Thomas Cromwell, Cardinal Wolsey and Wolf Hall


Here is the latest video in my series answering questions from viewers of the Anne Boleyn Files and Tudor Society YouTube Channel.

Thank you so much to Emilie and super cute Nathaniel the dog for asking about the real relationship between Thomas Cromwell and his master, Cardinal Thomas Wolsey.

Were the two men as close as they were shown in Wolf Hall?

How did Cromwell feel about Wolsey’s fall?

I answer these questions and also explain the history behind a scene in Hilary Mantel’s second novel in the series, Bring Up the Bodies, in which Cromwell vows revenge on those involved in Wolsey’s fall and in mocking him.

Here are links to read Cavendish’s two volume biography of Wolsey:
Volume 1 –
Volume 2 –

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21 thoughts on “Thomas Cromwell, Cardinal Wolsey and Wolf Hall”
  1. Wonderful question from Nathaniel and Emilie on the relationship between Cromwell and Wolsey. This masquerade has been shown in more than one fictional drama. In Henry Viii and the Six Wives, film version it was shown as the devising of Anne Boleyn and Henry disapproved. The masquerade was far worse in Wolfe Hall and of course its a device to give Cromwell a fake reason to bring down these particular men and thus his revenge several years later.

    The Masquerade was performed but obviously in a different set of circumstances, although it was also meant to make a political point. Unfortunately it made the wrong one and the French were offended. It really does show how the Boleyn faction thought of Wolsey after his fall, but in fact it wasn’t always so and it was more to do with their personal rise that they took part in his fall than an act of emnity. There’s very little evidence for a long term breach between the Cardinal and Thomas Boleyn but clearly things changed in 1529 and 1530 and we see a faction against him.

  2. We know that Thomas Cromwell apparently deserted Cardinal Thomas Wolsey for a short period, because after his reception at Grafton in the Midlands during the Summer of 1529, Wolsey summoned him to attend upon him and he ignored him. The next day when the Court left and Wolsey was left behind, Cromwell went with him. However, even after this Cromwell saw to his masters needs as a friend, working for his assurance and comfort even after his disgrace and retirement to York in 1530.

    Henry Viii was about to embark on a program of political changes which would see England torn apart and restructured. The country was about to see a hugely popular Queen set aside and her daughter disinherited and his bit on the side crowned in her place. Before that Henry abandoned his wife and Katherine had a month to move out and the clergy were forced to accept Henry as their Lord in spiritual things as well as temporal and England was separated from the rest of Christendom. As a lawyer and administrator who got stuff done Cromwell was just the man to help Henry promote all this as a good thing. The Crown set about going on an marketing campaign to explain the new ideas to the public and Cromwell was one of those responsible for this. The New Monarchy was to set out the reforms which would take place and how Henry had rescued everyone from the Medieval world of the papacy. It was a load of rubbish but pamphlets were made to make it sound good. Henry’s highly controversial theories needed someone used to dirty work and that was definitely Cromwell. The illegal seizure of religious guild property and the illegal use of funds from dissolved monasteries gor the Cardinal’s colleges were all worked by Cromwell. Henry didn’t like him at first, but he soon saw his potential and he came highly recommended. Henry admired his ongoing loyalty to the Cardinal and rewarded him with a variety of posts and eventually trusted him to het his will done in the Annulment and all other aspects of reform and political change.

  3. The idea that Thomas Cromwell saw five men in a masquerade which showed his late master being sent to hell and then waited six years until he got the perfect opportunity for revenge by having them brutally executed for treason and adultery is great drama but hardly realistic. Besides this was Hillary Mantel writing this and one has to ask, what does this tell us about her hero, Cromwell? It hardly puts him in a very positive light.

    Did Cromwell even have anything against these men, George Boleyn, Sir William Brereton, Sir Francis Weston, Sir Henry Norris and Mark Smeaton? How did they become entangled in a conspiracy led by Cromwell to bring down the Queen, Anne Boleyn? Well here is the brief version as these questions usually take all night. Well, he didn’t even know Weston very well and he wasn’t even connected to the others. His name didn’t come up in the original investigation of Anne and her alleged lovers. It was Anne who implicated Weston by accident by babbling in the Tower. Cromwell had a very weak case and although what Anne said was entirely innocent it was enough to twist into fake evidence. Mark Smeaton was the fall guy. As a musician who served both the King and Queen he was paid by rich gifts of money and clothes. He was often in the Queens apartments, her Presence Chambers used for entertainment with a lot of other people. Anne hardly noticed him. She told him off for making eyes at her. So he was arrested, questioned and confessed to adultery three times with Anne. According to George Constantine, the servant of Sir Henry Norris, Mark was tortured, but this is unlikely as no warrant was issued and he showed no physical signs later on. He did accuse George Boleyn and Norris.

    Now another man accused, Sir William Brereton was a rival of Thomas Cromwell because he opposed his political ambition in North Wales. SIR William was the rival and brother in law of another man, Sir Anthony Browne a close friend of Cromwell and the King who saw him as a nuisance and played a part in his arrest. Browne also accused his sister of having his baby and she accused the Queen of being indiscreet in a fit of rage. Elizabeth Browne was noted as the chief accuser of Anne, naming Norris and Smeaton. She may have been pressured to name Brereton as well. It’s unlikely that she gave any real details and we don’t know if her statement was used. She was named by Judge Spellman. Norris was also the man who Anne had teased a few days before all of the arrests about walking in dead mens shoes, in other words wanting to marry her if Henry died. This was a gest but it led to his arrest, although it wasn’t in the Indictment.

    As for Anne, the real truth is that Henry wanted to be rid of her and ordered Cromwell to find a way out of his stale marriage. Henry didn’t want the trouble of another annulment and Cromwell provided him with the perfect permanent solution. Cromwell made the evidence up and was only to happy to lead this investigation to get rid of Anne because he too had fallen out with her over social matters and foreign policy and she had threatened him. Henry ordered and authorised his investigation and took a close interest in it. Cromwell may well have been involved in a wider conspiracy to get rid of Anne, but it was in fulfilment of Henry’s will. It certainly had nothing to do with revenge for the fall of his mentor, Cardinal Thomas Wolsey.

  4. I know Lacey Smith in his biography of Anne finds the conspiracy theory a bit of a puzzle, as he mentions her brother George for one, what did Cromwell have against him? Apparently they had a lot in common with the reformist ideals, and why pick on Norris and young Weston, they to had done nothing to Henry’s chief minister, and Cromwell knew Norris was an old friend of the kings, so he had to tread very very careful, well yes as Bq states Anne’s own foolish babbling condemned them,
    Cromwell knew the lady was not discreet and stress and worry would make her talk eventually, even if it was totally innocent, Anne made it easy for Cromwell even If he did not have a personal grievance against them, they had been targeted because they were easy, they were in Anne’s circle and therefore spent a lot of time with her and her ladies, lots of flirting and courtly love banter went on, and Cromwell maybe suspected she could have been if not unfaithful, then indiscreet, as for Smeaton, he was her musician, easy to accuse a lowly servant of infidelity with the queen, he was in her employ and would have been easily seduced by the queens feminine wiles, he would have been over awed for one thing to know the queen found him attractive, he could well have had a bit of a crush on her anyway, certainly he was the one who Cromwell may or may not have exerted some form of pressure to implicate the others, so easy to pick on a man of lowly status as nobleman could not be tortured by law, Elizabeth Browne could well have implicated Brereton if pressure had been put on her, Elizabeth sounds like a rather stroppy kind of woman she was immoral for one thing, maybe she was a bit over bold yet put her in a room with Cromwell, and the soft spoken lawyer knew exactly how to frighten a lone woman, the mention of treason alone was enough to make the hardest man quake in his shoes, it was very sad because this woman was said to be quite close to the queen, and there is documented proof Anne lent her some money said to be one hundred pounds, no small sum in those days, when she was in the Tower Anne worried about her because she was pregnant, and it appears it was not going well as she laments how the baby did not stir in her belly, this closeness to the queen and the fact Anne learnt her money suggests according to Professor Bernard that she was in her confidence and knew and maybe aided the queen in her adulteries, it’s strange when we consider that Jane Rochford was beheaded along with Henry’s fifth queen for misprision of treason when Elizabeth was not, because surely had she covered up the queens adultery she would also be just as guilty?, here we see evidence that the charges were flimsy, and I believe neither Henry nor Cromwell wished to shed another woman’s blood, the queen was about to die that fact was certain and five men to, they did not wish to make it look like a butchery by slaying another woman’s blood, even though we know it was an act of butchery, if Elizabeth was pressured to mention Brereton, it would have been for political expediency as he was the least likely one to have committed adultery with the queen, he was not even in her inner circle, about fifty no roving eyed gallant but he was causing trouble for Cromwell in Wales a country he had dealings with, it was an opportunity for Cromwell to get rid of him so sadly he became another victim, in Lancelot de Carlos poem he cites Browne as implicating both Weston Boleyn and Norris, Lady Rochford as we have seen isnt even mentioned by de Carlos or Spelman, she is worth mentioning as proof there is no documented source that cites her as being involved with the queens downfall, it was stated that Elizabeth Browne was the first accuser against the queen, but I dont believe she meant any harm to the woman who had also been her friend, she could well have meant some of the queens ladies indulged in a bit of infidelity, not the queen herself because she would have known such talk was dangerous, her brother who was described as a bit of a stuffed shirt mentioned this toxic conversation to Cromwell, so this poor foolish woman who could have been a bit drunk at the time she gabbled to her brother, was taken in for questioning and Cromwell began rounding up more of Anne’s ladies, I dont believe as de Carlos mentions that she implicated George Boleyn, why should she accuse him of incest, I can see Cromwell putting words into Anne’s ladies mouths, keep on at a person till they get so weary finally they snap, and say anything just to get out of the hell hole they find themselves in, Nan Cobham whom Ives thinks was another who was interrogated though there is no proof and another of Anne’s ladies, sadly Elizabeth Browne Countess of Worcester, must have gone to her grave knowing that she was in part responsible for causing the death of her mistress and friend, being pregnant at the time she must have suffered dreadfully with the harrowing events that occurred, her pregnancy continued as normal so the queens fears were groundless, and she gave birth to a daughter whom she named Anne, possibly in honour of the queen whose downfall she has sadly, ever since been tarnished with.

  5. I hadn’t thought about Elizabeth Browne, Countess Worcester being guilty of misprison before because it seems so absurd in the first place. However, that’s an excellent point, yes she would have been, although because she gave evidence and didn’t help the Queen, she would probably have been pardoned. As long as she told Cromwell and his interrogation team what she knew, its doubtful anything would have happened. Misprison wasn’t always punished with death, more likely imprisonment. Remember in the case of Jane Rochford, she had done far more than hide the Queen’s alleged adultery, she had actively helped Kathryn Howard to commit it. Jane had sought out the places to meet with Culpepper and brought him to Kathryn. She was exclusively in the know most of the time and even chaperoned the pair in her room. Other ladies were actually pardoned for their knowledge of the meetings with Culpepper.

    The fact that Elizabeth Browne and the other ladies were not pardoned or accused of misprison proves that there was nothing to know. I wouldn’t put it past Anthony Browne to bully his sister and to get her to say what Cromwell wanted. If she was thinking of her unborn child, then she would cooperate. I don’t believe for one moment that Elizabeth herself jad committed adultery or that her daughter was the child of anyone else but her husband. It really is a stretch to say that because Anne had lent £100 to the Countess that she was going to give evidence which could result in the death of the Queen so that she didn’t have to pay her back. Like much else used against Anne, that notion is ridiculous. Elizabeth Browne obviously said something because she is reported as being a witness against Anne in official reports. She seems to be widely recognised as having at least made a testament about Anne. Witnesses were not always called in Tudor trials, their written statement may be read out instead. However, we don’t have this evidence, so we don’t know if she was even put on record. It was all twisted and made to look incriminating.

  6. Besides she was pregnant at the time so the worse that would have happened to her was to be taken to the Tower, she would have been treated a bit more delicately I imagine, because of her condition, I don’t know if Anne herself ever knew the comments Elizabeth had made about the loose morals of her household, but there is no evidence she did or harboured any feelings of resentment towards her, she may not have been unfaithful to her husband, that could have just been gossip like the gossip about Anne Stanhope and her father in law, and Elizabeth Boleyn and Henry V111, she was about the queens age being born around 1502 and was one of the queens ladies who attended her at her coronation, she was her husbands second wife and they were said to have had ten children though eight are only recorded, but she was extremely fertile, she died when she was around sixty three a good age for a Tudor woman, but she must have missed Anne all her life.

    1. I doubt Anne had any idea of the so called witnesses or the testimonies against her because that wouldn’t come out until her trial and even then she might not know the source unless the witness was called against them. Anne certainly didn’t know anything while in the Tower because she asked about Elizabeth and her child which didn’t move inside her. She showed concern but the child was in fact fine and named Anne in honour of the late Queen. The problem for Elizabeth Browne was her connections and family, it made her a target in this investigation by Cromwell. Elizabeth Browne was the daughter of Sir Anthony Browne, an old friend of the King and the father of Anne Browne, first wife of Charles Brandon. Anne had died in 1514 leaving Brandon free to pursue another wife, eventually wedding the King’s own sister. Her brother, the one who accused her of loose living was another Anthony Browne, also close to Henry and Cromwell. Cromwell, contrary to the events in the Tudors, was on good terms with Brandon, working with him on a number of projects. Elizabeth was caught in the middle and all of these family members were Anne’s rivals or had a personal loyalty to the King. Even her husband and father in law owed personal loyalty to the crown and could be relied upon to do anything Henry asked. Charles Somerset and Henry Somerset, 1st and 2nd Earls of Worcester were long term crown servants and held lands in Wales and Herefordshire. They regarded interlopers and rival landlords as a menace. A chance to get rid of men like William Brereton and to ingratiate themselves with the new faction growing up around Jane Seymour enhanced their fortunes and wasn’t to be bypassed.

      You can imagine a woman in Elizabeth Browne’s position being easily put upon to say whatever the Government wanted her to say, significant or not, true or not. For one thing she was in a vulnerable position, surrounded by powerful men, all connected to those determined to bring down the Queen and she was pregnant. In such a condition it would be expected that a woman of her status take extra care and she certainly would do nothing to endanger or cause stress to herself in case her child was frightened. It was believed that alarm could be caused an unborn child if the mother took fright. Elizabeth may be a bit stroppy with her brother but being questioned by Cromwell and his men was a different prospect. It wouldn’t have taken much persuasion for her to be forced to cooperate and say what she might suspect about the Queen. Elizabeth was in Anne’s service. She knew what went on in her private apartments, she was privy to gossip, probably fond of a bit of gossip herself and repeated it to her brother. When Cromwell heard what she had accused Anne off, loose living, from the lips of Anthony Browne he had a strand of evidence. As Mark Smeaton and Henry Norris were later mentioned and already under suspicion, this only confirmed Cromwell’s theory. It’s believed that Cromwell then sent Browne to persuade his sister to reveal the rest and to put pressure on her to give evidence. However, we don’t know any details and it’s doubtful that Elizabeth said anything of actual substance, but confirmed that she had heard rumours and seen these men in the Queens apartments, which in itself is meaningless. No doubt, however, it was enough for Cromwell and was later embellished by Lancelot de Carles in his poem.

    2. Yes that’s it, I was confusing Anne with Catherine Edwards first wife, regarding Elizabeth Browne, I think it’s just possible what she said to her brother was said in all innocence, why should she wish to cause trouble for the queen who was her mistress as well as her friend, but that careless piece of talk was inflammatory when it was put next to Anne’s foolish conversation with Norris, when she dared spoke of the kings death, that was tantamount to treason, and then she babbled about Weston when in the Tower, so although the so called evidence collected against her was based on really just gossip, it was enough for Cromwell to make a case against her, poor Elizabeth was really in the middle here, with her brother a friend of Cromwell’s and eager to be rid of the queen, and she in service to and a friend of the queen, I have always found it strange that the queens remark to Norris about dead men’s shoes was never mentioned in court, as that was the most damning piece of evidence there was, it was treasonous and in fact the only piece of evidence that stood up against the others, even more toxic as it came out of the queens own mouth, it was not in the indictments against her yet it stood more weight than the other silly tales that were produced in court, the marmalade in the cupboard Smeatons gifts to the queen etc, of course they had the hapless musicians confession as well but everyone must have suspected he had been subject to some form of duress, but that would have carried little weight to a Tudor jury, even if many knew under torture much was said to escape it, the signed confession was there and the king believed it, Anne was queen she should have been powerful, but her power was only due to the king, and he wanted rid of her, she never stood a chance against the evil machinations of Cromwell and her other enemies known as the marian faction, wisely the kings minister knew her star was in the decline, and he allied himself with the Seymours, he had fallen out with the queen where once he had been her friend, he had stepped in once Wolsey had fallen from grace and most of her position was due to Cromwell, but they had fallen out over several things and their relationship was now quite cold, so when the king told Cromwell he wished to end his now cursed marriage, Cromwell must have been delighted, he had a chance to get ride of that troublesome woman once and for all, however the unfortunate victims as portrayed in the drama series, were not chosen because of the masque they put on where they mocked Wolsey, that was just fiction, but we can assume that Cromwell must have felt some loyalty to his old mentor and friend, and the fact that he was directly involved in the queens downfall, must have given him some kind of satisfaction when he thought of the suffering of the once great cardinal.

      1. Just how Professor Bernard got an entire book out of an argument between a pregnant woman and her brother is beyond me?

        Seriously, Elizabeth Browne was merely repeating gossip and snapping at her brother who was accusing her of having someone else’s child, without any evidence whatsoever. Very nice, accusing your own sister of having loose morals. No wonder she became defensive but her words were very careless and she obviously didn’t mean to implicate her mistress Queen Anne Boleyn but she was repeating gossip, so stories about Anne must have been circulating. Anne’s words to Henry Norris must have caused quite a stir and Anne knew that she had been reckless. Anne was very foolish and even if she said it in gest, during a game of courtly love, it went too far. Norris himself was horrified and Anne tried to make amends but only succeeded in making it worse. Henry must have been furious. It was possibly this that Anne and he were seen arguing about with Elizabeth in Anne’s arms. So parents have always argued in front of the kids. Anne tried to use Elizabeth to appeal to him as a father and husband, no doubt. Norris was accused in Court of confessing to something but he withdrew it and denied it. I wonder if it was that fatal conversation. However, it wasn’t in the Indictment so perhaps Henry calmed down and saw it as a rash saying and nothing more.

        However, these small bits of nothing, gossip and tittle tattle were the basis of Cromwell’s entire case. Today we would call it piffle and balderdash. He might as well have taken his evidence from comments on Twitter. Mark Smeaton of course confessed and he didn’t withdraw his confession so that made the case for the crown, but he was at least threatened or promised a better death. Mark was the commoner, the man with no rank and so no privileges. Nobody had the right to have the awful death of hanging, drawing and quartering commuted to beheading but gentlemen and nobles usually were granted this privilege. Smeaton was granted it as well, possibly because he turned Kings Evidence. Anne was very disappointed because Mark didn’t clear her on the scaffold and he is often sneered at by history, but really he was just young and scared. We can only really pity him.

        This was all the evidence, all the crown needed because the Juries were rigged as was the trial. The outcome was expected and those selected were all either Boleyn enemies or those who were linked to her enemies in some way. It was all the crown needed, together with a long list of made up dates and times and places in which the sin of adultery and crime of treason took place. Yes, they can be shown to be nonsense today but who was going to do so in a Tudor Treason Trial? The crown had the power laywers out presenting the case v Boleyn et al. It was a show, nothing more, nothing less. The outcome was guaranteed. Guilty on all counts, not just with one man, but five, one being her own brother, George Boleyn. The crowd may not have been impressed, Chapuys may not have been impressed, but the Jury were. Six innocent people were sent to their deaths because the King was too embarrassed to get a second annulment and look foolish in the process.

        1. P. S. On a lighter note that story in the Spanish Chronicle of Mark Smeaton being hidden in the sweet meat cubbard and being brought with the Marmalade to the Queen just kills me. It was immortalised in the Opera Anna Bolenna. Yes, I have sat through it. Highly entertaining and deeply emotional. It was on Sky Arts so it had English subtitles. The next night I sat through Don Carlos. That’s very evocative. I have been to live opera. The last one I saw left me with the enduring vision of Elektra brandishing a huge sword, dressed in red, wallowing away for 20 minutes before throwing herself of a cliff to sacrifice herself to Prosidian.

  7. Are you meaning the first wife of Edward Seymour, Catherine Fillol, whom he divorced and refused to acknowledge their children as his heirs? Anne Stanhope was his second wife, with whom he had several children and who outlived him. The rumours about Catherine his first wife were that she had an affair with her father in law, John Seymour, but it’s likely that was false. The story is actually written much later, although Catherine’s fate remained a bit of a mystery after Edward left her. One story was that she retired to a religious house and its believed she died in 1535 by which time he and Anne had married. Edward and Anne had ten children and as we know she had something of a personal feud with Katherine Parr, but wasn’t the adulterous minx displayed in the Tudors.

  8. Oh yes Electra and her brother now what was his name? They killed their mother Clytemnestra for killing their father Agamemnon, and were tormented by the Furies, I once thought I’d like to see Pavarotti at the Royal Opera House Convent Garden, but the tickets were somewhat pricy, £300 to be precise, quite out of my budget, iv seen the Nutcracker there but the tickets are cheaper at The Coliseum, I love the opera Carmen and have that on cd, when I had a Sky subscription I watched Sky Arts a lot, and when I cancelled it was that channel along with the history one I missed, but now arts is on free view which is fantastic, it was great last Xmas because all the theatres were shut due to the pandemic, they showed a lot of opera and ballet and Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom is one of my favourites, when I was younger, and living near London I would often go to the theatres to see plays and musicals, I too watched Anne Bolena on the arts channel, I really enjoyed it Anne was shown as a very passionate woman which she must have been in real life, hope they show it again.

    1. Yes, its a brilliant channel. I think Sky have realised they have to provide better value for money to their long-term customers as well as fake deals for new ones. The regulator got to them and now of course, they have been hit through Covid and are as crap as ever. However, they are putting more programmes on free because of the regulator so that’s a good thing. I would love to see Isabel repeated, the Spanish series on Isabella of Spain. It’s in Spanish but of course there are English subtitles. It was also filmed on location and very well acted. It’s very long but very enjoyable. I think that one on Charles V was also made so maybe both will come on Sky Arts or Amazon Prime. I watched a lot of Russian history over both lockdowns and you wouldn’t believe how well done they are. EKaterina is about Catherine the Great and its better than the Helen Mirram one, which was fabulous, but not as accurate as one actually made in Russia. Sophia is another great Russian epic series about the Greek wife of Tsar Ivan iii the Great, grandmother of Ivan iv the Awesome or Terrible in our garbled English tongue, the first Tsar of All the Russias. Sophia was Ivan iii second Queen and he absolutely adored her to the extent of madness some believed and her role is played down by some modern Russian experts. She intervened when he wanted to execute the men who kidnapped her on her journey to Russia, she introduced Italian art and architecture to Russia, brought Italian craftsmanship and workers, she encouraged Ivan to expand his territory and take the first steps against the Golden Horde and she had received a classic education in Rome as the niece of the last Emperor of Byzantium, which she used to make changes in Muscovy. She was accused of killing the heir who was actually killed by his wife, but this was proven to be a dastardly plot and Ivan restored her. His own brothers had sided with the Tarters but Sophia meditated to bring them back and thus the Tarters were defeated. Ivan iii was ruthless but he was also crafty and many people think his last decades were his greatest because of his partnership with his wife, Sophia, the mother of his eventual heirs and his greatest grandson. Unfortunately, because of Ella, the widow of Ivan’s first son, most of what he had built fell apart and civil war following. It was his grandson who rose from the ashes of chaos and restored Russia, having his minority confirmed with his coronation not as Prince but Tsar aged fifteen. Most of these Russian epics are really grand, not only for authentic scenes but good actors and they are very well researched and stick to the truth as close as possible. That’s a refreshing change.

      1. I like seeing documentaries on Tsar Nicholas of Russia and the dreadful fate which met his doomed family, it’s such a pity they were not given asylum here, because they were related to our own royal family, I’d love to see the series about Katherine of Aragon, I maybe able to watch it on Amazon prime, we really do need a bit of escapism during these dull times.

      2. Just something you might find interesting, you can access sky if you purchase an Apple TV box, there about £100 click onto Now channel they have an arrangement with Sky, but Sky don’t broadcast this as they don’t wish to lose their subscribers, you need an iTunes voucher and it’s a pay as you go service, you can purchase the movie channel, Netflix dozens of others and you can watch certain sky channels on it, I just watch the movie channel but it’s worth knowing if you want to watch sky, threat thing is there’s no monthly contract as you just pay when you want to watch any of the programmes they run for a month.

  9. I haven’t read Bernards book there are some biographies of Anne I just will not read, there is Denny’s book on Anne which is another one I won’t read because it was slated by the critics, for being too anti Katherine and anti Catholic, biographies in my mind have to be fair and Katherine was a great queen dearly loved by the people, and simply a woman fighting for her rights, although fascinated by Anne Boleyn I have always felt sympathy for and enormous respect for this woman, and Denny was accused of sneering at her in her biography of Anne, so I decided that is one book I will not read and Bernards ‘Fatal Attractions’ is another biography, I saw him on the documentary about Anne’s fall and he stated he believed Anne could have slept with Norris and Smeaton, here he does not do justice to Norris who was an old and loyal friend of the kings, he has also been described as a gallant gentleman quite chivalrous, why should he dishonour himself by betraying his friend the king? It seems totally out of character and worse the king did not believe his protestations of innocence either, he died another victim of the kings need to rid himself of Anne, but there is proof years later that Elizabeth 1st believed in his innocence, for she was very kind to his two sons, Elizabeth herself had much of the evidence against her mother destroyed, this has been speculated amongst historians that what was said in court, was not all that was written down, so we can assume there was far worse that was not disclosed, an observer at her trial said it was all bawdy lechery, in other words women’s gossip, below stairs gossip, the marmalade in the cupboard yes is ridiculous, but so ridiculous it probably sounded true to the judges and the eager crowd, everyone loves a sex scandal, and one involving the Queen of England set everyone’s ears and eyes agog up and down the land, imagine the laughter in the taverns ! There must have been sniggering aplenty not only there but in court and round the city, yet it was no laughing matter for an innocent woman was on trial for her life and five men, I do not condemn Smeaton either, faced with a quick death and an agonising one, would any of us be any different? Easy to condemn when the condemned is not yourself, I believe however that Smeaton whose life sadly was cut short did make some kind of peace with his maker, in his prayers he must have admitted his guilt at his false confession towards the queen, and in doing so salved his conscience, he was described as just a young boy and his origins are spurious, but he was thought to have come from the country, he had a brilliant career at court first noticed by the king as being a talented musician, he then became the queens favourite one, she gave him gifts of money and saddles for his horse, these gifts are said to gave angered the other gentleman in her household, and during the trial they all bickered amongst themselves and vied for the queens sexual favours, there probably was a certain amount of jealousy it is after all human nature, but it was more to do with ambition than sexual jealousy, all of the accused protested their innocence to the end even though they all suffered in the end, the trial of Anne Boleyn and the trial against her so called lovers remains to this day, one of the biggest miscarriages of justice in English history.

  10. I take a different view of Professor Bernards book, although I disagree with his arguments and his conclusions obviously. As a researcher I believe one should read it in order to understand his arguments and to give a balanced critique of the debate around Anne and her fall. Anne’s historians today are universally of one mind, not necessarily on the causes of her fall, but that she and the men are innocent. What Professor Bernard offers is a scholarly contrary view with which we can analyse the circumstances of Anne’s trial and weigh the evidence through neutral eyes. There are other articles which do that as well and some more controversial assessments of Anne’s fall from Professor Warnicke and Greg Walker, the latter of whom believed that Anne brought about her own downfall, through a misinterpretation of her own behaviour. I can’t remember the title but an interesting on here a couple of years ago examined the research by someone who thought it was possible that Anne conceived her last child exactly fifteen weeks earlier and that Henry Norris was the father. Now I don’t want to sound sexist but the fact that this assertion was made by a man actually raised a red flag. Its not the first time a male scholar has made the preposterous claim that one can measure pregnancy and delivery to give an exact date and place of conception. That’s not actually possible. Even a modern pregnancy test is only accurate to within two weeks or more. I would guess that very few women have actually given birth nine months to the day of conception. However, that’s immaterial as the question is, how on earth did Anne Boleyn know how pregnant she was?

    Now this paper is scholarly so the research is noted and sound and the author doesn’t state he accepted it as a fact, this was a hypothetical piece of research. I welcome any well balanced and thought out research which contributes to the debate, even if it contradicts what most people believe. This is an honest piece of research and the author made some pertinent observations. Henry Norris was recorded being in the Queens chambers around the time when Anne would have conceived her son, thus making him a suspect as the father. Anne had previously had a problem conceiving and said as much so theoretically could have chosen her husband’s friend as a substitute father. Henry Norris may not have been adverse to the idea because he was well known to the Boleyn inner circle, a reformer and he may have felt sorry for the Queen who was in some difficulty and felt insecure. The Court was on its Summer progress and things were a bit more relaxed. So it was possible.

    However, although Anne did indeed conceive her lost son on the Summer progress of 1535,_there is no way to know for certain when as the foetus that she miscarried at the end of January 1536 was only estimated to be about three and a half months gestation. Given that Tudor medicine wasn’t anywhere near perfect, this can only be a reasonable guess. So the doctor might be off by a few weeks either way and therefore the date and place of conception could be anywhere between August and October 1536. The optimum time most people think that Anne became pregnant was mid to late September 1536. Now for Norris to be the father he would have to be alone with Anne and that in itself was never possible because she wasn’t left alone and her chambers doesn’t necessarily mean her bedchamber. The apartments Anne is placed in by the author are above those of the King and Anne did sleep separately as Royal people did by custom. That would mean any sexual activity upstairs would be heard as I don’t believe that floor boards from the sixteenth century were sound proofed. How would she know that the King wasn’t going to pop in? Yes, Royal beddings were ritual and the King would send ahead but access to his Chamberlain would be open and Henry and Anne were lovers so the ceremonies probably wouldn’t even be observed. Henry could be very passionate and might just pop up to visit the Queen for sheer pleasure. Norris was his friend and this would simply have been too risky. Besides why would he betray Henry and risk his life? No, the entire thing just doesn’t add up, although its an interesting theory. It adds to the intellectual debate.

    Moving back to the theory of Professor Bernard, if Anne was going to sleep with anyone in order to have a son, Mark Smeaton for me is outside the ball park. He was simply too low born. Although clearly, from the number of gifts that he received from both the King and Queen, Smeaton was a good musician, he wasn’t a gentleman and we know little about his family. Anne would have at least chosen someone from a good family and similar ideals to herself. She would choose someone with discretion which does put Norris back in as a potential mate. However, he is rather too obvious. He was not long widowed and looking to marry but not at once. He was about the same age as the King, if not older and he was trusted by Henry. Norris was absolutely flabbergasted when Anne joked about him looking for dead mens shoes. He protested his innocence and vowed to defend the Queens honour with his life. It is very unlikely that such a man would so wantonly betray his friend, master and King. I find it quite shameful that Henry refused to believe him and they had been on good terms at the May Day Tournament, with Henry providing him with his own mount when his horse played up. Anne wouldn’t risk everything, not after it had taken her several years to become Queen. She depended on the King for everything. Henry wasn’t a fool, he would probably be aware that Anne had slept with someone else, especially if he had occasionally been impotent. There isn’t actually any evidence that Henry had any problems in the bedroom at this point and we have every reason to believe that in fact Henry and Anne were on very good terms during the Summer progress of 1535. It was a time of triumph. Therefore Henry was even more likely to be the father of Henry’s last baby than Norris or anyone else.

    1. I have always believed from what I have read about his character, that Henry Norris did not betray Henry V111 with his queen, and yes it is shameful that he did not believe his loyal friend and sent him to his death, I think his desire for a male heir coupled with his wish to get rid of Anne overrode sadly his trust in his old friend and wish to preserve his life, but it must have filled him with remorse and he must have added him to the list of old faithfuls he had lost through her, Wolsey and More, Henry was by now growing quite suspicious in nature and as Starkey said, Henry believed what was expedient for him to believe, but aside from what Henry allowed himself to believe, could Norris and Anne really have slept together in her need for a son?, in fact Bernard is not the only historian who believes Anne could have slept with Norris and /or Smeaton, Norah Lofts for one who says that she could have in desperation taken another man to her bed, and Smeaton could have been one of the choices because he was of peasant stock and they were known to be healthy breeders, had he ever been taken into the queens bed however, he would have had to give Anne his complete trust, possibly on pain of death, but yes he was as you mention low born, and Anne was very aware of her position as queen, she would not disrespect her person to lie in bed with a mere servant, early on Anne fell pregnant quickly, there was no fertility issue with the king at this time and she is known to have fallen pregnant again the following year, but we hear no more of it, it could have been a miscarriage or a phantom pregnancy, I believe it could have been a miscarriage, as it would explain Henry’s outburst after she lost her last baby in January 1536, that god does not permit him to have a son, it was proof that he believed the child to have been his, Norris being present in the bedchamber as you say was not proof he could have been the baby’s father, as we know queens were never alone, they had at least one of their women sleeping with them if the king was not there, and yes his apartments were right under hers, this is another thing Lofts mentions, Henry would have heard all revelry stop no music playing if Anne was going to show her ladies the door and just be alone with her lover, be it Norris or Smeaton, and that’s a good point, he could suddenly decide to visit the queen when he chose, Culpeper nearly got caught with his fifth queen when he was announced late at night, along the corridors going to visit his wife, Culpeper had to sneak out the back door like in a carry on film, and as we know as in Catherine Howard’s case, a queen had to have a trusted servant with her, at least two to help her see her lover, no women were ever charged with aiding Anne in her so called adulteries, and yet how could she find the time flitting between five men, fulfilling her duties as queen as well, without some help? Catherine Howard only met with Thomas Culpeper and that was risky in itself, during the northern progress she was able to meet with him, and there was sometime when the king was ill through his bad legs and depressed, he kept himself to his own chambers a lot that Catherine again found it easy to meet with Culpeper, but only with the help of Lady Rochford and a few others, but for Anne to deceive the king with five men and the indictments read over a course of several years, how could she have managed to do that without being caught with no aid ? Henry was not the sickly soul he was later to become, he was not in his bed for weeks at a time, and he and Anne were often together at banquets at picnics at important meetings, wether meeting ambassadors, other times she was in her apartments with her household, as Ives himself states, quadruple adultery invites disbelief, the very charges were so ludicrous it rendered them quite impossible, and in fact no sane mind ever would believe them, here I believe is where Cromwell went wrong, the queens adultery would have looked more plausible had she been charged with only one man or possibly two, but then the charge of plotting to murder the king would look more plausible, if it were known she had a bevy of lovers to help her obtain her wish, also that charge alone meant death, as adultery was not yet punishable by death, she would be but banished and fiercely both Cromwell and his master wanted her dead, adultery in a queen was later made treason by law, something which sadly did not deter Henry’s fifth queen as she planned to join her handsome admirer, the problem with Catherine there was no actual proof of adultery but the intent to commit adultery, but aside from that, her nocturnal meetings with another man did look suspicious and I have always believed that Catherine did consummate her attraction with Culpeper, at George Boleyn’s trial he was accused of doubting his niece Princess Elizabeth’s paternity, yet Anne and Henry had only begun sleeping together when she was conceived rather quickly, why should George say such a thing when his sister and the king had only just consummated their love, there had been the secret wedding and it is believed they slept together in Calais when Anne knew her dreams were about to be fulfilled, why should she risk getting pregnant by another man, Elizabeth’s paternity haunted her all her life, even though as she grew older, she resembled the king with his colouring and long slightly hooked nose, Queen Mary angered by her, declared she saw a resemblance between her and Mark Smeaton, yet Smeaton was not in the kings employ when Elizabeth was born yet alone conceived, and many years later she was told that Henry V111 never doubted she was his own flesh and blood, something which must have made her feel enormously proud, Elizabeth was conceived at the height of her fathers passion for her mother, and though there may have been gossip surrounding the paternity of the sad little infant her mother lost, which hastened her own demise, Elizabeth to those at court, those who knew her personally, as well as to the English populace as a whole, never doubted she was King Harry’s daughter.

  11. Did I mention that I visited the tomb of Elizabeth Browne and her husband Henry Somerset in Chepstow Abbey in Chepstow a few times a couple of years ago? It’s a very impressive and colourful Elizabethan Tomb with effigies of the Count and Countess. The article about Bernard’s Book from 2010 in the papers is of course there and a small table display about the part Elizabeth played from Lancelot de Carles and Lord Hussey writting to his sister in Calais on the testimony Elizabeth must have made. The friendship between Elizabeth and the Queen is what he cites as evidence for her testimonials being true. He also argued that the Countess may have helped in the acts of adultery.

    I would say yes it meant that Elizabeth was one of the first people questioned and probably repeated the same gossip that she had said to her brother. That she is reported saying a lot more than that by Lancelot de Carles is taken as evidence of her being an actual witness. However, we don’t know exactly what Elizabeth said or even if it was read out at the trial. As she was pregnant its hardly likely that the Countess was called as a witness. Her written statement would have been enough. However, Elizabeth was under pressure and she may even have been told what to say. We are missing the transcript of Anne’s trial, although the report gives us important information. Elizabeth Browne certainly didn’t witness anything significant as there was nothing to witness.

    If Elizabeth saw anything significant or hid anything then she was guilty of misprison of treason but she wasn’t prosecuted. If Elizabeth helped Anne commit adultery, then she was guilty of treason. However, unlike Jane Boleyn Lady Rochford, Elizabeth Browne was not prosecuted for aiding Anne. In fact nobody was, which means nobody helped her and she could not have committed adultery without help. That puts any testimony in doubt but the prosecution still had its pound of flesh.

  12. Yes I believe you did Bq, iv also googled her tomb and it is very colourful, I used to go on lots of coach trips when I was younger but sadly with this pandemic, nothing is opened, hopefully these historical places will open soon as itl be a delight to visit them again.

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