Friday, May 18, 2012

May 18....a day of "...saydness for the little princess..."

On May 18, 1536 Thomas Cranmer, archbishop of Canterbury declared Henry and Anne's marriage null and void based on the the Queen's degree of affinity to another woman with whom the King had been intimate, Anne's sister Mary Stafford. This declaration made Elizabeth a bastard and the King free to marry for a third time. He was already courting Jane Seymour and reportedly had a seamstress making her a wedding dress. This was also to be the day that Anne was executed, however, the swordsman from Calais was still delayed due to his horse becoming lame along the road. Anne was already administered suprememe unction and had made her last confession when she was informed that her execution was to be delayed for at least one day. We can only imaging the terror she must have felt at knowing her impending doom.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

The Execution of George Boleyn and Anne's Other "Lovers"

On this day in history 1536 George Boleyn, Henry Norris, Francis Weston, William Brereton and Mark Smeaton were executed at the Tower of London after being convicted of having  carnal relations with Queen Anne. As the highest ranking convicted member of the group George Boleyn, Lord Rochford, was beheaded first. Following the tradition of the times he gave a short speech acknowledging that he was inherently sinful and deserved to die. Below is the text of his speech:
“Christen men, I am borne undar the lawe, and judged undar the lawe, and dye undar the lawe, and the lawe hathe condemned me. Mastars all, I am not come hether for to preche, but for to dye, for I have deserved for to dye yf I had xx. lyves, more shamefully than can be devysed, for I am a wreched synnar, and I have synned shamefully, I have knowne no man so evell, and to reherse my synnes openly it were no pleaswre to you to here them, nor yet for me to reherse them, for God knowethe all; therefore, mastars all, I pray yow take hede by me, and especially my lords and gentlemen of the cowrte, the whiche I have bene amonge, take hede by me, and beware of suche a fall, and I pray to God the Fathar, the Sonne, and the Holy Ghoste, thre persons and one God, that my deathe may be an example unto yow all, and beware, trust not in the vanitie of the worlde, and especially in the flateringe of the cowrte.
And I cry God mercy, and aske all the worlde forgevenes, as willingly as I wowld have forgevenes of God ; and yf I have offendyd any man that is not here now, eythar in thowght, worde, or dede, and yf ye here any suche, I pray yow hertely in my behalfe, pray them to forgyve me for God’s sake. And yet, my mastars all, I have one thinge for to say to yow, men do comon and saye that I have bene a settar forthe of the worde of God, and one that have favored the Ghospell of Christ ; and bycawse I would not that God’s word shuld be slaundered by me, I say unto yow all, that yf I had followed God’s worde in dede as I dyd rede it and set it forthe to my power, I had not come to this. I dyd red the Ghospell of Christe, but I dyd not follow it; yf I had, I had bene a lyves man amonge yow : therefore I pray yow, mastars all, for God’s sake sticke to the trwthe and folowe it, for one good followere is worthe thre redars, as God knowethe.”
It was reported that Anne watched her brother's execution and cried silently while praying.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

An Artist's Rendition of Anne

Following the beheading of Anne Boleyn in May 1536 all images of her were ordered to be destroyed, so little evidence regarding her apprearance still exists. This image, constructed by a Cambridge historian is based on descriptions of her and the only surviving image of her, a pencil drawing by Hans Holbein.

The Trials of Anne and George Boleyn

   On May 15, 1536 Anne and her brother George Boleyn were tried in the King's Hall in the Tower of London on charges of regicide, incest and adultery. A large stadium, capable of accomdating up to 2,000 spectators was erected so that the public could view the proceedings. As Queen, Anne was tried by a jury of Peers; mostly nobility who knew that they must convict her or face the King's wrath. The jury was headed up by Anne's uncle the Duke of Norfolk. Also assigned to the jury were her father Thomas Boleyn and her early love, Henry Percy Duke of Northumberland, although these two elected not to be present at the trial sessions.
     The court chronicler Charles Wriothesley, recorded that after her indictment was read out, Anne "made so wise and discreet aunsweres to all thinges layde against her, excusing herselfe with her wordes so clearlie, as thoughe she had never bene faultie to the same". Anne defended herself well, denying all of these preposterous charges and admitting only to giving money to Sir Francis Weston, to further his work as a poet. Notwithstanding, the jury were unanimous in their verdict: "guilty". The Queen was then stripped of her crown and her titles, all except that of "Queen". Tearfully, Anne's uncle pronounced her guilt saying:
"Because thou hast offended against our sovereign the King's Grace in committing treason against his person, and here attainted of the same, the law of the realm is this, that thou hast deserved death, and thy judgment is tis: that thou shalt be burned here within the Tower of London on the Green, else to have thy head smitten off, as the King's pleasure shall be further known of the same."
Anne and her brother were both sentenced to death by burning or beheading based on the King's pleasure. George swiftly met his death at the hands of a local axeman but Anne would have to wait several days before the swordsman of Calais, whom the King had hired to behead her arrived in England.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

The Religiosity of Anne's Fall

As the anniversary of Anne's death approaches, I am examining her fall from a primarily religious stand-point. Historians have long held that Anne's fall from favor and her beheading were a result of her inability to produce a male heir. However, I am promoting the theory that her fall had less to do with Henry's changing affections and more with a rapidly deteriorating relationship between Anne and Thomas Cromwell.
Anne and Cromwell had quarelled regarding his use of money and lands confiscated from the dissolution of the monasteries. Please read an excerpt from my research regarding the religious nature of Anne's fall:
There is much evidence that she <Anne> had a vehement disagreement with Henry and Cromwell regarding the use of lands and funds confiscated from the monasteries in England. Anne believed the buildings should be converted for educational as well as charitable purposes and the monies used to build a college in London and feed the poor.[i] The King and Cromwell however, were selling off the land to nobles and using the money for the King’s personal enrichment. Anne issued a very public attack on Cromwell’s monastic policies on Passion Sunday 1536 when she allowed her personal almoner, John Skip, to preach a memorable sermon that more than once referenced the events happening within Henry’s court. First, and less notable, was Skip’s reference to King Solomon, who in his last days brought a certain level disgrace to his earlier accomplishments by filling his palace with thousands of wives and concubines. It is hard to imagine how he could have intended anything but to draw certain parallels to Henry, his two wives and his current mistress Jane Seymour. Although that portion of the sermon is undoubtedly controversial, the much more inflammatory portion was a somewhat skewed version of the story of Ahasuerus, his wife Esther and his evil, scheming advisor Haman. Skip was addressing an audience well-versed in biblical literature and undoubtedly realized and planned that the connection, to which he alluded to several times, would be made to the current political climate in court between Henry, Anne and Cromwell.[ii]

[i] Roland H. Bainton, Women of the Reformation in France and England (Minneapolis: Augsburg Publishing 1973).
[ii] Caroline Hasenyager, Anne Boleyn and the Politics of Religious Reform (Northampton: Smith College University Press, 2002).

Sunday, May 6, 2012


It is reported that King Henry VIII wrote the lyrics to Greensleeves about Anne Boleyn:

Alas, my love, you do me wrong,
To cast me off discourteously.
For I have loved you well and long,
Delighting in your company.

Greensleeves was all my joy
Greensleeves was my delight,
Greensleeves was my heart of gold,
And who but my lady greensleeves.
Your vows you've broken, like my heart,
Oh, why did you so enrapture me?
Now I remain in a world apart
But my heart remains in captivity.

I have been ready at your hand,
To grant whatever you would crave,
I have both wagered life and land,
Your love and good-will for to have.
If you intend thus to disdain,
It does the more enrapture me,
And even so, I still remain
A lover in captivity.
My men were clothed all in green,
And they did ever wait on thee;
All this was gallant to be seen,
And yet thou wouldst not love me.

Thou couldst desire no earthly thing,
but still thou hadst it readily.
Thy music still to play and sing;
And yet thou wouldst not love me.

Well, I will pray to God on high,
that thou my constancy mayst see,
And that yet once before I die,
Thou wilt vouchsafe to love me

Ah, Greensleeves, now farewell, adieu,
To God I pray to prosper thee,
For I am still thy lover true,
Come once again and love me.

What do you think? Is this a likely theory? If so, what do the lyrics say about how Henry felt about Anne even postmortem?

Friday, May 4, 2012

Read of the Week

This week I am reading Anne Boleyn: A New Life of England's Tragic Queen. It is an interesting book,uncovering so many facts using primary sources I had never heard of. However, if you choose to read it, be aware that the author has an anti-Catholic tone in her writing that some might find offensive, especially when discussing Catherine of Aragon's faith.