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.
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)
“Sir, your Grace’s displeasure, and my Imprisonment are Things so strange unto me, as what to Write, or what to Excuse, I am altogether ignorant; whereas you sent unto me (willing me to confess a Truth, and so obtain your Favour) by such a one, whom you know to be my ancient and professed Enemy; I no sooner received the Message by him, than I rightly conceived your Meaning; and if, as you say, confessing Truth indeed may procure my safety, I shall with all Willingness and Duty perform your Command.
But let not your Grace ever imagine that your poor Wife will ever be brought to acknowledge a Fault, where not so much as Thought thereof proceeded. And to speak a truth, never Prince had Wife more Loyal in all Duty, and in all true Affection, than you have found in Anne Boleyn, with which Name and Place could willingly have contented my self, as if God, and your Grace’s Pleasure had been so pleased. Neither did I at any time so far forge my self in my Exaltation, or received Queenship, but that I always looked for such an Alteration as now I find; for the ground of my preferment being on no surer Foundation than your Grace’s Fancy, the least Alteration, I knew, was fit and sufficient to draw that Fancy to some other subject.
“And thunder rolls about the throne” – Thomas Wyatt
Lacey Baldwin Smith said that ‘the closer the proximity to the crown, the greater the danger’, and this definitely proved true in the case of Anne Boleyn.[i] Anne was executed for adultery, incest and treason, ‘despising her marriage and entertaining malice against the King’.[ii] However, Henry VIII’s motives behind Anne’s execution remain unclear.
The reasons for Anne Boleyn’s fall from power can affect our view of her public image. Was her fall her own fault? Henry’s? Cromwell’s? These questions tend to be the focal point in the secondary literature, which questions, not only whose fault it was, but also the motives for bringing Anne down. Anne failed to give birth to a son and Henry had fallen in love with Jane Seymour. Did Cromwell see Anne as a threat so plotted to bring her down? Or was her fall the result of an accusation of misconduct by one of her ladies? All of these possible reasons will be discussed in this chapter. Continue reading “Undergraduate Dissertation Chapter – Anne Boleyn’s Fall From Power”