The Aftermath of the Events of May 1536

Posted By on May 21, 2014

Mary of Hungary

Mary of Hungary

Today I want to share with you an extract from The Fall of Anne Boleyn: A Countdown about the aftermath of the executions of May 1536, the reactions of some people on hearing the news…

Although Cromwell’s propaganda machine had been working flat out, spreading the salacious and shocking news that the King of England had been saved from a conspiracy instigated by his own wife and Queen, there were those who were cynical and could not quite believe the official line.

Etienne Dolet, the French scholar, printer, and Reformer, published an epigram, Reginae Utopiae falso adulterii crimine damnatae, et capite mulctatae Epitaphium (Queen of Utopia condemned on a false charge of adultery, and deprived of an epitaph). He knew of Anne through his friend, Nicholas Bourbon, a French Reformer, poet and scholar, who had been rescued by Anne in 1534 after he had got into trouble in France for his work, Nugae. Bourbon’s release from prison was down to Anne’s influence over her husband, Henry VIII, and once Bourbon was in England she appointed him as tutor to her ward and nephew, Henry Carey. It is likely that it was Bourbon who told Dolet of the events of 1536 and that he knew Anne to be innocent of all of the charges.

The imperial ambassador, Eustace Chapuys, in reporting the trials to Charles V, wrote that the men “were condemned upon presumption and certain indications, without valid proof or confession”, that George Boleyn was charged “by presumption” and that “those present wagered 10 to 1 that he would be acquitted, especially as no witnesses were produced against either him or her”.1 He also reported that “there are some who murmur at the mode of procedure against her and the others”. Therefore, there were definitely those who thought that Anne and the men were framed due to the King’s relationship with Jane Seymour.

Mary of Hungary, Emperor Charles V’s sister, who knew Anne Boleyn from their time together at the court of Margaret of Austria, wrote that “As none but the organist confessed, nor herself either, people think he invented this device to get rid of her” and added, insightfully, that “when he is tired of this one he will find some occasion of getting rid of her.”2 So she too was cynical and thought that Anne’s condemnation was more to do with the King wanting rid of her than any actual guilt.

George Constantine, Sir Henry Norris’s servant, commented that “few men would believe that she was so abominable” and that he had “never suspected”. He also said that “there was much muttering at the Queen’s death”.3

George Wyatt, Sir Thomas Wyatt’s grandson, writing in Elizabeth I’s reign, commented on how those “abroad” found Anne “guiltless”4 and that he, himself, believed the charges of incest and adultery to be “incredible” and “partly by the circumstances impossible”, since Anne was always surrounded by her ladies.5

Martyrologist, John Foxe, also writing in Elizabeth I’s reign, blamed “crafty setters-on”6 for poisoning the King’s mind and turning him against his wife.

As for Henry VIII, he simply moved on with his life, marrying Jane Seymour. Whenever the latter dared to ask him for something he warned her to learn from the example of Anne Boleyn. This was reported by the diplomat Jean du Bellay:

“At the beginning of the insurrection the Queen threw herself on her knees before the King and begged him to restore the abbeys, but he told her, prudently enough, to get up, and he had often told her not to meddle with his affairs, referring to the late Queen, which was enough to frighten a woman who is not very secure.”7

So, according to Henry VIII, the Queen had come to a sticky end from ‘meddling’ rather than being guilty of treason! As Eric Ives8 points out, Henry VIII also admitted years later that once a prisoner was in the Tower of London then false evidence could be used against him. Ralph Morice, secretary of Archbishop Cranmer, recorded the following warning issued by the King to Cranmer in 1546 when the conservatives targeted him and tried to bring him down:

“Oh Lorde God ! (quod the king) what fonde symplicitie have you: so to permitt yourself to be ymprisoned, that every enemy of yours may take vantage againste you. Doo not you thincke that yf thei have you ones in prison, iij or iiij false knaves wilbe sone procured to witnes againste you and to condempne you, whiche els now being at your libertie dare not ones open thair lipps or appere before your face.”9

I find it rather telling that Henry VIII knew that it was ‘the done thing’ to procure false witnesses to condemn a prisoner.

The audio book versions of The Fall of Anne Boleyn: A Countdown and The Anne Boleyn Collection are available at a special offer price of $5 each until the end of May – click here for more details.

Notes and Sources

  1. LP x. 908
  2. Ibid., 965
  3. George Constantine, Archaeologia, or, Miscellaneous Tracts Relating to Antiquity, 23:64–65.
  4. George Cavendish, The Life of Cardinal Wolsey, Volume 2, 2:448.
  5. Ibid., p445.
  6. John Foxe, Foxe’s Book of Martyrs: Acts and Monuments of the Church in Three Volumes, II:407.
  7. LP xi. 860
  8. Eric Ives, The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn, p350
  9. Narratives of the Days of the Reformation, Chiefly from the Manuscripts of John Foxe the Martyrologist; with Two Contemporary Biographies of Archbishop Cranmer, 255.

31 thoughts on “The Aftermath of the Events of May 1536”

  1. Gwen says:

    It’s really not surprising that people saw through the nature of Anne’s fall. The pornographic absurdity of it all might have been enough to create hysterics , but, it seems many who were familiar with the realities of 16th Century court politics saw it for what it was (even Chapuys). I always go back and forth on whether Henry believed Anne was guilty or not, But, ultimately, I think Henry is the type who believes what he wants to believe when it suits him. Like most politicians to be honest. His comment to Jane was pretty chilling though.

    I think that Foxe and Wyatt believing in Anne’s innocence is unsurprising given their religious convictions and loyalty to Elizabeth. I think it also points that Elizabeth probably believed her mother was innocent also. Although, she might have reconciled it in her mind that her father was manipulated by “setters on”. That’s pure speculation ofcourse. Who, is it generally thought, prompted Wyatt to write about Anne? Was it for himself? Or was he commissioned?

    1. Claire says:

      George Wyatt wasn’t commissioned to write his biography of Anne, his nephew explained that he wrote it “not without an intent to have opposed Saunders [sic]) so it was Wyatt’s attempt to refute the claims of Nicholas Sander, who had blackened Anne’s name in his 1585 book.

  2. BanditQueen says:

    The number of foreign commentators believing Anne was innocent are surprising. That Chapyus had doubts is very telling. The word and belief must have spread over time, as very tellingly Christine of Milan in one of her three statements on the loss of Henry three queens was that he had the second innocently put to death. She was the great niece to Catherine of Aragorn, never met either queen, and had no reason to like or dislike them, so her comments show she was wise to the truth.

  3. Ava says:

    And people claim Henry ‘loved’ Anne! How could he? He treated her so cruelly.

    He locked her up in a Tower, anxious and alone, accused her of adultery and INCEST (seriously, he must have despised her to accuse her of something so disgusting and perverse) and then fixed the trial so she was found guilty. Then executed her on trumped charges. He killed his daughter’s mother for no apparent reason other than he had tired of his new play thing.

    I think it was quite noble of Chapuys to admit that he believed the evidence was shoddy considering how he felt about the Boleyns.

    Do we have any actual reactions of shock about Anne and co being found guilty?

    1. Renee says:

      Ava — I think Henry loved Anne in the beginning as much as he was capable of loving. But two things: she was a challenge and he needed sons. He conquered her and the challenge was won. Then she didn’t produce an heir and he no longer needed her.

      I question whether Henry could love anyone. Look how he treated his own daughters.

  4. Julie Wittman says:

    Henry VIII was a product of the time he was borne into. He was a teen when all of this power/ responsibility was laid upon him.. So I for one have sympathy for what he was supposed to do. He was selfish, arrogant and cruel but if any one of us had been given such power at a young age would we have handled it better?
    Anne wanted to be Queen she played it she lost when there was no male issue. She was vocal.. I think if she had a son everything would have been different.. But the profound dissapointment for Henry was too much.. He wanted to start over again.. Why an annulment or a divorce was not an option I can not say.

    1. Eva says:

      It is, of course, a great responsibility at such a young age, but I think that anyone could have handled it better than Henry VIII. It is true that as a child he had been spoiled to death, always getting anything he wanted, and that may have played a great role in his behaviour, but I don’t believe that a person’s upbringing and the time they lived in can completely determine the decisions they made. Even in his time, when people were used to having despotic and all-powerful rulers on the throne, a great many people were outraged by the decisions he made. The guy was a horrible menace all by himself.

  5. margaret says:

    I don’t think for one minute that anne would have been safe if a son had been born,she was not the average compliant queen,she did seem to get too involved in henrys business and was getting far too outspoken and arrogant ,I think this was her downfall coupled with the no son and heir issue ,it was the straw that broke the camels back as they say.

  6. Joseja says:

    Ahhhh…love.
    It is defined as: “the act of willing the good of another”. In marriage that would be: for each to will the good of THE other.
    In that, both Henry and Anne were clueless….

  7. JudithRex says:

    I find John Schofield’s book about Thomas Cromwell pretty
    Convincing in his assessment of cromwell’s character.

    Cromwell had no need to spread “propaganda” – Anne
    Was accused by her own people, and Cromwell was
    Not involved initially, nor did he torture a confession out of
    Smeaton, nor did Cromwell force her to say all manner
    of way inappropriate sexual commentary, and of treasonous
    commentary about the King and his life (obvious treason by law she would
    Have known about).

    Henry had grounds to divorce her. He did not have to kill her.
    But by her own admission of what she said, and a confession
    It is obvious things were going on in Anne’s circle that
    damned her. We don’t have all the material, but there is enough
    There to see this can go either way.

    You just can’t ignore the above unless you are intellectually
    Dishonest.

    1. BanditQueen says:

      Yes, Cromwell did not cause Anne to say anything treasonous and sexually inappropriate as she did neither of these things. I do not know what it is you have read but you have the wrong idea about Anne’s fall and her trial. It is unclear if he ordered the torture of Smeaton: the tale of him having him restrained and held and a knotted rope applied to his forehead is from a souce that is not reliable and is hostile. However, Smeaton did claim he had sexual relations with Anne three times and did not retract his confession, causing the arrest and trials of the other four men and the Queen, on trumped up charges.

      Anne was no angel by any stretch of the imagination and she engaged the men at court in the courtly games of the time; but she did not act inapporopriately with them. She did not have sexual relations and the evidence that Cromwell invented was rubbish! Smeaton was said to have been tortured by a second source: more reliable than the first; George Constantine, a servant of Sir Henry Norris said that he had heard that Smeaton had been racked, although he did confess that he could not confirm this. It is unlikely that he was racked, but there are an entire range of milder but painful tortures that could be used to gain a confession. Racking was only used as a last resort when all else failed and Smeaton seems to have given the information very quickly and with little need to apply the harsher tortures.

      Anne barely noticed Smeaton, let alone had sexual relations with him; she even spoke to him harshly for mooning at her around her apartments. He was her employee as a muscician and she would have rewarded him with gifts, but this was normal and he had fine clothes as this was part of his post as a royal position in the inner court and was also favoured by the King. Smeaton was a vulnerable person as he was a foreinger and a commoner and he was targeted to gain information because of this. Cromwell may have been amazed at what he did in fact confess, but it was this that enabled Cromwell to put his initial plot into being. Cromwell was devious and he would do anything to fulfill his purpose. He had some good qualities it is true: he was called the widows helper as they found that he would sort out their affairs for them and get help with their marriage dower rights. Jane Rochford and Mary Boleyn found him helpful. But he was also ruthless and he wanted to further the Kings desires no matter what the cost. Cromwell was very willing to bring Anne down if Henry wanted to get rid of her and she had made a dangerous enemy in Cromwell. Anne may not have been a patroness of Cromwell, but she had been an ally for a time at least and he did promote her marriage to the King and put into law the legal machinary that enabled her to become Queen and be protected as Queen. Unfortunately that same legal framework was used against her.

      Anne made some rather silly mistakes and some dangerous enemies but while she was high in the Kings affections they could not touch her. Once Henry fell out of love with her she no longer had his protection and Cromwell and her enemies could use all sorts of things she had said and done in all innocence to bring her down. Anne’s speach at times could be course and loud; it could be angry and rash, she had put two of the men condemned with her in danger by foolish talk, but attempted to put things right. But she did not plot the Kings death and she did not commit any of the terrible crimes that she was accused off and there is no evidence that points to her guilt. Anne trod on toes; she was bound to get trodden on in return; but that does not disprove the fact that the jury was rigged from the start. Anne did not stand a chance and neither did the men wrongly tried and condemned with her. Some of those who were called upon and questioned must have been her inner circle for such intimate lies to have been claimed in the first place. But the women who were asked about her were most likely pressurised into speaking and for the rest, Cromwell simply invented it all. The dates he claimed do not make any sense as the men were either not present at the times or she was at her lying in after birth and with women only.

      I do not agree that Henry was involved in a plot to bring down the entire Boleyn clan; this I believe is stetching the evidence to its limits; but I do believe that when the rumours arose he rightly ordered a full investigation. Cromwell then took the whole matter too far and those who wanted Anne out of the way gleefully circled around like vultures and assisted in her fall and disgrace or consented to it. The trial juries contain 27 people who are connected to each other in some special way; by kinship; marriage (either as father in law, sister in law, brother in law) the system of patronage which meant that people were indebted to each other through obligations, or via political connections. Some were even related to each other by blood and all of them had some connection to the old order.

      Jane Seymour was representative of a possible return to the old ways of doing things and supporters of Princess Mary rallied to her side. Cromwell had some sympathy for Mary and for the late Queen Katherine and attempted at times to intervene for her. He was more than willing to switch sides to that of the Seymours; he was fickle. But Cromwell had a good teacher: his master Cardinal Wolsey; even learning not to make the error that cost Wolsey his position and his life; making sure he worked to give the King what he wanted. He anticipated the Kings needs and desires and found a way to make them come true. He was indespensible to the King; right up to the time when he made the clumsy blunder of marrying Henry to the wrong bride. Even after his execution, Henry mourned him and missed him and claimed that he had been deceived into having him executed. He called Cromwell his most faithful servant and who can blame him; Cromwell was many things, many things that others hated; but he was good at his job. Cromwell was a fine administrator and he got things done. He took on most of the work of government and this Henry found hard to replace.

      However, I have to state again that Anne did not say anything treasonous: foolish and private yes, but she even tried to put that right. She did not plot against Henry and was not guilty of the charges against her. I am not a great fan of Anne Boleyn; but I have always believed these charges to be nonsense. The fact that others also believed it after she died, people who did not know her; had no reason to sing her praises or fight her corner is also testament to the feeling that this was a shocking act by Henry and a miscarriage of justice.

      By the way John Scoffield give a very good assessment of the life and charactor of Thomas Cromwell and leads to a more rounded and accessible person than that often shown in drama. In the Tudors, I actually believe they had his character spot on.

    2. Claire says:

      Well, I must be intellectually dishonest then because I completely disagree with you. Anne was not accused by her own people – who are you talking about? We do not know what happened during Smeaton’s interrogation and how much psychological pressure he was put under. It was rumoured that he had been racked, but no injuries were reported when he was executed. Anne did not “say all manner of way inappropriate sexual commentary”, she said nothing at all “sexual” and she actually reprimanded Norris, Weston and Smeaton. She also did not get involved in “treasonous commentary” about the King. If you’re referring to her “dead men’s shoes” comment, she was reprimanding Norris and it was not used against her in the indictments or the trial. She was not charged with committing treason by discussing the King’s death. If you’re referring to her words to Jane regarding Henry’s sexual problems, they were in confidence and she was not spreading gossip. She was not charged with impugning the King’s issue. You can’t have it both ways, you can’t say that Cromwell ahd no need to spread propaganda or make up the charges when the things you mention are things that were not even mentioned by Cromwell.

      And I haven’t got a clue what you mean by “But by her own admission of what she said, and a confession” – we have no confession from Anne.

      “We don’t have all the material, but there is enough There to see this can go either way.” And, funnily enough, we only have the Crown’s side of what was “going on in Anne’s circle that damned her”. I assume that you believe all the charges then, and that Anne was plotting the King’s death and sleeping with all five men.

      1. margaret says:

        Anne fell out of favour with the most important and dangerous one of all HENRY!

  8. Miladyblue says:

    Interesting choice of words, that Henry would warn Jane about “meddling” by using the threat of what had happened to the “last Queen” who so “meddled, that this was said to a woman who was not very secure.

    Sure she was “not very secure” – she had not yet popped out the highly desired son. Had Jane lived longer than the two weeks (or thereabouts) post childbirth, she could have probably gotten away with some pretty outrageous statements and behavior, especially if she DID produce not only the desired son, but more sons.

    Ah, Henry Tudor – what a piece of work!

    1. Kaz says:

      Thankyou Claire for this commentary….I’ve been wondering about what other famous royals that knew Anne Boleyn and her family had thought about this terrible terrible end. So sorry as I’m new to the Tudor history, but I always remember a lovely letter from a European Queen telling Anne Boleyn’s father how wonderful Anne is, when Anne was a lady in waiting to her I think. I kept wondering what Anne Boleyn’s Queens that she was lady in waiting to would think of this horror story. I’m very happy and grateful for this post – it looks like the people that truly knew Anne Boleyn knew this was some crazy fabrication by one crazy man named Henry.

      I’m not sure if psycho Henry would have divorced Anne Boleyn if he could…..from what I understand so far, he broke with the Catholic Pope to get divorced from Queen Katherine of Aragon, and rightly so he did not execute the lady because most people agree she was an amazing lady with a very religious life. If Henry did all of that and then decided to divorce Anne Boleyn, I think a lot of people would think Henry was a joke, no one would have taken him seriously after that.

      I think yes, no matter what the future held for any of the ladies who were married to the king, Henry would get rid of them one way or another if he did not ‘like’ them (whatever the word ‘like’ meant to that monster!!)

      Thank God for education and the freedom to get jobs for women of our time, no need for us to support men like that anymore!!!

      A side note – I like Queen Anne Boleyn because I think she didn’t once sell herself short, not even to save her life.

      Kind regards and hope everyone had a good Anne Boleyn anniversary day,
      Kaz.

      1. Miladyblue says:

        Hi Kaz,

        Though you are new to Tudor history, you do have a good grasp of it so far. Here are some little tidbits for your files, if you would like them:

        The Queen who spoke so highly of Anne during her time as lady in waiting was Margaret of Austria, daughter of the Holy Roman Emperor. She was regent of the Netherlands for her father while he was attending imperial business, and remained regent until her death in 1530 for her underage nephew, who became Emperor Charles V of the Holy Roman Empire, and King of Spain. Another Queen who probably had good things to say about Anne as a Lady in Waiting was Queen Claude of France, wife of King Francis I.

        Margaret of Austria’s thoughts on Anne and her fate are not known (to me, anyway) and were probably mixed, especially since Margaret had been married to Katharine of Aragon’s only brother, Juan.

        Henry’s behavior was deplorable to ALL of his wives. Katharine of Aragon was divorced by him (though she fought him tooth and nail) because she had multiple miscarriages, and only one living child, who grew up to become Queen Mary I. The reason the divorce (which Henry wanted to be an annulment) was not approved by the Pope was because Katharine of Aragon was from a very powerful, connected family. Her elder sister, Juana, was the mother of Emperor Charles V of the Holy Roman Empire, and the Emperor had the Pope as his virtual prisoner.

        The point which offended Queen Katharine so much was that Henry wanted their marriage annulled, as in, did not exist in the eyes of God and the Church. She was the widow of Henry’s elder brother, Arthur, who died a few months after he and Katharine had married. Henry cited a verse in the Bible, that stated to take the wife of one’s brother was unclean, and they would be childless. This was highly insulting to Katharine’s honor, since she said her first marriage was unconsummated (and she stated so, in a public appeal to Henry) and thus, the Bible verse does NOT apply to their marriage. IF she had agreed, this would have sullied her honor forever (in her mind, and by the standards of the time) and made her daughter, the very worthy Princess Mary, illegitimate.

        Henry defied the Pope to get Anne, who was, at first, reluctant to have anything to do with Henry, since she had ambitions to marry a nobleman, and live out her life as a woman of her station. Henry, however, would not take no for an answer, since he just HAD to have her, and had high hopes that they would have sons together.

        Anne’s primary “flaw” was that she was very much an intelligent woman, with a good education, was travelled (spending time in the Netherlands and France). She had a charisma that drew many a male admirer to her side, which was used against her when Henry decided he had had enough of her. She also, unfortunately, had a quick temper and a sharp tongue, and little tolerance for fools.

        When Anne “failed” to become a sweet, quiet, docile wife after her marriage to Henry, as well as the mother of the promised son or sons, that was it. In three years, she went from most beloved to first Queen Consort executed.

        That Henry used THAT particular fact against Jane Seymour, when she was much milder in her behavior anyway, I think, justifies your calling Henry “psycho.”

        I think, however, that “Spoiled Brat” would have fit Henry a lot better. The concepts of a sociopath, or a monster are more modern labels, though there were rulers who definitely fit the term of monster, even in Henry’s time.

        Henry had not initially been raised to be a King – that was his elder brother Arthur’s role, and Arthur, according to sources, had taken his education to heart. When Arthur died, however, Henry was the only surviving son, and so, was thrust into the spotlight as Heir Apparent. So he did not learn the lessons his father, King Henry VII had deemed important, as well as Arthur did. Makes you wonder what Henry VIII felt if Henry VII, who was probably unhappy with the “lesser” of his sons taking over as Heir, said anything to that effect, such as, “Well, I guess you’ll have to do as King, even if you’re not as good as Arthur was.”

        Henry became King of England, which meant he suddenly had a lot of wealth and the absolute power or a King, and I think it went to his head. Whatever a King wants, a King gets, and that was that. Woe unto anyone who said, “No,” even a potential wife.

        1. Kaz says:

          Thankyou for the insight, Miladyblue, that was fantastic. I stumbled upon Tudor history by fate I must say, a few years ago now – I had a trying time in my work life and I must say it was as though Queen Anne Boleyn’s ghost was allowed to visit me and she led me to this path as though to say ‘learn from me, don’t make the same mistakes that I did!’. Otherwise I would never have known about her or the Tudor reigning period or this website!….I’ve always loved royal families from an innocent light (the castles, the lovely clothes, the beautiful traditions) and I was brought up on Cinderella and the ‘happily ever after’ story if one married a royal member of the family! The Tudor history shocked me quite a lot as you may understand, because it was truly was a story of the dangers of mixing business with pleasure, or what I think best sums it up, politics with love. I’ve mainly learnt about the Tudor period from this website, I think it’s the best one out there.

          Oh yes, I really like Margaret of Austria because she is the one that said the famous words (that I remember every day in my professional life) -“trust in those that offer you service, and in the end my maidens, you’ll stand amongst the ranks of those who have been deceived”.

          Kind regards,
          Kaz

  9. Beth says:

    “Anne was not accused by her own people-who are you talking about?”

    I believe JudithRex is referring to Elizabeth Somerset, Countess of Worcester, Nan Cobham, Jane Rochford and “one maid more”. Cromwell claimed that Anne Boleyn’s serving women could not hide her “incontinent living”. John Hussee, agent of the Lord Deputy of Calais and factotum of Lord Lisle declared “as to the queen’s accusers, my lady of Worcester is said to be the principal.” He acknowledged there were a few other accusers, including “Nan Cobham, with one maid more” but referred to Elizabeth as “the first ground” when it came to raising charges against Anne. So yes, she was accused by her own people.

    Claire, you say that “Anne did not “say all manner of way inappropriate sexual commentary”, she said nothing at all “sexual” and she actually reprimanded Norris, Weston and Smeaton.” But this is not correct. Jane Rochford confessed that Anne told her about Henry VIII’s sexual prowess (“he has neither the skill nor the potency” or so it goes). Anne was bordering on treason.

    “I assume that you believe all the charges then, and that Anne was plotting the King’s death and sleeping with all five men.”

    I don’t know why would you attack someone’s view like this, Claire. If JudithRex believes all the charges laid against Anne Boleyn, that’s her choice. She has a right to have her own opinion. Personally, I don’t believe that Anne was guilty but then again, I wasn’t there so everything is possible.

    1. Claire says:

      I’m not attacking, I was asking for clarification, and to be honest I was getting a bit fed up of all the aggressive comments from Judith, which are upsetting people here. I think it’s unfair to accuse people of being “intellectually dishonest” if they don’t agree with you, and also calling them mad, and I was asking for clarification re who Judith was talking about so I can answer and debate.

      I mentioned Anne’s words to Jane, but they were not used in the indictments against Anne or at her trial, to accuse her of treason, so I’m not sure what you mean. Anne was not spreading gossip that impugned the King’s issue, she was confiding in her sister-in-law, and there is no proof that it spread any further until Jane mentioned it during interrogation.

      Regarding the women, we actually don’t know what evidence was produced and who gave it. John Hussey listed Lady Worcester, Anne Cobham and “one maid more” but we don’t know who they were. Justice Spelman, who reported on the trial, made no mention of Lady Worcester, only the late Lady Wingfield, but she was conveniently dead. It is not known who “Nan Cobham” was – the various theories are outlined in my article https://www.theanneboleynfiles.com/anne-boleyns-ladies-in-waiting/.

      Everything is possible, but I believe in discussing things rationally and using primary sources to help us, rather than making sweeping statements and saying horrible things about people if they don’t agree with you.

      1. Jenny says:

        Sorry to interrupt you mid debate Claire, but may I ask a question? Sorry if you have already stated this else where in the conversation but I will admit that I’ve skipped over a few of the ‘rantier’ debates on the page 😀

        But is there any theories on the motives of the ladies who gave evidence against Anne? I find this all fascinating.

        1. Claire says:

          Don’t worry, I’ve decided to just leave that debate alone!

          The ladies who are often mentioned in regards to May 1536 are Lady Bridget Wingfield, Elizabeth Browne (Countess of Worcester), Nan Cobham and Jane Boleyn. Lady Wingfield was dead by this time but it was said that she’d made some kind of deathbed confession about Anne’s past, although we don’t know what was said. She and Anne had been very close at one point and had corresponded, and Anne and Henry had stayed with the Wingfields on autumn 1532.

          Lady Worcester had allegedly had an argument with her brother, Sir Anthony Browne. He had questioned her on what he saw as her immoral behaviour, and the general gist of their altercation is that she lashed out, defending herself by saying that she wasn’t as bad as the queen. According to Lancelot de Carles, secretary to the French ambassador who would have been fed news by Cromwell, Lady Worcester said:
          “You can (she said) get the story from Mark.
          “But I don’t want to forget to tell you
          “The one thing that seems the worst of all to me:
          “Is that her brother often had camal knowledge
          “Of her in her bed.”

          As Eric Ives points out, Lady Worcester was not named by Cromwell in any of the proceedings. I have to agree with Ives’ view on the matter:

          “This sounds very much like exaggeration of a altercation in which Anthony Browne criticized his sister’s involvement in the lively society of the queen’s chamber and she hit back that she was no more, or even less, of a flirt than the queen.”

          As Ives again points out, Justice Spelman does not name Lady Worcester in his report of the trial and would surely have done so if she had given evidence or had been mentioned. He just says that “all the evidence was of bawdry and lechery” and then names Lady Wingfield as being the one who “disclosed” the matter. She couldn’t refute any of it because she was dead. The letter that was said to have been used is this one from Anne to Lady Wingfield:

          “Madam, I pray you as you love me, to give credence to my servant this bearer, touching your removing and any thing else that he shall tell you on my behalf; for I will desire you to do nothing but that shall be for your wealth. And, madam, though at all time I have not showed the love that I bear you as much as it was in deed, yet now I trust that you shall well prove that I loved you a great deal more than I fair for. And assuredly, next mine own mother I know no woman alive that I love better, and at length, with God’s grace, you shall prove that it is unfeigned. And I trust you do know me for such a one that I will write nothing to comfort you in your trouble but I will abide by it as long as I live. And therefore I pray you leave your indiscreet trouble, both for displeasing of God and also for displeasing of me, that doth love you so entirely. And trusting in God that you will thus do, I make an end. With the ill hand of
          Your own assured friend during my life,
          Anne Rochford”
          It is impossible to know what the letter was about or what Lady Wingfield had said about Anne.

          There is no evidence that Jane Boleyn provided any other evidence than saying that Anne had confided in her about Henry’s sexual problems. With regards to Nan Cobham, we don’t know for sure who she was, what she said or why she said it. Eric Ives believes the other mystery woman to have been Margery Horsman, a member of Anne’s household, but we do not know for sure and, again, have no details about what was said.

          It is fascinating, particularly when we consider that Catherine Howard’s lady, Jane Boleyn, was found guilty of treason for helping and covering up her mistress’s adultery. If Anne’s women had known that the Queen was committing adultery or treason then they would be guilty of at least misprision of treason, so I find it telling that none of them got into trouble and that some of them, like Margery Horsman, went on to serve Jane Seymour.

      2. margaret says:

        I for one do not think Judith has made any aggressive remarks ,her remarks are unbiased and objective which is the way people should view historical persons because no knows what really took place in the time before her execution,i personally think more events happened then we will ever know about ie documents lost ect,anne should not have been discussing henry with anyone ,certainly not her sister in law or her brother ,that was out of order and reckless as history knows and look what happened,these two George and jane were her subjects as her other sibling mary was also,The dead mens shoes remark was treasonous and to say the least was a downright dangerous thing to say to one of her subjects ,ie Norris everything was more than likekly gossiped about and anne should not have put herself in the position she did ,in other words she should have acted like a queen with dignity which she clearly did not and maybe cut out a lot of the courtly love act and which ultimately got her into a lot of trouble

  10. Beth says:

    I don’t know what Judith did to upset people here. I can only refer to this particular comment. She didn’t call you or anyone else ‘intellectually dishonest’, she said that it would have been ‘intellectually dishonest’ to ignore all of the available evidence. She didn’t call anyone ‘mad’ here, so i don’t know why do you bring this up.

    Exactly, we don’t know what evidence the women who served Anne gave. But we know that they testified something (Lady Worcester was ‘the first ground’ and so on) so, again, your statement that we don’t know who gave the evidence is misleading.

    Of course we know who the women were. While identities of ‘Nan Cobham’ and ‘one maid more’ remain unknown, we know who Countess of Worcester was. She was one of Anne’s closest servants (she gave her some money if I recall correctly).

    Yes, I believe that a healthy debate is good. Don’t get me wrong, but you often get offended when people disagree with you. History is a living subject so people will disagree with each other. The available evidence allows many different interpretations and no one has a monopoly on the truth.

    1. Claire says:

      She did call someone mad the other day. I don’t get offended when people disagree with me, I can handle it and I expect it with running the site, I love debating things with others, that’s how we learn. BanditQueen is a good example, we don’t agree on certain things but we have healthy and enjoyable debate, as I do with others, but I do get upset when other people here come under fire and things resort to name calling or offensive remarks.

    2. Sofia says:

      JudithRex said “You just can’t ignore the above unless you are intellectually
      Dishonest” so she was calling people intellectually dishonest if they didn’t agree with her comments so it’s her saying that people shouldn’t disagree with her.

      1. JudithRex says:

        as that is not what I said then I will have to say no. 🙂

  11. JudithRex says:

    I was wrong to object to the term “propaganda”. I did so as it has a negative connotation,
    but it is in fact correctly used here.

  12. JudithRex says:

    “I find it rather telling that Henry VIII knew that it was ‘the done thing’ to procure false witnesses to condemn a prisoner.”

    yes, it was clear that More was the victim of someone’s perjury as he so eloquently defended himself in his trial.

    But Anne talked too much in the tower so not sure how that relates? the confession by Smeaton was before the tower so not sure how it relates either? do you mean the way Norris said he was tricked into confessing and withdrew it? (which I find fascinating. what did he say?)

  13. BanditQueen says:

    Henry Norris did not say he was tricked into confessing, he did not withdraw a confession as he never made one. In fact Henry Norris was given an opportunity by the King himself to save his life and confess and denied it and would not have confessed as it touched on his honour and that of the Queen. Anne said a number of things in the Tower that do not make any sense at all as they are the ramblings of a frightened and innocent woman, distressed and not even knowing the full extent of what she was accused. Smeaton’s confession is believed to be the thing that led to the arrests of the other men and to the arrest of the Queen; Henry having most likely been told Smeaton had confessed at the joust on May Day when he left abruptly and later gave the orders for the arrests of Norris and Anne’s brother. Anne was taken the next day, and please excuse if I get the date wrong; but the others were added a couple of days later as other things came out. But they all relate back to the arrest of Mark Smeaton and the so called juries of Oyer and Terminor made to establish if there was a case to answer and treason indictments to be brought. Cromwell and the juries all agreed on what the charges were and it seems that some of the findings at these supposed that the accused would automatically be found guilty.

    Before you respond, Judith I suggest that you read the available books on the fall of Anne Boleyn and make your response a more knowledge based one than you normally do.

    1. Claire says:

      Norris’s servant, George Constantine, wrote of how Norris’s chaplain told him that Norris had confessed but at his trial he said that William Fitzwilliam had deceived him into doing so and he pleaded “not guilty”. See the bottom of p64 of Constantine’s notes – https://archive.org/stream/archaeologiaormi23sociuoft#page/64/mode/2up. Other sources say that only Smeaton confessed and Sir Edward Baynton was concerned about this:

      “this shallbe to advertyse yow that here is myche communycacion that nomam will confesse any thynge agaynst her, but allonly Marke of any actuell thynge. Wherefore (in my folishe conceyte) it shulde myche toche the King’s honor if it shulde no farther appeere. And I cannot beleve but that the other two bee as…culpapull as ever was hee.”

      He felt that it would affect the King’s reputation if only Smeaton confessed.

      Yes, I agree with, BanditQueen, Anne was hysterical and rambling in the Tower, trying to figure out what on earth she was in the Tower for. She kept running over conversations she’d had with people.

      Please let’s try and keep things friendly here, it’s getting quite heated now – phew!

  14. BanditQueen says:

    Thank you for your link: I know now what you mean: he may have confessed not meaning to and been deceived, then recanted by pleading not guilty at his trial; just as he had declared he was not guilty to the King. Yes, readin the above it all makes sense. But if his chaplain reported this to his servant George Constantine: does this mean he confessed under the seal of confession and the chaplain is repeating what he should not have? I really must read more about this George Constantine: he sounds as if he was a trustworthy servant, someone to confide in and a valuable source of information for this period and insider during the period of Anne’s trial and fall. Thanks again for the link.

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