Tag Archives: Charles Wriothesley

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 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.

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