The Lady in the Tower: The Fall of Anne Boleyn by Alison Weir


  This letter does not suggest that Henry interfered a great deal in the proceedings against the Queen.58 What it does reveal is that Norfolk had been left in the dark as to what was going on and was wary of taking any action without the King’s approval. The duke was not to be kept in ignorance for long, for he would soon receive the documents prepared on behalf of the Crown, and with the two indictments drawn up, the case against the Queen and her alleged lovers could now proceed to trial.

  Lancelot de Carles asserts that before the King gave orders for the trials of the Queen and her alleged lovers to proceed, some lords of the council visited her in the Tower in the hope of extracting a confession. But “the Queen, having no further hope in this world, would confess nothing. She does not confess anything, and does not resist strongly, almost wanting to be delivered from living here, to go and live and Heaven, and hope [of that] is surmounting so much in her that she no longer cares about dying.” For all this, “she did not give up her greatness, but spoke to the lords as a mistress. Those who came to interrogate were astonished.”

  The “Spanish Chronicle” also asserts that the King sent his councillors—naming Cromwell, Cranmer, Norfolk, and Audley—to examine the Queen, with express orders “to treat her with no respect or consideration.” Cranmer is said to have been appointed spokesman, and to have told her: “Madam, there is no one in the realm, after my lord the King, who is so distressed at your bad conduct as I am, for all these gentlemen well know I owe my dignity to your goodwill.” This echoes the sentiments expressed in Cranmer’s letter to the King. But Anne interrupted him.

  “My lord Bishop, I know what is your errand!” she said. “Waste no more time. I have never wronged the King, but I know well that he is tired of me, as he was before of the good Lady Katherine.” This smacks of Spanish bias on the part of the chronicler, although it is possible that Anne, in her present plight, now felt some sympathy for Katherine. The use of the title “Lady” rings true.

  Cranmer told her that her “evil courses” had been “clearly seen,” and if she desired to read Smeaton’s confession, it would be shown to her. Anne flew into “a great rage,” and cried, “Go to! It has all been done as I say, because the King has fallen in love, as I know, with Jane Seymour, and does not know how to get rid of me. Well, let him do as he likes, he will get nothing more out of me, and any confession that has been made is false.”

  With that, just as Carles said, the lords “saw they should extract nothing from her” and determined to leave, but Norfolk had one parting shot. “Madam,” he said, “if it be true that your brother has shared your guilt, a great punishment indeed should be yours, and his as well.” Anne told him he should say no such thing. “My brother is blameless, and if he has been in my chamber to speak with me, surely he might do so without suspicion, being my brother, and they cannot accuse him for that. I know that the King has had him arrested so that there should be none left to take my part. You need not trouble to stop talking with me, for you will find out no more.” The lords left her, and when they reported her words to the King, he said, “She has a stout heart, but she shall pay for it.”

  There is no other evidence for this interrogation, although that is not to say it did not take place. The author of the “Spanish Chronicle” may have embellished his dialogue, but the substance of his account is entirely authentic, and chimes with all the other evidence. No reports from Sir William Kingston survive from this time—there is a gap between his letters of May 7 and 16. So it is quite possible that, with the indictments drawn up, the councillors had hoped to spare the King the publicity that an open trial would generate by forcing the Queen to admit her guilt. But realizing that Henry was determined on proceeding against her—Chapuys told the Emperor he now meant “to get rid of” her, regardless of whether her guilt was proved59—she knew she had nothing to lose by refusing to confess.

  The lords “afterward went to Rochford, who said he knew that death awaited him, and would say the truth, but, raising his eyes to Heaven, denied the accusations against him. They next went to Norris, Weston, and Brereton, who all likewise refused to confess, except Mark, who had done so already.” After this, “the King ordered the trial at Westminster.”60

  ANNE BOLEYN, AS SHE PROBABLY LOOKED AT THE TIME OF HER FALL

  “There is no one who dares contradict her, not even the King himself.”

  HENRY VIII

  His “blind and wretched passion” for

  Anne had long since abated.

  JANE SEYMOUR

  “The new amours of the King

  go on, to the intense rage of the

  Concubine.”

  SIR NICHOLAS CAREW

  “It will not be the fault of this

  Master of the Horse if the

  Concubine be not dismounted.”

  THE LADY MARY

  “When I have a

  son,” Anne Boleyn

  wrote, “I know

  what then will

  come to her.”

  HENRY FITZROY, DUKE OF RICHMOND

  His father the King told him he was

  lucky to have “escaped the hands of

  that accursed whore.”

  THOMAS HOWARD, DUKE OF NORFOLK

  He referred to Anne, his niece, as

  “the great whore.”

  THOMAS BOLEYN,

  EARL OF WILTSHIRE

  He connived at his children’s

  fate, and even sat in judgment

  on them.

  SIGNATURE OF GEORGE BOLEYN,

  LORD ROCHFORD

  SIGNATURE OF MARK SMEATON

  HENRY PARKER, LORD MORLEY

  He had instilled in his daughter

  Jane, Lady Rochford, such

  loyalty to the Lady Mary as

  would prove fatal to the

  Boleyns.

  THOMAS CROMWELL,

  “MASTER SECRETARY”

  “He thought up and plotted

  the affair of the Concubine.”

  SIR WILLIAM FITZWILLIAM

  “A good servant” of the King,

  he was instrumental in

  bringing Anne to ruin.

  ELIZABETH BROWNE,

  COUNTESS OF WORCESTER

  She was “the first accuser”

  of the Queen.

  THE INDICTMENT AGAINST

  ANNE BOLEYN AND LORD ROCHFORD

  “She incited her own natural brother

  to violate her.”

  ANNE BOLEYN

  She had clearly overstepped the conventional

  bounds of courtly banter between

  queen and servant, man and woman.

  GREENWICH PALACE,

  WHERE ANNE BOLEYN WAS ARRESTED

  “I was cruelly handled at Greenwich

  with the King’s Council.”

  THIS FANCIFUL, ROMANTIC PAINTING SHOWS ANNE BOLEYN SAYING

  A FINAL FAREWELL TO HER DAUGHTER, THE PRINCESS ELIZABETH

  “Never shall I forget the sorrow I felt when I saw the most serene Queen,

  your mother, carrying you, still a baby, in her arms.”

  THE TOWER OF LONDON

  The King’s Hall, where Anne Boleyn was tried, can be seen behind the wall fronting the river; the Queen’s Lodgings, where she was held, can just be seen to the far right, stretching between the wall and the White Tower. The scaffold on Tower Hill, and the guns on the Tower wharf, are also visible.

  A ROMANTIC VIEW: ANNE BOLEYN AT THE QUEEN’S STAIRS

  “Mr. Kingston, do I go to a dungeon?”

  ANNE BOLEYN IN THE TOWER

  “One hour she is determined to die, and the next much contrary to that.”

  ANNE BOLEYN, LADY SHELTON

  The Queen thought it “much unkindness

  in the King to put about

  me such as I never loved.”

  SIR THOMAS WYATT

  “These bloody days have broken my

  heart,” he mourned.

  “TO THE KING FROM THE

>   LADY IN THE TOWER”

  For centuries, controversy has raged

  over the authenticity of this letter.

  WESTMINSTER HALL, WHERE FOUR OF ANNE BOLEYN’S

  CO-ACCUSED WERE TRIED ON MAY 12, 1536

  “Suddenly the axe was turned towards them.”

  HENRY PERCY,

  EARL OF NORTHUMBERLAND

  “May it be to my damnation if

  ever there were any contract or

  promise or marriage between

  her and me.”

  THOMAS CRANMER,

  ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY

  “I think your Highness would not have

  gone so far if she had not been culpable.”

  SIR FRANCIS WESTON AND HIS WIFE, ANNE PICKERING

  Weston referred to himself as “a great offender to God.”

  “WESTON ESQ. OF SUTTON SURREY.”

  This is almost certainly a portrait of

  Sir Francis Weston.

  ANNE BOLEYN DRIVEN MAD:

  A LATER, MELODRAMATIC IMAGE

  “This lady has much joy and

  pleasure in death.”

  CARVINGS IN THE TOWER OF LONDON,

  PROBABLY DONE BY ANNE BOLEYN’S ALLEGED LOVERS

  Carving from the Martin Tower

  Anne Boleyn’s falcon badge, without its crown

  and scepter, in the Beauchamp Tower

  THE SITE OF THE QUEEN’S LODGINGS IN THE TOWER OF LONDON,

  WHERE ANNE BOLEYN WAS HELD PRISONER IN SOME SPLENDOR

  GOLD AND ENAMEL PENDANT, MADE

  C. 1520, AND SAID TO HAVE BEEN GIVEN BY

  ANNE BOLEYN TO CAPTAIN GWYN ON

  THE DAY OF HER EXECUTION

  THE SITE OF THE SCAFFOLD ON WHICH ANNE BOLEYN WAS EXECUTED

  It was built on the tournament ground before the old House of Ordinance,

  and faced the White Tower; it probably stood near the present doorway to the

  Waterloo Barracks.

  THE EXECUTION OF ANNE BOLEYN

  “The Queen suffered with sword this day, and died boldly.” This seventeenth-century

  woodcut incorrectly shows the headsman wielding an axe.

  THE ROYAL CHAPEL OF ST. PETER AD VINCULA,

  SHOWING THE SO-CALLED SCAFFOLD SITE

  “The Queen’s head and body were taken to a church in the Tower.”

  INSIDE ST. PETER AD VINCULA: ANNE BOLEYN IS

  BURIED BENEATH THE ALTAR PAVEMENT

  “God provided for her corpse sacred burial,

  even in a place as it were consecrate to innocence.”

  MEMORIAL PLAQUE SAID TO MARK THE LAST RESTING PLACE OF ANNE BOLEYN

  It is more likely, however, that her body lies beneath the slab

  commemorating Lady Rochford.

  CARVED INITIALS OF HENRY VIII AND

  ANNE BOLEYN IN THE VAULTING ABOVE

  ANNE BOLEYN’S GATEWAY, HAMPTON

  COURT PALACE

  This carving was overlooked in the

  rush to replace Anne’s initials with

  Jane Seymour’s.

  QUEEN ELIZABETH I’s RING OF c. 1575,

  WITH ITS PORTRAIT OF ANNE BOLEYN

  It is possible that Elizabeth secretly

  commissioned a written defense of

  her mother.

  CHAPTER 10

  More Accused than Convicted

  As yet, in accordance with the normal procedure in sixteenth-century treason cases, none of the accused were given full details of what was alleged against them in the indictments that had been drawn up, nor given any notice or means to prepare a defense. The first time they would hear the formal charges and any depositions, or “interrogatories,”1 made by the witnesses was when they were brought into court, and then they would have to defend themselves as best they could, without benefit of any legal representation, which was forbidden to those charged with treason. They could not call witnesses on their own behalf—it is doubtful if many people would have dared come forward, anyway, to dispute a case brought in the name of “our sovereign lord the King”—and there was no cross-examination. All they could do was engage in altercation with their accusers. The law was heavily weighted against those suspected of treachery, and the outlook for Anne and the men accused with her was dismal. As Cardinal Wolsey once acidly observed, “If the Crown were prosecutor and asserted it, justice would be found to bring in a verdict that Abel was the murderer of Cain.”2

  It was to the further disadvantage of the accused that the law provided for a two-tier system of justice. Commoners had to be tried by the commissioners of oyer and terminer who brought the case against them, yet those of royal or noble birth had to be tried in the court of the High Steward by a jury of their peers. Therefore there had to be two trials, and because of the practical difficulties involved—not least of which was the fact that the commissioners had to be present at both—they could not be held concurrently. Thus the outcome of the first trial would inevitably prejudice that of the second.3

  On Friday, May 12, Anne’s uncle, the Duke of Norfolk, was appointed Lord High Steward of England, a temporary office only conferred on great lords for the purpose of organizing coronations or presiding over the trials of peers, who were customarily tried in the court of the High Steward, which he himself convened. In this capacity, Norfolk would act as Lord President at the trials of the Queen and Lord Rochford.

  Norfolk was at Westminster Hall that day as one of the commissioners who assembled there at the special sessions of oyer and terminer at which Norris, Weston, Brereton, and Smeaton were to be judged. As commoners, they would be tried separately from the Queen and Lord Rochford, who, by virtue of their high rank, had the right to be tried by their peers. All but one of the judges of the King’s Bench had been summoned to court, as well as a special jury of twelve knights, and they were joined by the members of the grand juries who had been appointed on April 24. Among them were the Lord Chancellor, who was “the highest commissioner,” and several lords of the King’s Council,4 including Sir William FitzWilliam, who had been instrumental in obtaining confessions from Smeaton and Norris, and the Queen’s father, Thomas Boleyn, Earl of Wiltshire.5 Chapuys heard that he was “ready to assist with the judgment,”6 probably with an eye to his political survival. It may be significant that Edward Willoughby, the foreman of the jury, was in debt to William Brereton; Brereton’s death, of course, would release him from his obligations.

  Other members of the jury were unlikely to be impartial. Sir Giles Alington was another of Sir Thomas More’s sons-in-law, and therefore no friend to the Boleyns, for many held Anne responsible for Sir Thomas’s execution. William Askew was a supporter of Lady Mary; Anthony Hungerford was kin to Jane Seymour; Walter Hungerford, who would be executed for buggery and other capital crimes in 1540, might well have needed to court Cromwell’s discretion; Robert Dormer was a conservative who had opposed the break with Rome; Richard Tempest was a creature of Cromwell’s; Sir John Hampden was father-in-law to William Paulet, comptroller of the royal household; William Musgrave was one of those who had failed to secure the conviction for treason of Lord Dacre in 1534, and was therefore zealous to redeem himself; William Sidney was a friend of the hostile Duke of Suffolk; and Thomas Palmer was FitzWilliam’s client and one of the King’s gambling partners.7 Given the affiliations of these men, and the unlikelihood that any of them would risk angering the King by returning the wrong verdict, the outcome of the trial was prejudiced from the very outset.8

  Legal practice apart, securing the conviction of the Queen’s alleged lovers was evidently regarded as a necessary preliminary to her own trial, while such a conviction would preclude the four men, as convicted felons, from giving evidence at any subsequent trial,9 and the Queen from protesting that she was innocent of committing any crimes with them. Above all it would go a long way toward ensuring that her condemnation was a certainty. This, more than most other factors, strongly suggests that Anne and her so-called accomplices were framed.
r />   The four accused were conveyed by barge from the Tower to Westminster Hall, where they were brought to the bar by Sir William Kingston and arraigned for high treason.10 This vast hall had been built by William II in the eleventh century and greatly embellished by Richard II in the fourteenth. Lancelot de Carles, an eyewitness at all the trials, was at pains to describe the process of indictment, and “how the archers of the guard turn the back [of their halberds] to the prisoner in going, but after the sentence of guilty, the edge [of the axelike blade] is turned toward their faces.”

  There is no surviving official record of the trials that took place on that day, only eyewitness accounts, which are frustratingly sketchy.11 The accused were charged “that they had violated and had carnal knowledge of the Queen, each by himself at separate times,”12 and that they had conspired the King’s death with her.13 This was the first time the charges had been made public, or revealed in detail to the defendants, and the effect must have been at once sensational and chilling.

 
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