On 25th April 1536, a day after the commissions of oyer and terminer had been appointed, King Henry VIII referred to Anne Boleyn as “our most dear and most entirely beloved wife the Queen” in a letter to his ambassadors abroad. He also wrote of their hope for a son and heir.

Do Henry’s words show that he was still 100% committed to Anne and that he was unaware of the plot against her, or was it all part of an act? It’s difficult to know.

17 Responses to “25th April 1536 – Most Entirely Beloved Wife”

  1. I don’t think Henry knew,until all of the so-called evidence was given to him. This may explain his harsh reaction and lack of mercy to poor Anne. I believe Henry to be very tempormental and moody,capable of turning on you liked a cornered rat would and lashing out in his fits of rage. Wasn’t he a Gemini? This is often a personality trait of that sign;being like 2 different people…

    • Claire says:

      I personally believe that Henry ordered Cromwell to get rid of Anne and that the adultery charge was also his idea, but we will never know. I’ve written a chapter on this in the book so I hope you enjoy it.

      • K. Hancock says:

        I do not believe that the adultery charge was Henry’s idea nor do I think he ordered Cromwell to get rid of Anne. I think Henry believed the charges against Anne. Alison Weir gives a good argument in support of this in her book The Lady in The Tower. Claire what do you base this belief on?

        • Claire says:

          I’ve written a chapter in my book on this but here are the main points in support of Henry being the one who instigated the plot, but here are some of the points I raise there:-

          • Cromwell’s own words – In his letter (14th May) to Wallop and Gardiner, Cromwell writes of “the King’s proceeding” and although, according to Chapuys, Cromwell said that he, himself, had plotted the whole affair, he also said that he had been “authorised and commissioned by the king to prosecute and bring to an end the mistress’s trial”. Cromwell’s plotting, therefore, was due to orders from Henry and not of his own volition. Greg Walker puts forward the argument that Cromwell simply investigated the allegations made against Anne, rather than being the one to initiate them. Cromwell reacted to events rather than causing them, but may have wished to come across as “a clever Machiavell” to Chapuys, rather than a minister who had not spotted the Queen’s immoral behaviour.
          • Cromwell would not have dared to risk his life by moving against the Queen without the King’s blessing; he was simply there to do the King’s bidding. Historian Derek Wilson writes of how Henry VIII behaved in his usual manner, giving orders to his ministers and then “retiring into the shadows” so that he could feign surprise when presented with the evidence against Anne.
          • The King’s behaviour – In 1541, when Cranmer told Henry VIII of allegations against Catherine Howard, Henry VIII was outraged and upset and ordered a full investigation. When he found out they were true, he wept in front of his council. In May 1536, he spent his time banqueting with ladies and enjoying himself, and a rather cynical Chapuys wrote “You never saw prince nor man who made greater show of his [cuckold’s] horns or bore them more pleasantly. I leave you to imagine the cause.”
          • John Schofieldi believes Henry’s involvement is proven by the lack of logic in Anne being condemned for adultery even though Henry’s marriage to Anne was annulled. Cromwell, as a lawyer, would have wanted a logical, “watertight case”, yet the case against Anne made no sense and was overly complicated. If it had all been down to Cromwell then there would have been easier ways to get rid of Anne. Adultery and incest were sins and were not punishable by death and I feel that those charges bear the stamp of a vengeful husband.
          • Henry’s involvement – He interrogated Sir Henry Norris.
          • The King’s own words – Henry later warned Jane Seymour against becoming involved in matters to do with the Kingdom. It was reported that “he had often told her not to meddle with his affairs, referring to the late Queen, which was enough to frighten a woman who is not very secure.” In 1546, when the Conservatives were trying to bring down Archbishop Thomas Cranmer, Henry warned Cranmer that “false knaves” could be “procured” to stand as witnesses against him and to bring about his condemnation.

          So, I believe that Henry wanted rid of Anne and Cromwell was the servant who gave him the legal machinery to do so. That’s the only thing that makes sense to me, that explains Henry’s behaviour while Anne was in prison and that explains why Cromwell would have dared to build a case against the Queen.

  2. Joan Byford says:

    I think Henry was fed up with waiting for Anne to produce a male heir and used any excuse he could to get rid of her. Meeting Jane Seymour was for him the icing on the cake!

    • Claire says:

      Yes, I think Anne’s miscarriage in January 1536 really fed his paranoia and made him begin to doubt his marriage.

      • Cynthia Layne says:

        And yet, it’s amazing to me that Henry would not have been more patient in waiting for a son with Anne, given the high infant mortality rate and that miscarriages were so common.

        • Georgia says:

          Hmm, not sure I agree. Henry was quite arrogant, fuelled by Anne’s belief he was “IT” under God and answerable to nobody. He saw Anne’s failure to give him a son as a sign from God that their marriage was not lawful in God’s eyes. NOT that miscarriage and infant mortality were common so he was just unlucky and could keep trying. He was the king, he believed if God supported his marriage, God would bless it with healthy, long lived MALE children regardless of what was “normal” for everyone else. This was a man who believed he was NOT normal, but ABOVE normal.

          I feel with his first marriage to Katherine, he was using this “belief” as an excuse to get rid of her almost because he’d fallen for Anne. I think he still had feeling for her and respected her. However, when Anne came along, she 100% convinced him it was true in order to help him get rid of Katherine. Unfortunately, this belief bit her on the behind and combined with his accident and personality change, I personally think that while he didn’t order Cromwell to send her to the block by any means necessary, I think he probably asked him to help him get rid of Anne in a quick, clean, way which wouldn’t leave the lose ends divorcing Katherine had. I feel he wouldn’t have wanted to go through all that again so was looking for a way to get rid of Anne that would avoid the long years of waiting he’d endured while trying to divorce Katherine. Why else wouldn’t he allow Anne to slope off quietly to a quiet castle and live out the rest of her days once she’d agreed to the annulment of her marriage? Divorce was not enough for Henry, he wanted NO questions of legitimacy over his marriage to Jane and their children. So for that to happen, Anne had to die. But first she had to annul the marriage so that any future children he had by Jane would not be threatened by Elizabeth’s claim to the throne (without the annulment regardless of her mother’s status as a traitor, she would still be a legitimate heir).

  3. Bandit Queen says:

    Henry may have still hoped to have a son with Anne, may even still have loved her but he was no longer in love with her and this is a formal way of describing ones royal spouse. I think that he does not really here know or believe that she is being unfaithful or accused of it and he is still looking at a divorce. The plot to have her exposed for adultery seems to come from Cromwell. Henry is still uncertain.

    • Claire says:

      I wish we had a insight into the feelings of the people. Jane Seymour may simply have been another courtly love flirtation if it hadn’t been for the coup against Anne.

  4. Alee says:

    Here’s a thought. I’m just going out on a limb here. Evidence over the years have strongly suggested that Anne was born in the early to mid spring. That day could have possibly been her birthday. At this time, Anne was already on thin ice with the King, and didn’t really have any reason to be in the King’s good graces. I think Henry could have possibly felt that speaking ill of her on her birthday would not have been in good taste.

    Don’t hurt me; it’s simply a theory.

  5. Lisby says:

    I personally think that we can be sure that Anne was born sometime in late May or June of 1507. I see not see reason whatsoever to doubt that Jane Dormer’s comment that Anne had died just short of her 29th birthday. She knew this from Queen Mary, who had every reason to know Anne’s date of birth and age. It is the strongest evidence we possess and there is no reason to doubt it. The date is bolstered by William Camden’s annotation of a 1507 in his own work on the Reign of Elizabeth, indicating that the Queen herself and whatever documents that Camden had access to indicated 1507.

    • Claire says:

      There is evidence for 1501 and 1507, and points in favour of both. Here are some points in favour of 1501:-

      • Thomas Boleyn’s letter to Cromwell, dated July 1536 – In it, Thomas Boleyn refers to the financial hardship of the early years of his marriage, writing that his wife “brought me every year a child” LP xi.17 If we consider that the Boleyns married c1498/1499 then surely all five Boleyn children (Mary, Anne, George, Thomas and Henry) were born before 1505. Also, Thomas Boleyn became a wealthy man on the death of his father in 1505, so he must have been referring to Elizabeth’s pregnancies pre-1505.
      • Anne Boleyn’s letter – Art historian Hugh Paget examined an early letter from Anne Boleyn to her father, Thomas, and concluded that it was written from La Vure, the royal park in Brussels which was the location of Margaret of Austria’s summer palace and hunting lodge, in 1513. Paget also writes of how we know from correspondence between the Emperor and Margaret that the appropriate age for a “demoiselle d’honneur” at Margaret’s court was around 13 or 14. A 1507 birth date would make Anne 6 in 1513 so Paget concludes that Anne was born in 1501, making her a year younger than the usual age. Historians such as Eric Ives note that the “formed hand” of the letter belongs to a 12 year old, rather than a 6 year old.
      • Anne Boleyn’s fall – A birth date of 1501 would make Anne around 35 years of age at her execution and it may explain why Henry VIII was worried that Anne could not give him a male heir and why he was so ready to replace her with the younger Jane Seymour. At 35, Anne was past her prime. Jane Seymour is thought to have been born around 1508, so if Anne was born in 1507, why would Henry replace her with someone just a year or so younger?
      • Lord Herbert of Cherbury – In “The Life and Raigne of King Henry the Eighth”, published in 1649, Lord Herbert wrote of how Anne returned to England in when she was about twenty, and Anne returned in 1521/22.
      • Nicholas Sander – In 1585, Sander recorded that Anne Boleyn was in her 15th year when she travelled to France in 1514.
      • Anne’s appointment as a lady-in-waiting to Mary Tudor, Queen of France – We know that in 1514 Thomas Boleyn asked Margaret of Austria to release Anne from her care so that Anne could return to England to accompany Henry VIII’s sister on her journey to France to marry Louis XII. We don’t know whether Anne did travel to England or whether she ended up going directly to France, but we do know that she was one of the ladies that Louis allowed Mary to keep with her in France and not one of the ones sent back to England. Surely, a 7 year old would not be chosen to serve a Queen of France!

      For me, the deciding factor is Anne’s appointment in Mary Tudor’s entourage. What reason would there be for choosing a 7 year old? However, we will never know unless new evidence is uncovered.

  6. Dawn 1st says:

    Concerning Anne’s birthday I have always wondered that if she was born in 1501, when Henry started to court her she was in her mid-twenties, though not old, but not young either for those times, especially when it can to bearing children, alot of young ladies of that age had been married 10 years plus, and would have had quite a few babies by then. So by the time she did sleep with him and became pregnant she was in her 30’s, which would be considered old especially for a first child, and to be expected to produce many more. That is why I think is one reason why she would have been born later, maybe not as late as 1507, but mid-way perhaps. If the King was concerned about the age of his wives, it must of crossed his mind as time wore on that Anne was no longer a spring chicken when it came to child bearing, but maybe he was blinded to it by his passion for her. When it came to her downfall though, I don’t think that her age would have been of any major concern, whether she was 35 or 29 after that last miscarriage he wanted rid, I also think he would have got rid of her if she had not conceived again, he seems to have lost all sexual interest in Anne by now. The coldhearted man.

  7. Danielle Capozzi says:

    I’d like to think he didn’t know but for some reason, deep down, I feel as though he knew and it was all a ruse to keep her from having a fit. Either way, he had lost interest in her due to the miscarriages, etc. and I think he was on the path to get rid of her regardless.

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