As today is the anniversary of Queen Anne Boleyn’s execution on 19th May 1536, I thought I’d share with you this talk I did a few years ago on Anne Boleyn’s fall.
In it, I examine the roles of Thomas Cromwell and Henry VIII in those bloody events. Did Thomas Cromwell plot all by himself or was he simply his master’s servant? Was Henry VIII ultimately responsible? Why did Anne Boleyn have to die?
On this day in Tudor history, 13th May 1536, in the reign of King Henry VIII, Queen Anne Boleyn’s royal household was broken up and her staff discharged.
The king’s second wife, who was imprisoned in the Tower of London at the time, hadn’t even been tried yet. However, Sir Francis Weston, William Brereton, Sir Henry Norris and Mark Smeaton had been found guilty of high treason, for sleeping with her and conspiring to kill the king with her, so she had no chance of being found innocent.
On this day in Tudor history, 2nd May 1536, Queen Anne Boleyn, second wife of King Henry VIII, received a message informing her that members of the king’s council required her presence in the council chamber of Greenwich Palace. There, Anne was told that she was being accused of having sexual relations with musician Mark Smeaton, groom of the stool Henry Norris and an unnamed man. She was also told that Smeaton and Norris had confessed.
Anne denied the charges but the council ordered her arrest. Later that afternoon, after the tide had turned, she was rowed to the Tower of London. She was imprisoned in the queen’s apartments of the royal palace.
George Boleyn, Lord Rochford, Anne’s brother, was arrested on the same day and also taken to the Tower.
On this day in Tudor history, 27th April 1536, John Stokesley, Bishop of London, was approached to see if Henry VIII could “abandon” his second wife, Anne Boleyn.
Eustace Chapuys, the imperial ambassador, recorded that Stokesley replied that he would only give his opinion to the king himself, and that before doing so he needed to be clear what the king wanted. He certainly didn’t want to endanger himself by offending the king or the queen.
On 13th May 1536, eleven days after her arrest, the royal household of Queen Anne Boleyn was broken up and her household discharged.
The queen hadn’t even been tried yet, never mind found guilty!
Find out more about this day and what happened to members of her household in this #TudorHistoryShorts video…
In today’s Claire Chats video, Claire talks about how you can access primary sources on Anne Boleyn’s fall in 1536 wherever you are in the world.
Thank you to Tudor Life magazine contributor Kyra Kramer for this excellent article on Sir Henry Norris, Henry VIII’s Groom of the Stool, and the fall of Anne Boleyn. Over to Kyra…
Of all the men who were falsely accused of being Anne Boleyn’s companions in adultery, to point a finger at Henry Norris makes the most sense in terms of proximity and politics but the least sense in terms of his close relationship with Henry VIII.
If historian Greg Walker is correct in his 2002 proposal that Anne’s downfall was not due to her miscarriage of a male foetus in January of 1536 but instead to some hasty words she said in spring, then Norris was a ready-made target. One day in late April, the queen asked Henry Norris, who was the king’s groom of the stool and engaged to her cousin Madge Shelton, when he planned to wed. Norris hedged that he would wait just a bit longer, which vexed Anne. In her anger she told him he was looking for “dead men’s shoes, for if ought came to the king but good, you would look to have me”. This was a major blunder. It was treason to even think about the death of the king, let alone to talk about whom his queen might marry after his demise. Norris was appalled and Anne knew almost immediately that she had said something dangerous. She sent Norris to her chaplain, John Skyp, to swear that she was a good woman and faithful to the king.
How much do you know about Anne Boleyn’s fall in 1536?