December 5, 2009
We have incredibly little facts about the trials of Anne and George Boleyn bearing in mind they were two of the trials of the century. We’ve got the indictments, but none of the evidence. Most of what we do have is second or third hand. Those of us who think Anne was innocent question why the indictments survive but not the evidence. We take the view that if the evidence no longer exists then that was probably because it was never there in the first place and that what there was didn’t actually prove guilt. Those who think Anne was guilty insist that there was evidence at the time to prove guilt but that it is now lost (and not deliberately so) unless Elizabeth had it destroyed in order to hide her mother’s guilty.
I think there’s more evidence to prove the former is correct. There were 2000 witnesses to the trials of Anne and George. Everything we know of the trials is either through them or through people who heard about the trials through them. So why do we have nothing concrete save rumour and innuendo? I stand by the fact that the evidence never existed in the first place, and that there was nothing to establish guilt. If so someone would have commented on it, yet Chapuys doesn’t refer to anything truly salacious, and the common view seemed to be there was very little said in court to form a conviction.
If there was anything to establish plausibility for a conviction, everyone would have been eagerly talking about it. But there’s nothing except a vague reference to a vague comment by the Countess of Worcester who was not even called to give evidence and whose vague statement, if there was one, hasn’t survived. If she was the main accuser of Anne and if her evidence was fundamentally what the prosecution was relying upon to establish guilt then a damn sight more would have been made of it than there actually was.
Cromwell suggested to his diplomats abroad that evidence was kept back because it was so dreadful. What complete and utter b***ks. There were already murmurings that the trials were a fix. Would any real evidence honestly have been kept back if it proved guilt? I don’t think so. The whole trial was based on nothing more than innuendo and the supposition that if you throw enough mud then some of it will stick.
Anne and George were accused of laughing at the King about his clothes and his poetry. It was put to them as ‘a great crime’. Who knows whether they did or not? We don’t have their answers, but maybe that’s because they answered all of the allegations too well! So the court chroniclers said because apparently they both answered their accusers so calmly and wisely that you would never have thought they would have offended at all!!
Then there’s the stuff about George that’s really confusing. It was put to him in writing that Anne had told his wife that Henry had problems performing. Was it put to him that he then spread rumours about Henry’s impotency? Who knows, because all there is is the comment that the note said Anne had told Jane of it, not that she’d told George.
George then read the note aloud. Was it bravado? Was it because he knew he was going to die so he decided to embarrass Henry? Again, who knows? He said he wanted it out in the open so as not to cast doubt on the King’s issue. But that’s exactly what it did do. George was then accused of spreading rumours regarding Elizabeth’s paternity. Was that question a direct result of what had gone before? I don’t think for a minute that George would have seriously questioned Elizabeth’s paternity or spread rumours. She was his niece; the child of his beloved sister. Why would he spread rumours questioning her paternity and thereby her succession to the throne, and why would he imply that his sister was a whore? But Chapuys said he failed to deny it. Was it because George realised he had foolishly fallen into a trap by reading aloud what he was told to keep quiet? Did he realise the bravado had backfired on him? Or was his silence a tacit acknowledgment that he had laughed and joked about Henry’s impotency and he realised that he had inadvertanty cast doubt on the legitimacy of his own niece? How terrible for him at that point in the trial, and how guilty must he have felt that he had potentially damaged his sister and his niece.
There’s so much we don’t know, including what was going through the minds of the main characters. If there was ever a moment in time that I would love to go back to it would be the Great Hall in the Tower of London on 15th May 1536. It’s actually a physical yearning. How sad’s that!!!!
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