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Alarm Of Catherine And The Growth Of Lutheranism

Absolution Of Lord Thomas Fitzgerald For The Murder Of The Archbishop Of Dublin

Anger Of Anne Boleyn And The Duke Of Norfolk

Anne Boleyn Chosen By Henry To Succeed Catherine

Unpopularity Of Anne Boleyn And Removal Of Catherine From The Court

The Divorce

The Court At Blackfriars

Danger Of Challenging The Papal Dispensing Power

Determined Attitude Of The Princess Mary

Death Of Archbishop Warham And The Pope Urged To Excommunicate Henry But Refuses Angering The Queen

Least Viewed

Expectation That Henry Would Return To The Roman Communion

Intended Escape Of The Princess Mary Out Of England

Anne Sentenced To Die

Competition For Henry's Hand

The Pope's Authority Abolished In England

Illness Of The Princess Mary

Coronation Of Anne Boleyn

Illness Of Queen Catherine

Likelihood Of A Separation Of The King From Anne

Warlike Resolution Of The Pope Restrained By The Cardinals

Anne Sentenced To Die

Easter at Greenwich--French and Imperial factions at the English court--
Influence of Anne Boleyn--Reports of Anne's conduct submitted to the
King--Flying rumours--Secret Commission of Inquiry--Arrests of various
persons--Sir Henry Norris and the King--Anne before the Privy Council--
Sent to the Tower--Her behaviour and admissions--Evidence taken before the
Commission--Trials of Norris, Weston, Brereton, and Smeton--Letter of
Weston--Trial of Anne and her brother--Executions--Speech of Rochford on
the scaffold----Makes a confession to Cranmer--
Declared to have not been the King's lawful wife--Nature of the confession
not known--Execution.

At the moment when the King was bearing himself so proudly at the most
important crisis of his reign, orthodox historians require us to believe
that he was secretly contriving to rid himself of Anne Boleyn by a foul
and false accusation, that he might proceed immediately to a new marriage
with another lady. Men who are meditating enormous crimes have usually
neither leisure nor attention for public business. It is as certain as
anything in history can be certain that to startle Europe with a domestic
scandal while mighty issues were at stake on which the fate of England
depended was the last subject with which England's King was likely to have
been occupied. He was assuming an attitude of haughty independence, where
he would need all his strength and all the confidence of his subjects. To
conspire at such a moment against the honour and life of a miserable and
innocent woman would have occurred to no one who was not a maniac. Rumour
had been busy spreading stories that he was weary of Anne and meant to
part with her; but a few days previously he had dissolved the Parliament
which for seven years had been described as the complacent instrument of
his will. He could not be equally assured of the temper of another,
hastily elected, in the uneasy condition of the public mind; and, without
a Parliament, he could take no action which would affect the succession.
However discontented he might be with his present Queen, the dissolution
of Parliament is a conclusive proof that at the time of Chapuys's visit to
Greenwich he was not contemplating a matrimonial convulsion. Probably, in
spite of all the stories set flowing into Chapuys's long ears by the
ladies of the household, he had resolved to bear his fortune, bad as it
was, and was absolutely ignorant of the revelation which was about to
break upon him. Husbands are proverbially the last to know of their wives'
infidelities; and the danger of bringing charges which could not be
substantiated against a woman in Anne's position would necessarily keep
every lip shut till the evidence could be safely brought forward. Cromwell
appears to have been in possession of important information for many
weeks. The exposure, however, might still have been delayed, but for the
unfavourable answer of the King to the Emperor's advances, which had so
much distressed the advocates of a renewal of the amity. France was now
going to war, and making large offers for the English alliance. Henry,
though his affection for Anne had cooled, still resented the treatment
which he had received from Charles, and had a fair opportunity of
revenging himself. The wisest of his Ministers were against Continental
adventures, and wished him earnestly to accept the return of a friendship
the loss of which had cost the country so dear. But the French faction at
the court, Anne and her relations, and the hot-tempered young men who
surrounded him, were still able to work upon his wounded pride. Could they
plunge the country into war at the side of Francis, they would recover
their ascendancy. Any day might see some fatal step taken which could not
be recovered. Both Anne and Rochford were bold, able, and unscrupulous,
and Cromwell, with a secret in his hand which would destroy them, saw that
the time was come to use it.

That it was not accident which connected the outburst of the storm on
Anne's head with the political negotiations is certain from Cromwell's own
words. He told Chapuys that it was the disappointment which he had felt at
the King's reply to him on the Wednesday after Easter that had led him to
apply the match to the train.

A casual incident came to his assistance. A Privy Councillor, whose name
is not mentioned, having remarked sharply on the light behaviour of a
sister who was attached to the court, the young lady admitted her
offence, but said it was nothing in comparison with the conduct of the
Queen. She bade her brother examine Mark Smeton, a groom of the chamber
and a favourite musician. The Privy Councillor related what he had
heard to two friends of the King, of whom Cromwell must have been one. The
case was so serious that they agreed that the King must be informed. They
told him. He started, changed colour, thanked them, and directed an
inquiry to be held in strict secrecy. The ladies of the bedchamber were
cross-questioned. Lady Worcester was "the first accuser." "Nan
Cobham" and a maid gave other evidence; but "Lady Worcester was the first

Nothing was allowed to transpire to disturb the festivities at Greenwich.
On St. George's Day, April 23, the Queen and her brother received an
intimation that they were in less favour than usual. The Chapter of the
Garter was held. An order was vacant; Anne asked that it should be given
to Lord Rochford, and the request was refused; it was conferred on her
cousin, Sir Nicholas Carew, to her great vexation. In this, however, there
was nothing to alarm her. The next day, the 24th, a secret committee was
appointed to receive depositions, consisting of the Chancellor, the
Judges, Cromwell, and other members of Council; and by this time whispers
were abroad that something was wrong, for Chapuys, writing on the 29th of
April, said that "it would not be Carew's fault if Anne was not out of the
saddle before long, as he had heard that he was daily conspiring against
her and trying to persuade Mistress Seymour and her friends to work her
ruin. Four days ago [i. e. on April 25] Carew and other gentlemen sent
word to the Princess to take courage, as the King was tired of the
Concubine and would not endure her long." Geoffrey Pole, Reginald's
brother, a loose-tongued gentleman, told Chapuys that the Bishop of London
(Stokesley) had been lately asked whether the King could dismiss the
Concubine; the Bishop had declined to give an opinion till the King asked
for it, and even then would not speak till he knew the King's intention.
The Bishop, Chapuys said, was one of the promoters of the first divorce,
and was now penitent, the Concubine and all her family being accursed

Such stories were but surmise and legend. I insert them to omit nothing
which may be construed into an indication of conspiracy. The Commission
meanwhile was collecting facts which grew more serious every day. On
Thursday, the 27th, Sir William Brereton, a gentleman of the King's Privy
Chamber, was privately sent to the Tower, and on the 30th was followed
thither by the musician Smeton. The next morning, the 1st of May, High
Festival was held at Greenwich. A tournament formed a part of the
ceremony, with the Court in attendance. Anne sate in a gallery as Queen of
the day, while her knights broke lances for her, caring nothing for flying
scandal, and unsuspecting the abyss which was opening under her feet. Sir
Henry Norris and Lord Rochford were in the lists as defender and
challenger, when, suddenly, the King rose; the pageant was broken up in
confusion; Henry mounted his horse and, followed by a small train, rode
off for London, taking Norris with him. Sir Henry Norris was one of
Henry's most intimate personal friends. He was his equerry, and often
slept in his room or in an adjoining closet. The inquiries of the
Commission had not yet implicated him as a principal, but it had appeared
that circumstances were known to him which he ought to have revealed. The
King promised to forgive him if he would tell the truth, but the truth was
more than he could dare to reveal. On the following day he, too, was sent
to the Tower, having been first examined before the Commissioners, to
whom--perhaps misled by some similar hope of pardon held out to him by Sir
William Fitzwilliam--he confessed more than it was possible to pardon, and
then withdrew what he had acknowledged. So far, Smeton only had
confessed to "any actual thing," and it was thought the King's honour
would be touched if the guilt of the rest was not proved more clearly.

Anne had been left at Greenwich. On the next morning she was brought
before the Council there, her uncle, the Duke of Norfolk, presiding. She
was informed that she was charged with adultery with various persons. Her
answers, such as they were, the Duke set aside as irrelevant. She
complained afterwards that she had been "cruelly handled" by the Council.
It was difficult not to be what she would consider cruel. She, too, was
conducted up the river to the Tower, where she found that to Smeton and
Brereton and Norris another gentleman of the household, Sir Francis
Weston, had now been added. A small incident is mentioned which preserves
a lost practice of the age. "On the evening of the day on which the
Concubine was sent to the Tower, the Duke of Richmond went to his father
to ask his blessing, according to the English custom. The King said, in
tears, that he, and his sister the Princess, ought to thank God for having
escaped the hands of that woman, who had planned to poison them."

Chapuys made haste to inform the Emperor of the welcome catastrophe. The
Emperor, he said, would recollect the expressions which he had reported as
used by Cromwell regarding the possible separation of the King and the
Concubine. Both he and the Princess had been ever since anxious that such
a separation should be brought about. What they had desired had come to
pass better than any one could have hoped, to the great disgrace of the
Concubine, who, by the judgment of God, had been brought in full daylight
from Greenwich to the Tower, in charge of the Duke of Norfolk and two
chamberlains. Report said it was for continued adultery with a
spinet-player belonging to her household. The player had been committed to
the Tower also, and, after him, Sir H. Norris, the most familiar and
private companion of the King, for not having revealed the matter.

Fresh news poured in as Chapuys was writing. Before closing his despatch
he was able to add that Sir Francis Weston and Lord Rochford were arrested
also. The startling story flew from lip to lip, gathering volume as it
went. Swift couriers carried it to Paris. Viscount Hannaert, the Imperial
Ambassador there, wrote to Granvelle that Anne had been surprised in
bed with the King's organist. In the course of the investigation,
witnesses had come forward to say that nine years previously a marriage
had been made and consummated between Anne and Percy, Earl of
Northumberland. Percy, however, swore, and received the sacrament upon it,
before the Duke of Norfolk and the Archbishops of Canterbury and York,
that no contract or promise of marriage of any kind had passed between
them. Anne's attendants in the Tower had been ordered to note what
she might say. She denied that she was guilty, sometimes with hysterical
passion, sometimes with a flighty levity; but not, so far as her words are
recorded, with the clearness of conscious innocence. She admitted that
with Norris, Weston, and Smeton she had spoken foolishly of their love for
herself, and of what might happen were the King to die. Smeton, on his
second examination, confessed that he had on three several occasions
committed adultery with the Queen. Norris repudiated his admissions to Sir
William Fitzwilliam--what they were is unknown--and offered to maintain
his own innocence and the Queen's with sword and lance. Weston and
Brereton persisted in absolute denial.

Meanwhile the Commission continued to take evidence. A more imposing list
of men than those who composed it could not have been collected in
England. The members of it were the Lord Chancellor, the Duke of Norfolk,
the Duke of Suffolk, Lord Wiltshire, Anne's and Rochford's father, the
Earls of Oxford, Westmoreland, and Sussex, Lord Sandys, Thomas Cromwell,
Sir William Fitzwilliam, the Lord High Admiral, Sir William Paulet, Lord
Treasurer, and nine judges of the courts at Westminster. Before these
persons the witnesses were examined and their depositions written down.
"The confessions," Cromwell wrote afterwards to Gardiner, "were so
abominable that a great part of them were not given in evidence, but were
clearly kept secret."

The alleged offences had been committed in two counties. The Grand Juries
of Kent and Middlesex returned true bills on the case presented to them.
On the 7th of May writs were sent out for a new Parliament, to be chosen
and to meet immediately. The particular charges had been submitted to the
Grand Juries with time, place, and circumstance. The details have been
related by me elsewhere. In general the indictment was that for a
period of more than two years, from within a few weeks after the birth of
Elizabeth to the November immediately preceding, the Queen had repeatedly
committed acts of adultery with Sir Henry Norris, Sir William Brereton,
Sir Francis Weston, Mark Smeton, and her brother Lord Rochford. In every
case the instigation and soliciting were alleged to have been on the
Queen's side. The particulars were set out circumstantially, the time at
which the solicitations were made, how long an interval elapsed between
the solicitation and the act, and when and where the several acts were
committed. Finally it was said that the Queen had promised to marry some
one of these traitors whenever the King depart this life, affirming that
she would never love the King in her heart.

Of all these details evidence of some kind must have been produced before
the Commission, and it was to this that Cromwell referred in his letter to
Gardiner. The accused gentlemen were all of them in situations of trust
and confidence at the court, with easy access to the Queen's person, and,
if their guilt was real, the familiarity to which they were admitted
through their offices was a special aggravation of their offences.

In a court so jealous, and so divided, many eyes were on the watch and
many tongues were busy. None knew who might be implicated, or how far the
Queen's guilt had extended. Suspicion fell on her cousin, Sir Francis
Bryan, who was sharply examined by Cromwell. Suspicion fell also on Anne's
old lover, Sir Thomas Wyatt, Surrey's friend, to whom a letter survives,
written on the occasion by his father, Sir Henry. The old man told his son
he was sorry that he was too ill to do his duty to his King in that
dangerous time when the King had suffered by false traitors. He prayed God
long to give him grace, to be with him and about him that had found out
the matter, and the false traitors to be punished to the example of

Cranmer had been much attached to Anne. The Catholic party being so bitter
against her, she had made herself the patroness of the Protestant
preachers, and had protected them against persecution. The Archbishop had
regarded her as an instrument of Providence, and when the news reached him
of the arrest and the occasion of it he was thunderstruck. He wrote an
anxious and beautiful letter to the King, expressing a warm belief and
hope that the Queen would be able to clear herself. Before he could send
it he was invited to meet the Council in the Star Chamber. On his return
he added a postscript that he was very sorry such faults could be proved
by the Queen as he heard of their relation.

On Friday, the 12th of May, the four commoners were brought up for trial.
The Court sat in Westminster Hall, Lord Wiltshire being on the bench with
the rest. Their guilt, if proved, of course involved the guilt of his
daughter. The prisoners were brought to the bar and the indictment was
read. Smeton pleaded guilty of adultery, but not guilty of the inferential
charge of compassing the death of the King. The other three held to their
denial. Weston was married. His mother and his young wife appeared in
court, "oppressed with grief," to petition for him, offering "rents and
goods" for his deliverance; but it could not avail. The jury found
against them all, and they were sentenced to die. Two letters to Lord and
Lady Lisle from a friend in London convey something of the popular

"John Husee to Lady Lisle.

May 13.

"Madam, I think verily if all the books and chronicles were totally
revolved and to the uttermost persecuted and tried, which against
women hath been penned, contrived, and written since Adam and Eve,
those same were, I think, verily nothing in comparison of that which
hath been done and committed by Anne the Queen, which though I
presume be not all things as it is now rumoured, yet that which hath
been by her confessed, and other offenders with her, by her own
alluring, procurement, and instigation, is so abominable and
detestable, that I am ashamed that any good woman should give ear
thereunto. I pray God give her grace to repent while she now liveth.
I think not the contrary but she and all they shall suffer."

"To Lord Lisle.

Same date.

"Here are so many tales I cannot tell what to write. Some say young
Weston shall scape, and some that none shall die but the Queen and
her brother; others, that Wyatt and Mr. Page are as like to suffer as
the rest. If any escape, it will be young Weston, for whom
importunate suit is made."

Great interest was felt in Sir F. Weston. The appearance of his wife and
mother in court had created general compassion for him. He was young,
rich, accomplished. He was well known in Paris, had been much liked there.
M. d'Intevelle, who had been his friend, hurried over to save him, and the
Bishop of Tarbes, the resident Ambassador, earnestly interceded. Money, if
money could be of use, was ready to be lavished. But like Norris, Weston
had been distinguished by Henry with peculiar favour; and if he had
betrayed the confidence that was placed in him he had nothing to plead
which would entitle him to special mercy. A letter has been preserved,
written by Weston to his family after his sentence, inclosing an inventory
of his debts, which he desired might be paid. If any one can believe,
after reading it, that the writer was about to die for a crime of which
he knew that he was innocent, I shall not attempt to reason with such a

"Father, mother, and wife,

"I shall humbly desire you, for the salvation of my soul, to
discharge me of this bill, and forgive me all the offences that I
have done unto you, and in especial to my wife, which I desire for
the love of God to forgive me and to pray for me; for I believe
prayer will do me good. God's blessing have my children and mine.

"By me, a great offender to God."

On Sunday the 14th a report of the proceedings up to that moment was sent
by Cromwell to Sir John Wallop and Gardiner at Paris. The story, he said,
was now notorious to every one, but he must inform them further how the
truth had been discovered and how the King had proceeded. The Queen's
incontinent living was so rank and common that the ladies of the Privy
Chamber could not conceal it. It came to the ears of some of the Council,
who told his Majesty, though with great fear, as the case enforced.
Certain persons of the household and others who had been about the Queen's
person were examined; and the matter appeared so evident that, besides the
crime, there brake out a certain conspiracy of the King's death, which
extended so far that they that had the examination of it quaked at the
danger his Grace was in, and on their knees gave God laud and praise that
he had preserved him so long from it. Certain men were committed to the
Tower, Mark and Norris, and the Queen's brother. Then she herself was
apprehended; after her, Sir Francis Weston and Brereton. Norris, Weston,
Brereton, and Mark were already condemned to death, having been arraigned
at Westminster on the past Friday. The queen and her brother were to be
arraigned the next day. He wrote no particulars. The things were so
abominable that the like was never heard.

Anne Boleyn was already condemned by implication. The guilt of her
paramours was her own. She herself was next brought to the bar, with her
brother, to be tried by the Peers. The court was held at the Tower.
Norfolk presided as High Steward. Lord Wiltshire was willing to sit, but
the tragedy was terrible enough without further aggravation, and the world
was spared the spectacle of a father taking part in the conviction of his
own children on a charge so hideous. The Earl of Northumberland did sit,
though ill from anxiety and agitation. Twenty-five other Peers took their
places also.

The account of the proceedings is preserved in outline in the official
record; a further detailed description was furnished by Chapuys to the
Emperor, containing new and curious particulars.

On Monday the 15th of May, Chapuys wrote, the Concubine and her brother
were condemned for treason by the principal nobles of England. The Duke of
Norfolk passed sentence, and Chapuys was told that the Earl of Wiltshire
was ready to assist at the trial, as he had done at that of the rest. The
putaine and her brother were not taken to Westminster, as the others had
been, but were brought to the bar at the Tower. No secret was made of it,
however, for over two thousand persons were present. The principal charge
against her was that she had cohabited with her brother and the other
accomplices, that a promise had passed between her and Norris that she
would marry him after the King's decease--a proof that they had desired
his death; that she had exchanged medals with Norris, implying that they
were leagued together; that she had poisoned the late Queen, and intended
to poison the Princess. To most of these charges she returned an
absolute denial; others she answered plausibly, but confessed having given
money to Weston and to other gentlemen. She was likewise charged, and the
brother also, with having ridiculed the King, showing in many ways she had
no love for him, and was tired of her life with him. The brother was
accused of having had connection with his sister. No proof of his guilt
was produced, except that of having been once alone with her for many
hours, and other small follies. He replied so well that many who were
present were betting two to one he would be acquitted.

Another charge against him was that the Concubine had told his wife that
the King was unequal to his duties. This was not read out in court;
it was given to Rochford in writing, with a direction not to make it
public, but to say merely yes or no. To the great annoyance of Cromwell
and others, who did not wish suspicions to be created which might
prejudice the King's issue, Rochford read it aloud.

He was accused also of having used words implying a doubt whether Anne's
daughter was the King's, to which he made no answer.

The brother and sister were tried separately and did not see each other.
The Concubine was sentenced to be burnt alive or beheaded, at the King's
pleasure. When she heard her fate she received it calmly, saying that she
was ready to die, but was sorry that others who were innocent and loyal
should suffer on her account. She begged for a short respite, to dispose
her conscience. The brother said that, since die he must, he would no
longer plead "not guilty," but would confess that he deserved death, and
requested only that his debts might be paid out of his property.

Two days after the trial of the Queen and Rochford, the five gentlemen
suffered on Tower Hill. The Concubine, wrote Chapuys, saw them executed
from the windows of the Tower, to enhance her misery. The Lord Rochford
declared himself innocent of everything with which he was charged,
although he confessed that he had deserved death for having contaminated
himself with the new sects of religion, and for having infected many
others. For this he said that God had justly punished him. He prayed all
the world to keep clear of heresy, and his words would cause the recovery
and conversion of innumerable souls. This is a good instance of
Chapuys's manner, and is a warning against an easy acceptance of his
various stories. It is false that Rochford declared himself innocent of
the adultery. It is false that he said that he deserved death for heresy.
He said nothing--not a word--about heresy. What he did say is correctly
given in Wriothesley's Chronicle, which confirms the report sent from
London to the Regent of the Netherlands. The Spanish writer says that
his address was "muy bien Catolica," but it will be seen that he
carefully avoided a denial of the crime for which he suffered.

"Masters all, I am come hither not to preach a sermon, but to die, as the
law hath found me, and to the law I submit me, desiring you all, and
specially my masters of the Court, that you will trust in God specially,
and not in the vanities of the world; for if I had so done I think I had
been alive as ye be now. Also I desire you to help to the setting forth of
the true Word of God; I have been diligent to read it and set it forth
truly; but if I had been as diligent to observe it and done and lived
thereafter as I was to read it and set it forth, I had not come hereto.
Wherefore I beseech you all to be workers and live thereafter, and not to
read it and live not thereafter. As for my offences, it cannot avail you
to hear them that I die here for; but I beseech God that I may be an
example to you all, and that all you may beware by me, and heartily I
require you all to pray for me and to forgive me if I have offended you,
and I forgive you all, and God save the king."

Of the other four, Smeton and Brereton admitted the justice of their
sentence, Brereton adding that, if he had to die a thousand deaths, he
deserved them all. Norris was almost silent. Weston lamented in general
terms the wickedness of his past life. From not one of the five came the
indignant repudiation of a false accusation which might have been surely
looked for from innocent men, and especially to be looked for when the
Queen's honour was compromised along with theirs.

A Protestant spectator of the execution, a follower of Sir H. Norris, and
a friend and schoolfellow of Brereton, said that at first he and all other
friends of the Gospel had been unable to believe that the Queen had
behaved so abominably. "As he might be saved before God, he could not
believe it, till he heard them speak at their death; but in a manner all
confessed but Mr. Norris, who said almost nothing at all."

Dying men hesitate to leave the world with a lie on their lips. It appears
to me, therefore, that these five gentlemen did not deny their guilt,
because they knew that they were guilty. The unfortunate Anne was still
alive; and while there was life there was hope. A direct confession on
their part would have been a confession for her as well as themselves, and
they did not make it; but, if they were really innocent, that they should
have suffered as they did without an effort to clear themselves or her is
one more inexplicable mystery in this extraordinary story.

Something even more strange was to follow.

At her trial Anne had been "unmoved as a stone, and had carried herself as
if she was receiving some great honour." She had been allowed a chair, and
had bowed to the Peers as she took her seat. She said little, "but her
face spoke more than words, and no one to look on her would have thought
her guilty." "She protested that she had not misconducted herself." When
Norfolk delivered sentence her face did not change. She said merely that
she would not dispute the judgment, but appealed to God. Smeton had
repeated his own confession on the scaffold. She turned pale when she was
told of it. "Did he not acquit me of the infamy he has laid on me?" she
said. "Alas, I fear his soul will suffer for it!"

But she had asked for time to prepare her conscience and for spiritual
help; she called herself a Lutheran, and on the Tuesday, the day after her
trial, Cranmer went to the Tower to hear her confession. She then told the
Archbishop something which, if true, invalidated her marriage with the
King; if she had not been his wife, her intrigues were not technically
treason, and Cranmer perhaps gave her hope that this confession might save
her, for she said afterwards to Sir William Kingston that she expected to
be spared and would retire into a nunnery. The confession, whatever
it might be, was produced on the following day by the Archbishop sitting
judicially at Lambeth, and was there considered by three
ecclesiastical lawyers, who gave as their opinion that she had never been
the King's lawful wife, and this opinion was confirmed by the Chancellor,
the Duke of Suffolk, the Earl of Oxford, and a committee of bishops. The
confession itself belonged to the secrets which Cromwell described as "too
abominable to be made known," and was never published. The judgment of the
Archbishop itself was ratified on the 28th of June by the two Houses of
Convocation. It was laid before Parliament and was made the basis of a new
arrangement of the succession. But the Statute merely says "that God, from
whom no secret things could be hid, had caused to be brought to light
evident and open knowledge of certain impediments unknown at the making of
the previous Act, and since that time confessed by the Lady Anne before
the Archbishop of Canterbury, sitting judicially for the same, whereby it
appeared that the marriage was never good nor consonant to the laws."

Conjecture was, of course, busy over so singular a mystery. Some said that
the Archbishop had declared Elizabeth to have been Norris's bastard, and
not the daughter of the King. Others revived the story of Henry's supposed
intrigue with Anne's sister, Mary, and Chapuys added a story which even he
did not affect to believe, agreeable as it must have been to him. "Many
think," he said, "that the Concubine had become so audacious in vice,
because most of the new bishops had persuaded her that she need not go to
confession; and that, according to the new sect, it was lawful to seek aid
elsewhere, even from her own relations, when her husband was not able to
satisfy her." The Wriothesley Chronicle says positively that, on the
17th of May, in the afternoon, at a solemn court kept at Lambeth by the
Archbishop of Canterbury and the doctors of the law, the King was divorced
from his wife, Queen Anne; and there at the same court was a privy
contract approved that she had made to the Earl of Northumberland, afore
the King's time, and so she was discharged, and was never lawful Queen of

There are difficulties in accepting either of these conjectures. Chapuys,
like Dr. Lingard after him, decided naturally for the hypothesis most
disgraceful to the King. The Mary Boleyn story, authoritatively confirmed,
at once covered Henry's divorce process with shame, and established the
superior claim of Mary to the succession. But in the Act of
Parliament the cause is described as something unknown in 1533, when the
first Statute was passed: and the alleged intrigue had then been the
common subject of talk in Catholic circles and among the Opposition
members of Parliament. The Act says that the cause was a fact confessed
by the Lady Anne. The Lady Anne might confess her own sins, but her
confession of the sins of others was not a confession at all, and could
have carried no validity unless supported by other evidence. Chapuys's
assertion requires us to suppose that Henry, being informed of Anne's
allegation, consented to the establishment of his own disgrace by making
it the subject of a legal investigation; that he thus himself allowed a
crime to be substantiated against him which covered him with infamy, and
which no other attempt was ever made to prove. How did Chapuys know that
this was the cause of the divorce of Anne? If it was communicated to
Parliament, it must have become the common property of the realm, and have
been no longer open to question. If it was not communicated, but was
accepted by Parliament, itself on the authority of the Council, who were
Chapuys's informants, and how did they know? Under Chapuys's hypothesis
the conduct of King, Council, Parliament, and Convocation becomes
gratuitous folly--folly to which there was no temptation and for which
there was no necessity. The King had only to deny the truth of the story,
and nothing further would have been made of it. The real evidence for the
liaison with Mary Boleyn is the ineradicable conviction of a certain
class of minds that the most probable interpretation of every act of Henry
is that which most combines stupidity and wickedness. To argue such a
matter is useless. Those who believe without reason cannot be convinced by

The Northumberland explanation is less improbable, but to this also there
are many objections. Northumberland himself had denied on oath, a few days
before, that any contract had ever passed between Anne and himself. If he
was found to have perjured himself, he would have been punished, or, at
least, disgraced; yet, a few months later, in the Pilgrimage of Grace, he
had the King's confidence, and deserved it by signal loyalty. The Norris
story is the least unlikely. The first act of criminality with Anne
mentioned in the indictment was stated to have been committed with Norris
four weeks after the birth of Elizabeth, and the intimacy may have been
earlier; while the mystery observed about it may be better accounted for,
since, if it had been avowed, Elizabeth's recognition as the King's
daughter would have made ever after impossible, and the King did believe
that she was really his own daughter.

But here, again, there is no evidence. The explanation likeliest of all is
that it was something different from each of these--one of the confessions
which had been kept back as "too abominable." It is idle to speculate on
the antecedents of such a woman as Anne Boleyn.

If she had expected that her confession would save her, she was mistaken.
To marry a king after a previous unacknowledged intrigue was in those days
constructive treason, since it tainted the blood royal. The tragedy
was wound up on Friday, the 19th of May; the scene was the green in front
of the Tower. Foreigners were not admitted, but the London citizens had
collected in great numbers, and the scaffold had been built high that
everyone might see. The Chancellor, the Duke of Suffolk, the young Duke
of Richmond--then himself sick to death--Cromwell, and other members of
the Council, were present by the King's order. Throughout the previous day
Anne had persisted in declaring her innocence. In the evening she had been
hysterical, had talked and made jokes. The people would call her "Queen
Anne sans tete," she said, and "laughed heartily." In the morning at
nine o'clock she was led out by Sir William Kingston, followed by four of
her ladies. She looked often over her shoulder, and on the fatal platform
was much "amazed and exhausted."

When the time came for her to speak, she raised her eyes to heaven and
said, "Masters, I submit me to the law, as the law has judged me, and as
for my offences, I accuse no man. God knoweth them. I remit them to God,
beseeching him to have mercy on my soul. I beseech Jesu save my sovereign
and master, the King, the most godly, noble, and gentle Prince there
is." She then laid her head on the block and so ended; she, too,
dying without at the last denying the crime for which she suffered. Of the
six who were executed not one made a protestation of innocence. If
innocent they were, no similar instance can be found in the history of

Next: Competition For Henry's Hand

Previous: Likelihood Of A Separation Of The King From Anne

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