Queen Anne Boleyn’s alleged crimes
Posted By Claire on May 11, 2015
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
37 thoughts on “Queen Anne Boleyn’s alleged crimes”
Never let logic get in the way of pre-conceived opinion, it only confuses people.
Love that – have said it myself many a time and for many years. 🙂 Or my latest, “don’t let your prejudice get in the way of learning something”.
But what is interesting about Hilary Mantel’s books is she shows how people could be one place and said to be another – that books can be altered, that people can say “tell them I am not here” and put their names elsewhere…and that many of the places are not ridiculously far away to get from one to another with a hard ride.
I had a boyfriend who lived 12 hours drive away and on weekends he would make it in 6 hours. And he was in another country and had to go through customs. Passion can make the world move very fast.
When one marries oneself to one perspective ones closes one’s mind to options or illuminating alternatives. And there is nothing logical about that.
I just can’t see how Anne and her lover could leave one royal palace and travel to another without there being at least some gossip about it. As queen, she was never alone and she would have had to have had a horse prepared for her from the stables, or sort it out herself unseen. Then she’d also have to get back unnoticed. For this to have been going on since 1533 without anyone noticing just beggars belief in my opinion. She wasn’t meeting a man in her privy, she was said to be meeting men in another palace. If the charges really were true then those that helped her should also have been tried, as Jane Boleyn was for helping Catherine Howard.
Yes it’s strange when you consider that no other person was accused of aiding and abetting Anne and she would surely need quite a bit of help to keep her assignations secret, she was bed hopping between five men if you believe the accusations, really it’s an insult to the woman’s intelligence here was some one who had kept Henry at bay for about six years who wasn’t seen with anyone else, at least there was no mention of any other man involved with her except Thomas Wyatt in the early days of Henrys courtship, then he stopped his persuit when he realised Henry was serious about her, her behaviour was very chaste and when she married Henry I can’t see how she’d suddenly turn into a man eater when it was very dangerous for her to do so, imagine Henry had gone to all that trouble to make her Queen and she treats him like that, no it’s not possible she was too intelligent, even after she allegedly said to her brother that Henry was impotent I can’t see her sleeping with anyone even out of desperation to conceive she’d be very foolhardy to do that and as we have all said, it’s impossible for a Queen to have affairs and keep them secret especially as Claire says, for so long to, Henry V111 is remembered for the dissolution and making himself head of the church, also for building the navy and of course most famously his six wives, but the one thing that stands out about him is his treatment of his second wife and personally I think he was a fool to go to all that trouble to get her and then abandon her so completely.
I understand you, Claire. The point being that people can get around when they want to…nd the distance itself proves nothing unless it was the executioner coming form France wherein he could never do a trip like that in a day. Mantel seems less than convinced that distance throws it all out the window.
Now does that mean I think she had affairs with all of them? Not really, no. I think she had a pretty racy court with people who clearly gave evidence against her. But I am saying that the we can’t just discredit things we don’t like…much a that would be nice…saying Mantel is illogical. She doesn’t say Anne was guilty of adultery in her mind, but that we just don’t know.
Cheers and hope you are well. I am tang a leaf out of your book, os to speak, and doing a charity marathon soon. Oh boy!
It’s not the distance that would be a problem as many of these places would be close (except Windsor) by horse in those days, it’s the fact that she was never alone and so someone would have had to have known that she was leaving the palace. Also, how were she and then men gaining access to the other palaces? It just strikes me as Cromwell putting together this list of crimes very quickly without having chance to look at the records of where the court was on those dates and so picking the wrong palace. I’m not saying that we should discredit things we don’t like, I’m going with logic. Is it logical to believe that Anne Boleyn was sleeping with her husband’s Groom of the Stool in Westminster when she was supposed to be in confinement with her ladies at Greenwich and he was one of the King’s closest friends and servants and was also supposed to be serving the King at Greenwich? They surely would have been missed. The historical evidence just does not back up these indictments.
A marathon?! Wow, good on you! When and where and what charity?
I agree there is nothing logical about Mantel’s comments or her books, but that doesn’t stop people believing them provided they fit in with their pre-conceived opinions. Logic, as set out in this article, can safely be ignored. As I say, it just confuses people.
You misunderstood me Clare.
Hilary Mantel is stating her personal opinion. She has not established how Anne or her alleged lovers could have been elsewhere to what the record states. Anne could not simply slip out without being noticed. I am afraid you have been watching the Three Musketeers too many times. Anne was not alone and she was watched for her own safety. Had she seriously tried to meet a lover, she would have been followed and caught, her ladies would have been implicated as with Katherine Howard, and none were. Katherine Howard’s escapades happened when the court was not in familiar surroundings and Henry was too ill to pay any attention to the situation. She had women from her former home and a history of nocturnal adventures. Her alleged adultery took place over a far shorter period and even here the evidence is sketchy and some authors question her guilt. The dates make no sense as many of them cover periods when Anne was pregnant or confined to the birth room before and after childbirth or a miscarriage. For most of the other dates Anne or the men had a water tight alibi. The dead man’s shoes incident was not included in the charges, so there is no evidence of treason either.
Anne Boleyn was innocent of these things, the five men were innocent, it was a stitch up, pure and simple. The judges at the trials were either linked to each other by affinity, marriage or support for the Seymours, related or enemies of Anne Boleyn; the accused did not have a chance.
Yes I did, JudithRex, it’s just that the art of irony isn’t your strong point!
To clarify, yes I did undersand you. It was my original comment which you failed to understand, which rather made my point for me. Thanks!
Woah, let’s ‘play nicely’. I know feelings can run high but let’s be polite.
Yes Claire, Clare has an issue with different opinions and thinks herself in some odd way my intellectual superior. it is rather hilarious actually so don’t worry about it.
Yes Clare, it is ofttimes hard to follow the “irony” of a complete stranger on a chat board in a different country. As the wise woman said ” sarcasm is rudeness disguised as wit.”
I’m tempted….really tempted….nope, I’ll rise above it for Claire’s sake.
why thank you, Clare. i am sure the nice people here will appreciate your restraint. 🙂 I know I do!
Let’s say for the sake of arguement that Anne did have these affairs. I know the king and queen would go on progresses(journeys) to visit various parts of the country. It’s possible that something might have happend on one of these. Don’t forget, her cousin ,Katherine Howard with the aid of Lady Jane Rochford,George’s widow used to look for secret ways that Thomas Culpepper could come to her at these manors she and Henry visited.
One time they were almost caught by the night watchman.
In Wolf Hall last night, Jane goes to Cromwell and says to him about George and Anne supposedly being sexually invovled and other such stuff with other men.If Jane did really say such things, it might have been not because of anger at George, but rather that something happend between her and Anne and was getting back at Anne.
Look at her behaviour with Katherine Howard. After all she had been through ,you would think she would have had brains enough to tell Archbishop Cranmer or Thomas Howard, Duke of Norfolk what Katherine was doing.The first time or two she should have let them know with all the details and say she was frightened for her mistress the queen. I certainly would have told the Duke what was up.
Sometimes I wonder if Jane had some sort of mental illness, maybe obssevie -compulisve due to the fact after having your husband and sister-in-law loose their heads, one would tread very carefully at court.
If Katherine Howard’s affair shows anything, it shows that the interrogators were able to find the exact places and dates. So why would they unable to do so in Anne’s case?
After all, somebody had to know, besides Anne and her “lovers”, and even if people have hard to remember the exact dates, one usually remembers something like “it was the night when it snowed”. And one certainly remembers the places.
As for lady Rochford, the scene is invented by Mantel. In the TV series, she is even more evil than in the novel as there are no scenes with lady Worcester. She is the one who, after being accused by her brother of loose living, said that she was no worse than the Queen.
There is no evidence that lady Rochford told anything bad about Anne before she was interrogated in May – and then she herself was in danger if it was found that she had concealed anything.
As Linda Porter stesses in her biography, there is no evidence that Jane’s relation with her husband or Anne was anything but normal. Even if there had been problems between them, Jane would hardly have caused them harm that would have ruined herself financially and socially.
As for telling about Katherine Howard, it is easy to say what to do when living in safety It was too late to tell after the affair had begun for then lady Rochford had already guilty. On the other hand, if she had told about the first message, she would probably not have been believed. And if she had refused to help the Queen, her own position would have been in danger.
Just out of curiosity: how possible was it that someone could blurt out “that’s impossible” where Henry could hear it if they remembered that Anne Boleyn was not at the place where she was charged with committing adultery? I understand that legally, the strict dates are not that relevant (the “on or about” gives some weasel room), but it seems to me that, if you take the idea that Henry had been committed to the marriage until Cromwell persuaded him that Anne was guilty, then the erroneous dates posed a great threat to Cromwell: someone who had a special reason for remembering where they were on one of the specified dates (i.e., “I remember that date because I won a lot of money on a bet on December 3 and I know that Her Majesty was not at Hampton Court on that date”) could bring down the whole thing.
Esther, if you take the premise, as I do myself. that Henry did not set out to kill her but be rid of her through annulment, then for him to go to this extreme meant he believed the charges. He was not then, in his rage, going to check the dates on the document and the only person who could have and maybe should have pushed back was Cranmer. He didn’t. Who else was going to fight for her to unravel the dates?
True, Cranmer didn’t check the dates — but he certainly could have done so. The families of Weston and Brereton also could have checked the dates. My point, though was that the whole scheme could have been brought down by anyone who remembered where people were on the relevant dates — thereby posing a great risk to Cromwell. Even though no one did discover the problem, there were certainly people who could have done so — and told Henry that the dates didn’t fit. If you believe that Henry was not eager to get rid of Anne, but was still committed to the marriage, he might have seized on the problem with relief, and asked for more double-checking.
Yes, i understood your point, Esther. I was noting that Cranmer on the scene locally was the only one who could have potentially looked into it if he didn’t believe what he was told, or wanted to argue each and every date, which of course he was not going to do. He backpedaled right quick. The families probably would not know where everyone was or wasn’t anyway including their own son/husband 24/7.
The whole thing smells to me like a man who was passionately angry at his wife and who believed her to be a traitor to him…the exactness of each date probably would not have signified at the time much at all with him in that state, if you believe he was in that state. You may not, of course.
One must remember that Thomas Boleyn did not defend her daughter and son because he did not dare to cause the displeasure of the king. So it is understandable that the other families did not dare to call their husbands or sons innocent either.
In addition, even if the dates were presented in the oyer and terminer, were they public to somebody who was present in those occasions? Was it so that Anne and men hear them only in their trial?
If I have understood Lacey Baldwin Smith right, the thinking in the 16th century was different from us To us, it is essential whether the dates are right (and even if they were, that only makes the possibility and even that is not enough to condemn somebody).
In Henry’s world, nothing happened in chance. Just as God had earlier told him through Leviticus that his marriage with Katherine was sinful, so now the words of Lady Worcester were a revelation given by God that Anne was a whore. Once he got those matters in his head, nothing could make him change his mind.
Further, in those days a word was a mother of a deed. So “looking in a dead man’s shoos” told that Anne desired her husband’s dead, and that desire would cause a deed.
Also, if Henry had married Anne because she had bewitched him, as he said already before her miscarriage, and she was a witch, she could do anything.
For me, the dates of the indictments are further proof that it was Henry VIII who was ultimately responsible for Anne’s fall. I’m sure that Cromwell, having the great legal mind he had, would have made sure that everything was correct and watertight if it had been his plot and he’d had to convince the King of Anne’s guilt. It would only have taken the King or one of his intimates to comment on the impossibility of the men and Anne being at those place on those dates for Cromwell’s case to crumble. However, if it was all down to the King then none of it mattered. Those that could question the dates would be quickly silenced, they’d know what was expected.
As Hannele says, thinking was different back then anyway. We see it all as a case that could just be thrown out because we live in a world where it is “innocent until proven guilty”. In their article, Law as the Engine of State: The Trial of Anne Boleyn, Margery and Frederick Schauer point out “Whether the jury was selected specifically is of little moment, because it was virtually impossible to be acquitted of treason, especially where, as here, the King’s wishes, although publicly unvoiced, were no secret” and that “the burden of proof was on the accused to prove their innocence of the charges contained in the indictment, and this the men could not do.” There was no ‘innocent until proved guilty’ in Tudor times, more ‘guilty until proved innocent’.
Yes, I hear you, but it is not impossible to shut a door esp if one had accomplices of like mind…or she might have thought herself safe form criticism with the laws Cromwell passed.
Of course, conjecture is simply that, but Mantel was not unfounded in her references.
I am doing a 26 mile for great Cancer awareness. And I am covered with the $ so no worries. 🙂
Of course it was possible to shut the door if one has ladies-in-waiting one trusts but then those people would have known the exact places if not all dates.
And why was none of these ladies-in-waiting accused like lady Rochford was with Katherine Howard? Instead, many of them were ladies of later queens.
that would be “breast cancer awareness”, not “great”. Thanks.
I think Henry wanted to believe Anne had deceived him so he could convince himself that she deserved to die, he always believed what he wanted to and had this almost child like belief that what he thought and did was acceptable to God, after all he was Gods anointed, he was chosen by God to rule Henry was deeply religious and Anne’s last and fatal miscarriage nailed the lid in her coffin, all that was needed was for something to happen and he would jump at the chance to rid himself of a wife who had turned distasteful to him, Cromwell gave him the excuse he needed whether Henry believed the charges or not, they were very convenient for him,
Christine, I don’t know, sometimes things just are what they seem. Maybe he believed it because he believed it. Who can say somebody believes something because they want to versus anything else? He may have been nutters later, but he was pretty sane up to 1536 by all accounts.
Also, Henry did not have to kill her as he could easily have annulled the marriage based on having slept with Mary Boleyn (and maybe had a son) which was a canon no-no. They both knew they had too close blood connection and Anne would have had to give in on that. Cromwell looked to review canon law for the annulment for other causes as that one also embarrassed Henry. But I understand it was the reason used to end it in the end anyway.
In the end, I don’t know and I don’t really think anyone else does either. But Greg Walker has made the best argument so far for me on this, Cheers!
Henry wasnt insane in his later years he grew more tyrannical and bad tempered which I think was partly due to the frustrations and disappointments of life, and ill health just as today old people can be cantankerous , and infirmity due to advancing years is mostly the root of that, Henry did have several blows on the head which could well have made him paranoid but he certainly wasn’t insane, as for he didn’t have to execute his second wife, it was really in his best interests to do so, alive she would have been a thorn in his side just as Katherine had been, and Anne would not have gone quietly, had he banished her to a nunnery she could well have escaped and gone to France where she would have continued to stir up trouble, so the poor woman had to die in her own way, in part due to her very nature she was just as dangerous as Katherine had been.
Anne could not have been as dangerous as Katherine who had allies both in England and abroad. Anne had none as was shown that even his father took Henry’s side.
In addition, with Elizabeth Henry would have a good means to keep Anne making trouble if she wanted to keep her daughter in his good graces.
I thought I read he had a disease which may have impacted him cognitively. You are probably right, he wasn’t insane. Just isolated. I actually think he was right to be paranoid as was Mary and later Elizabeth. People really did want to kill them but those Tudors were quick to kill with limited evidence. it is why they all died in their beds, probably. But had unpleasant lives, at least the kids did.
I used to think as you do about the fuss part, but once I really understood they had willfully ignored canon law I realized it would not have mattered if Anne made a fuss, canon law was against her and she would not have had any defense. She may have thought Henry wouldn’t use it because it implicated him as well, but at that stage I think he would have definitely used it to end the marriage. It just so happens at the time Cromwell was looking at the law with a law expert she was babbling indiscretions to Norris in public. Bad timing for sure.
Anne Boleyn was confined to her chambers having just given birth to Elizabeth when some of these ridiculous alleged crimes are meant to have taken place. Really? Shows men know nothing. She would have been too tired and exhausted and would have been surrounded by her ladies, confinded for 40 days after birth until she entered into public again having been cleansed and blessed by a service of churching, meant to mark her entry back into the community and also to have given thanks for the safe delivey of the queen through the dangers of child bed. The room was excluded to men and Anne was closely cared for and watched at this time. She would not have been able to escape for a romantic love making session in another palace several miles away. It was also forbidden by the Church to have sex after childbirth for several months or during the time of breast feeding. Anne tried to breast feed Elizabeth but was stopped from doing so at some point. However, she may have done so for the first few weeks of birth. Anne also had Elizabeth with her all of the time until she was sent away to her own household in December 1533. She placed her on a pillar when she was in meetings and when she received visitors to the annoyance of the counsellors. Is this the sort of woman who slept and bedhopped as accused? No, of course not.
Anne was a devout Christian woman and had high moral standards. She dismissed her own sister when she found that she was pregnant and had married without royal consent. She gave high standards and rules to her ladies and to her gentlemen as well. She upbraided Henry for his own adultery. She was never alone and she was too busy for adultery. The dates can be shown to have been invented by Cromwell. I think that even in the face of the confession of Mark Smeaton that Cromwell did not have a strong enough case to bring down the Queen. It could have been dismissed so he needed more evidence and he needed more victims. He got a list of names over time and he then had to give something to back up the accusatons of adultery. So he made a list of dates and times, several in fact in order to make it appear that the crimes were valid. The more dates and times, the better; it did not matter that Cromwell invented them; few people were likely to bother to examine them very closely and Cromwell could be very clever; he could argue that they were real, he could threaten and he could argue with anyone who objected, making them see their duty to agree with him and find people guilty.
Cromwell may not have set out to make up a case in this way, but when he was commissioned by Henry to look into the rumours about her behaviour in the court; saying also that he wanted out of the marriage; Cromwell set his own plan into action to find something that would end her reign, if not her life. By feeding into the rumours and talk he went after Mark to see what emerged; the events that followed emerged greater than he could have imagined. Mark gave up names and Cromwell followed up, accusing these people as well. He may not have wanted that Anne was guilty of adultery, but once Smeaton gave up these names and confessed to sleeping wth Anne Cromwell simply folllowed through. Now he had something to use to get rid of Anne and it was better than he could have hoped. He had five names and he really did not care if they were guilty or not; he could make a convincing case and Henry would accept his findings.
That Henry then accepted and believed the charges also gave fuel to Cromwell’s fire and all he needed now was a list of dates that would enable Henry to accept the charges as true and allow Cromwell to take care of the rest. Henry seems to have been shocked at first but as more and more facts came to life he then allowed Cromwell to take care of things, as his able servant and minister; this is jsut what he did. Two Grand Juries and two trials all came to the same findings; no wonder Henry accepted Anne and the others as guilty. We don’t know what s called evidence that Cromwell presented to the Grand Juries and to the King, we have lost many trial documents save some of the transcripts of the trial of Anne and George and the list of charges, plus a judges report of the findings and trial. Did Cromwell destroy these or are they just lost by time? We will never know; which is sad, but we do know that many other documents existed; we do not know why Cromwell would destroy them; but may-be he had much to hide.
There are a dozen theories about the fall of Anne Boleyn and who was behind it; but could it be more than one cause? Anne was more likely to have fallen because of a number of reasons rather than one single event. Her position was compromised by the miscarriage of a son in January 1536; but this did not lead to her downfall. There is some indication that in fact the King and Queen were reconciled and that they were again on good terms, certainly in March and early April 1536. Anne, however, was a political Queen. She had come to power by treading on the toes of others and she did not care at times who she upset. Anne could be sharp tongued and even reckless as well as intelligent and gracious. She had made enemies along the way from amongst the ruling elite; some who now gravitated towards Jane Seymour and the Lady Mary. These included the old familes of the Courtneys and the Poles; the Nevilles and some of Henry’s closer friends, such as the Duke of Suffolk and his late wife, Henry’s sister, Mary. Suffolk may not have played any active role in the downfall of Anne but he must have been delighted. Many of the jury that condemned Anne were either related to Suffolk through blood or marriage or had a close affinity to him and his family. Did Suffolk, fed up with insults by the Queen and being kept out of things by the rise of the Boleyns, take the opportunity to spread lies and rumours about the Queens behaviour, or to report these to the King? We have no direct evidence for this; but if he felt that the Seymours and Cromwell were not getting anywhere then he may have taken such a risk; he was not the most discreet person at court and had bad mouthed Anne to Henry before their marriage.
An active conspiracy may not have existed, but affinaties could have worked to help in Anne’s fall. Anne had upset Cromwell, this is true, she fell out with him twice over the use of monies from the monastries; but this was not enough to point to Cromwell being behind her downfall. Were Anne would have been in the way was in the changing attitude of the Emperor to her marriage to the King; and thus in the King’s foreign policy. Chapyus had several talks with Cromwell and they a plan to speak with the King about an alliance with the Emperor. There was a price to pay, of course; the restoration of the Lady Mary to the succession. Cromwell it appears did not speak with the King over this and came to Henry with an agreement with Chapuys already formed in his mind. Chapuys put the plan to the King; the Emperor would agree to recognise the marriage of Anne Boleyn and Henry Viii if the King moved towards Rome, put Mary back into the line of succession and made some other concessions. He made a careless remark about God wanting England to have a female succession and Henry lost it; he wanted an apology from the Emperor and full recognition of Anne before agreeing to anything. He exploded, but some form of agreement does seem to have been made at a council meeting a few days later.
Henry tore a strip of Cromwell in public and the minister was in real distress; we do not know what he thought but the next day he went home and some think he began to plot Anne’s fall at this time. It is unlikely that Cromwell could have started anything without the agreement of the King or his orders; but it is possible that he could plan what he could present to the king that would get this order given to him. Something happened over the next few days, for Henry cancelled the planned trip to France; rumours began to fly around the court and within days, Smeaton was at Cromwell’s house being questioned about his relationship with the Queen. Henry may have felt that Cromwell had gone too far with the foreign policy that was not authorised but suddenly he seems also to have wanted out of his marriage and saw Anne as being in the way. Anne would also have been a barrier to Cromwell and the alliance with the Emperor. She simply had to go and all of the events from January 1536 onwards, her failure to produce a son, and now his growing love for Jane Seymour, sealed her fate. Cromwell was ordered or authorised to investigate the rumours about his wife and Smeaton’s confession allowed him to plan to rid the King of Anne through the set up that followed. The events then took on a life of their own, more charges were added, Smeaton named other men and other targets were sought to give them authenticity. Anne and the men were set up, the victims of a mass miscarriage of justice; they were found guilty, Cromwell invented the list of charges and her enemies moved in to cause her fall, trial and death.
Out of all the farce of the trial it wasn’t Anne or her alleged lovers who looked bad, it was Henry and his chief minister and the members of the jury, Anne had suffered the most heinous of slanders yet she emerged from it all triumphant, her very composure and bearing at her so called trial and later at her execution showed the world that she was innocent, they had brought dishonour on her name but at the end it was Henry whose reputation suffered, and has done ever since.
What puzzles me is Henry (and Cromwell’s) overkill. Mark Smeaton confessed, though probably under torture, and that would have been enough. Also, why anu;ll the marriage and bastardize Elizabeth/ Henry could marry as a widower, and did not have a son yet. And when he got a son, he would take precedence over Elizabeth.
My guess is gult for what he had done to Catherine, and to the Church of England, By killing people who reminded him of his guilt, he could silence his conscience.
I quite agree it was totally overkill, but Henry wanted to paint Anne in as poor a light as possible. The more charges included the more convincing his and Cromwell’s plan was.
Henry needed to annul his marriage as well as execute Anne in order to make their daughter, Elizabeth illegitimate. He could indeed marry again as a widow, but Henry wanted to wipe the slate clean and have no challenge to his heirs by his new wife, Jane Seymour.
The entire thing was a complete set up and as you say it was definitely overkill. Mark Smeaton confessed, although it is unlikely that he was tortured as no warrant was issued, but more was needed and Cromwell used any innocent conversations, no matter how insignificant to try and frame his case. The indictment was framed in advance but the details were later made up and anything which backed up his original indictments were twisted into lies which condemned six innocent people.