It’s a sad day today here at The Anne Boleyn Files, as we think about the trial of Anne Boleyn, and her brother George, that took place on this day (15th May) in 1536 in the King’s Hall, the Tower of London. The day when our heroine was found guilty of all charges and sentenced to death.

Here are the events of this dark day in English history:-

The Charges

Anne Boleyn, Queen of England and second wife of Tudor monarch, Henry VIII, was accused of treason under statute 26 (Henry VIII c.13), a statute which had actually been brought into force to protect her and Princess Elizabeth, and also with slandering the royal issue (statute 25 Henry VIII c.22, March 1534). Her indictment accused Anne of:

“despising her marriage and entertaining malice against the King, and following daily her frail and carnal lust.”

According to her indictment, she had seduced the five men who were also charged with treason and had plotted the King’s death. It was said that:

“On 6th October at the palace of Westminster… and on various other days before and after, by sweet words, kissings, touchings, and other illicit means… she did procure and incite… Henry Norris… a gentleman of the Privy Chamber of our lord the King, to violate and carnally know her, by reason whereof the same Henry Norris on 12th October… violated, stained and carnally knew her…”

Anne Boleyn was also accused of committing adultery with Henry Norris on 12th and 19th November 1533, with Sir William on 16th  and 27th November, and the 3rd and 8th Decemer 1533, with Sir Francis Weston on 8th and 20th May, and the 6th and 20th June 1534, and with Mark Smeaton on 13th and 19th May 1534. Additionally, Anne was accused of committing incest with her brother George Boleyn, Lord Rochford, on 2nd November and the 22nd and 29th December 1535. In all, Anne was accused of twenty acts of adultery.

As for the incest, according to court records, Anne:

“tempted her brother with her tongue in the said George’s mouth and the said George’s tongue in hers.”

Completely innocent actions, such as giving money to courtiers and dancing with her brother, were used as evidence against Anne and Anne did not stand a chance. Even the fact that Anne had alibis for 12 of the occasions when she was meant to be committing adultery did not seem to matter, after all, Anne Boleyn was a witch and witches could do anything!

The five men, apart from Norris, were also charged with sodomy (Note: Joanna Denny writes this and Retha Warnicke is also of the view that the men had committed sodomy but according to their indictments and the work of other historians they were not actually charged with it, it was just hinted at), so not only had Anne Boleyn committed adultery, she had slept with satanic homosexuals!

The Trial

The court, presided over by Anne’s uncle, the Duke of Norfolk, as lord steward, unanimously declared Anne Boleyn guilty of all charges, although she had pled “not guilty”, and Norfolk said:

“Because thou has offended our sovereign the King’s grace in committing treason against his person and here attainted of the same, the law of the realm is this, thou hast deserved death, and thy judgement is this: that thou shalt be burned here within the Tower of London, on the Green, else to have thy head smitten off, as the King’s pleasure shall be further known of the same.”

Anne Boleyn then gave the following speech:

“I do not say that I have always borne towards the King the humility which I owed him, considering his kindness and the great honour he showed me and the great respect he always paid me; I admit too, that often I have taken it into my head to be jealous of him… But may God be my witness if I have done him any other wrong.”

It was then that Henry Percy, Earl of Northumberland, and Anne’s former sweetheart, collapsed and had to be taken out of the courtroom. The sentence and Anne’s speech were obviously too much for him, especially as he had also had to pronounce her “guilty”. It was then the turn of George Boleyn to be tried and sentenced. Like Anne, he pled “not guilty”, but was found guilty and sentenced to death also.

A False Trial

We now know that all of the charges against Anne were complete fiction created by Cromwell and his fellow plotters, Chapuys and the Catholic Conservatives. We also know that Anne had absolutely no chance of winning her case, seeing as her household was broken up two days before her court case and that Chapuys recorded that Henry VIII told Jane Seymour on the morning of Anne’s trial that Anne would be condemned that day. The King was also busy planning his wedding to Jane Seymour, something he could not do if Anne was found inocent.

Although many put all of the blame for Anne’s death on the shoulders of Thomas Cromwell, I have to agree with Joanna Denny when she says:

“Henry’s hand in the whole sordid business is clearly seen: the real blood-guilt lies with the King. The source of all the horror and brutality was Henry. The whole world revolved around him and his ego.”

There’s no way that Henry was ignorant of what Cromwell was doing. The King knew everything that went on around him and even though he may not have been guilty of trumping up these charges, he certainly was not disputing them.

I will end this post here, but watch out for my next blog on Anne Boleyn in the Tower. You can read more about the Fall of Anne Boleyn in my FREE report – click here for more information.

You can read a letter Anne wrote to Henry from the Tower and poems she is said to have written (see Pages on the left hand menu bar or click links).

****P.S. Remember to enter the article competition by midnight 18th May to have a chance of winning the lovely Anne Boleyn necklace – click here for details.****

****P.P.S. Remember to order your Anne Boleyn B Necklace****

(Sources: “The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn” by Eric Ives and “Anne Boleyn: A New Life of England’s Tragic Queen” by Joanna Denny)

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16 thoughts on “The Trial of Anne Boleyn”
  1. I would just like to point out that none of the men accused of being Anne’s ‘lovers’ were charged with sodomy. The quote that all of them apart from Norris were charged with sodomy comes from Joanna Denny’s highly inaccurate biography of Anne Boleyn. Her assertion is totally incorrect. They were charged with adultery (and in George’s case incest) and planning to kill the King. These were the only charges brought against them in the ‘baga de secretis’, which is the deocument which contains the original indictments. Denny’s work, as with Weir’s, is filled with bias and inaccuracies and should be treated with great causion.

  2. Hi Louise,

    Yes, you’re right. I wrote this article 6 months ago and it was based on my research with the Joanna Denny book, which as you say is wrong. Retha Warnicke is also of the view that all 5 men were libertines who committed sodomy and other such abominations. I cannot see that there is any truth in this and the only book I really rely on, as well as primary sources, is Eric Ives’ book which is believe to be fair, balanced and accurate.

    Do check out my recent articles on Sir Francis Weston and Mark Smeaton.

  3. Hello Claire,

    I have read your posts on Mark Smeaton and Francis Weston and I have to say that they are excellent. You deal with these men with far greater cogency and compassion than Weir manages. I hope you intend to do something similar with the remarkable and courageous George Boleyn. If there was ever an innocent young man who needs a little compassion following the way he has been demonised in recent works of fiction then it’s him. Likewise I was shocked that Weir resurrected Warnicke’s groundless theory as to George’s sexuality based on the same arguments which Warnicke used twenty years ago. This may well start up the ‘George Boleyn was bisexual’ debate without many people realising there is no evidence to support it.

  4. Hi Louise,
    Thank you, I’m glad that you enjoyed them. Yes, I intend to do posts on George, Sir Henry Norris and Sir William Brereton to complete the series and will look at men like Thomas Wyatt, Sir Richard Page and Sir Francis Bryan who were caught up in the coup but managed to keep their heads.
    Poor George! I hate the way he is portrayed in The Other Boleyn Girl, and the way that Anne is demonised, and “The Tudors” is not much better. Weir talks of there perhaps being some truth in Warnicke’s view of George but, like you, I can’t see any basis for this belief.
    Thanks for your comment!

  5. I like the quote by Joanna Denny. it was Henry’s fault, and the happenings of May 1536 only prove to me that Henry never truly loved Anne, or, if he once did, that he had become insane when he condemned her. I mean, what kind of person was he? did he not once swear that she was his all, his most beloved? no matter how cruel someone is, one must be simply malicious to sentence someone to death whom they once proclaimed to love more than anyone else. am I not right? oh how I despise Henry for his actions. there’s no doubt, he was the tyrant of England. Anne Boleyn Queen R.I.P.

  6. Sodomy was a cover for a number of sexual offenses, mostly of a heterosexual nature, not just homosexuality. Basically, heterosexual intercourse in any but the “missionary” position might fall under this heading.

  7. Sometimes I wonder that King Henryviii did all this to have a son as his fathers advise to him At that time the Islamic world was ruled by the Khalifa of the Othmans ..He separated from the Roman church to have a new church to allow divorce ..The Muslim religion allows 4 wives at the same time and most of the Muslim kings kept the throne this way ..If anybody could have advised him , we would be living in another world ..What a cratcherr this man on earth

  8. At one time, there was available online, transcripts of the trial through a university in England. There was a fee. I am not sure of the year, but there was an announcement that certain documents and writings from this period were available to the public. It might have been Cambridge.

    There were also letters from Chapuys to the Spanish emperor and his accounts of the court at the time of Henry and Anne. Some accounts of Anne are available online through searching. I also found, at that time, documents regarding my ancestor who was given a home by Queen ELizabeth 1, I think it was reclaimed later.

  9. Hello Claire,
    Although Cromwell seems to have had a major part in Anne’s downfall it is historically untrue to say that Chapuys had anything to do with it. He hated Anne because she had taken the throne from Katherine of Aragon whose nephew he represented in England.
    But even Chapuys thought that it was most unlikely that Anne had committed adultery. He suspected that it was a put-up job.
    You mention Catholic conservatives being against Anne. There were Protestants too

  10. I have always believed that the trial and execution of Anne Bolyn along with Henry Viii’s marriage to Jane Seymour represents the start of the Counter Reformation in England. .

  11. I came here to learn more about the men accused to have had relations with Anne Boleyn, and imagine my surprise that today’s date, May 15th, just happens to be the date of their execution. How uncanny.

  12. I can now clearly see (after reading this piece) why British revolted against despotism and brutally executed some of their Kings and Queens. Some of the contemporary world leaders are not aware of such history and they still think despotism is an innovation, a rare innovation, to teach their people lessons. That is why History is as important as Chemistry, Physics, Biology and Geography.

  13. I am puzzling over why the monarchs who decided to break from Rome didn’t consider converting to Islam as an alternative. Framing the discourse around the local difficulty of Henry VIII wanting a son and wanting a divorce the Pope wouldn’t grant, ignores the fact that every European King with a capital north of Paris broke from the Catholic Church and placed themselves at the head of their national religion. And all of them closed down or took over the religious orders in their lands, in the space of a generation. France was touch and go. Meanwhile, Suleiman the Magnificent, the Ottoman Sultan, was one of the big three European rulers of the time (with Francis I and Charles V), at this point ruling all the way up to the borders of Austrian, Bohemia and Venice. He could divorce his wives, provide authoritative religious rulings and have several wives and concubines, as noted. it just never seems to have occurred to any of the Reformer Monarch they could team up with him and embrace his religion.

    1. Chris, you need to understand the power of Christian beliefs at the time. Islam would never have been considered an alternative. Just think consider the crusades! Henry remained Catholic in his religion, despite breaking with Rome.

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