9 May 1536 – Henry VIII wants an update – The Fall of Anne Boleyn
Posted By Claire on May 9, 2019
On this day in 1536, 9th May, King Henry VIII wanted an update on the ‘investigation’ into his wife, Queen Anne Boleyn.
In today’s video,I explain just what was happening at court on 9th May 1536.
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.
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11 thoughts on “9 May 1536 – Henry VIII wants an update – The Fall of Anne Boleyn”
Only a week’s investigation? It’s no wonder the case has been suspect from day one until now. If these allegations had been believed by the king and Cromwell (I believe they knew they weren’t true) you would think even as callous as the two of them were they would want to know the exact details and that was not going to happen in one week. This seems like just more proof that the entire process was feeble window dressing for an atrocious miscarriage of justice by the crown
Actually, it could happen in a week — the investigators are not likely to let anything else interfere. More importantly, an investigation in Tudor times would be quite different from an investigation in modern times –the investigators wouldn’t have to bother with things like getting a warrant before searching a suspect’s premises and interrogations take much less time when you don’t have to bother reading suspects their rights and dealing with any attorneys.
It was quick compared to his treatment of his fifth wife, Kathryn Howard, the investigation went on for weeks.
O.K that was under different circumstances and investigations could be done quickly but then you have to set up the legal apparatus and here is the trial of a Queen, there isn’t a legal precedent in England. It hadn’t been done before. You have to summon grand juries, you have to summon the nobles as nobody else can stand in judgement over her and the others, you have to get the paperwork and evidence together and certain types of investigation and arrests needed a warrant. The legal apparatus was set up in advance. The trial of the first group of men was held after twelve days of the first arrests. I doubt a week was enough time, not unless everything was done in advance but two weeks was working and even then the Grand Juries were prepared out of the commission of Oyer and Terminer which in this case was well in advance. It was all very quick, yeap, but the speed was helped through advanced planning. The evidence most certainly could have been ready much earlier because with Tudor methods of investigation, that is confess or we will proceed anyway, it didn’t take long to “investigate” . If people were stubborn and refused to confess, the crown still had to make a case and that took time. Everything else was down to who was on trial. A peer had the right to trial by his equals and in Parliament as did the Queen, the most highest people are Dukes, traditionally sons and relatives of the crown, but more recently extending to Henry’s favourite brother in law and illegitimate son, then Earls, and so on. The gentleman was tried by other gentlemen, which is why four men were tried together. Henry was unique in charging his wife in public with treason and putting her on trial. The crown had to cross a lot of ts and dot a lot of is on this one. I am still not convinced they actually got it right in the process but it was close enough. The trial was perfectly lawful, it followed the legal norms of the day but it was a complete sham because it was rigged with those whom Henry could tell to find the accused guilty. It was shocking and swift and ruthless, Henry’s behaviour is bizarre because of the fact he knew it was a sham and stood back, because he was emotionally compromised. As I said yesterday, that makes it even more cruel. Henry was in charge and now we see him taking stock, getting updated and giving a briefing to those nobles and gentlemen who would be involved in the trial. A trial didn’t last long either, it lasted all day but not over several weeks as a modern treason trial obviously would. This leads me to guess that few people actually gave verbal evidence to the Court other than the accused and one or two star witnesses. Tudor evidence relied far more on disposition and people were taken at their word under oath because of the harsh punishments for perjury. We would not allow second hand or third hand evidence, they accepted when someone said they had heard about something. The evidence of Lady Worcester was gossip but it was accepted as testimony, either in a witness statement or her sworn written statement. Whether it was read out or just brought to the Court’s attention, we don’t actually know. By now, however, just over one week since the Queen and her brother were arrested, everything was in place to proceed. The Grand Jury can be convened and decide on if there is enough evidence for a trial and formal indictments. Of course that will be a no brainer and a set up. Everything has to look as if it has been done correctly, which is why people who will be released are also in the Tower and not charged, not as Professor Bernard says because Henry acted lawfully and did everything right, the investigation was not conducted in an open and fair manner, it was set to go as it did in advance. Yes, Anne was flirtatious and at times, reckless, but she wasn’t an idiot, she had too much to lose by sleeping around, the dates are not “broadly correct”, she couldn’t slip out for a rendezvous, she couldn’t just sleep with them in her chambers, just because the common people thought she was a whore, doesn’t mean she was, plus if Henry was impotent getting a kid by someone else was the most stupid thing she could do. Henry would know the child was not his. Henry allowed Cromwell to come up with this piece of theatre because he didn’t want another drawn out annulment, he wanted to move on quickly, his second marriage being examined as null and void made his original decision over his marriage to Katherine of Aragon and the Supremacy look foolish, the Supremacy itself gave him the power to act as he wished and to avoid the long drawn out route out, he wanted a new wife and a permanent resolution. Anne’s being accused of everything bad under the sun was neat, believable, callous, ridiculous, swift and achieved a clean break. Cromwell was effectively efficient and the job was done with terrifying speed.
According to ‘Young and Damned and Fair’ the investigators of the Katherine Howard situation took their time and made sure everything was as legal and on the up and up
as possible becausee they were aware of how proceedings against Anne and the five men was percieved and they wanted to avoid that.
I always thought that the critical difference between the two cases was Henry. At first, he didn’t believe the initial accusations against Katherine Howard — so those had to be quite strong. The same did not apply to Anne Boleyn — that Henry called for an “update” tells me that he was perfectly aware of what was being done to rid him of his (now unwanted) wife .
I agree with you 100%.
Absolutely England and Europe would be aghast if Henry questioned his second marriage as not legal after his first was declared null and void, and after all the rigmarole to marry Anne, had her crowned and then passing through the act of supremacy, people would say he wanted to have his cake and eat it, ( which we know he did most of the time) Anne had to die so as you say Henry was given a clean break, yet he still went ahead and had his marriage declared null and void anyway, citing his affair with Mary Boleyn as the reason, he and Cromwell were out to garner sympathy for him, it was far easier to achieve that if his wife was seen to be a murderous whore, rather than go down the same route as with Katherine, he did not wish to look foolish but betrayed.
Henry was still completely wrapped up in his beautiful young wife, Kathryn Howard and had just had a service of thanksgiving for her and how perfect she was, so the news that she had previous lovers didn’t go down well. Henry didn’t believe the letter which was left for him and ordered a discreet investigation into the story that his so called virginal bride, wasn’t. Henry wanted a thorough investigation in order to get to the truth and when it was verified he was devastated. It was only after Katherine was questioned, twice and her former lover, Francis Dereham, the second time that everything went south. Henry wanted everything above board but he hadn’t wanted to rid himself of Kathryn Howard. Things were different with Anne because he did want to get rid of her and had wife no three on speed dial. After a long rooting out of the alleged truth and remember KH was no innocent victim here, she did entertain Thomas Culpeper on several occasions in her rooms, even though she denied adultery, late at night and with help, Kathryn was finally convicted by Act of Parliament, months later in February 1541, after the two men accused with her were already dead. Henry didn’t marry again for over 18 months and his sixth wife was quite different. For many reasons he took everything much slower with KH, but then he certainly didn’t believe the accusations at first. Now he was demanding an update because he wanted out as soon as possible and just wanted to move on. Everything was in place well in advance, for the necessity of speed. Not only did Henry believe the charges, once Cromwell had been put to work, he initiated those charges and enforced them on the King’s command. The charges were manufactured, the case was manufactured and the trial was manufactured. With KH I also think Henry eventually believed she was guilty and the evidence was more convincing, even though we know little evidence of adultery existed, the implication of adultery, the presumption of treason was enough for the prosecution.
With Anne Boleyn he was more or less saying ‘get on with it I want to get married’, here we can see the stark contrast in his behaviour between his second and fifth queen, he was besotted with Catherine Howard but I somehow think it was just an older mans crush on a much younger girl, nevertheless he was happy and contented, he could not have had any bedroom problems as sexual frustration would have resulted in a bad temper, he was cheerful and lost weight and he was noted as being more amorous towards her than any of his
other brides, therefore when faced with the proof of her adultery or alleged adultery he was very upset and shocked, the investigation was slow as he wanted it thorough and he did not want to believe his beloved wife was this young hoyden who had lived so disgracefully in her grandmothers house, his behaviour was of disbelief as I think Catherine had also deceived Henry into thinking she was a virgin, he wept in front of his council which must have been a pitiful sight to see,he was genuinely grieved on the other hand, his almost jovial behaviour when faced with Anne’s so called betrayal was very suspect, and from then just a case of get it over and done with.
Thank you so much, Claire – I have only recently discovered your website. Your daily videos of this incredibly sad/outrageous period of time really bring it to life. Thank you for doing the research and presenting it so well.
Thank you! I’m so glad you enjoy my work.