George Boleyn, sentenced today

 

George_Boleyn_signatureHe was the only surviving son among the Boleyn-children, George, Viscount Rochford. At one point he had had two brothers, Henry and Thomas, neither of whom reached adulthood. Only George, Anne and Mary were fortunate to do that.
In the end, only Mary would be left. George was arrested on May 2nd, the same day as his sister and today, in 1536, he stood trial accused of treason and an incestuous relation with his sister Anne.
It was said that the child – a boy – Anne had miscarried in January had been gravely deformed, and the reason for this was that she had conceived it with her brother. There is how ever no proof that there should have been some inappropriate relationship between brother and sister, other than that George at one point is said to have spent an unusually long time alone together with her.

Unlike his sisters, George never received any education at the French court, but on the other hand, as a courtier of Henry VIII he went on several successful embassies to France in different matters, one of which was to arrange the marriage between his, at the time, very young princess Elizabeth and the French dauphin, something which obviously never came to be.
Among his many appointments, one find Gentleman of the Privy Chamber, Esquire of The Body, diplomat, Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports and Constable of Dover Castle. This indicates that the King liked and trusted George Boleyn in his own right, and it is said that before he know who he actually was, even Eustace Chapuys, who hated to Boleyn´s for no strange reason, had liked George.

In contemporary texts, all though mostly after his death, George is recognised as a charming and intelligent man of436px-Arms_of_the_Boleyn_family_of_London good looks, and as that is the description of the kind of courtier Henry surrounded himself with, it most likely is accurate. There was also another side to George Boleyn though, and that was an arrogant, proud and maybe even ruthless side. He was a womaniser and due to a poem by the gentleman usher of Cardinal Wolsey, George Cavendish, George Boleyn has also received a reputation as a possible rapist as the very first line of the poem reads “I forced widows, maidens I did deflower” which indicate that he didn´t take no for an answer.
On one hand, it can be argued that George Cavendish was a staunch catholic who hated the Boleyn´s for their support of a reformed religion, but on the other hand, the poem continues by praising George for the already mentioned intelligence (wit) and charm, thereby giving the poem a balance in which may make the text more credible.
At the time of his trial, most of those watching thought he would be aquitted, and Eustace Chapuys, again, confirmed that George Boleyn had put up a brilliant defence. He later stated that George had been convicted only on presumptions.

But convicted he was, and on this day George sentenced to die a traitors death by being hanged, drawn and quartered. This was later commuted to a beheading. On the scaffold, George Boleyn gave a speech that went a bit further than what was custom, and he stated “Masters all, I am not come hither for to preach, but for to die, for I have deserved to died if had 20 lives, more shamefully than can be devised, for I am a wretched sinner, and I have sinned shamefully.”

Site of ancient scaffold at Tower Hill

Site of ancient scaffold at Tower Hill

That he claimed to be a wretched sinner and that he´d sinned shamefully has come to be interpreted by some historians as a hint to George Boleyn being homosexual, and having lived out his orientation.

The historian Retha Warnicke went as far as in her book “The rise and fall of Anne Boleyn” as to suggest that all men charged and executed in relation to Anne Boleyn was actually really condemned for being homosexuals. This, however, has been refuted by other historians but was in sorts resurrected by Alison Weir in her book the “Lady in the Tower – The fall of Anne Boleyn”. There are however no contemporary evidence that George Boleyn was homo- or bisexual, or even, apart from the possible translation of the first line in Cavendish poem, a violent man.

George Boleyn was executed on May 17th, two days before his sister, on Tower Hill and is, like Anne, buried in St Peter ad Vincula within the Tower.

 

 

Sources: Letters and papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII
Calendar of State papers, Spain.
The Lady of the Tower – The fall of Anne Boleyn – Alison Weir
The wives of Henry VIII – Alison Weir
The Rise and Fall of Anne Boleyn – Retha Warnicke
The Anne Boleyn Files – Claire Ridgeway

Image of site of Tower Hill scaffold – Mario Roberto Duran Ortiz

Boleyn family Crest – NinjaKid/Ollie Martin

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