On 12th May 1536, Mark Smeaton, Sir Henry Norris, Sir Francis Weston and Sir William Brereton were tried at a special commission of oyer and terminer, just a day after the Grand Jury of Kent had assembled and only eight days after Weston and Brereton had been arrested. The legal machinery had worked incredibly quickly.
The four men were tried separately from Anne Boleyn and George Boleyn, Lord Rochford, who, as members of the aristocracy, were entitled to be tried in the court of the Lord High Steward of England by a jury of their peers. Sir William Kingston, Constable of the Tower of London, escorted the four men by barge along the Thames and brought them to the bar of the special commission of oyer and terminer at Westminster Hall, where all four were arraigned for high treason.
The jury was a hostile one, being made up of men who were religious conservatives or who were close to Cromwell, and Tudor defendants were at a distinct disadvantage. Defendants did not have counsel, they were not aware of what evidence was being presented against them, they could not prepare their defence case and all they could do was react to what was said in court, and the onus was on them to prove their innocence, rather than the Crown proving their guilt. There was little chance of justice for men. Eustace Chapuys, the imperial ambassador, summed it up when he wrote:
“The others were condemned upon presumption and certain indications, without valid proof or confession.”
All four men were found guilty on all charges, declared traitors and sentenced to the usual traitor’s death, to be hanged, drawn and quartered at Tyburn.
Also on 12th May 1536, the Duke of Norfolk, uncle of Anne and George Boleyn, was appointed Lord High Steward of England in readiness for ruling, as Lord President, over the trials of his niece and nephew