The May Day Joust of 1536 was the first outward sign that something was wrong in Tudor Paradise.

Everything seemed perfectly normal at first, although Henry VIII was unable to participate due to his recent accident. Anne Boleyn’s brother, George, led the challengers and the King’s good friend and Groom of the Stool, Sir Henry Norris, led the defenders. At one point, Norris had trouble with his horse. It refused to run, so the King kindly offered Norris his own horse.

Suddenly, the atmosphere changed. The King abruptly got up and left the joust, ordering Norris to ride with him to Westminster. The Spanish Chronicle reports that the King’s sudden departure was down to him receiving a message from Cromwell regarding Mark Smeaton’s confession and implication of Norris. According to Norris’s servant, George Constantine, the King interrogated Norris all the way back to Westminster, offering him a pardon if he would tell the King the truth. Norris told the King that “in his conscience he thought her [Anne] innocent of these things laid to her charge; but whether she was or not, he would not accuse her of anything; and he would die a thousand times, rather than ruin an innocent person.”


The Fall of Anne Boleyn: A Countdown is now available as a paperback – click here – as well as a Kindle edition. I’ve also done a book trailer video where I share my thoughts on the book and my aim in writing it – see the Video page.

4 Responses to “1st May 1536 – The May Day Joust”

  1. Dawn 1st says:

    Anne’s heart must have been in her mouth when Henry left like that without a word. There must have been a very strange atmosphere, Anne must have been petrified, as I am sure she would have had a feeling that something was going on behind her back…it gives me the shivvers!!
    Is it recorded what Anne did after he left, did she stay to the end and try to carry on as normal? a very difficult thing to to when all eyes were on her.

    • Claire says:

      It is not recorded what Anne did but Henry left at the end of the joust so I assume that she would have also left and gone back to her apartments at Greenwich. She must have wondered what was going on.

  2. Astrid says:

    That is something that I would also like to know. Good question!

  3. Arlene says:

    Sir Henry Norris is one of my ancesters. I was born Arlene Elaine Norris on August 23 1950.

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