Thursday, 9 May 2013

George Constantyne on Anne Boleyn's Fall

One of the most interesting sources on Anne Boleyn's fall is the account of George Constantyne, who was a servant of Henry Norris' at the time of his arrest in May 1536. He also knew William Brereton personally and happened to see him shortly before his arrest.

The details that Constantyne gives, which were a record of a conversation that he had with the Dean of Westbury in 1539, are particularly useful in relation to the men that were charged with adultery with Queen Anne.

Be careful when using the source however since it is far from certainly genuine.The original document has never been produced and the publication was made using a transcript prepared by John Payne Collier. During his lifetime, Collier was rumoured to have created sources for use in his own historical works and it is therefore possible that Constantyne’s memorial may also be a forgery. It was, however, considered to be genuine by Thomas Amyot, the Treasurer of the Society of Antiquaries and it is regularly used by historians. In recent years Collier’s reputation has also been somewhat rehabilitated, with it being claimed that he was actually one of the leading scholars of his period. Personally, through my own research I tend to conclude that the source is genuine, but, until the original manuscript is found it can only be used cautiously.

The extract below from Constantyne's Memorial relates to his comments on Anne's fall. The full document is published in my Anne Boleyn source book.

  Apon Setterdaye, beinge the xxiij daye of August, we rode toward Kermarddyn, And in our journey in the mornynge we communed as foloweth:


A my fayth the gere ye showed vs of the maryage ys lyckly. But I never hearde of the Quenes that they shuld be thus handled. GEORGE. In good fayth nor I; nother yet I never suspected, but I promise you there was moch mutteringe of Quene Annes deeth. DEANE. There was in deade. GEORGE. And it ys the thinge that I marked as well, as ever I marked any thinge. DEANE. Did ye so? And I can tell nothinge of it for I was at that tyme at St. Dauids. GEORGE. Na, ye were in the diocese of St. Assaph. For my Lorde was that tyme in Scotlonde. And I was the same tyme Mr. Norice’s servante. I wrote a Letter of comforth vnto hym, and that after he was condemned. I haue the copie of the same Letter in my howse. DEANE. He had not your Letter. GEORGE. Yes I delyvered it vnsealed vnto Mr. Lieftenant, And he delyvered it Mr. Noryce. DEANE. I pray the what canst thow tell of the matter? Let vs heare. GEORGE. The first that was taken was Markys, And he was at Stepneth in examinacyon on Maye even. I can not tell how he was examined, but apon Maye daye in the mornynge he was in the towre, the trewth ys he confessed it, but yet the sayeing was that he was fyrst grevously racked, which I cowlde never know of a trewth. Apon May daye Mr. Noryce justed. And after justinge the Kynge rode sodenly to Westminster, and all the waye as I heard saye, had Mr. Noryce in examinacyon and promised hym his pardon in case he wolde utter the trewth. But what so ever cowld be sayed or done, Mr. Norice wold confess no thinge to the Kynge, where vpon he was committed to the towre in the mornynge. And by the waye as his chapleyn tolde me he confessed, but he sayed at his arrayning, when his owne confession was layed afore hym, that he was deceaved to do the same by the Erle of Hampton that now ys. But what so ever he sayed, he was cast. DEANE. But what can ye tell of Brerton? GEORGE. By my troeth, yf any of them was innocent, it was he. For other he was innocente or els he dyed worst of them all. DEANE. How so? GEORGE. Apon thursdaye afore Maye daye in the mornynge I spake with hym abowt nyne of the clocke, And he tolde me that there was no waye but one with any matter. For I did aske hym & was bold apon hym because we were borne within foure myles together, And also we wente to grammar scole together. And the same daye afore ij of the clock was he in the towre as ferre as the best. What was layed against hym I know not nor never hearde. But at his deeth these were his wordes: I haue deserved to dye if it were a thousande deethes, But the cause wherfore I dye judge not: But yf ye judge, judge the best. This he spake iij or foure tymes. If he were gyltie, I saye therfore that he dyed worst of them all. DEANE. Why, how dyed the others? GEORGE. Mary in a manner confessed all but Mr. Norice, who sayed allmost nothinge at all. DEANE. How do ye know it? GEORGE. Mary I hearde them, and wrote every worde that they spake. DEANE. What sayed the others? GEORGE. The lorde of Ratchforde, after many wordes, to the effecte sayed this. I desyre you that no man wilbe discoraged from the Gospell for my fall. For if I had lyved accordinge to the gospel as I loved it, and spake of it, I had never come to this. Wherfore sayed he Syrs for Gods love, leave not the gospel, but speake lesse and lyve better. For I had rather have one good lyver accordinge to the gospel then ten bablers. And Weston sayed; I had thought to haue lyved in abhominacion yet this twenty or thrittie yeres & then to haue made amendes. I thought little it wold haue come to this: willinge all other to take example at hym. And Markes sayed: Masters I pray you all praye for me, for I haue deserved the deeth. And the Quene sayed: I do not entende to reason my cause, but I committe me to Christ wholy, in whome ys my whole trust, desirynge you all to praye for the Kynges maiestie that he maye longe regne over you, for he ys a veraye noble prince and full gently hath handled me. DEANE. Know ye any thinge of the examinacyon of her? GEORGE. Her brother and she were examined at the towre. I hearde saye he had escaped had it not byn for a Letter. Almost all the lordes that were in the realme were there. And the duke of Northfolke, vncle to them both, he was, as it was told me, in the Kynges place and Judge. It were pittie he shuld be alyve if he shuld judge then against right. DEANE. A marvelouse case, and a great fall. GEORGE. So it was. Now Syr, because that she was a favorer of Gods worde, at the leest wise so taken, I tell you few men wolde beleve that she was so abhominable. As I be saved afore God I cowld not beleve it, afore I hearde them speake at their deeth. For there were that sayed that moch money wold haue byn layed that daye, & that great oddes, that the Lorde Ratchforde shulde haue byn quytte. DEANE. I never hearde so moch before, as that the Duke of Northfolke was judge. GEORGE. So I hearde saye, And that the water ronne in his eyes. I blame hym not though it greved hym.

  We had also comunicacyon of the boke made agenst Luther in the Kynges name.

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