Monday, April 13, 2009

Details of Anne Boleyn's incestuous relationship with her brother now online

Documents on the opening of Anne Boleyn's trial are now online at the National Archives for the first time. (scroll down to KB 8/9). This opening includes accusations of Anne's adultery and incest with her brother in which the famed queen supposedly, "tempted her brother with her tongue in the said George's mouth and the said George's tongue in hers." ewwwwww. Too yucky to be true? Most historians think so and even the Spanish Ambassador Chapuys predicted George's acquittal.

Theories continue to differ on why George Boleyn got pulled into the messy business of Anne's downfall. Here are just a few...

The deformed fetus theory
Before Anne's arrest she had supposedly given birth to a deformed male child which according to historian Retha Warnicke, Henry saw as a clear sign of evil incarnate. This deformed fetus led to Henry's conviction that Anne was a baby killing witch and his marriage was doomed. In the 16th century, incest was closely associated with witchcraft so accusing Anne of incest made Anne's execution justifiable in the eyes of a very religious and superstitious king. Even though there is little evidence that Anne gave birth to a deformed fetus, Warnicke gives readers an interesting glimpse into how witchcraft shaped beliefs toward women.

The Anne as victim theory
Eric Ive's believes that few defenses were written about Anne during her trial or after because, "if Anne was 'noble', 'virtuous' and 'worthy', Henry had been a either a monster or a gull." Anything that hurt Anne's reputation, vindicated Herny. Sounds a little too black and white to me, but obviously Henry wanted Anne's reputation dragged through the mud. Along that same line of thought, George Boleyn was merely a helpless casualty in the mission to defile poor sweet Anne. Maybe.

The Henry as Tudor mob boss theory
In my opinion, John Guy and David Starsky suggest the most plausible theory. Henry felt Anne had crossed him and good old Hank was MAD....and certainly mad enough to lash out at Anne's brother. Revenge may sound too simplistic, but Henry may have honestly believed that Anne had committed adultery. Supposedly, Anne had also spoken of Henry being impotent - an act of treason. During George's trial, he had been instructed NOT to read out loud these accusations. But what did silly George do? He brazenly read out loud the tawdry rumors of Henry's impotence. I am pretty sure that calling a man bad in bed to his entire court tends not to lead to clemency.

Obviously, the 16th century idea of revenge was far more violent then it would be today so we have to be careful when making comparisons. But even by 16th century standards, Henry demonstrated a propensity for being a real jerk. Let's remember poor Margaret Pole (shown here), a feeble, old woman sent to her death for her son Reginald Pole's treasonous acts against the crown. Margaret had denounced her son's actions and had always been a loyal servant to the crown even serving as godmother and governess to Henry's daughter Mary. But Henry wanted to send a message to Reginald....mess with me and your whole family gets wacked! Tony Soprano would have been proud.

Appearances are everything
I would also add that Henry was very sensitive to his reputation at court and to the rest of the world. At the time of Anne's downfall, Henry had fallen for Jane Seymour—a woman he saw as the antithesis of Anne. Henry may have wanted to thoroughly tarnish Anne's reputation to create a contrast between Anne as witch and Jane as godly. A new reign was about to begin and Henry wanted his people to accept his new wife and their future heirs.

What do you think? Why was George Boleyn dragged into the trial?

24 comments:

Wiggs (The Beholder) said...

Do you think he could have also been influenced by anti-Boleyn investigators (at this point Cromwell wasn't a fan of the family, right?)? Henry and Anne had clearly lost the "spark" and it seems like he just wanted to get rid of her, especially after the miscarriage, and was willing to accept any accusations that made him feel justified. It seems like the men who had been slighted by the Boleyns were eager to destroy the whole family...?

Ana Sofía said...

Well, I think that whether they were innocent or not, they must've done something to make Henry believe there was something going on between them... maybe they were too close, hugged a lot or spend a lot of time together, just having a good brother-sister relationship.
I don't think Henry just came up with this accusation towards George because how come he didn't kill Mary or their father?

Like my grandma says, "Don't do good things that look like bad things!" beacause people can misunderstand your actions haha, oh Anne..

Bearded Lady said...

Wiggs, Cromwell was definitely Henry’s right hand man in Anne’s downfall. I think Cromie knew that it would be smarter to take the Boleyns out of power and eliminate any court factions working against him. How much whispering Cromie did in Henry’s ear before the investigation began will always remain a mystery. Still, at the end of the day, it was Henry who ordered the investigation and Henry who signed the death warrants.

Ana Sofia, I think Anne knew that Henry Norris (one of her accused “lovers”) was getting too flirty because she reprimanded him for his actions saying something along the lines of - you seek to fill dead man’s shoes. But Warnicke has argued that many of the supposed flirtations between Anne and her courtiers were simply part of the elaborate rituals of courtly love. I am guessing that being accused of incest came as more of a shock to Anne. But overall your grandma was right! Anne was probably being watched and evidence was slowly being collected.

As far as Mary Boleyn goes, she was removed from court at the time of Anne’s trial so was really an inconsequential figure.

You could argue that Thomas Boleyn’s biggest loss was his children, Anne and George. He got a royal slap on the wrist compared to his childrens’ punishment. He did have to remove himself from court for a while, but he kept his lands and was even back at court for Jane Seymour’s wedding. He would of course never have the king’s ear again, but he had his head and the means to live comfortably. Not bad for a Boleyn.

Carrie K said...

Poor George. He loved his sister, I'm sure and got dragged into her messy domestic disputes.

Anne did spend time at the French court and we all know what Francis was like. Tame sibling affection probably came off as incestuous exhibitions at the Tudor Court.

Besides, look how poor saintly Richard III was characterized after tangling w/the Tudors. Runs in the family........;)

Cinderella said...

Didn't George's wife formally accuse him of incest? I can't recall if the accusation originated with her. But I think Henry wanted to clean house and get rid of Anne's supporters, so once an accusation like that was made, George didn't have a chance.

Bearded Lady said...

Jane Boleyn's name was never formally attached to any of the evidence at Anne or George's trial. Whether or not the evidence came from her is just speculation and rumor. Several of Anne's ladies have been suspected as giving evidence against her. (The evidence may have come from Lady Wingfield?) We will never know.

Jane actually had the most to lose by George's conviction. She lost much of her wealth and property.

The Anne Boleyn Files said...

I do believe that Anne was innocent and I don't believe for a minute that Henry thought that she had committed adultery, he just needed rid of her, pure and simple, and so did Cromwell.
Here are the reasons I think she was executed:-
- Cromwell had to get her before she brought him down (like she had with Wolsey). Anne had become a liability and was ruining Cromwell's foreign policy plans.
- Anne had failed to produce a male heir and Henry felt let down by this and began to think that the marriage was cursed.
- The marriage was tarnished by everything that Henry had had to do to marry Anne - break with Rome, annul his marriage to Catherine, execute More, suffer the wrath of his people and family...

As far as George Boleyn was concerned, he was an easy target. He and Anne were very close and he did enter her bed chamber at times, so it was easy to use these innocent brother/sister moments as evidence of incest. Also Henry wanted to punish George for the whole "impotency" thing (for talking about Henry's problem)and to lash out at Anne's family - Poor George.

I really think that both Anne and George believed that they would be pardoned. Henry really had no reason to execute Anne, seeing as Cromwell annulled the marriage anyway - how could she commit adultery if the marriage was never valid?!

Great blog by the way!a

Luv said...

@Ana Sofia

I agree with you. Henry VIII might have view their relationship as being too close for comfort, especially for that time and era in which they lived in. In now in modern times, very few people feel that comfortable talking about their sex life,or lack of sex life with their brother. So you can imagine the raise eyebrows back than.

Anonymous said...

I tend to agree with Ana Sofía: where there's smoke, there's fire. Probably Anne and her brother George were not actually incestuous; however, without being conscious about it, they might have had seductive feelings for each other, manifesting in somewhat inappropriate behaviour, e.g., lingering kisses and touches, inappropriately flirtatious glances at each other, etc. Thomas Cromwell and others who were committed to carrying out Henry's wishing might have used this to their advantage.

Anonymous said...

Apologies for the typo; I meant to say "Henry's wishes..", not "wishing", of course.

Anonymous said...

@ The Anne Boleyn Files: You are wrong and totally illogical. If all Henry wanted to do was to get rid of Anne due to the lack of a male heir, then he would have simply divorced her. The fact that he was driven to murder proves something very intense was occurring. Maybe Anne was not cheating on him, but then - maybe she was. In a sense, that's not important - what is important is that Henry possibly thought she *was* having extramarital affairs, which *might* have catapulted him into a homicidal rage. Stop being so smug in your assertions - since you weren't literally physically present when Anne was alive, you will *never* know the real circumstances, which would have included the possibility she might have had affairs with other guys. Now is the time for you to grow up and be more realistic.

Tenuod888 said...

@Anonymous: You are being a hypocrite, illogical and wrong. How do you know if they were having "seductive feelings" for each other if you were never there yourself! Do not make thing up and what you said is completely lacking in evidence and merit. And you have the nerve to criticize The Anne Boleyn Files for her MORE LOGICAL theory.

Most historians believe she was falsely accused, now you can't argue with that since most historians are actually using logic and evidence to get to their point.

It is generally accepted by historians that it was a fiction invented in order to find her guilty of incest (among other offenses, possibly also contrived) in order for King Henry VIII to legally have her executed in order to remarry.


It would have looked horrible for King Henry to divorce his wife AGAIN. So your 'well he could have divorced her' theory does not make sense.

Where There’s Smoke and Fire, There’s Often Arson

Anonymous said...

@Tenuod888: What? How am I being hypocritical? That doesn't make any sense at all.

How do you know Anne and her brother George didn't have "seductive feelings" for each other if you were never there yourself.

Since you weren't there, don't presume to know everything.

Anonymous said...

Tenuod888: why are you being so overly emotional, almost to the point of frantic hysteria? This makes you look like some kind of fanatical nutter. Why get so hysterical over events that took place 500 years ago? Do you have some sort of personal stake in all of this? You're getting hysterically worked up, as if someone has insulted your mother. After all, it's only an online forum about dead people. Calm down and get a grip.

Anonymous said...

I have low tolerance for ignorant people who insult others without looking at their own actions. People like you start fire and then blame it on someone else. Yes, you are being a hypocrite so please go back and look at your reply and choice of words. I am not being hysterical (?) since this is the Internet and you can't really tell if I am being hysterical. You can't see my emotions of hysteria. You told me that I don't know if they had "seductive feelings" for each other and I am telling you don't know that they did.... Do you understand? You just don't go around and spread false and disgusting rumors like that, it is wrong. All evidence points to it all being a lie to kill Anne Boleyn and that is why I am mad, not "hysterical". The facts and logic are in your face and you choose to ignore them for your obsession with there having been incest.

Anonymous said...

You were never there as well so don't say that they did/could have had "seductive feelings" for each other. Exactly my point of you being a hypocrite. It is very obvious and more logical that they did make up that lie to kill someone( Anne) they wanted tossed aside and forgotten. There is NO evidence of there ever having been incest and I like to rely on hard evidence when making claims. It is annoys me to no end when people talk out if their a## just so they could keep things juicy and scandalous. Reply on facts, not rumors.

Anonymous said...

You were never there as well so don't say that they did/could have had "seductive feelings" for each other. Exactly my point of you being a hypocrite. It is very obvious and more logical that they did make up that lie to kill someone( Anne) they wanted tossed aside and forgotten. There is NO evidence of there ever having been incest and I like to rely on hard evidence when making claims. It is annoys me to no end when people talk out of their a## just so they could keep things juicy and scandalous. Rely on facts, not rumors.

Anonymous said...

You keep tossing out the word "hypocrite"; in this context, the word doesn't make any sense. Obviously, you don't know the meaning of the word hypocrite, which refers to a person who acts in contradiction to his or her stated beliefs or feelings. Therefore, you don't know what you're talking about.

As I stated before, why get so hysterical over events that took place 500 years ago?

Probably, Anne Boleyn and her brother had a perfectly normal relationship; however, incest is far more common than most people want to believe. Obviously, it's a very disturbing topic, which is why a lot of people are in denial.

Look, this is a blog about dead people who lived 500 years ago; therefore, do try to get so hysterical about this. And, again, you don't seem to understand what the word hypocrite means. Since "hypocrite" refers to a person who acts in contradiction to his or her stated beliefs or feelings, tell me what is the contradiction here. Inquiring minds want to know.

Anonymous said...

Correction: of course, I meant to say, "...therefore, do try NOT to get so hysterical about this..."

Anonymous said...

Once again, this is a blog about dead people from 500 years ago. Why get all worked up about DEAD PEOPLE?

Most likely, Anne and her brother had a totally normal relationship - but then again, maybe they were sexual together, So what?

I once had a next-door neighbour who'd had a sexual relationship with her own brother. This takes place more frequently than you might think,

As for my own personal feelings regarding incest, like most people, I think it's terrible - but it does occur. Hey, here in the U.S., incestuous marriage between first cousins is legal in about half of our 50 states, including my home state of California. C'est la vie.

Anonymous said...

Fellow Californian, I know the definition of hypocrite and your comment came off that way ...to me. You replied to Anne Boleyn Files that "since you weren't literally physically present when Anne was alive, you will *never* know the real circumstances" but then you were pretty assertive in saying that killing Anne for lack of male heir is out of the question since he could have divorced her. You both have an opinion so it was odd in you just denouncing her. Also, wouldn't a second divorce have looked bad for him. Truth is, we will never know but again I do feel it in my gut that there was most likely foul play. Not saying there 100% was, but sure feels like it. About cousins, I will not stand in their way of getting married even though I do feel creeped out by it, but brother and sister is another story:/ it is illegal in every country on earth I think.. Because is just repulsive. Cousins is less creepy. Second cousins is even less creepy and so on. There has been a scientific study done to prove that brothers and sisters are not attracted to each other almost all the time and I have to find that study.

Anonymous said...

I didn't denounce Anne. I simply postulated there is a slim possibility she and her brother might have been incestuous, however unlikely this probably was. That has nothing to do with hypocrisy. Yes, brother-sister incest is creepy (just as incest in general is creepy), but just because it's creepy doesn't mean it doesn't happen.

Per this article: http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2012/may/11/hilary-mantel-on-anne-boleyn..."Anne's supporters hate anyone who says so, but it is possible that she did have affairs." We will never know one way or the other. Maybe she sis freak, but maybe she didn't; it's all conjecture.

Anonymous said...

Typo in 2nd paragraph of my Apr. 15 comment: should be "did".

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, some of these Anne Boleyn fans are mentally unstable types and sexual prudes who literally believe the following: Anne Boleyn Was ALWAYS PERFECT And Never Did Anything Wrong And Never Felt Physical Sexual Desire (because the extremist Anne Boleyn fans somehow think sexual desire is evil), And She Forced Henry VIII To Abdicate, And She Ruled Over England As Its Sole Monarch As A Celibate Virgin And Magically Gave Birth To Elizabeth I Without Ever Having Had Sex With Anyone. What a bunch of loonies.