30 April – Arrests and a royal argument
Posted By Claire on April 30, 2019
On this day in 1536, 30th April, musician Mark Smeaton was arrested and taken to the home of Henry VIII’s right-hand man, Thomas Cromwell. What happened to him there over the next 24 hours is not known, but he ended up confessing to sleeping with Queen Anne Boleyn.
Also, on this day, a theologian witnessed an argument between King Henry VIII and Queen Anne Boleyn.
Find out more about these events in today’s video.
I’m doing these “Fall of Anne Boleyn” videos daily until 19th May and I started on 24th April. You can catch up with them on the Anne Boleyn Files and Tudor Society Youtube Channel.
You can find out more about my book The Fall of Anne Boleyn: A Countdown at http://getbook.at/fallanneboleyn.
If you prefer reading articles to watching videos, you can click here to read my article from a few years ago.
4 thoughts on “30 April – Arrests and a royal argument”
While it is very possible that Mark Smeaton was tortured, but I doubt it was the rack as he wouldn’t have been able to walk properly at his trial or execution. The Spanish Chronicle was the equivalent of the Star or S-n (Don’t Buy The S-n) so it most certainly invented the story. George Constantine wrote in good faith and heard rumours about torture, but we don’t know and it is possible some kind of unofficial torture may have been administered. To torture someone you needed a warrant from the King and it wasn’t used all that often in any event. We know Smeaton was pressured and questioned for 24_hours. If he was deprived of food and drink and sleep, that is psychological torture and it has physical and neurological consequences. Today we know that this causes hallucinations, makes a person more open to suggestions and likely to give in during interrogation. Smeaton may even have believed what Cromwell was suggesting to him, that he had slept with the Queen, or at least he was so terrified at the end that he was open to making a confession in order to escape the full death penalty. Mark wasn’t a gentleman, he wouldn’t get an automatic reduction in his sentence to beheading, a much more merciful death than hanging, drawing and quartering. This may also explain why he stuck to his story of sleeping with Anne three times and why he named others. Cromwell twisted the generosity of the King and Queen, his payment in rich apparel to make the case that he was receiving particularly expensive gifts from Anne as payment for sexual favours. In other words, Smeaton was the Queen’s pimp. Mark Smeaton was young and he was vulnerable and Cromwell picked on him purposefully because he was an easy target and he was able to frighten him. Mark stood by his story, much to the anger of Anne and she was horrified that he hadn’t even cleared her on the scaffold.
Thomas Wyatt in his verses condemning Smeaton makes him out to be a coward and a rogue for his actions, but this really isn’t a fair statement. Although he might not actually have been physically tortured, I can well imagine 24_hours with Cromwell was more than enough to make anyone confess to anything. In fact very few people are likely to not give in, especially if they are tortured. We know of a number of fanatical Catholic priests who didn’t break, even under the worst torture, but they had SAS style training in resisting under torture. Guy Fawkes was four days without giving up and even when he finally penned his name, very painfully and in a hand which testified to his agony, to the pre prepared confession, it was without giving any names away. Francis Dereham, on the other hand, screamed out Culpepper had taken his place, before he was even shown an instrument of torture. Wyatt was upset of course, having witnessed his friends go to their deaths and then the woman he adored lose her head, so it is understandable he should put all the blame on the only man to plead guilty, the man he held responsible for those deaths.
I find the story of Alexander Alesius as a witness to the argument between Henry and Anne a couple of days before her arrest to be very moving. Princess Elizabeth was obviously at Court, even though it’s doubted by Eric Ives, who wasn’t there, because she is seen here in her mother’s arms. She was under three years old, so unless she was specifically somewhere else or it was a state or family occasion, it wasn’t always noted where she was. She was at Court in January and there isn’t any record of her being removed afterwards. Even if she was away, then Anne may well have had her brought to her in an emergency, unofficially and who was going to argue? I believe Elizabeth was brought to Anne, specifically at her request so as she could see her one more time because she seriously thought something was up and that she wouldn’t be Queen for very much longer. She took her little daughter to plead with her husband and Henry unfortunately didn’t want to know. Alesius witnessed the heart breaking scenes as Anne held Elizabeth in her arms and tried to explain, tried to make him see their love, for the sake of their daughter and maybe let their marriage have one last chance. He couldn’t hear what was being said but saw how angry Henry was and how desperate Anne was and how moved he was to see such scenes. Henry probably had heard about Norris, but perhaps he vented his anger and then said he calmed down because the next day, May Day he lent Norris his own horse and was in good spirits, before the bad news was received of Smeaton’s confession. The couple argued passionately because they had been passionate with each other. Now maybe only anger was all that was left. No, we don’t really know what Anne and Henry argued about, but the sight of Anne with her little daughter in her arms and this beautiful memory, years later, I find very sad and this account always very moving.
I too and how I wish Ales had been near enough to over their conversation, I think your right that Anne requested Elizabeth be brought to her if she wasn’t at court as she feared she may not see her for much longer, I do think Anne knew her marriage was finished and quite possibly they hadn’t slept together since the loss of their baby in January, I wish also we had an account of Elizabeths reply to Ales but sadly we have none, it could be she said nothing merely thanked him sharing his memory with her, I have often believed that Anne carried Elizabeth with her to speak with Henry as a way of getting through to him, she was showing to him their beautiful flesh and blood child whom they had both created together, it was the time worn plea of any desperate wife to her indifferent husband, she was saying to him not to desert her she is the mother of his child, but whatever was said that day her pleas fell on deaf ears, the pleas of Henry Norris were to account for nothing either, the wheels of injustice were moving very rapidly for this one time Queen of England.
IMO, things like Ales’s comment …. showing that Anne was talking to Henry shortly before her arrest, and, things like Henry interviewing Norris and offering him a pardon if he would confess … cast grave doubt on the theory that Cromwelll alone dictated Anne’s fall and convinced Henry she was guilty. Henry wasn’t shielded from voices claiming that the accused were innocent; Henry didn’t believe them. Also, I read Mantel’s account as more psychological torture (Mark thinkking himself in a torture chamber) than anything else … which certainly could have worked.