kajivar: (Tudor // Anne Boleyn)
kajivar ([personal profile] kajivar) wrote in [community profile] tudors2009-05-02 10:40 pm
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On this day in Tudor History

May 2, 1536 - Anne Boleyn, Queen of England, Henry VIII's second wife, was arrested and imprisoned on false charges of adultery, incest, treason and witchcraft. After she failed to produce a son for Henry (though she did give birth to the future Elizabeth I), Henry had Anne investigated for high treason.


Towards the end of April 1536, a Flemish musician in Anne's service named Mark Smeaton was arrested, perhaps tortured or promised freedom. He initially denied being the Queen’s lover but later confessed. Another courtier, Henry Norris, was arrested on May Day, but since he was an aristocrat, he could not be tortured. He denied his guilt and swore that Queen Anne was innocent. Sir Francis Weston was arrested two days later on the same charge. William Brereton, a groom of the King's privy chamber, was also apprehended on grounds of adultery. The final accused was Queen Anne's own brother, arrested on charges of incest and treason, accused of having a sexual relationship with his sister. George Boleyn was accused of two incidents of incest: November, 1535 at Whitehall and the following month at Eltham.

On 2 May 1536, Anne was arrested and taken to the Tower of London. In the Tower, she collapsed, demanding to know the location of her father and "swete broder", as well as the charges against her. Four of the men were tried in Westminster on 12 May 1536. Weston, Brereton and Norris publicly maintained their innocence and only the tortured Smeaton supported the Crown by pleading guilty. Three days later, Anne and George Boleyn were tried separately in the Tower of London. She was accused of adultery, incest and high treason. Adultery on the part of a queen was not a treasonable, civil offense necessitating execution: the accusations were designed to impugn her moral character. The treason was plotting, with her "lovers," the king's death, to ostensibly marry one of them afterward —- Henry Norris.

Anne's biographer Eric Ives, among others, believes that her fall and execution were engineered by Thomas Cromwell. Anne differed with Cromwell over the redistribution of Church revenues and over foreign policy. She advocated that revenues be distributed to charitable and educational institutions; and she favored a French alliance. Cromwell insisted on filling the King's depleted coffers and preferred an imperial alliance. For these reasons, suggests Ives, "Anne Boleyn had become a major threat to Thomas Cromwell." Cromwell's biographer John Schofield, on the other hand, contends that no power struggle existed between Anne and Cromwell and that "not a trace can be found of a Cromwellian conspiracy against Anne ... Cromwell became involved in the royal marital drama only when Henry ordered him onto the case." Cromwell did not manufacture the accusations of adultery, though he and other officials used them to bolster Henry's case against Anne. Historian Retha Warnicke questions whether Cromwell could have manipulated the king in such a matter. Henry himself issued the crucial instructions: his officials, including Cromwell, carried them out. The result, historians agree, was a legal travesty. Although the evidence against them was unconvincing, the accused were found guilty and condemned to death by their peers.


Source: Wikipedia

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