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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