Henry VIII, the Reign - the Blog
By Mark Holinshed
Anne Boleyn – The Executioner is Sharpening His Blade
Princes Elizabeth's Future Under Negotiation
At the beginning of August in 1535 Anne Boleyn and the great royal entourage that was the royal progress, after a month of slow-moving travel from London, was in Gloucestershire.
She had less than a year to live. Those that surrounded her would see to that. This journey to the west of England had been devised, with malice, to seal her fate.
The Boleyns, Thomas Cromwell the Seymours and most of England had wanted to end clerical influence in England. They had no great ideological aspirations at that time, a redefinition of religious doctrine, for a while, would wait. They did, however, want to be rid of the influence of the church in matters of government, which for two decades had been embodied in the form of Cardinal Legate Thomas Wolsey – and in 1529 they succeeded, when he fell from power.
Years before, Wolsey had used Anne Boleyn to help secure an alliance with France against Charles, Holy Roman Emperor and King of Spain. Ten summers had passed since the alliance with the French known as the Treaty of the More, in that time, England had legislated against the clerics and broken with papal control from Rome. Anne was now politically obsolete and of no further use to England or France. A new regime was scheming to take over.
The Boleyns had tried to stave off the changes. At the end of 1534 and into the spring of 1535 Anne’s faction had mounted a brave attempt to put a marriage proposal together which would have seen the baby Princess Elizabeth (the future Elizabeth I) marry the Dauphin of France. For Anne however, the negotiations were excruciatingly protracted, and they went badly for the Boleyns had lost all the influence they once carried, and neither the French or the rising Cromwell- Seymour faction wanted an alliance. She had tried to bring her French mentor Marguerite de Angoulême and ‘other ladies’ to help, but nothing came of that whim.
By February Anne was in a fight for survival and the French diplomat Palamedes Gontier reported.
“In the afternoon Cromwell took him to the Queen, to whom he delivered the Admiral's [one of the Great Officers of the Crown of France] letters and charge. She complained of his long delay, which had caused her husband many doubts. She said the Admiral must think of applying some remedy, and act towards the King so that she may not be ruined and lost, for she sees herself very near that, and in more grief and trouble than before her marriage. She charged him to beg the Admiral to consider her affairs, of which she could not speak as fully as she wished, on account of her fears, and the eyes which were looking at her, her husband's and the lords' present. She said she could not write, nor see him again, nor stay longer. She then left him, the King going to the next room, where the dance was beginning without the said Lady going thither.
“As far as he can judge, she is not at her ease on account of the doubts and suspicions of the King, which he has mentioned before.”
By June the Negotiations had Altogether Failed
Eustace Chapuys, the Imperial ambassador, reported that Anne’s brother had confided in her before he went to see the king, he knew that if she were deposed he would be dragged down with her.
"After the two first communications between the deputies of these two Kings, lord Rochford left Calais, and arrived here on the 25th ult. Before speaking to the King he went to the Lady, his sister, and conversed with her a long time.
He could not have brought back from Calais anything agreeable to himself; for, as I am told by the Grand Esquire, both then and several times since she has been in a bad humour and said a thousand shameful words of the king of France, and generally of the whole nation."
The Cromwell – Seymour faction was opposed to any French influence in England, and Cromwell himself scuppered any hope of a Boleyn union with French royalty.
Again, in June 1535, as the itinerary for the royal progress was finalised, Chapuys reported.
“…three days ago, they [Anne and Cromwell] had had words together, and that she had said she would like to see his head cut off, but he had such confidence in the King, his master, that he thought she could do nothing to him.”
In Gloucestershire where the Cotswold Hills overlook the valley of the River Severn, for Anne Boleyn, these were hostile lands, where the ancestors that she claimed, had fought the ancestors of Cromwell and Seymour during the Anarchy, the nineteen-year war when Christ and his saints slept.
Next on the itinerary – even worse – for Anne was William Tyndale country.
In Calais her executioner checked his diary, he was available for the following May.
Henry VIII, the Reign.
Henry VIII, the Reign.