Wednesday 7 May 2014

7 May 1536 - Such About Me As I Never Loved

By 7 May 1536, Anne Boleyn had been imprisoned in the Tower for nearly a week. Although she was kept in the sumptuous royal apartments, where she had stayed before her coronation, conditions were far from easy for the queen.

When she arrived at the Tower, Anne was disconcerted to find that her aunt - Lady Boleyn - had been sent to attend her, along with a Mistress Coffin. This Lady Boleyn was most likely Anne Tempest, wife of Sir Edward Boleyn, and a woman approximately the same age as her niece. She had been a favoured attendant of Catherine of Aragon and there was little love lost between aunt and niece, with the queen complaining to Sir William Kingston that I think much unkindness in the king to put such about me as I never loved'. Theas t med inforha tshewfeeling was mutual and Anne Tempest, along with Mistress Coffin, were there primarily to spy on the queen. This was role that Lady Boleyn, who had long been on 'very ill terms' with her niece, appeared to relish, and 'she engaged her into much discourse, and studied to draw confessions from her. Whatsoever she said was presently sent to the court'.

Lady Boleyn and Mistress Coffin were deputed to sleep on a pallet bed in Anne's own chamber, with Sir William Kingston and his wife sleeping outside the door. Regardless of her royal lodgings, Anne Boleyn was to be under no illusion that she was a prisoner.

As it turned out, Mistress Coffin proved to be a better informer than Lady Boleyn and it was she who informed Kingston of Anne's words relating to Henry Norris. The queen and her aunt bickered in the Tower, however, with Anne Boleyn complaining one night to Kingston that 'the king wist what he did when he put such two about her as my Lady Boleyn and Mistress Coffin, for they could tell her nothing of my lord her father nor nothing else, but she defied them all'. In response, Lady Boleyn declared that 'such desire as you have had to such tales have brought you to this'. Lady Shelton, another of Anne's aunts, was also summoned to serve her in the Tower, something which was again uncomfortable for the queen, since they had also quarrelled.

In the Tower Anne Boleyn was cut off from the outside world and surrounded by unfriendly faces. When she complained of her attendants to Sir William Kingston, he assured her 'that the king took them to be honest and good women'. Anne replied that 'I would have had of my own Privy Chamber which I favour most'. Few were prepared to speak out for Anne in May 1536 as the investigation against her continued.

Lady Shelton, one of Anne Boleyn's aunts.

You can learn more about Anne's aunts in my book, The Boleyn Women (Amberley, 2013)

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