8 May 1536 – Courtiers rub their hands with glee!
Posted By Claire on May 8, 2019
Vultures circling, hands being rubbed with glee… There was very distasteful behaviour being exhibited by some Tudors on this day in history, 8th May 1536.
What were they doing? What were they after?
Find out 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.
You can read the letters I mention at https://www.theanneboleynfiles.com/8-may-1536-courtiers-clamour-spoils/.
9 thoughts on “8 May 1536 – Courtiers rub their hands with glee!”
Whenever I’m reading about Henry VIII’s court I’m struck by the greed of the courtiers and nobility at the execution of somebody. Usually they can’t wait for the bodies to get cool but in this case they they couldn’t even wait for bodies!
When Thomas Cromwell was arrested for treason Norfolk’s son Surrey was so pleased that that low born wretch was finally brought down. Six years later he too was arrested and executed for treason. How dense we’re these people to not realize that during especially the later years of Henry’s reign each of them was as close to the block as the last man and they had better tread carefully?
The vultures are circling and pouncing well in advance of the forfeiture of those offices and lands and apartments because once the men accused with Anne would lose everything to the crown once they were convicted. Nothing should have been granted to anyone before this, as it was against the law to take goods, land or official appointments from anyone, even someone accused of treason or a crime, before they had been convicted of that crime. A list of everything could be taken, an inventory and offices were in the gift of the King in any case. If anything came from these proceedings it was Cromwell who would keep a record of everything they owned and whose influence with the King for redistribution of all of those lands and appointments.
Here we have the letter of Arthur Plantagenet, Lord Lisle, who wanted certain lands and royal appointments and Henry Fitzroy, Duke of Richmond who wanted various personal items from Henry Norris and the Stewardship of Banbury, which apparently has already been granted to someone else. Then we have this legal guy called Richard Staverton who has fourteen children and wants various rooms around Windsor and one in the in particular The Room of Black Rod, with that office as well. I assume that roll was similar to the present one connected to Parliament. Most of these official posts, apartments and goods and lands belonged to Henry Norris, which shows how powerful he had been and how much of a favourite he was, which makes his fall all the more extraordinary. He had known Henry since forever, been the most intimate person he knew and Norris more or less controlled access to the King in his private apartments. You would seriously think Henry would be able to clock such a close friend as to whether he was telling the truth or not when he said he didn’t sleep with his wife. Nope! Either Henry was really emotionally broken after a suspected brain injury or he was now incapable of discernment and caring. He was already angry with Norris and Anne over their conversation but then his inclusion in the implications made by Smeaton shook him to the core and confirmed those suspicions. For some reason Henry didn’t believe his oldest friend and now everyone was taking advantage of his fall. Henry during this crisis cut himself off physically and emotionally from what was going on and I suspect he was actually emotionally inept by this point, because he couldn’t cope with the awful reality of what he was allowing to happen. It’s one thing to ask your right hand man to get rid of your wife by any means, but another when faced with the reality of what that means, that some of your friends, your brother by law, your closest companion is being charged with treason and adultery, the case against him is believable, people who have had your trust and favour for years are being sacrificed so as you can have a new Queen and a son and heir. The main person on trial is your wife, a woman you wrote beautiful love letters to and pledged your love and body to, a woman you gave up everything for, a woman you have held in your arms, have had children with, have shared loss with and a bed with, felt her warmth next to you and smelt her hair and her touch, but now you have chosen to set her aside and there is apparently evidence that her betrayal is real. Regardless of how much Henry may well now have hated Anne, I can’t believe he didn’t think about any of this and feel some guilt. He behaved the way he did out of guilt and to remain unattached during the proceedings. Henry distracted himself and at the same time made sure everything was taken care off in almost morbid detail. Yet Henry also made certain that his new love, Jane Seymour, was kept well out of the way in order to protect her and her family. He must have been reachable as well during the investigation and up to the trial, although Cromwell was more or less doing everything, which means he couldn’t exactly be completely cut off from reality. There are reports, however, of him getting up, calling for his horse and off he went and of dalliances with other women, although the latter may well have been no more than gossip. His behaviour was bizarre in other words and inconsistent, but was far from that of a husband who was taken by surprise and shocked by his wife’s alleged adultery and conspiracy to kill him. Henry was impatient to get this over with, he was taking his mind of everything as much as possible, you could even say he acted as if Anne no longer existed, yet he was annoyingly faced with the truth because the buck stopped with him as the man in charge and there were still decisions to make, whether he liked it or not.
I have always been surprised that Henry never believed his old friend when he swore he had never betrayed him, it may well have been due to the brain injury he had suffered as he was seemingly showing traits of a more paranoid behaviour, and besides it was not Norris who had mentioned the Kings death but Anne, he had been shocked when she said it and replied he’d rather his head was off, that remark should have conveyed to the King his innocence, unless of course he believed that it was mere play acting on Norris’s part, but the King himself knew that when it came to adultery that it was very difficult for a queen to carry it out, as Eric Ives wrote ‘ quadruple adultery invites disbelief,’ as she was never alone and even when sleeping she had attendants with her, except when the King chose to sleep with his wife, it was easier for Kings as they had secret places they could meet their lover or lovers, Henry had a secret hunting lodge where he took his women and we all know the story of Rosamunds bower in Woodstock, if Henry ever read the indictments himself of his queens adultery in various places, Hampton Court was listed Greenwich and Whitehaii I believe, than he would have known it was nonsense as on one of those alleged offences she was in bed recovering from Elizabeths birth, she was in the process of being churched, on other occasions she was with him or somewhere else, so he must have known it was all fabricated, which shows a chilling lack of regard for human life that he could just blithely ignore all evidence of her innocence and completely abandon her and her alleged lovers, he believed I think the warped confession from Smeaton simply because he wanted to, yet the King was no fool and knew that duress must have been put on the luckless musician,but what did that matter he was sick of his wife, she could not give him a son, now he had evidence( he told himself of her deceit) and on top of the sexual betrayal she had conspired to murder him with his favoured courtiers, men he should have been able to trust, all these thoughts he must have told himself time and again because it was a way out for him, an easy escape to marry his latest and most worthy love Jane Seymour, so he stood by and did nothing, he let the sham of a trial continue, he abandoned his wife in her moment of need and let five men be sacrificed along with her, it was so easy to believe the guilt of his wife when he wanted that wife removed and replaced with another, of course if we are too believe that Henry V111 genuinely believed Anne to be guilty that makes him a naive fool when the evidence said otherwise, and I do not believe Henry V111 was a fool, what he was however was a shameless hypocrite, and his marriage to Jane Seymour coming barely two weeks after Anne Boleyns death is sounding proof of that.
You give Henry way more credit than I do. I think he knew the entire thing was a sham and that there was no guilt in any of the accused. He was a sometimes ruthless cold hearted individual who could easily sacrifice the lives of friends or strangers if it got him what he wanted. Perhaps part of this was head trauma but regardless of why this is how I see him. Someone like Thomas Cromwell was a real blessing for Henry at this time. The king needed something fixed and Thomas would fix it.
Dr David Starkey sums it up beautifully in the Last Days of Anne Boleyn, when he said Henry Viii believed what was convenient for Henry Viii.
The thing for me is that as humans we feel guilty quite easily so I can still see him feeling something but because he had become ruthless by now, for whatever reason and there are a number, he was capable of being cold hearted and turned away from any reminder of his wife. Essentially once accused of treason a suspect was a dead man with no or few rights and very few if any ever escaped such a charge. Anne had ceased to exist as a vital, living human being and so had the others, the trial was a sham even by the show trial mentality of the day. In Henry’s mind he was a bachelor and he began to act like it, well up to a point as he was still in charge and getting updated. The reminder of what was happening was enormous but Henry cut himself off as much as he could, went off hunting or visiting, he was preparing to be a free man. That was how he was, childish and churlish in his emotions and believed what he wanted in any given situation. His moods are noted as extremely changeable as well, so I am guessing Cromwell was handling Henry with extreme caution. The business man approach was just what was needed, which was all Cromwell; he knew most of the people over the years he had to interrogate, even respected some of them, but his job was to find evidence and he had to remain neutral and detached through it all, cruel and ruthless, regardless of the truth. He was indeed just the man that you needed for such a cruel and harrowing termination of six innocent people, including the Queen, Henry’s wife. Even with all of that in his personal hours Henry knew the trial was a sham, but still the knowledge of what he was doing bit him. That’s actually what makes his actions more callous and hard to fathom. Hatred and passion are two sides of the same coin but they are still heavily linked. Anne and Henry are not two people from a book, they were real human beings with normal emoticons, now damaged by time and life, who had shared love and loss, joy and trauma and they were both capable of cruelty. They were not saint and sinner, they were both and they were complex personalities. Their passion fired up both in the bedroom and in hot rows. That Henry acted so extremely against a woman he had loved for at least nine years, shows his emotions were out there, his rage was violent, that rage flew with full thunder at the woman he now hated. He turned his back on Anne and he would listen to nobody because he knew if he did, he could begin to see reason again. Henry would not take that risk, his behaviour was of avoidance. That speaks to someone who feels guilt and is conscious of having an emotional response to sentiment. He didn’t want to know, he wanted it over, the sooner the better and by extracting himself from the immediate situation he knew nothing would change his mind and he could trust Cromwell to get on with it.
Did not I read on here once that Henry V111 later on in life expressed regret for executing Anne Boleyn?
Yes, Christine there is the reference that Michael refers to in the British Library Stowe collection which included her golden small chained prayer book that she would have carried on her girdle. The annotations on the Manuscript Stowe 122 which are contemporary to within 40 years refers to Henry Viii making it known on his deathbed that he was full of grief for his treatment of Anne Boleyn. It isn’t known if the annotations refer to a genuine statement which can be verified but the implications are that Henry had a conscience and was capable of regret. No doubt more research needs to be done to find the original source but it was an astonishing discovery by Sarah Vasoli whose research into these letters is amazing.
In her book on Anne’s letter from the tower Sandra Vasoli mentions a Franciscan monk named Andre’ Thevet, born around 1516 in a writing from 1575 a story he heard ‘from ‘sevetal English gentlemen’ about Henry’s death bed grief over Anne and Elizabeth and that he acknowledged Anne’s innocence. Maybe with a bit of research you can find more on this.
I would be very happy if it could be proven that Henry voiced regret as it would be nice to have something redeeming bto point at at the end of his life.