Category Archives: Anne Boleyn

Book review – Anne Boleyn’s Letter from the Tower: A new assessment by Sandra Vasoli.

Anne Boleyn’s final days were spent in the Tower of London after being arrested and accused of adultery. Alone and desperate to inform her husband, King Henry VIII, of her innocence on 6th May 1536 she wrote a letter to the King in the hope that he would forgive her. It read;

“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 your Grace ever imagine that your poor Wife will ever be brought 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 my self 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 some other 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 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 Igominy and Slander of the World stopped, or my Guilt openly declared. So that whatsoever God or you may determine of me, your Grace may be freed from an open Censure; and mine Offence 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 o a strict Account for your unprincely and cruel usage of me, at his General Judgement-Seat, where both of 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 to have your Grace in his good keeping, and to direct you in all your Actions.

Your most Loyal and ever Faithful Wife, Anne Bullen

From my doleful Prison the Tower, this 6th of May.”

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The origins of this one letter has been discussed and debated for years. Did Anne Boleyn really write this? Why was it found amongst the papers of Thomas Cromwell after his execution? Did King Henry VIII ever read the letter or even regret sending Anne to her death? Well Sandra Vasoli has sent about re-examining the letter and found some compelling new evidence that could potentially answer the question of whether Henry regretted his actions or not.

Sandra begins by taking us through a brief history of Anne’s relationship with Henry and the breakdown of their marriage which resulted in Anne’s imprisonment in the Tower of London. We also see the rivalry between Anne and Thomas Cromwell.

Sandra also provides what happened to the letter after Anne had written it and how it ended up in the possession of Robert Bruce Cotton and eventually the British Library. The story of the letter’s journey is incredible and Cotton’s collection also included the letters from to Thomas Cromwell from William Kingston regarding Anne’s behaviour during her time in the Tower.

The author of this letter has long been disputed with many arguing that Anne did not write it at all, however, Sandra believes that Anne may have dictated the letter to someone who put the words onto paper. Sandra also provides an analysis as to the contents of the letter. It is fascinating to see just what was going through Anne’s mind as she attempted one last time to appeal to her husband to save her life.

There is a clear timeline of events in Sandra’s book which reaches its pinnacle with Sandra’s discovery of Henry’s regret, it was said he spoke his regret as he approached his death. This discovery is fascinating and really made me look at the way I view King Henry VIII and the events that surrounded May 1536.

Anne Boleyn’s letter from the Tower is a great book that explains one particular event in the life of Anne Boleyn and Henry VIII. I for one hope that this latest discovery shines a new light on an event that has been discussed throughout time. Sandra has done a tremendous job in giving a greater understanding in the history of Anne’s letter and I for one hope this discovery of Henry’s regret begins to change how we view why Henry reached the decision to execute the wife he tore the country apart for.

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Sandra recently took part in a book tour and visited Tudor Chronicles to talk about how she came to see the Book of Hours that Henry and Anne wrote notes to each other. You can read it here https://thetudorchronicles.wordpress.com/2015/09/15/sandra-vasolis-book-tour-anne-boleyns-letter-from-the-tower/

Anne Boleyn’s Letter from the Tower: A new assessment is available now from http://www.amazon.co.uk/Anne-Boleyns-Letter-Tower-Assessment-ebook/dp/B014R7227A/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1442843088&sr=8-1&keywords=anne+boleyn%27s+letter+from+the+tower

Sandra Vasoli’s book tour – Anne Boleyn’s Letter from the Tower

Today Tudor Chronicles welcomes Sandra Vasoli, author of ‘Anne Boleyn’s Letter from the Tower’ on her book tour. Sandra has written a wonderful article about the British Library and how Sandra came to view Anne’s Book of Hours.Sandra’s book is available in either paperback or Kindle and published by MadeGlobal Publishing.

Here is Sandra in her own words about the British Library and Viewing Original Documents.

The British Library, adjacent to St Pancras Station in Euston Road, London, is the national library of the United Kingdom. It is truly a place of amazement and delight for individuals of all ages. It’s the largest library in the world based upon the number of catalogued items. They total over 170 million, and are held in many languages and formats.

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(illustration The British Library http://static.trustedreviews.com/94/b5ce19/eb6b/british-library-01.jpg)

Maybe most spectacular is the Library’s collection of historical manuscripts and artefacts. There are precious holdings which date as far back as 2,000 BC. The Library often puts selected pieces on display, creating opportunities for people to see things which are astonishing by virtue of their age and importance in the history of humankind.

Beinecke Library

(Illustration British Library glass stacks http://www.educationbash.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/Yale-Rare-Book-Manuscript-Library-4.jpg)

With regard to early manuscripts, papers and documents, the Library shines. Very convenient to the interested person or serious researcher, there are digitized versions of documents available which have contributed to history all over the world, because the British Library partners with major educational settings globally. In addition, the research staffs from various departments within the Library are enormously helpful in supporting people in their studies .

The Library’s website is well worth poring over, especially for anyone interested in seeing early documents. One of my personal areas of interest and delight includes viewing early illuminated manuscripts. Once logged into the Library’s website, go to the page ‘Catalogue of Illuminated Manuscripts’ http://www.bl.uk/catalogues/illuminatedmanuscripts/welcome.htm. There, you can key in a time period, or the name of a historical figure, and you will have a chance to see any and all documents or items which pertained to that person or time.

For another fascinating computer-based search, visit the tab ‘Services’, and ‘Images Online’. This will provide an endless array of options to explore. As a point of example, if you are a fan of Anne Boleyn, type her name in the box designated for ‘Search Images Online’, and you will be rewarded with 22 wonderful items to discover and view, including paintings, letters and a gorgeous image of the tiny, gold –bound book of hours that Anne was said to hand to one of her ladies while she was on the scaffold awaiting her death.

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(illustration Anne’s book https://bookaddictionuk.files.wordpress.com/2015/06/untitled-picture.png)

How did I become acquainted with the magnificent British Library? In 2011, I had begun research to write the first of my two-part series of a novel of Anne Boleyn. The book, Je Anne Boleyn: Struck With the Dart of Love, is a memoir about Anne’s relationship with Henry VIII. I became very interested in the book of hours which it is reputed Anne owned, and in which both she and Henry wrote flirtatious inscriptions to each other. I had learned that this book is owned and held by the British Library, and I decided to attempt to see it. I had no idea whether this effort would work, but I spoke with the staff in Research Services and received my instructions about what was required to receive a Reader’s Pass for the Manuscripts Reading Room. As a part of my planned visit to London, I went to the Library, with necessary documents and information in hand. A last minute requirement caused me a great deal of panic, as my heart was now set on seeing this book, and it appeared that I might not be admitted. But due to the help of a London based friend, I was able to complete all my verification paperwork, and lo and behold, I entered the Reading Room.

For me, at least, this was a marvelous, but daunting experience. There was a reverential hush throughout the lovely, brightly lit space. Many students of all ages were situated in study carrels, which have been designed for the purpose of safely and carefully viewing precious, ancient documents. I was assigned a seat, and placed my scant belongings (at that time, the only items permitted were a notebook, number 2 pencils, eyeglasses, and a magnifying glass. Now, I believe, laptops or pads are permitted). I submitted my request, using the Library catalogue number, through the internal computer system, and then checked with the staff at the desk, where I was told to wait, and that I would be summoned if and when my request was approved. I nervously waited at my station, and looked about , craning to glimpse what incredible items others were studying. I was dumbfounded, seeing the ancient Greek, Latin, medieval, and even Egyptian hieroglyph manuscripts opened with people scrutinizing them, busily making notes.

After a short wait, I was asked to approach the desk. The pleasant young woman handed me a small box. She lifted the lid, and there, lying in its cardboard covering, was a leatherbound volume. My heart pounded, and I looked at her questioningly. She said, “certainly, you may take it and look at it. You are the only one permitted to handle it, please do not allow anyone else to touch. Use the tips of your clean, dry fingers only, and touch as little as possible.” She handed me a ‘snake’ of smooth pebbles strung together which are placed across the pages to hold them open. I returned to my desk, barely breathing.

I will never forget the feeling I had when when I opened the book. The binding had been replaced during the reign of George I in the early 1700’s (his inscription was on the binding), so that was not original. But the pages! They were of the smoothest, highest quality vellum, which is lamb or kidskin. And the illuminations – well, they were nearly indescribable. My magnifying glass was critical, because the book was small, smaller than the size of one’s hand, and the illustrations were painted with stupendous detail. The colours were so vibrant that the blues almost hurt the eyes, and the gold leaf, of which there was a great deal, shone and gleamed. This clearly was a book which had been enormously costly, and had been taken great care of in its day. Slowly and carefully I turned the pages, marveling over every one, until I came to the page illustrated with the image of Mary, with the archangel and the dove of the Holy Spirit seeking to gain her attention, to tell her that she would have a Son. The illustration was beautiful – but below… there was Anne’s handwriting! It was before my own eyes, and I realized that she had touched the very page I had just touched, and had written a message to Henry, her love – meant only for him. It was an unimaginable moment for me. And from then on, my concept about research was never the same. I looked at the words she had written:

By daily proof you shall me find

To be to you both loving and kind

Kings 9 66v

(illustration Anne’s Page in Book of Hours http://41.media.tumblr.com/f359953b92731fb7293072eb5fa8e0c5/tumblr_nojudaWm8Y1rnltc5o1_1280.jpg)

Paging onward, it was difficult, because I wanted to study each leaf, yet I was anxious to find Henry’s inscription. That lay further on in the book – almost at the end. Finally, I turned a page and there it was. The ink had faded to a soft grey, and the nib he had used was sharper – Anne’s letters were broad – but on the page with the bleeding and flayed Christ, he had written in French :

“If you remember my love in your prayers as strongly as I adore you,

I shall hardly be forgotten, for I am yours. Henry R. forever.”

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(illustration Henry’s page in Book of Hours http://onthetudortrail.com/Blog/wp-content/uploads/2010/11/annebs_large.jpg)

I studied his writing, and the entire book, as long as I was able. Finally, I had to relinquish it, and return it to the Manuscripts desk. I had taken copious notes, which today I treasure. I have been told that it is becoming more and more difficult to obtain permission to view many of those priceless and singular documents.

Once I had an opportunity to reflect on what I had seen, I was struck by something which I feel the book told me. The story of this Book of Hours, as repeated by historians, is that the book belonged to Anne before 1529. Once their romance had commenced, and in Mass one morning, she wrote Henry her message in the book and passed it to him. He found her note, and seeing as he was already doing business and signing documents (as apparently he did during morning Mass) he penned the response, and sent the book back to her. After having held this lovely item and having viewed it closely, I found that I disagreed with this legend. My first strong realization was that this particular book, lavishly illustrated, with gorgeous,expensive, and numerous pages, was too costly to belong to anyone but royalty. Therefore, the story that it was Anne’s prior to 1529 I find erroneous. (If compared to the Books of Hours she did in fact own, and are kept at Hever, it is quite apparent that they are much less extravagant than this one). I believe the book was owned by Henry. The second deviation I find is that Books of Hours were not typically used at Mass. Instead, congregants used Missals, which followed the rites of the Mass. The Henry and Anne volume is clearly a Book of Hours, which was intended to be carried throughout the day, to refer to when praying at differing times and locations. This causes me to doubt the legend of the exchange at Mass. The pages of the book were not well worn, therefore I don’t believe it was often used, but instead was a beautiful belonging of Henry’s. I think he decided to give her the Book, and wrote his message in it when he was wooing her. I feel that Anne received it, and took her time in selecting a page on which to respond, as well as the message she would inscribe before she returned it to Henry. These inscriptions were not done hastily, it is easy to see when studying them.

What happened to this beautiful object? How did it come to remain with us today? I don’t know, but my guess is that Henry gifted it to Anne after he had read her wonderful, promising inscription. Perhaps she then gave it to someone close to her, or perhaps it was left in her belongings after her death and saved for her daughter Elizabeth who ensured its safety.

I learned that day, not only about the Book itself, but just how much the study of original documents can inform our assessment of history. It makes all the difference!

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Sandra Vasoli, author of Anne Boleyn’s Letter from the Tower, earned a Bachelor’s degree in English and biology from Villanova University before embarking on a thirty-five-year career in human resources for a large international company.

Having written essays, stories, and articles all her life, Vasoli was prompted by her overwhelming fascination with the Tudor dynasty to try her hand at writing both historical fiction and non-fiction. While researching what would eventually become her Je Anne Boleyn series, Vasoli was granted unprecedented access to the Papal Library. There she was able to read the original love letters from Henry VIII to Anne Boleyn—an event that contributed greatly to her research and writing.

Vasoli currently lives in Gwynedd Valley, Pennsylvania, with her husband and two greyhounds.

A huge thank you to Sandra for her words.

Sandra’s book tour will continue all week with visits to the following sites

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Anne Boleyn’s Letter from the Tower is available now and can be purchased here:  http://www.amazon.co.uk/Anne-Boleyns-Letter-Tower-Assessment/dp/8494372157/ref=sr_1_1_twi_pap_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1442061382&sr=8-1&keywords=sandra+vasoli

Our review of the book will be up later in the week but in the meantime MadeGlobal Publishing have offered one copy of the book as a competition, for further details please head over to http://www.facebook.com/TudorChronicles to enter, one winner will be selected at random after the competition closes at midnight on September 18th and will be contacted after this date.

On this day in 1532 – Anne Boleyn was created the Marquess of Pembroke

In 1532 King Henry VIII was planning a trip to France to meet with the French King, he wanted to take Anne Boleyn with him as his Queen, however, they were not yet married and she as she was not a peer of the realm she would not be recognised in France so Henry decided to create Anne the Marquess of Pembroke.

The Earl of Pembroke title had been extinct since the death of Henry’s great uncle, Jasper Tudor, it also signified the birthplace of his father King Henry VII therefore the title was held in high regard to Henry and he could bestow no greater title on her until they were married.

On 1st September 1532 Henry VIII held the ceremony to grant Anne with the title and land in Wales worth over £1000. The ceremony was held by Henry VIII in Windsor Castle, it witnessed by many of Henry’s peers and clergy including; Anne’s father and uncle, Thomas Boleyn and Thomas Howard as well as Charles Brandon, Edward Lee the Archbishop of York, John Stokesley the Bishop of London and Stephen Gardiner the Bishop of Winchester. Also present was the French ambassador.

Anne was accompanied by Mary Howard, her cousin, the Countess of Derby and Countess of Rutland and they were led into the ceremony by the Garter King-at-arms. Anne wore ermine trimmed velvet and many jewels and let her hair flow freely behind her, as was common for coronations. There was no doubt that Henry wanted everybody to know that he intended to make Anne his wife and Queen.

Stephen Gardiner, Bishop of Winchester, read out the patent of creation to the crowd whilst Anne knelt before the King who invested her with the coronet, robe of estate and charters of creation and of the lands. In the ‘Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII’ there is a record of the ceremony which states;

“’Creacion of lady Anne, doughter to therle of Wilteshier, marquesse of Penbroke.’

Sunday 1 Sept. 1532, 24 Hen. VIII. The lady was conveyed by noblemen and the officers of arms at Windsor Castle to the King, who was accompanied by the dukes of Norfolk and Suffolk and other noblemen, and the ambassador of France. Mr. Garter bore her patent of creation; and lady Mary, daughter to the duke of Norfolk, her mantle of crimson velvet, furred with ermines, and a coronet. The lady Marques, who was “in her hair,” and dressed in a surcoat of crimson velvet, furred with ermines, and strait sleeves, was led by Elizabeth countess of Rutland, and Dorothy countess of Sussex. While she kneeled before the King, Garter delivered her patent, which was read by the bishop of Winchester. The King invested her with the mantle and coronet, and gave her two patents, one of her creation, the other of 1,000l. a year. She thanked the King, and returned to her chamber.

Gifts given by the lady Marques:- To Mr. Garter, for her apparel, 8l.; to the Office of Arms, 11l. 13s. 4d. The King gave them 5l.

Officers of Arms present – Garter and Clarenciex, kings; Richmond, Carlisle, and Windsor, heralds; Rougecross, Portcullis, Bluemantle and Guisnes, pursuivants.”

There is also recorded a valuation of the lands that were bestowed upon Anne;

Valuation of her lands.

Total of the lands of the lady Anne marchioness in Wales, over and above casualties not charged, 710l. 7s. 10¾d., out of which she is charged to pay by the King’s grants yearly, 199l. 5s. 11d., ‘which the tallage or knowledge of money will discharge for the time; and after that, the fines for the sessions and the customes which be not charged in the value will discharge them.’

Sum of the lands in England: Corry Mallett, Soms., Hundesdon, and Estwyke, Herts, ‘lands late Philip Pary’s, in Hundesdon,’ manors of Stansted, Roydon, Fylollyshall, and Cokkeshall, and Weston next Baldoke, 313l. 5s. 3¾d. Total for England and Wales by the last gift of the King, 1,023l. 13s. 2¾d.”

The title was also granted to any male heirs, either legitimate or illegitimate, that Anne may have. The title of Marquess of Pembroke ceased to exist either upon Anne’s marriage to Henry or upon her death in 1536, it is unknown for definite when she stopped calling herself that.

170px-Anne_boleynAnne Boleyn

On this day in 1533 – Anne Boleyn took to her chamber to prepare for the birth of Princess Elizabeth

On 26th August 1533 Anne Boleyn took leave of the court and entered confinement where she would stay until she gave birth. Normally a lady would go to confinement four to six weeks before the anticipated birth of their child.

Anne took to her chamber at Greenwich Palace after attending a special mass at the Chapel Royal within the Palace grounds. Anne would then proceed with her ladies to the great chamber were they would enjoy wine and spices before the Lord Chamberlain prayed to God that Anne would give a safe delivery, hopefully to a son. Anne would then enter her chamber where she would be waited on by her ladies; no men were permitted into the room.

The chamber was decorated in accordance with the ‘Royalle Book’ that had additions by Margaret Beaufort and had been followed by King Henry VIII’s mother, Elizabeth of York during her confinements in the same Palace. The book stated that the room should;

  • Be carpeted
  • Have an altar
  • Have soft furnishings of crimson satin that were embroidered with Gold crowns and the Queen’s arms
  • Have its windows, ceilings and walls covered with blue arras and tapestries
  • Have a tapestry covered cupboard to store the birthing equipment
  • Have a font in the room in case the baby needed baptising instantly due to sickness
  • Have a display of Gold and Silver plate items from the Jewel House, it was thought that the Queen and her baby to be surrounded by symbols of wealth
  • Be furnished with a luxurious bed for the Queen and a pallet at the end of it for the Queen to give birth on. The pallet would be built up to a height similar to the midwife, it was close to the fire and away from any cold draughts
  • One window would be slightly uncovered to let in light and air when deemed neccersary

In the ‘Ordinances and regulations for the royal household society of antiquaries’ it is written what is expected of the Queen’s chamber;

As to the deliverance of a Queene, it must bee knowne what chamber shee will bee delivered in, by the Grace of God; and that chamber must bee hanged with rich arras, the roofe, side and windowes, all except one windowe, and that must bee habged that shee may have light when it pleaseth her; with a royall bedd therein, the flore laid with carpeth over and over with a faire pallet bedd, with all the stuffe belonging thereto, with a riche sperner hanging over; and there must be a cupboard set faire, covered with the fame suite that the chamber is hanged withal. And if it please the Queene to take her chamber, shee shall bee brought thither with Lordes and Ladies of estate, and brought into the chappell or church there to bee houseled; then to come into the great chamber and take spice and wine under the cloth of estate; then twoe of the greatest estates to lead her into her chamber where shee shall be delivered; and they then to take their leave of the Queene. Then all the ladies and gentlemento goe in with her; and after that noe man to come into the chamber where shee shall bee delievered, fae woemen; and they to bee made all manner of officers, as buttlers, panters, fewers, kervers, cupbearers; and all manner of officers for to receave it in the chamber: a traverse of damaske, the bedd arrayed with sheetes of fine lawne or fine raynes, great pillows with a head sheete according to the sheetes; a pane of ermines embrothered with riche cloh of gould, the ells breadth of the cloth, and head-sheete of ermins and cloth of gould of the same suite; a pallet by the bedd arrayed according to the bedd, with sheets and paine; except the cloth of gould on the paine to bee of another colour than that of the great bedd; and over the pallet a large sperner of crimson satin, with a bowle of gould or silver and guilt; and above the opening of the same sperner to bee embrothered the King’s and Queen’s armes, and the residue with crownes of gould: and that such estates both spirituall and temporall as it shall like the Kinge to assigne to bee gossippes, to bee neere the place where the Queene shall bee delivered, to the intent anon after they bee ready that the child may soone bee christened.”

A typical room that was used for a ladies confinement was closed up to light and fresh air, it was believed that clean air was harmful to the new child. Candles were used day and night to provide light in the dark room and objects like herbs, relics and amulets were brought in to speed and aide delivery. Superstition was high regarding childbirth and a dark and clean room was believed to protect the baby from evil spirits as it would remind the child of the womb. Women were also required to move anything that could restrict the birth, this included knots, buckles and rings.

The women that accompanied the Queen into confinement would keep her company and were there to assist during the labour by bringing spiced wine or ale and making the caudle.

Anne Boleyn would give birth just two weeks after entering her confinement to the Princess Elizabeth. However, she would remain in confinement for a further 30 days when she would be churched and re-enter the court.

170px-Anne_boleynAnne Boleyn

On this day in 1533 – Anne Boleyn’s coronation

Anne Boleyn’s coronation was a four day celebration that culminated on the 1st June 1533 where she was crowned Queen of England. This day would mark the end of the years of uncertainty that Anne had spent hoping to be wife and queen to Henry she was also heavily pregnant with the expected son and heir that Henry had longed for.

On Thursday 29th May 1533 Anne was taken by river to the Tower of London from Greenwich. Fifty decorated barges left Billingsgate and headed towards Greenwich to greet the King and the future Queen. Eric Ives described the pageant as;

Flags and bunting overall, hung with gold foil that glistened in the sun and with little bells that tinkled; the vessels were packed with musicians of every kind, and more cannon than seems safe on such a crowded waterway. The fleet was led by a light wherry in which had been constructed a mechanical dragon that could be made to move and belch out flames, and with it were other models of monsters and huge wild men, who threw blazing fireworks and uttered hideous cries.”

After rowing for two hours the pageant arrived at Greenwich for Anne to board her own barge to take her to the Tower of London alongside Anne were the ladies of her court. A second barge carried the remaining ladies with the King following in a separate barge with his guards. Ives believed that as the pageant set off for the Tower there was likely to have been 120 large barges and 200 smaller ones following behind.

Tower-of-London-from-North-West

Upon arrival at the Tower, Anne was greeted by Sir Edward Walsingham and Sir William Kingson, the Lieutenant and Constable of the Tower and taken to the King, who was observing the event in secret so not to take any focus away from his new wife. They were then led to the Queen’s apartments that had been newly refurbished by Thomas Cromwell in preparation for Anne’s coronation. Henry and Anne would remain here for the next two days.

On their second day at the Tower 18 men were created Knights of the Bath by Henry as part of Anne’s coronation celebrations. These men were

  • The Marquess of Dorset
  • The Earl of Derby
  • Lord Clifford
  • Lord Fitzwater
  • Lord Hastings
  • Lord Mountegle
  • Lord Vaux
  • Sir Henry Parker
  • Sir William Windsor
  • Sir John Mordaunt
  • Sir Francis Weston
  • Sir Thomas Arundel
  • Sir John Huddelston
  • Sir Thomas Poynings
  • Sir Henry Savile
  • Sir George Fitzwilliam
  • Sir John Tyndall
  • Sir John Germayne

On Saturday 31st May Anne left the Tower in a procession that was heading towards Westminster Hall. The procession was led by 12 servants of the French ambassador, they were all dressed in blue velvet with yellow and blue sleeves. Following the servants came the gentlemen of the Royal households, nine judges, the Knights of the Bath, the Royal Council and then the rest of the English government. Following all of this was Anne who was being carried in a litter of white and gold with a gold canopy held above her by the barons of the Cinque Ports. Anne was dressed in white and wore a golden coronet. Her ladies followed the litter and behind them were many more followers.

anne entry to london

From the Tower the procession began and headed towards Fenchurch Street where she was greeted by children who were dressed as English and French merchants. From here the procession headed towards its next pageant at Gracious Church (now Gracechurch Street). It was here that Anne and the procession witnessed a Hans Holbein designed a fountain which homed Apollo and the Nine Muses. Red wine flowed from the fountain and the Nine Muses left their positions on the fountain to present gifts to Anne before the procession continued.

apollo and the nine muses

The next stop was Leadenhall where a castle was constructed that had the red and white roses at the top of it, from here a falcon descended and landed on a nearby stump where an angel crowned it. This was a recreation of Anne’s badge in her honour. Beneath the newly crowned falcon were representations of St Anne and her children, the three Mary’s. It was also here that Anne was read a verse written by Nicholas Udall;

‘ Honour and grace bee to our Queene Anne.

ffor whose cause an Aungell Celestial

Descendeth, the ffalcon as white as swanne

To crun with a Diademe Imperiall!

In hir honour rejoice wee all,

ffor it cummeth from God, and not of man.

Honour and grace bee to our Queene Anne!’

 

The procession continued to Cornhill Street where another fountain had wine freely flowing from it. Another pageant was awaiting Anne starring the Three Graces before continuing to Cheapside where two pageants were performed. The first saw the Recorder of London and his aldermen greet Anne and recited verses to her and also handed Anne a purse that contained a thousand marks of gold. The second pageant was the recreation of the Judgement of Paris where Paris of Troy was asked to judge who out of Juno, Pallas and Venus would receive a golden apple. However, as the day was all about Anne, Paris instead gives the golden apple to Anne and recited a short verse to her;

yet, to bee plain

Here is the fouethe ladie now in our presence,

Moste worthie to haue it of due congruence,

As pereles in riches, wit, and beautee,

Whiche are but sundrie qualitees in you three.

But for hir worthynes, this aple of gold

Is to simple a reward a thousand fold.’

 

The procession then turned and headed towards St. Paul’s Cathedral where three ladies were seated with a message attached to their heads that read ‘Regina Anna! Prospere, procede, et regna!’ They also spoke of a prophecy that the child Anne was carrying was a son and he would lead England into a golden age. Within the courtyard of St. Paul’s 200 schoolchildren read out poems and praised both Anne and King Henry.

The next stop for the procession was Ludgate Hill, near St Martin’s Church where a choir sang ballads from the rooftop of the church before moving to Fleet Street. In Fleet Street a castle was built with four turrets that stood virtues that promised not to abandon Anne and from the centre came music.

The procession then came to Temple Bar with another choir greeting Anne before it proceeded to Westminster Hall where Anne and her ladies were given refreshments and gave thanks to all those who were present. It was from here that Anne retired for the night with Henry in preparation for the following day. The chronicler Edward Hall recorded;

And so [Anne] withdrew her selfe, with a fewe ladyes, to the Whitehalle, and so to chamber, and there shifted her, and after went into her barge secretely to the kyng to his Manor of Westmister, where she rested that night.’

 westminster_hall

At 9am on Sunday 1st June 1533 Anne Boleyn entered Westmister Abbey dressed in her coronation robes of purple velvet trimmed with ermine and a gold coronet on her head. She walked a blue carpet from Westminster Hall to the Abbey where the golden canopy from the previous day was carried above her still. In front of Anne was the rod of ivory topped with a dove and the golden sceptre carried by the Marquis of Dorset and the Earl of Arundel. The Earl of Oxford, The Lord Great Chamberlain carried the crown of St Edward. The crown had only ever been used previously on reigning monarchs so for Anne to be crowned with it was a first. It was a way for Henry to prove to the world that Anne was his rightful Queen. Following Anne was the Dowager Duchess of Norfolk carried Anne’s train, her ladies and the bishops of London and Winchester.

As Anne entered the Abbey she approached the altar and prostrated herself (not something that was easily done at six months pregnant!) Archbishop Thomas Cranmer prayed over her and Anne took her seat on St Edward’s Chair for the ceremony. Cranmer crowned Anne as the anointed Queen of England and gave her the rod and sceptre before placing the crown atop her head. After the Te Deum was sang Anne exchanged the crown for a smaller, lighter one made especially for Anne and she took the sacrament and gave an offering at the shrine of St Edward. Throughout the ceremony Henry watched from a specially built hidden area as was tradition. Following a short rest break for Anne in a room set aside for her the procession began to leave the Abbey to go back to Westminster Hall. Anne was accompanied by her father, the Earl of Wiltshire and Lord Talbot.

coronation chair

Once back at Westminster Hall Anne retired for a short time while a coronation banquet was being prepared. Anne returned to the Hall and took her seat at the centre of the high table. Accompanying her was Anne Howard, Dowager Countess of Oxford and Elizabeth Browne, Countess of Worcester their role was to hold a cloth in front of Anne if she wished to discard some food. At the end of the table was Archbishop Cranmer and at Anne’s feet were two ladies who remained seated for the entirety of the meal.

Once in place Anne was presented the first course of 32 carried by the Knights of the Bath. Once Anne had been served her first two courses it was time for the rest of the guests to be served in order of rank starting from the right hand side of the Queen.

After the meal Anne stood and washed her hands before moving to the centre of Westminster Hall where she was served wafers and hippocras by the Lord Mayor in a golden cup which Anne then presented to him as thanks for the effort him and the Aldermen of London had gone to. Anne then retired for the night and presumably reunited with Henry who had watched the whole thing in secrecy.

After the years spent waiting Anne was now crowned Queen of England but just 1000 days later she would lose that crown in the most brutal way.

On this day in 1533 – Archbishop Cranmer ruled that Henry VIII and Katherine of Aragon marriage was annulled.

On 23rd May 1533 Archbishop Thomas Cranmer declared that the marriage between King Henry VIII and Katherine of Aragon was annulled and they were never lawfully married. With convocation already ruling on the matter in March and the King already married to Anne Boleyn it feels that this was just a formality in proceedings.

Archbishop Cranmer issued the following statement after his trial into the annulment at Dunstable Priory, Bedfordshire;

“Notification of the sentence of divorce between Hen. VIII and Katherine of Arragon pronounced by archbishop Cranmer. Dated in the monastery of Dunstable, 23 May 1533. Present, Gervase prior of the said monastery, Simon Haynes, S.T.P., John Newman, M.A., and others.

The matrimony between the King and the lady Katherine being dissolved by sufficient authority, all pactions made for the same marriage are also dissolved and of none effect. That is, the jointure shall return again to the King’s use, and the money paid to him by her friends shall be repaid to her. The matrimony being dissolved, the lady Katherine shall return to the commodity and profits of the first matrimony, and the pactions of the same, made with prince Arthur, and shall enjoy the jointure assigned to her thereby, notwithstandingany quittance or renunciation made in the second pact. For as these renunciations were agreed unto for a sure trust and hope to enjoy the commodities and pactions of the second marriage, which now she cannot enjoy, unless without fault she should be deprived of both, equity and right restore her to the first. This, we think, by our poor learning, to be according both to canon and civil law, unless there are any other treaties and pactions which we have not seen.

For the more clear declaration hereof, we think that when a matrimony is dissolved, if there is no paction of a further bond, then by law the money paid by the woman or her friends shall be restored to her, and the jointure return to the man and his heirs. In this case there is an especial pact that she shall enjoy her jointure durante vita, so that the said jointure is due to her by the pact, and the money paid by her and her friends by the law.”

Henry VIIIKatherine of Aragon

On this day in 1536 – The execution of Queen Anne Boleyn

Queen Anne Boleyn was sentenced to death at her trial but it was left up to the King to decide how she would die. The normal death for a female traitor was to be burned at the stake; however King Henry VIII had decided to change this to beheading but at the hands of a French swordsman instead of the typical axe. With the manner of her death decided the date of her execution was set for the 18th May 1536.

Anne was prepared to die at 9am on the 18th May. John Skip, the Queen’s almoner arrived at 2am to pray with the Queen, they were still praying when Archbishop Thomas Cranmer arrived to perform mass and hear the Queen’s final confession. Anne also took the sacrament and swore twice in front of the Constable of the Tower, Sir William Kingston that she was innocent of all charges.

Eustace Chapuys reported to the Holy Roman Emperor that;

“The lady who had charge of her has sent to tell me in great secrecy that the Concubine, before and after receiving the sacrament, affirmed to her, on the damnation of her soul, that she had never been unfaithful to the King.”

When 9am passed and no one came to collect the Queen to deliver her to her fate she called for Sir William Kingston again to try to learn what the cause of the delay was. However, Kingston had already been told not to inform the Queen that the execution had been delayed until the following day until the Tower was emptied of any diplomats. Instead he tried to comfort Anne about her upcoming execution and that it would not be painful. It was reported that Anne responded that; “I heard say the executioner was very good, and I have a little neck.”

Anne was informed after midday that her execution had been put off until the following day.

John Skip arrived at Anne’s room once again to perform mass and to offer the sacrament and at 8am Kingston informed the Queen to prepare herself as the time was approaching for Anne to climb the scaffolding to her death. Anne was already ready having dress herself in a ermine trimmed grey damask robe and a crimson kirtle, instead of her usual French style hood she wore an English style gable hood. Her outfit was planned to show her status as Queen as well as that of being a martyr.

Anne took the long walk to the scaffold where she climbed up to address the crowd that awaited her. Instead of protesting her innocence she simply followed what was expected of her in order to protect her daughter. She said to the crowd;

“Good Christian people, I have not come here to preach a sermon; I have come here to die. For according to the law and by the law I am judged to die, and therefore I will speak nothing against it. I am come hither to accuse no man, nor to speak of that whereof I am accused and condemned to die, but I pray God save the King and send him long to reign over you, for a gentler nor a more merciful prince was there never, and to me he was ever a good, a gentle, and sovereign lord. And if any person will meddle of my cause, I require them to judge the best. And thus I take my leave of the world and of you all, and I heartily desire you all to pray for me.”

Anne-Boleyn-Execution-German-Engraving

With her final words Anne paid the executioner his fee and her ladies approached to remove Anne’s hood and placed her hair within a linen cap. She knelt down in front of the executioner and one of her ladies covered her eyes. As Anne waited for her fate she began to pray by saying;

“O Lord have mercy on me, to God I commend my soul. To Jesus Christ I commend my soul; Lord Jesu receive my soul.”

The swordsman approached Anne and with some misdirection from an assistant he struck the Queen’s neck and Anne died.

With the execution over Anne’s ladies wrapped her body and head in white cloth and transported her body to the Chapel of St Peter ad Vincula for burial. As no coffin had been provided a guard found an empty chest that once stored arrows. With this the Queen was committed to the ground and buried. Henry was now free to move on to his next wife and Anne was free to be at peace.

Grave Marker of Anne BolelynDSC_0076Above – A German engraving of Anne Boleyn’s execution

Middle – The plaque to mark Anne Boleyn’s body in the Chapel of St Peter ad Vincula, Tower of London

Below – The monument to commemorate those who were executed within the Tower of London’s walls

On this day in 1536 – George Boleyn, Sir Henry Norris, Sir Francis Weston, Sir William Brereton and Mark Smeaton were executed

On the morning of 17th May 1536 a scaffold had appeared at Tower Hill and five men were led from the Tower of London to their fate. George Boleyn, Lord Rochford, Sir Henry Norris, Sir Francis Weston, Sir William Brereton and Mark Smeaton were all found guilty of high treason and although originally sentenced to being hung, drawn and quartered the King had altered this to beheading.

George Boleyn was first to face the executioners’ axe as he was the highest rank between the five men. He made a speech before the crowds that had come to see the death of the men who had fallen from grace. There are many versions of George’s speech but the Chronicles of Calais wrote;

“Christen men, I am borne undar the lawe, and judged undar the lawe, and dye undar the lawe, and the lawe hathe condemned me. Masters all, I am not come hether for to preche, but for to dye, for I have deserved for to dye yf I had xx.lyves, more shamefully than can be devised, for I am a wreched synnar, and I have synned shamefully, I have knowne no man so evell, and to reherse my synnes openly it were no pleaswre to you to here them, nor yet for me to reherse them, for God knowethe all; therefore, mastars all, I pray yow take hede by me, and especially my lords and gentlemen of the cowrte, the whiche I have bene amonge, take hede by me, and beware of suche a fall, and I pray to God the Fathar, the Sonne, and the Holy Ghoste, thre persons and one God, that my deathe may be an example unto yow all, and beware, trust not in the vanitie of the worlde, and especially in the flateringe of the cowrte. And I cry God mercy, and askeall he worlde forgevenes, as willingly as I wowld have forgevenes of God; and yf I have offendyd any man that is not here now, eythar in thowght, worde, or dede, and yf ye here any suche, I pray yow hertely in my behalf, pray them to forgyve me for God’s sake. And yet, my mastars all, I have one thinge for to say to yow, men do common and saye that I bene a settar forthe of the worde of God, and one that have favoured the Ghospell of Christ; and bycawse I would not that God’s word shuld be slaundered by me, I say unto yow all, that yf I had followecl God’s worde in dede as I dyd rede it and set it forthe to my power, I had not come to this. I dyd red the Ghospell of Christe, but I dyd not follow it; yf I had, I had bene a lyves man amonge yow: therefore I pray yow, mastars all, for God’s sake sticke to the trwthe and folowe it, for one good followere is worthe thre redars, as God knowethe.”

Sir Henry Norris was next to step up to the scaffold; his speech was short as he did not want to risk offending the King any further. Following Norris was Sir Francis Weston. Weston’s family had fought to secure his release but nothing could stop the King from ensuring the end of his marriage to the Queen and this meant the co-accused had to die as well. Weston said to the crowd in his final speech;

“I had thought to have lyved in abhominacion yet this twenty or thrittie yeres and then to have made amendes. I thought little it wold have come to this.”

Weston had spent the night before his execution writing out a list of people he was in debt to this included the King, his family, the Boleyns and it is an insight into how well favoured he was. His list was included into a letter that he wrote to his parents asking for their forgiveness.

Sir William Brereton was the fourth man to face the axe, his speech was very short, and according to The Spanish Chronicle he simply said; ‘I have offended God and the King: pray for me.’ However according to George Constantine, Norris’s servant, who was present at the executions documented that Brereton kept repeating ‘But if ye judge, judge the best.’

Finally as a man of no rank Mark Smeaton took to the scaffold after watching the four men in front before him lose their heads. Smeaton had a chance to retract his confession during his final speech; however, he simply chose to say;

“Masters, I pray you all pray for me, for I have deserved the death.”

With that Mark Smeaton stepped up to the mark and placed his head on the blood soaked block ready for his fate to be delivered.

George Boleyn’s head and body were buried within the Chapel of St Peter ad Vincula whereas the other four were buried in the churchyard as they were deemed commoners. This left just Anne Boleyn to face her death alone.

Chapel of St Peter ad Vincula

On this day in 1536 – The trial of Anne Boleyn and George Boleyn

On 15th May 1536 Queen Anne Boleyn and her brother, George, were taken to the King’s Hall in the Tower of London to stand trial. They were accused of treason and Anne was accused of adultery with the four men who were condemned to death just a couple of days previously.

As the Queen and her brother were aristocracy their trials would take place in front of a grand jury made up of their peers instead of a commission of oyer and terminer. The trial attracted 2,000 spectators that came to see the verdict that would be passed on the Queen and her brother.

At the head of the jury stood The Lord High Steward, the Duke of Norfolk, uncle to the Boleyn children. On either side of him sat Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk and Sir Thomas Audley, Lord Chancellor. The rest of the jury were made up of men who wished to see the end of the Boleyn influence at court as well as men that were indebted to either Thomas Cromwell or King Henry VIII these included; Henry Courtenay Marquis of Exeter, Henry Parker Lord Morley, Lord Sandys, Edward Clinton Lord Clinton, John de Vere Earl of Oxford, Ralph Neville Earl of Westmoreland, Lord Wentworth, Lord Windsor, Thomas Fiennes Lord Dacre, George Brooke Lord Cobham, Edward Grey Baron Grey of Powys, Thomas Stanley Lord Monteagle, Robert Radcliffe Earl of Sussex, Thomas Manners Earl of Rutland, Henry Somerset Earl of Worcester and Henry Percy, Earl of Northumberland and Anne Boleyn’s former love interest. These men would be responsible for passing judgement on the accusations put towards the Queen and Lord Rochford. The verdict was reached way before the Anne and George stepped in front of the jury.

Anne was tried first and witnesses describe Anne as wearing black velvet gown, scarlet damask petticoat and a cap that had a black and white feather. Anne pleaded not guilty to the accusations put towards them only admitting to giving Sir Francis Weston money, which she did to many of the gentlemen at court.

After the indictment was read out Charles Wriothesley wrote in his chronicles that Anne;

made so wise and discreet aunsweres to all thinges layde against her, excusing herselfe with her wordes so clearlie, as thoughe she had never bene faultie to the same.”

With the evidence read out a guilty verdict was reached despite the Queen’s best attempts to defend herself and prove her innocence. Anne Boleyn was stripped of her titles and crown and the Duke of Norfolk pronounced;

Because thou hast offended against our sovereign the King’s Grace in committing treason against his person, and here attainted of the same, the law of the realm is this, that thou hast deserved death, and thy judgement is tis: that thou shalt be burned here within the Tower of London on the Green, else to have thy head smitten off, as the King’s pleasure shall be further known of the same.”

 

It is believed that Anne addressed the court after the sentencing and Lancelot de Carles recorded the following;

“I do not say that I have been as humble towards the King as he deserved, considering the humanity and kindness he showed me, and the great honour he has always paid me; I know that my fantasies have led me to be jealous…but God knows that I have never done him any other wrong.”

 

Anne was led away from the King’s Hall and escorted back to her rooms where she would await the King’s decision as to the manner of her execution.

With the Queen’s trial now finished it was the turn of her brothers, George, Lord Rochford. In the ‘Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, Volume 10- January-June 1536’ the trial was recorded as followed;

“The same day, lord Rocheford is brought before the High Steward in the custody of Sir Will. Kingston, and pleads not guilty. The peers are charged, with the exception of the earl of Northumberland, who was suddenly taken ill, and each of them severally saith that he is guilty.

Judgment:- To be taken to the prison in the Tower, and then drawn through the city of London, to the gallows at Tyburn, &c., as usual in high treason.”

George’s defence took a different turn to his sisters, whereas Anne was composed and answered calmly, George was more reckless. At one point in the trial he was handed a note regarding his comments about the King’s impotence with strict instructions not to read it aloud, these instructions were ignored and the note was read out for all to hear. The Imperial Ambassador, Eustace Chapuys, wrote about this in a letter to the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V;

“I must not omit, that among other things charged against him as a crime was, that his sister had told his wife that the King ‘nestoit habile en cas de soy copuler avec femme, et quil navoit ne vertu ne puissance.’ This he was not openly charged with, but it was shown him in writing, with a warning not to repeat it. But he immediately declared the matter, in great contempt of Cromwell and some others, saying he would not in this point arouse any suspicion which might prejudice the King’s issue. He was also charged with having spread reports which called in question whether his sister’s daughter was the King’s child.”

George certainly went to his verdict with a fight but he was still found guilty by the jury of his peers and the Duke of Norfolk declared;

“that he should goe agayne to prison in the Tower from whence he came, and to be drawne from the saide Tower of London thorowe the Cittie of London to the place of execution called Tyburne, and there to be hanged, beinge alyve cut downe, and then his members cutt of and his bowels taken owt of his bodie and brent before him, and then his head cut of and his bodie to be divided into quarter peeces, and his head and bodie to be sett at suche places as the King should assigne.”

George was then taken back to his room to await the date of his execution along with the Queen.

The trial of Queen Anne Boleyn, before the King's Commissioners

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