Did Anne Boleyn and George Boleyn commit incest?

Posted By on February 18, 2019

Yes, time for another question about Anne Boleyn! You lords and ladies are keeping me very busy.

I thought I’d better not include the word “incest” on YouTube as it might attract the wrong kind of viewers and subscribers, or bring down the wrath of the YouTube gods on me, so I’ve used “unnatural relationship” as a euphemism.

Did they really commit incest? What was the evidence used for the incest allegation? Was the deformed foetus evidence of incest? These are all questions I receive and questions I explore in this latest video.

If you prefer to read articles rather than watch videos, I’ve included some links below the video for further reading.

By the way, don’t forget to enter our 10 Year Anniversary Giveaway. You can find out all the details in the video at https://youtu.be/-G_gRzdyP6Q

12 thoughts on “Did Anne Boleyn and George Boleyn commit incest?”

  1. Michael Wright says:

    First of all I would like to apologize for what I posted on YouTube. I accidentally hit send before I edited it and it may not make a whole lot of sense. I just want to say thank you for addressing this Claire. This is such a terrible accusation and the fact that it is still hanging out there after so many centuries is beyond awful. If Henry did this he was more of a monster than I ever thought he was.

  2. MsDoone says:

    I believe they were innocent of this crime.
    Understanding that Anne fully believed she would soon be meeting her maker, Anne swore she was innocent in her last confession to Archbishop Cranmer. Further she insisted that the Tower Constable, William Kingston witness her confession. That is not the action of a guilty person. Even the scaffold Anne she did not admit to adultury, incest or treason. I’ve studied Tudor history for decades and haven’t read a shred of evidence that would convince me this evil gossip was true. On the other hand it seems if one intended to marry again 11 days after having their spouse executed one would need something extreme to justify their actions.

  3. Christine says:

    Incest has always disgusted and filled one with revulsion and horror, so yes I believe Anne had that charge added onto her list of crimes as a way to really make everyone believe, at home and abroad what a vile creature she was, so vile that no decent man could ever satisfy her, it was a way to turn the tide of public sympathy from her towards her betrayed spouse, I think the idea could have come from Cromwell or maybe him and the King hatched it together, certainly the stain of adultery was not enough to rid the King of her, plotting his death was however, but they wouldn’t stop there, lets degrade the queen even further and make out she’s an unnatural sexual deviant, lets throw in the charge of incest as well, whatever Anne and George both thought when they heard of it must have made them realise to what extent Henry would go, to rid himself of his queen, they must have been sickened by the accusation and I’m not surprised he read out the note aloud in court, about the Kings alleged impotency, it was his way of showing his utter contempt of the court the King, the whole nonsense of the so called legal proceedings against them both and of the other four accused men, if we consider Annes very virtue which she was famous for and which after all, had won her a crown, does not tally with the later accusations against her, she was very pious and those who lived with her, who knew her were well aware of her piety, she had a strong sense of moral’s and her household was run with that in mind, yet the charges made her household look like Soddom and Gommorah, how is it possible such a virtuous pious woman could indulge in such disgusting unnatural behaviour? The bible itself condemns such an act, why would Anne risk the fires of hell the wrath of the almighty for a quickie with her own brother? there was no gossip about her close relationship with her brother when they were first at court and her name was linked with Henry Percy and Thomas Wyatt, an attractive vivacious girl does not need affection from her own brother when she has her fair share of admirers, later the King was to join that circle, George himself was known as a bit of a ladies man very handsome, as talented and bright as his sister, he was later married and we can safely assume he had a healthy sex life, such people do not have sexual relations with their own siblings, they have no need to with plenty of variety around, it is a very good point which an early biographer of the queen brought up once, incest was present in very poor households where the families lived in hovels of about eight to ten people in a household, conditions were poor and there was drunkeness and maybe prostitution, thus children growing up had no moral guidance of right or wrong, their sad world of hopelessness and despair was a world away from the cultured glittering courts of England and Europe, both Anne and George had come into the world as members of the country gentry and their mother was an aristocrat, they were educated and mixed with plenty of people their own age, they both served abroad and went to court, George had gone to university, their backgrounds do not make them likely to commit incest, in ancient Eygpt it was considered normal for families to sleep together and have children, they had to keep their bloodline pure as they were descended so they believed from their gods, they had no idea the genetic abnormalities that occurred when they had offspring, Tutankhamen was a weak deformed child who had scoliosis and died young, though he could have been murdured, he had to walk with sticks and the photo construction of his face and body looks pitiful, no doubt he had other problems too, his parents had been brother and sister, leaping into the future times had definitely changed, Miss Gregory’s theory that Anne was ruthless enough to sleep with her brother in order to conceive is plain stupid, it features in her tiresome book ‘The Other Boleyn Girl’, she does her a very grave injustice that she thinks this most pious of all queens would sink so low as to try to get a child by her own brother, it makes good fiction that’s all, and that’s all Gregory’s books are, but there is no other historian that actually believe Anne slept with George therefore she is unique in that, one can only imagine the despair these two people felt as they sat despondent in their prisons, for they knew the king meant to destroy them both, the proceedings against Anne were very shabbily bought, as Claire mentions the indictments do not add up, as she just was not present when she was meant to be with George or Norris or any of the others, people were well aware of this and there were mumblings at court, she did not know it but there were many who had sympathy for her, as Henry was beginning to be seen as acting unfairly towards his queen, his jovial behaviour looked suspicious and he was going off every night wining and dining Jane Seymour, after the queens death there were still mumblings and in fact Henrys reputation suffered a nose dive, because when he tried to find a foreign bride after Seymours death several young continentals turned him down , it says a lot about this sham of a trial and the awful accusations that were thrown at Anne Boleyn, when her avowed enemy Eustace Chapyus remarked that he did not think she was guilty of the offences, the other charge plotting to kill the King makes it really laughable, why should a queen wish to lose her protector when without him she would be at the mercy of her enemies, she was no powerful woman in her own right and there were Lady Mary and her supporters, there were many just waiting to bring down the whole Boleyn faction, how could she and one of her lovers or all of them ever succeed in killing the King and ruling the country, Anne was outspoken and bold, she could be rash and vindictive but she was not foolish enough to try to depose Englands King, it would have been a failed coup and she would have brought death on herself, and others, why should her alleged lovers who all had been at court a long time and had wives and families risk their very lives? The charges were utterly despicable and the charge of incest ludicrous in itself, proclaims to the world the innocence of this most maligned and slandered queen.

    1. Globerose says:

      Ah me Christine, you conjour up a quite haunting image of the doomed figures of Anne and George sitting in their cells, “knowing their King meant to destroy them”. He’d let in the circling wolves and dogs of faction: and abandoned them to their fate. I can see them. Thanks for this.

      1. Christine says:

        Thankyou Globerose.

  4. Banditqueen says:

    Even George Bernard who believes Anne was guilty of some of the charges against her, with Henry Norris and Mark Smeaton, said that the last person you would sleep with, even if you were desperate for a child, would be your own brother. Now incest did exist and does exist because there is a detailed study done on this terrible dark world during the time of Elizabeth I and we know of Ancient Royals who used incest to keep their blood pure. However, we really don’t have any evidence that Anne slept with anyone let alone her own brother. Anne was never alone and although George and Anne had a close relationship but they couldn’t have slept together and please don’t get me started on Philippa Gregory as I want to go to bed. Anne didn’t have the alleged deformed foetus either and she was never alone. Nobody was brought up for helping her have all of these men and as Claire said having them sleep together because Henry may have been impotent is complete nonsense. Henry would very quickly work this out.

    If Anne was going to be brought down on these terrible charges, then the name of this evil woman had to be blackened. If she could commit adultery and incest she could do anything and she was also plotting the Kings death. The more evil she was painted the more people would believe she was guilty and Henry her innocent victim. If Henry was her victim, he was very much to be pitied and he was probably under her spell as well, although she wasn’t accused of witchcraft. Anne had to be shown as a shrew and a whore who had plotted her way to the throne and was now planning with her lovers to destroy this good King, whom the people loved, just as she had destroyed their beloved Queen Katherine and turned Henry against his beloved wife and daughter. If she was capable of incest, she was capable of anything. The Boleyn name did need to be dirtied in order to bring her whole family down. It was a dreadful set up. Susanna Libscomb shows that this was about sexual dominance. Henry had to be shown as masculine in everything as men did and he had to be satisfied in his marriage as well as his wife. He as a man had to be in control and if he wasn’t in control of his wife, then how could he run a country? Anne’s adultery challenged this control over her and his household and defamed him as a man. However, if she was totally wild sexually with many men and doing every vile thing going, including incest, plus was involved with many partners, then the King wasn’t expected to control her. If his wife was a sexual predator and a wild beast then she was unnatural and he was being used by her. In addition she was conspiring to murder him and probably pass of a love child as his heir. The term she wolf probably came to mind as in Isabella of France and her lover Roger Mortimer who murdered Edward II. Only Anne was allegedly going further by be getting a child by any means possible, including sleeping with her own brother.

    It would be shocking to hear these charges and they were so bad that people may well believe them. We can say tosh, but these charges were fatal for six innocent people. Of course these things were invented with a bit of conversation here and conversation there, twisted to add some spice and believability to these pornographic allegations. Even Chapuys couldn’t believe his ears, so out of character for Anne and George this was and the evidence was so preposterous. There was nothing offered to support these lies. However, the trial was rigged and loaded with anyone who hated the Boleyn faction or those under their patronage. Anne and George gave good accounts of themselves but were found guilty. One day later George and the other four men were beheaded and on 19th May 1536 Anne followed, being beheaded by a sword.

    The rest of the family I don’t think really ever recovered from these terrible events and the scandal has followed them to this very day. Thomas Boleyn did go back to Court, but that was out of need and duty, not because he didn’t mourn or love his wronged children. However, I believe both he and Elizabeth suffered in their health and mind and spirit and the loss of their beautiful, talented and intelligent children in the prime of life in such a violent and shameful way destroyed them, leading to their premature deaths. Yes, they were not a bad age but they were still affected by Anne and George being killed in this way by the King that they had all served faithfully for years. The shock added to the deterioration of Elizabeth Boleyn’s health and she died in 1538. Thomas died a year later. Henry paid tribute to Thomas when he died but I can’t believe his cruel actions against Anne and George and the others didn’t contribute to his demise.

  5. Tanya Stark says:

    Absolutely not! I think that Anne decided to be as tenacious as her predecessor Catalina of Aragon and was not going quietly. (personally, I wish both ladies did as Anne of Cleves did) Who knew where Henry’s mental state was going? My man “Crum” (sorry, this is how I got to your site with a Cromwell reference way back then and you can also thank Hilary Mantel for my wandering in Wolf Hall) had to make charges that would stick and bring Anne down otherwise, Anne would have “unmade” him or Henry would have done to him what he did to Cardinal Wolsey. All I know is “Crum” has some major atoning to do for all the false evidence presented against Anne, George, Smeaton, Norris, Brereton and Weston. After all, this was not the court of Francis II.

  6. Sarah Hayse-Gregson says:

    In this day and age we would call this a “spin”. Henry had to justify his reason for getting rid of Anne. Unfortunately she had no clout like her predecessor who was a princess with back up. Henry manipulated the public with the excuse that God was punishing him for marrying his brother’s widow. With Anne however, who I’m led to believe, was not popular for bringing down the rightful queen ( England had one religion and that was dictated by the Holy Roman Empire) he had to think of an excuse and got his “spin doctors” working. Anne unfortunately did not have the might of a royal family to protect her and therefore suffered, along with her brother and friends of the worst kind of rumour mongering. They didn’t stand a chance.

  7. Sheila says:

    Thank you Claire for covering this and the other allegations against Anne and George in detail..One detail always gives me pause for thought, and it was touched on in “Anne of the Thousand Days”. It is the fact that Anne had alibis for the allegations against her. Was this carelessness or a means of providing an escape route for an unexplained purpose? Both Anne and George well understood that if Henry sought their destruction they had no hope of acquittal. Therefore did the one who drafted the charges leave doubt for future generations to “judge for the best”? I also think that George read aloud in court the note about Henry’s impotence in defiance of orders because he knew that he was doomed, It was advance revenge.

    1. Banditqueen says:

      Anne of 1000 Days used a dramatic device for this, having Henry who in reality was elsewhere, listen to the trial and with Mark Smeaton testifying. Henry bursts in and starts questioning him. After Smeaton reveals his torture, Henry pretends to look suspicious and then gives Smeaton a barrage of questions about when and where it all took place. Smeaton flustered at the King questioning him ( well who wouldn’t be) throws out random places Westminster, Greenwich, etc and as you say Anne is oddly given alibies by Henry “She was with me at Westminster” and so on. Henry of course didn’t do this but the film makes a very valid point, there were times Henry knew he was with his wife in the same apartments and she couldn’t have been with another man. In the movie Henry is totally unaware of the pre trial plot and leaves it all to Cromwell. Henry is torn about her guilt and condemned her for lying about her guilt in another imagined scene where he confronted Anne in the Tower. Among other stuff she screamed at him about sleeping with half his Court but Elizabeth is his. She tells him to get a son on pale Jane Seymour if he can but her Elizabeth will be a greater Queen than any son of his. This of course is very much made up but it gives Henry a fake reason to execute his wife. Yes, at least one third or more show Anne was nowhere near the men in question and vice versa and at other times she was pregnant or in confinement with baby Elizabeth. This accounts for two thirds or more and the others are very flimsy.

      If you wanted it believed that the Queen was guilty of treason ad well as adultery and her family, who were not entirely popular, no, brought down, then you paint her as badly as possible as you want the King to look like an innocent victim not a week pawn. Henry was meant to show masculinity and sexual dominance over his wife and control his household. He already has a daughter and late first wife defying him and now a second doing the same. He shouldn’t look a fool and adultery would show he couldn’t control his wife. That’s how a man and a King was meant to be. However, if Anne was shown as a woman nobody could control with wild and unnatural animalistic appetites with lots of men and she was evil and capable of anything; the charges of incest did that, destroying her reputation completely. If people heard the details of all this in a public trial it would make them sympathetic to the King. That was the idea. However, it didn’t quite go to plan. Anne and George gave good accounts of themselves and many in the 2000 strong crowd had sympathy for them. Then the paper was produced on which lay the accusations that George and Anne had laughed at Henry, his performance in bed and his clothes. Henry was being embarrassed as George read the paper out. However, there is no evidence that Henry was impotent at that time, other than Anne’s moaning but that is not evidence. Anne wouldn’t have risked pregnancy by her brother or anyone else, especially if at any time Henry did have a problem. He would know he wasn’t the father. Anne and George were not the sort of people to engage in illicit and illegal sex and their own standards and religious beliefs would have held them back from a vile sin. This act would be totally shameful and horrifying, but it was the one invented charge which made the others believable.

  8. Christine says:

    Yes I can see the film makers coming to their own conclusions about Annes adultery, by having the King interrogating Smeaton and as you say his flustered random replies, but that is only their conclusion and in reality Smeaton had already confessed to his adultery with the queen possibly under torture, or the threat of torture, and of course they had the King behind the door at Annes trial, they made him look like a schoolboy listening at the keyhole, then he visited Anne in her apartments, berated her and she threw in her lot for good measure, but we know it never happened, Hollywood does like to add events or miss events for dramatic licence, it made good drama having the King indulging in a slanging match with his queen but in fact, that was something Henry V111 never done, he never saw his young fifth queen after she was arrested, he never saw any of his one time favourites or any other noble he had condemned after they were arrested, he never saw Wolsey after he went to the north, he never saw Lady Pole who was in the Tower yet he made sure she lived in comfort, Norah Lofts suggests this was because Henry autocrat though he was, had a sentimental streak and was aware he may well soften coming face to face with his victims again, in fact the only monarch of ours we know who has done that was James 1st who visited Guy Fawkes in his cell, that was unprecedented as it was just not done, but James was curious as to why they had considered such a dreadful crime, the film at the beginning showed the messenger arriving at Hampton Court and the King all anxious asked him what the verdict was, I laughed when I saw that, because we all know it was a foregone conclusion, Henry V111 and Cromwell had deternined she would be found guilty, he had said so to Jane Seymour that very day that his queen would be condemned, his very actions in fact are astonishing and I think somewhat naive, when he was trying to garner sympathy from the public yet was acting in such a way as to make people suspicious, and in fact it was the queen who ended up having most of the sympathy, the headsman had already been requested and was on his way, coming back to the trial and the places where Anne was said to have committed adultery, in a court today the judge would have thrown out the case as there was no actual proof of adultery or plotting to kill the King, incest between her and her brother etc, she defended herself nobly and was able to prove she was somewhere else on each occasion, anyone listening was aware it was not a fair trial as she was merely condemned on scurrilous gossip, there were no witnesses and she had no defence, merely herself, today we complain about justice but at least today if a queen was charged with adultery and treason, she would have a bevy of lawyers the finest in the land, Anne had none and it was thus with George, they were both condemned on hearsay, the sanctimonious jurors knew it themselves but had no choice they had to condemn this most controversial of queens, it was shocking and unprecedented it had never happened in England before, a queen consort on trial for her life, what was more shocking was the choice of execution, the punishment for a queen who had committed treason was death by the flames or the axe, but no one must have thought she would actually be burnt, it was a very ignoble ending for a woman who had worn the crown of England, in fact she was decapitated by the skilled French swordsman, neither were her alleged lovers to suffer the dreadful death reserved soley for traitors, that of hanging drawing and quartering, they all had the much more merciful axe even that lowly youth Mark Smeaton, in Henry V111’s need to have the queen removed he made sure the blood that would be spilled would at least flow quietly, he must have soothed his conscience somewhat by telling himself they all had a most merciful ending, hoe God must have been pleased with him!

  9. rose says:

    paul friedmann gives a concise explanation for the accusations. Cromwell was in danger from different directions and needed to oust Anne.

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