The Queen’s Incontinent Living

Posted By on May 14, 2010

Anne Boleyn

On this day in history, the 14th May 1536, Thomas Cromwell, Master Secretary wrote to ambassadors Stephen Gardiner and John Wallop in France to inform them of recent events.

In the letter he refers to Anne Boleyn’s “incontinent” living which was so “rank and common” that it was impossible for her ladies to hide it any longer. Not content with that, Cromwell then goes on to accuse Anne and the men of plotting the King’s death. He then explains that Norris, Weston, Brereton and Smeaton have all been condemned to death and he is sure that Anne and George will “go the same way”. Cromwell is in no doubt that they too will be found guilty and it is true that the trial of the four men undoubtedly prejudiced the trial of Anne, how could she be found innocent of adultery if the men had already been convicted of having affairs with her?

Here is Cromwell’s letter in full and notice how he promises at the end that both Gardiner and Wallop will benefit from Anne’s fall:-

“The King has deferred answering their letters sent by Salisbury till the arrival of the bailly of Troyes. Has to inform them, however, of a most detestable scheme, happily discovered and notoriously known to all men. They may have heard the rumour of it. Will express to them, however, some part of the coming out, and of the King’s proceeding. The Queen’s incontinent living was so rank and common that the ladies of her privy chamber could not conceal it. It came to the ears of some of the Council, who told his Majesty, although with great fear, as the case enforced. Certain persons of the privy chamber and others of her side were examined, and the matter appeared so evident that, besides that crime, “there brake out a certain conspiracy of the King’s death, which extended so far that all we that had the examination of it quaked at the danger his Grace was in, and on our knees gave him (God ?) laud and praise that he had preserved him so long from it.” Certain men were committed to the Tower, viz., Marks and Norris and the Queen’s brother; then she herself was apprehended and committed to the same place; after her Sir Fras. Weston and Wm. Brereton. Norris, Weston, Brereton, and Marks are already condemned to death, having been arraigned at Westminster on Friday last. The Queen and her brother are to be arraigned tomorrow, and will undoubtedly go the same way. “I write no particularities; the things be so abominable that I think the like was never heard. Gardiner will receive 200l. of the 300l. “that were out amongst these men, notwithstanding great suit hath been made for the whole; which though the King’s highness might give in this case, yet his Majesty doth not forget your service; and the third 100l. is bestowed of the vicar of Hell [Sir Fras. Brian], upon [whom] though it be some charge unto you, his Highness trusteth ye will think it well bestowed.” From the Rolls in haste, 14 May.
P.S.—Wallop will not be forgotten, though Cromwell cannot tell at present how much he is to have. The King is highly pleased with the services of both.”1

I hate to call you a hypocrite, Master Secretary, but it strikes me that there is something rather “rank” in conspiring to get six innocent people executed and then sharing out the proceeds with your best buddies!

Source

  1. L&P x.873, Letter from Cromwell to Gardiner and Wallop, 14th May 1536
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