Was Anne Boleyn charged with witchcraft? No!

Posted By on October 31, 2018

Repeat after me: “Anne Boleyn was not charged with witchcraft” – well done!

This topic was one that came up recently when I asked for your questions about Anne Boleyn, and it’s one that reared its ugly head today on Facebook because one historic place (I won’t name them!) shared a Halloween fact today, stating that Anne Boleyn was accused of witchcraft at her fall in 1536. Erm, no she wasn’t!

To answer this question properly and to argue that this is a myth that really needs putting to bed, I’ll share with you an excerpt from my book The Anne Boleyn Collection II which is based on an article I wrote for author Susan Higginbotham’s wonderful website History Refreshed a few years ago.

Every year in the lead-up to the anniversary of Anne Boleyn’s execution on 19th May, I notice a multitude of tweets and Facebook comments referring to Anne Boleyn being charged with witchcraft. This is in addition to her charges of treason, adultery and incest. I bite my tongue and sit on my hands, resisting the urge to point out the glaring error in these posts. In 2012, there was even an article by author Hilary Mantel in The Guardian newspaper entitled “Anne Boleyn: witch, bitch, temptress, feminist”.

Now, Mantel was not actually suggesting that Anne was a witch or that she had been charged with witchcraft. In fact, Mantel writes, “Anne was not charged with witchcraft, as some people believe. She was charged with treasonable conspiracy to procure the king’s death, a charge supported by details of adultery.”1 In this, Mantel is correct; Anne was not charged with witchcraft. But Anne Boleyn’s name is too often linked with witchcraft and many people, even Tudor history buffs, assume that she was indeed charged with it. It’s no wonder that people make that assumption; depictions of Anne as a witch are ubiquitous. Her portrait is on the wall at Hogwarts (not that this allusion should be taken seriously, though, of course). In addition, the 2009 Hampton Court Palace Flower Show had a Witch’s Garden to represent Anne Boleyn. Finally, Philippa Gregory’s famous novel The Other Boleyn Girl,2 depicted Anne Boleyn dabbling in witchcraft, taking a potion to bring on the miscarriage of a baby (which turns out to be monstrously deformed) and having a “witch taker” help to bring her down. You only have to Google “Anne Boleyn witchcraft” to find sites claiming that Anne was charged with and executed for witchcraft, or mentions of her having an extra finger and moles all over her body, which could have been seen as “witch’s teats” and the marks of a witch. Even an article on the BBC history website refers to her being accused of being “a disciple of witchcraft”.3

Some non-fiction authors and historians give credence to the witchcraft theory. In her biography of Anne Boleyn, Norah Lofts4 writes of Anne bearing a mole known as the “Devil’s Pawmark”, and of making a “typical witch’s threat” when she was in the Tower, claiming that there would be no rain in England for seven years. Lofts explains that seven was the magic number and that witches were thought to control the weather. What’s more, Anne had a dog named Urian, a name for Satan.5 In addition to this, she managed to cast a spell on Henry which eventually ran out in 1536, hence his violent reaction, “the passing from adoration to hatred”. Lofts goes even further when she writes about the story of Anne haunting Salle Church in Norfolk, where, according to legend, Anne’s body was really buried. Loft writes of meeting the sexton of the church; he told Lofts that he kept vigil one 19th May to see if Anne’s ghost appeared. He didn’t see a ghost, but he did see a huge hare “which seemed to come from nowhere”. It jumped around the church before vanishing into thin air. According to Lofts, “a hare was one of the shapes that a witch was supposed to be able to take at will”; she pondered if it was indeed Anne Boleyn.

That all sounds rather far-fetched, but reputable historian Retha Warnicke6 also mentions witchcraft in her book on Anne. Warnicke writes that sodomy and incest were associated with witchcraft. Warnicke believes that the men executed for adultery with Anne were “libertines” who practised “buggery”. In addition, of course, Anne and George were charged with incest. Warnicke also thinks that the rather lurid mentions in the indictments of Anne procuring the men and inciting them to have sexual relations with her was “consistent with the need to prove that she was a witch”. She continues, saying that “the licentious charges against the queen, even if the rumours of her attempted poisonings and of her causing her husband’s impotence were never introduced into any of the trials, indicate that Henry believed that she was a witch.”7 Now, Henry VIII may well have said that he had been “forced into this second marriage by sortilèges and charms”,8 but I don’t for one second believe that Henry was convinced that Anne was a witch. If he had believed it, then surely Cromwell would have used this claim to get Henry’s marriage to Anne annulled. If Anne was a witch, then it could have been said that Henry had been bewitched and tricked into the marriage, that the marriage was, therefore, invalid. Anne Boleyn was charged with adultery, with plotting the King’s death and with committing incest with her brother, George Boleyn, Lord Rochford. There was no mention or suggestion of witchcraft or sorcery in the Middlesex or Kent indictments. What’s more, at her trial, Anne was found guilty of committing treason against the King – again, no mention of witchcraft. Although witchcraft was not a felony or a crime punishable by death until the act of 1542, a suggestion of witchcraft could still have helped the Crown’s case and served as propaganda. I believe that the details of the indictments were simply there for shock value, rather than to prove that Anne was a witch.

So, where does the whole witchcraft charge come from if it was not mentioned in 1536? Well, I think we can put some of the blame on the Catholic recusant Nicholas Sander who in 1585 described Anne Boleyn as having “a projecting tooth”, six fingers on her right hand and “a large wen under her chin”9 – very witch-like! He also wrote that Anne miscarried “a shapeless mass of flesh” in January 1536. This “shapeless mass” was turned by historical fiction writer Philippa Gregory into “a monster”, “a baby horridly malformed, with a spine flayed open and a huge head, twice as large as the spindly little body”, and was used to back up the idea that Anne had committed incest and dabbled in witchcraft. However, Sander’s words have to be judged as Catholic propaganda, as an attempt to denigrate Elizabeth I by blackening the name of her mother. Sander was only about six years of age when Anne died, so he could hardly have known her, and he was a priest, not a courtier, so would not have been privy to court gossip about Anne. None of Anne’s contemporaries mention an extra finger, projecting tooth or wen; even Anne’s enemy, Eustace Chapuys, describes her miscarriage as the loss of “a male child which she had not borne 3½ months”. If the baby had been deformed, Chapuys would surely have mentioned this; he would also have recorded any physical deformities that Anne possessed. He nicknamed her “the concubine” and “the putain”, or whore, so he wasn’t afraid of saying what he thought.

While I cannot prove that Anne Boleyn was not a witch, I can cast doubt on this belief. Norah Lofts’ claims can easily be refuted. Anne’s mole was simply a mole. Anne’s dog wasn’t named Urian. Anne’s mention of the weather in the Tower was simply the ramblings of a terrified and hysterical woman. Finally, the hare was simply a hare! As for Retha Warnicke’s views, I have found no evidence to prove that the men executed in May 1536 were homosexual; and the only evidence for the deformed foetus is Nicholas Sander. Also, Henry’s words concerning “sortilèges and charms” were more likely to have been bluster than a serious accusation. He also said that Anne had had over a hundred lovers and that she had tried to poison his son, Fitzroy, and his daughter, Mary. I believe this to be the bluster of an angry and defensive man, rather than something to take seriously.

In conclusion, witchcraft was not something that was linked to Anne Boleyn in the sixteenth century, so I feel that it is about time that people stopped talking about Anne and witchcraft in the same breath. Let’s get the facts straight.

If you want to find out more about Halloween and how it was marked in the Tudor period, you can click here.

Notes and Sources

This article is an excerpt from The Anne Boleyn Collection II: Anne Boleyn and the Boleyn Family by Claire Ridgway, MadeGlobal Publishing, 2013 – click here to see it on your Amazon store..

  1. Mantel, “Anne Boleyn: Witch, Bitch, Temptress, Feminist.”
  2. Gregory, Philippa (2007), The Other Boleyn Girl, Harper.
  3. Bevan, “Anne Boleyn and the Downfall of her Family”, BBC History website – http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/british/tudors/anne_boleyn_01.shtml
  4. Lofts, Norah (1979) Anne Boleyn, Orbis Publishing.
  5. Although it is often said that her greyhound was called Urian and was given to her by Urian Brereton, brother of William Brereton, I have found no evidence of this. In Henry VIII’s Privy Purse Expenses, there is a record of a farmer being paid 10 shillings for a cow which had been killed by two greyhounds, one belonging to Urian Brereton and the other belonging to Anne: “Itm the same daye paied for A Cowe that Uryren a Breretons greyhounde and my ladye Annes killed – x s.” 25 September 1530. The Privy Purse Expenses of Henry VIII, p74.
  6. Warnicke, Retha (1989) The Rise and Fall of Anne Boleyn: Family Politics at the Court of Henry VIII, Cambridge University Press.
  7. Ibid., 231.
  8. Calendar of State Papers, Spain, Volume 5 Part 2: 1536-1538, 28.
  9. Sander, Nicholas, Rise and Growth of the Anglican Schism (1585), p25.

38 thoughts on “Was Anne Boleyn charged with witchcraft? No!”

  1. Michael Wright says:

    If Anne really appeared as Nicholas Sander described her she certainly would not have made the impression on the English court let alone the French court that she obviously did.

    1. Roland H. says:

      One thing that is almost always ignored is Sander’s additional comment that Anne Boleyn was ‘‘handsome to look at, with a pretty mouth’ and that she was very stylish.

      I don’t believe that Sander was making Anne out to be monstrous. Being tall with black hair doesn’t sound witchy to me, nor does having a slightly protruding tooth (which would have negated her ‘pretty mouth’) and a supposed wen. If Sander really wanted to make Anne a monster, he could have described her as way far worse.

      As for the infamous 6th finger, I think he was simply reporting a fact, though very exaggerated. Even George Wyatt (Thomas’ grandson) wrote that Anne admittedly had a slight deformity on her hand (though nothing like a complete additional finger). His sources were his mother and one Anne Gainsford who both knew the late Queen.

      1. Michael Wright says:

        He certainly contradicts himself. His description in my mind does not equal ‘handsome’.

  2. Jennifer Faith says:

    Plus, although not a crime as such at the time, wouldn’t an accusation of witchcraft carry a sentence of death by burning, even for nobility? I would think they would have jumped all over that idea if anyone would have thought of it at the time. Like so many before and since, they could have come up with all kinds of colorful stories to “prove” her guilt more effectively than the ones they came up with regarding the other charges.

    1. Banditqueen says:

      Although fire was the normal death penalty for harm by witchcraft, yes, in England from 1536 when a specific Act of Parliament was passed in England it became hanging. This applied to English territory as well, so in the American states it was also hanging as it was in Australia, in later centuries. In English parts of Africa it was also the law. The last witch hung in British territory was in 1776, but punishment continued by burning elsewhere until the 1830s. In Scotland burning was the penalty, but Scotland was a separate country at this time and burning was the penalty in most countries. Officially you could only try someone for actually causing harm to person or property such as cattle, but you could be accused by anyone so it was a good way to get rid of noisy neighbours or nasty people.

  3. Roland H. says:

    Anne Boleyn as a witch is WAY too exaggerated.

    If anyone is interested in exploring the history of Anne as a witch, I’ve written an article (‘Anne of the Wicked Ways: Perceptions of Anne Boleyn as a Witch in History and in Popular Culture’) on the topic at:


  4. Charlie Palmer says:

    Claire, what an excellent refutation. I like your attitude of keeping to the facts. Poor Anne has enough to bear, another charge is too much.

  5. Mary the Quene says:

    Leave it to Hilary Mantel to say, “Did I get your attention? It’s not true, but I got your attention.” Meh. And people who use the term ‘feminist’ to describe the sixteenth century? Also meh. Okay, I’ve shared my opinionated Halloween joy. . . yeah, I know I’m a downer. . . .

    1. M.E. Lawrence says:

      Note that writers don’t usually get to title their own articles; that’s up to an editor.

  6. Banditqueen says:

    Of course she wasn’t accused of witchcraft, she would have hung if she had have been as this was the punishment in England, once it was on the official statutes. It is easy if you don’t know to think that she was because so many so called historians refer to it, even in passing. Anne Boleyn could not have been killed as a witch in May 1536 not without a specific new charge of using her spells to harm and kill. She was in such an elevated position as to be able to kill the King without witchcraft, a pillow over his mouth while in his bed or poison in a nightcap would do it, but she was never charged with this. Henry did claim he was bewitched into marriage when he was mourning his lost baby boy, but this was a private statement to a friend and not taken literally.

    Nora Lofts has this subject in her biography and novels and as Philippa Gregory, the poor dear, is obsessed with witchcraft, having the entire female cast of the White Queen and White Princess, save Margaret Beaufort, as active witches, it’s no surprise that it’s in that other insult to history, the Other Boleyn Girl. It’s a common theme in many stories about Anne Boleyn and it is possible her contemporary courtiers thought she had bewitched their beloved King, so marked was the change in him as he became deeper and deeper involved in a relationship with her and further estranged from his wife and daughter. Anne was blamed for much of Henry’s outlandish behaviour. Few actually thought he might have come to the conclusion that he needed a male heir elsewhere and only a new wife could provide him with one or that his first wife marriage may not be valid by his own endeavours. The King was acting strangely, it began with his unnatural desires for the Lady Anne, with whom he was obsessed. I can see why ordinary people might think she was a witch. But out of all the things which people might believe her guilty of, this is the one thing that Anne wasn’t charged with, maybe it seemed to Henry unbelievable.

    Anne was charged with three things designed to shock and make her look bad and to destroy her reputation, a fourth would have been no worse, save it was the one thing even well educated people feared the most, harm through witchcraft. Natural magic was accepted, practical magic often went hand in hand with folk healing, but the use of spells to cast a cures or to harm someone was forbidden and people feared this in a very real sense. The biggest shock of all is the more educated some people were, the more they believed in malfrica, because they read texts on it. Anne was accused of adultery and treason, plotting with lovers to kill the King and that was bad enough. She was then charged with another taboo, incest. So calling her a witch would have only have added to an already weighty pile of shock and terrible things she was said to have done. No doubt with time people taking of these events remarked that she must have been a witch and Nicholas Sander many decades later uses that connection because as he describes her, all covered with warts, a sixth finger, etc, he is describing a witch.

    1. Jean E Atwood says:

      What always surprises me is how Henry VIII latched on to the verse in the Bible “You shall not uncover the nakedness of your brother’s wife” as an excuse to divorce Catherine of Aragon. (Or rather annul the marriage). However, the verses need to be read in context. You shall not have relations with your brother’s wife when your brother is alive and still married to her. However, he simply “forgets” about Levirate marriage such as the marriage of Boaz and Ruth, where a brother marries the widow of his childless brother to provide the deceased brother with an heir.

  7. Christine says:

    Anne’s story according to Miss. Lofts has a whiff of magic in it and when we consider the hold she exerted over the King it is easy to believe she could have been a witch, in the superstitious world she lived in where a menstruationg woman was banned from holding a milk pan in case she turned it sour, wher people wore talismans to fend off the plague I can well imagine some country women in the surrounding villages scathingly refer to her as a sorceress, a devil woman who was in league with Lucifer to bewitch a King and cause strife through the realm, his obsession with her was irrational but he was very much in love and love is not irrational, it makes fools of us all, even more irrational was her dramatic fall from power after having been kings darling for so long, but as for the actual charge of witchcraft we who are more familiar with Annes story know that charge was never brought against her, Henry in grief and anger after losing his last child with her muttered he had been seduced into this marriage by witchcraft, it was an off the cuff remark, he no longer loved her and found her irritating, and like many who have been obsessed with some one for so long, when those feelings are dead they see their old love with new eyes, the old phrase ‘ what did I ever see in her or him I must have been mad’ rise up in the mind, once he had been so enchanted by her but we can safely assume it was the forbidden fruit that Henry had found so enticing as there never is anything more enticing than the ‘forbidden fruit’, that which is out of reach and unattainable becomes far more desirable than that which is easily had for the taking, Miss. Lofts novels I must admit I do love she was a great storyteller and her biography of Anne reads more like a novel than fact, Weir refers to her as having a lively imagination commenting on the slab under which Anne was said to have been buried and the hare story, but maybe Lofts herself believed or liked to believe Anne did meddle in the dark arts, to imagine Anne chanting a few spells at midnight maybe on mid summers eve makes her far more fascinating maybe, but to me she is fascinating enough without adding magic to her story which after all is as old as time, Wallis Simpson herself exerted a hold over Edward V111 which many could not understand, she like Anne was not a conventional beauty but she was known for having terrific style and was witty and educated like Anne, and Edward was besotted with her, we know how their story ended but maybe had that happened in the 16th c stories may have abounded around Wallis – she used strange enchants to bewitch the King but I must not digress from Anne, in a book I read many years ago the author described her as the ‘witch queen’ and as we know Gregory has gone to town in her novels with this queens reputation, and Warnickes theory is quite impossible to believe, it seems Henrys remark made purely in anger was more powerful than he intended, I have a theory why she was not charged with witchcraft, it could be because it could have made Henry appear foolish but as mentioned by an earlier poster, the charge was not needed to bring her down, the invest charge was shocking enough and conspiracy to kill the King, she was made to look as vile as possible,over the years Anne has been the subject of countless novels and biographies by those fascinated by her and if they believe she did practice the dark arts that’s upto them but this is the 21st c and we know no such thing as a witch exists, although there are covens of white witches and they practise healing with herbs and so forth, they are completely harmless and really many of the people who were hung for witchcraft in the 16 th and 17th c were little more than wise women of the village, people would go to them for device on how to snare a lover of they had a boil somewhere on their body, they sometimes assisted at childbirth etc, the persecution of so called witches did not begin till James was on the throne and a lot of innocent women were put to death, Nicholas Sander who sounds a grumpy old thing as Roland mentions did know Wyatts grandson, and Lady Anne Gainsford who had been one of her ladies, he must have listened with relish when she was described as having a mole as Bq says, a mole was thought to be one of the Devils teats, she had what was possibly an olive complexion but Sander described it as sallow and looked like she had jaundice, I cannot imagine Wyatts grandson saying such deragotory things about the woman whom his grandfather had held in such regard nor Lady Gainsford either, as she may not have been a great friend of the queen her mistress but why should she make such unflattering remarks about her as there is no record of any animosity between them? Sander also said she was rather tall again Anne was very willowy she could have had long legs which made her appear taller than average, but her skeleton in the Victorian age was estimated at about 5 ft 3, not tall by today’s standards then again it may not have been her bones that were examined, Sander an enemy of Elizabeth 1st twisted Wyatts and Gainsfords words I believe, and where on earth did the projecting tooth come in because no one ever mentioned that, Chapyus who was a court a lot never described her as jaundiced with a buck tooth yet he disliked her, but he never run down her looks which tells the reader a lot, Anne was said to have had a fresh clear complexion but since she was rather dark she did have some tiny moles possibly on her face and neck, the goitre on her neck was possibly just a rather large large mole which she according to Sander attempted to conceal, somehow over the passage of time a whole plethora of myths has arisen about her rather like the infamous Robin Hood of legend and Dick Turpin, Robin was apparently the Earl of Loxley and lived during the reign of King John, he had a band of followers called his ‘ merrie men’ and was in open rebellion against the King and his treacherous court, in reality he was purely the imagination of Sir Walter Scott and although there are records of a man named Robin Hood, he lived during the reign of Edward 1st, Robin also was the nickname in medieval times of a petty thief and so we can see where Scott got his idea from, Dick Turpin was said to have had a mare named ‘Black Bess’ and rode all the way from London to York in one night fleeing from the king’s men, no racehorse can achieve that it’s virtually impossible and yet as we have seen, legends have arisen about these two characters much loved though they are, to me Anne had no need of magic, her very power lay in her personality her witty tongue that elusive quality she possessed that made a King fall in love with her, she used that love for her own means, since time began women have been using their charms for their own purpose and so have men, there is no witchcraft attached to the power of charm, in her biography Lofts does as the article says repeat the words Anne used in the Tower about a drought lasting for seven years if anything happened to her, Anne was not know for her tact and diplomacy and was not in a right state of mind when she made that remark, also she was consistently being spied on by a group of malicious women who she hated and who hated her, any wonder she blurted that out as it was possibly made to shock and horrify them, at least we know that to Annes followers she does get a fair press, she is one of Englands most maligned queens along with Isabella of France and Isabella of Angouleme, all equally fascinating in their own way but Anne is different she was publicly executed, she was not I think a very likeable woman, she was bad tempered and could be spiteful and disrespectful but her character over the years had changed from a gay sweet natured girl just as Henry V111’s had, from a jolly fellow to a suspicious autocrat, thwarted ambition turned Anne into a vengeful harpy intent on being queen and when she had it, maybe realised being queen wasn’t all that it cracked upto be, her very character rebelled against the constraints it brought, and Henry worn out with the effort and suffering from two one quite serious head injuries, had changed too, thus their marriage which had begun in such hopeful optimism was doomed, they were not compatible and to some one who had persued a person for years and found they suddenly possessed them, the enchantment begun to wear of, it is a strange quirk of human nature that wanting something is never as exciting as owning it. Sorry for going on so long I did rather get carried away.

    1. Michael Wright says:

      I am so glad to read your description of Anne. I completely agree. I never thought she was particularly friendly to those who were not her equals, I’m sure she had no problem telling people what she thought of them and I doubt if I would have liked her. Is she guilty of what she was a accused and executed for? Absolutely not.

      1. Christine says:

        Hi Michael, yes she was very loyal to her own friends but I feel she wasn’t the sort to make friends easily, and she probably enjoyed men’s company more than those of her own sex, she was very close to one woman whose name I can’t remember but she did alienate a lot of people at court because she had a vindictive tongue, she was a flirt and because of this it was far easier to make the charges against her seem plausible, as Ives put it, it was easy to accuse her of moral laxity, those who disliked her found it easy to believe the worst of her, she was not the shy retiring type this was what made it easy for Cromwell to rig the charges against her, she had got where she was because she was an attractive forceful woman whom many men had found irresistible, now her womanly charms could be used to bring her down, and the more loathsome said about her the better, as we have seen the charge of sorcery was not needed but somehow it has infiltrated itself into her sad story along with the sixth finger which was not a finger at all, merely a tiny second nail, in fact such imperfection could have increased the beauty of her hands which in her portrait at Hever, look long and slender piano fingers the term we use today, how could someone who was called very beautiful by a Venetian observer and who caused such a flutter at the French and English courts in her heyday come to have her appearance slandered so dreadfully in the years following her death? It was all down to politics and religion as usual, her daughter Elizabeth 1st was seen as a bastard and heretic, therefore her mother became this warty looking hag who dabbled in the black arts as a means to discredit her, what Elizabeth herself thought of Sanders mutterings against her mother we can only guess, to be the daughter of such a controversial woman as Anne Boleyn was something she had had to get used to all her life and it was something she kept to herself in the deepest recesses of her heart.

        1. Michael Wright says:

          Something that always strikes me when I read about all the court intrigue around Europe at that time is even though so many profess to be Christian (I myself am) somany times the commandment ‘Thou shalt not bear false witness against they neighbor’ was broken to use as a weapon and people died. If I lived during that period of history I think I would like to be a peasant out in a field. Though life would be hard there wouldn’t be so many people wanting your job (or your head).

      2. Vera Phillips says:

        She was guilty though wasn’t she? …..of treason, thanks to that reckless remark to Henry Norris- it was treason to imagine the Kings death and she regretted it immediately and tried to do some damage limitation. I don’t know why the charges of adultery and incest needed to be included because treason was the greater crime-it was probably to blacken her character

        1. Michael Wright says:

          Going by the letter of the law Anne’s comments regarding ‘dead men’s shoes’ does imply treason but if Henry didn’t want her dead she would not have been executed. The other charges were piled on just to make sure her death would happen. The men were executed to make sure the charges against Anne seemed legit. Remember the men were tried and found guilty first so she had no chance at a fair defense.

        2. Christine says:

          Hi Vera yes you are correct that the adultery and incest charge was brought into blacken Annes name, incest especially has always been looked upon with revulsion and that was thrown in to make her appear as a vile sexually immoral out of control character, as loathsome as possible who would seduce any man including her lowly musician and own brother, that way she would be regarded with contempt and abhorrence and be seen to be deserving of the death sentence, and Henry would garner more sympathy for having trusted and loved and married this woman who was in reality nothing more than a Jezebel, but his own behaviour in fact did completely the opposite as he failed to act like the wounded husband, and in fact was out on the town most nights wining and dining his new love Jane Seymour, he certainly wasn’t fooling anyone and it was Anne in fact who did win quite a bit of sympathy instead of her poor done by husband.

        3. Banditqueen says:

          Anne’s words were reckless and foolish and Anne tried to limit any damage, it is very true, but she said them in the tradition of courtly love, just going too far and in front of witnesses. This particular dead man’s shoes incident wasn’t actually raised in the indictment. Anne made one more error, by sending a message via her minister to Norris to go and declare that she was a good woman she alerted far too much attention to this innocent conversation. Henry was angry when he heard about it and it can be guessed fairly accurately that the heated arguments he had with her the next day via an open window had something to do with this.

          Norris was named by Mark Smeaton who confessed to adultery and named two others. He was also questioned by the King but denied it. However, the apparatus for arrests and charges were put in place before any of this and Norris stepped unconsciously into Cromwell’s trap. He didn’t commit treason because he was shocked by Anne’s suggestion that he fancied her and he dismissed it. It was Anne who said Norris wanted to have her if the King died, which is her treason, not his. However, it is unlikely that Anne intended any such treason but a series of discussions were twisted as evidence that she plotted with her alleged lovers to kill the King.

          Anne was accused of adultery, which was not a crime, but a sin and certainly it didn’t carry the death penalty at this time, in England. She had to have the treason charges added because Henry wanted her condemned and this did carry the death penalty. Incest was added to make her look particularly bad. I doubt that Henry and Cromwell had a set number of people in mind and much of what came about did so as innocent conversations and circumstances were twisted or coincidence allowed innocent meetings to be seen as treasonous. In the Tower a bewildered Anne talked and babbled away about her life as Queen, attempting to reason out why she was there and there was a conversation two years earlier that she recollected which led to the arrest of Francis Weston. Anne obviously had no idea he would be drawn into this mess but Cromwell used this as well. Every bit of dubious information was used, gossip by a Lady in waiting, Lady Elizabeth Browne to her brother, more gossip from Lady Wingfield and of course the false confession of Mark Smeaton.

          The indictment is basically a load of nonsense. Two thirds of the alleged dates were impossible, the men had alibies, the Queen was never alone and nobody helped her meet her alleged lovers. She would have been totally exhausted with all that extra marital activity. Anne and the men were innocent but the charges were deliberately staged to make Anne out to be evil incarnate and to gain sympathy for the righteous King and devoted husband whom she sought to destroy. Incest, adultery, treason, it could not be worse. Henry was away from it all of course, the innocent victim, the holy King whose divine life was in danger from a woman he had loved and raised to high honour as Queen but who had betrayed him with lies, deceit and her evil mind. That was how Henry wanted everyone to see things, but not everyone was as easily tricked as he believed. For some reason, even though he hated Anne, Eustace Chapuys thought all involved had been condemned without any evidence and little reason. He didn’t believe the charges. Today few believe them, but at the time people were very confused about the whole thing, opinion was divided and the case appeared strong, dark and Anne’s reputation was destroyed.

  8. Esther says:

    I doubt that Henry VIII would have annulled the marriage even if he did think that Anne Boleyn was a witch; it would be admitting that his claim of supremacy over the Church was inspired by Satan (since it was inspired by Anne — and if she was a witch, she was Satanic). However, I think it significant that there were no such accusations by any her contemporary enemies. Furthermore, I don’t think any of Elizabeth’s enemies referred to her as the daughter of a witch.

    1. Roland H. says:

      Yes, that is true. Anne was never called a witch by her contemporaries. Even Mary Tudor who had the most reason to hate her, never named her stepmother a sorceress. Like others who maligned Anne, Mary called her a ‘public strumpet’. Criticism against Anne was always about her being a whore or a heretic, never a witch.

      Even though Henry VIII was heard to say that he was seduced into his marriage by ‘sortileges and charms’, he never regarded his wife as a witch. If he did make the remark (the envoy Eustace Chapuys even had doubts that he actually did), he was merely blowing off steam after Anne’s tragic miscarriage in January 1536. In fact, the King continued to honor her as Queen until her downfall later that Spring.

      Interestingly enough, Anne as a witch is actually an early 20th century concept, created by writers such as Elizabeth Louisa Moresby (E. Barrington), Garrett Mattingly, Edith Sitwell, and Montague Summers. Anne was never a witch until the 1930s.

      1. Banditqueen says:

        I agree with you, Esther, Henry thought far too much of his Supremacy and the justice of his cause in the divorce of his first wife to make any such claims that his second wife led him by witchcraft, especially to advertise any private thoughts he may have had about being bewitched to marry Anne. It would make him look foolish. Any short term ideas that Henry had to annul his marriage to Anne Boleyn were quickly put to one side and I also believe his Supremacy had something to do with his policy to have Anne tried and executed as well. As it’s 2.20 a.m my brain isn’t forming the reasons for this but once Henry took on the entire power of Church and State, he more or less absorbed far more power than anyone could imagine. He saw Anne’s “failure” as a challenge to his masculinity and he saw any lack of submission she showed as a challenge to his authority. The Treason Act 1534 made it treason to speak, write or think anything against the King and his new wife and ironically those laws were somehow twisted to be used against Anne. Henry had enough to go on with adultery and treason, witchcraft would be a ridiculous thing to claim and would undermine his decisions to break from Rome, his annulment from Katherine, his Supremacy, his new monarchy and any reforms he was planning, all of which had been influenced during his relationship with Anne, as you have pointed out. None of her critics were officially calling her a witch, so why should her husband?

        I know most people believed in witchcraft but seriously, apart from new laws to make its use for harm illegal, I doubt very much that Henry seriously believed in witchcraft. He doesn’t appear to have been that interested in it. The one remark he may have made and the source for this is rather dubious, is of a frustrated husband and grieving father, trying to make sense of yet another loss of a child. He thought his marriage not blessed by God, not cursed by Anne as a witch and he was speaking as some men do…oh she bewitched me, meaning I found her so attractive that I fell for her charms, her use of sex and nothing more than that. Even if a number of superstitious people around the country thought she might be a witch, there is little evidence of anyone writing or saying this anywhere. Anne was called many nasty names, whore and heretic being the usual ones. Accusations of witchcraft are lacking and she certainly wasn’t accused of this in the charges against her. The idea by Professor Warnicke that her deformed baby was associated with witchcraft or being of low morals, incest or whatever, doesn’t have any basis in fact either. For one thing Anne didn’t have a deformed foetus, that is Nicholas Sander 60 years later, and again, nothing of this nature was held against her.

        1. Christine says:

          Hi Bq, thing is Annes very looks do seem to fit in with the ideal stereotype of witches to, I’m not talking about the warty old hags as she certainly wasn’t like them but the dark haired temptress that is so often portrayed in folklore, she was slender possibly quite tall with long rippling dark hair that reached right down to her knees, illustrations of witches in poetry and fiction often depict them like that, somehow they look more alluring than their fair haired sisters, even vampires are shown as beautiful with long dark hair as sultry dusky maidens seem to portray evil better than fair skinned women, with her very charisma and exotic looks, her very charm and grace the word enchantment does spring to mind, and I’m sure not only Henry V111 but her old suitors Percy and Wyatt thought so, but purely in a poetic way not with the actual awful accusation that has surrounded her very name down the years and which has somehow infiltrated into her tragic story.

        2. Banditqueen says:

          Yes, definitely, Anne was neither the type cast witch of legend but neither was she typical of old English rose in looks. We don’t really know if any of her familiar portraits resemble her, because none of them have been officially authenticated as contemporary. There are some which are probably close and we do have some descriptions from her day. We know she had some kind of dark coloured long beautiful hair, maybe brown, black or brunette, swarthy dark skin and dark black or green eyes, of middling height to reasonable tall, slender and elegant and a beautiful dancer and dressing in wonderful French fashions. She might have been said to have a bewitching look, rather than to look like a witch, like Betty Davis, the goddess of the silver screen who really knew how to use them and was very alluring. Long dark hair, dark foreign looking complexion and deep green or black eyes, yes, a bewitching look. She wasn’t called a witch, however, although she certainly was called a whore and concubine.

          Have you been watching A Discovery of Witches on Sky One? Only one of the witches has long dark hair, the main character has blonde hair and is the strongest witch, her erstwhile friend who betrayed her has red hair and one of her aunts is black, the other Alex Kingston is definitely fair. The chief witch is an older male with white hair. She is the partner of a vampire and they look very human as well, as do the demons, also very human. O.K. that bit isn’t very relevant but it shows that there isn’t a type as there is in folk memory. Anne wasn’t your typical English beauty but then Henry didn’t want an English beauty when they met. He wanted a fertile, intelligent woman and Anne attracted him for many reasons. She was like a French woman born, she was witty, she was interested in many of the same things Henry found fascinating, such as theology, the things of the mind as well as the same pleasures, dancing, hunting, the entertainment of Court and she was a woman who lit up the palace. Henry was captivated by her and he was feverish with for her because she said no, passionate with her after she said yes. They had a neutral relationship based on love and trust and a partnership that worked in tandem to bring about the annulment and reform. Henry was influenced by Anne to make certain decisions, although he used his own research into old texts to persuade the Church to yield to him and to make moves towards the break from Rome. Just how much influence over religious policy Anne had is debatable but she certainly would have made recommendations. A legend leads to Anne giving Henry a copy of William Tyndale’s book On The Obedience of A Christian Man, which talks in one part about Kings being only answerable to God, the Pope having no say over the decisions of an Emperor. The book had been confiscated but found itself in the procession of a Lady to Anne Boleyn. At some point she took it to the King. Henry liked it. He used Thomas Cranmer and Thomas Cromwell to gather texts and laws to back his new ideas of monarchy, Anne may have had some input into the New Testament being smuggled into the land and some of his later clerical appointments had links to the Boleyn family. Henry saw her as the future mother of his children, his sons. They were the new power couple but it all went wrong and Henry could not leave Anne alive and annul his marriage because he knew Anne was a very strong and determined women, just as Katherine of Aragon had been. Katherine refused to go quietly, so Henry decided Anne probably would cause trouble as well. Any new marriage and children would remain in doubt while he had an ex wife who was still alive, so Henry reasoned that Anne had to go, permanently. Thomas Cromwell was tasked with bringing this about and conspired against the woman he had once supported, so as Henry could marry again with a clean slate. A charge of witchcraft, however would make everything he had done before look foolish, charges of treason and adultery made Anne look as if she had conspired against him both before and after her marriage.

        3. Christine says:

          Hi Bq, no I havnt Sky anymore, I sent it back because I found there were mostly repeats on it and it’s so expensive to, I have an Apple TV box in which you can access sky without the monthly contract, they have a contract with Now TV it’s great because you just top it up when you want to, bit like a pay as you go phone, what I did watch a few nights ago was a programme about a haunting in what used to be a witches house, Ursula Kemp was hung for witchcraft and she lived in a house called ‘The Cage’, it was very scary because they interviewed a young woman who moved in some years ago and she had to leave as the house made her a nervous wreck, she had a baby and daily saw the ghost of the witch called Ursula, there were a lot of noises and doors would open on their own, since it’s been Halloween week the television has shown a lot of spooky things on, New Year’s Eve once me and a friend went to Hampton Court on a haunted ghost tour, it was pitch black save for a few dim lighting and we had a tour guide who told us about the hauntings of Hampton Court, those which we knew of already, we had to walk down the haunted gallery and it was so eerie we daren’t look at the side of us or behind, we were clinging to each other but it was great fun and we had refreshments teas coffees and cakes and biscuits, but we smuggled in some drink as we needed some Dutch courage, it really was fantastic even though we were pretty spooked.

  9. Tanya Stark says:

    Well, said, Claire. Just think that Anne was ahead of her time being so very bold and tenacious. After all, she did dance as “Perseverance”. She a Katherine of Aragon were so similar in that respect. Could have cut a deal and lived comfortably, but stood on their principles.

    1. Banditqueen says:

      That’s actually a very astute observation, Tanya, and I agree that Katherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn have a lot in common. They were both well educated and well versed in just about everything. They were both determined to stand their ground, they both married an equally brilliant and stubborn man, they both determined they were right in just about everything and they both had very deeply held, if opposite ideas and beliefs. They both attracted and held Henry for a vert long time, especially Katherine of course being his first love and Queen for a number of years. There is a famous incident just after the collapse of Blackfriars Court at which Katherine upbraded Henry about being able to get 500 scholars for every one of his and he went to Anne for comfort and she upbraded him for listening to Katherine. The guy felt completely outgunned and had to escape both of them. I can’t help but think that if they lived now and were not Queens, if they knew somehow that he was going to turn on both of them, that they would get together and dump him first. I know, I know, that’s a modern twist on sixteenth century values of marriage and Queenship and duty, but even Katherine thought there was something not quite right with Henry and he had lost his mind. Unfortunately she also believed he would regain his senses and return to her. She couldn’t or would not accept that Henry had made up his mind he wanted Anne, was in love with Anne and that Anne could give him a son and that he really did believe his first marriage was null and void. Anne believed that as Henry’s Queen she would also have him exclusively because he loved her. That was a big miscalculation. She also believed she would have more influence over him and be involved more politically, another miscalculation. Henry was only interested in her ability to give him a son or two although he did give her a reduced political role and was influenced in religious policy. Anne did take on the role of instructing Ambassadors, until Henry decided she was inferring too much. When Anne found herself frozen out she didn’t just accept it, either, thus not really adapting to life as a typical Queen. Henry respected the opinions of both women, but he made it clear he would take their advice on his own terms. It was only after Anne had given him a couple of strong sons that he was going to be interested in her political ideas again. That sadly is the other thing Katherine and Anne had in common, a failure, for whatever reason, to have healthy children. Both had one daughter who thrived and who would rule, both desperately wanted and needed sons and both could not deliver. Henry took the view of most men of his time, that he wasn’t to blame, didn’t blame Katherine, blamed God and their choice to marry, but he did blame Anne as well as God. We don’t know why his wives had a lack of healthy children, particularly sons and there is much speculation about if Henry had an inherited fertility problem, well no, he had no problems getting them pregnant and we can’t take the gossip about later erectile dysfunction seriously. It was not a problem with either Katherine or Anne, despite her comments to her sister in law. Did he or Katherine in that case have a problem which affected children in the womb? There are theories of rare blood disorders which might explain a high number of miscarriages and still births, but so could bad luck. Childbirth and pregnancy were dangerous and a high proportion of children died at birth in any case. However, Henry suffered a higher loss rate than normal. His masculinity was under scrutiny. He had one illegitimate son, who appeared healthy but who died aged seventeen. There is speculation about other children as well, which he never acknowledged, but the evidence is only circumstantial. Henry, Katherine and Anne are like an eternal triangle and their link shaped our history down to the present day.

  10. Tanya Stark says:

    I remember reading somewhere some experts were trying to get an exhumation of Henry’s remains. Theory being with all the miscarriages Katherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn had there may have been some congenital blood disorder causing all of this infant mortality as well as the sons as with Edward and the illegitimate Henry Fitzroy dying as young men. I had mentioned this previously when the bloodline was traced from Mary Boleyn to the present day Elizabeth II. (was an excellent article!)In any event, I am happy that if the royal family at present is healthy and thriving!

    1. Claire says:

      The newspapers did indeed report that Kyra Kramer and Catrina Banks Whitley were asking the Queen for permission to exhume the body of Henry VIII, but this is actually not true at all. However, they did indeed publish an article on their theory that Henry VIII had Kell positive blood – see https://www.theanneboleynfiles.com/henry-viii-kell-positive-blood-type-and-mcleod-syndrome-guest-post-by-kyra-kramer/ for more on this.

      Thank you! I’m glad you enjoyed that article!

  11. Vanessa says:

    I find this article so interesting. I also find it very timely! I recently watched the new series, ‘The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina’, which is a remake of ‘Sabrina the Teenage Witch’, and was shocked when, in a scene depicting an exorcism (it’s much, much darker than the original Sabrina), a few witches (Sabrina and her aunts and a teacher) gather to draw strength from fellow witches of the past and called on their ‘sister’ Anne Boleyn (among others).

    I’ve written many essays on Anne and have chosen to study her at every opportunity; I know about the claims of witchcraft but that she was never actually charged with it. I think, given the time and the obsession with religion during that period, ‘witchcraft’ was an accusation by men and women who feared a woman’s strength and confidence — something we know Anne had in spades. I really believe it comes down to exaggerated gossip (in the case of her six fingers and mole that looked like a witch’s mark) and the spread of rumours because she wasn’t well liked and her deranged husband needed to get rid of her.

  12. Dawn says:

    Would there be any chance (in your opinion, Claire) that commoners might have thought Anne a witch? It’s plain from what you wrote that the government and other prominent people didn’t think so, and I don’t think at that point they would have taken much heed of other, “lower” viewpoints.

    1. Roland H. says:

      Actually, the ‘lower’ viewpoints were indeed taken, and none of them included remarks about Anne being a witch.

      Vilification of Anne (recorded by Thomas Cromwell’s spies or by people who tattled on their neighbors to the authorities) was always sexual. We have accounts of Anne being named, for instance, a ‘goggled-eyed whore’, a ‘naughty paikie’ (that is a prostitute), and so forth. But absolutely no records of the lower classes calling Anne a sorceress.

  13. Dylan says:

    I know its a bit random, but was Elizabeth Tudor at court in June 1544, and if so, where was she? Thanks 🙂

    1. Banditqueen says:

      Both the Lady Elizabeth and Princess Mary were both at Court with Katherine Parr in June 1544 and she was at Saint James Palace at the end of July 1544 because this was where she wrote her earliest surviving letter in Italian, aged ten and enclosed a copy of her translation of the Mirror of the Soul, dedicated to Katherine. Although it talks about being separated from Katherine, it is not to be taken literally but as a practice piece and her sentiments of affection for her new stepmother. Henry had gone to war against France and restored his daughters to the succession, although legally he left them as declared illegitimate. Henry gave permission for Katherine as Regent General to bring Elizabeth back to Court and from 9th July she joined her stepmother at Saint James’s Palace in London. Katherine moved from Westminster to Greenwich in the third week of July but Elizabeth was delayed in her move and Katherine moved again to Hampton Court. When Elizabeth finally arrived, Katherine had left and Elizabeth wrote the letter we have because she was distressed. However, within a few days she had joined Katherine, Edward and Mary at Hampton Court. Katherine took them on a Royal Progress during August 1544. Before being brought down to Court Elizabeth would have been in her own household because this was normal for Royal children, especially younger ones but Mary more or less spent most of her time at Court and had done so since her reconciliation with her father in 1536, although she too had her own household. In 1543 and 1544 Elizabeth lived most of the time at Ashbridge near the Herefordshire Buckinghamshire border.

      1. Dylan says:

        Thanks for replying. Apparently, she had been banished from court and was out of favour for a time in early 1544. (Alison Weir.)

        1. Roland H. says:

          About Elizabeth’s ‘exile’, other historian (besides Weir) believe that she was using it in the figurative sense, not literal. She was very much in favor with the King and Queen.

          See David Starkey’s ‘Elizabeth: Apprenticeship’.

        2. Banditqueen says:

          You are very welcome, Dylan. I took Susan James biography of Katherine Parr as my sources cited in two chapters, one on her regency, the other specifically about her letters with Mary and Elizabeth. While Mary had a more or less permanently ready place at Court, Elizabeth seems to have been in a more or less state of moving between Court when Henry felt like it and her own home. It wasn’t necessarily a sign of disfavour because it was normal and most Royal children lived away from Court, but Elizabeth was different. While she did have a better relationship with her father and saw him often, she reminded him too much of her mother, Anne Boleyn. Henry was a very temperamental person, especially in his later years and he was upset often for little reason. Henry visited his daughter, he was proud of her, she would be painted with him on his return home as a political statement on the succession, but some people say she had the eyes of her mother whom he saw looking back at him. He must have felt uncomfortable, guilty conscience perhaps? Elizabeth found herself again away from Court after New Year 1543/4 and Katherine found it perplexing. There doesn’t appear to be any real explanation but it is a realistic assumption that she was exiled for some imagination of her father. It is to the highest credit of Katherine Parr that she went out of her way to write to Henry and his children and to bring them together during this Summer. For once they must have felt like a real family and we find Henry and Elizabeth developing a closer bond in his final years. Elizabeth was a highly intelligent child, as all of Henry’s surviving children were, but she was also very sensitive and ten even then is a very crucial, impressionable age. I am guessing she missed her mother and the presence of a mother figure and her need to be accepted by her father was very real. In fact she adored him and revered him. Henry was also proud of Elizabeth. She must have been affected by his absence and often wondered why she was being sent away. O.K. plague and disease in the city were always good reasons and children were often only present on ceremonial or party occasions. Mary was a grown woman of twenty nine, who should have been married but Henry always changed his mind on whom she should marry. She had been exiled for four years after her mother was banished when Henry divorced her, but now she was going nowhere. She went home and returned to Court almost at will. Henry kept her close. His relationship with Mary was a good one. He provided every advantage for his three children, education, tutors, books, the best of everything, but there is nothing on earth to replace good old fashioned warmth and affection. For Elizabeth, some of that special contact apparently was lacking and she was upset about it. Edward too was often away, wrapped in cotton wool at Hampton Court or Windsor, rarely at Court. This was out of fear in case he became ill, although he did see his father reasonably often and had companions and the best tutors, but it was not good enough for Katherine who wanted him with her more often. She did something really extraordinary, she gathered up all three step children and took them on progress and brought them together in one place more often. Mary knew Katherine well as KP had served in her household, but I suspect that this time for really getting to know the young Edward and Elizabeth was very rewarding. I also believe these five years were probably the happiest of their lives.

  14. Dr. T says:

    The remark made by Anne in the Tower, reported by Kingston, that there ‘would be no rain’ for 7 years if she was executed, might seem at first to add to the idea that she was seeking to prophesy and was somehow associated with divination or witchcraft. I have wondered though whether this remark was, or may have been interpreted as, a clever Tudor pun or piece of wordplay, meaning that there would be ‘no reign’, i.e. that the governance of England would be diminished without her.

    However, it’s entirely plausible too that Anne was making a reasonable comment on weather at the time. Records indicate that from the mid 1530s England (and Europe more generally) suffered a series of hot, arid summers culminating in a disastrous heatwave and a drought lasting 9 months in 1540 (some considerable detail on this is in Patrick Nobbs, ‘The Story of the British and their Weather)

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