Sunday, August 08, 2010

Question from Tyler - Anne's path to barge after arrest

I've gotten the book on Anne Boleyn by Eric Ives. I ve noticed however, he only mentions that they took her to the barge awaiting her. After Anne's arrest, was she taken to the barge "publicly" I.E. through the court rooms such through the Throne room. Basically, was Anne taken to the barge through a crowd of courtiers or through a passage of some sort.


Kathy said...

I've been giving this some thought and I'm not sure an absolutely accurate answer is possible. There are too many variables.

Ives isn't very detailed, but many other sources (including Alison Weir) say Anne was arrested while she was watching a tennis match. Simon Thurley in The Royal Palaces of Tudor England describes the tennis court at Greenwich as being a completely wooden roofed structure reached through a gallery that was then probably used for spectactors. So Anne might actually have been in the gallery at the time. The site of the structure can't be positively identified from modern archeological evidence, but repair records from the time indicate it was in the southwestern corner of the main courtyard. If you are facing the main palace from the river, that would be on the right well back from the river.

There are a lot of unanswered questions about Anne's arrest. Were the barge and the guards sent down from London, or did somebody come down with a message to guards already there to arrest her? If there were special guards from London, they may not have been particularly familiar with the ins and outs of the palace, certainly not enough to know the shortest ways through from the tennis courts to the dock area.

The back of the main palace -- Thurley has some sketches -- doesn't look nearly as neat as the front. It's a hodgepodge of many smaller structures, mostly timber and plaster, that seem to have been built as needed without any regard to overall design. It's hard to imagine any quick, simple passage through them to the front. And it's by no means certain that the tennis court even connected to any other buildings. It may have been a stand-alone. "Local" guards may have known their way through, but would "London" guards?

Just from looking at the sketches, I'm tempted to think that the easiest way would be to cut diagonally through the gardens from the tennis court to an entrance closer to the front towers and through that to the dock area on the river. Another easier-looking possibility would be to exit the palace structure entirely to the west and go straight north on the road to the river and then east to the dock.

If they did go through the palace, I'm not sure they would have gone through the throne room, mainly because I'm not sure where the throne room was, as Greenwich was built on the old design with private rooms going "up" the tower instead of "back" on the same level, the design Henry came to favor in later constructions. I didn't look into this very carefully though, so there very well may be more information out there.

Even if they did go through the "state" rooms, I think it's highly doubtful that there would have been many courtiers crowding around. First of all, Henry wasn't there. There would have been almost no reason for any courtiers to be inside in those rooms without Henry being in residence, especially on a fine spring day. Second, and probably most importantly, Anne's arrest didn't happen suddenly or in a vacuum. Smeaton, Norris, and George Boleyn had already been arrested. Anne was aware of this, and it's impossible to believe that everybody in Greenwich wasn't as well. I think any courtier with the slightest sense of self-preservation would make sure not to be seen anywhere near her when she actually was arrested.

And in case somebody didn't get the word and didn't know what was happening, I'm sure the arrest wasn't conducted like a modern-day cop show. She wasn't cuffed and lead out in a "perp walk." If anybody did see her being escorted away, it probably looked more like a processional than an arrest and wouldn't have attracted all that much notice by people who worked in the palace or were attached to court.

Tyler said...

Thank you for your response. I've about another scenario that Anne was taken to the council Chambers after the tennis match and upon which was questioned. After that she was sent to the Queens apartments in the palace to have lunch/dinner, and she changed clothers as well, and then was taken to the Tower.

Kathy said...

Tyler, I have some trouble with the second scenario. I think Cromwell would have wanted her in the Tower just as soon as possible, to forestall any possibility of her getting to Henry or sending anybody to contact him on her behalf. (Ives thinks that was the main reason they arrested George Boleyn when they did.) And who would there have been at Greenwich to question her? And about what? I don't think anybody there knew what the charges were at that time.

Tyler said...

Here is the source, it's a very detailed and interesting theory of her arrest. With kind regards, Tyler.

Kathy said...

Tyler, that is a very imaginative fantasy by the writer of teenage fiction. If you are interested in the truth, you might stick to works by writers that have some semblance of authority. If you aren't interested in the truth, the world is littered with novels about Anne Boleyn. Have a go at those and don't waste your time on history.

Marilyn R said...


I'm not sure all that much would have been recorded - it would suffice simply to say she was taken away by barge.I haven't ever looked into this, but if there had been details in the surviving gossipy letters of ambassadors, etc, I think Ives and the rest of the Boleyn biographers would have mentioned it.(What does David Starkey say?)

It's a cracking question, though, & you've certainly got me thinking!If you ever find out anything, I would love to know.

Gareth Russell said...

Kathy, I was the writer of the post in question. It is not imaginative or fantasy. Those are the recorded events. The Queen attended a tennis match, she was then summoned to the Council Chamber and she then returned to her apartments to eat the main meal of the day and she was arrested there. You can read about it in Chapter 7 of Alison Weir's "The Lady in the Tower," and the relevant sections of the Letters and Papers. The Queen was certainly not arrested at the tennis match, nor at the initial interrogation in the Council chamber, as there were only three witnesses and there needed to be more. She was actually taken back from the chamber to her apartments by Cromwell. And although I am a writer of teenage fiction, I do also have a degree in History from Oxford, so I didn't make it up. I hope that gives me some "semblance of authority." I matriculated 2004 and graduated 2007. If that is still insufficient, a list of the sources I used in writing the Anne Boleyn series on my blog are listed here: -

Scarlet said...

It wasn't as if just anyone could disembark at the water stairs & wander into the palace, so attempting to discern a difference in "guards" is immaterial. The Yeomen of the Guard were wherever the king was, as they were his personal bodyguard.

"Local" guards would've been the Serjeant Porters on duty at the entrances to the palace. One did not get in if one did not have reason to be there & were able to prove it.

Obviously anyone dispatched by Cromwell knew exactly where to go & there was no dithering about getting thru an unfamiliar maze of outbuildings.

And while it was easy to travel using the Thames to get to Greenwich, any guards didn't necessarily need to come in from the river. Every castle, palace, manor, etc. had barracks for its men-at-arms. There was no need for importing "London guards" when there already were palace guards aplenty.

Simple "guards" would not have so much as accosted a queen, let alone arrested her. It's plain someone with great authority was in the lead here; Anne wasn't going to be convinced of the need to relocate to her apartments by guys with halberds just showing up & saying so.

Audley (the Lord Chancellor) was the one Henry put in charge of his newly-created commission to look into treasonous doings. If it wasn't him or Cromwell, it was someone else on that committee who was able to draw Anne from her front-row seat at the tennis match & persuade her to accompany him outside & then to her apartments. There may not have been "guards" at all....why would there be? A few Lord High Mucky-Mucks sent by the king to "discuss" something important with the queen was all that was required. An actual public "arrest" may have sent Anne's documented volatile nature into overdrive & attracted attention.

Her apartments (as with Catherine Howard) were the easiest place to confine her with a minimum of fuss. Guards on all the well-known exits (that were probably usually guarded anyway, she being an anointed queen), & done.

I would venture to guess Anne was taken there as a precaution. She had to be ready & waiting when that tide turned, in the interim having been convinced (by Uncle Norfolk?) that she was in deep doo-doo & Henry really meant it this time after all his blustering threats. Who knows. maybe a little something was slipped into her wine to make her docile.

Tide wasn't going to be favorable forever. "Dinner" meant "lunch" in those days (the royals, due to taking Holy Communion at 8am Mass, didn't "break fast" until 9am, so they would've lunched well past noon), so the tide turned at some point in the late afternoon or early evening. It was May in Greenwich, so there likely was only a hr or 2 between the tide turning toward the Tower & darkfall. They rolled up the sidewalks when it got dark. Someone wanted Anne out of there & into the Tower without her staying another night at Greenwich.

So the "path to the barge" was simple....& would be a lot easier to pinpoint exactly had Greenwich not been destroyed, lacking a floor plan....from the queen's apartments to the water stairs she always used.

Patrick said...

Although we don't have a clear and certain "blueprint" of the Queen's Apartments at Greenwich, the archaeological sources and written documents can help a bit for Queen Anne's probable route to the barge following her arrest. The Council chamber was on the the second floor (continental style) of the donjon, immediately above the King's Privy Chamber. Although Queen Anne had a bedchamber near this on the King's side, she would most probably have dined in her Presence Chamber in her own apartments to the south. There was a vise stair leading down to Conduit Court from her Presence or Privy Chamber (verified in accounts) which she would take to reach the main courtyard and then led across Conduit Court to a door in the Ground Floor of the Donjon; (George Boleyn's apartments were quite near here, again, according to accounts of the day). Passing through the lowest floor of the Donjon, the procession would exit via the door on the north side onto the Thames river walk, in front of the palace. Right next to the donjon was Queen Marguerite of Anjou's (or Margaret's) Pier, the "privy stairs" of Greenwich. The barge awaited her there and would then depart at about 3:00 p.m. for the Tower, arriving two hours later. See Simon Thurley's work on the Tudor palaces or read the account of the 1970-71 excavations of Greenwich by Philip Dixon.