ACCUSATION OF ANNE. (1535 TO MAY 1536.)
IF feeble minds did not shrink from bending beneath the royal despotism, men of fanatical mould cherished vengeance in their hearts. Great wounds had been inflicted on the papacy, and they burnt to strike some signal blow against the cause of Reform. That also, they said, must have its victim. For all these monasteries sacrificed, one person must be immolated: one only, but taken from the most illustrious station. The king having, on the one side, struck his tutor and his friend, must now, to maintain the balance, strike his wife on the other. A tragedy was about to begin which would terminate in a frightful catastrophe. Anne Boleyn had not been brought up, as some have said, ‘in the worst school in Europe,’ but in one of the best — in the household of the pious Margaret of Angouleme, who was the enlightened protectress not only of the learned, but of all friends of the Gospel. Anne had learnt from that princess to love the Reformation and the Reformers. And accordingly she was in the eyes of the papal partisans, the principal cause of the change that had been wrought in the king’s mind, and by him throughout the kingdom. The Reformation, as we have seen, began in England about 1517 with the reading of the Holy Scriptures in the universities; but the most accredited Roman doctors have preferred assigning it another origin, and, speaking of Cranmer’s connection with Anne Boleyn, thirteen years later, have said, ‘Such is the beginning of the Reformation in England.’ In this assertion there is an error both of chronology and history.
Since her coronation, the queen had been in almost daily communication with the archbishop of Canterbury, and habitually even her enemies affirmed it the interests of the evangelical cause were treated of. At one time Anne prayed Cranmer to come to the assistance of the persecuted protestants. At another, full of the necessity of sending reapers into the harvest, she interested herself about such young persons as were poor, but whose pure morals and clear intellect seemed to qualify them for the practice of virtue and the study of letters; these she assisted with great generosity. This was also an example that Margaret of Valois had given her. The queen did not encourage these students heedlessly: she required testimonials certifying as to the purity of their morals and the capacity of their intellect. If she was satisfied, she placed them at Oxford or Cambridge, and required them to spread around them, even while studying, the New Testament and the writings of the reformers. Many of the queen’s pensioners did great service to the Church and State in after years. With these queenly qualities Anne combined more domestic ones.
Cranmer saw her, like good Queen Claude, gathering round her a number of young ladies distinguished by their birth and their virtues, and working with them at tapestry of admirable perfection for the palace of Hampton Court, or at garments for the indigent. She established in the poor parishes vast warehouses, filled with such things as the needy wanted. ‘Her eye of charity, her hand of bounty,’ says a biographer, ‘passed through the whole land.’ ‘She is said in three quarters of a year,’ adds Lord Herbert of Cherbury, the celebrated philosopher and historian, ‘to have bestowed fourteen or fifteen thousand pounds in this way,’ that is, in alms. And this distinguished writer, ambassador of England at the court of Louis XIII., and known in France by the exertions he made in behalf of the protestants, adds: ‘She had besides established a stock for poor artificers in the realm.’ Such were the works of Queen Anne. Cranmer, who had great discernment of men and things, being touched by the regard which the queen had for those who professed the Gospel, and seeing all that she did for the Reformation and the consolation of the wretched, declared that next to the king, Anne was of all creatures living ‘the one to whom he was most bound.’ Cranmer was not the only person among the evangelicals with whom Anne Boleyn entertained relations. From the first day she had seen Latimer, the Christian simplicity and apostolic manners of the reformer had touched her. When she heard him preach, she was delighted. The enthusiasm for that bold Christian preacher was universal. ‘It is as impossible,’ said his hearers, ‘for us to receive into our minds all the treasures of eloquence and knowledge which fall from his lips, as it would be for a little river to contain the waters of the .ocean in its bed.’ From the period (1535) when Latimer preached the Lent Sermons before the king, he was one of the most regular instruments of the queen’s active charity.
A still more decided reformer had a high esteem for Anne Boleyn: this was Tyndale. No one, in his opinion, had declared with so much decision as the queen in favor of the New Testament and its circulation in English.
Wishing, accordingly, to show his gratitude and respect, Tyndale presented her with a unique copy of his translation, printed in beautiful type on vellum, illuminated and bound in blue morocco, with these words in large red letters’ Anne Regina Anglioe (Anne, queen of England). This remarkable volume, now preserved in the library of the British Museum, is a monument of the veneration of the prisoner of Vilvorde for Anne Boleyn. A manuscript manual of devotion for the use of this princess has also been preserved: she used to present copies of it to her maids of honor. We see in it the value she attached to the Holy Scriptures: ‘Give us, O Father of Mercies,’ we read, ‘the greatest of all gifts Thou hast ever conferred on man the knowledge of Thy holy will, and the glad tidings of our salvation. Roman tyranny had long hidden it from us under Latin letters; but now it is promulgated, published, and freely circulated.’ Anne having in 1535 lost Dr. Betts, one of her almoners, looked out for a man devoted to the Gospel to take his place, for she loved to be surrounded by the most pious persons in England. She cast her eyes upon Matthew Parker, a native of Norwich, professor at; Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, and a man who for two years had been preaching the truth with fervor. Parker loved retirement and obscurity; accordingly, when he received on the Wednesday following Palm Sunday two letters summoning him to court ‘because the queen wished to see him,’ he was amazed and confounded. At first he wanted to refuse so brilliant a call; but Latimer wrote to him: ‘Show yourself to the world; hide yourself no longer; do good, whilst you have the opportunity. We know what you can do; let not your will be less than your power.’ Parker went to London, and in a short time his knowledge, piety, and prudence gained the entire esteem of the queen. That modest, intelligent, active man was just the person Anne wanted, and she took pleasure thenceforward in bestowing on him marks of her consideration. He himself tells us that if, in the course of his duties, he was called upon to receive friends at his table, the queen, eking out his narrow means, would send him a hare or a fawn taken in her parks. Parker was from this time one of those employed by Anne to distribute her benevolence. He had hardly arrived at court, when he presented to the queen one W. Bill, a very young and very poor man, but by no means wanting in talent. Anne, rich in discernment, placed him in the number of students whom she was preparing for the ministry: he afterwards became dean of Westminster. Parker, who began his career with Anne, was to finish it with Elizabeth. When he was deprived of all his offices by Queen Mary in 1554, he exclaimed: ‘Now that I am stripped of everything, I live in God’s presence, and am full of joy in my conscience. In this charming leisure I find greater pleasures than those supplied by the busy and perilous life I led at the court.’ Forced to hide himself, often to flee by night, to escape the pursuit of his persecutors, the peace which he enjoyed was never troubled. He looked upon trials as the privilege of the child of God. All of a sudden a strange and unexpected calamity befell him. The daughter of Anne Boleyn, having ascended the throne, desired to have her mother’s chaplain for archbishop of Canterbury and primate of all England. ‘I kneel before your Majesty,’ he said to Queen Elizabeth, ‘and pray you not to burden me with an office which requires a man of much more talent, knowledge, virtue, and experience than I possess.’ A second letter from Chancellor Bacon repeated the summons. Then the unhappy Parker exclaimed in the depth of his sorrow: ‘Alas! alas! Lord God! for what times hast Thou preserved me! I am come into deep waters, where the floods overflow me. O Lord! strengthen me by Thy mighty Spirit!’ Parker was at the head of the Church of England for sixteen years, and dignified the elevated seat on which he had been constrained to sit. Such were the men whom Anne Boleyn gathered round her.
We should be mistaken, however, if we represented the young queen as a bigot, living like Catherine in the practices of a rigid austerity. It appears even doubtful whether she knew by experience that inner, spiritual, and living Christianity which was found in Latimer, Tyndale, Cranmer, and Parker. She was a virtuous wife, a good protestant, attached to the Bible, opposed to the pope, fond of good works, esteeming men of God more than courtiers: but she had not renounced the world and its pomps. A woman of the world, upright, religious, loving to do good, a class of which there is always a large number, she was unacquainted with the pious aspirations of a soul that lives in communion with God. Even her position as queen and wife of Henry VIII. may have hindered her from advancing in the path of a Christian life. She thought it possible to love God without renouncing the enjoyments of the age, and looked upon worldly things as an innocent recreation. Desiring to keep her husband’s heart, she endeavored to please him by cheerful conversation, by organizing pleasure parties of which she was the life, and by receiving all his courtiers gracefully. Placed on a slippery soil and watched by prejudiced eyes, she may occasionally have let fall some imprudent expression. Her sprightliness and gaiety, her amiable freedom were in strong contrast with the graver and stiffer formalities of the English ladies. Latimer, who saw her closely, sometimes admonished her respectfully, when he was alone with her, and the grateful Anne would exclaim unaffectedly: ‘You do me so much good! Pray never pass over a single fault.’
It is not from the writings of the pamphleteers that we must learn to know Anne Boleyn. Towards the end of the sixteenth century, opposite parties, in their extreme excitement, have painted her at one time in colors too dark, at another in colors too flattering. We must in this matter especially listen to men whose testimony is sanctioned by universal respect. There are not many princesses in history who have enjoyed, like Anne, the esteem of the most elevated minds of Cranmer and Latimer, of Tyndale and Parker, and other Christians, less illustrious, perhaps, but not less respectable. In the eyes of the papal partisans, however, she had committed an unpardonable crime: she had seprated England from the papacy ; and accordingly their savage hatred has known no bounds, and they have never ceased to blacken her memory with their vile calumnies. Of all the misdeeds that history can commit, the greatest consists in representing the innocent as if they were guilty. It is wholesale calumny for the use not only of the present generation but for generations to come. Many writers have forged and still forge base imputations against the reformers Luther, Calvin, and others. Anne Boleyn has had her full share of slander in this huge conspiracy of falsehood. The grandeur with which Anne was surrounded, had opened her heart to the tenderest sympathies. To be the joy of her husband and the delight of her relations, to protect the friends of the Gospel and to be loved by England — these were for some time the dreams of her young imagination.
But ere long the crown of St. Edward pressed heavily on her forehead. The members of her own family became her enemies, Her uncle, the proud duke of Norfolk, the chief along with Gardiner of the ultramontane party, was animated by a secret hatred against the young woman who was the support of the evangelical party. Her father, the earl of Wiltshire, imagining he saw that the king was not flattered at being his son-in-law, had quitted London, regretting a union which his ambition had so much desired. Lady Rocheford, wife of Anne’s brother, a woman of despicable character, whose former perfidies the queen had pardoned, and whom she had attached to the court, repaid this generous magnanimity by secretly plotting the ruin of a sister-in-law whose elevation had filled her with jealousy. At length, one of those who ate her bread and received favors from her, was about to show her ingratitude to the unfortunate queen.
Among her ladies of honor was Jane Seymour, who united all the attractions of youth and beauty, and whose disposition held a certain mean between the severe gravity of Queen Catherine and the fascinating sprightliness of Queen Anne. Constancy in affection was not a feature of Henry’s character; his heart was easily inflamed; his eye rested on the youthful Jane Seymour, and no sooner had he become sensible of her graces, than the charms of Anne Boleyn, which had formerly captivated him, became unendurable. The genial gaiety of the queen fatigued him; the accomplishments which are ordinarily the means of pleasing, gave him umbrage; the zeal she manifested for Protestantism alienated him. Anne’s enemies, especially the duke of Norfolk and Lady Rocheford, observed this, and resolved to take advantage of it to ruin the woman who overshadowed them.
One circumstance, innocent enough of itself, favored the designs of the queen’s enemies. Anne, who had been brought up in France, among a people distinguished for their inexhaustible stores of gaiety, easy conversation, witty and ingenious sallies, ironical phrases, and amiable hearts, had brought something of all this to London. Frank and prepossessing, she loved society; and her ordinary manners seemed too easy among a nation which, with deep affections, possesses much gravity and external coldness. Anne had found a certain freedom of speech in the court of France it does not appear that she even imitated it; but in a moment of gaiety she might have let slip some keen railleries, some imprudent words, and thus furnished her enemies with weapons. She had some difficulty in conforming with the strict etiquette of the court of England, and had not been trained to the circumspection so necessary with a husband like Henry VIII.
Anne was, at the same time, a friend of the Reformation in the midst of a society that was catholic at heart, and a Frenchwoman in the midst of an English court; these were her two capital crimes. She was not understood.
Her gaiety did not degenerate into frivolity: she did not possess that love of pleasure, which, carried to excess, engenders corruption of manners; we have named the truly pious men whom she loved to gather round her. But it was quite enough for some persons that Anne was agreeable, like the ladies of St. Germains and Fontainebleau, to suspect her of being a flirt, like many of them. Moreover, she had married above her station. Having lived at court as the equal of the young nobles belonging to it, she was not always able, after she ascended the throne, to keep herself on the footing of a queen. From that time her enemies interpreted unfavorably the innocent amiability with which she received them. The mistrustful Henry VIII. began to indulge in suspicions, and Viscountess Rocheford endeavored to feed that prince’s jealousy by crafty and perfidious insinuations.
Anne soon noticed the king’s inclination for Jane Seymour: a thousand trifles, apparently indifferent, had struck her. She often watched the maid of honor; her pride was offended, and jealousy tortured her heart night and day. She endeavored to win back the king’s love; but Henry, who perceived her suspicions, grew more angry with her every hour. The queen was not far from her confinement; and it was at the very moment when she hoped to give Henry the heir he had longed for during so many years, that the king withdrew from her his conjugal affection. Her heart was wrung, and, foreseeing a mournful future, she doubted whether a blow similar to that which had struck Catherine might not soon be aimed at her.
Jane Seymour did not reject the king’s advances. Historians of the most opposite parties relate that one day, towards the end of January 1536, the queen, unexpectedly entering a room in the palace, found the king paying his court to the young maid of honor in too marked a manner. They may possibly exaggerate, but there is no doubt that Henry gave cause for very serious complaints on the part of his wife. It was as if a sword had pierced the heart of the unfortunate Anne Boleyn: she could not bear up against so cruel a blow, and prematurely gave birth to a dead son. God had at length granted Henry that long-desired heir, but the grief of the mother had cost the child’s life. What an affliction for her! For some time her recovery was despaired of. When the king entered her room, she burst into tears. That selfish prince, soured at the thought that she had borne him a dead son, cruelly upbraided her misfortune, instead of consoling her. It was too much: the poor mother could not restrain herself. ‘You have no one to blame but yourself,’ she exclaimed. Henry, still more angry, answered her harshly and left the apartment. These details are preserved by a well-informed writer of the time of Elizabeth. To present Henry under so unfavorable a light, if it were untrue, could hardly have been an agreeable mode of paying court, as some have insinuated, to a queen who took more after her father than her mother.
Anne now foresaw the misfortunes awaiting her: she recovered indeed after this storm, and exerted herself by taking part once more in conversaziones and fetes; but she was melancholy and uneasy, like a foundering ship, which reappears on the waves of the sea after the storm, and still keeps afloat for a time, only to be swallowed up at last. All her attempts to regain her husband’s affections were useless, and frightful dreams disturbed her during the slumbers of the night. This agony lasted three months.
The wind had changed: everybody noticed it, and it was, to certain heartless courtiers, like the signal given to an impatient pack of hounds.
They set themselves to hunt down the prey, which they felt they could rend without danger. The ultramontanists regained their courage. They had feared that, owing to Anne’s intervention, the cause of Rome was lost in England, and their alarm was not unreasonable. Cranmer, uniting his efforts with those of the queen, never ceased pushing forward the Reformation.
When some one spoke in the House of Lords about a General Council in Italy, he exclaimed: ‘It is the Word of God alone that we must listen to in religious controversies.’ At the same time, in concert with Anne, he circulated all over England a new Prayer-book, the Primer, intended to replace the dangerous books of the priests. The people used it. A pious and spiritual reader of that book exclaimed one day, after meditating upon it: ‘O bountiful Jesu! O sweet Savior! despise not him whom Thou hast ransomed at the price of such a treasure — with Thy blood! I look with confidence to the throne of mercy.’ Religion was becoming personal with Anne Boleyn.
The queen and the archbishop had not stopped there: they had attempted, so far as Henry would permit, to place true shepherds over the flocks, instead of merchants who traded with their wool. The bishopric of Worcester, which had been taken from Ghinnucci, was given (as we have seen) to Latimer; so that the valley of the Severn, which four Italian bishops had plundered for fifty years, possessed at last a pastor who ‘planted there the plenteousness of Jesus Christ.’ Shaxton, another of Anne’s chaplains, who at this time professed a great attachment to Holy Scripture, had been appointed bishop of Salisbury, in place of the famous Cardinal Campeggio. Hilderly, formerly a Dominican prior who had at one time defended the immaculate conception of the Virgin, but had afterwards acknowledged and worshipped Jesus Christ as the only Mediator had been nominated to the see of Rochester, in place of the unfortunate Bishop Fisher. Finally, George Brown, ex-provincial of the Augustines in England — an upright mail, a friend of the poor, and who, caught by the truth, had exclaimed from the pulpit, ‘Go to Christ and not to the saints!’ had been elected archbishop of Dublin, and thus became the first evangelical prelate of Ireland, a difficult post, which he occupied at the peril of his life. Other prelates, like Fox, bishop of Hereford, although not true Protestants, proved themselves to be and-Papists.
The members of the ultramontane party saw the influence of the queen in all these nominations. Who resisted the proposal that the English Church should be represented at the General Council? Who endeavored to make the king advance in the direction of the Reformation? Who threw England into the arms of the princes of Germany? The queen, none but the queen.
She felt unhappy, it was said, when she saw a day pass without having obtained some favor for the Reformation. Men knew that the pope was ready to forgive everything, and even to unite with Henry against Charles V., if the king would submit to the conditions laid down in the bull that is to say, if he would put away Anne Boleyn. The condition required by the pontiff was not an impossible one, for Henry liked to change his wives: he had six. Marriage was not to him a oneness of life. At the end of 1535, Anne had been his wife for three years; it was a long time for him, and he began to turn his eyes upon others. Jane Seymour’s youth eclipsed the queen’s. Unfortunate Boleyn!
Sorrow had gradually diminished her freshness. Jane had natural allies, who might help her to ascend the throne. Her two brothers, Edward and Thomas — the elder more moderate, the younger more arrogant — each possessing great ambition and remarkable capacity, thought that a Seymour was as worthy as a Boleyn to wear the English crown. The first blow did not however proceed from them, but from a member of the queen’s family — from her sister-in-law. There is no room for indifference between near relations: they love or, if they do not love, they hate. Lady Rocheford, so closely allied to the queen, felt continually piqued at her.
Jealousy had engendered a deep dislike in her heart, and this dislike was destined to lead her on to contrive the death of the detested object.
Rendered desperate by the happiness and especially by the greatness of Anne Boleyn, it became her ruling passion to destroy them. One obstacle, however, rose up before her. Lord Rocheford, her husband and Anne’s brother, would not enter into her perfidious schemes. That depraved woman, who afterwards suffered capital punishment for conniving at crime, determined to ruin her sister-in-law and her husband together. It was arranged that three of the courtiers should give Henry the first hints. ‘Thus began,’ says an author of that day, ‘a comedy which was changed into a sorrowful tragedy.’ Nothing was omitted that tended to the success of one of the most infamous court intrigues recorded in history.
Anne became cognizant almost at the same time of her sister-in-law’s hatred of her and of her husband’s love for Jane Seymour. From that moment she fore-boded an early death, and her most anxious thoughts were for her daughter. She wondered what would become of the poor child, and, desirous of having her brought up in the knowledge of the Gospel, she sent for the pious simple-minded Parker, told him of her apprehensions and her wishes, and commended Elizabeth to him with all a mother’s love. Anne’s words sank so deep into his heart that he never forgot them; and twenty-three years later, When that child, who had become queen, raised him to the primacy, he declared to Lord Burghley, that if he were not under such great obligations to her mother, he would never have consented to serve the daughter in such an elevated station. After consigning the youthful Elizabeth to the care of a man of God, the unhappy queen was more at; ease.
Meantime the plot was forming in silence, and two or three circumstances, such as occur in the most innocent life, were the pretext for Anne’s destruction.
One day, when she was with the king at Winchester, she sent for one of the court-musicians, named Sineton, ‘to play on the virginals.’ This was the first count in the indictment.
Norris, a gentleman of the king’s chamber, was engaged to Margaret, one of Anne’s maids of honor, and consequently was often in the queen’s apartments. Slanderous tongues affirmed that he went more for the sake of his sovereign than for his betrothed. The queen hearing of it, and desiring to stop the scandal, determined to bind Norris to marry Margaret. ‘Why do you not go on with your marriage?’ she asked him. ‘I desire to wait a little longer,’ answered the gentleman. Anne, with the intent of making him understand that there were serious reasons for not putting it off any longer, added: ‘It is said at court that you are waiting for a dead man’s shoes, and that if any misfortune befell the king, you would look to have me for your wife.’ ‘God forbid!’ exclaimed Norris, in alarm; ‘if I had such an idea, it would be my destruction.’ ‘Mind what you are about,’ resumed the queen, with severity. Norris, in great emotion, went immediately to Anne Boleyn’s almoner. ‘The queen is a virtuous woman,’ he said; ‘I am willing to affirm it upon oath.’ This was the second count in the indictment.
Sir Francis Weston, a bold frivolous man, was (although married) very attentive to a young lady of the court, a relative of the queen. ‘Sir Francis,’ said Anne, who was distressed at his behavior, ‘you love Mistress Skelton, and neglect your wife.’ ‘Madam,’ answered the audacious courtier, ‘there is one person in your house whom I love better than both.’ ‘And who is that?’ said the queen. ‘Yourself,’ answered Weston. Offended by such insolence, Anne ordered him, with scorn and displeasure, to leave her presence. This was the third count of the indictment.
Lord Rocheford, a man of noble and chivalrous character, indignant at the calumnies which were beginning to circulate against his sister, endeavored to avert the storm. One day, when she kept her bed, he entered her room to speak to her; and, the maids of honor being present, he leant towards the queen, to say something on this matter which was not fit for the ears of strangers to the family. The infamous Lady Rocheford made use of this innocent circumstance to accuse her husband and sister-in-law of an abominable crime.
Such are the four charges that were to cost Anne Boleyn her life. Futile observations, malicious remarks to which persons are exposed in the world, and especially at court, reached the ears of the king, and inspired him with jealousy, reproaches, angry words, and coldness. There was no more happiness for Anne.
There was enough in these stories to induce Henry VIII. to reject his second wife, and take a third. This prince — and it was the case generally with the Tudors — -had a temper at once decided and changeable, a heart susceptible and distrustful, an energetic character, and passions eager to be satisfied at any price. Very mistrustful, he did not easily get the better of his suspicions, and when any person had vexed him, he was not appeased until he had got rid of him. Common-sense generally appreciates at their true worth such stories as those we have reported; but the characters now on the stage were more irritable than those usually to be found in the world. ‘A tempest,’ says Lord Herbert of Cherbury on this subject, ‘though it scarce stir low and shallow waters, when it meets a sea, both vexeth it, and makes it toss all that comes thereon.’ Henry, happy to have found the pretext which his new passion made him long for, investigated nothing; he appeared to believe everything he was told. tie swore to prove Anne’s guilt to others by the greatness of his revenge. Of his six wives, he got rid of two by divorce, two by the Scaffold; only two escaped his criminal humor. This time he was unwilling to proceed by divorce; the tediousness of Catherine’s affair had wearied him. He preferred a more expeditious mode — the axe.
On the 25th of April the king appointed a commission to enquire into Anne’s conduct, and placed on it the duke of Norfolk, a maternal uncle but (as we have said) an implacable enemy of the unfortunate queen; the duke of Suffolk, who, as Henry’s brother-in-law, served him in his least desires; the earl of Oxford, a skillful courtier; William Paulet, comptroller of the royal household, whose motto was, ‘To be a willow and not an oak;’ Audley, the honestest of all, but still his master’s humble servant; Lord Delawarr, and several other lords and gentlemen, to the number of twentysix.
It has been said, by Burner and others, that the king named Anne’s father, the earl of Wiltshire, one of the judges. It would, no doubt, have been the most striking trait of cruelty, of which Henry gave so many proofs; but we must in justice declare that the wretched prince did not perpetrate such a monstrosity. Burner, after the most searching investigations, retracted his error. On Thursday, the 27th of April, the king, understanding the necessity of a Parliament to repeal the laws made in favor of Anne and her children, issued writs for its assembling. He was resolved to hurry on the business — equally impatient to hear no more of his wife, and to possess her who was the object of his desires.
Anne, who was ignorant of what was going on, had gradually recovered a little serenity, but it was not so with those around her. The court was agitated and uneasy. The names of the commissioners were canvassed, and people wondered where the terrible blows of the king would fall. Many were alarmed for themselves or their friends. Would the storm burst on Sir Thomas Wyatt, who wrote verses in Anne’s honor? or on Lord Northumberand, whom the queen had loved before Henry cast his eyes upon her? The king did not intend to go so high.
The indecision did not last long. At two o’clock on the 27th of April — the very day when the writs for the new Parliament were issued William Brereton, one of the gentlemen of the king’s household, pointed out by the queen’s enemies, was arrested and taken to the Tower, Two days later, on the 29th of April, Anne was crossing the presence-chamber, where a miserable creature happened to be present at that moment. It was Mark Smeton, the court-musician a vain, cowardly, corrupt man, who had felt hurt because, since the day when he had played before the queen at Winchester, that princess had never even looked at him. He was standing, in a dejected attitude, leaning against a window. It is possible that, having heard of the disgrace that threatened the queen, he hoped, by showing his sorrow, to obtain from her some mark of interest. Be that as it may, his unusual presence in that room, the posture he had assumed, the appearance of sorrow which he had put on, were evidently intended to attract her attention. The trick succeeded. Anne noticed him as she passed by. ‘Why are you sad?’ she asked. ‘It is no matter, madam.’ The queen fancied that Sineton was grieved because she had never spoken to him. ‘You may not look to have me speak to you,’ she added, ‘as if you were a nobleman, because you are an inferior person.’ ‘No, madam,’ replied the musician, ‘I need no words; a look sufficeth me.’ He did not receive the look he asked for, and his wounded vanity urged him from that moment to ruin the princess, by whom he had the insolence to wish to be remarked. Smeton’s words were reported to the king, and next day (April 30), the musician was arrested, examined at Stephey, and sent to the Tower.
A magnificent festival was preparing at Greenwich, to celebrate the First of May in the usual manner. This was the strange moment which Henry had chosen for unveiling his plans. In certain minds there appears to be a mysterious connection between festivities and bloodshed; another prince (Nero) had shown it in old times, and some years later Charles IX. was to celebrate the marriage of his sister Margaret by the massacres of St. Bartholomew. Henry VIII. gave to two of the victims he was about to immolate the foremost places in the brilliant tournament he had prepared.
Lord Rocheford, the queen’s brother, was the principal challenger, and Henry Norris was chief of the defenders. Sir Francis Weston was also to take part in these jousts. Henry showed himself very gracious to them, and hid with smiles their approaching destruction. The king having taken his place, and the queen, in a magnificent costume, being seated by his side, Rocheford and Norris passed before him, lowering their spears — morituri to salutant . The jousting began immediately after. The circumstances of the court gave a gloomy solemnity to the festival. The king, who was watching with fixed eyes the struggles of his courtiers, started up all of a sudden, with every appearance of anger, and hastily quitted the balcony. What had happened? The ultramontane Sanders, notorious as being a most malicious and fabulous writer, mentions that the queen had dropped her handkerchief into the lists, and that Norris took it up and wiped his face with it. Lord Herbert, Burner, and others affirm that there is nothing to corroborate the story, which, were it true, might be very innocent. However, the festivities were interrupted by the king’s departure. The confusion was universal, and the alarmed queen withdrew, eager to know the cause of the strange procedure. Thus ended the rejoicings of the First of May.
Henry, who had gone back to the palace, hearing of the queen’s return, refused to see her, ordered her to keep her room, mounted his horse, and, accompanied by six gentlemen, galloped back to London. Slackening his pace for a time, he took Norris aside, and, telling him the occasion of his anger, promised to pardon him if he would confess. Norris answered, with firmness and respect: ‘Sire, if you were to cut me open and take out my heart, I could only tell you what I know.’ On reaching Whitehall, Henry said to his ministers: ‘To-morrow morning you will take Rocheford, Norris, and Weston to the Tower; you will then proceed to Greenwich, arrest the queen, and put her in prison. Finally, you will write to Cranmer and bid him go immediately to Lambeth, and there await my orders.’ The victims were seized, and the high-priest summoned for the sacrifice.
The night was full of anguish to Anne Boleyn, and the next day, when she was surrounded by her ladies, their consternation increased her terror. It seemed to her impossible that a word from her would not convince her husband of her innocence. ‘I will positively see the king,’ she exclaimed.
She ordered her barge to be prepared, but, just as she was about to set out, another barge arrived from London, bringing Cromwell, Audley, and the terrible Kingston, lieutenant of the Tower. That ominous presence was a death-warrant: on seeing him the queen screamed aloud.
They did not, however, remove her at once: the council, on which sat her most violent adversaries, assembled in the palace, and Anne was summoned to appear before it. The duke of Norfolk, the president, informed her coldly of what she was accused, and named her pretended accomplices. At these words, the queen, struck with astonishment and sorrow, fell on her knees and cried out: ‘O Lord, if I am guilty, may I never be forgiven!’ Then, recovering a little from her emotion, she replied to the calumnious charges brought against her, to which Norfolk answered carelessly and contemptuously, as if he were still speaking to the little girl whom he had seen born, ‘Tut, tut, tut,’ and shook his head disdainfully. ‘I desire to see the king,’ said Anne. ‘Impossible,’ answered the duke; ‘that is not included in our commission.’ ‘I have been very cruelly treated,’ said Anne Boleyn, later, when speaking of this horrible conversation with her uncle. ‘It is his Majesty’s good pleasure that we conduct you to the Tower,’ added Norfolk. ‘I am ready to obey,’ said the queen, and all went in the same barge. When they reached the Tower, Anne landed. The governor was there to receive her. Norfolk and the other members of the council committed her into his charge and departed. It was five in the afternoon.
Then the gates of the fortress opened; and at this moment, when she was crossing the threshold under the charge of heinous crimes, Anne remembered how, three years before, she had entered it in triumph for the ceremony of her coronation, in the midst of the general acclamations of the people. Struck by the fearful contrast, she fell on her knees ‘as a ball,’ and exclaimed, ‘O Lord; help me, as I am guiltless of that whereof I am accused!’ The governor raised her up, and they entered. She expected to be put into close confinement. ‘Mr. Kingston,’ she said, ‘shall you put me into a dungeon?’ ‘No, madam,’ answered the governor; ‘you will be in your own lodging, where you lay at your coronation.’ ‘It is too good for me,’ she exclaimed. She entered, however, and on reaching those royal chambers, which recalled such different recollections, she knelt again and burst into tears. The violence of her grief presently brought on convulsive movements, and her tears were succeeded by hysterical laughter. Gradually she came to herself, and tried to collect her thoughts. Feeling the need of strengthening herself by the evidences of the Lord’s love, she said to Kingston, ‘Entreat his Majesty to let me have the sacrament.’ Then, in the consciousness of innocence, she added, ‘Sir, I am as clear from the company of man as I am of you. I am the king’s true wedded wife.’ She was not absorbed in her own misfortunes: she was moved by the sufferings of the others, and uneasy about her brother. ‘Can you tell me where Lord Rocheford is?’ she asked. Kingston replied that he had seen him at Whitehall. She was not tranquillized by this evasive answer. ‘Oh, where is my sweet brother?’ she exclaimed. There was no reply. ‘Mr. Kingston,’ resumed Anne, after a few moments, ‘do you know why I am here?’ ‘No, madam.’ ‘I hear say that I am to be accused of criminal familiarities.’ (Norfolk had told her so in the barge.) ‘I can say no more than Nay!’ Suddenly tearing one of her garments, she exclaimed, as if distracted: ‘If they were to open my body, I should still say — No.’ After this her mind wandered. She thought of her mother, and the love she felt for the countess of Wiltshire made her feel mere than anything else the bitterness of her situation: she imagined the proud lady was before her, and cried, with unutterable agony, ‘O my mother, my mother, thou wilt die for sorrow!’ Then her gloomy thoughts were turned to other objects.
She remembered that, while in the barge, the duke of Norfolk had named Norris and Sineton as her accusers, which was partly false. The miserable musician was not grieved at being wrongfully accused of a crime likely to make him notorious, but Norris had stoutly rejected the idea that the queen could be guilty. ‘O Norris, hast thou accused me!’ she ejaculated; ‘and thou too, Sineton!’ After a few moments’ silence, Anne fixed her eyes on the governor. ‘Mr. Kingston,’ she asked, ‘shall I die without justice?’ ‘Madam,’ answered the governor, ‘the meanest subject of the king has that.’ At these words the queen again laughed hysterically. ‘Justice — justice!’ she exclaimed, with disdainful incredulity. She counted less upon justice than the humblest of her subjects. Gradually the tempest calmed down, and the silence of the night brought relief to her sorrow.
The same day (May 2) the news spread through London that the queen was arrested. Cranmer, who had received the royal intimation to go to his palace at Lambeth, and wait there until further orders, had arrived, and was thunderstruck on hearing what had happened. ‘What! the queen in prison! the queen an adulteress!’... A struggle took place in his bosom. He was indebted to the queen for much; he had always found her irreproachable... the refuge of the unhappy, the upholder of the truth, lie had loved her like a daughter, respected her as his sovereign. That she was innocent, he had no doubt; but how account for the behavior of the king? The unhappy prelate was distracted by the most painful thoughts during the whole of Tuesday night. This truly pious man showed excessive indulgence towards Henry VIII., and bent easily beneath his powerful hand; but his path was dearly traced — to maintain unhesitatingly the innocence of her whom he had always honored. And yet he was to be an example of the fascination exerted by a despot; over such characters — of the cowardice of which a good man may be guilty through human respect. Doubtless there are extenuating circumstances in his ease. It, was not only the queen’s fate that made the prelate uneasy, but also the future of the Reformation. If love for Anne had helped to make Henry incline to the side of the Reformation, the hatred which he now felt, against his unhappy wife might easily drive him into the other direction. Cranmer desired to prevent this at any price, and accordingly thought himself obliged to use extreme precaution. But these circumstances are really no extenuation. No motive in the world can excuse a man from not frankly defending his friends when they are falsely accused from not vindicating an innocent woman when she is declared to be guilty. Cranmer wrote to the king: ‘I cannot without your Majesty’s command appear in your presence; but I can at least desire most humbly, as is my duty, that your great wisdom and God’s help may remove the deep sorrow of your heart. ‘I cannot deny that your Majesty has great cause to be overwhelmed with sorrow. In fact, whether the things of which men speak be true or not, your honor, Sire, according to the false appreciation of the world, has suffered; and I do not remember that Almighty God has ever before put your Majesty’s firmness to so severe a proof. ‘Sire, I am in such a perplexity that I am clean amazed; for I never had a better opinion in woman than I had of her, which maketh me think that she cannot be culpable.’ This was tolerably bold, and accordingly Cranmer hastened to tone down his boldness. ‘And yet, Sire,’ he added, ‘would you have gone so far, if you had not been sure of her crime?... Your Grace best knoweth that, next unto your Grace, I was most bound unto her of all creatures living.
Wherefore I must humbly beseech your Grace to suffer me in that which both God’s law, nature, and her kindness bindeth me unto that I may (with your Grace’s favor) wish and pray for her. And from what condition your Grace, of your only mere goodness, took her, and set the crown upon her head, I repute him not your Grace’s faithful servant and subject, nor true to the realm, that would not desire the offense to be without mercy punished, to the example of all others. And as I loved her not a little, for the love I judged her to bear towards God and His holy Gospel; so, if she be proved guilty, there is not one that loveth God and His Gospel that will ever favor her, for then there never was creature in our time that so much slandered the Gospel. ‘However,’ he added, appearing to recover his courage, ‘forget not that God has shown His goodness to your Grace in many ways, and has never injured you; whilst your Grace, I am sure, acknowledgeth that you have offended Him. Extend, therefore, to the Gospel the precious favor you have always shown it, and which proceedeth not from your love for the queen your wife, but from your zeal for the truth. ‘From Lambeth, 3d of May, 1636.’ When Cranmer addressed these soothing words to the king, it was doubtless on the supposition (on which he gives no opinion) that Anne was guilty. But, even admitting this hypothesis, is it not carrying flattery of the terrible autocrat very far, to compare him with Job as the prelate does? In another part of this letter he says: ‘By accepting all adversity, without despair and without murmuring, your Grace will give opportunity to God to multiply His blessings, as He did to His faithful servant Job, to whom, after his great calamity, and to reward his patience, He restored the double of what He had possessed.’ As regards the king, Cranmer had found for himself a false conscience, which led him into deceitful ways: his letter, although he still tries to defend Anne, cannot be justified.
He was about to dispatch the letter, when he received a message from the lord-chancellor, desiring him to come to the Star-Chamber. The archbishop hastened across the Thames, and found at the appointed place not only Audley, but the Lords Oxford and Sussex, and the lord-chamberlain. These noblemen laid before him the charges brought against Anne Boleyn, adding that they could be proved, though they did not themselves produce any proof. On his return to Lambeth, Cranmer added a postscript to his letter, in which he expressed his extreme sorrow at the report that had just been made to him.
The morning of the same day (May 3) was a sad one in the Tower. By a refinement of cruelty, the king had ordered two of the queen’s enemies Lady Boleyn and Mistress Cosyns — to be always near her; to which end they slept in her room, while Kingston and his wife slept outside against her chamber-door. ‘What could be the object of these strange precautions?
We can only see one. Every word that fell from Anne, even in her convulsions or in her dreams, would be perfidiously caught up, and reported to the king’s agents with malicious interpretations. Anne, pardoning the former conduct of these ladies, and wholly engrossed with her father’s sorrow, thought she might ask for news about him from the persons who had been given her for companions; but those wicked women, who never spoke to her without rudeness, refused to give her any information. ‘The king knew what he was doing,’ said Anne to Kingston, ‘when he put these two women about me. I could have desired to have two ladies of my chamber, persons whom I love; but his Majesty has had the cruelty to give me those whom I could never endure.’ The punishment continued. Lady Boleyn, hoping to detect some confusion in her niece’s face, told her that her brother, Lord Rocheford, was also in the Tower. Anne, who had somewhat recovered her strength, answered calmly, ‘I am glad to learn that he is so near me.’ ‘Madam,’ added Kingston, ‘Weston and Brereton are also under my charge.’ The queen remained calm. She purposed, however, to vindicate herself, and her first thought turned towards two of the most pious men in England:·’Oh, if God permitted me,’ she said, ‘to have my bishops (meaning Cranmer and Latimer), they would plead to the king for me.’ She then remained silent for a few minutes. A sweet reflection passed through her mind and consoled her.
Since she had undertaken the defense of the persecuted evangelicals, gratitude would doubtless impel them to pray for her. ‘I think,’ she said, ‘that the greater part of England is praying for me.’ Anne had asked for her almoner, and, as some hours had elapsed without his arrival, gloomy images once more arose to sadden her mind. ‘To be a queen,’ she said, ‘and to be treated so cruelly treated as queen never was before!’ Then, as if a ray of sunshine had scattered the clouds, she exclaimed: ‘No, I shall not die no, I will not die!... The king has put me in prison only to prove me.’ The terrible struggle was too great for the young woman: she had convulsions and fits, and almost lost her senses. Attacked by a fresh hysterical paroxysm, the unfortunate lady burst into laughter.
On coming to herself after a while, she cried: ‘I will have justice... justice... justice!’ Kingston, who was present, bowed and said: ‘Assuredly, madam.’ ‘If any man accuses me,’ she continued, ‘I can only say — No.
They can bring no witness against me.’ Then she had, all at once, an extraordinary attack: she fell clown in delirium, and with eyes starting, as if she were looking into the future, and could foresee the chastisement with which God would punish the infamous wickedness of which she was the victim, she exclaimed: ‘If I am put to death, there will be great judgments upon England for seven years... And I... I shall be in heaven... for I have done many good deeds during my life.’