Events were moving so fast in 1536, and I only realised just how quickly Anne Boleyn fell when I wrote my book “The Fall of Anne Boleyn: A Countdown”, and looked at the events day-by-day. Even now, 11 years after I began researching her life, her fall still has a real impact on me.

On 5th May 1536, Queen Anne Boleyn had just fourteen days to live and there were eight prisoners in the Tower, the queen and seven men.

Who were these prisoners? Find out more in my talk:

There are lots and lots of Tudor history videos on my Anne Boleyn Files and Tudor Society YouTube channel, so please do consider subscribing – click here. I add new content on a daily basis. If you prefer audio, then my talks are also available as podcasts on Podbean or your usual podcast app. And, if you prefer reading, then this website has thousands of articles, including one on 5 May 1536.

And today’s normal “on this day” video is about a religious radical who couldn’t be executed for heresy, so was executed for treason instead. Why? Find out in my talk:

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12 thoughts on “The Fall of Anne Boleyn: Day -14”
  1. Not much to say here. I believe also that these men were added to make the whole investigation look legitimate. If arrests were made and some were freed then the people would hopefully believe that those who were tried were truly guilty but history shows this didn’t really work in large part because Henry couldn’t convincingly play the victim and gave the game away with his actions.

  2. As the king’s court was more like a reality TV show than not, I don’t doubt bringing in men who would then be released was scripted by Cromwell.

    I recall reading that when Thomas Wyatt the Elder was brought to the Tower, he was ‘unhorsed’ and made to walk in on foot as a humiliation. As Wyatt went to the Tower more than once, I don’t know if the unhorsing was done at this time or another.

    If any other ABF followers know more about that, I’d like to hear from them!

  3. Her fall, and the fall of those she took down with her, seems incredible to us. I can’t stretch my imagination to cover what it must have been to her. All those years of professing his devotion to her and then he turns so violently against her so quickly. I’m sure it occurred to Anne, as it has to most of us, that she should have taken warning by how he treated his first wife. People have behavior patterns they seldom change.

    1. Hi Dorothy. You’re right. She should have heeded the warnings but like people in relationships today she probably thought he wouldn’t act the same way with her or she could change him which of course is seldom if ever true. He probably wasn’t much different than many domineering men with volatile tempers but unfortunately he was a king and could get the state to do his abusing for him which made him very dangerous indeed.

      1. Hi Michael and Dorothy, if you mean Anne should have taken warning from how Henry treated Katherine during their marriage and the couple of years leading up to their marriage most certainly the warning signs were there, that is a defiant Katherine was banished and her daughter taken from her, but in truth Anne didn’t want to know about the dangers. Anne was confident she would give Henry a son and believed she would not fail. I doubt that she was either blind to his faults, she had witnessed his moods, but her own moods had matched his and Anne could give as good as she got. Anne was also a bit naive because she thought Henry was so devoted to her that he wouldn’t have any affairs while they were married, when she certainly should have expected a brief affair during her pregnancy and she didn’t learn to transform into a traditional Tudor wife, which contributed to the problems between them. Anne should have realised that his power and the Supremacy and years of a difficult annulment had transformed his character, which she probably was also aware off and taken warning. That’s not Anne Boleyn, though, it’s not the woman we have come to know. Anne believed she was up to the challenge and their relationship was strong enough to weather any storms. Their relationship dated back ten years by the time of her death, seven by the time they married, they were too interwoven and passionate and determined to have it all by then that they appeared destined to be the couple which rescued the future of the Tudor Dynasty.

  4. Sir Thomas Wyatt and Sir Richard Page were arrested and sent to the Tower, although they were lucky and held in detention, not tried and executed. No formal charges were brought against them. We really don’t know why neither was charged but both had close connections to Thomas Cromwell. Page was a favourite of Cromwell and had worked for the King, but Thomas Wyatt was his client. Cromwell was also well known to his father, Sir Henry Wyatt, who wrote to intervene for his son and made him a promise to aid him and it’s possibly that which saved Wyatt. There was a third man who was called to London, interrogated but not arrested, Sir Francis Bryan, the cousin of Anne Boleyn and Jane Seymour, who was also now a supporter of the new Queen and her faction. Every member of that faction was protected. Bryan was questioned and then allowed home.
    In fact Wyatt was also protected for another reason, he was too obvious as a suspect. He had given Anne up in his poetry and let her go and Henry knew they were over years ago. He may actually have still had a thing for her, but his connection to Cromwell connected him to the new Queen, whether he liked it or not. Henry was persuaded to let him be. His father actually believed Anne was guilty, but that his son was innocent, in another part of his letters he referred to the accused as “heinous traitors” . Wyatt was lucky, his family and a powerful patron had his back. Francis Weston had a powerful and rich family who offered a large sum of money to the King to spare their son’s life. However, he wasn’t a client of Cromwell and his innocent jokes with the Queen were used unfairly against him.

    I agree with both Michael and Dorothy as well, a number of suspects who were innocent and not targeted were needed to make the case appear more realistic and that certainly would have been something they would have outlined from the start. I don’t believe every single detail was stage managed but the overall plan certainly was. Now the entire thing was in place, the stage management was definitely under the control of Cromwell with ultimate responsibility and orders from the King. It’s far easier to see what was coming for us from this point on because every step was preparation for the upcoming trials and for potential executions, yet some seem to have thought at the time that only Anne and her brother would die. That’s an interesting detail I hadn’t noticed before. Its also indicative of the deception and secrecy under which this investigation was conducted and the rumours and deliberate falsehoods which were being put about that the danger to all of the prisoners wasn’t fully understood. Maybe people also wondered who was next or if the real aim of all these dangerous arrests was to just bring down the Boleyn family. The amount of supposition and fear and talk out there, trying to work out what was happening and how it would end up is amazing, but it also shows that an atmosphere of terror and suspicion now ruled the Court and everyone was totally on edge.

    Henry was off enjoying himself while his friends and courtiers were whispering and bewildered about what was happening and the friends he had arrested and his Queen were languishing in the Tower, preparing for what could only lead to their deaths. He was indifferent, absent, turned off from the reality and terror that he had unleashed, his only interest to get this whole thing over and done with and its hard to believe that he even cared who was guilty and who wasn’t, yet he had clearly singled out these three men on Cromwell’s recommendations to be arrested for show and spared.

  5. The arrests and then releases of the two men probably were to make the arrests of the other men look more authentic, but the proceedings did not look very good, for the queen to be arrested so suddenly without her being allowed to see the king, and before a proper investigation had taken place did not bode well for the king or the crown, why was the queen bundled off so hastily, his fifth queen was treated very different then the investigations had gone on for months, which was how it should be, any slander any sense of wrongdoing against the queen must be investigated properly, but with Anne Boleyn all that had happened was that her musician a poor commoner without status nor standing, had confessed, possibly under torture or the threat of it, to sleeping with her three times, Anne had not had a chance or opportunity to defend herself and now five more men were rounded up and resided in the gloomy walls of the Tower of London, it seems strange to me that Page was banished from court after being released, if he were innocent what banish him? Wyatt happened to be on friendly terms with Cromwell the kings bully boy and that friendship possibly saved him, but Cromwell for now had all the scapegoats he needed and things were moving along at an alarming speed, how Anne and her alleged lovers felt we can only guess at, but with the sixth sense of the doomed, they must have realised that justice would allude them.

    1. Cromwell’s forte was deviousness. I think if he could have done this without any participation by Henry at all everything would have looked legit but Henry, though he considered himself the smartest person in the room gave the whole charade up with his actions. Let’s be glad he did so that through this blog we can set the record straight for Anne and the five innocent men who were murdered with her.

  6. In a way it is a fitting and very subtle revenge that Henry, who was working so hard to be remembered as the perfect king, a pattern for other kings to follow, should have only succeeded in making himself into a big fat caricature of a king and a joke.

    1. I completely agree. He also tried to erase her memory and all traces of her and yet she is the one we talk about the most. As you say, a fitting revenge.

  7. To quote Sir Francis Bacon, “For, truth is rightly named the daughter of time, not of authority.”

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