"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."
Anne was guilty.
Thomas Cromwell had it in for her.
Henry wanted to get rid of Anne.
"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 the last two theories.
Many people believe that it was Jane Boleyn who was to blame for initiating Anne’s downfall, but it has never been proved that she set the wheels in motion regarding Anne's downfall, but Jane has been called a “pathological meddler” I'm leaning towards the fact that it was 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. With regard to Anne, maybe Jane had it in for Anne and didn’t need much encouragement to tell tales, maybe she was just repeating gossip, or maybe she was just saving her own skin. Who knows, 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 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 of 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."
Incidentally, Elizabeth Browne was the granddaughter of my 16x great grandfather.