Lord Chancellor Audley and the commissions of oyer and terminer of 1536

Posted By on April 24, 2018

On this day in history, 24th April 1536, Sir Thomas Audley, Lord Chancellor to Henry VIII, set up two commissions of oyer and terminer, one for the county of Middlesex and the other for Kent.

These commissions were used to investigate and prosecute serious crimes, including treason. On 10th May 1536, the Grand Jury of Middlesex met and ruled that there was sufficient evidence against Queen Anne Boleyn, her brother Lord Rochford, Mark Smeaton, Sir Henry Norris, Sir Francis Weston and William Brereton for crimes committed in the county of Middlesex, at Hampton Court Palace and Whitehall, to send them to trial. Similarly, the following day, the Grand Jury of Kent met regarding alleged crimes committed by these same people at Greenwich Palace, East Greenwich, and Eltham Palace and ruled that they should go to trial.

Although it is not clear whether these commissions were set up with these people and crimes in mind, they were used to judge Smeaton, Norris, Weston and Brereton on 12th May for high treason. It this coincidental? I think not.

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Picture: Thomas Audley, 1st Baron Audley of Walden, posthumous portrait, English School, Audley End.