3 May 1536 – Archbishop Cranmer is shocked and the investigation hits a snag

On this day in history, 3rd May 1536, Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury, crafted a careful letter to Henry VIII expressing his shock at the news of Queen Anne Boleyn’s arrest.

As Cranmer was writing his very carefully worded letter, the investigation, if it can be called that, wasn’t going so well as the men who’d been arrested just weren’t playing ball.

In this video, I explain exactly what was happening on this day in 1536, including how Queen Anne Boleyn unwittingly got Sir Francis Weston into big trouble.

Here is the transcript:

On this day in 1536, Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury, who had just got arrived back at Lambeth Palace after spending time at Knole, his country house, wrote a letter to King Henry VIII.

He wrote of his shock at hearing news of the queen’s arrest, saying that he was “clean amazed”, that he “had never better opinion of woman” and that he was “most bound to her of all creatures living”. He said that wished and prayed “that she may declare herself innocent” but that it it was found she was guilty then he would “repute him not a faithful subject who would not wish her punished without mercy”.

He had just finished the letter when he was called to the Star chamber and given further information about the investigation into the queen’s affairs, for he added a postscript to his letter saying that he was “sorry such faults can be proved against the queen as they report.” Either he found what was said about Anne convincing, or he was being diplomatic.

Cranmer may have been led to believe that his friend, the queen, was guilty, but on 3rd May 1536, there was concern about how the investigation was going. Sir Edward Baynton, who had served Anne as vice-chamberlain, wrote to the treasurer of the household, Sir William Fitzwilliam, stating that only Mark Smeaton had confessed and they weren’t having any luck with getting the others, i.e. Norris and Rochford, to confess to anything.

Also on 3rd May 1536, Sir William Kingston, Constable of the Tower of London, wrote his first report to Thomas Cromwell. The ladies appointed to serve the queen during her imprisonment had been chosen carefully and were to act as spies and report back to Lady Kingston anything the queen said to them. Lady Kingston would then report back to her husband, and he was to send reports on to Cromwell. Included in his 3rd May report was the first mention of Sir Francis Weston, a man who was a favourite of the king and who’d been made a knight of the Bath at Anne’s coronation in 1533. While talking to her ladies and trying to figure out why she had been arrested, Anne said that “she more feared Weston, for on Whitsun Monday last, Weston told her that Norris came unto her chamber for her, then for Madge.” Anne reprimanded Weston for loving her cousin, Madge, a woman who Norris was courting, and not his wife, and Weston’s response was that “he loved one in her house better than them both” and that this “one” was Anne herself. Anne then said that she “defied him”.

Poor Weston. Anne’s words were reported back to Cromwell and Weston was arrested the following day.

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