5 May 1536 – Arrests and Interrogations
Posted By Claire on May 5, 2017
As I said yesterday, by the end of 4th May 1536 there were six prisoners in the Tower of London connected to Thomas Cromwell’s investigations into the queen and her behaviour: Queen Anne Boleyn herself, her brother George, Sir Henry Norris, Mark Smeaton, Sir Francis Weston and William Brereton. But there were more to come!
By the end of 5th May, two other men had been imprisoned in the Tower of London and another courtier had been ordered to London for questioning.
What on earth was going on and who were these men?
3 thoughts on “5 May 1536 – Arrests and Interrogations”
Yes it does seem very likely that Bryan and Wyatt was arrested to give the charges some credence, the former was a cousin of both Anne and Jane Seymour, the two women being second cousins through Annes maternal grandmother, who was also Janes, however I did not know that Francis Bryan was the one to inform Jane of Annes death I assumed it was Henry, I’m wondering what was said and if he and Jane both rejoiced, if they had any sense of decency they would not have, Bryan was of dubious character and he knew the Boleyns star was waning so he pledged himself to the Seymour’s, like a rat deserting the sinking ship, he was an opportunist yet it was the politics of the age, no one was going to go down if they could help it, its Jane I can never quite understand, she had a blood link to Anne and must have felt some sorrow for her over the death of her child in January, but the two quite possibly were never close, there are no sources to say they were friends from the days when they were both ladies in waiting in Katherines household, I reckon they had nothing in common and Jane found her cousin a bit too formidable with her sarcastic tongue and the way she was at the centre of attention most of the time, Jane being quiet and shy would have sought out friends of her own nature, Anne was loud and Jane the original wallflower, yet how did this quiet young woman who Chapyus noted as not having much beauty and was rather too pale manage to trap Henry, many historians have said it could be because her nature was the direct opposite of Annes, yet I believe it was because she came from a large fertile family, Henry always looked on his wives as breeding sows, although Janes quiet manner may have attracted him I think it was that he thought he would be more lucky with Jane in getting a son or two, I think Janes shy quiet manner hid a much more stronger character than was noticed at the time and she seemed willing enough to step into Annes shoes, it took courage to do that because she knew she would be taking on all the responsibility that Anne and both Katherine had, that of bearing a healthy son, she would have to suffer the anxieties and fear that they had gone through yet she still walked down the aisle with Henry and pledged her troth to him, no other King in history had ever behaved in that way, he had one queen inprisoned whilst just down the river his latest love was trying on her wedding gown, the swordsman was travelling to England even before the queen’ s trial, it was something even Hollywood could not make up, but then it’s always been known that truth is stranger than fiction.
Be on Cromwell’s good side, you are released, be on his bad you are toast. I know that sounds daft but Brereton had reason to collide with Cromwell who had been causing him trouble in Wales. He also had a shady past and had been in trouble for murder, but obviously the charges didn’t stick. He blamed someone else who was aquited but mud sticks. He could have been targeted due to his past.
Francis Weston was in the frame because Anne spoke to him about loving someone other than his wife and in the same vein of Henry Norris, so of course he was arrested as Anne remembered, as she tried to make sense of the entire mess.
Sir Francis Bryan was related to Jane Seymour and Anne Boleyn, but was now a supporter of the Seymours so as he was probably questioned to make the case look good, nothing was found as nothing was planted. Richard Page was another to make up the numbers and Thomas Wyatt because of his former connection to Anne. However, he seemed too obvious a suspect although he remained in the Tower until after this was over. He was a friend and client of Thomas Cromwell, so did Cromwell protect him? Wyatt in a testimonial writing, outlining his defence when he was later arrested in 1541 blamed the Duke of Suffolk for his arrest. There had been the incident when Suffolk csme to the King with rumours of Anne having an affair with Anne Boleyn before she was the King’s mistress, but nothing really explains anything about why Suffolk had him arrested now. He was lucky and lived to serve another day, although he was sent as an ambassador to the Imperial court.
Cromwell had to make the case look convincing by arresting some men who then he could say he found no evidence against and others who were guilty. The whole Hellish nightmare was a complete farse. Now there are plenty of elaborate theories about why certain men were targeted, but it was simply they were the best fit for this terrible need to paint Anne as dark and as evil as possible so everyone would believe that she was capable of anything, even killing the King. Anne was set up to look like the worst type of loose callous woman you can imagine and the five men to look as her willing partners in crime. As the woman, however, it was Anne who was given the most blame, as the procurer, the one who lured these men for her pleasure and appetites and her power held them under her influence. She was accused of incest with her brother and his character has come under scrutiny, but that didn’t make it true, just easier to make up all those vile stories about him and Anne. Norris was a friend, well known to Anne with whom she had exchanged dangerous but none treasonous words and drawn attention to him, unfortunately. He like Henry and Brereton was an older man in his mid to late forties and had been around the court forever. Francis Weston and Mark Smeaton were young men, but again a word of carefree conversation and Cromwell could make a case, especially as younger men pointed to the Queen satisfying her insatiable appetites. Brereton’s past could be added to the mix to ensure even more hatred towards the Queen and to blacken her name. These men may not have been perfect human beings but they were certainly not guilty of this invented nonsense and none of these six people deserved the bloody death which awaited them.
It was said that if any of these men were innocent Brereton was the most likely, Cromwell done his best to make the trial and proceedings look as fair as possible but the charges were so ott that it did the very opposite, When he was arrested himself several years later he cried out for mercy, it did him no good, he had made many enemies who were delighted at his fall and as he sat pondering in his cell how high he had climbed and to where it had got him, did he ever think of the woman who also had sat desolate in her cell and the five others by whose machinations he had been the destruction of in May 1536, did he ever feel remorse and wished he had devised some other way to free the King? He said after the execution of the queen that he had thought it all up, was he expecting an award then, certainly his partner in crime thought so and the King rewarded him with a peerage, but he took the same route as his hapless victims and become like them, just another victim of a fickle King.