The Tudor Society

26 January – Justice Spelman and Anne Boleyn’s trial

On this day in Tudor history, 26th January 1546, judge of assize and law reporter, Sir John Spelman, died.

Now, you may never have heard of Justice John Spelman, but his reports on the legal cases of people like Queen Anne Boleyn, Sir Thomas More, Bishop John Fisher and Cardinal Thomas Wolsey have been very useful to historians - a wonderful resource.

Let me tell you more about Sir John Spelman and what he had to say about Anne Boleyn's trial.

Find out more about Jane Boleyn, Lady Rochford, in my video Jane Boleyn - Did she help bring down Anne Boleyn?

Also on this day in Tudor history, 26th January 1554, Queen Mary I wrote to her half-sister, Elizabeth, summoning her to court and warning her about Wyatt's Rebellion. Find out how Elizabeth reacted in last year's video:

Also on this day in history:

  • 1528 – Death of Sir Francis Poyntz, courtier and diplomat, in London. He died of the plague. He was made an Esquire of the Body to Henry VIII in 1516, and then a Carver in 1521. Poyntz carried out a diplomatic mission in 1527, when Henry VIII sent him to the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V, to help negotiate peace between Charles and Francis I of France.
  • 1533 – Henry VIII appointed Thomas Audley as Lord Chancellor to replace Sir Thomas More, who had resigned the previous year. Audley had actually been carrying out the duties of Lord Chancellor since May 1532.
  • 1567 – Death of Nicholas Wotton, diplomat, Secretary of State and Dean of Canterbury and York. He died in London and was buried in Canterbury Cathedral.
  • 1612 – Burial of Jane Suárez de Figueroa (née Dormer), Duchess of Feria, at Zafra, in the monastery of Santa Clara.

There are 2 comments Go To Comment

  1. R

    Jane Boleyn didn’t bring down the Boleyn family by giving King’s evidence, as she isn’t written in the report by Justice John Spellman. He mentioned the late Elizabeth Wingfield, who died a few years earlier. How can a dead woman give evidence? Well they can if they have made a dying declaration, usually close to the trial. However, three women are mentioned in another source by Lord Hussey to Lady Lisle including Lady Rochford and the main witness is Lady Elizabeth Browne and another woman is mentioned. We have various others mentioned but only by modern historians who are guessing who they may be, Margery Horseman for example. Jane isn’t mentioned as giving testimony, but Jane is mentioned by Chapuys as the source of the infamous charges against George Boleyn only because Jane gave information under interrogation on the sexual relationship betwixt the King and her sister in law. Jane and others were questioned, they knew who was where and when, but Chapuys also writes that no witnesses and little evidence was brought against the accused.

    Jane Rochford made an awful mistake by allowing Kathryn Howard to wander around, having affairs with Thomas Culpeper, but that doesn’t mean she was this awful woman who plotted against the Boleyn family and was responsible for their deaths. Jane may have had no choice in the matter and if anyone says her terrible death was a just punishment for all of this are the lunatics and not this poor woman. What a terrible thing for anyone to say someone deserved death for ratting on another in any event! Have people lost their humanity and their compassion? Do these people even under the true meaning of Karma? Uh no!! Any Hindu person hearing that would be appalled as that meaning is utterly offensive. Have we forgotten how to evaluate evidence or do we just watch a TV film now by Philippa Gregory and hey presto, the truth is revealed, without using our minds to look at the evidence behind the film or novel? Is Facebook and Twitter were we get all of our information without even asking serious questions about the source of that information? As a society we have forgotten how to think for ourselves and analysis is impossible for most people. We allow ourselves to be bottle fed fake news. The worst is when some historians believe rumours and allegations of the past because they are meant to know better. Students look to them to train them as the next generation. The best historians are all passing on, a few new ones are left and a very few others remain. Thankfully Jane Foxe has written her book to restore the tarnished reputation of Jane Boleyn, Lady Rochford.

    Do you know what though we shouldn’t even blame Elizabeth Browne. Her so called evidence wasn’t as it seems. Her brother was a rival for political power in Wales with one of the accused and he worked with Thomas Cromwell another in the plot. Her brother and husband pressurised her into giving evidence. She was pregnant you see and Anthony accused her of playing around. The poor woman came out with the first thing to mind, a juicy piece of gossip about Anne and Mark Smeaton and Henry Norris and the rest was conveyed to Cromwell, who told the King. Under extreme pressure Smeaton confessed and pointed to the same man. Anne had her fatal encounter with Norris and Cromwell put two and two together and came up with five. It seems that Browne pressured his sister to back him up or else. The women questioned were probably threatened with hanging if they didn’t tell the truth. I doubt Elizabeth Browne meant to accuse the Queen of adultery and like Jane Boleyn her role has been greatly exaggerated down the years. Time for a rethink.

    1. M

      Hear, hear! (Or is it here, here? One can never be sure). Anyway, great comment, so true. Michelle t

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26 January – Justice Spelman and Anne Boleyn’s trial