Posted By Claire on May 4, 2010
On the afternoon of the 4th May* 1536, Sir Francis Weston and William Brereton were arrested and taken to the Tower of London.
Sir Francis Weston
It is thought that Weston’s arrest was down to Anne Boleyn’s ramblings in the Tower which had been reported back to Thomas Cromwell by Sir William Kingston, the Constable of the Tower. Anne had spoken to her attending ladies (some of whom were spies for Kingston) of her fear about what Weston would say about her and Kingston reported the story she told:-
“the Quene spake of Wes[ton, saying that she] had spoke to hym bycause he did love hyr kynswoman [Mrs. Skelton, and] sayd he loved not hys wyf, and he made ansere to hyr [again that h]e loved wone in hyr howse better then them bothe. And [the Queen said, Who is] that? It ys yourself. And then she defyed hym, as [she said to me].”1
So, Anne had rebuked Weston for loving Mistress Shelton, and not his wife, and he had answered that he actually loved someone better than both his wife and Shelton, and that was Anne. Eric Ives writes of how “all this was evidently part of a cheeky game”2 and it seems to me nothing more than flattery and part of the ritual of courtly love, where it was the courtier’s job to proposition the lady and flatter her. But, however innocent this conversation, it was more ammunition for Cromwell to use against Anne and was also another man, another case of adultery to back up Mark Smeaton’s confession and bolster the case.
Eric Ives points out that Weston was a great piece of ammunition for Cromwell because “Francis’s affinities were with those hostile to Anne”3 and “his arrest disproved the allegation that the whole affair was a sordid factional putsch”4. The next arrest, however, was a prominent member of the Boleyn faction.
You can read more about Sir Francis Weston at https://www.theanneboleynfiles.com/bios/sir-francis-weston/
Brereton’s arrest is interesting in that it was not provoked by anything that Anne said in the Tower, but he may have been seen as expendable in Cromwell’s eyes because he was a bit of a bad boy, in that he had a rather colourful history, having been allegedly involved in bribery and corruption, and helping protect two murderers.
Alison Weir5 also points out that Cromwell had good reason to frame Brereton because Brereton was opposing Cromwell’s plans to reform the Welsh feudal system and he had formed an alliance with the Dukes of Richmond and Norfolk. Cromwell’s right hand man in building the case against Anne was Sir Anthony Browne and he also benefited from Brereton’s fall because some of his lands were held in receivership by Brereton and he wanted them back. So, by framing Brereton Cromwell could get rid of a thorn in his side, strengthen the case against Anne, help Browne and destroy the powerful Boleyn faction – what a coup!
You can read more about William Brereton at https://www.theanneboleynfiles.com/bios/sir-william-brereton/
The Tower of London now held Mark Smeaton, Henry Norris, George Boleyn, Sir Francis Weston, William Brereton and Anne Boleyn, but there were more to come in “these bloody days “.
1 – L&P x. 793 Letter from Sir William Kingston to Cromwell, dated 3rd May 1536.
2 – The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn, Eric Ives, p335
3 and 4 – Ibid. p335, p336
5 – The Lady in the Tower: The Fall of Anne Boleyn, Alison Weir, p110
*Some sources Friday 5th May but Constantine records Brereton’s arrest as Thursday 4th May