2nd May 1536 – Why was George Boleyn at Whitehall?

On 2nd May 1536, the day that hs sister, Queen Anne Boleyn, was arrested at Greenwich Palace, George Boleyn, Lord Rochford, was also arrested and taken to the Tower of London. Charles Wriothesley records that he was taken to the Tower “three or four” hours before his sister so must have arrived there around one or two o’clock in the afternoon.

The queen had been arrested at Greenwich Palace, where the court was residing at the time, but George Boleyn was arrested at Whitehall. Why was he at Whitehall when he’d certainly been at Greenwich Palace the previous day, leading the challengers at the May Day joust?

Well, we know from primary sources that the king had left the May Day joust abruptly, riding to Westminster with Sir Henry Norris, who he interrogated on the way, so the king wasn’t at Greenwich. Had George got wind of Smeaton and Norris’s interrogations? Did he realise that his sister was in danger? Had he ridden to Whitehall to try to see the king? That would explain his whereabouts and makes sense.

Or perhaps George had been summoned to Whitehall on the king’s business and had walked straight into a trap?

It’s impossible to say.

You can find out more about the arrests of 2nd May in the audio I shared in my previous article 2 May 1536 – Queen Anne Boleyn is arrested at Greenwich

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12 thoughts on “2nd May 1536 – Why was George Boleyn at Whitehall?”
  1. I wonder if Henry had the brains or did he get Thomas Cromwell do all the organising? Henry did place his trust heavily in his advisers. Or did he just not care as long as he could visit Jane undisturbed. Did Anne know about Jane’s intentions or was she more focused on her own problems?

  2. Henry was plenty smart enough to pull it off but in all likelihood this was Cromwell’s game. He was perfectly suited to multiple actions at once all coordinated.

  3. George Boleyn thought his sister was at Whitehall having been misinformed by Cromwell’s henchmen. Being suspicious and maybe aware of forthcoming events he wanted to collaborate with Anne their respective story.
    Regrettably Cromwell had outmanoeuvred him, as was his want. Cromwell excelled at this!

        1. I believe the word, “wont” without the apostrophe means “inclination” whereas the word, “want” traditionally means “lack”, but in modern parlance, it means, “desire”

  4. Anne and her brother were close so she must have relayed to him her very real anxiety about Henry and the fact that her marriage was not stable, he knew the agonies she had gone through when she lost her child and the way the King was carrying on his love affair with one of her ladies in waiting, it is just possible that he had heard about the dangerous conversation between Norris and Henry and it would have alarmed him greatly, therefore it could well explain why he decided to ride to Whitehall hoping to way lay the King and speak in his sisters defence, whatever happened at Whitehall we have no record only that he was arrested and we don’t know who arrested him, who was present and what was said to him, however knowing of his ready wit which was very like his sisters, no doubt he responded with a good deal of scorn and derision, he like his sister was also possessed of great courage and at his trial he showed the contempt he felt when he read aloud the charge of impotency after being ordered not to, George was born c1504 so it is believed so he was in his prime when he died, he had no heir but is generally thought to have fathered an illegitimate son also called George who followed a career in the church, he died two days before his sister and like her has been the subject of fierce debate ever since, his sexual leanings have been questioned and his marriage has come under close scrutiny, it was a sad end to a brilliant short lived life, his rather heedless widow followed him to the block several years later and rejoined her husband in the sad little church of St. Peter Ad Vincula, within the precincts of the gloomy fortress that had been their prison.

    1. I know it has more or less been established that Anne couldn’t see George die from her apartment window if she was in the royal apartments, but maybe she requested or they took her to watch from another place. However, that scene in the Tudors were Anne climbs up to watch and then her total soul destroying agony at the moment of George’s death sums up perfectly the heart rendering grief she felt at his loss. It’s a brilliant scene, one of the better ones and it makes you want to grieve with her. The sorrow is too great to bear.

      1. Personally I cannot see Anne wanting to witness her brothers death or any of the other men, she was extremely lucky that she was spared the axe and had a skilled swordsman for her own execution, what has always been a subject of debate is did Anne request it herself or was it merely Henrys idea to make her death as painless as possible? Maybe it was his guilty conscience surfacing, ‘I’m going to kill my wife but l will do her a favour and make sure she has the sword instead of the axe’ how generous of him, yet Elizabeth many years later whilst in the Tower under suspicion of being a participant in the Wyatt plot requested the French sword if she were to die, no doubt a poignant gesture to her tragic mother, the Tudors was daft but the execution of Anne I thought was brilliant, it was just as good as the scene in Wolf Hall.

  5. George must have assumed the King had gone to Whitehall and gone to find him, hoping to find out what was going on, unaware his sister may be arrested, but fearful it could be so. I know there are compelling arguments for George being born after his sisters, but could it be possible at all that he and Anne were twins or closer in age than historians think? Just a notion but the two of them confided in each other and seem especially close, almost sensitive to each other’s moods and thoughts. Twins have an almost psychic bond but so do very close siblings. George may have hoped to persuade Anne not to attend the council or to go straight to bed and not let anyone in, saying she was ill, until she could see the King. The council had been meeting every day and it’s reasonable to assume that the Boleyns had been excluded if under suspicion or discussion. George may have been trying to find someone to get information or to reach the King. Interestingly we don’t know where Thomas Boleyn was. Was he at Whitehall under apartment arrest and did George hope to see him? Had he been sent to prepare for the trial? He would be officially excused Anne and his trial, but he still had to exercise his duties as a judge. There are any number of possible answers, but the information has been lost or destroyed so nobody knows.

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