Thursday 8 May 2014

8 May 1536 - Tears and Laughter

Anne and Henry had had marital problems for some months before May 1536, but her arrest came suddenly and out of the blue. As such, Anne was highly emotional when she arrived at the Tower, speaking unguardedly about the men with whom she was accused. She very much desired to have her own chaplain with her in her private chapel in her apartments. During her imprisonment, she complained to Sir William Kingston that she had been 'cruely handled', before telling him 'but I think the king does it to prove me' before bursting out laughing. She appeared merry to the lieutenant of the Tower, before making it clear that she knew the seriousness of her position: 'if any man accuse me I can say but nay, & they can bring no witness'. Similarly, Anne could bring no proof of her innocence when the crimes of which she was accused were alleged to have taken place in the secrecy of her chambers.

Anne gradually composed herself during the early days of her imprisonment, moving from tears to laughter. A letter survives, which is not in Anne's hand, but was found amongst Thomas Cromwell's papers and is endorsed 'from the Lady in the Tower'. It was allegedly written on 6 May 1536, by Anne herself to her husband. The letter's authenticity is highly suspect, given the fact that it is not in Anne's hand. The use of the name 'Ann Bulen', rather than 'Anne the Queen' is also unlikely, as is the fact that the letter is highly critical of the king - something which would seem to be madness at a time when Anne still had hopes of her own life, as well as aware that her parents, siblings and daughter were in considerable peril.

None the less, the letter may have been written by Anne. It would be nice to think that it was. It is printed in full in my book, The Anne Boleyn Papers, and declared 'Your grace's displeasure and my imprisonment are things so strange unto me, that what to write, or what to excuse, I am altogether ignorant'. The tone is defiant, asking for a lawful trial, before stating that 'if you have already determined of me, and that not only my death, but an infamous slander, must bring you to the joying of your desred happiness, then I desire of God that he will pardon your great sin herein, and, likewise, my enemies, the instruments thereof, and that he will not call you to a strait acocunt for your unprincely and cruel usage of me at his general judgment-seat, where both you and myself must shortly appear; and in whose just judgment, I doubt not (whatsoever the world may think of me) mine innocency shall be openly known and sufficiently cleared'.

Was this Anne daring to speak plainly to her husband and fight for her life? If so, she failed. When the letter was written, she had less than two weeks left to live.

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