Sir Francis Weston?
Sir Francis Weston?

I think we are all guilty (or perhaps you’re not!) of glossing over the men who were executed for adultery with the Queen and just concentrating on Anne Boleyn, after all, we don’t set up websites about these men, write books on them or write to the Queen asking for pardons for them, but, as I said last week, they were all innocent victims too.

What were they guilty of? Nothing apart from being friends of Anne, members of the Boleyn faction and a threat to Cromwell and his plans for the future.

It has been a wonderful journey these past few weeks researching these men and finding out who they really were, and today I’d like to introduce Sir Francis Weston to you, the man who got missed out of “The Tudors” series!

Who was Sir Francis Weston?

It is thought that Sir Francis Weston was born around 1511 and so was only 25 when his world came crashing down and he was executed for adultery with the Queen. He had worked his way up from being a page, a job he obtained in 1525, to being a gentleman of the Privy Chamber, a position which he took in 1525.

Sir Francis Weston was the son of Sir Richard Weston, a former Under-Treasurer of the Exchequer, and Anne Sandys who had been one of Catherine of Aragon’s ladies. In 1521, Henry VIII gave Sir Richard Sutton Place, a beautiful house and estate near Guildford in Surrey, and this became the Weston family home. In May 1530, Sir Francis Weston married Anne Pickering, the daughter of Sir Christopher Pickering, and the couple went on to have a son, Henry, in 1535. At Saffron Walden Museum, in Essex, you can see a beautiful oak marriage cupboard which bears portraits of Anne and Francis, and the portrait which accompanies this post, which is found at Parham Park in Sussex, is thought to be of Sir Francis Weston because it is of  “Weston Esq. of Sutton, Surrey”.

As a gentleman of the Privy Chamber, Weston was often chosen to sleep in the King’s bedchamber and attend to the King’s every whim, and historical sources show us that he was a favourite of both the King and Queen (Anne), a friend of Lord Rochford (George Boleyn), a member of the rising Boleyn faction and a popular man of the King’s court. He was also a talented lute player, a first class athlete and often played tennis, bowls and cards with the King. In fact, in 1532, the King paid over £50 out to Anne Boleyn, Sir Francis Weston and Sir Francis Bryan in card games.

At Anne Boleyn’s coronation in 1533, Weston was made a Knight Companion of the Order of the Bath, showing that he was a royal favourite and on the rise.

Quotes about Sir Francis Weston

George Cavendish, Wolsey’s biographer, says of Weston:

“in active things, who might with thee compare?”

Thomas Wyatt, Weston’s contemporary and a man who was also imprisoned, albeit briefly, in the coup against Anne Boleyn, said that Weston was  “pleasant” and “well-esteemed”.

Both Cavendish and Paul Friedmann, Anne Boleyn’s biographer, wrote of how Weston received a number of grants and pensions from the King, showing what a favourite he was, and Cavendish commented that Weston was “daintily nourished under the King’s wing”.

As well as praising Weston’s athletic abilities, Cavendish also wrote about Weston’s not so wonderful traits:

“Weston the wanton…that wantonly lived without fear or dread,…following his fantasy and his wanton lust” and said “hot lust kindled the fire of filthy concupiscence”

Thomas Wyatt wrote in his poem “In Mourning Wise Since Daily I increase” (a poem about Anne Boleyn’s fall):

“Ah! Weston, Weston, that pleasant was and young,
In active things who might with thee compare?
All words accept that thou diddest speak with tongue,
So well esteemed with each where thou diddest fare.
And we that now in court doth lead our life
Most part in mind doth thee lament and moan;
But that thy faults we daily hear so rife,
All we should weep that thou are dead and gone.”

Sir Francis Weston: Libertine, Ladies’ Man or What?

If we are to believe Retha Warnicke, then Sir Francis Weston and the other four men arrested, tried and executed in the coup against Anne Boleyn were all known libertines. Warnicke writes of how “libertines were expected to move in a progression from adultery and fornication to buggery and bestiality”. If we are to believe Philippa Gregory, who used Warnicke’s text to research “The Other Boleyn Girl”, then Sir Francis Weston and George Boleyn, Lord Rochford, were lovers. But is there any truth in this.

As far as I can tell from my research, there is no historical evidence to back up the idea that Weston was Rochford’s lover or that he committed the sin and illegal activity of buggery. We cannot even prove that he was a ladies’ man, although it is thought that he may have had an affair, or at least a flirtation, with Anne Boleyn’s cousin and lady Madge Shelton. In the Tower on 3rd May 1536, when Mrs Coffin, who had been asked by Cromwell to attend Anne and act as spy, told Anne of how Weston was being interrogated, Anne “said she more feared Weston” because he knew Henry Norris’s feelings for her. She then went on to tell Mrs Coffin about a conversation she’d had with Weston on 24th April when she had reprimanded him for flirting with Madge, who was betrothed to Norris, and when she wondered aloud why Norris had not married Madge yet Weston replied that Norris “came more to her chamber for her than for Madge”.

It strikes me that Weston was a normal man of Henry’s court – a popular man who was friends with the King, Lord Rochford and Sir Francis Bryan, a flirt who loved to play his part in the ritual of courtly love, a family man from a distinguished family and a trusted man servant to the King. Nothing more, nothing less.

In my next post, I will look at what happened to Weston when Cromwell decided to move against Anne and her faction and also what happened to his family.


Don’t Forget

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16 thoughts on “Sir Francis Weston – Part 1”
  1. Marie, my mom was born in Australia and know some slang terms not commonly used in the U.S. – so in the U.S. we tend to say “F Off” and the United Kingdom seems more likely to say “B Off”, especially to 2 guys. Not a good way to greet anyone in amy country LO!

  2. OK, here are some definitions:-
    Libertine – A libertine is one devoid of any restraints, especially one who ignores or even spurns accepted morals, and forms of behavior sanctioned by the larger society (wikipedia). A debauchee, rounder (a dissolute person; usually a man who is morally unrestrained) (WorldNet).
    Buggery – I used this term as it is the one used by Retha Warnicke in “The Rise and Fall of Anne Boleyn”. It is generally used interchangeably with “sodomy” and generally involves sexual intercourse between men.
    Warnicke talks about the Buggery Act of 1534 which made buggery a felony, along with bestiality. Sodomy/buggery and incest were apparently associated with witchcraft and illicit sexual acts were associated with the birth of deformed babies. Now, I’m not sure that there is any evidence that Anne had a deformed baby but I can see how, if she did, accusations of witchcraft and adultery could stick. Of the five men executed, Warnicke says:
    “Evidence from extant documentation supports the speculation that they were all thought to be libertines and that at least two of them were suspected of having violated the statute that made buggery a capital offence”.
    By the way, did anyone else feel that Warnicke’s book focused rather too much on sex?!
    Yes, Lisa, in Britain “B Off” would be used in the same way as “F Off” but is rather old-fashioned now and tends to only be used by the older generation.
    I can’t believe that I have just written this before breakfast, not sure I want any now lol!!

  3. No matter how much I think about Anne’s exection, I can’t bear the thought of the men that were convicted with her..I posted in the forum: why these men? Was it all Cromwells doing? Was it jealousy? I pity them and their families for such obvious false claims made against them.

  4. If this be a picture of Master Weston then I am glad as there seems to be no sketch drawings or portraits that exist or have existed of theese five doomed men. If there were any pictures that did exist of all or any of the five men then they were probably lost or destroyed.I feel this to be a painting of Francis Weston myself.I have never seen this picture before until now but I was astounded and surprised to see this picture and also by the fact that it may be a picture of Weston. As for the two pictures of Francis Weston and Anne Pickering adorned in the “Marriage Cupboard” I have not seen this either.Does this picture that is said to be of Francis Weston match that of the man who is alongside Anne Pickering (Mistress Weston) in the wooden cupboard? If it were to be a match then the question would be answered.Therefore the question mark could be removed. 🙂

  5. Hi Gina,
    I think Cromwell had to get rid of the Boleyn faction too otherwise they would have risen against Cromwell in support of Anne and turned Henry against him. The allegations against Anne sorted out the problem completely because they implicated the 4 leading members of the faction plus the “hanger-on” Mark Smeaton who was expendable and could be interrogated/tortured without the worry of any reprisals. So sad.

    Hi Tudorrose,
    I haven’t seen the carvings in the marriage cupboard so I can’t really comment but Alison Weir talks of both of them in her latest book and seems convinced that the portrait is of Francis Weston. The portrait dates back to the 16th century and has the name Weston of Sutton Surrey and the family home of the Westons was Sutton Place. It does appear that it is a likeness of Weston.

  6. I find the study of Weston to be interesting and gives time to look at other facts about him that usually dont get mentioned in the UK. Its usually a case of concentrating on the fact he was one of the men who was executed for his claimed involvement with Anne Bolyne,and then that is usually the end of it.
    For him to be looked at closer on a personal level so to find about his life in general is a good idea as is looking at what kind of person he was in general and where did he come from before the Anne Bolyne situation came in to play sadly ending his life with execution.
    I once watched a program we have in the uk called most haunted. On one of there earlier episodes they investigated a home of Westons which I am sure was Sutton house
    They have a psychic medium on the show that will be took to a location and then do a walkround to see what they pick up and if there are any spirits there. the medium picked up on the stair case the spirit of Westons wife who he said was distressed and around more than she should be. She was ringing her hands and the information he picked up was that she was waiting for her Francis but she couldnt find him,also the name of Henry V111 was given and she said my francis was took by Henry and that Henry was responsible for her losing her Francis. The medium explained that she couldnt find Francis because she was a grounded spirit and had not moved on when she died but had stayed there stuck because she was still waiting for her husband. This she didn’t realize that it was ok to let go to go on to the light were Francis would be.Francis spirit had moved to the light at the time of his death but the reason she couldn’t find him was because she had kept herself grounded and didn’t move on to the light when she died still thinking she had to wait there for Francis.
    I have always thought that was a good ideal although allot of people say programs like that are fake and just entertainment. The medium did come up with other information and to verify it the researchers had to dig deep for some time until they found this information was little known and matched up to what the medium said.
    That was really the only thing I have seen that mentions Western and other aspects of his life that are not based around the Anne Bolyne case and I found it interesting as I do with this article so carry on the good work Claire you are good at putting all together and having a fresh view on allot of these historical topics.

  7. Thank you, Caroline. It’s great that there are so many books out there now setting the story straight about Anne Boleyn and educating people about who she really was but the five men are often ignored. I can’t even find a portrait of George Boleyn, yet he was Lord Rochford and one of the most powerful men at court! I think Anne’s enemies did a good job at destroying documents and portraits pertaining to her and the Boleyn faction and it’s left us with huge gaps in information.
    I also think it’s sad the idea you get about these men from books like Retha Warnicke’s where they are depicted as rogues and “libertines”, men who went against the norms of society. It’s only in reading Ives and Weir that you get some idea of what these men were like. These men were caught up in a brutal coup through no fault og their own, how awful that the normal ritual of courtly love could be turned against them in this way.
    It’s interesting what you say about Most Haunted. The only one I can find on YouTube with the word “Sutton” in is an episode on Sutton House in London which is different to Sutton Place in Surrey. Let me know if you can find anything about Sutton Place and the ghost of Weston’s wife.
    Thanks for the comment!

  8. I believe that it was Mary Shelton that Weston and Norris had affairs with. Madge is always confused with Mary. Take a look at Kelly Hart’s new book, she states that it is Mary Shelton.

  9. Hi Rachel,
    In Alison Weir’s book “The Lady in the Tower”, Mary Shelton is Madge Shelton, whereas Ives attributes the name Madge to Margaret Shelton. Alison Weir states that Weston and Norris were interested in Madge Shelton, meaning Mary Shelton, how confusing is that?!

  10. Can you please help with the translation and meaning of:
    All words accept that thou diddest speak with tougue, so well esteemed with each where though diddest fare.’
    Thank you

  11. In my opinion, a translation of Wyatt’s words would be something like “All accounts confirm that you spoke eloquently, you were held in high esteem whatever you did”, meaning that Weston was held in high regard by everyone and spoke eloquently.

  12. Suggest “fare” means “to have dinner”, i.e. his hosts at dinner-parties spoke well of his conversation.

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