Who was responsible for the downfall of Anne Boleyn? (Guest Post)

Today we take a look at one fan of the Tudor dynasty’s take on the downfall of Anne Boleyn. The views in this article are those of the author and not necessarily of the owner of this site. There were no sources included. We post these articles to draw discussion on topics such as the downfall of Anne Boleyn.

Some believe that Henry VIII was solely responsible for the death of his second wife, Anne Boleyn. Was he really, and did he really want her dead?

Long before her actual trial, the Spanish ambassador, Eustace Chapuys, had heard from other European princes that Henry had voiced his desire for an annulment due to the fact that Anne could not bare him a living son, but one must also consider the fact that his eyes had alighted on Jane Seymour. So, even though earlier on he had not considered marrying Jane, this could not be the sole cause of wanting his second wife out-of-the-way since at one point he had expressed an angry attitude towards Chapuys, saying that his master, the Spanish Emperor must acknowledge Anne as the true Queen.

Eustace Chapuys hated Anne, not only because she had replaced Catherine of Aragon, but also because he was a staunch friend of Many Tudor,and his main desire was to see her reinstated to the succession. When Henry no longer loved Anne, the wheels may have started turning in his mind as to how this could advantage Mary, because it is a well-known fact that George Boleyn, the brother of Anne, had thought of planning to get Mary killed. When Anne fell out of favour, she definitely saw Mary as a firm enemy, but there is to written evidence that she ever publicly aired the same views as her brother.

When it was certain that the King wanted to marry Jane Seymour, Chapuys saw a golden opportunity. He was aware that Cromwell, originally a great supporter of Anne, due to their shared zeal regarding the Reformation, had fallen foul of her over the selling off of the monasteries to the nobility instead of using them to make houses for the sick or change them into schools. However, the key reason for Anne wanting Cromwell to go to the block,was the fact that she learned that he had given his rooms at Court to the Seymours, so that the King could see Jane whenever he wanted in the presence of her family, so that no scandal should be attached to her name.

Chapuys was a great politician and saw a chance to make really good friends with Cromwell, who now himself hated Anne. Thus there are now three people who want Anne out-of-the-way, but Chapuys and Cromwell want her dead. Cromwell began to think how this could be arranged. It was now his head or hers. In spite of the King no longer desiring her, she was still Queen in name and could get what she wanted. However, Cromwell persuaded the King to set up a group of the nobility to carry out what was then called Oyer and Terminer, which, in simple terms, meant you could literally carry out an investigation behind someone’s back. Although Anne must have been worried as she was bound to have sensed the underlying tension going through the court, she would not have realised exactly what was going on.

It is common knowledge that Cromwell decided to “get her”on charges of adultery with Norris, Brereton, Weston and Smeaton. He also accused her of incest with her brother George, but managed to bring in plotting the death of her husband which was High Treason. The latter occurred, due to the questioning of one of her Ladies in Waiting who had heard Anne say that she thought Norris visited her apartments so frequently because he was hoping to marry her if the King should die. History books often quote her famous statement that Norris “looked to step into dead men’s shoes “. This statement itself was enough to condemn her .

So was Anne herself responsible in a way for letting a death sentence prevail? The reason I say this is because she was known to be flirtatious, outspoken, frequently to have men in her chambers late at night, especially her brother who was her closest confidant and with whom she shared her deepest secrets. These factors made her a very easy target for Cromwell, even though, since she was always closely surrounded by servants it would have been impossible for her to commit all the crimes linked with her name.

The King was such a proud man, that the thought of his wife committing adultery would have enraged him like an angry bull. However, it must be noted that a King was above the law, so maybe the final blame does lie with Henry. After all he did sign all death warrants, so why didn’t he just say no? Perhaps the rumours among the populace that Anne was in fact a witch, who had seduced him into marriage by witchcraft, stuck in his mind. Maybe he worried that ending this marriage would be as complicated as when he had tried to get a divorce from Catherine of Aragon. Maybe he was worried that the staunchly Catholic Mary would take the throne, thus interfering with his Reformation policy. Perhaps he also feared the thought that any woman, even Anne’s daughter Elizabeth, would not be able to sustain peace in England after his death thus plunging the country into Civil War.

We will never really know, because we can’t ask him why Anne’s actual death was an absolute necessity. We know that her death was quick as Henry ordered death by the sword, not the ax. Also she could have been burned, which was her greatest fear.

It is up to the reader to decide who was really to blame.

Written by Catherine Hunt


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For They Deserve Death: Katherine and Mary

In 1535, the King of England was married to Anne Boleyn and they had a daughter, Princess Elizabeth who was now heir to her father’s throne. Elizabeth’s half-sister, Mary was now considered illegitimate and was to be referred to as “Lady” Mary. As you’ll notice from these letters written by Eustace Chapuys he still referred to her as “Princess” since he was their Spanish ally and believed she was the rightful princess and Katherine the rightful queen.

In the first letter from Chapuys to Charles V (nephew to Katherine of Aragon) you see mention to Mary being ill and wishing to have mother and daughter together. The request was of course denied. There was also talk of a marriage for Mary but that those who were interested in marrying her were below her station. There is also mention of the “French Dauphin” who is in reference to Francis III, Duke of Brittany, eldest son of King Francis I of France. The Dauphin died the following year in 1536.

Francis III, Duke of Brittany
Princess Mary

In the following quote we see where Chapuys mentions Anne Boleyn and her assumed hatred for Katherine and Mary:

…she is continually telling the King that he does not act rightly or prudently in allowing the Queen and the Princess to live, for they deserve death (she says) much more than those who have lately been executed, since, after all, they were and are still the cause of all the mischief.

It’s when I read quotes like the above that I become less of a fan of Anne Boleyn and feel strongly sympathetic toward Katherine of Aragon and Mary. I mean, how can you not?

The second letter shared with you here shows the politics between Spain and England during this time. It also mentions the ‘King’s Fool’ and an incident with him and his words against Anne Boleyn.

Letter - July 1535: Chapuys to the Emperor

At the Princess’s pressing request, a few days ago, I again asked Cromwell whether it would not be possible to have her removed to her mother’s quarters, that she might live in her company. He answered me plainly that the thing was impracticable; the King, his master, would never consent to that, even if there was occasion for it, owing to the Queen being too much of a Papist. He also told me that the true expedient for having the Princess removed from where she is, and radically curing her of her chronic disease, would be to procure a suitable marriage for her, the best and most honourable that could be had; excepting, however, that of the French Dauphin, to whom it was not the King’s intention ever to marry her, whatever your Majesty’s wishes might be in that line. Several petty German princes had applied to the King for her hand, but it would be lowering her state too much to accept the offer of any of them. I really believe that this King cares but little whether the Princess, his daughter, marries or not; at any rate, if the royal mistress’s words are to be believed, the Princess’s dower will not be a very rich one, for she is continually telling the King that he does not act rightly or prudently in allowing the Queen and the Princess to live, for they deserve death (she says) much more than those who have lately been executed, since, after all, they were and are still the cause of all the mischief. Every week since Lent I have sent one of my men to the Princess to inquire after her health, and hear whether she had any orders for me; but the last time I sent, her governess told my messenger that in future no one would get admittance to her. I have, therefore, requested Cromwell to ascertain what are the King’s wishes in the matter.” (Calendar of State Papers, Spain, Volume 5 Part 1, 1534-1535, Line 183)

Letter – July 1535: Eustace Chapuys to Nicholas Perrenot, seigneur de Granvelle

The English are daily becoming less tractable, especially in the treatment of the Princess. Hears from one who is frequently at the house where she is now residing that the King is afraid of the French carrying her away; that is why strangers are forbidden to approach her, and an armed watch kept around the house and at the nearest sea-ports. I told Cromwell the other day that I should soon be obliged to go to Flanders on private business of my own; though in reality to prepare for the Princess’s flight. When Cromwell heard it, he was taken aback, as if he feared that I might leave the country altogether, never to return to it. I shall certainly leave him in that suspicion, which will rather increase than diminish, owing to the fact that foreign merchants are quitting this city one by one. Of the German captains and soldiers who came from Lubeck not one remains here.

P.S.—He the other day nearly murdered his own fool (Will Somers), a simple and innocent man, because he happened to speak well in his presence of the Queen and Princess, and called the concubine “ribaude” and her daughter “bastard.” He has now been banished from Court, and has gone to the Grand Esquire, who has sheltered and hidden him. (Calendar of State Papers, Spain, Volume 5 Part 1, 1534-1535, Line 184 )


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