Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Question from Lovey - Francis I's remarks on Anne Boleyn

King Henry VIII and King Francis 1 remained friends throughout most of his reign . I read that Francis 1 wrote to King Henry VIII after the execution of his 5 wife Katherine Howard, and commiserating over Katherine's "lewd and naughty demeanor", and reminding him that "the lightness of women cannot bind the honor of men". Does anyone know what Francis 1 said upon hearing about Anne Boleyn Arrest?,( I knew Henry VIII had broken off his relationship with the french, but Anne had tried to contact Francis 1 prior to her arrest.) Does any one know if Francis one made any comment in regards to Anne beheading? What about Charles V?, did he make any comments about king Henry VIII having her beheaded?


Foose said...

Charles V was always fairly close-mouthed. His attitude to Anne Boleyn seems to have been somewhat impersonal, despite the insult she represented to his familial honor - chiefly, Anne was a political and diplomatic problem whose removal was essential to the Emperor's desire to ally with England against France, or at least keep England from allying with France against the Empire.

Chapuys reported to Charles V on June 6, 1536, about a month after Anne Boleyn's execution, that he had an interview with Henry VIII and Cromwell:

[Henry] asked where your Majesty (Charles V) was. I said my man, who had just returned, had left you at a day's journey from Alessandria. He also reported that on telling your Majesty the news of the arrest of her whom the King had justly executed, and declaring the cause to have been a conspiracy against his person, your Majesty appeared astonished and troubled, and asked if it was possible that she could have shown such malice against such a good, humane, and virtuous prince, who could not have done more for any person than he had done for her; and that afterwards your Majesty began to praise God that the King had escaped such danger, and that the matter had been discovered before any mischief was done. On hearing which the King was very glad, saying he was much bound to your Majesty ...

In a letter dated June 17, Charles V wrote to Chapuys:

As we know not whether what we have written to you since the death of Anne Boleyn will have rendered the King better disposed to the re-establishment of our friendship, we cannot write more except to leave this to your discretion; and if the King has married Mrs. Semel [Seymour], as you wrote last to Granvelle, which is confirmed from France, you will not forbear to see if the said renewal of amity can be arrived at, and you will conduct yourself towards the said Semel as you think most conducive to this object and to the weal of our cousin the Princess.

So the tone seems pretty measured -- the Emperor was not exulting or gloating over Anne's death. He just wants to make the most of the opportunity to renew ties with Henry and ensure the new Queen is pro-Empire and inclined to support Princess Mary's reinstatement.

The Emperor's sister Mary was more cheerfully spiteful, although she seems to blame Henry as much as Anne. In a letter dated May 25, 1536, to her brother Ferdinand, she wrote:

I hope the English will not do much against us now, as we are free from his lady, who was a good Frenchwoman ... [Hears Henry] has already espoused another lady, who is a good Imperialist (I know not if she will continue), and to whom he paid great attention before the death of the other. As none but the organist [Mark Smeaton] confessed, nor herself either, people think he invented this device to get rid of her. Any how, not much wrong can be done to her, even in being suspected as m├ęchante [naughty], for that has long been her character. It is to be hoped, if hope be a right thing to entertain about such acts, that when he is tired of this one he will find some occasion of getting rid of her. I think wives will hardly be well contented if such customs become general. Although I have no desire to put myself in this danger, yet being of the feminine gender I will pray with the others that God may keep us from it.

Foose said...

I haven't been able to find any eyewitness reports of what King Francis said about Anne's execution. However, the French appear to have signalled their willingness to abandon her as the figurehead of the Anglo-French alliance some months before her fall, when an embassy sent to Henry pointedly avoided her.

Like the Emperor, the French king was more interested in preserving an alliance with England than actual individuals:

One of the King's chamber said to one of Chapuys' men that the day after the execution the [French] ambassadors offered Madame Magdalene [the elder daughter of King Francis] to the King. He replied that she was too young for him, and he had too much experience of French bringing up in the case of the concubine ... (This is from Chapuys' letter of June 6, 1536.)

So I don't think Francis was particularly broken up about Anne's death, even though he probably knew her personally since early youth. It's all about the alliance for these monarchs. (And maybe Princess Magdalene's name didn't help, since it may have reminded Henry about the wife who had just been taken in adultery ...)

Foose said...

Charles V sent Chapuys an earlier letter on May 15, 1536, when Anne was in the Tower, where he shows a bit more feeling on a personal level:

"Hannaert has written to Granvelle on the 9th that he had just heard that the king of England's concubine had been surprised in bed with the King's organist. If this be so, as it is very probable that God has permitted it after her damnable life, we think the King will be more inclined to treat ..."

"Damnable" is a pretty strong word and perhaps shows Charles' true opinion of Anne Boleyn. But notice how Charles is still focused on the leverage Anne's fall affords in getting Henry to the table for an Imperial alliance. He follows this immediately with the warning that Chapuys must get in with Henry at once and offer the princess of Portugal as a new wife (Charles' niece), because the French "they will not fail to offer him a match."

Anonymous said...

Thanks a lot for your very interesting blog about Anne Boleyn and Francis I.

I have been fond of books about her for long time.

The latest one I have read is sold on Amazon.

The ebook is entitled "Anne Boleyn's Secret Love at the Court of Francis I". It is translated from French into English by Alice Warwick from a book written in the XIXth century.

In a few letters written by Anne Boleyn to her convent friend Anne Savage, you will learn about her life as a maid of honour at the court of Francis I. The portrait of young Anne Boleyn is passionate and romantic. I hope you will enjoy the reading.