Thank you for all the comments on George Boleyn, Lord Rochford, Part 1, I am sure that George would be delighted to know that actually people don’t hold such a low opinion of him!

The Destruction Of Sodom And Gomorrah - the cities destroyed by fire and brimstone because of their sinful people
The Destruction Of Sodom And Gomorrah - the cities destroyed by fire and brimstone because of their sinful people

Louise made a very good point when she said that George Cavendish’s words in “Metrical Visions” about George, and the other men, may well have been misinterpreted. As Louise says, Cavendish uses terms such as “bestial” and “unlawful lechery” frequently in his writing to sum up any behaviour that he considers inappropriate and he even referred to the King’s “unlawful lechery”. Would he dare to suggest that the King was a sodomite? No.

So why do historians assume that Cavendish is talking about buggery and bestiality when he writes about men like George? It may well be that George committed adultery, and was a bit of a womaniser, but there does not seem to be any evidence of him being homosexual or bisexual, whatever authors would have us believe.

This week, I’m going to look at how a man who had risen to the point of holding one of the most influential posts in the Kingdom (the post of Warden of the Cinque Ports), could end up being accused of committing incest and treason, being executed for treason and having his body buried at the Tower’s chapel, rather than in a nice family vault. A sad end to a very promising life.

As there is so much to write about George, I will be ending the series with Part 3 next week.

A Warning Sign

The first sign that George Boleyn, Lord Rochford, was losing royal favour was on the 29th April 1536. It was expected that on this day George was going to be made a Knight of the Garter, but, to the horror of Anne, George and the Boleyn faction, Henry VIII had a change of heart and appointed Sir Nicholas Carew, a supporter of the King’s mistress, Jane Seymour, as a Knight of the Garter. This was a shock for Anne and George and was a warning sign that things were swinging in Jane Seymour’s favour and that Anne was losing her power over the King.

Was Henry VIII responsible for George and Anne's fall?
Was Henry VIII responsible for George and Anne's fall?

What Anne Boleyn, her brother and the Boleyn faction did not know was that Cromwell had been cooking up a plot, not only to get rid of Anne, but to get rid of the entire Boleyn faction.

There are various theories about Cromwell’s plot. Some, like Alison Weir, believe that the plot was Cromwell’s doing and that the King was just as much of an innocent party as those who were plotted against. She believes that Cromwell was able to provide the King with enough evidence for him to believe that Anne was guilty, that she had betrayed him, and that is why Henry was able to support Cromwell’s plans, see Anne and his favourites executed and move on to his new life with Jane Seymour. However, other historians believe that Henry VIII was actually complicit in Cromwell’s plans, that he may well have ordered Cromwell’s investigations and that he wanted rid of Anne.

Elizabeth Norton, author of “Anne Boleyn: Henry VIII’s Obsession”, said in our Anne Boleyn Files interview:-

“Henry VIII remained, until the end of his life, in full control of his kingdom. The plot against Catherine Parr, in which she was very nearly sent to the Tower for heresy in 1546 shows that it was not possible for Henry’s wives to fall without his express agreement. Henry’s seeming compliance in agreeing to Catherine’s arrest was part of a test of his wife and an attempt to push her back into a more domestic sphere.

In contrast, Anne Boleyn was allowed to fall and there is evidence that Henry had tired of her. Whilst he did still seek Imperial recognition of his marriage to Anne as late as April 1536, it is clear that he was already by then becoming more committed to Jane Seymour – he perhaps simply had not found the mechanism by which to engineer Anne’s fall. Cromwell and the other factions working against Anne provided the means by which she could be brought down, with the rumours of infidelity and the precontract with Henry Percy. It was Henry VIII himself who had to agree to the final attack on Anne and, his conduct at the May Day jousts shows that he did indeed agree to this.”

It also would have been dangerous for Cromwell to move against the King’s wife and royal favourites, such as George Boleyn and Henry Norris, without the King’s knowledge and blessing.

George Boleyn’s Arrest

As you know from my previous posts on Smeaton, Weston, Brereton and Norris, Mark Smeaton was invited to dine at Sir Thomas Cromwell’s house in Stepney on the 30th April. This was far from being the lavish dinner that Smeaton anticipated and, instead of dinner, Smeaton was interrogated and may even have been tortured. As a result of this interrogation, Smeaton confessed to adultery with Anne Boleyn and it was this confession, however forced, that meant that Cromwell could move against Anne.

The next day, at the May Day jousts, the King is said to have received a message which caused him to leave abruptly, taking Henry Norris along with him. Norris’s man servant, George Constantine, wrote of how the King himself interrogated Norris on this journey back to Greenwich. Norris was taken to the Tower of London at dawn on the 2nd May and Eustace Chapuys wrote of how Smeaton was taken to the Tower on the morning on the 2nd and George Boleyn was taken after dinner (dinner was served between 10am and 1pm according to Alison Weir), “more than six hours after the others”. Weir points out that George was arrested “so discreetly” that very few people knew about it. Weir also writes that it appears that George was arrested and taken to the Tower without being interrogated.

The Role of Lady Rochford

Much has been made, in fiction and on TV, of the role of Jane Boleyn (nee Parker), Lady Rochford, in the fall of George Boleyn and Anne Boleyn. If we are to believe the likes of Philippa Gregory and The Tudors, then we would see Jane as a bitter and vengeful woman who was jealous of George and Anne’s close relationship and who wanted revenge for George’s treatment of her.

As I said last week, some historians believe that George and Jane’s marriage was loveless and that Jane grew to hate George, whereas others, like Julia Fox believe that it was like any other marriage, with its ups and downs. Jane was one of Anne’s ladies and had actually conspired with Anne in 1534 to try and get Henry VIII’s new mistress banished from court. However, it was Jane who was banished from court, for her part in the plot. Perhaps this turned Jane against Anne – who knows? It does appear though that Jane had a role in George and Anne’s downfalls. Eric Ives writes:-

“It was she [Jane] who had told the Crown of Anne’s remarks about Henry’s sexual capacities, and according to de Carles, Rochford said to his judges, “On the evidence of only one woman you are willing to believe this great evil of me, and on the basis of her allegations you are deciding my judgement.” A foreign visitor to London in May 1536 wrote of “that person who more out of envy and jealousy than out of love towards the king did betray this accursed secret and together with it the names of those who had joined in the evil doings of the unchaste queen”. The lost journal of Antony Antony also referred to the role of Lady Rochford and probably included words to the effect that “the wife of Lord Rochford was a particular instrument in the death of Queen Anne.””

Ives also writes that Bishop Burnet, who wasn’t a contemporary of Anne and George but who had access to primary sources, asserted that Jane “carried many stories to the king or some about him” and gave evidence “that there was a familiarity between the queen and her brother beyond what so near a relationship could justify.”

Alison Weir quotes George Wyatt’s words to prove that Jane gave evidence to Cromwell:-

“[in] this principle matter between the Queen and her brother, there was brought forth, indeed, witness his wicked wife, accuser of her own husband, even to the seeking of his blood. What she did was more to be rid of him than of true ground against him.”

But, why would Jane do this to her husband and sister-in-law?

Possible reasons could include:-

  • Jealousy of George and Anne’s close relationship
  • Revenge on Anne for Jane’s banishment from court
  • Jane’s family’s connection to the Lady Mary – Weir writes of how Jane’s father, Lord Morley, was sympathetic to the Lady Mary’s cause and there is evidence that he “held up Mary as a model of virtue and learning to his family”.
  • Jane’s family’s dislike of the Boleyns – Alison Weir writes of how Lord Morley had spent a few years in the household of Henry VIII’s grandmother, Lady Margaret Beaufort, and would have known her great friend and confessor, John Fisher, Bishop of Rochester, who was executed on 22nd June 1535 for refusing to sign the oath of succession and refusing to recognise the King as the Supreme Head of the Church. Morley could well have blamed Anne Boleyn and her faction for Fisher’s execution and Weir writes that “it seems that the Parkers [Jane’s family], like so many who had been of the Queen’s party, had become disaffected and decided to distance themselves from Anne and place their hopes for the future in the Lady Mary.”
  • Jane discovered that her husband was having a homosexual affair with Mark Smeaton – This is highly unlikely and the only evidence that could be used to link the two men is the fact that George gave Smeaton a book of poems, “Les Lamentations de Matheolus” and “Le Livre de Leesce” by Jean Lefevre. Retha Warnicke believes that the fact that this book was an attack on marriage and was an expensive manuscript is a sign that the two men were more than just friends. It is rather sad that a gift between friends can be seen in this way.
  • Jane was subjected to sexual practices that shocked and upset her – There is no evidence of this and we do not know what went on in their marriage.
  • George was a womaniser – We have no evidence of this apart from George Cavendish’s words about George deflowering maidens and his sexual appetite.
  • Jane realised that the Boleyns were on their way down – Perhaps Jane realised that the Boleyns were about to fall and wanted to save herself. Perhaps she saw that the only way to distance herself from Anne and George, and to save her own neck, was to give the King and Cromwell what they wanted, evidence.
  • Jane was forced to give evidence – Perhaps we are misjudging Jane, perhaps she had no choice in the matter. It could well be that Cromwell put pressure on her and there was no way out for her. She could either go down with the Boleyns or do what Cromwell wanted.

But did Jane Boleyn even give evidence to Cromwell regarding George and Anne? Perhaps not.

John Guy, in his review of Alison Weir’s “The Lady in the Tower” points out the flaws in the argument that Jane did give evidence and confessed to it at her own execution:-

  • De Carles reported that “a single woman” produced the most damaging material against Anne and George, but de Carles hinted at Lady Worcester, not Jane. Although Weir and others think that he was confused, as Jane was interrogated at the time, Guy points out that there is no proof that it was Jane.
  • Chapuys and a Portuguese gentleman – Guy writes that although Weir says that Chapuys named Jane as divulging the “accursed secret” in a letter, he does not say this and the Portuguese gentleman just talks of “that person” and does not name Jane.
  • Jane’s confession at her execution in 1542 is actually a forgery Guy points out that an eye-witness account of Jane’s execution makes no mention of this confession and the source that does mention it is known to be unreliable.

Weir is not the only historian to believe that Jane had a role in George and Anne’s falls, Ives also gives sources to back this idea up, but perhaps we are being unfair on Jane, perhaps she was not the vengeful wife that many paint her to be, perhaps she too was a victim, losing her husband and sister-in-law in such a tragic way. I guess we’ll never know for sure.

What do you think? Let me know by leaving a comment below.


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30 thoughts on “George Boleyn, Lord Rochford, Part 2”
  1. it would be great to go back in time and know the truth, but we cant i do think that Jane was part of George and Anne downfall in what way i cant say. The possible reason above all make sense in why she would do it! But if we remember why she went to the block years later may hold some clue to what Jane was like but no one can say for sure. I think it down to us to make sense from what we know.

  2. Hello Claire,
    This is brilliant as usual, and as usual you give a very balanced account which many, as you call them, ‘proper’ historians can’t manage.
    Lady Rochford certainly gave evidence that Anne had told her Henry was impotent, but as you say it is more difficult to prove categorically that she gave evidence of incest. The primary sources are very vague and are also contradictory.
    The only hard evidence of her involvement is Chapuys who tells only of her comment relating to Henry’s potency. As for the incest allegation, Chapuys says that the only evidence against George was that on one occasion he had spent a long time alone with Anne. Therefore, if Chapuys is to be believed then poor George was convicted and sentenced to death on the sole basis that he had once spent a long time alone with his own sister.
    What Chapuys says is also relevant to Lady Rochford, because if we believe Chapuys, then this is the most she ever said, and the fact that George and Anne spent time alone together is obviously not evidence of incest. In other words, even on the prosecutions best evidence, there was no actual evidence of incest. Therefore, effectively whatever Jane may have said made no difference whatsoever to the outcome. (I hope that makes sense!)
    But here’s a thought and I would be interested to see what you think. When Anne was arrested she asked where her ‘sweet brother’ was. So clearly, when Anne was arrested she wasn’t questioned with respect to an incest allegation, because if so she would have known George was already in the Tower. It is possible that George was arrested first and the exact nature of the charges against him were not precisely decided on until he was already in the Tower. If so then it seems to me that the incest charge was cobbled together at the last minute, possibly as a reflex reaction to the danger George posed if allowed his liberty.

  3. It is good to know there are many who take George’s side, knowing that his end was due to being a prominent and influential member of Anne’s party at court and in the Kingdom. George would have been well-liked and trusted outside as well, as England’s diplomat to the Vatican and other powerful, skilled positions as a direct representative of Henry himself abroad. Anne was not the only member of the fateful Boleyn family to be well-educated in linguistic, musical, and political skills. I personally believe these siblings were at a certain cusp of history, and that Anne could not possibly have done what she did without George. He was her intimate confidante (how many people does anyone confide marital problems to?). Few historians mention that George was commissioned by Anne to translate a certain ecclesiastical text for her from Latin into her preferred French, and that book still exists, along with many other of her sacred texts. George was also know to be quite skilled in the Italian language of the day. His musical skills were superior. He and Anne used to create masques (what we might call musical plays today) making up their own music to entertain the court. Remember they didn’t have DJs and recorded music (although the King did have ensembles of the flute kind of recorder!). And, So George was actually a very bright, educated, shining star of the elite European stage. When their mother lost them (remember the father helped convict them!) she lost more than her queen and her daughter, she lost her only surviving son, first. What a terrible tragedy for her! She actually died two years later, probably of a broken heart. What an emotional bind to be married to someone who had done that to two of your own, biological children? As a family therapist, I’m trained to look at the effect of super stressful events on families. This case pretty much takes the cake. In the event you hadn’t noticed, I am firmly in George’s, and Anne’s, corner.

  4. I am inclined to think that Jane Parker did play her role in Anne and George’s fall. I find it strange that all the Boleyns went down, but she continued living at court as if nothing had happened.

  5. I think maybe some remarks made in frustration by Jane got blown out of proportion. I mean even repeating Anne’s remark about Henry’s lack of potency was considered treason. I think she probably panicked when events started to unfold. i don’t think she set out to get George and Anne I think she was just trying to survive.

    it’s much harder for me to understand how Jane went along with the Katherine Howard business. That I can’t really figure out.

  6. Louise, I had never before thought about Anne asking where George was as evidence there was no initial charge of incest. That’s pretty compelling and you might be onto something there!

    I also think George’s wife and father were probably just trying not to go down with Anne and George, but whether that makes them cowards or merely human is up for debate in my mind. Although as Cranky noted, Jane’s later involvement with KH is puzzling. You’d think someone who’d just avoided death by the skin of her teeth (for something not under her control) would go out of her way to be more careful in future, and certainly not actively get involved with helping the current queen commit adultery. What could she have been thinking?

    Could Jane’s involvement with Anne and George have made her vulnerable to threats or blackmail if she didn’t help KH and Culpeper? We know Culpeper was far from a nice guy, having been excused and protected by Henry VIII when he’d been involved in a rape and murder earlier. Did Culpeper want what he wanted (sex with the queen) and zero in on the weak link in the Queen’s household? Maybe Jane HAS been unjustly vilified by history. It’s something to consider, anyway.

  7. I suppose it had to be something pretty big to bring down a Queen, and so the accusations had to be mega-lurid and completely ‘over the top.’ Lots of bright, lovely young things – doing what young people have always done and will always do – that is, having fun and making laughter and music together – all got caught up in the mess. Innocents all.

  8. I think Cromwell was determined to get rid of the Boleyn faction and came up with his so called evidence quickly and with the king’s approval. I would not want to be questioned by Cromwell! I think he would use any interrogation method to get Jane to say what he wanted to hear so I would take her testimony with a grain of salt. He probably used torture on Mark Smeaton, but there are psychological forms as well. Just my opinion, but I thought the weakest part of “The Tudors” was the way George was portrayed.

  9. Perhaps Jane helped Katherine Howard as a way of getting back at Henry. This would make perfect sense if she were, in fact, forced into giving false evidence against George and Anne. Helping Kathrine “hurt” Henry may have seemed like the perfect revenge for Jane. After all, if (I believe he did ) he had a vital role in bringing down the Boleyns Jane might have seen Katherine as the perfect way to get revenge for death of her husband and sister-in-law. Unfortunately, it backfired on her and she ended up loosing her head in the process.

  10. What Carolyn says about Jane Rochford being open to blackmail is also suggested in C.J. Sansom’s NOVEL “Sovereign” and in this particular book the blackmailer of the Duke of Norfolk, a relative and only survived by the skin of his teeth as he was finally incarcerated by Henry, due to be executed by Henry died a few days before.

    All we really know is that Jane testified against her sister-in-law, brother and others is the “clique” – Reasons could be many.

    And whilst I love this period of history I would still prefer to live in the 21st century even if it is going the the famous “crisis”

  11. Hi Emma,
    It would be nice to go back in time sometimes and find out the real truth about people – just as long as we could get back to 2009 again!

    Hi Louise,
    Thank you! I do try to be balanced and I wanted to examine the different theories regarding George. You’re completely right about Anne asking about George – yes, she would have known or had an inkling that he had been arrested if she had been interrogated about incest. I think that prisoners were kept in the dark about the charges against them until they got into court, so George himself may not even have known the full extent of what he was being charged with until he got to court. I do find it interesting that it was thought that he’d get off.

    Hi Anne,
    It is sad that Anne and George were condemned just for having a close brother and sister relationship and having lots in common. They were both patrons of the arts, both enjoyed poetry and music and they had strong religious views. Incest would not even have crossed their minds, however desperate Anne was to hang on to Henry. I’m glad you’re in George and Anne’s corner, me too!

    Hi Eliza,
    Whatever Jane did or didn’t do, she did manage to get back to court, although she did have to send begging letters to Cromwell for help. I’m not sure that her position at court necessarily means that she gave false evidence (the incest accusation) against George or Anne, she may have told Cromwell about Anne and George joking about the King and then kept clear of the trouble that was brewing. She was not someone who Cromwell needed to be rid of. I guess we’ll never know though!

    Hi Cranky,
    Yes, perhaps Jane spoke out of fear. Perhaps she was a pragmatist, like Weir says, and just did what she had to do to save her own neck. I wonder too why she got involved with the whole Catherine Howard/Culpepper affair. Historian Lacey Baldwin Smith describes Jane as “a pathological meddler with the instincts of a procuress who achieves a vicarious pleasure from arranging assignations”, but perhaps Jane felt sorry for Catherine and was trying to help her find some kind of happiness or attempting to live her life through Catherine.

    Hi Carolyn,
    I agree with you about Jane being vilified by history – it’s so easy to make her into a monster when we just do not know what happened. Also, it is easy to look down on Thomas Boleyn for the fact that he did nto try to prevent what happened to George and Anne, but what could he have done? He had a wife and other daughter to think about.
    It is interesting what you say about Culpepper – not a nice chap at all!

    Hi Rochie,
    Yes, I agree, the accusations had to be heinous enough to shock people and to justify the executions.

    Hi Lisa,
    We just don’t know what Cromwell did to Mark to get his confession and, as you say, there are psychological means of torture. It might be that he simply promised Mark a swifter death by the axe, rather than the usual traitor’s death. Perhaps he used psychological pressure on Jane and put the fear of God in her. We just can’t judge Mark or Jane when we don’t know what they went through.

    Hi Jennifer,
    That’s an interesting theory about Jane getting her revenge on the KIng, after all, Henry was devastated by the betrayal of his “rose without a thorn”.

    Hi Jenny,
    I haven’t got to Sovereign yet. My husband is reading Dark Fire and I’m finally reading Dissolution. We bought my father nad father-in-law Dissolution for Father’s Day and both have gone on to read the full series because they enjoyed the first one so much. Yes, I think I prefer the 21st century too!

    Hi Renee,
    Let us know if you find out any more about your Smeaton relatives.

  12. I read Julia Fox’s Jane Boleyn last year and don’t remember much of it because it was pretty light on information. There is just not enough evidence extant about Jane Parker to make a really rounded biography. I might just have to reread it after all this discussion.

    One thing to remember is the Jane and George got married in 1524, before the Boleyns really became prominent. In The Tudors, Anne was already queen (if I remember correctly) when they got married, which really changes the dynamic. Jane was part of the family before Anne rose to power, so it makes sense that Anne confided in her as things started to heat up with the king, and then as things started to cool down later.

    Julia Fox also makes the point repeatedly that Jane had nothing to gain by condemning her husband because it effectively impoverished her. A woman in those times was completely dependent on her husband, so with George’s fall she lost all her money and had to resort to begging Cromwell to force Thomas Boleyn to give her money. The book also mentions that Jane’s father Lord Morley thought she was innocent, though he couldn’t overtly say so. He was commissioned to translate something about the Trojan War (I believe it was the Roman de la Rose) and inserted his own line into the translation about how the sin of one woman caused another woman to look bad. It’s ostensibly about the sin of Helen of Troy, but since it wasn’t in the original text he was translating from, it seems he was trying to subtly say that the sin of one woman (Katherine Howard) caused the fall of another (Jane Parker).

    Anyway, great article. Can’t wait to read part 3.

  13. George had been a favourite of the king up until cromwell brought about allegations to put him under arrest and imprison him.I do feel that Cromwell felt somewhat threatened by the Boleyn faction to a point of envy.He saw the Boleyn familly before his own eyes rise and rise to power and felt that they would one day override himself in power,which I feel true, that is if Anne and George plus the co-accused had survived any longer.I do agree that the king had his little part to play in the downfall of his wife and companions and it would have been Henry himself who would have had to give Cromwell the go ahead in doing so.To me it seems that perhaps Henry did not have a mind of his own and just went along with what one told him,especially if the person was close to the king and throne.I feel that the king may have been brainwashed by Cromwell and beleived every single word that came out his mouth and then just went along with it.The king had got himself into the marriage with Anne but could not get himself out of it so he needed Cromwell to get him out of his marriage for him.As things are easier gotten into than out of.I feel that Henry did still love Anne but it was the lack of male issue that was making Henry tire of her.I feel that if she had given birth to a healthy living boy it would or may have just saved her life.Also the lifes of George Boleyn,Mark Smeaton,Henry Norris,Francis Weston and William Bereton.Then if this had been the case what would had of Cromwell done then.? I think he would have grew even more the envious.Do not forget Lord Rochford was due to made a knight of the garter on May 1st but was given to Nicholas Carew instead a suppoerter of Jane Seymour.As Jane was now in favour.

    Also Henry’s marriages seemed to follow a pattern which was coincidental.(Divorced,Beheaded,Died,Divorced,Beheaded,Survived) Even Catherine Parr ended up dying the same way as his third wife Jane Seymour.Do you feel that Henry only loved Jane because she gave him a male heir.I have always wondered and debated on that one.It would be interesting to see that if Jane gave him a girl what would have Henry’s feelings been for her then? would the king have still loved her as he did and still have asked to buried next to her?

    Renee,I was looking at your double barrelled surname (Wolsey-Smeaton) Is it possible that you could be related to the infamous musician Mark Smeaton and the great Cardinal Wolsey? or am I jumping to conclusions here.As I am well aware that persons that are not related to you can have the same surname aswell.

  14. Jenny, I’m going to have to get “Sovereign”, then. Do I need to read the books in order, or can I just pick up “Sovereign” and read it first? Culpeper was a definite bad guy, but the Duke of Norfolk was just as bad – only with more money and clout. And I could think of several reasons why he’d push KH into Culpeper’s arms. He probably thought the king was too old and besotted to question KH “miraculously” conceiving and he’d be able to keep this niece on the throne and his family in power. It makes one wonder, if KH had delivered a son, whether the Duke of Norfolk would have tried to arrange a little ‘accident’ for Edward. It’s too bad Henry VIII died the night before the Duke’s planned execution.

  15. Hi Carolyn,
    I’ve only just begun the series but I would say read them in order so that you get to know the central character Shardlake. I think that they work as stand-alone books because each handles a different “case” for Shardlake but I think it would be better to read them in order – Dissolution, Dark Fire, Sovereign then Revelation.
    I agree with you about the Duke of Norfolk and his huge ambition at any cost.

  16. George failed to be awarded the Order of the Garter on St George’s Day, i.e. 23rd April. On 24th April Henry agreed to the setting up of a special commission looking into various treasons. Is it too cynical to suggest that Henry was aware as early as 23rd April that George was going to be a likely casualty in the plot against Anne? I know Ives argues that Henry had promised the King of France that Carew would be next in line for the honour, but in reality no previous promise to Francis would have prevented Henry from giving the honour to George if he had really wanted to do so.
    Claire, I agree that Anne and George would not have known the nature of the evidence which the Crown intended to rely upon until they were actually at their trials, but they would have known what they were being charged with, even if they were not aware of the exact dates and times of the alleged offences. Anne certainly knew she was being charged with adultery, and she was interrogated by the council upon her arrest, but not about incest.
    Chapuys initially surmised that George and Norris had been arrested for failing to report Anne’s alleged affair with Smeaton. I think it was always the intention to bring George down, but it may have been the initial intention to charge him as an accessory, with the incest charge being manufactured after his arrest. Unfortunately, like so many areas of this tragedy, we will probably never know.
    I agree with Melissa that Julia Fox’s book was rather light on facts, basically because there aren’t many facts relating to Jane. But at least Fox didn’t manufacture evidence to prove her point as some historians tend to do. I don’t believe Jane was the wide-eyed innocent which Fox portrays her as, but likewise I don’t think she was the monster fiction portrays her as either. She didn’t instigate the arrests of Anne and George. That decision had been made long before she became involved. And even if she did give evidence to assist the prosecution with the incest charge, as I said in an above post, what did that evidence amount to anyway? According to Chapuys, not a lot.

  17. Hi Carolyn,

    I would agree with Claire in which to read the books in order of sequence. The first one deals with the dissolution of the monasteries, Sharlakes investigations into deaths and his final revalation that Anne Boleyn was innocent (Remember they are novels but really capture the time). The Second one “Dark Fire” continues in a different Line and the downfall of Cromwell whilst Sovereign higlights the Katherine Howard and how Samsom feel how Jane Rochford was manipualated. The final one for me is “Revelation” which I have read a number of times and really brings out the extremism of the protestants ending with Katherine Parr agreeing, after delaying tio marry Henry.

    As I have a great interets in this period, I think Sasom has done a wondeful job in bringing that particular era to life and the books are so readable.

    For thsoe who are also interested in the history of Sapin, his first novel is called “Winter in Madrid” and deals with teh Civil War .- That’s how I discovered the man

  18. Jenny and Claire, thanks so much for the info! I already bought myself jewelry for Christmas, so I’ll have to give myself the books for my birthday (early January).

  19. First, excuse me for my bad english, I am french. Here is my question : what about the alliance between François 1 the king of France and the Sultan Soleiman, just before the execution ef Anne and the others ? It is possible that Henry want to please to Spain because now, he was in the “bad” place; between Charles quint, the nephew of the poor Catherine, François, actually linked with Soleiman … was not good for him. So the first and perfect way to reach favor with Spain was to destroy Anne and the hated Boleyn, and to assure he was bewitched by her. So, he was not responsable of what he did with Catherine. The way worked so well, I think. It was not a question of love, treason, Jane Parker, Smeaton and do on, just a politic way. And men and women as shield to protect him: Cromwell, Anne, Jane, George, Smeaton… The cas Catherine Howard is another one. It is possible infect that Norfolk triy her to have a son not with the king too ill for that but with an other man, and after the death of Henry, access th poàwer by his nice and is nefew of course, it was evident that Edwar was too weak ti live a long time. Hélène Larrivé

  20. Hi Hélène,
    Don’t worry about your English, it’s perfectly understandable, far better than I can do in French. I think one of Cromwell’s reasons for getting rid of Anne Boleyn and the Boleyn faction was so that he could persuade Henry towards an Imperial/Spanish alliance. Anne favoured the French and she had a strong influence over Henry and Cromwell probably saw that Henry would not change foreign policy while Anne was whispering in his ear! Yes, it may well have come down to politics but more for Cromwell, rather than Henry I would say.
    I do agree with you about Henry justifying his treatment of Anne, and of Catherine of A, by telling himself that Anne had bewitched him. How convenient!
    I’m not sure about Catherine and how far the Duke of Norfolk was willing to push her in securing a Howard claim to the throne. I’m not sure that Henry was capable of producing an heir by this time, with his impotence problems so it may have been far too dangerous for Catherine to get pregnant with somebody else. I’m not sure that she did have a full blown affair (i.e. full sexual intercourse) with Culpeper. Historians like David Starkey do not think that it went quite that far, although it could be said that she was legally married to Dereham because their betrothal had been consummated. She may have been a bigamist.
    About Edward, some historians now wonder if he was the weak, sickly child that he is often portrayed to be. His only illness seems to be the one he died of and I think he was in adequate health until then. Not sure!
    Thanks so much for your comment, you made some great points. lots to think about!

  21. Every time, the kings, in this 16 th century, manage to use one courtier (and his faction) against another one (and kill all the members belongind to the first faction) to increase their power, and Henry VII and his son were a real masters in this practice. Catherine was married for money and Spain alliance, Anne was a shield when Henry VIII wanted the richess of the church in England, and have son, Jane, when he want to seduce again Charles V, and have son, and so on… Every courtier knew that very vell and every one used to do the same, increase their power at any cost. Some of them dies sooner, it is the risk, the other survive, only a time, it was the tragedy of the absolute power, but nobody dare to accuse the king, but every time a shield before him, for example Anne, George, Cromwell, Norfolk, Smeaton… it was the play. Nobody of them is really innocent. The power or the death, it was the fate of all. Even for the kings.
    An terrific symbol of that is the Jane Seymour’s story… Jane who is said a silent, sweet, good (and may be not very cleaver) young girl : when Anne is still alive in the tower, she merely prepare the festivity of her marriage, (the engagement and festivities was acount just the day after the behading of Anne, or the afternoon of the 19 May !)… her marriage wich was celebrated eleven days after the death of her precedent wife in the “heart” of Henry. No problem. “The clock go around”, as we say in french. And after, it is the fact that she was an good mother in law for the two daugthers of Henry. No “soul state”, even for this gentle wooman, when the power order. Hélène Larrivé

  22. hello, Claire,
    Thank for your kindness about my english, first !
    I think that (if the acount I have read about it are veridics) Henry was not really impotent, but little by little, when he took age, it was difficult enough for him to arise… and a real “work” for his wives and mistresses ! (and when he became enormous as we can see to day in the London tower : his “armure” -I dont’ know the name in english, sorry- is giant). And probabily it was worse again when he became older (and the accident of horse left him this awfull wounded at leg, infected more and more ! and painfull enough). Not an ideal lover you see ! but may be a lover who tried and again, as many men ! On this subject, is it true that George Boleyn, furious, would have said during his trial “th king was half impotent” ? And Anne too, in private? A revenge ? But “half” only ! Perhaps it was enought to persuade him, as great as was his desire, he was the father of a son of another one with Catherine ? (Not with Anne, because her fall was -I think- only a politic affair -alliance with Spain against François the first and Soleiman- and it seemed unlikely she “fly away” from the king : too much risks for a very less profit, and she was a pragmatic woman as she demonstrated all her life.) But it is possible for Catherine. All the ways were usuable for the cynic Norfolk to reach power, no matter the risk to make his 18 years old nice behaded by an awfull and disgusting old tyran. A lucky man indeed, for him : saved in extremis of the axe because Henry (at the end !) dead the night before his execution. And he continued after his plots as if nothing was ever happened. Hélène Larrivé

  23. I think that it is most probable that Mark Smeaton as a commoner was tortured to make him confess to an affair with Anne Boleyn and that George Bolyn as a peer was not tortured.

    Everyday modern day police are able to coerce confessions out of innocent people. It is surprising that Cromwell & his men are able to coerece a “confession” out of a young gentlewoman like Jane Rochford?

    Also Queen Katherine had just recently died – AB’s comment that “Now I am truly Queen” . Henry probably would have found it extremely akward to have another divorce & another ex-wife running around.

    Perhaps Henry found Jane Seymour relaxing after letting Anne call the shots for so many years (she did manage to keep him on the string for 6 years)?

  24. The only person with a personal stake in removing Anne was henry. For Cromwell it was all about foreign policy. They needed an alliance with Spain and Anne was an impediment to that, If there was spite and resentment it came from Henry. Maybe Anne was smarter than him? Quicker witted. made him feel or look foolish sometimes. It would be hard for a narcissist like Henry to forget pr forgive such things, and he’d store them up until he felt the time was right for revenge.

  25. Its so werid to think all the King Henry’s in england is my ancestors and listening to people to try to firgure out what really happened. I think back and those times they had do what they had to do . So the King would have power of england still . I saw the show and Anne Boylen was a two faced person but hey it just shows you in the show how she was and in books . I think the only wife he truely loved was Jane Seymour. Many of poeple have there own ideas what happened but its the life that they lived in and im thankful we still dont treat people this way .

  26. I agree that none of the Boleyns could have fallen without the expressed consent of Henry. While I love Allison Weir’s books, I have to disagree with the idea of Henry’s innocence. If he was convinced that Anne and the rest were guilty then indeed he was deluded and was seeing and believing exactly what he wanted to in order to rid himself of a woman whom had not produced the promised son and heir to the throne. What man truly could have a hearty breakfast on the day the woman he’d once loved and obsessed over was going to die and then in the wake of her death while the bells still tolled, he makes his merry way to Jane Seymour’s arms? Henry basically was fed up to the teeth with it all and wanted an easy out and it came at the expense of the Boleyns and other innocents. So very sad and tragic.

  27. Claire,

    I appreciate your intelligent and thoughtful analysis of Anne and George Boleyn. I am interested, however, in your quick dismissal of Warnicke’s theory of George’s possible bisexuality or homosexuality. I find the fact that he gave a male musician a gift of two expensive books somewhat unusual unless there was a unique and personal relationship of some sort. Anne hereself was pretty (snobbishly?) dismissive of Smeaton when he suggested in the game of courtly love that he was infatuated with her, so it’s likely that her brother would also have felt to be in a much higher social standing than a lowly musician… so… why the expensive gift to someone of much lower birth and rank?

    It is possible that the Boleyn siblings’ famed love of the arts could have meant that the two men shared a platonic and artistic passion for music and that Smeaton’s talent was enough for George to wish to give him a gift, or maybe that it was a New Year’s gift, but why a critical book on marriage, and not a book on music? It seems a very unusual gift and gifts in the 16th century were absolutely coded with meaning upon meaning, for example, the initial codes that were in most jewellery of the time. George was telling Smeaton something, but what and why?

    I do think it’s a sound theory (but definitely still a theory) that George and Smeaton either had an affair, or that George was interested in Smeaton, but not the other way around. It does potentially explain the possible breakdown in Jane and George’s marriage, and why she may have been willing to see him condemned. There may be limited evidence to prove it, but homesexuality was certainly not going to be talked about in polite society, and even if they were specifically condemned for it, it was still “the love that dare not speak it’s name”, and from Cromwell’s point of view, it was easier and more expedient for everyone’s downfall to claim they were lovers of Anne instead.

    Something else to consider: Henry VIII passed a “buggery” law the year he married Anne. Was the reason he did so because there was a growing homosexual clique amongst the courtiers at the time? Anne was known for bringing sophistication, art, music and culture to the English court… and many gay or bisexual men were leaders of the arts both then and now (Shakespeare, Marlowe, Da Vinci, Michelangelo, for example). It’s possible that cultured gay men flocked to the English court, attracted by the new wave of culture that Queen Anne encouraged. Were George and Smeaton part of that circle?

    Lastly, it may just be a poor choice of words, but I sense some judgment when you say “It is rather sad” that a gift between friends could imply a homosexual relationship. Certainly, in 1533, there would be harsh judgment of a homosexual relationship, but this is 2012. Since with modern science (and not theological basis for bigotry), we now understand that homosexuality is not an illness or sin and is in fact something that not only humans, but all mammals, can be born with, just like other recessive traits like blue eyes or left-handedness, “it is rather sad’ that you might judge it as a negative quality of George Boleyn. I hope that’s not the case.

    Thanks again for your very interesting Web site. Keep up the good work.

    1. Hi Glenn,
      It’s not a quick dismissal, my opinion, and it is only that, is based on three and a half years full-time research into the Boleyns and I have found not one shred of evidence of a homosexual affair. George, Smeaton and Wyatt all wrote in the book in question and it was a book that was “trendy” and was being passed around, why is the sharing of a book evidence of a sexual relationship. If it is, then Wyatt was also sexually involved with them. I am sure that if these men were homosexual then that would have been brought up in May 1536 because homosexuality was seen as a sin and would have helped the Crown bring them down. As you say, we’re talking about the 1530s not 2012 and that’s the only way you can look at these people, from the context of the 16th century.

      Smeaton may have been lowly but he was a favourite of Henry VIII, as were George, Wyatt, Norris and Weston, so they were all part of a circle surrounding the King. The Privy Purse Expenses of November 1529 to December 1532 show frequent mentions of “marke”. In the introduction, the editor explains that it is clear that Smeaton was “wholly supported and clothed” by Henry VIII. There are many mentions of payments for “shert”s and “hosen”. His rise in favour is evident from the increase in his rewards during the period, from “xx s”i (20 shillings) in December 1530 to “iii li. vi s. viii d.”ii(£3 6 shillings and 8 pence) in October 1532. The increase in payments for clothing would also indicate this rise in favour.

      I take offence at your last paragraph:
      “Lastly, it may just be a poor choice of words, but I sense some judgment when you say “It is rather sad” that a gift between friends could imply a homosexual relationship. Certainly, in 1533, there would be harsh judgment of a homosexual relationship, but this is 2012. Since with modern science (and not theological basis for bigotry), we now understand that homosexuality is not an illness or sin and is in fact something that not only humans, but all mammals, can be born with, just like other recessive traits like blue eyes or left-handedness, “it is rather sad’ that you might judge it as a negative quality of George Boleyn. I hope that’s not the case.”

      I think it is sad that things can be twisted to fit a theory, whatever that theory might be and it had nothing to do with bigotry, why would it? I do not find the idea of George being homosexual sad at all and just because I argue that there is no evidence that he was homosexual does not mean that I am against the idea. I also argue that Anne was not a witch, but that does not mean I’m anti-witch. I also argue that Anne did not have six fingers, a protruding tooth and a goitre, but that does not mean that I am bigoted or would not like her if she did have? Of course not. Why is an argument re lack of evidence “a harsh judgment of a homosexual relationship”? That makes no sense.

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