8 May 1536 – Courtiers will be courtiers, or perhaps vultures
Posted By Claire on May 8, 2017
Before I go into details on today’s event of 1536, let’s just have a recap of the events so far:
- 24 April 1536 – Legal commissions are set up
- 25 April 1536 – Henry VIII writes to his ambassadors abroad
- 26 April 1536 – Queen Anne Boleyn meets with her chaplain
- 27 April 1536 – Writs are issued summoning Parliament
- 28 April 1536 – Council meetings and more
- 29 April 1536 – Anne Boleyn has encounters with Sir Henry Norris and Mark Smeaton
- 30 April 1536 – Marm Smeaton is arrested and the king and queen argue
- 1 May 1536 – The May Day joust and Norris is interrogated
- 2 May 1536 – Queen Anne Boleyn and her brother, George Boleyn, Lord Rochford, are arrested
- 3 May 1536 – Archbishop Cranmer writes to the king
- 4 May 1536 – Jane Boleyn sends a message to her husband
- 5 May 1536 – More interrogations and arrests
- 6 May 1536 – The date of the “To the King from the Lady in the Tower” letter
- 7 May 1536 – William Latymer, one of the queen’s chaplains, is searched
Phew! Things were moving very fast, weren’t they?
The first arrests took place on 30th April and the final ones on 5th May, and by 8th May 1536 (and as early as 2nd May) men at King Henry VIII’s court were already hoping to benefit from the fall from favour of the queen and these courtiers. They were like vultures circling. Courtiers were clamouring over the spoils, hoping for lands and offices. But you had to be quick!
Click here to read about these vultures and what they were after.
7 thoughts on “8 May 1536 – Courtiers will be courtiers, or perhaps vultures”
So much is made of Anne’s conversations with Smeaton and Norris on 29th April, but the legal process had already been set in motion before that. I cannot see that these conversations actually had a great deal to do with her arrest. It was going to happen anyway on some premise or other. In any event she was chastising Smeaton, not encouraging him. Yes, her conversation with Norris was ill advised, but if Henry had seriously thought Norris was having an affair with his wife he certainly wouldn’t have offered him a pardon for admitting it. I can’t help feeling the importance placed on those conversations is a little misplaced.
I feel the same way, the only reason we know about these conversations is because Anne spoke of them in her ramblings in the Tower when she was trying to figure out what on earth was going on. If her conversation with Norris was evidence of a relationship or of plotting then that date would surely have been mentioned in the indictments, but it wasn’t.
Those conversations seemed to have changed the tempo of events, IMO. Prior to the 29th, events could be consistent with getting an annulment — summoning Parliament, for example, would be necessary to deal with the succession, in such a case. Only after the 29th, do arrests come — thick and fast..
I think it’s too coincidental that two commissions of oyer and terminer were set up on 24th April for Middlesex and Kent though.
Henry seemed to want out. It does seem the wrong way round. Why just not be direct with Anne. Waiting until Anne actually spoke to Norris about ‘Dead man’s shoes’, which was spot on in my opinion.
Henry was obviously seeking a way out of his marriage with Anne hence the legal commissions and the way he was having discussions with his council and so forth, I believe he was advised he could divorce Anne but it may take time and Henry was an impatient man, he wanted her gone as soon as possible, he relayed to Cromwell the urgency of the situation and he evil genius that he was came up with a plan that would free Henry from her without any legal wranglings, hence the ‘coup’ as Ives puts it, the fact that it gathered speed with such momentum shows Henrys impatience, it was without doubt the most ghastly murder that was ever committed, that of an crowned and anointed queen, a mother to the Kings baby princess, the fact that the King and his councillors tried to justify it by fabricating a tissue of lies and holding a sham of a trial and killing five innocent men in the process makes it all the more vile and horrendous, a Franciscian friar years later mentioned that Henry on his deathbed felt remorse on how he had treated his second wife, yet was it really remorse or the very real genuine fear that he was about to meet his maker and would be called to account for it? The tragedy of Anne Boleyn marked a blemish on Henrys reign and made her name famous throughout the world, she did not know it but on this day in 1536 she had only eleven more days to live and then she would be consigned to history.
Take a breathe. The speed is breathtakingly shocking that a few weeks after Anne was being lauded as Henry’s true wife and he was demanding Charles V recognised her as such and complaining about his ill treatment by the Emperor that she was arrested and the list of charges against her growing. We now have the Queen and her brother, George Boleyn, charged with adultery, treason and incest, when a few weeks earlier George was in high favour. We have an old intimate friend and First Gentleman of the Privy Chamber (Groom of the Stool) a man of good reputation and trusted with the King’s secret dooings and who had access to his person, who was on the day of his arrest on good terms with the King and riding his own horse in the joust now suspected of being Anne’s lover and (although not changed with it) by some as Elizabeth’s father. Henry’s gambling partner to whom he lost at cards Francis Weston was arrested afterwards as Anne joked with him two years ago. William Brereton had a jack the lad reputation for several years but came from a well known political family in the royal palatine county of Cheshire. He had served Henry as a groom and in other offices for several years. Yet he too was in the Tower as a lover of the Queen. Then there is the most unlikely candidate for sleeping with Anne or treason.. Henry’s musician, Mark Smeaton. He was young and talented and both Henry and Anne admired his music. He had been well rewarded but was not a gentleman and not an insider. The others probably looked down on him, although he may have been sponsored by George. The former gave him a book and led to a false belief that they had an overly friendly relationship (so I had best not give any of my friends a book) but which shows he was appreciated by the Boleyn family as a book, especially an illuminated book was very expensive in those days, even with printing and giving one to a servant or friend or client showed them honour and respect. Mark must have treasured such a gift. He was employed at the time of his arrest in Anne’s presence or private apartments to entertain her with his lute. Now we are not talking about her bedroom but a place for dining and parties. A number of people would be there and he wasn’t there at inappropriate hours. He would also have sang and played for the King and been one of a number of court musicians to play the top ten of an evening. He would only have brief formal contact with the Queen, who may ask him to play something or gthank him, but Anne would mostly have not spoken to him as he was an ” inferior person “. Yet Smeaton had been targeted, picked up and interrogated for 24 hours, implicated Henry Norris and possibly George Boleyn, but he was now also a frightened prisoner doomed as the others. It all rather stinks. Terrifying, fast and without hope.
The vultures circled before these innocent people were even tried. That also points to a pre conceived plan as you could take an inventory of the goods when someone went for trial but you couldn’t legally confiscate those goods until they had been condemned. That others were encouraged to put their claim in suggests they knew what was available and took early advantage of this whole set up.