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Anne Boleyn and George Boleyn Arrested to Remove the Boleyn Faction

Updated on July 14, 2013
Anne Boleyn was arrested two days after Mark Smeaton's confession
Anne Boleyn was arrested two days after Mark Smeaton's confession

On May 2, 1536, Anne and George Boleyn were arrested. They were the last of the six executed two weeks later to be arrested and it is likely that neither realised the amount of trouble they were in – or what was really happening. In fact, Anne asked where her dear brother was; not realising that he had been arrested with her.

The Court Finds Out the Truth

May 2 also saw the day that the King’s Court found out about the proceedings. They heard about the confession that Mark Smeaton had made and that Sir Henry Norris had been arrested. They then heard of George and Anne Boleyn.

George was immediately taken to the Tower of London for questioning, where Sirs Henry Norris, Francis Weston and William Brereton had been taken the day before. Eustace Chapuys, the Spanish Ambassador, originally informed the Court reporter, Sir Tim Ridgeway, that George Boleyn had been arrested for not declaring his sister’s crime with the other men. It was never originally thought that he had had a relationship with her.

Anne Boleyn was initially held at Greenwich, where her interrogation took place, before being taken to the Tower of London. She was questioned about her relationship with the four men and the events that took place with Mark Smeaton. Even though she denied everything, Smeaton had “confessed” by this point but it is unclear whether this confession was real or out of fear. Ironically, Anne was arrested for breaking a statute that had been put in place to protect her and her daughter!

Anne was taken to the Royal Lodgings – when she first saw Sir William Kingston, she worried that she would be put into one of the dungeons like the others. In fact, Anne was placed into the same Royal Lodgings that she stayed in the night before her coronation.

The Truth About Anne Boleyn

But Why Would They Have Been Arrested?

Thomas Cromwell wanted power and the Boleyn faction were standing in his way. At the same time, King Henry VIII was growing tired of Anne Boleyn. She had had at least two miscarriages after giving birth of Princess Elizabeth in September 1533. Failing to deliver on her promise of a son, King Henry wanted a way out of his marriage but he didn’t want to cause the same problems that his divorce from Catherine of Aragon had caused.

Henry VIII had already laid eyes on Jane Seymour and wanted her to become the next Queen. This was clear when they were betrothed the day after Anne’s execution. Whether he believed the accusations or not is unclear. It is possible that he turned a blind eye to get what he wanted.

It is unlikely that Cromwell planned much of this in advance. This is clear from the fabricated evidence. The dates that Anne was accused of the affairs were impossible. She would have been with the King, pregnant or recovering from the birth of Elizabeth and the miscarriages during the times. Cromwell couldn’t have planned ahead too well; otherwise he would have come up with more solid evidence.

Movie Clip from The Other Boleyn Girl of Anne Boleyn's Execution

Thomas Cromwell wanted to take down the Boleyn faction
Thomas Cromwell wanted to take down the Boleyn faction

When Did Accusations of Incest Arise?

So, George Boleyn was initially arrested because he was withholding information. This was classed as treason so he would have still been executed. But when did Cromwell realise that George may have had a relationship with his sister?

This was partially due to Jane Boleyn. At some point, she gave evidence that the two spent a long night together and that they were close. Was this out of spite because of an unhappy marriage? That is unclear – and unlikely. It is possible that Cromwell questioned her so quickly and didn’t give her a chance to think about her answers that she slipped up.

It is also possible that Jane Boleyn said something innocent that Cromwell managed to twist into evidence. This did happen with much of the evidence against George and his sister. Much of it was due to dancing with courtiers, giving money and simply spending time with each other!

Anne Boleyn's fate was determined before her trial on May 15, 1536
Anne Boleyn's fate was determined before her trial on May 15, 1536

A Verdict Already Determined

The trial of Anne and George didn’t happen until May 15 but the verdict was already determined. George was up first and found guilty. This automatically meant that Anne would be found guilty. Nothing she said would be taken into account.

In fact, the jury were made up of men who had reason to find George and Anne guilty of treason, adultery and incest. Most were men who wanted to get back in favour with King Henry or owed him money. Others owed other important people money or were power hungry, such as the defendants’ uncle, Sir Thomas Howard. They knew that the guilty verdict was everything that Henry VIII wanted and they were going to give him that.

George was executed two days later but Anne’s execution was delayed until May 19.

The first time was due to the crowds who didn’t want to see Queen Anne executed. While she was seen as a home-wrecker and mistress at the start of the marriage, she became a favoured Queen with the English people because of her charitable nature; another reason why Thomas Cromwell wanted to remove her from power.

The second time was because her executioner was delayed. Anne was to be beheaded by sword – the French form of executions – because of the time that she had spent in France. Henry VIII would have had to send for the executioner the week before her execution. Considering it was supposed to take place a couple of days before, he would have been ordered a week before the trial.

There was no chance that Anne Boleyn could have been found innocent. King Henry had decided that she was guilty and that she was going to die. Back then, whatever the King wanted happened, whether it was fair or not.

Stories About the Boleyn Family


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