Sunday, June 21, 2009

Question from Entspinster - Other crimes Anne may have been guilty of

Bouncing off a previous question-- Anne the Queen was charged with specific acts many of which, as she herself pointed out, could not have taken place at the time and places given. She was demonstratably elsewhere. The only actual confession of intercourse with her was Smeaton's, and he was surely at least threatened with torture. And her marriage to Henry was declared (retroactively)invalid, not dissolved. No marriage, no adultery.

But because a person was not guilty of the specific crimes for which she (in the case of Anne B.) was tried and sent to execution does not mean that she was not guilty of other things. Reports of Anne's last speech say, very plausibly, that she confessed to treating Henry with less love than she should have, and to being jealous. (It would not matter that Henry was, to our eyes, was being unlovable and giving her cause for jealousy.) The reports that she and her circle joked and gossiped about Henry's failings and the possibility of Anne outliving him are very believable. Can anyone coment on disrespect toward the King being a capital crime? Would "lese majestie" be the right term?

She certainly threatened both Katherine of Aragon and Mary the future Queen with execution, and tried to get Henry to carry this out. Incitement to murder?

Is St. Peter's not consecrated ground? There is no record of a funeral at the time, but does the COE consider a funeral a sacrament in any case? And could one not have been held for her (in absentia, so to speak) in secret by those who cared for her? Elizabeth her daughter did not pursue the matter in public. Perhaps she was privately satisfied that what needed to be done had been done.


  1. St Peter's-ad-Vincula is sacred ground, to the extent that modern Anglicanism recognizes the concept (Protestant denominations, in general, do not recognize consecrated ground in the same way that Roman Catholicism does). At the time of Anne's death, St Peter's was definitely still considered sacred ground, since Roman Catholic rituals were still being followed and Roman canon law still applied in England. The Church of England did not exist until the Elizabethan Religious Settlement of the 1560s.

    The Church of England, like most Protestant denominations, recognizes only two scaraments: baptism and communion. Funerals are not a "sacrament" in any Christian faith. Are you confusing the Roman Catholic sacrament of Extreme Unction (sometimes incorrectly called "last rites") with funeral masses? Even at the time of Anne's death, a funeral was not a sacrament.

    Who did and did not merit a proper funeral with full religious rites was (and still is) governed by canon law. A funeral mass could have been and still can be denied to any person for one or more of a long list of reasons. Because of the nature of Anne's conviction, it was within Henry VIII's perview as Supreme Head of the Church in England to deny her a funeral mass. However, since she was reportedly buried within sacred ground, and since canon law explicitly requires that burial in sacred ground be accompanied by specific funeral rites, it seems all but certain that at least some abbreviated funeral rites were conducted for Anne at the time of her burial.

    One or more requiem masses could indeed have been said for the repose of Anne's soul at any time after her death, if any of her friends or family paid the necessary fees to have a priest perform them.

    I am of the firm opinion that modern attributions to Elizabeth of sentimentality for her mother are nothing more than anachronistic Freudian projection. Elizabeth did not know her mother: she was less than 3 years old when Anne was arrested. And Elizabeth was nothing if not a consummate pragmatist. She understood all too well the brutal nature of Tudor-era politics and the frequent loss of life that accompanied it. Elizabeth probably "remembered" her mother only in the sense that Anne was to Elizabeth a curiosity, a "what if," or a vague unanswered question. I cannot myself imagine that Elizabeth mourned her mother in any real way.

  2. PhD Historian: I was wondering why an exhumation and reburial might be considered more "proper" that what was recorded to be or can be conjectured to have been done. Now, as I expected, I have a clearer understanding both of what happened at the time, and why no official action is to be expected in our time. Thank you.

  3. You are welcome, Entspinster. And if I may add one thought ... funerals serve the living, not the dead. They are a life-passage ritual that create for the living a concrete mechanism for separating the deceased from the living, mentally and physically. Funerals serve the family and friends of the deceased, not the deceased himself/herself. Since anyone who actually knew Anne Boleyn (or any of the others buried in the Tower Chapel) are long since dead as well, an exhumation and reburial serves no logical purpose other than to assuage the romantic sentiments of modern "Anne-fans" (or "Jane-fans" or "Katherine-fans," etc.). Most Protestant Christian denominations do not qualify the repose of a soul on the quality of the deceased's funeral. And if I am correct, only Roman Catholicism and the Eastern Orthodox doctrinal systems require burial in consecrated ground as a pre-condition of resurrection. Protestants certainly do not. Anne Boleyn's soul is at peace, regardless of whether or not she is exhumed and "properly" re-buried.

  4. I think it is impossible to say what Elizabeth thought of her mother in any real and profound way, as PhD historian points out. Running too far in the direction of the Freudian school of biography has serious pitfalls, as Stefan Zweig's 1933 biography of Marie-Antoinette shows, for instance. However, I think it is clear that Elizabeth did regard her mother's memory with affection, if not crippling sentimental regret, as some modern "fans" would like to believe. However, I think it is equally unhelpful to imagine that perfectly natural feelings were absent simply because Elizabeth was aware of the political realities in which her mother had lived and, eventually, died. Pragmatism in Elizabeth's case did not mean a corresponding lack of sentiment;; she was, for example, very fond of her Boleyn cousin, Henry Carey, but for political/pragmatic reasons did not think it was expedient to raise him to their grandfather's peerage of Ormonde. She was devoted to Robert Dudley but in the wake of the Robsart scandal saw it as necessary to publicly deny him the earldom of Leicester which, at that time, he was expected to receive as proof of the Queen's favour. Elizabeth's comments to the Venetian ambassador in 1555, her desire to be executed by a French swordsman during her own time in the Tower, the Chequers ring, her documented use of various of Anne's signature jewellery (the 'AB' pendant and the 'A' necklace similar to Anne's more famous 'B' initial) and her fury over the 1586 allegations against her mother made by Dr. Allan all suggest that the Queen regarded her late mother with, as I say, affection or, perhaps more accurately, respect.

  5. My reference to the Freudian ego defense mechanism of "projection" was not intended as an analysis of Elizabeth's psyche, Gareth, but rather as a possible explanation why modern Elizabeth fans are apparently sometimes eager to apply to her deeply sentimental feelings that I do not believe existed. "Projection" is the ego defense mechanism whereby an individual unconsciously ascribes to another the feelings held by the first person (Person A unconsciously "decides" that Person B feels a certain way because in fact Person A feels that way himself). It is a subconscious, involuntary, and usually unrecognized action. Most people fear the loss of a parent, and mourn that loss deeply when it happens. It is therefore only natural for us to expect Elizabeth to have done the same ... even though she never really knew her mother and probably would not have recognized her if she walked in the room! Anne was to Elizabeth largely an idea, not a physcially-present person remembered through longstanding close interpersonal contact and "bond formation."

    I think you are very much correct in using the term "respect" to describe what Elizabeth most probably felt towards her long-dead mother. But I also think there was perhaps a certain element of regret for having had to grow up without a mother and for having had to live her life in the negative shadow cast by her mother's downfall and execution.

    I respect your reasoning regarding Elizabeth's sentiments and corresponding actions/inactions in relation to Henry Carey and Robert Dudley, Gareth, but I do not think they can be realistically compared to her sentiments toward her mother. Carey and Dudley were living men that an adult Elizabeth knew very well indeed over a long period of time. She knew her mother only briefly and only when she herself was an infant. The differing basis for the various sentiments all but require different types and degrees of feeling.

    I am not saying that Elizabeth was cold-hearted or utterly lacking in sentiment in regard to her mother. I'm just saying that it is very difficult to imagine her having strong feelings for a person she never really knew.

  6. I agree entirely with the idea that she respected or (as I would say, in addition), felt affection for the idea of Anne Boleyn and, as you say, it does seem clear that she felt regret at having lost her mother and occasional flashes of panic or anger at what that legacy meant to her. It would be impossible for Elizabeth to have remembered her mother in a clear way, such as Mary I remembered hers, given her own youth at the time of Anne Boleyn's death. There were a substantial number of former Boleyn dependents who she chose to surround herself with or had grown up with - Katherine Ashley, Thomas Parry, Blanche Parry, the aforementioned Carey, Kathryn Knollys and, more politically, Matthew Parker - so it is likely that any information she gleaned about her mother from her circle would have been highly favourable. This is of course mere conjecture and does not change the fact that, even with such information, it strains credulity to believe that Elizabeth mourned her mother's death in the way a fully conscious adult or teenager would/would have mourned a similar set of circumstances.

  7. Now I reveal my undisclosed agenda-- the historical novel I enjoy planning to write with Blanche Parry as viewpoint character. What Elizabeth probably noticed at the time of her mother's death was that the established order of precedent in the country places where she and Mary both lived, although with seperate staff and "governers", was now in question. Who went first when they changed dwellings? Elizabeth or Mary? For all of Elizabeth's life, it had been Elizabeth, and for all that time Mary had protested this. Someimes Mary had to be physically removed from the place she claimed. Did Elizabeth find this frightening, embarassing, routine, or even exciting? Both Lady Bryan (Elizabeth's governess) and the Sheltons (Mary's governess and her husband) seem to have been unsettled by this new undefined situation. Mary seems to have hoped that with the death of "that woman" she, Mary, would be reinstated as Princess. If so she was disapointed-- the ruling was that both girls were "baseborn". Logic suggests that Mary, as the older "bastard", took precedence-- at least once she had capitulated. Mary then spent more time at court, but she, Elizabeth, and later Edward were often resident on the same property. Elizabeth may not have understood why the houehold order changed, but it seems a safe bet that she noticed it with interest.


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