Did Anne Boleyn get what she deserved? No!

Apr26,2024

Every year, when I start sharing about the events that led up to the execution of Anne Boleynn in the spring of 1536, I receive comments like “she got her just desserts”, “pride comes before a fall”, “Karma”, “She deserved everything she got”, and “she played a game and lost”, and the like.

What do I think about these comments and what’s my answer to them?…

Transcript:

Every year, when I start sharing about the events that led up to the execution of Anne Boleyn in the spring of 1536, I receive comments like “she got her just desserts”, “pride comes before a fall”, “Karma”, “She deserved everything she got”, and “she played a game and lost”, and the like.

I can’t say I’m shocked by them, as they’re pretty predictable now, but I’m always disappointed in them. OK, so disappointed just doesn’t cover it. I’m horrified by them.

And it’s not just because of my personal views on Anne Boleyn and what happened to her, it’s because these comments aren’t about a fictional character, a baddie created by someone’s imagination, they’re about a real person. It’s a bit like when I read comments by keyboard warriors on social media spouting nastiness and bigotry, comments they’d never make if that person was in front of them, they just don’t see the person they’re addressing as real.

Nearly 500 years may separate us from Anne, but she was a real woman, a daughter, sister, friend, mother and wife, a woman who was brought down from queen to traitor in less than a month and who ended her days on the scaffold giving a dignified speech to a crowd waiting to see her die, and then dying a courageous death at the hands of a swordsman brought in specifically to kill her.

She had her head cut off, for goodness sake, and for crimes that most historians believe she didn’t commit.

If you glory in that and think it was well-deserved then I pity you, to be honest. Anne had her flaws, she said cruel things she later regretted, as we all do, but did she deserve to be executed on false charges? Nope! As for her playing games, stealing someone’s husband etc etc. Well, that’s giving her far too much power. I think Henry had quite a lot to do with what happened to Catherine of Aragon and mary, don’t you?

I do get people who ask me “Did Anne Boleyn deserve her fate?” and they are truly interested in my answer. They’re new to Anne’s story and perhaps want to know the truth behind fiction like The Other Boleyn Girl or The Tudors. They’re not sure what happened. And I love answering their questions or pointing them in the direction of my videos, articles, books and resources that will help them. The answer to their question is, of course, “no”. I don’t believe that Anne or the five men were deserving of their fates, and let’s give those men names, because they’re often forgotten – George Boleyn, Lord Rochford, Sir Henry Norris, Sir Francis Weston, William Brereton and Mark Smeaton. All six of those people suffered huge miscarriages of justice.

If you compare the investigation into Anne Boleyn In May 1536 with the investigation into her cousin, Catherine Howard, in 1541/1542, there’s a huge difference. There 26 days from the commissions of oyer and terminer being set up in 1536, the first sign of there being anything wrong, to Anne’s execution, yet there were 104 days between Archbishop Cranmer telling the king about the claims about Catherine’s past and Catherine being executed. And so many people were interrogated in 1541 and 1542, and a lady-in-waiting executed for covering up for the queen and helping her. Yet, nobody in 1536. How did Anne manage to have her scandalous affairs without anyone knowing?

Hmmmm… It’s pretty clear that the investigation in 1536 was lacking. It wasn’t really an investigation. Anne’s fate was sealed before her trial, before her arrest even. It was simply a case of organising the legal machinery to use against her and to ensure the desired end result – a dead Anne and the blackening of her name.

The indictments drawn up listing the alleged offences committed by Anne and the men are shocking, not only in the salacious language used, the scandalous behaviour listed, the awful crimes said to have been committed, but also in the carelessness of the dates and places listed. Someone didn’t do their homework, did they? As Eric Ives noted in his groundbreaking biography of Anne, ¾ of them just didn’t make sense, were impossible, in fact, because Anne or the man she was said to be with just couldn’t have been at that location. But that doesn’t matter when the defendant is unaware of the specifics of the charges and doesn’t have a hot shot lawyer to ensure the case is thrown out of court.
We know from accounts that Anne defended herself admirably and her brother, George, defended himself so well that spectators at his trial believed he’d be acquitted.

And there was no evidence, and no witnesses were called against any of them. No women stood accused of helping Anne hide her crimes even though a queen was never alone.

But none of that matters when you’ve handpicked juries and made sure that they know their duty is to find these people guilty of high treason, crimes against their sovereign king.

There was no justice for these people in 1536 and they were brutally executed for nothing, well for a king to move on to wife number 3 ASAP.

They left devastated families behind, grief-stricken friends and colleagues, and one little girl had to grow up without a mother and knowing that people viewed her mother as a traitor and wh*re, as a woman who’d tried to kill that girl’s father and whose sexual appetite had led to her committing adultery with four men and committing incest with her brother.

All six of those executed that May had done nothing but serve their king loyally, and all six went to their deaths with courage and dignity. None of them deserve to have comments like “karma” thrown at their names.

I’ll continue receiving these comments, that’s just the way it is, and I’ll continue getting angry about them. But I will also continue telling the stories of Queen Anne Boleyn, George Boleyn, Lord Rochford, Sir Henry Norris, Sir Francis Weston, William Brereton and Mark Smeaton. They deserve to be remembered in a positive way, and I’ll just use the bad comments as motivation.

Here’s my video on “Was Anne Boleyn a Homewrecker?”

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