On this day in 1515 – Mary Tudor and Charles Brandon officially married

Mary Tudor and Charles Brandon were officially married on 13th May 1515 after Mary was widowed following her marriage to King Louis XII of France.

It is believed that Mary and Charles were already in love when her marriage to the King of France was arranged by her brother Henry VIII. Mary was originally betrothed to the future Holy Roman Emperor, Charles in 1507 but following a change in allegiance Henry broke off the arrangement and began negotiating with France with the aid of Cardinal Wolsey. At the age of 18 Mary was sent to France to marry the 52 year old King, with a deal in place that Mary would do her duty by marrying Louis but when he dies Mary would be able to choose her next husband.

When the elderly King died in January 1515 negotiations began to bring Mary back to England. Henry had charged his closest friend with escorting his sister home under the promise that he would not propose to the Dowager Queen of France. One reason for this is that Henry was keen to see Mary return to England with the jewels and gold plate that the old King had promised his wife along with her substantial dowry.

Mary would confide her feelings in the new King of France, Francis I, about Brandon and he set about arranging the first meeting when Brandon landed on French soil. Francis saw that if Mary and Brandon married then Henry would not be able to use her as a political pawn by marrying her to the future Holy Roman Emperor, as she was originally suppose to.

On 5th March 1515 in a small chapel in Palais de Cluny, Mary Tudor and Charles Brandon married in secret, essentially Brandon had committed treason as they did not have the permission of the King to marry a Princess. The Privy Council called for Brandon to be imprisoned or even executed and it was only when Cardinal Wolsey intervened did Henry begin to calm down. Henry was close to both his sister and Brandon and so let the couple of with a heavy fine. The fine was £24,000, paid in yearly instalments of £1,000, along with Mary’s dowry from Louis of £200,000 and the gold plate and jewels that were given to her by her late husband.

The couple were officially married on 13th May 1515 at Greenwich Hall with Henry VIII and Katherine of Aragon in attendance, a feast and celebration followed but it was deemed a family affair. They would go on to have four children, two daughters and two sons.

Mary Tudor and Charles Brandon

On this day in 1536 – Sir Henry Norris, Sir Francis Weston, Sir William Brereton and Mark Smeaton all stood trial accused of treason

On 12th May 1536 Sir Henry Norris, Sir Francis Weston, Sir William Brereton and Mark Smeaton all stood trial just two days after it was announced that there was sufficient evidence of their alleged guilt. George Boleyn and his sister, Queen Anne Boleyn were to stand trial separately as they were members of the aristocracy and therefore was to be tried at the court of the Lord High Steward of England by a jury of their peers.

The four men were taken by boat to Westminster Hall where they were greeted by a jury that included Sir Thomas Boleyn, Sir William Fitzwilliam, William Askew, Edward Willoughby, William Musgrave, Sir Giles Alington, Anthony Hungerford, Walter Hungerford, William Sidney, Sir John Hampden, Richard Tempest, Robert Dormer and Thomas Palmer. These men were people who held a grudge against the Queen, were in Cromwell’s debt and even relatives of the Boleyn’s including the Queen’s own father.

There is no longer any evidence of what occurred in these trials. However, documented in the Letters and Papers was;

Noreys, Bryerton, Weston, and Smeton were brought up in the custody of the constable of the Tower, when Smeton pleaded guilty of violation and carnal knowledge of the Queen, and put himself in the King’s mercy. Noreys, Bryerton, and Weston pleaded Not Guilty, and that they have no lands, goods or chattels.

Judgement against all four as in cases of treason; execution to be at Tyburn.”

Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, volume 10 January – June 1536

Alongside the above piece of evidence we also have a letter that the Imperial Ambassador, Eustace Chapuys, wrote to the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V. Chapuys wrote regularly to the emperor to keep him informed of what was occurring in England and regarding the trial he wrote;

“On the 11th were condemned as traitors Master Noris, the King’s chief butler, (sommelier de corps) Master Ubaston (Weston), who used to lie with the King, Master Bruton (Brereton), gentleman of the Chamber, and the groom (varlet de chambre), of whom I wrote to your Majesty by my man. Only the groom confessed that he had been three times with the said putain and Concubine. The others were condemned upon presumption and certain indications, without valid proof or confession.”

The defendants were not entitled to counsel and therefore did not know what evidence would be presented to the jury. This one move meant that the accused were not able to build up a defence to the accusations that were being thrown at them, all they could do is react as the evidence was being read out. All but Mark Smeaton declared that they were not guilty and Smeaton pleaded guilty to one count of adultery, however, it is probable that Smeaton’s confession was extracted through means of torture.

It is likely that the verdict was already reached before the accused even stepped in front of the jury even so all four were declared guilty of high treason and were sentenced to be hung, drawn and quartered at Tyburn. However, because all four were in service of the King the sentence was commuted to beheading.

Westminster Hall

On this day in 1560 – Doctor Thomas Wendy died

Doctor Thomas Wendy was born in May 1500 in Suffolk. He had a modest upbringing and undertook an art degree which he completed in 1522.

Wendy went to study medicine most likely in Italy when he returned to England in 1527 where he returned to Cambridgeshire and at some point in his early life was president of Gonville Hall, Cambridge.

Wendy’s medical career quickly took off with the majority of his patients coming from the nobility. He was employed by Henry Percy, 5th Earl of Northumberland in July 1534. Along with being the family’s medical practitioner he also performed many other tasks for Percy which included carrying letters to and from Thomas Cromwell.

In October 1546 Wendy was appointed as Queen Catherine Parr’s physician, not only did he have a strong reputation he also had Protestant sympathies. Wendy also went on to be the physician for King Henry VIII and attended the King on his deathbed. His close relationship with the King meant that Wendy was one of the witnesses to the King’s last will and testament, in which he received £100 from the King.

On 22nd December 1551 Wendy was admitted to the College of Physician and he also served as a Member of Parliament for St Albans in 1554 and Cambridgeshire 1555.

With his reputation for serving the King and Queen, Wendy was reappointed as royal physician in March 1547 to King Edward VI. At the same time Wendy began a career in public service he also began extending his property holdings, in September 1547 he took a 30 year lease on the Bishop of Hereford’s mansion near Old Fish Street, London and in January 1549 he purchased ex-chantry land in Cambridgeshire and Essex. Over his life he also bought manors and properties in Hertfordshire and many more lands in Cambridgeshire.

King Edward VI died at just the age of 15 Wendy was to attend the young King on his deathbed, however, despite his hard work the King passed away.

Wendy went on to be Queen Mary’s physician and most likely attended her during her phantom pregnancies up until her death. Making Mary, the third monarch to die under Wendy’s care. He was reappointed to serve Queen Elizabeth but died in London on 11th May 1560. He was buried at his home in Haslingfield.


On this day in 1536 – Giles Heron announced their was sufficient evidence to charge Queen Anne Boleyn

On 10th May 1536 Giles Heron, the foreman of the Grand Jury of Middlesex announced that they believed that there was sufficient evidence that Queen Anne Boleyn, George Boleyn, Sir Henry Norris, Sir Francis Weston, Sir William Brereton and Mark Smeaton could all stand trial on the charges of treason.

Anne Boleyn was accused of adultery with the co-accused, including her own brother, conspiring to have the King killed and marry one of her lovers. Each of the men accused were charged with adultery with the Queen and helping her to plot against the King’s life.

Giles Heron announced that the six should be indicted and sent to trial and wrote down his thoughts and the alleged evidence in his indictment;

“Indictment found at Westminster on Wednesday next after three weeks of Easter, 28 Hen. VIII. before Sir John Baldwin, etc., by the oaths of Giles Heron, Roger More, Ric. Awnsham, Thos. Byllyngton, Gregory Lovell, Jo. Worsop, Will. Goddard, Will. Blakwall, Jo. Wylford, Will. Berd, Hen. Hubbylthorn, Will. Hungyng, Rob. Walys, John England, Hen, Lodysman, and John Averey; who present that whereas queen Anne has been the wife of Henry VIII. for three years and more, she, despising her marriage, and entertaining malice against the King, and following daily her frail and carnal lust, did falsely and traitorously procure by base conversations and kisses, touching, gifts, and other infamous incitations, divers of the King’s daily and familiar servants to be her adulterers and concubines, so that several of the King’s servants yielded to her vile provocations; viz., on 6th Oct. 25 Hen. VIII., at Westminster, and divers days before and after, she procured, by sweet words, kisses, touches, and otherwise, Hen. Noreys, of Westminster, gentle man of the privy chamber, to violate her, by reason whereof he did so at Westminster on the 12th Oct. 25 Hen. VIII.; and they had illicit intercourse at various other times, both before and after, sometimes by his procurement, and sometimes by that of the Queen.

Also the Queen, 2 Nov. 27 Hen. VIII. and several times before and after, at Westminster, procured and incited her own natural brother, Geo. Boleyn, lord Rocheford, gentleman of the privy chamber, to violate her, alluring him with her tongue in the said George’s mouth, and the said George’s tongue in hers, and also with kisses, presents, and jewels; whereby he, despising the commands of God, and all human laws, 5 Nov. 27 Hen VIII., violated and carnally knew the said Queen, his own sister, at Westminster; which he also did on divers other days before and after at the same place, sometimes by his own procurement and sometimes by the Queen’s.

Also the Queen, 3 Dec. 25 Hen. VIII., and divers days before and after, at Wesminster, procured one Will. Bryerton, later of Westminster, gentleman of the privy chamber, to violate her, whereby he did so on 8 Dec. 25 Hen.VIII., at Hampton Court, in the parish of Lytel Hampton, and on several other days before and after, sometimes by his own procurement and sometimes by the Queen’s.

Also the Queen, 8 May 26 Hen. VIII., and at other times before and since, procured Sir Fras. Weston, of Westminster, gentleman of the privy chamber, etc., whereby he did so on the 20 May, etc. Also the Queen, 12 April 26 Hen. VIII., and divers days before and since, at Westminster, procured Mark Smeton, groom of the privy chamber, to violate her, whereby he did so at Westminster, 26 April 27 Hen. VIII.

Moreover, the said lord Rocheford, Norreys, Bryerton, Weston, and Smeton, being thus inflamed with carnal love of the Queen, and having become very jealous of each other, gave her secret gifts and pledges while carrying on this illicit intercourse; and the Queen, on her part, could not endure any of them to converse with any other women, without showing great displeasure; and on the 27 Nov. 27 Hen. VIII., and other days before and after, at Westminster, she gave them great gifts to encourage them in their crimes. And further the said Queen and these other traitors, 31 Oct. 27 Hen. VIII., at Westminster, conspired the death and destruction of the King, the Queen often saying she would marry one of them as soon as the King died, and affirming that she would never love the King in her heart. And the King having a short time since become aware of the said abominable crimes and treasons against himself, took such inward displeasure and heaviness, especially from his said Queen’s malice and adultery, that certain harms and perils have befallen his royal body.

And thus the said Queen and the other traitors aforesaid have committed their treasons in contempt of the Crown, and of the issue and heirs of the said King and Queen.”

Anne Boleyn

On this day in 1509 – King Henry VII’s body was taken to St Paul’s

On 9th May 1509 King Henry VII’s body was taken to St Paul’s where he lay in state until his chapel was ready at Westminster Abbey where he would lie with his wife, Elizabeth of York.

An account by James Peller Malcolm in Londinium redivivum stated;

“On the 9th of May, 1509, the body of Henry VII. Was placed in a chariot, covered with black cloth of gold, which was drawn by five spirited horses, whose trappings were of black velvet, adorned with quishions of gold. The effigies of his Majesty lay upon the corpse, dressed in his regal habiliments. The carriage had suspended on it banners of arms, titles, and pedigrees. A number of prelates preceded the body, who were followed by the deceased king’s servants; after it were nine mourners. Six hundred men bearing torches surrounded the chariot.

The chariot was met in St George’s Fields by all the priests and clergy of London and its neighbourhood; and at London Bridge by the Lord Mayor, aldermen, and common council, in black. To render this awful scene sublimely grand, the way was lined with children, who held burning tapers: those, with the flashes of great torches, who red rays, darting in every direction upon glittering objects, and embroidered copes, showing the solemn pace, uplifted eyes and mournful countenances, must have formed a noble picture. The slow, monotonous notes of the chaunt, mixed with the sonorous tones of the great bells, were not less grateful to the ear. When the body had arrived at St Pauls, which was superbly illuminated, it was taken from the chariot and carried to the choir, where it was placed beneath a hearse arrayed with all the accompaniments of death. A solemn mass and dirge were then sung, and a sermon preached by the Bishop of Rochester. It rested all night in the church. On the following day the procession recommenced in the same mannor, except that Sir Edward Howard rode before, on a fine charger, clothed with drapery on which was the king’s arms.

We will now suppose him removed by six lords from his chariot to the hearse prepared for him, formed by nine pillars, set full of burning tapers, enclosed by a double railing; view him placed under it, and his effigies on a rich pall of gold; close to him the nine mourners; near them knights bearing banners of saints, and surrounded by officers of arms. The prelates, abbot, prior, and convent, and priests, in measured paces, silently taking their places; when breaking through the awful pause, Garter King-at-Arms cried, with an audible voice, ‘Pray for the soul of the noble prince, Henry the Seventh, late king of this realm.’ A deep peal from the organ and choir answers in a chaunt of placebo and the dirge; the sounds die away, and with them the whole assembly retires.”

Henry VII tomb

On this day in 1508 – Charles Wriothesley was born

Charles Wriothesley was born on 8th May 1508 to Thomas Wriothesley and his wife Jane. Thomas Wriothesley was a Garter King of Arms at the College of Arms, London. Wriothesley uncle, William, also served here as a York Herald.

Born in London, at the age of three his family moved into Garter House, a self built home by his father to show the family’s rise to power and Wriothesley was sent to Cambridge to study law at Trinity Hall.

In 1524 a junior officer of arms (a pursuivant) was promoted to replace a senior role after the death of a herald. So at just 16 years old Wriothesley was appointed Rouge Croix Pursuivant with the posting being made official with a salary of £10 a year and letters patent being signed on 29th May 1525. In addition to this post Wriothesley was also studying to become a lawyer and in 1529 he became a gentleman of Gray’s Inn.

In 1532 Wriothesley was part of the ceremony that saw Anne Boleyn appointed as Marquess of Pembroke and he also attended her coronation the following year.

Wriothesley’s father, Thomas died on 24th November 1534 and the College of Arms saw a set of promotions to fill the empty position of Garter King of Arms. Wriothesley became Windsor Herald of Arms in Ordinary a position he would hold until 1562. Wriothesley was passed over many times for promotion to the position he sought most, Garter King of Arms, the same position his father and grandfather held.

Wriothesley was the author of the chronicle that is now referred to as Wriothesley’s Chronicle. The only existing copy is a transcript made in the early 17th Century with the original being lost.

Wriothesley died at his London home on 25th January 1562 and his fellow heralds financed his funeral. With no will to bequeath his belongings they were sold off, mostly to Gilbert Dethick. Wriothesley was buried in St Sepulchre-without-Newgate.


Parliament in the 16th Century – How Members of Parliament were elected to the Commons

To be elected a Member of Parliament in the 16th Century was different to what we know today. There were no polls for the inhabitants of towns to cast their votes instead things were different.

Parliament was only held when called together by the Crown, who was also the only one who had the authority to end it. Parliament was a lot more occasional than the King’s Council which was in court throughout the year. Henry VII only held seven Parliaments’ over the space of 24 years and Henry VIII held nine in 37 years on the throne. One of Henry VIII’s Parliaments’ sat for seven sessions before being dissolved. The reason for Henry VIII holding a lot more Parliaments’ was due to the Reformation and the need to pass laws to recognise Henry as the head of the church. Continuing on from Henry VIII, his son, Edward only held two Parliaments’ over his short reign of six years. Mary held five Parliaments’ over four years and finally in the 45 years on the throne Elizabeth held ten Parliaments’ over 13 sessions. Each session could vary in length from just a couple of days to weeks on end.

Each Parliament had a unique reason for being called from Henry VIII’s Reformation needs to Elizabeth needing to raise funds to support the defence of the country against the Spanish Armada. England could not go to war without the support of Parliament as the Crown could not fund a war on their own without the aid of additional funds from taxes.

In the commons there were 310 seats these were made up of 74 Knights of the shire and then 236 burgesses that represented the 117 parliamentary boroughs. It was normal that each borough sent two representatives with the exception of London who had four.

With each borough sending two representatives how were they chosen if not by public polling? In many boroughs influence was a key factor. Many boroughs were within the influence of the King as he had control over the electorate but in other areas if there was a major noble family had control of large portions of land then they would represent the borough. If there was no influential family then merchants or members of guild families were selected. In some cases though the position was almost hereditary with it being passed down the male line of a family.

Some boroughs did hold a type of election but only a select few were able to vote. In London, two of the four M.P.s were named by the aldermen and the other two by the common council. However, in York, M.P.s were decided by election and the only ones eligible to vote were the mayor, aldermen, sheriffs and a council made up of 24 men.

With the Commons in session they were able to oppose acts as well as pass them. Some notable acts that were opposed during Henry VIII’s reign were the Annates Act, the Royal Supremacy and Treasons Act and the Proclamations Act. Although they were opposed initially they eventually went through and they were sometimes modified in order to appease the Commons. During Elizabeth’s reign Parliament were unsuccessful in getting Elizabeth to name a successor but did secure the execution of Mary Queen of Scots.

It was not uncommon for the monarch to attend Parliament; they were viewed as the Manager of Parliament. Henry VIII attended on three or four occasions and Elizabeth attended at times but preferred to send messages or even began rumours if certain topics would displease her, such as talk of her successor.

by Joseph Sympson (Simpson), line engraving, probably 18th century

Book review – Lady Katherine Knollys: The Unacknowledged Daughter of Henry VIII by Sarah-Beth Watkins.

The paternity of Lady Katherine Knollys and her brother Henry Carey have long been discussed and debated by historians and enthusiasts alike. Were they the children of Mary Boleyn’s husband William Carey or were they in fact the illegitimate children of King Henry VIII?

Lady Katherine Knollys: The Unacknowledged Daughter of Henry VIII looks at the life of Mary’s daughter and how she grew up in close proximity to the Tudor court and her alleged family.

The book begins with a look at Katherine’s mother, Mary, and her upbringing starting with her time in France in the service of Mary Tudor and her introduction to the Tudor court. It wasn’t long before Mary caught the eye of the King of England and became his mistress at the same time Mary was also married to William Carey. Between being a wife and a mistress to the most powerful man in England any children that were born from her relationship with Henry they would be brought up as her husband’s. Watkins puts forward a strong and easy to understand reason as to why William would be declared their father along with why Katherine would be Henry’s daughter.

If Katherine was Henry’s child then why didn’t he recognise her like he did with his illegitimate son Henry Fitzroy? As Watkins so eloquently puts forward Katherine wasn’t a boy and so would have served no purpose for Henry another reason was that it was not long after Katherine’s birth that Henry began pursuing her mother’s sister, Anne. If Katherine was formally recognised as Henry’s daughter then any children he would have with Anne would be illegitimate due to his past relationship so as it is put forward here it was better to not acknowledge her.

Sarah-Beth Watkins talks through the relationship between Henry and Anne but places the Carey children at the centre of it. With Anne providing for Henry Carey and Katherine at home with her mother where she stayed until she was placed in the new household of Princess Elizabeth. This would be the start of a close relationship that would survive until Katherine’s death.

Watkins has done a great job including many letters and diary entries regarding events that were close to Katherine’s life these add great insight into the type of life Katherine would have had.

Watkins continues through Katherine’s adolescence as a companion to Elizabeth, her mother’s marriage to her new husband William Stafford that caused outrage within her own family and the breakdown of Anne’s marriage with Henry that led to Anne’s execution.

Henry declared Elizabeth illegitimate after Anne’s execution and Katherine was sent to court to serve as maid of honour to Anne of Cleves, a position that was highly sought after and an honour to serve the new Queen. Watkins puts forward the suggestion that Henry was always looking after Katherine and placed her in prestigious roles that would allow him to provide for her.

Watkins navigates the reader and Katherine through the ups and downs of Henry’s court until Katherine marries Francis Knollys and begins her family away from court. Upon her marriage her new husband was well rewarded as well, was this again Henry quietly looking after his family?

Watkins also talks about Katherine’s brother Henry as well and his paternity. Anne provided an education for her nephew at the prestigious Syon Abbey, where the young Henry Carey’s paternity was called into question where his likeness to the King was a talking point. Again Watkins reinforces that Henry was potentially the father to both Carey children but also points out that those that spoke about Carey’s resemblance to the King as words from the anti Boleyn faction who were always out to discredit Henry’s second wife.

The last half of Watkins book covers Katherine’s adult life after the death of her mother, Mary. Katherine and Francis had 14 children and mostly lived away from court until Henry’s death in 1547. With Edward VI on the throne Francis Knollys was knighted and Katherine was now able to go by Lady Knollys.

Life was great for Katherine and the Knollys family. That is until Mary took the throne, with Watkins showing how Katherine was brought up in a detailed and easy to follow manner it is easy to see how her later life was influenced by her upbringing as a Protestant. Being a Protestant meant that they were a target for Mary and the persecution that followed. Watkins shows how the Knollys were forced the flee England for the continent. Katherine and Elizabeth remained in constant communication with Elizabeth writing to Katherine before she left the country. By including the letters it gives an insight into the unique relationship the potential sisters had. With that the Knollys left England and fled to Frankfurt.

Watkins really shows how close the future Queen and Katherine were and with that the book moves into Queen Elizabeth’s reign and how she bought the exiled Protestants home including her closest friend, Katherine. Watkins goes on to show just how much Elizabeth relied on Katherine and how valued Katherine was. Watkins goes to explain how Elizabeth surrounded herself with family but that she could still not acknowledge Katherine as her sister as she would be illegitimate so instead Katherine and Henry were cousins and richly rewarded for it.

As Katherine was moving towards the end of her life Watkins talks about a significant event that happened, Sir Francis was asked to be a custodian of Mary Queen of Scots but Elizabeth would not allow Katherine to go with him. Watkins again includes letters from Francis to Lord Cecil asking to visit his wife time and again. These letters that have been included show how much Katherine meant to her husband.

With the death of Katherine Watkins shows how not only Francis dealt with her death but also Elizabeth who had lost possibly her cousin and companion, if not sister.

Watkins could have easily have left the book with Katherine’s death but she talks about Katherine’s children and their life’s particularly focusing on Lettice Knollys and her marriage to Sir Robert Dudley to the anger of the Queen. Each of the Knollys children are talked about even if there is little to know, this is a great inclusion as it shows the legacy of the Carey and Knollys name.

Watkins has put together a clear and concise account of Lady Katherine Knollys and how she fitted into the court around her with her uncertain parentage. If she was the daughter of Henry VIII then she had a life that was a step away from her siblings who were in and out of the succession and legitimacy. Katherine’s life is an interesting one that often gets overlooked so it is great to see a book dedicated to her in an easy to follow way that includes the key events of her lifetime.

Lady Katherine KnollysLady Katherine Knollys: The Unacknowledged Daughter of Henry VIII by Sarah-Beth Watkins is available now and is published by Chronos Books

On this day in 1567 – James Hepburn, Earl of Bothwell and Jean Gordon were divorce

James Hepburn, 4th Earl of Bothwell was born in 1534 and was the son of Scottish nobility Patrick Hepburn, Earl of Bothwell and his wife Agnes.

In 1559 Bothwell was travelling around Europe and found himself in Copenhagen where he met and fell in love with Anna Tronds, the daughter of Kristoffer Trondson, a Norwegian admiral serving in the Danish court. The couple were engaged and they left Copenhagen with Bothwell being given a dowry for Anna of 40,000 Talar. Bothwell ran into financial difficulties in Flanders and asked his betrothed to sell her possessions and ask her family for money to help him; Bothwell left Anna behind in Flanders and returned to Scotland.

Upon his return to Scotland at the request of Mary Queen of Scots, Bothwell was married to Jean Gordon, in a Protestant ceremony, despite Jean being Catholic. Queen Mary was in favour of the marriage and gifted Jean a cloth of silver and white taffeta for her wedding gown.

Lady Jean was rumoured to be seriously ill and in February 1567 her death had been prematurely announced. In fact later in the year on 3rd May 1567 she began divorce proceedings against Bothwell. It was alleged that Bothwell had committed adultery with one of her maids, Bessie Crawford, with the incidents taking place at Haddington Abbey and Crichton Castle.

On 7th May the marriage of Bothwell and Jean was formally annulled by the Consistorial Court of St Andrew. The annulment was presided over by Archbishop Hamilton, who was, like Jean, a Catholic. It was granted as it was agreed a dispensation was not received. In fact a dispensation had been given by Archbishop Hamilton himself.

Just eight days after the divorce had been granted Bothwell married Mary Queen of Scots.

James Hepburn Jean Gordon

On this day in 1536 – Anne Boleyn wrote a letter to Henry VIII from the Tower of London

On 6th May 1536 a letter was sent to King Henry VIII allegedly from Anne Boleyn, the letter was found amongst Cromwell’s belongings after his execution. It is unsure whether the letter was in fact from the Queen or someone else. The controversy comes from the fact that the letter was not in Anne’s handwriting, which is documented elsewhere. There are many arguments for and against whether the letter came from Anne herself. It could easily be explained away that Cromwell had made a copy of the letter and that the letter was different in tone as Anne was bargaining for her life. Others believe that the letter was a forgery and written during the reign of her daughter, Queen Elizabeth I.

Anne’s letter read as follows

To the King from the Lady in the Tower

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 bought 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 myself 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 another subject.

You have chosen me, from a low estate, to be your Queen and companion, far beyond my desert or desire. If then you found me worthy of such honour, good your Grace, let not any light fancy, or bad counsel of mine enemies, withdraw your princely favour from me; neither let that stain, that unworthy stain of a disloyal heart towards your good Grace, ever cast so foul a blot on your most dutiful wife, and the infant Princess your daughter.

Try me, good King, but let me have a lawful trial, and let not my sworn enemies sit as my accusers and judges; yes, let me receive an open trial, for my truth shall fear no open shame; then shall you see, either mine innocency cleared, your suspicion and conscience satisfied, the ignominy and slander of the world stopped, or my guilt openly declared. So that whatsoever God or you ,ay determine of me, your Grace may be freed from an open censure; and mine offense being so lawfully proved, your Grace is at liberty, both before God and man, not only to execute worthy punishment on me as an unlawful wife, but to follow your affection already settled on that party, for whose sake I am now as I am, whose name I could some good while since have pointed unto: Your Grace being not ignorant of my suspicion therein.

But if you have already determined of me, and that not only my death, but an infamous slander must bring you the enjoying of your desired happiness; then I desire of God, that he will pardon your great sin therein, and likewise mine enemies, the instruments thereof; that he will not call you to a strict account for your unprincely and cruel usage of me, at his general judgement-seat, where both you and my self must shortly appear, and in whose judgement, I doubt not, (whatsoever the world may think of me) mine innocence shall be openly known, and sufficiently cleared.

My last and only request shall be, that my self may only bear the burthen of your Grace’s displeasure, and that it may not touch the innocent souls of those poor gentlemen, who (as I understand) are likewise in strait imprisonment for my sake. If ever I have found favour in your sight; if ever the name of Anne Boleyn hath been pleasing to your ears, then let me obtain this request; and I will so leave to trouble your Grace any further, with mine earnest prayers to the trinity o have your Grace in his good keeping, and to direct you in all your actions.

Your most loyal and ever faithful wife

Anne Bullen

Anne Boleyns letter