In a letter to Thomas Cromwell dated the 23rd of June 1538 from Myles Coverdale and Richard Grafton it states
In 1538 every parish in England was required by law to hold a copy of an English Bible to be placed where all could access it. The Great Bible, commissioned by Thomas Cromwell in 1538, is a hagiography, a biography of saints and religious leaders.
In a letter to Thomas Cromwell dated the 23rd of June 1538 from Myles Coverdale and Richard Grafton it states
'we have here sent unto your lordship ii ensamples, on parchment, wherein we entende to prynt one for the kynges grace, and another for your lordship" and "We follow not only a standing text of the Hebrew, with the interpretation of the Chaldee and Greek, but we set also in a private table the diversity of readings of all texts, with such annotations in another table as shall doubtless delucidate and clear the same as well without any singularity of opinions, as all checkings and reproofs."
The illustrations within this work convey exactly what Thomas Cromwell intended, that is, that the king is head of the English Church replacing the Pope in Rome and that the bible should be available to all - from king to commoner. This is achieved by having Henry seated on his throne, with clerics and laymen on either side. He is presenting bibles to both. At his feet are Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury, and Thomas Cromwell, they too are distributing bibles.
In Paris in 1539, two copies of the Great Bible were printed by Miles Coverdale, one for the king and one for Cromwell himself. Six other editions were soon printed and this was followed by 9,000 copies being distributed by 1541.
What is considered to be Henry VIII's copy of the Great Bible, is held at the British Library, the second made for Cromwell, is held at St John's Collage Cambridge. Cromwell's copy of the bible may have been given to the university by John Williams, Bishop of Lincoln, who claimed to be related to the Cromwell family.
Despite being head of the Church in England, Henry VIII continued to be sympathetic to the Catholic religion. He never became a Protestant.
I found it difficult to find the right words to do justice to the BBC's adaptation of Hilary Mantel's books Wolf Hall and Bring up the Bodies so I won't even attempt it. Here is an article in the Guardian newspaper:
Wolf Hall review
"An ending so great we forgot we knew it was coming"
writes Lucy Mangan, she continues.
"Six hours and a single sword swipe, and the king’s Great Matter is finally resolved. Last night saw the end of Anne Boleyn, and the TV adaptation of Hilary Mantel’s books Bring up the Bodies and Wolf Hall (BBC2). There wasn’t a moment of Peter Kosminsky’s direction or Peter Straughan’s deft, beautifully elliptical writing that left you wanting for anything throughout this six-week splendour. But the final 15 minutes – with Anne’s death interspersed with flashbacks to Thomas Cromwell’s typically reluctant, typically thorough, inspection of the scaffold – were exceptional.
How do you dramatise a world that is mostly interior calculation, silent power plays and noiseless traps? By assembling a
cast in which there is not one weak link. Try Jonathan Pryce as Cardinal Wolsey; Anton Lesser as the unflinching,
infuriating Thomas More; and Damian Lewis as Henry (“Could you give us the kind of charismatic kingship that lasts
down the ages with a side order of ego and caprice that could usher in a religious reformation? But we need to be able
to love him, too, else this whole thing makes no sense?” “Coming right up”). And, as if that weren’t enough, Claire Foy
moving flawlessly from bold, brave and brilliant bitch to sacrificial lamb as Anne Boleyn; and, of course,
Mark Rylance as the indefatigable, implacable, terrifying, awe-inspiring Cromwell, delivering a performance
that will probably require the invention of new awards.
Even the very smallest roles were played brilliantly, such as this final episode’s executioner, established by
Philippe Spall, within the space of a few minutes and fewer lines, as a man with professional pride and no little compassion; the person you would want on your side if you ever had to mount the scaffold to clear the way for Jane Seymour.
Kosminsky and Straughan did this with a script that made you weep with its shining rigour and boggle at the amount of
eight it was seamlessly structured to bear, every line doing double duty, without it ever creaking under the strain. And by resisting the directorial temptation to yomp through the tale at speed, instead trusting in the talent at play and the viewers
at home, to create something so compelling that – as with Mantel’s books – you forgot that you knew what must come
next, and watched life unspool as if it had never been lived before."
Confirmed by experts in 2013 as being an original, this ten foot by three foot carved alter panel, known as The Westminster Retable, once stood pride of place in Westminster Abbey in the mid 13th century.
It is the earliest surviving oil painting in the country, and tests prove it was made for the reconsecration of Westminster Abbey in 1269. During the early centuries, the retable stood on the High Altar at the Abbey, facing the congregation. Experts were able to confirm this date from a tree ring analysis, and it has been suggested that it was commissioned by Henry III as part of his reconstruction of the abbey in tribute to St Edward the Confessor, who is buried close to the High Altar.
It has spent a good many years covered with dust, it survived the traumatic pillaging of the monasteries by Thomas Cromwell
and was "knocked about a bit" by Cromwell's ancestor Oliver Cromwell during the Civil War.
Despite being used as a roof of a cupboard that was filled with funeral effigies, a frame for a bust of William Pitt and its figurative painting sanded, scraped and repainted in differing colours, it has survived remarkably well. In 1827, someone finally noticed its significance but it wasn't until over seventy years later that restoration took place and this was just a couple of dabs of glue and some paint.
Originally, it would have been part of a solid gold altarpiece, decorated with jewels and painting that had been divided into five compartments depicting scenes from the Gospels, with Christ at is centre. It was made by using copper alloy, silver foil, pieces of glass, gold leaf, jewels and enamel. Ian McClure, of the Hamilton Kerr Institute for conservation in Cambridge, said of this piece
"It is so exquisitely painted that we can - thrillingly - show there was craftsmanship in this country in the 13th century every bit the equal of what was going on in Italy."
In 1515, not too long after he arrived back in England from Europe, Thomas Cromwell was called upon to sort a problem the Guilds of the town of Boston in Lincolnshire were having with Pope Leo X.
Pope Leo was threatening to stop the use of indulgences. These guilds and the church received large sums of money from the people of the town and fen lands who wished to pay for the safety of their souls in heaven. Cromwell duly arrived at the Guildhall in Boston pictured below.
With money from the Guilds, Cromwell embarked on his task hoping to gain Papal Bull of Indulgence for the town. Diarmaid MacCulloch, a professor of the history of the church at the University of Oxford, states that he managed to set up a meeting with the Pope during a stag hunt, during which and knowing of his eminences sweet tooth he managed to persuade him to change is mind by prying him with sweets and delicacies.
Cromwell's plan worked and the indulgences were reinstated.
MacColluch calls Cromwell Henry VIII's enforcer and he also claims it was while he was here in Lincolnshire that he was introduced to Protestantism.
Dangerous Talk Costs Lives
Dr Suzannah Lipscomb in her blog The Last Days of Anne Boleyn states
"the story of Anne Boleyn's downfall inspires extraordinarily passionate, opinionated disagreement. There's just the right amount of evidence to keep us guessing, enough to lead to great speculation and several almost sustainable theories, but ultimately not enough to nail any one entirely."
Eventually, by sifting through all the evidence a number of theories come to the forefront, these are:
Anne was guilty.
Thomas Cromwell had it in for her.
Henry wanted to get rid of Anne.
Talk and idle gossip within the court was Anne's undoing and as Dr Lipscomb states:
"Dangerous talk cost lives and it was what Anne said – rather than what she did – that made her appear,
in Henry's eyes, guilty."
In my opinion it was a mixture of three of the above theories.
Many people believe that it was Jane Boleyn who was to blame for initiating Anne’s downfall, Jane has been called a “pathological meddler” I think that this is probably true, events later in Henry's reign bear witness to that.
We know that Jane encouraged the relationship between Catherine Howard and Thomas Culpepper. Catherine wrote in a letter to him “praying you that you will come when my Lady Rochford is here” If Jane had anything to do with Anne’s downfall she must have realised that she was lucky to escape in 1536, and if she didn’t then she doesn't seem to have learnt anything from the whole affair. Jane must have known what would happen if Henry found out that she was involved with Catherine and Culpepper and when the affair was out in the open each woman blamed the other. Maybe Jane had it in for Anne and didn’t need much encouragement to tell tales or maybe she was just repeating gossip, but she walked right into the Culpepper affair with her eyes open.
If it was not Jane Boleyn, then who was it?
Elizabeth Browne, Countess of Worcester is also considered to be a main source of the gossip regarding tales of Anne's misconduct. One has Elizabeth being reprimanded by her brother for her behaviour to which she replied that she was
“no worse than the queen”
Another is along the same lines, it was Elizabeth herself who reprimanded a lady in waiting for comparing her behaviour
to that of the queen. In another, Elizabeth suggests that her brother talk to Mark Smeaton and a lady in waiting about Anne's behaviour.
In the April or May of 1536 others were saying much the same. John Hussee, agent to Arthur Plantagenet, Viscount Lisle also stated:
“as to the queen’s accusers, my lady of Worcester is said to be the principal in raising charges”
In our time G W Bernard, a Professor of Early Modern History, writes
“there is strong evidence that it was the Countess of Worcester’s revelations that sparked the arrests and trials”
We will never know who said what to whom with regard to the betrayal of Anne Boleyn, but someone did put the wheels in motion and the intimate details of what was going on and what was said in Anne's bedchamber came from someone close to Anne. Who was it then who instigated such dangerous conversations and where does Cromwell fit in?
Predominantly, I feel it was Henry who wanted to be rid of Anne, he saw to it that someone got the ball rolling and that person
used the loose talk in court about Anne's 'behaviour' against her. I suppose you could argue though that someone had originally planted the seeds of doubt in Henry's mind about Ann and then left to see what would germinate ......was this Thomas Cromwell?
Was Anne Boleyn guilty of adultery? I find it hard to believe, Anne would not have put her soul in danger of eternal damnation by lying. She is said to have said
"I swear, on the damnation of my soul, that I have never been unfaithful to my lord and husband, nor ever offended with my body against him."
Dangerous talk it seems, does cost lives.
Incidentally, Elizabeth Browne was the granddaughter of my 16x great grandfather.
Bishop Gardiner wrote of the date of the Countesses execution as the 27th of May but Eustace Chapuys wrote of it as the 28th, either way Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury, the daughter of George Duke of Clarence and Isabel Neville was taken to her place of death at the end of May in 1541.
By the time of Margaret's execution, three years had passed since her son's Geoffrey and Henry Pole had been arrested on a charge of treason at the beginning of November 1538. It was just over a week later, the 12th November that Cromwell's henchmen came knocking on the Countesse's door.
Probably not tortured, but certainly coerced by the Earl of Southampton and the Bishop of Ely Margaret said nothing, her two interrogators eventually telling Cromwell that they had to conclude that her sons had told her nothing or that she was
"the most arrant traitress that ever lived"
Margaret was sent to Cowdray Park, the home of the Earl of Southampton where the abuse at the hands of Cromwell's men continued. It was there in the May that a Bill of Attainder was issued and evidence of 'guilt' was presented in the form of a silk tunic embroidered on the back with the Five Wounds of Christ. This and other trumped up charges were brought against her, and Margaret was sent to the Tower where she was kept for just under two years. The Countess was not treated well during her incarceration, the conditions were austere and inadequate for woman her age let alone her status, the room was cold and damp and she suffered as a result.
Margaret heard of her execution only hours before it was due to happen.
Looking pale and thin, it must have been a distressing sight as she made her way to Tower Green, but her suffering was not over. At the hands of inexperienced executioner a
‘wretched and blundering youth who literally hacked her head and shoulders to pieces in the most pitiful manner’
Margaret Pole, the last true Plantagenet was dead.
She was sixty eight year old.
15th May 1536
King’s Hall, The Tower of London.
I wonder, if at anytime in the days before Anne's trial Thomas Boleyn ever thought of his great grandfather, Geoffrey Boleyn, the yeoman farmer from Norfolk. I wonder if he wished that he had discouraged his sons move to London and talked to him about how city life could lead to greed and ambition and tragedy. What was he thinking when he and his brother in law the Duke of Norfolk were asked to inquire into allegations of sexual misconduct and witchcraft or when his son was arrested and charged with incest.
It was this day in 1536 that Thomas Boleyn listened as his daughter was charged with "entertaining malice against the King" and having sexual relations with five men of Henry's court.
Thomas sat in judgement when Anne pleaded not guilty to all the charges but it was her uncle, the Duke of Norfolk, who declared that she was guilty. So was she guilty? Of these charges no, her downfall was most certainly orchestrated.
Anne was feisty, Anne was opinionated, Anne was intelligent, are these not the characteristics that had attracted Henry to her in the first place and now he used them against her, he also knew exactly who to ask to get rid of her.
So was Anne's father one of her persecutors or was he just a pawn in a greater game? The irony is that Thomas Boleyn owed his royal favour to the fascination Henry VIII had for both is his daughters, maybe without this, Boleyn's part in Tudor history would be just that of a minor member of the kings court.
After the executions of Anne and George Boleyn, Thomas lost the office of lord privy seal to Thomas Cromwell. Over the next couple of years he lost all his titles apart from his earldom, which he had no heir to inherit and incidentally he had to share with Piers Butler, a member of his mothers family who was granted the title in 1538.
Was all this punishment enough?
Thomas Boleyn died at Hever Castle in 1539.
After ten years in the workplace I became a mother to three very beautiful daughters, I was fortunate enough to have been able to stay at home and spend my time with them as they grew into the young women they are now. I am still in the position of being able to be at home and pursue all the interests I have previously mentioned. We live in a beautiful Victorian spa town with wooded walks for the dog, lovely shops and a host of lovely people, what more could I ask for.
All works © Andrea Povey 2014. Please do not reproduce without the expressed written consent of Andrea Povey.