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