The Fall of Anne Boleyn: Day -9

Posted By on May 10, 2020

On 10th May 1536, the imprisoned Queen Anne Boleyn had just nine days left to live.

While Anne was confined in the queen’s apartments of the royal palace at the Tower of London, the Grand Jury of Middesex was meeting to decide on whether there was enough evidence to send the queen and the accused men to trial, and to draw up the indictments of charges.

What were these charges? What exactly were the queen and these courtiers accused of?

Let me explain…

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8 thoughts on “The Fall of Anne Boleyn: Day -9”

  1. Michael Wright says:

    I just read the findings in Claire’s ‘…A countdown’. The charges against Anne are so salacious that they ring hollow. And to add to the unbelievability of their merit there is the constant ‘and at other times before or since’. If you’re going to sentence someone to death you better have times, dates and proof. Even for Tudor times this seems like pretty flimsy evidence. It’s no wonder the world has been talking about these murders for the past 484 years.

    1. Christine says:

      Yes it was a dreadful miscarriage of justice and even those who never liked Anne did not believe she had acted in that way nor plotted to kill the king, the indictments are all drivel and sound more like tavern gossip, in fact because Anne could prove on at least several occasions she was somewhere else at the time of the alleged offences, the crown should have thrown them out, on one occasion she is said to have incited Norris to sleep with her when she was still recovering from the birth of Elizabeth, now this goes all against the Tudor belief of no sex strictly after childbirth, it was a sacred time for women, she was in the process of being churched which meant she would offer prayers up for her safe delivery, it was ludicrous to suggest Anne had ever slept with another man during this sacred ritual, and besides as Weir explains in her book The Lady In The Tower, which centres on Anne’s rapid fall from grace, the queen was still likely bleeding from her ordeal, she would have had her women as witnesses yet none were called, at her trial she had to defend herself, and she did so admirably, these indictments were just meant to shock and horrify the people and Anne must have known it, the sordid tale of how she and George French kissed each other is just another example of how low Cromwell would sink to rid himself of whom he looked on as his enemy, the gathering of oyer and terminer and the gathering of the so called evidence, was just another step in the quest to murder the queen and because the queen had to be found guilty, so had the men, the men were lambs to the slaughter, and these men were people who had lived long at court, George was the kings brother in law, and Weston and Norris were in the kings set they were favourites of his, particular Norris who had known the king for years, Weston had a baby son not having been married long, Norris was divorced with two sons, Brereton wasn’t even part of the queens set that is the men who would be in her household and be entertained at night, Smeaton was the musician who because of his lowly birth was chosen to be the scapegoat, the deciding factor who first accused the queen of adultery with him, he was possibly frightened into giving false evidence, most of these men were possibly quite handsome, Westons portrait shows a pleasant faced man and Norris was said to be good looking, George was described as a young Adonis but for the crown to charge the queen with incest shows to what extent Cromwell would go to bring gown the queen, I too find the words in reference to the queens trial condemned disgusting, it should be tried, not condemned, Anne must have by now been seriously worried and we can only guess how the men felt! The hysteria she had displayed on her arrival in the Tower had probably gone to be replaced by indignation and anger and a kind of hollow despair that her husband intended to destroy her, did she believe she would live? No queen had ever been executed in England’s history so she could allow herself to hope that her husband would maybe be merciful and banish her to a nunnery, for now all she could do was pray for justice and that she would have a chance to clear her name to the world and to her husband the king.

      1. Michael Wright says:

        I don’t know if Henry had to approve these findings before they were made public but if he did it really reflects poorly on him as a human being.

  2. Banditqueen says:

    The Jury was of course loaded as I said in the comments for yesterday, but the indictments, they are really shocking, designed to be so. Anne was accused of hating the King and her marriage, she used her position to procure his friends and servants as her lovers, to conspire with them to kill the King, giving them gifts to encourage the men in their adultery and there are numerous very detailed, very pornographic details of her adultery with each of the five men accused. They are salacious and designed to shock in every detail and shock they did. Such numerous dates and details would probably not even have been questioned, the crown had done a satisfactory job and the members of the Jury and future trials were chosen well so as they would not question them. They were to deliberately blacken the name of the Queen and her alleged lovers. Anne was accused of being evil and wanton and incest with her own brother, the most shameful sin of them all, making her capable of an even more heinous criminal act, conspiracy with her lovers and by herself to kill their King and maybe marry her lover. The language was styled for the up most effect, the up most shock and shame, maximum impact.

    If Anne was seen as a sexual preditor, out of control, then Henry could justify his errors in marrying her, his own lies, his excuses, the false paradigm Henry had created in his own mind and wanted everyone to believe could be twisted into something new and he could claim Anne had destroyed his dreams and Henry could manipulate the script to read sympathetically in his favour. Anne was out of control, uncontrollable by any man, she couldn’t be satisfied, the King wasn’t to blame for the crimes of such and evil and wanton woman. He was the innocent victim of her bewitching and although she wasn’t accused of witchcraft, Henry could be seen to have been unable to resist her sexual powers, which she then used to destroy him and her marriage and to seek some kind of imaginary power over everyone, perhaps via a child with her lover passed off as the legitimate heir. The King could claim that Anne intended to get rid of him and stand as Regent for her son, her lovers coming to her at her command. Any King, any man who could not control his wife, could not expect to control his household, his kingdom or his people. The charges may have been invented, but they existed, publicly they existed, they had to be answered, they were a reality and men were to be tried for their lives for them. The more shocking they were, the more believability and the more the King could keep his reputation as being sexually dominant, important for any Tudor man in the bedroom. It was even more important for a Tudor King. A man was seen as being as much to blame if his wife was cheating on him as she was: that’s what the term cuckold meant and it also inferred that he wasn’t the father of his children but accepted them as such; so Henry’s reputation was on the line in accusations of adultery in his wife. However, add many lovers, accusations of treason and conspiracy and incest and his reputation was saved because such a woman could only have used unnatural powers, malice, evil and be totally capable of every crime and evil going. Henry was therefore seeking not just justification but sympathy and the blame to fall on Anne, her family, her memory and her reputation. She could not simply be divorced. If he divorced Anne he couldn’t remarry and he needed to remarry in order to still have a legitimate son and heir and he didn’t want the long drawn out process that an annulment risked. What if she refused to go? He could not send her to a convent even though that would force her to allow an annulment, because they were going to be closed and such notions are 21st century romanticism. Henry Viii wasn’t that kind of man and were noble women had agreed to act a accordingly, they were usually threatened with losses of life, maybe burning alive, as with Isabella of Gloucester, they lost property, liberty and everything else. Henry didn’t respond to treason with gentleness. His personality had darkened severely over the last few years, especially since his jousting accident and he wasn’t capable of being rational enough to spare a woman who was trouble. Most of all, he couldn’t go down the course of an annulment because he would be saying that everything he had done to marry Anne and declare her his lawful wife was for nothing, it meant nothing, he would look a fool. Anne had to go, the victim of what happened when love turned to hate and faced with this list of indictments, very few people were going to challenge the righteousness of the crowns cause, or at least that was how it was meant to be.

    1. Christine says:

      Yes murder revolting though it was, was the only way out for Henry, we can see his mind going back to the troubles he had had with his first queen, she had refused to bow down and remained a thorn in his side, constantly asserting her rights as Henry’s wife and true queen and he knew Anne would be the same, both stubborn troublesome women, he did not want to risk that again, with two queens in his realm, one his new queen and the other, a shadow queen forever in the background, making demands and maybe using her daughter to get at him as she grew older, an annulment would be too long drawn out but not only that, if Anne were to live, there would always be those who said she was the true queen as she was crowned and anointed, and her daughter was heiress apparent, her presence would risk the legality of his next marriage to Jane Seymour, her son must be the true heir and Anne alive would threaten that, so Anne dreadfully tragically had to die.

      1. Michael Wright says:

        I’m just as guilty at this, we talk about how Anne was a pain, and a thorn in in Henry’s side etc but how do we reconcile five completely innocent men dying with her? Are they only collateral damage in the course of getting rid of a hated spouse because if that’s all they were then their deaths have no meaning and there is nothing in the world that can make their executions forgivable.

  3. Michael Wright says:

    I don’t think the charges were as satisfactory as they’d hoped since the verdict bwad questioned at the time.

    1. Banditqueen says:

      No I agree with you there, Michael, I was talking as they would have at the time, sitting there rubbing their hands, they had the indictments, Cromwell had put it all together, they were ready to go, but from the point of view of reality, the case was really weak, but hey lets at least pretend we have a good case, even though I have just invented it all, because we can load the jury, so what does it matter if the charges are nonsense? As long as the indictments came out the crown was o.k because from this point on they could manipulate the outcome. Had that not happened, which one might expect with such a ridiculous case, the crown was in trouble. Cromwell, like his former master, Wolsey, was a genius at getting things done (Wolsey wasn’t in charge of the annulment from Katherine, foreign circumstances were) and he was much more successful. Up to his final failure, which Henry had more to do with unravelling, Cromwell did a pretty good job. He knew how to mould people and get the right results. He somehow made a load of nonsense sound like a decent case. In reality the crown had a case that under modern circumstances, maybe even the standards of the time, it was pretty much nonsense, but that wasn’t too daunting, not for Cromwell, that was what the man was good at, making something which made perfect sense out of bits of gossip and tin foil.

      This is the actual evidence: not all of it was used in the indictments.

      Anne Boleyn and Henry Norris had a conversation which went wrong, in which she told him that he looked for dead men’s shoes, or if anything happened to the King, he would look to marry her, the Queen….Norris protested and Anne lost her temper, saying she could arrange for him to loose her head. Anne knew she had crossed the line and sent Norris to her chaplain, thus drawing attention to herself. Now this could be genuinely seen as treason but it wasn’t one of the indictments. Why? Well we don’t really know but it is a good guess that Cromwell and the King realised this wasn’t anything more than a game gone too far.

      Mark Smeaton confessed to having slept with the Queen on three separate occasions. No matter how the confession was obtained it added the much-needed weight to the prosecution and he implicated two others, believed to be Norris and George Boleyn. Cromwell knew that this was a false confession but this was his trump card.

      No admissions or confession by either man but the crown prosecution proceeded against them in any case.

      This is the only real evidence the crown has, however, but it doesn’t amount to any evidence against anyone else. It’s highly improbable Anne would sleep with her lute player and Cromwell has to do better than one confession.

      An innocent conversation with Smeaton is described by Anne herself in which she said he was sulking and she told him off. She asked him why he was sad and teased him about speaking with her. He said he just hoped for look.
      Wow hot stuff.

      Anne reported another innocent conversation from a year ago with Francis Weston in which she teased him for not paying attention to his wife. He professed romantic love for the Queen, as in chivalry. That’s it and yet now a man, not even on the radar is arrested and charged.

      No case at all against William Brereton. Nobody has any idea why he was arrested, save that Cromwell saw him as a political nuisance.

      Possibly there was gossip and testimony by one or more of Anne’s ladies which added up to nothing at all.

      So we have one confession and three innocent conversations. This is what the crown had on the 3rd May but by 10th it had produced a comprehensive documentary list of fully detailed charges against each of the five accused men sent for trial and against the Queen. Two men were not mentioned, deemed innocent, although in reality they were decoys and protected by Cromwell, but both remained in detention. These were Thomas Wyatt and Richard Page. The crowns case had moved from the above tittle tattle and a dubious confession to a long list of charges, intimate details of what Anne had done with each man on particular dates and in which place, to conspiracy charges, to kill the King with each man and repeated these intimate actions on several other occasions. Anne had given them gifts to encourage their adultery and the men had violated her several times. All of a sudden the crown had “sufficient evidence” rather than mere vague bits of lost conversation to proceed to trial. This was the first of two Grand Juries who would produce details of similar crimes within 24_hours of each other. The alleged crimes happened at different palaces so the Juries had to sit in two separate jurisdictions: Middlesex and Kent.

      I would say that considering what they started out with that after this list of shockingly intimate goings on, invented although they were, that the crown had reasonable justification for being pleased with the case it had put together. Remember also the crown didn’t have to prove anything. This was a treason trial, it wasn’t even about justice, it was about showing the might of the crown over those who had violated their oaths of loyalty. It was a show case, the accused had to show that they were innocent, but in truth, in treason trials, that was not possible. The accused rarely had a chance. The crown still needed to present an airtight case, but certainly the crown got the verdict it wanted. In this case, there was the added advantage for Henry and the crown, that the entire thing was a set up from beginning to end. The judges at the Queens trial were mostly her enemies, those who would give the right verdict and there are hints in the article that it was “known” in advance that the accused would be found guilty. Ominous stuff, terrifying in fact, maybe more evidence to us of the innocence of Anne and the men but more clues that they didn’t stand a chance.

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