Henry VIIIOn Tuesday 9th May 1536, Henry VIII sent a message to Thomas Cromwell “commanding him to repair to the King to treat of matters relating to the surety of his person, his honor, and the tranquillity of the realm”. The King also organised a council meeting for that day. Those men summoned to attend included the Dukes of Norfolk and Suffolk; the Earls of Oxford, Arundel, Westmoreland, Essex, Derby, Worcester, Sussex and Huntingdon; Lords Lawarre, Awdeley, Montague, Matravers, Morley, Cobbeham, Clynton, Powes, Sandes, Wyndesor, and Mordaunt; the Marquis of Exeter and “divers lords” such as Sir Athony Browne, Sir John Russell, Sir William Kingston and Sir John Dudley.

In the meantime, the Justices of the King’s Bench were sending orders to the sheriffs of London to assemble a grand jury at Westminster on 10th May to rule on offences alleged to have taken place in Middlesex (at Whitehall and Hampton Court Palace). The Baga de Secretis lists forty-eight members of the jury and these can be read in my article 9 May 1536 – Meetings and Legal Proceedings.

Notes and Sources

  • LP x. 833, 834

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8 thoughts on “9 May 1536 – Meetings and Preparations”
  1. This was going to be state show trial of the era; Henry is pulling the Lords and gentlemen together, juries have been appointed and the great and good of Henry’s court summoned to bring justice to what he sees as a slur on his honour. Just what was discused in that council meeting I find intriguing but I would assume that much of the last eight days were brought to the attention of the lords as well as what was expected of them at the coming trials. This is the point that all of the legal and ceremonial structures are put in place and this is the point that the fate of the condemned I think was sealed in advance.

    There is a long list of gentlemen called upon in the article on the Meetings and Preparations and one of the names mentioned in the original source is Sir Wlm (William Brereton) which I think is very strange as this is also the name of one of the five men accused with Anne Sir William Brereton, the Kings groom. Is this another family member of the famous Cheshire family or is the secretary who wrote this in error as he did not know of the arrest of Sir William?

    Many of those named in the summons are the enemies of the Queen. They are all mostly interconnected through marriage, descent, family or kin links, patronage or through alliance to the Conservative elements at the court, the Seymours and to Princess Mary. It was commonn for a person to have a network of clients and to be a patron of others for this is how people advanced; and those relationships were often even closer than that of kin. They owed each other bonds and favours and they were often very loyal. Some of these relationships can be read about in Alison Weirs analysis of the fall of Anne Boleyn: the Lady in the Tower, but can be seen in way they worked together. Brown and Wingfield were related to and clients of Suffolk for example and so were to be relied upon when it came to finding a guilty verdict. The Lords would have sat as they alone could try the Queen and as the highest ranking officials in the land; so some like Norfolk were called because of their rank.

    Norfolk is portrayed in confusing terms during this arrest and trial of his niece but I think overall he was not happy with the role that he was called upon to condemn her. He may have been shocked or even believed she was guilty, but he was clearly distressed as he read out her sentence of death.

    Suffolk was the Kings close friend and the brother in law of Henry; a man who normally stayed away from the factions in court, but whom for personal reasons had made no secret that he hated the Boleyns and Anne in particular. He was her enemy and was not going to hesitate in his duty to find her guilty or to ensure the rest also did as well. He could command a strong power base and most of those summoned were connected to him and his family in some way. If you look at the list of names in the other article it soon becomes clear that this gatherine and the legal wheels being put into action are coming together to set up Anne and her allies for a fall, a very heavy fall.

    1. There were two William Breretons at Henry VIII’s court at this time so it is rather confusing when you’re searching the primary sources for the William Brereton who was brought down with Anne Boleyn. It would be far easier if the Tudors had been a bit more creative with first names!

      1. Thank you for that Claire; how confusing. In Chester there are a number of memorials to the Breretons particularly in the 17th century when they were both mayors of the city and the commander who gave the city up to Parliament; plus the Parliamentary commander were all called Brereton and three of them all had the same first name: either Charles or William; grandson and son called William and the two commanders were first cousins; both called William. It may be a great military name: but really could be more creative. They are a well known Cheshire family so they crop up everywhere; it must have been a confusing time.

        Thanks for your assistance.

        1. Interestingly, Eric Ives became interested in Anne Boleyn while researching William Brereton and the Brereton family. His article “The Career of William Brereton of Malpas” is very good.
          My father, who is from Cheshire, knew of the Brereton name when I mentioned William Brereton to him, so a well-known family in that area.

  2. Treason trials were show trials in general as the accused had no access to evidence or lawyers, per se. They were guilty by means of being accused.

    People believed the duke of buckingham was in innocent and he
    was executed anyway. Most people believed, or said they did, that Anne
    was guilty.

    1. That is actually a good point: we forget that we are looking at this case with the hindsight of history and that Anne was later viewed by some as innocnet because of her vow on the Sacrament when she received it before she died that she was totally innocent. This was a very religious age and such a declaration when a persons immortal soul was in peril was considered proof of innocence. Anne was also a very religious person and would not make such a declaration lightly. It is also interesting that in the case of her brother and the charge of incest that Eustace Chapyrs wrote that he did not believe the charge. Most people, however, at the court or hearing the rumours would have believed Anne and the men to be guilty. It is only afterwards that doubt began to play a role. Cranmer I think believed she was innocent; and I also think that Wyatt did. We have the insight of looking at the list of dates and places that she is meant to have committed these things and have the time to examine the evidence closely. It is impossible that she could have slept with anyone at the times many crimes were said to take place and some of the men were not present at the times and dates they were accused. I assume that no-one bothered to question any of this or to look too closely at the charges or the entire trial would have fallen apart. Cromwell was very clever in constructing a case and he certainly did a good job here. The trial as we know was a complete farce but at the time I agree, many would have believed the charges and Henry certainly did. Even if they did not; the entire thing seems to have been staged in such a way that it would have made no difference.

      There was a case in the early 17th century when the jury found a man not guilty of a a serious crime and the judge refused to accept the verdict; three times they were sent back and threatened with prison, but they still refused to condemn him or find him guilty. In the end the jury was dismissed and a more plyable one found. This changed the laws and juries were after that eventrually given protection from bullies and allowed to act with independance. It took a long time to ensure it happned, and miscarriages of justice still go on as juries can still be nobbled if someone is powerful enough to get to them. Anne won a lot of sympathy at her very public trial and Henry was not so silly as to have a public trial of his fifth Queen who was condemned by Act of Attainer in Parliament. Even then the bill was read four times as the members were not happy about condemning the Queen without her being given a chance of a hearing. In the end it all comes down to the Kings will and Henry was not someone to mess with.

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