According to Alexander Alesius, the Scottish theologian, it was on 30th April 1536 that he witnessed Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn having some kind of argument. Years later, he gave an account of the event to Elizabeth I, who he describes as being in her mother’s arms while Anne tried to placate the king.*
“Never shall I forget the sorrow which I felt when I saw the most serene queen, your most religious mother, carrying you, still a baby, in her arms and entreating the most serene king your father, in Greenwich Palace, from the open window of which he was looking into the courtyard, when she brought you to him. I did not perfectly understand what had been going on, but the faces and gestures of the speakers plainly showed that the king was angry, although he could conceal his anger wonderfully well. Yet from the protracted conference of the council (for whom the crowd was waiting until it was quite dark, expecting that they would return to London), it was most obvious to everyone that some deep and difficult question was being discussed.”1
We have no way of knowing what the king and queen were arguing about, and Alesius obviously didn’t hear. Was Anne Boleyn trying to explain her encounter with Sir Henry Norris, in which she had mentioned the King’s death? Had Anne heard that the King was trying to set her aside and was she pleading with him to keep her as his wife? She surely must have realised that something was going on with Henry having long council meetings and Jane Seymour being in favour. It really is impossible to know what this argument was about, but at 11 o’clock that night the King and Queen’s upcoming visit to Calais was cancelled and arrangements were made for the King to travel there alone a week later.2
Historian Eric Ives wrote that in Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn’s relationship “storm followed sunshine, sunshine followed storm”, but this storm was not going to blow over.3 There was no passionate reconciliation, Anne Boleyn was arrested on 2nd May.
Notes and Sources
*There is no other source for Elizabeth being at court at this time so we don’t know whether Alesius got the date wrong or if she was there for a short visit that wasn’t recorded. It is hard to believe that Alesius would have got it wrong though as he would have known the dates that he was in London and he was certainly in London on 19th May as he visited Archbishop Cranmer on the day of Anne’s execution.
- Calendar of State Papers Foreign, Elizabeth, Volume 1 – 1558-1559, 1303
- LP x. 789
- Ives, Eric (2004) The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn, p195