperienced, he had trusted him with ruling his kingdom whilst he feasted and made merry, he must have shed some tears for him, that’s interesting about Wolsleys mistresses name, so she was called Joan, I wonder what happened to her and their children, no doubt they too grieved at his passing, it is true Henry although he wouldn’t admit it was easily manipulated by others, Weir calls him ‘suggestible’ and he could blow hot and cold, when Cromwell fell just a few days before he was seen talking jovially with him and even embraced him, then shortly after he had ordered his arrest for treason, who was it who said ‘put not your faith in princes’? Whoever said it was right.

        4. Just a bit more information about his mistress from Tudor Place and Research. She was called Joan Larke and born in 1490 to Mr Peter Larke of Huddersfield. She is recorded in a number of sources but it is also debated about whether or not she remained with him after he became a Cardinal. He was discreet about her.

          Two children are named in grants for their education and upbringing as their children.

          One is a son Thomas Winter or Wytner and the other Dorothy Chancey after her adoptive father. Wolsey certainly provided well for them and saw they both had a good education. This puts him in a better light than many men today who father children and then vanish because they can’t take commitment or responsibility for their offspring, leaving single mums without support. There is a house on Saint Bride Street in London which was believed to belong to Wolsey and Joan.

  4. I remember when ‘The Tudors first came on the air and I never had a chance to watch it because I was working all the time. Since I’ve been reading comments on this website for the last few years I am so glad I’ve never watched it. It would make me so upset to see how much they changed history. The Tudor dynasty wasn’t dramatic enough so they had to change it for television? You’ve got to be kidding!!

  5. The one instance with Philippa Gregory that I really remember I believe was on an episode of Time Team. She was talking to Tony Robinson and they were speaking of the execution of the Duke of Buckingham in 1521 and the only reason she gave without any follow-up or further explanation was that Henry thought he was too rich. She never mentioned anything about treason charges.

    1. I do want to add that she seems like a wonderful person. I have nothing against her. I wish that she would just come out and say she’s a novelist and that what she writes is a fictionalized version and encourage people to do their own research and find out the truth.

      1. Yes I agree Michael, the late Jean Plaidy was an historian as well as being a popular writer of historical fiction, she wrote several biographies as well as numerous novels, yet her books were as near to the truth as possible, and she did in fact always write a little note for the reader in where certain circumstances she had diverted a little, leaving the reader to make up their own conclusions, so did Norah Lofts, Weir also writes biographies as well as novels, Gregory is not in their class yet she’s often on tv being interviewed when anything historical crops up, it really annoyed me when she was on the Last Days Of Anne Boleyn along with David Starkey, Weir and Bernard, she was spouting such nonsense about Anne and the possibility she could have slept with her own brother just to get an heir, would any normal healthy woman deeply pious at that, have resorted to such perverted disgusting behaviour, which she knew would condemn her in the after life? She was also on tv when Richard 111’s bones were found and Starkey referred to her merely as a novelist, he obviously doesn’t rate her very highly, I agree she is a nice person and everyone is entitled to their opinion yet she isn’t an historian merely because she writes historical fiction, and as someone who has in the past bought and read her novels, they are wide of the mark, the ‘Other Boleyn Girl’ on which the movie is based is just drivel, I read one chapter and couldn’t finish it, I felt like it was an insult to Anne herself, she reminds me in fact of my form teacher in primary school when she told us about the Normandy invasion, one of the kids asked her why William 1st invaded and she said ‘I don’t know, he just felt like he wanted to sit on the throne’, years later I discovered why he did actually invade and I rather felt sorry of my former teachers ignorance, she was well into middle aged yet was unaware of the true facts of one of the most important events in our history, all the great writers of historical fiction are now sadly dead, Plaidy Lofts and Margaret Campbell Barnes, Elizabeth Byrd I liked to, she wrote a very entertaining book on Princess Margaret and her husband James V called ‘The Flowers Of The Forest’, Gregory’s novels I must add seem to focus more on sex which is possible why she remains quite popular, but give me the truth anyday as I said before, it’s stranger than fiction, and because of that I find, much more interesting.

        1. I agree with you, Christine, in the Last Days of Anne Boleyn she took the theory of Professor Warnicke about a deformed foetus being a sign that a woman had committed immoral acts and indicated that this applied to Anne and her brother. Yes, there are a couple of sixteenth century tracts on this, but they didn’t represent mainstream thought. The main problem was that the only mention of Anne had a deformed baby is written some sixty years later by Nicholas Sander, who had a motive to feed talk that Anne was immoral, he was telling the history of a woman he saw persecuting his fellow Catholics, Anne’s daughter, Elizabeth I. The contemporary records only say that she miscarried a child in her fourth month which looked like a male child, at the end of January 1536. There was nothing about the baby being deformed. But on Last Days of Anne Boleyn she was certainly going on about how Anne must have done something wrong and Henry thought he was bewitched by her and so on. It’s like, here’s a vague idea and a rumour so I will tun with it and turn it into fact. There are a number of story tellers who do a good job of balancing fact and fiction and put a note where they have changed things but unfortunately, Philippa Gregory isn’t one of them. Jean Plaidy has it just right and I think some others are good, but if I read Gregory I have to remember it’s going to be a bit fantastical. There are enough stories without too much invention.

  6. And another thing I’d like to add about Gregory, she does seem to be a bit obsessed with the subject of incest, her earlier fiction novel, ‘Wideacre’ focused on the story about two siblings who were indulging in an incestous affair, maybe she just likes to think that Anne Boleyn and her brother were guilty because it makes Anne appear more interesting but I don’t know of one historian who actually agrees with her, yes it was a belief in the sixteenth century that deformed children were the result of their parents, (mother especially) indulging in unusual sexual practices, buggery for eg, but just because that was the belief at the time doesn’t mean that Anne herself had been culpable or that her baby was deformed, as you say no one mentioned at the time anything about the baby and as for the witchcraft theory that was all nonsense, Anne was accused of high treason adultery incest and plotting to kill the King, the most monstrous charges were levelled at her yet witchcraft was never in the indictments, and as for the poor baby, Hilary Mantel said its all just hot air, I don’t like Warnicke because of this theory she has about the deformed foetus and that some of the men were homosexuals, where on earth did she get the idea they were homosexual from? Most of the men were happily (I should imagine) married, there is some debate on George Boleyns marriage as it’s widely believed he was unhappy with his wife Jane and there’s the tale she told Cromwell about the so called affair he was having with Anne his own sister, but there’s nothing to back that story up, Warnicke has I believe blown the deformed foetus story out of all proportion, relying too much on Nicholas Sander who reminds me of a 16th c News Of The world Reporter and then taking that one of remark Henry said about Anne bewitching him into marriage, gathering it all up into a very ridiculous theory that she was an incestous witch who would stop at nothing to get a son even by her own brother, and the result was a misshapen little infant, in reality the sources say it had the appearance of a male child, now had it been deformed how would the clever doctors who examined it have known what sex it was? She relays too much on the fear and dread of the 16th century mind against witchcraft, it was heresy that Henry was concerned about more than witches in his kingdom, he was determined to route them out but he wasn’t obsessed with them like James 1st was, I don’t know wether Warnicke actually believes this nonsense about Anne or wether it’s just a ploy to get her book on the best sellers list, but she is a respected historian, it’s a pity she’s relying too much on what Sander said, a man who was writing fifty years after her death and a catholic to boot whose notion as you mention was just to discredit her daughter Queen Elizabeth.

    1. It reminds me a lot like news reporters today who get a lot of their stories off the internet rather than going out and doing research and interviewing people and checking their facts

        1. A lot of people don’t like Proffessor Warnicke because of this theory, which she was obsessed about in the context of sexual political games at court. She based it partly on what the men said on the scaffold about living immoral lives and asking forgiveness, quite standard when facing eternal judgement on the scaffold. She was of course misinterpreting this as with men or women at court it could mean anything. There was also something else which makes the Professor wrong, that is a new law recently passed in 1536. The Buggary Act outlawed homosexual behaviour and introduced the death penalty for it. If Henry wanted rid of these men for any reason, he could have used this method instead. But then, where does Anne come in? They were only arrested as her co conspirators and lovers when she was charged with treason, incest and adultery, trying to kill the King meant death even if adultery wasn’t a crime. I have read her book on Anne and I don’t think she thought Anne was guilty but she did link Anne’s arrest to the loss of her son, five months earlier, based on this belief in her behaviour causing the miscarriage. She does believe that Sander is correct and that makes no sense, given his motivation and the time period. I was taught that more distant sources are less reliable and to look at the agenda of the authors. Being a Professor, and a well respected one, who has done excellent research and does justify everything, I would have thought Warnicke would go with the golden rules of source analysis, but this isn’t the case here. She has a number of unfortunate, if sometimes accurate things to say about Chapuys who was closer to the action but praised Sander who wrote six decades later, wasn’t even in England, was biased for obvious reasons against Elizabeth as a Catholic priest and was going on rumours and invention. The other new law passed in 1536, although I am not certain if it was an Act by May or later, was against witchcraft as a weapon of harm. If as PG and yes, to a lesser degree, Professor Warnicke, Henry truly thought Anne had used witchcraft or brought himself into marriage by the same, then why not bring a charge of malficia, have her hung as a witch and well, game over?

          Of course neither of these charges could be brought because the events didn’t unfold as they did according to the theories above. Anne had a tragic loss, Henry had an accident and conspiracies destroyed a marriage, which may or may not have involved Henry or Cromwell, a few months later. Just as Thomas Wolsey fell with devastating effect and great drama, so did Anne and we don’t need dramatic fantasy to invent things to the extent of The Tudors or Other Boleyn Girl in order to show this as they are dramatic enough in reality. The writing of Nicholas Sander, the Spanish Chronicle and some other sources are definitely more like our tabloids (I don’t read the Sun because of the 96) and that’s why they make good sources for drama. They have all the gossip and scandal and make the worst accusations possible so they are good for a sexier storyline. However, it is a sad fact that PG goes well beyond all of these with her mad theories and the Tudors definitely didn’t get the idea that poor Wolsey slit his throat from any sources. That one they invented for their own reasons and not even “dramatic purposes” justified that shocking death for me. No wonder they then wrote the King saying ” Noone must ever know of this ” when told.

  7. That’s what I cannot understand about Warnicke either, that she thinks Sander is right in his poisonous defamation of Anne, he also run her appearance down saying that she was rather tall of stature, but we do not know how tall she actually was, she is described as ‘middling’ possibly that meant that in Tudor times she was neither too tall for a woman or too short, average height then, and that she was sallow of complexion as if troubled with jaundice, all noted who saw her that her complexion was dark but sallow is not complimentary, she wasn’t the pink and white typical English rose but no one else ever said her skin looked like she had jaundice, people who unfortunatly do have jaundice have a yellow tinge to their skin, then he said she had a goitre on her neck and to hide its ugliness she wore a collar, she had six fingers black hair and a pretty mouth, so apart from the fact that she was a gangling giraffe with a lump on her neck and yellow skin she had one redeeming feature, a pretty mouth how generous of Sander! He was writing half a century after her death and since no contemporary portrait of her was around how could he have been accurate in his descriptions of her appearance? All the portraits of her show to me at least, a striking looking woman with large dark eyes and high cheekbones and they all tend to resemble each other, she does not look unattractive to me and in her lifetime she had many admirers, she has been described as ‘not one of the handsomest women in the world’ to ‘very beautiful’ and as we know, we do not all find the same person attractive, yet the fact there were more men praising her than being rather critical of her looks suggests to me she had that in her that was more attractive than mere good looks, she had personality, she was strong featured and what with her flowing hair and large eyes with the dark lashes, her elegance and ready wit she exuded charisma, it was said her eyes cast their spell on many a man and it did with fatal consequences on the King, when her bones were found ( if they were indeed hers) the skeleton measured roughly five foot three, the skull was well shaped with large eye sockets, hands and feet small and very shapely, the skeleton could have been Annes or Catherine Howard’s, but there was no extra finger and five foot three is not tall today but back then it would have been average, so that makes nonsense of Sanders claim that she was ‘rather tall’, the shapely hands and feet fit the description of Anne that she was elegant, she was known to be very slender, I must admit I haven’t read Warnickes book and I don’t intend to, I think she’s been reading too much of the Salem witch trials that could have influenced her unfortunate judgement on this most maligned of English queens and her so called unfortunate lovers.

    1. My husband in his job at the local University worked with a few rather eminent Professors and he said the same thing over and over, being with them was not being in the presence of greatness as you might think as they had won various prizes but being in the presence of oddness. I met a few of them, even worked with a couple on my Fellowship but within a few days wondered what do these people actually do, as it was their underpaid research assistants doing all the work. Claire writes and researchers more accurate books than half of academics. I think some get stuck on one idea and never move on. I do feel Professor Warnicke does her homework but am not sold on her book on Anne Boleyn. Some other works, yes, but not that one, although to be fair it was PG who badly distorted it and the Tudors is a different animal who set out just to entertain, so fair enough. It’s just that Wolsey has had poor enough criticism without being shown cutting his throat.

      Yes, we don’t really know much about how Anne looked save she was dark haired which could mean anything from dark red, brown or black, auburn being one possibility as she was linked to Thomas Wyatt’s poem by some people, was not a fair English rose and possibly had a light brown skin. She might have been slightly smaller than average and was graceful in her bones, may have eyes which are a deep colour and beautiful and had a small neck. We assume all of her portraits were destroyed, but there is no clear evidence of this, but most certainly none hung around the palace or abroad after her execution. A few odd likenesses have been identified, a sketch by Hans Holbein is debated, a later but closer to description portrait either in Hever, Ripon Cathedral or Hever have all been said to look most like Anne and now the Black Book of the Garter has a lady, believed to be Anne enthroned in 1534, when she was pregnant, has been identified with her as the Lady of the Garter. Imagine if Anne was covered in warts with six fingers, would Henry have married her or thought she was cursed? Sander had his own reasons for his writing, but definitely the Salem Witch Trials have been well and truly responsible for having an influence on many people. There are so many books on this one notorious event and they have a wonderful archive, so it’s not surprising, that you wouldn’t think anything else had happened to women in history.

      1. Presence of oddness that sounds funny, but yes academics do have a theory and tend to stick to it, much like the rest of us, but they can change their mind if new research comes up that disproves what they say, the trouble is as you say, the Salem witch trials were notorious in its day and has reverberated down the centuries, there has been a documentary on television and it often features in horror fiction and movies, Salems Lot for example, based on the Stephen King novel though that was more about vampires, but the fact that the word Salem comes up quite a lot shows how very infamous it was and there cannot be a person living in the western world that has not heard of the Salem witch trials, and most of the superstition came from England, the puritans who fled these shores did so because they wanted a new life in a new country free without the persecution that came from religious and superstitious intolerance, sadly it went with them, how many harmless old women were put to death simply because they were old and warty? They happened to look at their neighbours cow that fell ill the next day and died, to have moles on the body was a sign of the Devils teats, yet dark skinned people have more of these due to the pigment in their skin, Anne was known to have several little moles but also on the clearest of complexions, her sixth finger as has been called was just a tiny little fingernail growing out of her hand, was it the left or right, I say this because the left hand is associated with witchcraft and to the superstitious folk of the day, an extra fingernail may have looked quite sinister, more so if it was on her left hand, the remark Henry made about being seduced into his marriage by sorcery was just that, a remark made in anger he could not have seriously believed it but here we have the 16th c mind again, had he often heard people whisper about a strange enchantment their King was under and how she had several signs of the devil on her, moles the little fingernail for example, but the fact Anne was never charged with witchcraft shows Henry did not take it seriously or maybe he did not want to be made to appear a fool on the world stage, in fact one contemporary of his said to him after her death how he had allowed himself to be misused by her, a young girl several years his junior he being the King and all! The world already thought he was a fool anyway for putting aside a good queen and marrying his mistress just because she wouldn’t sleep with him, but it was more than that anyway, he was desperate for a son, I have read Lacey Baldwin Smiths book on Anne and he didn’t believe the deformed foetus connection with sorcery/ sexual deviant behaviour from Anne and her co accused either, getting back to the Salem witch trials it must have been a dreadful time for a woman to live under, particularly if you had a hair lip or a squint, or the inevitable black cat, thank goodness we are now much more educated.

  8. The only book of Retha Warnicke I have any experience with is ‘The Marrying of Anne of Cleves’. I’ve had this book for over a year and though it only deals with negotiations and customs of setting up a royal marriage, the more I find out about Professor Warnicke the more turned off I am to finishing it. I just don’t know how accurate and factual she is. Since I started this book I’ve probably read five or six others because I’m just not into this one anymore.

      1. I would second that, a very detailed account of Anne’s fall and her last weeks. I think Warnicke’s book on the protocol of marriage with Anne of Cleves is a decent insight to how it was done at that time and the international complexity of alliances, but a good biography on Anne of Cleves is her biography by Elizabeth Norton. The Lady in the Tower, an excellent and moving account by Alison Weir brings you close to the sources and I would also recommend it.

        1. I have read Elizabeth Norton’s book on Anne of Cleves and your right, it’s excellent. I think I’ll go ahead and finish the Retha Warnicke book after reading your comments. And I will find The Lady in the Tower. I’ve read other reviews that have said that it’s quite good. Thank you.

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