Recently I've been re-reading most of accounts on Anne Boleyn's downfall, reaching the primary sources as well.
And I cannot figure out Thomas Cromwell's role and involvement in AB's fall.
Every historian has his/hers own vision of Anne's fall and there are few possibilities (ok, but here I'm assuming that Anne was indeed innocent);
Two leading theories are;
- Henry VIII, tired of Anne Boleyn and her inability to produce male heirs, orders Cromwell to get rid of her
- Cromwell moves against AB because she posed a threat to himself, so Cromwell acts alone, convincing the king that Anne was guilty of adultery
Considering that it was Cromwell who 'plotted the whole affair' as he later admitted to Imperial ambasador Chapuys,why would Cromwell want to get rid of AB?
- she was a threat to him ; in 1535 she told him she could have his head chopped off, but Cromwell trusted in Henry VIII ; does it mean that Anne had literally no influence over the king, if Cromwell believed that Henry could protect him from Anne?
- Anne had different vision about the religious reform; where Cromwell (with Henry's blessing) was interested in gaining the wealth from dissolved monasteries, Anne sought a way to improve matters; she wanted the founds to be put to 'better uses' chairty, education, etc.
- Anne was an obstacle in the foreign politics; ok, it is obvious that altough she was pro-French her entire life , she knew that after Katherine's death only Imperial alliance is the one that truly matters and she was pro-Imperial. I think that this is a huge misconception that Anne was against Imperial alliance; but what I don't wholly understand is - how Anne was involved in forming an alliance with the German protestants? Joanna Denny claims in her book that it was Anne's support for the Protestants that led to her downfall.
Cromwell's plot could have been successful because;
- Anne Boleyn failed to give Henry VIII a son;
- she was unpopular among English people
- according to Alison Weir, she was not a good wife (shrewish, outspoken, etc)
- the King developed interest in one of Anne's ladies, Jane Seymour
BUT there is evidence that in the spring of 1535 Anne Boleyn was highly esteemd by the King and - although she failed to give him a son - he still regarded her as his wife and queen and was eager for the Emperor to do the same. When Anne's almoner preached the sermon on 2 April 1536, accusing Cromwell and king's 'bad council' of being greedy and evil, it was a warning sign for Cromwell that the Queen threatens him once again. But Cromwell did not move against Anne until 18 April when - after the audience with Chapus, he stormedout of the chamber excusing himself. Was Cromwell in danger? Was he falling out of king's favour? After all he was secretly meeting with Chapuys many times, perhaps the king did not approve it at all? So from 20 April Cromwell locked himself away (pretended illness) and he was (probably) plotting against Anne Boleyn.
Well, I am trying and trying to figure out - was Cromwell acting with Henry's blessing? Was Henry really tired of Anne and her inabiliity to produce male heirs? Accusations against Anne came to light when one of her ladies after being scolded at her immoral behaviour revealed that the queen herself was not any better. Cromwell's main accusations come from Anne herself (!) and her two fatal quarrels with two courtiers - Henry Norris and MArk Smeaton (some time by the end of April), and Anne's babbling in the Tower (about Francis Weston).
It seems that most of the 'evidence' Cromwell collected late in April and when Anne was already arrested, when she provided the 'evidence' herself. So it means that Cromwell had no plans to get rid of her earlier and thus her was planning Anne's fall all by himself, convincing the king that she was really guilty of adultery,
treason and incest. There was absolutely no evidence (before the fatal April weekend when Anne quarreled with Smeaton and Norris) that could led Anne or 5 men who were executed as her acompices. So it seems that all 'affair' was plotted rather quickly, and it may indicate that Henry VIII was not al all tired of his wife. If the king really wanted to get rid of Anne, would there be any different evidence against her?
I'm just wondering how to put it all together :-)