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Did Henry VIII conspire against Anne?
July 16, 2011
10:26 am
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Anne fan
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Louise said:

It is another thing which what bothered me about the Bernard book. He suggests that the jury, by finding them guilty, believed they were guilty. So did Thomas believe his daughter was guilty? No, of course he didn't. If Bernard thinks the jury had to have believed in their guilt then he has a far too high opinion of human nature.   


I keep thinking I'm going to put a list together of all the things that bother me about the Bernard book!

May 3, 2013
9:13 pm
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Steve Callaghan
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Hi, all. :)

Two elements in particular might be suggestive of Henry’s implicit support for the ‘coup’ and his possible involvement:

* His insistence that Norris should confess, thus ensuring the possibility of a pardon for the King’s friend.
* King Henry’s entire lack of intervention during the whole process leading to Anne’s eventual execution. He must have been aware that the evidence was unconvincing (unless one wanted to be convinced); that the scheming of court factions and characters was both unending & notorious; yet the King barely questioned a thing about this debacle. The very public grandstanding (the tearful embrace of his son – supposedly saved from the ‘poisoner Anne Boleyn’ – and Henry’s book detailing Anne’s countless lovers) seem, at best, an attempt to convince himself if not others.

I have precious little expertise to offer, only opinions; better theories than mine have already been mooted in this thread, but the two listed above are persuasive to me personally. :)

May 4, 2013
12:44 am
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Boleyn
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This is certainly an intriquing debate. I’m not convinced that Henry conspired against Anne but I do believe he may have said things about her that Cromwell twisted into lies against her. Such as silly things I don’t like the way she keeps her brother close to her. Cromwell used this gripes to make a mountain out of a molehill, and Henry chose to believe them purely because he wanted to but I think deep in his heart and concious he knew that Cromwell case was nothing but lies, and I believe it’s possible that was perhaps one of the reason he turned into such a bastard in his later life. He had to live with the fact that he had sent an innocent woman one who truly loved him to her death.
When he sent Cromwell to his death it was partly to do with his screw up with AOC but also to do with the fact he could no longer live with his guilt that his misplaced words about Anne had made Cromwell make up the lies that condemned the only person he truly loved.
Perhaps he hoped by killing Cromwell his guilt in Anne’s death would die with him. But in fact I think it made the situation a damn site worse instead, because Henry then had to live with Cromwell’s death as well as Anne’s. Serves the fat git right too.

Semper Fidelis, quod sum quod

May 4, 2013
2:33 am
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Esmeralda
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I think Henry was a rather weak and easily influenced ruler. He was a very paranoid man so I find it believable that he would start to be convinced of certain things if people were really pushing them. As Boleyn points out, too, Cromwell could easily use little things Henry had said to twist the truth and get the king to believe that they’re much bigger.
I don’t think that Henry is innocent in all of it, far from it, but I don’t think the events would have unfolded the way they did if Cromwell hadn’t pushed for them so much, either. Like I said, Henry seems pretty easily influenced. He was so desperate to be a good ruler yet seemed to lack the conviction and skills to do this. He changed his mind like the weather and never really seemed to know WHAT was best – something people like Cromwell could take advantage of for their own gain.
It’s also worth noting that at the time of Anne’s execution Henry was still desperate for a male heir, something Anne had not given him, and Jane possibly could. By the time we get to Katherine Howard’s execution, this is not as big of a deal as the king has Edward. Not saying that’s a reason for the difference in his behaviour, but it could have something to do with it. Henry needed Anne out the picture so he could claim a new wife and conceive a son. Not so much later on.

May 4, 2013
7:27 am
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Jasmine
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I don’t buy an argument which says Henry was weak and easily influenced. Cromwell would not have dared produce his ‘evidence’ if he hadn’t had direct knowledge of Henry’s wishes.

I also don’t really believe that Anne was the ‘one’ Henry truly loved – I am sure he wanted her and her tactics in holding him off for so many years simply inflamed that desire, but once he got her, all he wanted after that was a son. When she failed to deliver (no pun intended) he was eager to get rid of her. He had to kill her, because he couldn’t suffer the embarrassment of divorcing two wives. He needed the way clear for a third ‘unblemished’ wife, safely married after his two previous wives were well and truly dead.

It is interesting to compare Henry with his grandfather, Edward IV, who also had marital tangles, with two ‘secret’ marriages and heirs with potentially dubious claims to the throne. With that example before him, Henry would have to ensure that any wife which presented him with a son was thoroughly ‘legal’. Executing Anne made that position clear.

May 4, 2013
9:21 am
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Esmeralda
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I don’t believe it didn’t start with Henry – I think he’d have said something small that Cromwell and others could then build upon, with Henry feeling more and more that he could justify his actions. I also agree that he needed rid of Anne so he could have a legitimate son and heir. I don’t think he didn’t love her, to the contrary, I just think his desperation for a son and to be a successful king overpowered that love towards the end – a true case of power corrupting man.

May 4, 2013
10:29 am
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Louise
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The more I think about Anne’s fall the more I come to believe that Henry was the instigator:-

1. Cromwell would never have risked bringing Anne down without Henry’s blessing and complicity. I admire Ives, but I can’t accept it was a political coup and that Henry was duped. If, by April 1536, Anne was still Henry’s most beloved wife then he would have made more of an effort to disbelieve the allegations, as he had been with Catherine Howard. He never gave Anne a chance to defend herself, and he showed none of the grief over her alleged indiscretions as he had with Catherine Howard. That suggests he wanted to believe the worst.

2. George Boleyn failed to receive the Order of the Garter on 23rd April. I understand the reason for giving it to Carew, but why allow George’s name to be put forward in the first place if Henry knew he was going to appoint someone else, and in particular an opponent of the Boleyns? He must have known it would humiliate his wife and brother-in-law. Coincidentally, one day later there were commissions set up to investigate alleged crimes. I find it difficult to imagine Cromwell would do that behind Henry’s back, and there was no other reason for those commissions other than to investigate Anne. Three days after that Parliament was summoned to look at revoking laws which favoured Anne. Henry was, therefore, looking at ditching Anne days before Smeaton’s confession, and days before any charges had been brought. So it wasn’t merely a belief in her guilt which triggered Henry’s desire for a fresh start, it was his desire for a fresh start which triggered the investigation when he discovered getting rid of her would be no easier than getting rid of Catherine had been.

3. If Lady Worcester’s remarks instigated the investigation, which was set up on 24th May, then why wasn’t she charged with the crime of withholding the truth from the King, just as Jane Rochford was in the Catherine Howard affair? If she had accused Anne of affairs with Smeaton and her own brother, then as part of the investigations surely Smeaton would have been questioned immediately those comments came to light, and probably George too.

4. But the actual arrests didn’t start upon Lady Worcester’s supposed comments. They started following Anne’s confrontations with Smeaton and Norris. In other words, despite the commissions, no evidence had been found of guilt up until then. I question whether it was lady Worcester’s comments which started the ball rolling, because if so then Smeaton would surely have been arrested long before his confrontation with Anne. Sadly Anne unwittingly played into Henry’s hands with the unfortunate timing of those confrontations, more so when Smeaton confessed. These were bonus’s that had never been expected, but which provided the only potential evidence of wrongdoing. I personally think that the commissions were set up to look at any possibility of ensnaring Anne, and that there was nothing to go on at that time. Anne then had her confrontations with Norris and Smeaton, and it was that which was used to pin something on her. It was only much later that Lady Worcester’s supposed comments were used as an excuse as to why the commissions had been set up in the first place.

5. Henry must have know Henry Norris was innocent, or why would he offer he a pardon if he admitted to an affair with Anne. There is no way Henry would offer a pardon to a man who he believed had meddled with his wife. He wanted Norris to help him out by lying. Norris was killed not because he wouldn’t admit the truth, but because he wouldn’t admit the lie. He killed his best friend out of vindictive spite.

6. No one seriously believed the incest allegation. If the allegation stemmed from something the Lady Worcester said, as I’ve said above, she withheld that information and would have been in the Tower too. Yet even after George’s eventual arrest, which was shortly after Anne’s, Anne wasn’t questioned regarding the alleged incest. In fact she wasn’t even aware until the day following her arrest that George was in the Tower. If George was the ‘third’ man who Anne was being accused of having a sexual relationship with, then this was kept from her. I can’t help feeling Lady Worcester’s name was just being used in an attempt to ensnare George in an offense which would have caused the most shock and horror, and that she’s actually a bit of a red herring.

7. Following their deaths Cromwell exhorted beyond measure the sense, wit and courage of Anne and George. He would hardly do that if he genuinely thought there was enough actual evidence to prove they were guilty of such vile acts. He admired them both for taking the travesty of justice on the chin. That doesn’t smack of a man going out of his way to destroy them, but of a man who did what he had to do to appease the man he worked for.

8. So much seemed to be made at the siblings trials of Anne and George laughing at Henry behind his back, and of Anne discussing his sexual problems. Was Lady Worcester’s supposed evidence manufactured or deliberately exaggerated to ensure George was caught up in the net, because Henry wanted to get his own back, not just on Anne but George too? I think so. Cromwell wouldn’t be stupid enough to charge George with a crime which everyone agreed had little if any evidence to back it up. The charge smacks of the malice and vindictiveness of Henry, not the calm levelheadedness of Cromwell.

9. The charges came about just as Henry fell for another woman and after Henry was starting to think he would be no more successful in having healthy son’s with Anne as he had been with Catherine, due to Anne’s miscarriage in the January. Some coincidence!!

10. And if Smeaton really was guilty and Henry genuinely believed it to be true then as a commoner why didn’t Henry subject him to a traitors death? Henry’s natural vindictiveness would have surely made that a foregone conclusion, as he did to Francis Dereham. None of the men’s heads were displayed in Tower Bridge, as Catherine Howard’s alleged lovers were. Was that a little consideration by the man who knew they were all innocent?

I wonder what would have happened if Anne had not argued with Smeaton and Norris that day? Something else would have been cobbled together, but without that the prosecution would have had nothing to pin it’s case on.

May 4, 2013
11:07 am
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Jasmine
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A great post, Louise!

May 4, 2013
12:08 pm
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Steve Callaghan
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Louise said
8. So much seemed to be made at the siblings trials of Anne and George laughing at Henry behind his back, and of Anne discussing his sexual problems.

A fine post, and the point above is a telling one (in my opinion):

The personal: Henry would not want Anne around after her disgrace, for personal reasons. I think he might’ve feared her gossiping about his want of prowess, so to speak. Anne was bold, outspoken, and frequently tactless; Henry, as both man and monarch, could not tolerate her slandering him at home or abroad, Therefore, Anne had to be silenced, completely.

And then there’s ‘the political’: In the rather fluid world of royal politics, it now became advantageous to court an alliance with the Emperor. Realpolitik dictated that Anne and her pro-French allies must be sidelined at best, destroyed at worst.

May 4, 2013
8:51 pm
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Boleyn
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Well said Louise.

Semper Fidelis, quod sum quod

May 5, 2013
4:40 am
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Gill
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There is no doubt at all in my mind that Henry instigated the whole thing. A few previous posters have mentioned his complete lack of emotion over the whole affair and that speaks volumes…you would have expected at least *surprise*, but there is no record of even that. He appears to have accepted the news that the woman he loved so much had betrayed him with utter equanimity. You might almost say he seemed to be *expecting* that news.

I believe that Henry was actually incapable of really loving anyone other than himself. He liked to play at being in love, and he fought so long to marry Anne more because he was determined to get his own way and not look foolish than because he was deeply in love with her. He imagined he was, but he had a disturbing tendency to turn viciously on those he claimed to love when he didn’t get what he wanted from them – KoA, Mary, Wolsey, More, Anne, Norris, Cromwell…all cast aside at best, murdered at worst. And Henry claimed he loved them all, but he was utterly indifferent to them once he turned his face from them.

May 5, 2013
10:22 am
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Boleyn
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Once Henry had made up his mind that he wanted rid of Anne I feel he put the boot in big time with her. I don’t think his intention was to kill her but more humiliate her to such a degree that she would simply go into a convent or disappear abroad with Elizabeth, as he suggested to her I believe a matter of just days before he signed her death warrant. If Anne had done that she knew full well that she and Elizabeth wouldn’t live long enough to enjoy her freedom as Henry could have quietly done away with both of them at some point. Anne knew this and that’s why she told him to poke the suggestion up his backside.
Henry knew that by killing Anne he would not be viewed as being a good thing. Remember he wanted to be seen as a God both in and around the courts of Europe. Divorsing himself from COA and the Church was bad enough but killing his wife (Anne) too would have bound to have knocked his brownie points down to zero.
Anne’s death and the manner in how it all came about brought out people’s sympathy for her. Granted people hated her, when it was discovered that Henry has decided to make her his wife and Queen in place of COA, but when Jane Seymour caught Henry’s eye and Anne subsequent miscarriage after Henry’s fall and his treatment towards her because of it, it brought out the people’s sympathy towards her.
Anne chose death because it was only way she knew to protect her daughter from Henry, and all those who would try to kill her (Elizabeth) Anne’s death made sure Elizabeth would survive and rule.
Henry on the other hand had his name permently blackened by signing Anne’s death warrant, and for the rest of his misable life he tried to live it down and couldn’t. Tough chedder fat boy shouldn’t have killed the only woman who knew you better than you knew yourself.

Semper Fidelis, quod sum quod

May 5, 2013
11:05 am
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Esmeralda
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Is it just me, or does Henry just seem like a complete spoilt child?! I don’t think he knew what to do with the power he had, and he discarded his wives when they failed to give him his own way as he couldn’t think what else to do with them!

May 5, 2013
7:41 pm
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Boleyn
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Esmeralda said

Is it just me, or does Henry just seem like a complete spoilt child?! I don’t think he knew what to do with the power he had, and he discarded his wives when they failed to give him his own way as he couldn’t think what else to do with them!

He ws Esmerelda a very spoilt and petulant one too. Like most spoilt kids he wanted what everyone else had and made sure he did get it too only once he got it he didn’t want it anymore. Perhaps a few good hidings and clipped earholes when he was younger would have done him good.
What you have to look at as well that he was brought up entirely around woman, being the spare he was generally packed off to the nursery at Eltham, with his sisters and he was used to be fawned over being the only boy, and enjoyed lording it over everyone but when the time came for him to sit in the big chair with the glittery hat he wasn’t up to the job as such. Yeah he was highly educated but as they say business and pleasure rarely mix and Henry just wanted his pleasure.

Semper Fidelis, quod sum quod

May 6, 2013
7:20 pm
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Sharon
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Louise, great post!
There are so many reasons why I believe Henry was up to his eyeballs in this deal. Everyone has done a terrific job of listing them.
The way a person died was ordered by the king. The swordsman was sent for before any of these people came to trial. We have figured out the mileage and the time it would take for him to arrive from France on another post. (ordered around the 10th or 11th at the latest) It was said by Chapuys that the swordsman was sent for and nine days later he arrived. We know that he was still traveling on the 18th because Anne’s execution was postponed that day. There had been no trial…not one trial until the 12th.

Smeaton by all rights should have been hung and disembowled, etc., etc..you know the deal. I think he was given the sentence of beheading instead for saying he was guilty and not retracting that statement, courteousy of the king. Who wouldn’t choose beheading over the other way? I think he would have said whatever they wanted to hear. Again, the king’s doing. Cromwell could not have made that decision, but he certainly would have used the manner of death to threaten Smeaton. Ordering the swordsman early on as Henry did, along with the reduction of Smeaton’s sentence to death by beheading, makes me think that Henry was well aware of what Cromwell was doing and that he was in on the planning right from the beginning.

How can anyone believe that Cromwell could pull the wool over Henry’s eyes like this? Henry was nobody’s fool. If Henry didn’t want this to happen, it would not have happened. Henry didn’t believe that Anne would do any of these acts, but he knew if the stories were nasty enough, the public would buy it. Henry wanted to make sure Anne was found guilty and between him and Cromwell they piled on the charges. This man wasn’t the least bit upset over fact that if any of this was true, Anne was making a monumental fool of him? Apparently not. As far as we know, Henry did not shed one tear when hearing that his beloved Anne had slept with many of his dearest friends. There was no, “I will kill her myself,” as we hear there was with KH. Nothing. He parties the whole time Anne is in the Tower. He was having a grand old time and wasn’t the least bit troubled by what was happenning to Anne. He plans their deaths right down to the smallest detail. He was making plans to marry Jane. Don’t look at what I’m doing over there. Hey look here, I’m getting married!
Geez, he makes me crazy.

May 7, 2013
11:36 am
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Boleyn
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Well said Sharon. I hadn’t looked at it that way to be honest but you ae right in saying that Henry had made up his mind Anne had to die the minute, she miscarried after the joust. He was just a sneaky in his dealings, with his divorce proceedings to do with A.O.C packed her off to Richmond for her health or so he said that was the excuse. Whilst playing the gallant with K.H. AOC was no fool she knew what was going on but she also know it would be easier for her to simply keep her mouth shut about the whole thing and hope to come away with her head still attached to her shoulders which of course she did. Good for her.
K.H downfall was in part her own fault if she did have sex with Culpepper whilst married to Henry (which I seriously doubt) she would have been playing with the whole bonfire not just a small lighted taper. Although she did have a sexual relationship with Dereham. Once Henry found that out he wasn’t happy but she was dead from then on in anyway. I actually wonder what would have happened if he had done what he said i.e kill her himself?
The same could be said of K.P if it hadn’t been for the actions of a careless messenger K.P would have found herself shorter by a head or forever washing the soot and smoke out of her hair and clothes. The fact she managed to talk him around was a pretty amazing feat of her talents as a woman of the age. But even so I still feel Henry doubted her sincerity as he allowed the soliders to still come for her and try arrest her. I guess it was his way of telling her “Cross me again and you are toast”

Semper Fidelis, quod sum quod

May 7, 2013
2:47 pm
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Steve Callaghan
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I’ve always viewed Cromwell’s sequestering of Henry away from all other counsel and representations as being for Cromwell’s benefit alone: so that Henry wouldn’t be swayed by emotion or argument; so that Cromwell would be able to control the narrative of Anne’s ‘undoubted guilt’, and thus, the King’s thinking on the matter. However, seeing as Henry was hands-on regarding the editing of the charges, and because Cromwell’s list of suspects might ordinarily have given the King pause (the wiping-out of the Boleyn faction would benefit Cromwell enormously, in varied ways…yet Henry didn’t question this very convenient fact), I’m now drawn to think that Henry and Cromwell collaborated all along. From the King’s perspective, the only fly in the ointment was Norris’s refusal to offer Henry the chance to pardon his friend. And more to the point, it simply couldn’t have escaped Henry’s notice that the execution of all these people would’ve opened the way to grants, pensions and inner-court positions for Cromwell’s creatures. In a very crude sense, the coup appears like a brutal version of the Eltham Ordinances; typically and characteristically, Cromwell lacked Wolsey’s subtlety…

I wonder, also, if Henry wanted to rid himself of those intimates (Norris, Brereton) who may have witnessed his secret marriage in 1533. That kind of behaviour, along with the Stalinesque airbrushing of history via the destruction or hiding-away of Anne’s portraits, might seem rather senseless to us but it would make sense to a paranoid ruler. Anne was meant to become an ‘unperson’; happily, her memory proved imperishable.

May 7, 2013
3:05 pm
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Louise
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I know we aren’t supposed to judge historical characters by 21st Century standards, but ultimately we have to bear responsibility for the horror of our actions in whatever era we live in, and those actions can’t simply be reevaluated over time. In that sense we have a right to judge. My favourite chum, Henry VIII fitted many many people up on charges of treason and had them executed. It was judicial murder, and even in the sixteenth Century murder wasn’t legal, even if it was being done on the orders of a King. We can argue that Henry had his reasons and that he believed he was in the right, but then again Hitler may very well have thought he was in the right in massacring half of Europe. For the avoidance of doubt, he wasn’t.

I do get cheesed off when people try to condone Henry, but I can’t see why he should be excused because he had his reasons. Do we excuse him because he was King and could do what he wanted if he could argue it was for the good of the realm? He divorced a wife on very dodgy grounds because she hadn’t produced a son. The eventual annulment was legal. Yeah!! But only because he broke with Canon law and created his own law to make it legal. He was good at doing that. In 1542 he changed the law to enable him to execute Jane Boleyn, Lady Rochford. She had seemingly lost her mind, and at the time she lost it, it was illegal to execute mad people (that always reminds me of Catch 22). Poor old Francis Dereham had a most unfortunate death for having sex with a Queen who wasn’t a Queen when he had sex with her. Ooops! That really was a case of retrospective prosecution taken to the extreme.

Mary I killed Protestants, Elizabeth I killed Catholics and their dad killed anyone depending in which side of the bed he got out of. Blue socks; Catholics, white socks, Protestants; red socks, one of his best friends and possibly a wife. Really, the possibilities were endless, but it no doubt kept everyone on their toes. Should we not judge them because they were products of their time, and in the political and religious climate they lived in their actions were justified.

I don’t criticise Henry for having affairs or wanting to get divorced in order to ensure the Tudor dynasty. His methods can be criticised though. I try not to criticise him for moral choices at all, and certainly not for minor incursions of our 21st century sensitivity. It’s now illegal to eat swans. I wouldn’t castigate Henry for eating his own body weight in them on a daily basis. But there is a difference between a moral abhorrence to killing a bird with a long neck, and no I’m not talking about Anne Boleyn, to committing a sin against humanity. If humanity is what makes us human, wasn’t that equally true five-hundred years ago? If so then why should an act, that could never be justified now, be justified then? These people were still human; bound, supposedly, by their own humanity. Why should acts of barbarity and cruelty be condoned in whatever era they lived in and whatever the circumstances?

Henry VIII may have been a great bloke. But he took some appalling actions. How exactly did Thomas Cromwell commit treason? I’m sure Henry was smiling fondly at orphans as he signed Cromwell’s death warrant. Perhaps Henry thought he was justified in everything he did. With an ego such as his he was probably able to condone all his actions. But many of his actions were not justifiable and the fact that he thought they were does not make them so.

When it comes to Henry I don’t have an issue judging him by 21st century standards, because I think that even by 16th century standards his actions went beyond what we should be entitled to accept from anyone; pauper or King.

By the way, completely changing the subject, have you noticed how ironic it is that Anne Boleyn is vilified as a whore in a society where adultery holds nowhere near the stigma that it held (for women) in the century she lived in. I’m not saying Anne was a whore and an adulterer, but even if she was, in that sense we judge her more by 16th century standards than 21st century standards. In other words, it’s always an available option to pick and choose what standards we want to judge someone by depending on our point of view.

May 7, 2013
3:20 pm
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Steve Callaghan
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And yet we’re forever being told that Henry was quite chaste, especially in comparison to his other royal contemporaries. Ahem. Like Cromwell in conversation with Chapuys, I’m obliged to hide my smile…

Meanwhile Anne, with no definitive & supporting evidence that Henry wasn’t her first lover in the fullest sense of that word, has traditionally been considered little better than a lady of the night. Sexism at work.

May 8, 2013
4:31 am
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Anyanka
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SteveJ said

And yet we’re forever being told that Henry was quite chaste, especially in comparison to his other royal contemporaries. Ahem. Like Cromwell in conversation with Chapuys, I’m obliged to hide my smile…

Henry was chaste with regards to s3x outside marrriage..There are only few mentions of his ladies.. Bessie Blount and Mary and possibly 1 more during his marriage to KoA. Madge Shelton and the Imperial Lady during his marriaage to Anne. And yet he only acknowledged 1 child out of these liasions…

There were hints of a mistress rt 2 during JS wifehood and his widowhood..There was nothing afterwards..

Anne, with no definitive & supporting evidence that Henry wasn’t her first lover in the fullest sense of that word, has traditionally been considered little better than a lady of the night. Sexism at work.

Welcome to the World of the Double Standard..Men have always been feted for their s3xual exploits while women are condemned for being supposedly available regardless of whether the ladies were s3xual promiocous, raped or virgin…it happened in 16th C..

reading a lot of stuff out of the States now..it’s still happening..virgin/whore dicotomy is being exemptified by Stuebenville where a young lady was drunk or possibly drugged and dragged around to be s3xually molested and the town rallied round her atackers sincethey were members of the local sportsteam…

climbing off my soap box….

It's always bunnies.

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