On this day in history : 15th May 1536 – The trial of Anne Boleyn takes place; she is accused of adultery, incest and plotting to kill her husband, King Henry VIII….

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Anne Boleyn, unknown artist – Public domain

Henry had gone to great lengths to make Anne his wife, having made himself the head of the English Church in order to obtain a divorce from his first wife, Katherine of Aragon…. Now Anne had fallen from favour – she had failed to provide a male heir and after suffering a second miscarriage in January 1536 Henry was beginning to look elsewhere – and needed to find a way to end his second marriage….

What better way than to cite adultery – an act that would have been regarded as treason…. He enlisted the help of his chief minister, Thomas Cromwell – who detested Anne…. An enquiry was made into Anne’s behaviour – both her personal and sexual conduct….she had never been a popular Queen and several accusations were brought against her….

A commission was established to investigate the rumours and on the 2nd of May 1536 Anne was arrested, accused of committing adultery with five men – one of them her own brother, George Boleyn, Lord Rochfield…. It was claimed she’d had intimate relations with him on the 2nd of November and 22nd & 29th of December 1535…. Also named were four members of Henry’s Court whom she had supposedly slept with: Henry Norris, on the 12th & 19th of November 1533; Sir William Bremerton, the 16th & 27th of November and 3rd & 8th of December 1533; Sir Francis Weston, the 8th & 20th of May and 6th & 20th of June 1534; and Mark Smeaton, a musician of the Court, on the 13th & 19th of May 1534…. If that sounds excessive, Henry actually believed she’d had over 100 lovers…. No doubt this was all lies fabricated by Thomas Cromwell….

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Thomas Cromwell – Hans Holbein, Public domain

On the 12th of May 1536 Smeaton, Norris, Bremerton and Weston were brought to trial… Cracking under the strain Smeaton admitted guilt but the others all protested their innocence…. To add to their plight all of the men, with the exception of Norris, were also accused of sodomy…. The four were found guilty of all charges and executed at Tyburn on the 17th of May….

Anne and her brother were brought to trial at King’s Hall, the Tower of London on the 15th of May….the trial was presided over by her uncle, the Duke of Norfolk…. Despite having alibis for at least twelve of the occasions on which she had been accused her pleas fell on deaf ears…. The court was obsessed with ‘her frail and carnal sexual appetites’….

In addition to the charges of adultery and incest Anne was accused of plotting the death of Henry with her ‘lovers’…. It was claimed she intended to marry one of the traitors after his demise….

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Anne Boleyn in the Tower by Edouard Cibot – Public domain

Both Anne and her brother were found guilty….George Boleyn was executed along with the other men two days later…. Anne herself was executed four days after the trial…. All were victims of Thomas Cromwell’s fiction….but as they say ‘what goes around, comes around’…. Thomas Cromwell was himself beheaded just four years later….

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