Mark Smeaton

Anne Boleyn wasn´t arrested, condemned and executed by herself. A number of men went to their MIM_String_Instrumentsdeaths charged as accessories to her crimes.

The first man to be arrested, on April 30th, was Mark Smeaton, a court musician believed to have been of French-Flemish origin due to his name which can be derived from the names de Smet or de Smedt. Mark Smeaton is described as a very handsome young man and one of the prettiest monochord* players.

He had been appointed Groom the Privy Chamber in 1529, and what especially distinguish him from the others accused is that Mark Smeaton was not of noble birth, his father was a carpenter. Originally he had been part of Cardinal Thomas Wolsey´s choir, but after Wolsey fell from grace, he was moved to Chapel Royal, where he was noticed by Anne Boleyn.

He was favoured by Henry VIII who gave him special gifts of money and clothes, but the fact of his lowly birth kept him out from ever being part of the closer circle around Anne Boleyn, and it´s highly improbable that he ever had an affair with the Queen. He was however the only one of the accused men who confessed, and it´s telling that he was also, according to the Spanish Chronicle, the only one who was tortured. According to the same chronicle, Smeaton was a social climber who presumed to be equal to others who, by the social standards of the time, considered themselves to be above him through birth and title. As well as his presumptions provoking people, his admittance of adultery with the Queen caused outrage as they found it horrific that the Queen should stoop so low as to have an affair with someone so far beneath her.

It has been suggested that Mark Smeaton was homosexual, and possibly was he a lover of George Boleyn, Lord Rochford, but there really exist not proof of that. It is however believed that he might have been welcome into the circles around George Boleyn..
Mark Smeaton was convicted and sentenced to death of May 12th and executed on the 17th, two days before Anne herself. He was buried in a commoner´s grave.
Many years later, when Mary I wanted to stress the illegitimacy of her sister Elizabeth, she claimed that the latter had the “face and countenance” of Mark Smeaton.

*An instrument with a single string stretched over a sound box

Sources: The Lady in the Tower – Alison Weir
The rise and fall of Anne Boleyn – Retha M. Warnicke
Henry VIII – Lucy Wooding
Image of Monochord – Morn the Gorn

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