May 19, 1536 – Anne Boleyn’s Execution Speech

Anne Boleyn Execution Speech – from Showtimes’ The Tudors

I am not going to comment or explain. I am just going to let Anne’s words speak for her. Rest in peace, innocent victim.

Good Christian people, I am come hither to die according to law, for by the law I am judged to die, and therefore I will speak nothing against it. I am come hither to accuse no man, nor to speak anything of that whereof I am accused, as I know full well that aught that I could say in my defense doth not appertain unto you, and that I could draw no hope of life from the same. But I come here only to die, and thus to yield myself humbly unto the will of my lord the King. I pray God to save the king, and send him long to reign over you, for a gentler or more merciful prince was there never. To me he was ever a good and gentle sovereign lord. If any person will meddle with my cause, I require them to judge the best. Thus I take my leave of the world and of you, and I heartily desire you all to pray for me.

Agnes Strickland, Lives of the Queens of England, Volume IV

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The Constables and the Queens – Guest Post by Adrienne Dillard

I am thrilled to host author Adrienne Dillard on the very first stop of the blog tour for her just-out The Raven’s Widow: A Novel of Jane Boleyn. I am also thrilled that there are TWO amazing giveaways associated with the blog tour – one of my lucky followers will win a copy of the book AND you will have the chance to enter a tour-wide drawing sponsored by MadeGlobal (Adrienne’s publisher) where the prizes are a Kindle e-reader or a special prize bundle (details available below).

So to start with, here is the book description from Amazon:

The river was as calm as I had ever seen it. Ordinarily, the tide would have been wild by this time of year, and woe unto any man unfortunate enough to fall into the fierce currents of the Thames. Tonight the tides were still, and the surface of the water appeared glassy. When I peered down into the dark depths, I saw my tired, drawn face wavering in the reflection. I quickly turned away as I fought back a wave of nausea, frightened by the anguish I saw etched there.

“Only a few moments more my lady, the Tower is just ahead.”

 Jane Parker never dreamed that her marriage into the Boleyn family would raise her star to such dizzying heights. Before long, she finds herself as trusted servant and confidante to her sister-in-law, Anne Boleyn; King Henry VIII’s second queen. On a gorgeous spring day, that golden era is cut short by the swing of a sword. Jane is unmoored by the tragic death of her husband, George, and her loss sets her on a reckless path that leads to her own imprisonment in the Tower of London. Surrounded by the remnants of her former life, Jane must come to terms with her actions. In the Tower, she will face up to who she really is and how everything went so wrong.

Next we’ll go to today’s post (which is what made you click through in the first place!). This was written for me by Adrienne, it gives you a great idea of her voice and take on things. After that, you can read more about Adrienne and get the details of the giveaways (!)

Over to Adrienne…


The scene of Henry VIII’s second queen on her knees before the Constable of the Tower outside Traitor’s Gate is a ubiquitous staple of any fictional account of the life of Anne Boleyn.  “Am I to be sent to the dungeon?” she cries.  When Sir William Kingston assures her that she will be lodged in the royal apartments, she replies, “It is too good for me.  Jesu have mercy on me.”  Though not a wholly accurate account, as Anne was actually taken in through the Byward Gate, not the Traitor’s Gate, it is a haunting and poignant portrait of her relationship with the man charged to manage her imprisonment.  Kingston is an important piece of Anne’s story, and rightly so.  It’s because of his careful notes that we know just what was going on with the disgraced queen in the days leading up to her death.  We know of her cries and hysterical laughter.  We know of her fear and of her great courage.  It is because of his impeccable recording we know the details of her final confession to Archbishop Thomas Cranmer – a key-piece of evidence pointing to her innocence of the charges laid against her.

William Kingston’s value as a Tudor chronicler doesn’t stop with his account of Anne’s final days.  It is because of him that we know about the imprisonment and deaths of other luminaries: Archbishop John Fisher, Sir Thomas More, and Cardinal Thomas Wolsey.  Perhaps more importantly, it is his details of the men who are usually forgotten that are the greatest treasure: Marc Smeaton, Henry Norris, Francis Weston, William Brereton, and George Boleyn.  These five men condemned alongside Anne always seem to be an afterthought in fiction and biography alike, out-shined by the tragic death of the vibrant queen.  And though it is rarely pointed out, the constable’s letter to Cromwell describing the message he received from George’s wife, Jane Boleyn, is critical to dispelling the myth of her involvement in his downfall because of her unhappiness in their marriage.  It’s telling that it is she, alone, who offers any sort of comfort to George; the only one who doesn’t utterly abandon him to his fate.

Kingston was a complex and sympathetic figure, to be sure, but by the time Jane Boleyn found herself in the same alabaster prison that swallowed up her husband, the constable was dead.  A new man had taken up the keeping of the king’s prisoners and it was one who was no stranger to his future charge or the queen who would accompany her to the scaffold.

Sir John Gage was born on October 28, 1479 at Bristowe in Surrey, coming of age at the tail end of the “Wars of the Roses.”  He was relatively young when his father died and his wardship was bought by Robert Tate just a few weeks before his 20th birthday.  Shortly upon reaching his majority, he was wed to the daughter of Sir Richard Guildford, Comptroller of the Household.  The early years of their marriage began with Gage’s appointment as Esquire of the Body to King Henry VIII.  His star continued to rise after the king’s death and the ascension of his son, the Eighth Henry.  He was deputy of Guisnes and then Comptroller of Calais before taking on the post of Vice-Chamberlain of the Royal Household.  It is in this post that we start to see a strain between Sir John and his monarch.

The king’s obstinate quest to end his marriage to Catherine of Aragon and his dogged pursuit to make Anne Boleyn his second queen enhanced the existing rivalry running rampant in his court.  Anne certainly had her share of detractors and the Vice-Chamberlain was chief among them.  When it became clear in 1533 that Anne would indeed be crowned, he spoke out against her promotion and found himself swiftly banished from court.  Undaunted, Gage renounced his position, declaring his intention to take the cloth and become a Carthusian monk, even though  by this point he and Philippa Guildford had been married for over three decades and had eight children between them.  It’s not entirely certain whether Gage’s dissatisfaction stemmed from a personal issue with Anne or if it was due to his own religious conscience.  It was noted at the time by close friend, Sir William Fitzwilliam, that Sir John was ‘more disposed to serve God than the world.’  This seems in line with the papal dispensations he sought in 1532 and 1533 for his sons.  During those two years, the king’s relationship with Rome was under great strain; while it is not inconceivable that Henry’s courtiers would seek Papal dispensations, it was probably considered ill-advised.

In 1536 both of the king’s wives shuffled off their mortal coils, paving the way for the reestablishment of ties that had long been frayed.  Gage returned to court with a clean conscience in 1537 for the christening of the first legitimate heir (as Henry VIII saw it).  The event was bittersweet; tinged by the tragedy of Queen Jane Seymour’s death.  Sir John joined the throng of courtiers at the funeral to mourn her passing, and then he stayed on at court to resume his duties to the monarch.

At the start of the next decade, Gage was swept into the intrigue swirling across the English Channel at the king’s stronghold in Calais.  He and Lord Sussex were sent to probe the claims that the deputy, Viscount Lisle, was involved in acts of heresy and abuse of power.  On their reports, Lisle was recalled to England and Lord Mautravers was sent to take the reins.  The conspiracy landed both the viscount and Thomas Cromwell in the Tower of London.  Lisle escaped with his head, but Cromwell already had a strike against him: the abject failure of the king’s marriage to his fourth wife, Anna of Cleves, a match Thomas himself had arranged.  When combined with a penchant for heretical leanings, there was no other appropriate punishment, save for execution.  Gage’s reward for a job well-done was a promotion to Privy Councillor, Comptroller of the Household, and Constable of the Tower.

It is during this time that we find Sir John Gage in The Raven’s Widow.  Alongside Sir Edmund Walsingham, Lieutenant of the Tower, he has overseen the executions of the king’s cousin, Margaret Pole; the king’s closest advisor, Thomas Cromwell; and a mentally unstable peer, Walter Hungerford.  When the king’s fifth wife, the young Katherine Howard, is accused of adultery, Gage finds himself at the head of another investigation.  He is swiftly dispatched to the Dowager Duchess of Norfolk’s home to suss out the truth of the queen’s involvement with Henry Manox and Francis Dereham.  It is through his and the other interrogators’ careful questioning of the Howard family and their intimates that Katherine’s connection to Thomas Culpeper is revealed.

Once the mountain of testimony against the queen had been put to the king, Gage commenced his duties again, escorting Dereham and Culpeper to the Guildhall in London to be tried for treason; a week later, he oversaw their deaths.  In the following days, Gage took custody of the family members who had hidden away Katherine’s past, including the Dowager Duchess herself; then he went to Syon Abbey, where the queen had been banished since her arrest, to break up her household and escort her to the Tower.  While all this was going on, Lady Anne Russell was nursing Jane Boleyn back to health at her home on the Strand.  Three days into her incarceration, Jane had fallen into a fit of madness; an event rendering her ineligible for execution.  Undaunted, the king changed the law so that he could carry out his punishment, and Jane found herself back at the Tower the day before her mistress.

Just as his predecessor had done before him, Gage took copious notes of the behavior of the queen.  He seems to have been quite disturbed by the distress she showed when he and the other lords arrived at Syon to take her to the Tower.  Her later request that he bring her the block so that she could practice laying her head upon it no doubt gave him pause.  Regardless of his feelings in the matter, he had a job to do and he did it well.  On morning of the 13th February, 1542, Gage entered the royal apartments twice; first for the queen, and then for her lady.  He led them, one at a time, to the scaffold where they made their final speeches and breathed their last.


Adrienne Dillard, author of “The Raven’s Widow: A Novel of Jane Boleyn” is a graduate with a Bachelor of Arts in Liberal Studies with emphasis in History from Montana State University-Northern. She has been an eager student of history for most of her life and has completed in-depth research on the American Revolutionary War time period in American History and the history and sinking of the Titanic. Her senior university capstone paper was on the discrepancies in passenger lists on the ill-fated liner and Adrienne was able to work with Philip Hind of Encyclopedia Titanica for much of her research on that subject. Her previous works include best-selling novel,“Cor Rotto: A Novel of Catherine Carey” and “Catherine Carey in a Nutshell” for MadeGlobal’s History in a Nutshell series. When she isn’t writing, Adrienne works as an administrative assistant in the financial services industry and enjoys spending time with her husband, Kyle, and son, Logan, at their home in the Pacific Northwest.



So – ready to try to win a copy? Paperback or kindle version, your choice! Just leave a comment below this post before midnight on Sunday, April 9.  Tell me something you love about the Tudor era (yes, if you want to just tell me how you loved my Jane the Quene I’ll accept it!)   One lucky commenter will be picked at random and contacted for their details.

AND – MadeGlobal (Adrienne’s publisher) is running a parallel giveaway during this time. Want to try to win a Kindle e-reader or a prize package consisting of a sterling silver pendant modeled after the book’s cover image, Henry and the Six Wives drink charms, and a Henry and Anne scarf? Click through to the giveaway site they set up to learn more about this – follow their simple instructions.

PS – there will be more chances to win a copy of the book at every stop of Adrienne’s book tour (!) and here is the schedule:

March 31, 1536 – A Far-Reaching Conversation

Chapuys speaking to James Frain’s Cromwell (from Showtimes’ The Tudors)

On April 1, Eustace Chapuys wrote a long, newsy letter to Charles V reporting what was going on at the English court. The most interesting bit recounted a conversation he’d had with Thomas Cromwell the day before (which is why I’m posting this today).

A bit of context before I reveal the letter: shortly before taking the first clear steps towards the destruction of Anne Boleyn, Cromwell made overtures to Spain. And these overtures were facilitated by the relationship he had with Chapuys – one in which the two faithful servants were able to balance personal friendships with political differences to the advantage of both.

This was an iconic conversation, emblematic of the intrigue and deceit of the Tudor court – and giving a major clue as to what is to happen. Chapuys starts hinting about the possibility of a new Queen – and while Cromwell responds that the King will remain in his present marriage, he says it in a way designed to let Chapuys know he is lying. And he reassures Chapuys on the most important point – if the King did marry again it would not be a French princess. Based on this conversation, the two men understood that they were in agreement, and that England and Spain would soon be close again as soon as Anne Boleyn presented no impediment to friendship. The only thing missing was how this would happen…

I told Cromwell that I had for some time forborne to visit him that he might not incur suspicion of his mistress for the talk he had previously held with me, well remembering that he had previously told me she would like to see his head cut off. This I could not forget for the love I bore him; and I could not but wish him a more gracious mistress, and one more grateful for the inestimable services he had done the King, and that he must beware of enraging her, else he must never expect perfect reconciliation; in which case I hoped he would see to it better than did the Cardinal, as I had great belief in his dexterity and prudence; and if it was true, what I had heard, that the King was treating for a new marriage, it would be the way to avoid much evil, and be very much for the advantage of his master, who had been hitherto disappointed of male issue, and who knows quite well, several reasons which he might sufficiently understand; and that although a more lawful marriage should follow, and male issue from it would be to the prejudice of the Princess, yet the affection I bore to the honor and tranquility of the King and kingdom, and towards him particularly, made me desire another mistress, not for hatred that I bore to this one, who had never done me any harm. Cromwell appeared to take all this in good part, and said that it was only now that he had known the frailty of human affairs, especially of those of the Court, of which he had before his eyes several examples that might be called domestic, and he always laid his account that if fate fell upon him as upon his predecessors he would arm himself with patience, and leave the rest to God; and that it was quite true, as I said, that he must rely upon God’s help not to fall into mischief. He then began to defend himself, saying he had never been cause of this marriage, although, seeing the King determined upon it, he had smoothed the way, and that notwithstanding that the King was still inclined to pay attention to ladies, yet he believed he would henceforth live honorably and chastely, continuing in his marriage. This he said so coldly as to make me suspect the contrary, especially as he said so, not knowing what countenance to put on. He leaned against the window in which we were, putting his hand before his mouth to avoid smiling or to conceal it, saying afterwards that the French might be assured of one thing, that if the King his master were to take another wife, he would not seek for her among them. He then said that when an answer came from your Majesty upon the subject of our communication we should discuss everything and do some good work.

PS – remember how I mentioned this was a long, newsy letter? This is also where Chapuys tells Charles how Jane Seymour refused the offer of a purse of sovereigns, and was given Cromwell’s apartments (so that the King could visit her in secret). Lot’s of great stuff in there!

Want to read all of it? Here you go:

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October 11, 1542 – Death of Sir Thomas Wyatt

Sir Thomas Wyatt, by Hans Holbein

Sir Thomas Wyatt, by Hans Holbein (public domain via Wikimedia Commons)

Sir Thomas Wyatt was one of the bright poetic lights at the court of Henry VIII, often credited along with Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey for introducing the sonnet from Italy into England.  Anne Boleyn fans will remember the poem he is said to have written about her in her youth, Whoso List to Hunt, as well as the moving Circa Regna Tonat (It Thunders Through the Realm) on her arrest (I’ve posted it – read it here).

Surrey wrote stanzas on Wyatt’s death (entitled, fittingly, Stanzas on Wyatt’s Death):

Wyatt resteth here, that quick could never rest :
Whose heavenly gifts increased by disdain ;
And virtue sank the deeper in his breast :
Such profit he by envy could obtain.

A head, where wisdom mysteries did frame ;
Whose hammers beat still in that lively brain,
As on a stithe, where that some work of fame
Was daily wrought, to turn to Britain’s gain.

A visage stern, and mild ; where both did grow
Vice to contemn, in virtue to rejoice :
Amid great storms, whom grace assured so,
To live upright, and smile at fortune’s choice.

A hand, that taught what might be said in rhyme ;
That reft Chaucer the glory of his wit.
A mark, the which (unperfected for time)
Some may approach, but never none shall hit.

A tongue that serv’d in foreign realms his king ;
Whose courteous talk to virtue did inflame
Each noble heart ; a worthy guide to bring
Our English youth by travail unto fame.

An eye, whose judgment none effect could blind,
Friends to allure, and foes to reconcile ;
Whose piercing look did represent a mind
With virtue fraught, reposed, void of guile.

A heart, where dread was never so imprest
To hide the thought that might the truth advance ;
In neither fortune loft, nor yet represt,
To swell in wealth, or yield unto mischance.

A valiant corpse, where force and beauty met :
Happy, alas! too happy, but for foes,
Lived, and ran the race that nature set ;
Of manhood’s shape, where she the mould did lose.

But to the heavens that simple soul is fled,
Which left, with such as covet Christ to know,
Witness of faith, that never shall be dead ;
Sent for our health, but not received so.

Thus for our guilt this jewel have we lost ;
The earth his bones, the heaven possess his ghost.

(From Wikisource)


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September 1, 1532 – Anne Boleyn Created Marquess of Pembroke

Anne Boleyn's ennoblement, as immortalized by Showtimes' The Tudors (Natalie Dormer as Anne, Jonathan Rhys-Meyer right behind her as Henry)

Anne Boleyn’s ennoblement, as immortalized by Showtimes’ The Tudors (Natalie Dormer as Anne, Jonathan Rhys Meyers right behind her as Henry)

This was a huge step. Anne was granted a hereditary peerage in her own right – the first time this had ever been done in England. And what a peerage! Pembroke was the title borne a century earlier by Henry’s great-uncle Jasper Tudor.  Whatever happened to or with Henry, Anne was semi-royal.

The ennoblement occurred right before Anne was about to accompany Henry on a trip to France to drum up support for the annulment of his marriage to Catherine of Aragon. The title was a way of enhancing Anne’s status for the meeting – a step that was soon followed by Anne’s taking over the crown jewels which Catherine was forced to surrender.

The real question is whether this was a reward for Anne finally ceding her virginity to Henry – or the assurance she needed before she would do so. The wording of Anne’s patent vested succession to the title in her “heirs male” – omitting the standard “lawfully begotten.” That strongly suggests that they were contemplating such a possibility. Either way, the question was mooted a couple of weeks later – it was clear that Anne and Henry were sleeping together in France – they had interconnecting bed chambers they spent most of their time in, the Venetian ambassador was claiming they had married in secret…that kind of stuff. Whether the relationship started there is irrelevant to all but the romantics among us, who like to imagine that the lovers were transported after the triumph of the meeting with Francis and threw caution to the wind in the certainty that they would soon be lawfully married…


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June 1, 1533 – Anne Boleyn Crowned

Holbein's Sketch for a Street Tableau

Holbein Sketch for one of the Tableaux at Anne’s Coronation (public domain via Wikimedia Commons)

This day was the ultimate triumph for Anne Boleyn: after seven years of struggle and uncertainty, she became the anointed Queen of England, six months pregnant with the promised heir to the throne. But I can’t help viewing the events in the light of what happened afterwards. To me it is a poignant, ironic moment before her ultimate tragedy (which, ironically, is what cemented her legacy and made her immortal…).

Today’s coronation preceded and followed days of festivities and formalities – the before including a procession of barges down the Thames and Anne’s formal entrance into London, the afterwards consisting of jousts, tournaments, and dancing. In the morning was held the traditional and moving ceremony that effectively crowned her as a queen regnant (because it not only anointed her, but also placed the Crown of St. Edward on her head, a gold scepter in her right hand and an ivory rod in her left). Then came the banquet that lasted for hours (twenty-eight dishes were served for the first course, twenty-three for the second…). Anne was seated alone in the middle of the center table, with her ladies standing behind her with napkins and a fingerbowl – and ready to hide what she was doing when she needed to spit or even vomit).

The following comes from Edward Hall’s Chronicles:

On 1 June Queen Anne was brought from Westminster Hall to St Peter’s Abbey in procession, with all the monks of Westminster going in rich copes of gold, with thirteen mitred abbots; and after them all the king’s chapel in rich copes with four bishops and two mitred archbishops, and all the lords going in their parliament robes, and the crown borne before her by the duke of Suffolk, and her two sceptres by two earls, and she herself going under a rich canopy of cloth of gold, dressed in a kirtle of crimson velvet decorated with ermine, and a robe of purple velvet decorated with ermine over that, and a rich coronet with a cap of pearls and stones on her head; and the old duchess of Norfolk carrying her train in a robe of scarlet with a coronet of gold on her cap, and Lord Burgh, the queen’s Chamberlain, supporting the train in the middle.

After her followed ten ladies in robes of scarlet trimmed with ermine and round coronets of gold on their heads; and next after them all the queen’s maids in gowns of scarlet edged with white Baltic fur. And so she was brought to St Peter’s church at Westminster, and there set in her high royal seat, which was made on a high platform before the altar. And there she was anointed and crowned queen of England by the archbishop of Canterbury and the archbishop of York, and so sat, crowned, in her royal seat all through the mass, and she offered at the said mass. And when the mass was done they left, every man in his order, to Westminster Hall, she still going under the canopy, crowned, with two sceptres in her hands, my Lord Wiltshire her father, and Lord Talbot leading her, and so dined there; and there was made the most honourable feast that has been seen.

The great hall at Westminster was richly hung with rich cloth of Arras, and a table was set at the upper end of the hall, going up twelve steps, where the queen dined; and a rich cloth of estate hung over her head. There were also four other tables along the hall; and it was railed on every side, from the high dais in Westminster Hall to the platform in the church in the abbey.

And when she went to church to her coronation there was a striped blue cloth spread from the high dais of the king’s bench to the high altar of Westminster on which she went.

And when the queen’s Grace had washed her hands, then came the duke of Suffolk, high constable for that day and steward of the feast, riding on horseback, richly dressed and decorated, and with him, also riding on horseback, Lord William Howard as deputy for the duke of Norfolk in his office of marshall of England, and there came the queen’s service followed by the archbishop’s with a certain space between, which was all borne by knights; the archbishop sitting at the queen’s board, at the end on her left hand. The earl of Sussex was sewer, earl of Essex carver, earl of Derby cup bearer, earl of Arundel butler, Viscount Lisle panter, and Lord Grey almoner.



Alison Weir, The Six Wives of Henry VIII

Hall’s Chronicle of the History of England – which can be a little difficult to read so please visit EnglishHistory.Net – The Crowning of Anne Boleyn for the wonderful transcription (poke around on there, it’s a great site!)

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May 14, 1536 – Cromwell Informs Gardiner of Recent Events (AKA “Spin in Tudor Times”)

Thomas Cromwell, as played by James Frain in Showtime's The Tudors

Thomas Cromwell, as played by James Frain in Showtime’s The Tudors

So just about everything we know about the fall of Anne Boleyn comes from people who didn’t actually KNOW but were just repeating stories. But on May 14, Cromwell wrote a letter to Gardiner and Wallop, the King’s ambassadors in France, to let them know what was going on. He knew they had heard the rumors, but it was time to give them the “official” version. They had written to the King, they were owed a response, this would be it.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t much. The letter is most interesting in that it speaks a lot about the discovery process but deliberately makes short shrift of the facts: “I write no particularities, the things be so abominable that I think the like was never heard, and therefore I doubt not but that this shall be sufficient…” I’m going to guess Cromwell was being prudent and practical (perhaps even still hoping to add additional charges!) rather than avoiding the subject out of guilt and shame. Either way, he simply cites the Queen’s “abominations” and a plot against the King’s life, and then with those necessities out of the way, moves quickly on to financial issues – settling money owed to Gardiner and to Wallop, which would soon be paid to them – and assuring them that the King thinks they are doing a fine job.

It really feels like, for Cromwell, everything was just business.


I know you have not as yet received answer to your letters: they were deferred until the arrival of the bailly of Troyes. Yet the King’s Highness thought convenient that I should inform you of a scheme that was most detestably and abominably devised, contrived imagined, done and countenanced – and so most happily and graciously by the ordinance of God revealed, manifested, and notoriously known to all men. You have surely heard the rumor, yet I shall express unto you some pain of the coming out and of the King’s proceeding in the same. The Queen’s abomination, both in incontinent living and other offenses towards the King’s Highness, was so rank and common that her ladies of her privy chamber and her chamberers could not contain it within their breasts (conceal it). Their disgust led to such frequent communications and conference of it that at the last it came plainly to the ears of some of His Grace’s counsel. Given their duty to his Majesty, they could not conceal it from him: with great fear, they declared what they had unto his Highness. Whereupon in most secret sort, certain persons of the privy chamber and others of her side were examined, in which examination the matter appeared so evident, that beside the crime, with the accident, there broke out a certain conspiracy of the King’s death which extended so far that all we that had examination of it quaked at the danger his Grace was in, and on our knees gave Him laude and praise that He had rescued him so long from it and now manifested the most wretched and detestable determination of the same. Thus were certain men admitted to the Tower for this cause, that is Mark and Norris, and her brother. Then was she apprehended and conveyed to the same place, and after her were sent thither Sir Francis Weston and William Brereton. Norris, Weston, Brereton and Mark are already condemned to death, having been upon arraigned in Westminster Hall on Friday last. She and her brother shall be arraigned tomorrow, and will undoubtedly go the same way. I write no particularities, the things be so abominable that I think the like was never heard, and therefore I doubt not but that this shall be sufficient for your instruction to declare the truth if you have occasion so to do.

Your lordship shall receive 200£ of the 300£ that were out among these men, notwithstanding great suit has been made for the whole, which though the King’s Highness might give in this case yet His Majesty does not forget your service. And the third 100£ is bestowed of the Vicar of Hell (Francis Bryon), upon whom though it be some charge unto you His Highness trusteth ye will think it well bestowed. And thus fare you most heartily well.

From the Rolls in haste this fourteenth of May. Your loving assured friend, Thomas Cromwell

PS – And you Master Wallop shall not be forgotten. The certainty of the amount that ye shall have I cannot tell, but in the next letters you shall know it. I assure you the King’s Highness taketh both your services in as thankful part as you could wish or devise.


Life and Letters of Thomas Cromwell, Volume 2,  edited by Roger Bigelow Merriman


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April 30, 1536 – Henry and Cromwell Writes to Gardiner About…Not That

Signature of Henry VIII (via Open Government License from the National Archives)

Signature of Henry VIII (via Open Government License from the National Archives)

On April 30, 1536, Henry VIII wrote to Stephen Gardiner, who was then serving as England’s ambassador to Francis I. The letter was a general set of instructions on certain diplomatic points that had been in issue between the two countries. Cromwell even sent a cover note, and enclosed cramp rings that Queen Anne would have blessed a couple of weeks ago right before Easter. The letters are completely innocuous (though they are an important part of moving forward in negotiations). So why do they deserve a mention?

It’s all about what they didn’t say. These letters were written and sent on the very day Mark Smeaton was arrested – the day before the May Day Joust where Henry walked away from Anne forever. An interesting PS was added to Henry’s instructions:

P.S.—Though this packet was made up this morning, and delivered to Thos. Barnaby, it has been delayed on account of the French ambassador signifying a wish for an audience. He has told the King that the French king was sending the bailly of Troyes to England “to open unto us the bottom of his heart,” and that he was commanded meanwhile to remove certain sinister opinions entertained of his proceedings; insisting that he had made no peace with the Emperor, and that, as he was informed for certain, that the Emperor and the bishop of Rome had determined upon summoning a General Council at Mantua at Whitsuntide come twelve months, he desired to know Henry’s resolution. The King replied that the matter was too weighty to be hastily disposed of, but that he considered, first, that all Christian princes had as good a right and an equal voice in the indiction of a General Council as either the Pope or the Emperor, and that no such council ought to be summoned without the consent of all; secondly, that though Henry thought it very necessary for the quiet of Christendom to have a Christian free General Council, his good brother would agree that Mantua was a most objectionable place, and most unsafe for princes to repair to.

Call me a conspiracy theorist, but I see these letters as Henry and Cromwell clearing the decks before the storm. These missives, sent at the last possible moment, would be sent out to smooth over all simmering controversies – so that when the French King (and everyone else) heard the news of Anne’s arrest, it would all blow over easily since no one would be worried about what that meant to them.

The next missive to Gardiner was not sent until May 14 – after the convictions of Brereton, Norris, Weston, and Smeaton but the day before the trials of Anne and George. It is interesting that no letters in this interim were recorded from Marillac (France’s ambassador to England) – while Chapuys informed the Emperor of the spate of arrests on May 2. I have to see this as part of Cromwell’s astute observations and careful planning…


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March 23, 1534 – First Act of Succession

Henry VIII in Parliament, from the Wriothesley Garter Book (public domain via Wikimedia Commons)

Henry VIII in Parliament, from the Wriothesley Garter Book (public domain via Wikimedia Commons)

The First Act of Succession (at the time referred to only as the “Act of Succession”) was a key step in Henry’s repudiation of Catherine of Aragon: it recognized Elizabeth, his daughter with Anne Boleyn, as the true heir to the throne (until of course a son was born to this marriage!), and made Mary, his daughter with Catherine, a bastard. While the Church of England had already declared the same thing, this Act of Parliament bound the people much more directly.

It was a formidable weapon because it required every Englishman to swear an oath to recognize this Act, as well as the King’s supremacy:

And that all manner your subjects, as well spiritual as temporal … shall swear a like corporal oath, that they and every of them, without fraud or guile, to their cunning, wit, and uttermost of their powers, shall truly, firmly, and constantly observe, fulfil, maintain, defend, and keep the effects and contents contained and specified in this Act, or in any part thereof.

Those who refused – like Sir Thomas More and Bishop John Fisher – would be guilty of treason and executed. Henry wasn’t messing around!

[E]very such person and persons, of what estate, degree, or condition they be of … and their aiders, counsellors, maintainers, and abettors, and every of them, for every such offence shall be adjudged high traitors, and every such offence shall be adjudged high treason, and the offenders and their aiders, counsellors, maintainers, and abettors, and every of them… shall suffer pains of death, as in cases of high treason; and that also every such offender, being convicted as is aforesaid, shall lose and forfeit … all such manors, lands, tenements, rents, annuities, and hereditaments, which they had in possession as owners, or were sole seized of by or in any right, title, or means, or any other person or persons had to their use, of any estate of inheritance, at the day of such treasons and offences by them committed and done …

Interestingly, only two years later, the Act was superseded by the Second Act of Succession, passed in June 1536 and which vested the succession in Henry’s children by new wife Jane Seymour and made Elizabeth as illegitimate as Mary. Of course, since Henry did not as yet have any children by Jane Seymour, the Second Act also gave Henry “full and plenary power and authority” to choose a different successor in letters patent or through his final Will. Nor was this Henry’s final say on the matter: the Third Act of Succession, passed in July 1543, restored Mary and Elizabeth to the succession (though without removing their illegitimacy) behind Edward, Edward’s children, and any children Henry might yet have with then-wife Katherine Parr) – and of course subject to Henry’s continuing right to change his mind in letters patent or his Will…


Wikipedia for the First Act of Succession, the Second Act of Succession, and the Third Act of Succession

Luminarium for the full text of the First Act of Succession

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January 29, 1536 – Anne Boleyn’s Fateful Miscarriage

Henry’s Cold Reaction to the News – from The Six Wives of Henry VIII (BBC 1972)

January 29, 1536 was the day that everything changed for Anne Boleyn – it was the day she miscarried of the son that would have kept her safe forever. While the event may not have led directly to her repudiation and execution, it certainly opened the possibility.

Henry VIII needed an heir, that was the bottom line. Remember, this was the man who fully believed that God’s judgment of his marriage to Catherine of Aragon was revealed in the fact that she had borne him no sons – it was this truth that had pushed him to break with the Catholic Church he had always loved and form his own, answerable to no one but him. Henry trusted his conscience – and that trust was surely much more deserved at the start of his reign than by the end. Power corrupts, and few figures illustrate this as well as Henry VIII.

When Anne miscarried this time, after two major later-term miscarriages – one in 1534, another in 1535 – it led him to see the hand of God once again, or think he did. I say this based on his alleged reaction to the news – depending on the source, he either said “I see God will not give me male children” or warned Anne “you shall have no more sons by me.” Either way, his meaning was clear.

But there’s more to the story. It’s one of those uniquely Tudor tales, packed with elements of divine symmetry and retribution: January 29th was also the day of Catherine of Aragon’s funeral. How ironic that Anne lost her child on the very day Catherine was committed to the earth. On top of that, a rumor, spread by Jane Dormer, Countess of Feria, suggested that the miscarriage was brought on by Anne Boleyn coming into a room to find Jane Seymour on Henry’s lap – prompting Anne to fear that Henry would treat he like had had treated her predecessor (that was Chapuys’ guess, anyway).



Henry Clifford, The Life of Jane Dormer, Duchess of Feria.

Letters & Papers – Chapuys’ letter to Charles V, dated February 10, 1536

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