Following on from the rulings of the Grand Juries of Middlesex and Kent on the 10th and 11th May 1536, I wanted to share with you an extract from my book The Fall of Anne Boleyn: A Countdown about the indictments and Anne Boleyn’s alleged crimes.
If we combine the Kent and Middlesex Indictments, we get a clearer picture of the dates of the alleged offences:
- 6th and 12th October 1533 – Anne and Sir Henry Norris at Westminster.
- 16th and 27th November 1533 – Anne and Sir William Brereton at Greenwich.
- 3rd and 8th December 1533 – Anne and Sir William Brereton at Hampton Court.
- 12th April 1534 – Anne and Mark Smeaton at Westminster (date for Anne procuring Smeaton).
- 8th and 20th May 1534 – Anne and Sir Francis Weston at Westminster.
- 6th and 20th June 1534 – Anne and Sir Francis Weston at Greenwich.
- 26th April 1535 – Anne and Mark Smeaton at Westminster.
- 13th and 19th May 1535 – Anne and Mark Smeaton at Greenwich.
- 31st October 1535 – Anne and some of the men plotted the King’s death at Westminster.
- 2nd and 5th November 1535 – Anne and her brother George Boleyn,Lord Rochford at Westminster.
- 27th November 1535 – Anne gave gifts to the men at Westminster.
- 22nd and 29th December 1535 – Anne and her brother George Boleyn, Lord Rochford, at Eltham Palace.
- 8th January 1536 – Anne plotted the King’s death with Rochford, Norris, Weston and Brereton at Greenwich.
These dates actually do not make sense. Historian Eric Ives comments that three quarter of the alleged offences can be disproven because Anne Boleyn or the man involved were actually somewhere else, as shown below.1
The Case for the Defence
- On 6th and 12th October 1533, Anne Boleyn would still have been unchurched* after giving birth to her daughter, Elizabeth, the previous month, and so would still have been confined to her chambers. Furthermore, at the time she was at Greenwich, not Westminster.
- 3rd and 8th December 1533 – Records show that the royal court was at Greenwich on 8th December, so Anne could not have been committing adultery with Sir William Brereton at Hampton Court Palace.2
- April, May and June 1534 – A letter from George Taylor to Lady Lisle dated 27th April 1534 says that “The Queen hath a goodly belly, praying our Lord to send us a prince”3 and in July, Anne’s brother, Lord Rochford, was sent on a diplomatic mission to France to ask for the postponement of a meeting between Henry VIII and Francis I because of Anne’s condition: “being so far gone with child she could not cross the sea with the King”.4 So, there is evidence that Anne was visibly pregnant at this time, a time when she was allegedly seducing and sleeping with Mark Smeaton and Sir Francis Weston. Sexual intercourse was not commonly practised when the woman was pregnant.
- Anne could also not have slept with Weston on 20th June at Greenwich when the court was at Hampton Court from 3rd to 26th June.
- 13th and 19th May 1535 – It would have been difficult for Anne to be sleeping with Mark Smeaton at Greenwich on the 19th when she was in Richmond at the time.5
- 27th November 1535 – Seeing as Anne Boleyn miscarried a baby of 15 weeks’ gestation on the 29th January 1536, she would have been pregnant at this time, although in the early stages. If she had had an inkling that she was pregnant, what benefit would it be for her to give gifts to the men to get them on side? Also, Anne was not at Westminster on this date, she was at Windsor.
- 22nd and 29th December 1535 – Would a woman in the early stages of pregnancy really have the reason or the inclination to seduce her brother?
- 8th January 1536 – Would Anne really be plotting the King’s death while also celebrating Catherine of Aragon’s death with Henry?
The dates listed in the indictments are pure nonsense, but the catch-all phrases “and on divers other days and places” and “on several days before and after” meant that if the dates were challenged then the indictment was still valid. Interestingly, the date that Anne Boleyn argued with Sir Henry Norris and accused him of looking “for dead men’s shoes”, the 30th April, is not in the indictments, yet Anne admitted to talking to Norris on that day and mentioning the King’s death. Odd!
Looking at the dates of Anne’s alleged adultery I find it difficult to believe that a woman, never-mind a queen, could hop from bed to bed like that over a period of just over 2 years and not be caught sooner. How could she possibly have had five lovers and not be gossiped about? It beggars belief.
(The above is an extract taken from The Fall of Anne Boleyn: A Countdown)
Hilary Mantel, author of Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies commented in an article: “It is said that the details of the indictments do not stand up to scrutiny, that Anne could not have been where she was alleged to be on this date or that. But this misses the point. If Anne was not where everybody thought she was, that did not count in her favour. If she had risen from childbed to meet a lover, that showed her a monster of lust.” However, I think it is she who is missing the point. When a queen was confined to her chambers before and following childbirth she was not alone, she was with her ladies. Her ladies would have had to have been accessories to Anne’s crime. Plus Anne had to get from Greenwich to Westminster without anyone knowing.
Was a queen who was attended all of the time meant to have left these palaces to meet with her lovers at other royal properties without anyone noticing? How could she sneak from Windsor to Westminster unnoticed? If she’d had help from her ladies then they were guilty of misprision of treason, yet none were brought to trial.
What do you think?
Notes and Sources
*unchurched – Churching was a rite of passage marking a woman’s return to normal life after her confinement for childbirth. Although churching is often seen as a purification ceremony, cleansing the woman after the unclean business of childbirth, it was more a celebration of her survival, a thanksgiving service.
- Ives, Eric (2004) The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn, 344.
- Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, Volume 6 – 1533, 1500.
- LP vii. 556.
- Ibid., 958.
- Ives, 344.
- Mantel, Hilary, “Anne Boleyn: witch, bitch, temptress, feminist”, Friday 11 May, The Guardian. This can be read at http://www.theguardian.com/books/2012/may/11/hilary-mantel-on-anne-boleyn