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

“To the King from the Lady in the Tower”

 

A letter may, or may not – its authenticity have been contested in some quarters – have been sent letter from Anne Boleynfrom Anne Boleyn on this day while she was imprisoned in the Tower, not yet knowing that she was awaiting her death.
She had 13 days left to live, and obviously thought there was a way to move the King. The headline is most likely added by Thomas Cromwell, who may have felt like the winner at this point but who would in only four years from “now” fall from grace himself.
“Misspellings” and other writings that we may not be used to see should be attributed to the author of the letter, possibly Anne Boleyn herself. It has been suggested that it´s not in Anne Boleyn´s own handwriting and may in that case have been written by a scribe or by the Lieutenant of the Tower himself, Kingston.
The letter was found among Thomas Cromwell´s papers after his execution, which may be an indication that it never reached the King. Maybe she´s in there, persistent, defying and finally begging, not for herself, but for the men accused together with her.

1491_Henry_VIII“To the King from the Lady in the Tower”

“Sir, your Grace’s displeasure, and my Imprisonment are Things so strange unto me, as what to Write, or what to Excuse, I am altogether ignorant; whereas you sent unto me (willing me to confess a Truth, and so obtain your Favour) by such a one, whom you know to be my ancient and professed Enemy; I no sooner received the Message by him, than I rightly conceived your Meaning; and if, as you say, confessing Truth indeed may procure my safety, I shall with all Willingness and Duty perform your Command.

But let not your Grace ever imagine that Anneboleyn2your poor Wife will ever be brought to acknowledge a Fault, where not so much as Thought thereof proceeded. And to speak a truth, never Prince had Wife more Loyal in all Duty, and in all true Affection, than you have found in Anne Boleyn, with which Name and Place could willingly have contented my self, as if God, and your Grace’s Pleasure had been so pleased. Neither did I at any time so far forge my self in my Exaltation, or received Queenship, but that I always looked for such an Alteration as now I find; for the ground of my preferment being on no surer Foundation than your Grace’s Fancy, the least Alteration, I knew, was fit and sufficient to draw that Fancy to some other subject.
You have chosen me, from a low Estate, to be your Queen and Companion, far beyond my Desert or Desire. If then you found me worthy of such Honour, Good your Grace, let not any light Fancy, or bad Counsel of mine Enemies, withdraw your Princely Favour from me; neither let that Stain, that unworthy Stain of a Disloyal Heart towards your good Grace, ever cast so foul a Blot on your most Dutiful Wife, and the Infant Princess your Daughter:

the trial of anne boleynTry me, good King, but let me have a Lawful Trial, and let not my sworn Enemies sit as my Accusers and Judges; yes, let me receive an open Trial, for my Truth shall fear no open shame; then shall you see, either mine Innocency cleared, your Suspicion and Conscience satisfied, the Ignominy and Slander of the World stopped, or my Guilt openly declared. So that whatsoever God or you may determine of me, your Grace may be freed from an open Censure; and mine Offence being so lawfully proved, your Grace is at liberty, both before God and Man, not only to execute worthy Punishment on me as an unlawful Wife, but to follow your Affection already settled on that party, for whose sake I am now as I am, whose Name I could some good while since have pointed unto: Your Grace being not ignorant of my Suspicion therein.

But if you have already determined of me, and that not only my Death, but an Infamous Slander must bring you the enjoying of your desired Happiness; then I desire of God, that he will pardon your great Sin therein, and likewise mine Enemies, the Instruments thereof; that he will not call you to a strict Account for your unprincely and cruel usage of me, at his General Judgement-Seat, where both you and my self must shortly appear, and in whose Judgement, I doubt not, (whatsover the World may think of me) mine Innocence shall be openly known, and sufficiently cleared.

My last and only Request shall be, That my self may only bear the Burthen of your Grace’s Displeasure, and that it may not touch the Innocent Souls of those poor Gentlemen, who (as I understand) are likewise in strait Imprisonment for my sake. If ever I have found favour in your Sight; if ever the Name of Anne Boleyn hath been pleasing to your Ears, then let me obtain this Request; and I will so leave to trouble your Grace any further, with mine earnest Prayers to the Trinity to have your Grace in his good keeping, and to direct you in all your Actions.

Your most Loyal and ever Faithful Wife, Anne Bullen

From my doleful Prison the Tower, this 6th of May.

Sources: British Library

The Lady in the Tower – Alison Weir

 

The Battle of Tewkesbury

MS_Ghent_-_Battle_of_TewkesburyAfter having been defeated at the Battle of Barnet with the death of Warwick the Kingmaker as a result, the forces of Margaret of Anjou faced the army of Edward IV for the last time on May 4th 1471

She had landed at Weymouth on the very same day as the battle of Barnet and was trying to make her way to Wales by crossing the River Severn. The nearest crossing was at the city of Gloucester, but after receiving a message from Edward IV, the Governor Sir Richard Beauchamp refused to open the city gates to her and her forces. This made them embark on a continued march for another 16 kilometres and they eventually made camp outside Tewkesbury where the Yorkist army finally caught up with them.

As the day broke, Margaret of Anjou sought shelter at a religious house. The Lancastrian armyTewkesbury_abbey numbered 6 000 soldiers and the Yorkist 5 000. Edward IV:s vanguard was led by his brother Richard, Duke of Gloucester. As it became obvious that the Lancastrians wasn´t able to put up the resistance required, both soldiers and commanders began to flee, many being cut down from behind as they ran, while knights and nobles sought sanctuary at Tewkesbury Abbey.

The_Prince_of_Wales_Brought_Before_Edward_IV_After_The_Battle_of_Tewkesbury_(1811)It was a decisive victory which effectively eradicated any hope the Lancastrians had held of recovering the throne for Henry VI and not least for the Prince of Wales; Edward of Westminster, not least because when the battle was over, the latter was dead.
It is not absolutely clear at which point during the battle the Prince of Wales was killed, some sources claim he was killed in the battle itself, others that he tried to run and was killed during the flight, others still that he was caught and brought to Edward IV, only to be executed.

After the battle, Edward decided to breakBeheading_duke_somerset sanctuary, dragging the hiding men out and executing the commanders, one of which was Edmund Beaufort, and with him the House of Beaufort was basically exterminated, with the exception of Margaret Beaufort and her son Henry. Jasper Tudor, Henry´s uncle and guardian had been present at Tewkesbury but fled to Wales, bringing young Henry with him.

A few days after the battle, Margaret of Anjou surrendered to Edward IV, most likely distraught by the death of her son and in effect, the death of the House of Lancaster. She was brought to London as a prisoner of war and imprisoned in the Tower where her husband Henry VI was already held. The same night Henry VI died in the Tower, most likely murdered either on the orders of Edward himself or his brother Richard of Gloucester.

 

Sources: Bosworth Field & the Wars of the Roses – A.L. Rowse
The Wars of the Roses – Alison Weir
The Road to Bosworth Field – Trevor Royle
Images: Tewkesbury Abbey Interior – David Merrett
The murder of Edward of Westminster – James William Edmund Doyle, 1822-2892
(Engraver: Edmund Evans, 1826-1905)

”Look out for my daughter, should anything happen to me”

 

Anneboleyn2The words may not have come out that way, but they do give the essence of what Anne Boleyn asked of her confessor, Matthew Parker, when she told him of her fears one of the last days of April 1536.
According to Alison Weir in her book “The Lady in the Tower – The fall of Anne Boleyn, Anne´s plea made a profound impression on Mark Parker; many years later, having been made Elizabeth I:s first Archbishop of Canterbury, he dedicated himself to her service and also told her most trusted secretary William Cecil that “he would fain serve his sovereign lady in more respects than his allegiance, since he cannot forget what words her Grace´s mother said to him not six days before her apprehension”
Exactly what those words were, we will unfortunately never know.

No doubt she had felt for a great part of the spring that something was going on. On April 23rd, Henry had given the Order of the Garter to Thomas Cromwell instead of her brother. The investigation and the questioning of her ladies in waiting that must have been included in that investigation can hardly have passed her by completely.
1491_Henry_VIIIMaybe there were whispers when she passed by, strange glances that she must have wondered what they were about.

Yesterday, May 1st, or Mayday, she may have come to understand that her situation was grave. During the Mayday joust at Greenwich Palace, Henry all of a sudden got up and walked away. Most likely he didn´t look back, and she would never see him again.
Unbeknown to Anne, the court musician Mark Smeaton had been arrested and interrogated during the night, an interrogation that lasted no less than four hours and had Mark Smeaton confess to having
On this departure from the joust, Henry brought Henry Norris with him and interrogated him all the way back to York Place.

Officially, Henry was all this time planning to take Anne with him to Calais on May 4th, and she was expecting Lady Lisle, the wife of Henry´s maternal uncle, Lady Lisle, to receive her. This obviously wasn´t going to happen. By April 29th, the Privy Council had already been informed about the impending judicial process against the Queen.
But all of late winter and spring spies had been doing their work, including infiltrating the Queen´s household. Someone doing much to establish Anne´s guilt was of course her sister in-law, Lady Rochford who apparently had no problem sending her own husband, George Boleyn, to his death in the process. Without batting an eye? We´ll probably never know, but I won´t hesitate to say that this is not my favourite woman in history.

And on this day 1536 Anne Boleyn, Queen of England – “The Moost Happi” – was arrested. It started, for Anne, by her anne-boleyn-in-the-tower-edouard-cibotbeing ordered to appear at the Privy Council, where she was faced by a Royal Commission, where she was accused of having committed adultery with three men, Sir Henry Norris and Mark Smeaton.
Anne of course denied this, but her words carried little weight and after having been informed that she was under arrest, Anne Boleyn was brought to the Tower.
Popular legend has it that she arrived there through Traitor´s Gate, but that was not the case, she arrived at the private entrance of Court Gate at the Byward Tower where she was met by the Lieutenant of the Tower, Sir William Kingston. She asked him, maybe expressing a deep fear, if she was to be taken to the dungeon, but he kindly informed her that she was to stay the Queen´s Apartments, the very same apartments she had stayed in awaiting her coronation only three years earlier.

When Anne arrived at the Tower, Henry Norris, Mark Smeaton and her brother George, Viscount Rochford, was already there, having been arrested the previous day and, in the case of George, earlier that very same morning.

 

 

Sources:

The Lady in the Tower – The Fall of Anne Boleyn – Alison Weir

The Anne Boleyn Files – Claire Ridgway

Diplomatic Disptaches – Eustace Chapuys

The last painting in this post is a rather romantic notion of Anne in the Tower, painted by the French historical painter Édouard Cibet in 1835