4 May 1536 – 2 more arrests and a letter of comfort

Man thought to be Sir Francis Weston
4th May 1536 saw two more courtiers becoming prisoners at the Tower of London: Sir Francis Weston, a gentleman of Henry VIII’s privy chamber and a favourite of the king, and William Brereton, a prominent man in Cheshire and North Wales.

There were now six people in the Tower as part of Thomas Cromwell’s investigation into the Queen’s actions and behaviour: George Boleyn, Queen Anne Boleyn, Sir Henry Norris, Mark Smeaton, Brereton and Weston.

You can read more about Sir Francis Weston and William Brereton in my article from 2015 – click here.

Also, around 4th May 1536, Jane Boleyn, Lady Rochford, sent a message of comfort to her husband, George Boleyn, who had been arrested and taken to the Tower of London on 2nd May – click here to read more.

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8 thoughts on “4 May 1536 – 2 more arrests and a letter of comfort”
  1. I think it’s disgusting the way these people were treated, they were treated as if they were guilty and they hadn’t even been tried, what happened to innocent till proved guilty? Anne was rambling in the Tower trying to make sense of it all still in shock and confusion and let slip Weston’s name so what? She was trying to understand why on whose hearsay she had had these charges levelled against her, a name being mentioned does not mean that person is guilty of misdemeanour, yet unwittingly she had done that and so Weston a young man of no more than twenty five with a wife and child was dragged into this sorry coup to bring down an unwanted queen, in the portrait allegedly said to be of Weston he looks a handsome young man and his wife must have been in utter turmoil when he was arrested, he had done well at court and the King liked him, as for Brereton it is said he had dealings in the north which angered Cromwell so he was arrested on this theory but was that the real reason, would Cromwell have been petty enough, also he was not a young man, but old by Tudor standards being in his mid forties, and what did he look like, would he have attracted the queen? Also he was not in Annes circle of friends the case against him was weak, but he too was charged with adultery with her, the case had to seem plausible to give the charges credence and Anne had to be made out to look a right nympho therefore any man would have satisfied her, but I doubt if Cromwell cared who the men were as long as there were some to bring her down, and he had a whole court to choose from but it had to be seen to be done in a fair way and Weston was in her close circle of friends, the fact that he was young and good looking made him more of a likely candidate, as for George Boleyn to bring him into the frame seems ludicrous but as we know he was just chosen to make his sister look vile and so loathsome that the King would have more sympathy and make the case against the queen more justifiable, Cromwell could not have cared much for these men maybe in the past they had slighted him, in the upper classes snobbery is rife, throughout the ages human nature has not changed much and Cromwell quite possibly had suffered slurs on his lowly background from these courtiers nobly born as they were, Annes old sweetheart the talented poet Wyatt was questioned but released, he had a good friend in master secretary and that was his saving grace, whatever he felt about Cromwell after the executions of his friends and especially Anne whom he had once loved, we have no idea, like the poet he was he voiced his sorrow in the lament he made during those awful days in mid May, they still strike a chord in our hearts today, we can plainly see the anguish and sorrow he felt and the utter hopelessness of it all.

    1. Christine, the law in England and I am guessing most other places at this time was guilty till proven innocent. Our innocent until proven guilty didn’t come in before the eighteenth century or later. They didn’t have a defence attorney at this time or know many of the details of the indictments. They knew the basic charges, that was it, but you are right, much of this is terrible and they were treated terrible. Dragged of, questioning going on and on, perhaps some unauthorised tactics used, spies, evidence invented, everything you said reported to Cromwell, no advice or help, nothing, your attendants possibly bullied for every bit of information…dreadful.

      Jane Boleyn has been maligned for a long time. She isn’t named as a source, but other ladies were. Nan Cobbam and Lady Worcester are named as giving information, the latter based on her gossip and arguments with her brother and then possibly she was asked questions. We don’t know if any actual witnesses came forward at the court. This is a far cry from Jane accusing her husband of incest with Anne, although she may have been bullied into confessing that she had been told confidently that Henry had sexual problems, which was used at George Boleyn’s trial.

      Anne remembrance of an innocent conversation being used against her shows how weak this case was. Cromwell was clutching at straws but Henry wasn’t interested enough to challenge or check the veracity of the evidence himself. The whole thing was a terrible stitch up.

      1. Hi Banditqueen, yes I know the innocent till proved guilty was not in force in Tudor times, I was merely quoting it as we say it in the 21st century, at least today when someone is charged they are allowed a lawyer, someone to help and advise them, all those poor people had was their belief in their own innocence and prayers for justice, Anne knew Henry wanted to get rid of her so I think she felt more desolate than the others, I agree about Jane Annes sister in law, her reputation has been tarnished with crediting Cromwell about her husbands incestous affair with Anne yet there was never any proof of that, as you mention, Nan Cobham and Lady Worcester were the ones who gave info to Cromwell, we know about the latters remark to her brother, it was her rather foolish innocent though it was choice of words that were carried back to Cromwell, by whom we don’t know, Ives also states that there was one other lady who gave info also, but it is unknown who she was, it was all gossip that started off the wheels of motion and as Ives says, Anne overstepped the rules of courtly love by her dead men’s shoes remark, she became the aggressor and Norris the lady, apart from the fact that the remark had undertones of treason in it, but all these remarks were just off the cuff as Lady Worcesters when she was arguing with her brother, women’s talk can be bitchy and gossipy and I believe many of Annes ladies although being loyal to her, apart from her closest friends Margaret Wyatt and her cousin Madge Shelton, and Lady Lisle, most of them were a bit envious of her, Anne had been just a knights daughter and had risen to becoming Queen Of England, just because Henry was so besotted with her, the fact that she was clever and was talented would also have turned a few ladies green with envy, the trial one observer noted was all bawdy and lechery, it was just women’s gossip, strangely enough the dead men’s shoes remark was not in any of the indictments yet through it Cromwell had twisted it round to bring a charge of plotting the Kings death, adultery alone was not punishable by death but plotting to kill the King, a crowned and anointed monarch was, he had quite cleverly turned innocently spoken words into a case for treason, Anne knew she was going to die, when Edward 11 was deposed and some say murdered in Berkeley castle, Mortimer was executed yet Queen Isabella escaped the death penalty, but she was Edward 111’s mother and he would not duffer her to die, she was kept under guard and allowed to live in one of the many palaces Edward owned but she never enjoyed royal status as the queen mother and died insane, people who killed or who plotted to kill the King were never allowed to live and so poor Anne knew she was doomed, as her remarks to Kingston reveal, ‘shall I die without justice’, the fact that she was mother to his heir mattered not a jot to Henry he was working to have his marriage annulled anyway, but he could have considered Elizabeths feelings, he said once his own mothers death was the worst day of his life, but he could not allow sentiment to overcome his quest to marry again and get a legal son and heir, Anne had to die and because she had to, her alleged lovers had to also, they had to die for the sake of England, at least that’s what Henry must have told himself.

        1. Anne’s fate was totally senseless. Even if she had been guilty, which she wasn’t, there wasn’t a precedent for execution of a Queen. O.K most of them had powerful families to back them up….Isabella of France, Edward ii’s Queen was the sister of the King of France so you can’t get rid of her and Katherine of Aragon was the Aunt of the Emperor, but even so, even when Eleanor Cobbam was found guilty of murderous necromancy, wanting the King and Duke of Bedford dead by evil spirits or communing with the dead to poison them…it was the woman she got the herbs from who burned at the stake. Eleanor said she just wanted to help her husband in bed so she could get pregnant, but she was found guilty. The unfortunate woman was killed, but Eleanor as a noble wife was spared and spent the rest of her life in prison. Even Elizabeth Bathony wasn’t killed for the many alleged crimes she was accused of. Her servants were tortured and paid horribly but Elizabeth was imprisoned, in her castle for life. She of course was the powerful ruling matriarch of the region of Hungary she was from. If you were noble enough and female you could be given a prison sentence but you may before now escape with your life. Anne may not be old nobility, although her mother was a Howard, but now she was Queen and her daughter was a small child. There must have been some room for mercy. Well the theory is probably that Henry couldn’t risk having two wives alive again and he was blinded by loathing for Anne who he wanted dead so as she couldn’t make trouble. Anne just didn’t have the support networks and powerful allies to protect her and for some unknown reason Henry was beyond any sort of finding compassion, had convinced himself Anne was guilty, had shut his ears to her pleas and was consumed with the whole idea of getting a new wife that he no longer cared. Anne was the innocent victim of a callous desire to wipe out the past and ensure the new family and heirs had no rivals or insecurity. Could he have locked Anne up and told her you are no longer Queen, so behave and keep quiet without and trouble if he really believed she was guilty? It’s an unanswerable question, but Henry was in the superior position. The ghost of Katherine of Aragon still loomed. Was this part of his thought process? Or was Henry so blinded with hatred for Anne that he couldn’t accept a place for mercy and he just wanted her gone? I used to attempt to see things from Henry’s point of view, but to be honest I have given up, so cold is his behaviour towards a woman he professed love for, had a deep passion for, tore the Catholic world upside down to process and who was the mother of a young daughter he had idolized. Henry’s treatment of Anne Boleyn is beyond any logical explanation.

  2. “Innocent until proven guilty” isn’t found as a direct legal principle until the eighteenth century — it’s seen in the French Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen (August 1789) and the United States Constitution (September 1789). In Henry VIII’s day, we’re barely out of Trial by Ordeal and barely into Trial by Procedure.

    In Edward VI’s reign, there’s a note that two witnesses must agree to the facts to substantiate a serious charge, such as treason (otherwise it’s He Said, She Said). This is sort of a precursor.

    See this for a discussion of the subject: http://scholarship.law.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1169&context=scholar

  3. I agree, it’s very hard to justify Henrys treatment of Anne Boleyn, equally hard it is to understand why he did not believe his old friend Henry Norris when he denied having an affair with her and how could he sign both their death warrants? Such was his need for a son it overrode all feelings of decency and compassion, had Anne had powerful relatives she simply would have been banished to a nunnery, the ‘coup’ would never have happened, Henry would not have dared to have Katherine arrested on false charges or his fourth wife, let alone executed imagine the consequences, when his daughter Elizabeth executed Mary Queen Of Scots that gave Philip the excuse he needed to send the armada to England, Anne had no power of her own, it all derived from Henry so there was no one who could help her, Henry knew this and it was despicable that he killed her just because he could do.

  4. It’s all relative. We have ITPG in the States, but it really only works if you have money and can pay an attorney. Legal Aid is a joke here. I know locally, it’s only free if you get found not guilty. Any person who accepts Legal Aid get an overburdened, often inexperienced lawyer, who will recommend a plea deal to the innocent, because there’s no time to try a case in court, and no resources to clear the defendant’s name. Since law enforcement enjoys the privilege of superior credibility, ITPG isn’t nearly as much the case as you’d like to think. There’s tremendous abuse of the system, particularly by law enforcement.

    There are good cops and bad cops, good prosecutors and bad. SOme jurisdictions are better than others. It’s a crap shoot.

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