On This Day in History – 19 May


White Tower at the Tower of London
White Tower at the Tower of London

Event– Execution of Anne Boleyn

Year– 1536

Location– Tower of London (England)

Anne Boleyn was arrested on 2 May 1536 and sent to the Tower of London, accused of adultery, incest and treason. She was tried and found guilty of all charges against her on 15 May 1536 with the sentence pronounced as burning or beheading at the king’s pleasure.

Anne’s so-called lovers were executed on 17 May – Mark Smeaton, Henry Norris, William Brereton, Francis Weston and her brother, George Boleyn. All had been found guilty of adultery with Anne. Richard Page and Thomas Wyatt were arrested but never charged with anything. They were released after the executions.

It is generally accepted that Anne Boleyn wasn’t guilty of the charges against her. Perhaps she had been a little reckless in her speech, and a little too flirtatious, but that doesn’t automatically convert to adultery. From what I have read, the only historian who thinks it possible that Anne was in fact guilty was G.W. Bernard, though I personally don’t buy his arguments.

Anne was beheaded on Tower Green within the Tower of London on 19 May 1536 by the swordsman of Calais, rather than the more cumbersome English axe, and was buried in the Chapel of St Peter ad Vincula within the Tower grounds. There is a memorial slab commemorating her place of burial there today.

Further Reading

Paul Friedmann, Anne Boleyn (1884)

Eric Ives, The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn (1986)

Retha Warnicke, The Rise and Fall of Anne Boleyn (1989)

Alison Weir, The Lady in the Tower: the Fall of Anne Boleyn (2009)

Advertisements

On This Day in History – 2 May


Anne Boleyn Hever Castle Portrait
Anne Boleyn Hever Castle Portrait

Event– Arrest of Anne Boleyn

Year– 1536

Location– Greenwich Palace & Tower of London (England)

Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn attended the May Day jousts at Greenwich on 1 May 1536. Henry left suddenly without warning and without saying goodbye to Anne. They wouldn’t see each other again.

Anne was with her ladies in her apartments at Greenwich on 2 May 1536 when a delegation from the Privy Council arrived to question her, and then escort her to the Tower of London under arrest. Mark Smeaton, a court musician, had already been arrested and taken to the Tower the day before and had confessed to adultery with Anne, possibly under torture. Henry Norris, Groom of the Stool, arrived at the Tower that morning, and Anne’s brother, George, followed her there just a few hours later.

She was accused of adultery with 5 men, incest with her brother, and plotting the king’s death. She would be condemned to death and executed.

There have been several suggestions as to what led to Anne’s arrest – was it her miscarriage in January 1536? Was it Henry VIII’s newfound love for Jane Seymour? Was it a conspiracy by Thomas Cromwell endorsed by Henry? Was it Anne’s own reckless behaviour?

Further Reading

Paul Friedmann, Anne Boleyn (1884)

Eric Ives, The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn (1986)

Retha Warnicke, The Rise and Fall of Anne Boleyn (1989)

Alison Weir, The Lady in the Tower: the Fall of Anne Boleyn (2009)

Discussion Questions – The Boleyn Bride by Emily Purdy


 

  1. Elizabeth Boleyn readily admits that she is a vain woman. What do you think of her vanity and pride and the way they affect her thoughts and actions? Do you agree that she was raised to be this way or do you regard this as an excuse and her attitude as more of a personal failing? Does she remain you of the Tudor era equivalent of the mean, pretty, snobby girls everyone encounters in high school? What do you think of the way she treats people, like her maid Matilda, her husband, children, and the men she has affairs with? Near the end of this novel she describes her husband’s attitude toward people as “use and then lose” – he discards them when they are of no further profitable use to him. Though, as far as we know, no one has ever died as a result of Elizabeth’s behaviour, is this a case of the pot calling the kettle black?
boleyn-bride-by-emily-purdy
The Boleyn Bride by Emily Purdy

I think that Elizabeth was raised to be vain and spoilt – she was a daughter of the Duke of Norfolk, one of the greatest and most powerful nobles in England, and she would have been raised to know and understand this. However, I think that you can change the way you were brought up, but Elizabeth shows no desire to do so. It is one of her failings that she sees the only improvement she can make to herself to be social improvement – she can’t see any personal improvement being necessary. I think she treats people more as stepping stones to advancement rather than people in their own right – except her husband, who she initially sees as a block to her social advancement. She sees Thomas Boleyn as not being good enough for the daughter of the Duke of Norfolk. I think Elizabeth and Thomas do treat people very similarly – Elizabeth uses people to help her social advancement and then discards them when they are of no use, in the same way that Thomas does.

  1. Discuss the marriage and relationship between Elizabeth and Thomas Boleyn. Do you believe he deserves the contempt Elizabeth treats him with? She regards herself as superior, sneers when he changes the spelling of his name from Bullen to Boleyn, and rubs his family’s mercantile origins in his face whenever she has the chance. She glories in cheating on him with men of an even lower social status. What do you think of all this? How would you react, if you were in Thomas Bullen’s shoes, to a wife like Elizabeth?

I think that Thomas Boleyn was the archetypical man aiming for a higher social status – the Tudor court was full of them, and even outside the court, people were always aiming to better themselves. However, I think that, because Elizabeth was born into a well to-do family she was one of those who saw social advancement of the low classes (as she saw Thomas) to be silly. She believed, as many of the nobility did, that the country should be ruled by them and not by the “new men”, raised to the nobility by the likes of Henry VII and Henry VIII. Elizabeth enjoys rubbing Thomas’s nose in his origins I think because it establishes her as the primary partner in the relationship – she is of higher origins so should take the lead. I think she enjoys cheating on him with men of lower status because it emphasises Thomas’s own humble origins, and how far Elizabeth has to go to find someone lower than him. I think Thomas saw Elizabeth as his stepping stone to greater power. I think that, as long as she didn’t take lovers in public he didn’t really mind all that much. Continue reading

Spotlight – Elizabeth Boleyn


Name: Elizabeth Boleyn (nee Howard)

Title/s: Lady Boleyn / Lady Rochford / Countess of Wiltshire & Ormond

Birth / Death: c.1480 – 3 April 1538

Spouse: Thomas Boleyn, Earl of Wiltshire & Ormond c.1477-1539

Children: Mary Stafford c.1499-1543 / Anne Boleyn c.1501-1536 / George Boleyn, Viscount Rochford c.1504-1536

Parents: Thomas Howard, 2nd Duke of Norfolk 1443-1524 & Elizabeth Tilney c.1444-1497

Siblings: Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk 1473-1554 / Edward Howard c.1476-1513 / Edmund Howard c.1478-1539 / John Howard c.1482-1503 / Henry Howard / Charles Howard c.1483-1512 / Henry Howard the Younger / Richard Howard c.1487-1517 / Muriel Grey, Viscountess Lisle 1486-1512 (full siblings) / William Howard, 1st Baron Howard c.1510-1573 / Thomas Howard 1511-1537 / Richard Howard ?-1517 / Dorothy Stanley, Countess of Derby c.1511-? / Anne de Vere, Countess of Oxford 1518-1558 / Catherine Daubeney, Countess of Bridgewater c.1499-1548 / Elizabeth Radclyffe, Countess of Sussex c.1500-1534 Continue reading

Spotlight – Mary Boleyn


Name: Mary Boleyn / Mary Carey / Mary Stafford

Title/s: Mistress Boleyn / Lady Carey / Lady Stafford

Birth / Death: c.1499 – 19 July 1543

Spouse: William Carey (c.1500-1528) & William Stafford (c.1500-1556)

Children: Catherine Knollys 1524-1569 / Henry Carey, Baron Hunsdon 1526-1596 / Anne Stafford 1536-? / Edward Stafford 1535-1545

Parents: Thomas Boleyn, Earl of Wiltshire 1477-1539 & Elizabeth Howard 1480-1538

Siblings: Anne Boleyn Queen of England 1501-1536 / George Boleyn Viscount Rochford 1503-1536 / Thomas Boleyn c.1500-? / Henry Boleyn c.1502-? Continue reading

Discussion Questions – ‘The Boleyn Inheritance’ by Philippa Gregory


  • What reasons do Jane Boleyn, Katherine Howard, and Anne of Cleves each have for seeking a place in Henry VIII’s court? Do any of them believe it might be dangerous to be a part of the royal circle, or is it a risk they’re willing to take? Does your opinion of each woman change over the course of the novel?
Philippa Gregory
Philippa Gregory

I don’t think Anne of Cleves had much of a choice in the end. She was a pawn in the arena of international politics. I don’t think she sought it; so much as it was thrust on her by her father and brother. No doubt she was excited about the prospect of becoming queen, but she must have also heard the stories about Henry VIII’s treatment of his previous wives, which no doubt made her a bit nervous. I think that Katherine Howard sought a place at court because it was expected of her. She was brought up to know that, as a Howard, she was important. I think she wanted the pretty dresses and jewels and the male attention. I don’t believe she had any deigns on being the king’s wife. Jane Boleyn was more complicated. She had been at court in the years when Henry VIII was still a golden prince with his whole reign ahead of him. She saw the divorce and the break with Rome – she was at court because it was expected for a noble lady. I think Katherine and Anne must have known that it was dangerous to be around the king from the start, but I don’t think Jane truly knew it until Henry VIII executed her sister-in-law and husband. After that point, I think Jane saw it as a risk she was willing to take. I actually grew to like Jane less and less over the course of the novel. She made her own fate.I liked Anne more and more, as she survived and came out of her marriage well-off. My opinion of Katherine didn’t really change – she was silly and naive but ultimately a victim. For me, she was the character that didn’t really come fully to life – she was a shadow compared to Jane and Anne. Continue reading

Spotlight: Mary Howard Fitzroy, Duchess of Richmond and Somerset


Name: Mary Howard / Mary Fitzroy

Title/s: Duchess of Richmond and Somerset / Countess of Nottingham

Birth / Death: 1519 – 7 December 1557

Spouse: Henry Fitzroy 1519-1536

Children: None

Parents: Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk 1473-1554 & Elizabeth Stafford 1497-1558

Siblings: Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey 1516-1547 / Thomas Howard, 1st Viscount Howard 1520-1582 / Katherine Howard, Countess of Derby ?-1530 / Muriel Howard Continue reading

Book Review – ‘The Boleyn Reckoning’ by Laura Anderson


Laura Anderson 'The Boleyn Reckoning'
Laura Anderson ‘The Boleyn Reckoning’

Laura Anderson, The Boleyn Reckoning (London: Ebury Press, 2015) Paperback, ISBN 978-0-3455-34132

Genre/s: Historical / Romance / Drama

Setting: London (England)

Characters: William, Henry IX of England / Elizabeth I of England / Dominic Courtenay / Minuette Courtenay (nee Wyatt) / George Boleyn, Duke of Rochford / William Cecil / Robert Dudley / Lady Jane Grey / Renard LeClerc

Storyline: The final book in the series is very much focused on the disintegrating relationship between Dominic and Minuette, and William, because of the former’s secret marriage. There are also questions over William’s competency to rule after he makes more and more rash decisions as a result of Dominic and Minuette. Continue reading

Potted History of Tudor Homes


Bradgate House = Bradgate House is now a ruin, but it was home to the Grey family, descended from the first son of Elizabeth Woodville by her first husband. Lady Jane Grey and her sisters, Katherine and Mary, grew up here. The Grey family lived here for two hundred year until 1739, but a newer house, also in ruins, now stands nearby to the original ruins. More of the Tudor chapel and tower stand now than of the house itself.

Burghley House was the home of William Cecil, advisor to Elizabeth I
Burghley House was the home of William Cecil, advisor to Elizabeth I

Burghley House = Burghley House was built by William Cecil, Lord Burghley. He was the most trusted councillor of Elizabeth I, and very focused on trying to catch Mary Queen of Scots in conducting treason. Burghley’s changes to the house took from 1555 to 1587, but little of the Tudor inside now remains. Burghley House is the only one of Cecil’s many properties still standing today, though it has been much changed. Continue reading