Tag Archives: George Boleyn

On this day in 1536 – Thomas Cromwell apointed Lord Privy Seal

Following the execution of Anne Boleyn and her brother George at the hands of King Henry VIII, their father on 29th June 1536 was stripped of his office of Lord Privy Seal. This was a position he had held since January 1530 after Cardinal Wolsey’s fall from grace.

On 2nd July 1536 Henry appointed Thomas Cromwell to the vacant position as well as being created Baron Cromwell of Wimbledon just days later. Cromwell’s rise to power was not to everyone’s liking he was seen by many as just a blacksmith’s son and had no right at court, however, Henry regarded him as one of his most trusted aides.

The Lord Privy Seal is a lower rank to that of President of the Privy Council and the Lord Chancellor but it is a role that has great honour despite the fact it is an almost entirely ceremonial role. The Lord Privy Seal is the bearer of the King’s personal seal and has access to the King and council’s documents. Cromwell would have also have had unrestricted access to Henry as well.Thomas CromwellSir Thomas Cromwell painted by Hans Holbein

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

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

Book review – Mary Boleyn in a nutshell by Sarah Bryson

Very little is known about the other Boleyn girl. Was she the mistress of two Kings? Did she give birth to Henry VIII’s children? Just what do we know about Mary Boleyn?

Sarah Bryson jumps into the unknown life of Mary Boleyn and attempts to pull the facts out of the little that is known about her.

We start right at the beginning with the birth of the Boleyn children and the debate over the order in which they were born. We follow Mary though her time at the French court and her return to England.

Sarah Bryson takes her time to look into Mary’s alleged relationship with King Francis I of France. Bringing in arguments for and against Mary being the French King’s mistress we are given a balanced and clear idea of what may have happened. All the evidence is carefully examined and anything that was documented falsely is proven with the reasons why. An example of this is a letter written by Rodolfo Pio in the year that Anne and George were executed. Bryson clearly explains why and how what is written in the letter is false.

A large portion of this book looks at Mary’s relationship with King Henry VIII and it deals with the question of whether her children Catherine and Henry were in fact Henry’s children or the legitimate children with her husband William Carey. I found this section of the book highly interesting as this is what Mary is remembered for over everything else so to have the facts written down clearly is helpful to anyone who doesn’t know much about Mary Boleyn.

Bryson also explains what happens to Mary once her relationship with Henry was over, her banishment from court and her second marriage with William Stafford. Much of her later life is unknown but we get the idea that she lived happily away from court with her family.

The book is a great read and easily finished if you have an afternoon free for reading. It is great to learn more about the Boleyn who is often left in the shadows of her younger sister, Anne.

Mary Boleyn in a nutshell