Sunday, August 01, 2010

Question from Tyler - Henry and Anne's relationship in early 1536

I was wondering how Henry treated Anne Boleyn from January 29th to May 1st. Did they speak at all? Did they have "spousal relations"? I've read somewhere( I need to find where) That the Kig didn't know about the plot until the 27th of April. Which in turn means that Cromwell started to investigate with out Henry's apporval. Isn't that treason in it's own right?


Sarah said...

I'd recommend The Lady in the Tower by Alison Weir, the whole book is devoted to looking at the fall of Anne.

kb said...

Although perhaps the current authority on all things Anne is Eric Ives's book, The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn.

Foose said...

You pose an interesting question in regard to Cromwell. Technically, he was guilty of "misprision" if he knew about the (alleged) treason of Anne and her courtiers in 1536, but did not inform the king until some time later.

The law of treason, according to John G. Bellamy The Tudor Law of Treason, defines misprision thus: "... to have known of intended treason but not to have revealed it was always held as traitorous even if the potential informant pleaded an intent to find out more about the plot so as to reveal it in due course more completely. So it was if he argued a plan of joining the conspiracy in order to frustrate it, unless of course he was a government spy directed to do just that."

I think the last clause might have relevancy. I don't recall reading anything that suggested Henry VIII gave Cromwell a specific commission to snoop around Anne's privy chamber (maybe someone else knows?), but judging from Cromwell's activities in the previous 2 or 3 years, the king might have given him a general "blank check" to ferret out treason. Cromwell seems to have acted as a central filter, judging which threats were credible and which were mere mares' nests and the indiscreet rambling of tavern gossips, and passing on his evaluation of the more serious cases to the king.

Clearly Cromwell had a great deal of latitude (and may have abused it), but Henry was a busy man and needed some sort of screening process from the incredible amount of petitions, letters, denunciations, and all the rest that made up the business of monarchical government. He also appears to have felt that his ministers should be proactive in detecting disloyalty (there are similarities to the alleged incident concerning Gardiner and Katherine Parr some years later; Gardiner evidently felt he could take the chance on assembling the evidence against her and then presenting it to the king). The low-born Cromwell, who possessed tremendous attention to detail and was a born organizer, was an excellent choice to handle the dirty work, while the king maintained his personal popularity.

Foose said...

In response to your question, did Anne and Henry have marital relations in the period between January 29 (the date of her miscarriage) and May 1, the following must be considered:

-Religious custom required that a woman be sequestered for 30 to 40 days after a birth, after which she had to be "purified" (a man might become "unclean" if he had sexual contact with her in the meantime). Alison Weir has suggested a mere two weeks in her book The Lady in the Tower but I'm not sure what her source is. Although Anne's pregnancy ended in miscarriage, I believe she would still be subject to the month-long sequestration.

-That brings us to February 28 (30 days later) or possibly March 9 (40 days later). Easter fell on April 16; counting 40 days before brings us to March 8, the beginning of Lent. Sexual activity was prohibited during Lent. Although Anne is lately depicted as a champion of Protestantism, at that stage Henry seemed to be following conventional Catholic practice and Anne would have followed suit. However, I have also read that some early modern theologians had loosened up on the Lenten prohibition for married couples.

-It looks like Anne was released from her rooms before 40 days, since the records note Queen Anne keeping "Shrovetide" (Mardi Gras). However, the Imperial Ambassador Chapuys records the fact that she and Henry spent Shrovetide apart, she staying at Greenwich, Henry going to London. A time of feasting and celebration, it might have been the obvious time for the king and queen to try to conceive again.

-Post-Lent, we have to consider that sex was also forbidden on Wednesdays, Fridays, Sundays, feast days of the Church (and there are a lot of them, including St. George's Day on April 23 -- that was a big feast day in England -- and St. Mark's on April 25) and whenever someone was preparing to take communion. Again, the royal couple's religious advisors might have been less stringent, especially since there was a clear need for an heir.

-However, Henry may have deliberately avoided Anne sexually. Retha Warnicke, in an interesting essay callled Family and Kinship Relations at the Henrician Court suggests that Anne would have been arrested much earlier, soon after her miscarriage in fact, except that "By the time Anne was able to leave her rooms, the Hilary term was ending ..." [Hilary term is one of the "four terms of the courts of common law in England"] "... Twice a year, toward the end of Hilary and Trinity term, the nine common-law judges met to select their assize circuits. With them on their lenten and summer circuits went almost the entire legal profession. Consequently, the government's usual procedure was to delay until the regular terms the Westminster and London trials of accused traitors, who were normally arrested about four to six weeks before their indictments." In other words, the lawyers were all out of town when Cromwell and Henry would have liked to have Anne arrested, and so they had to wait until May, when everyone was back in town for the start of Easter term.

I haven't seen this intriguing theory refuted anywhere, although maybe someone has blown holes in it. If it's correct, it perhaps suggests that Henry made up his mind to get rid of her much earlier than Ives' suggested April timeframe and would probably have declined to share a bed with the queen while waiting for the legal profession to reassemble.