The Anne Boleyn Villain Series: Downfall
The three years following her marriage and coronation are crucial to understanding the victimization of Lady Anne Boleyn. Immediately pressure was placed on her to become pregnant and give birth to a son--which she only achieved in part. In August 1533, about eight months after the wedding, Anne's “condition” was noticeable (Bernard 73). But unfortunately her pregnancy did not result in the desired son, but in a baby girl, Queen Elizabeth I (Starkey 508). Then Anne suffered three documented miscarriages. But was this the sole cause of her downfall, her inability to produce sons like her predecessor Catherine of Aragon?
There are many theories behind Anne's downfall: her inability to produce a male heir (the multiple miscarriages), the plotting of her enemies, or Henry VIII's interest in pursuing a new marriage with Lady Jane Seymour. But none of these theories actually acknowledges the charges that were brought up against Anne. Historian Warnicke, the author of The Rise and Fall of Anne Boleyn, concludes that all these factors combined were the result of Anne's downfall.
But how to get rid of Henry's current wife, Lady Anne Boleyn, and get a new one? Chief Minister Cromwell saw his opportunity arrive with Lady Anne’s final miscarriage. During her last pregnancy, Anne almost carried the fetus to a full term until she had a sudden and violent miscarriage. This final miscarriage caused a turning point in the king’s favor of Lady Anne for she miscarried a male child.
A grim discovery was made by the king’s physicians: the child had some deformities. These deformities caught the attention of Cromwell; in that era, any abnormalities in a child were placed on the mother. Such abnormalities were considered by many at the time to be proof of witchcraft.
With this prime evidence in hand, Cromwell was given permission by the king to start an investigation of the queen. First Cromwell and other investigators interrogated her ladies in waiting ,who admitted that Lady Anne did entertain some men frequently in her private chambers. Anne was charged with treason against the Crown, resulting in punishment by death (Ives 298-318).
With these testimonies from Lady Anne’s ladies, Cromwell preceded to start the trial of the century. In April 24, 1536, Anne was under investigation for treason, including adultery and incest. Cromwell had a list of seven of the queen’s 'lovers’: Henry Norris, Francis Weston, William Brereton, Mark Smeton, and Lady Anne’s own beloved brother, George Boleyn.
With these testimonies from Lady Anne’s ladies, Cromwell preceded to start the trial of the century. In April 24, 1536, Anne was under investigation for treason, including adultery and incest. Cromwell had a list of seven of the queen’s 'lovers’: Henry Norris, Francis Weston, William Brereton, Mark Smeton, and Lady Anne’s own beloved brother, George Boleyn. Only one of the accused confessed to the affair. Mark Smeton, a musician at Court whom Lady Anne favored, confessed after hours of painstaking torture, which resulted in the loss of an eye. Mark was the only one of the accused who was tortured, due to the English law that nobility could not be tortured (Ives 318-338).
While the accused were given a ‘chance’ to defend themselves, where was Anne’s chance? On May 2nd, Anne was arrested and sent to the Tower of London. She was then brought in front of a jury. Anne did not have a chance at all to defend herself. All that she had a chance to say was, “I can say no more but ‘nay,' without I should open my body; and, if any man accuse me, I can say but ‘nay’, and they can bring no witnesses’” (Ives 340).
With the entire jury against her, Lady Anne Boleyn was convicted guilty of high treason in form of adultery and incest on May 15th, 1536. Four days later, Lady Anne Boleyn was executed on the Tower green and was buried in the floor of Chapel Royal of St. Peter ad Vincula (Ives 359).