On January 7, 1536, Katherine of Aragon died alone and forgotten at Kimbolton Castle. Years of suffering neglect and outrages to her dignity had worn her down. Whether she was Henry VIII’s true wife and rightful Queen of England no longer mattered. She was dead and Anne Boleyn was his only wife now.
Henry and Anne dressed in yellow for the “mourning”, and jousts were scheduled to celebrate the death of the old harridan. Free at last from threat of war and expecting his long awaited heir, Henry’s life was finally looking up. His most beloved Queen Anne was pregnant, and doctor and fortune teller alike had reassured Henry that she was carrying his son. His daughter Mary had been placed in the household of her younger sister, and he had a new mistress in Jane Seymour. We can only imagine how triumphant Henry was feeling that morning as he prepared for the joust.
The gallant king rode into the tiltyard, making a pass before the spectators, so that all could observe his chivalry and massive codpiece. What happened next remains unclear. Perhaps the horse was startled by a noise (or that codpiece),or maybe the poor beast foundered under the tremendous weight of the man. Whatever the cause, founder it did and down they went, horse and rider, in a horrifying spectacle of twisted metal, broken bones, and blood.
Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk and Henry’s greatest friend, ordered the king removed to a private pavillion, while Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk, summoned a priest. He ordered a doctor to be brought to the pavillion, but all of them were drunk on the free wine flowing from fountains. Thomas Cromwell, the son of a blacksmith, summoned the king’s armorer to remove the mangled armor from the king’s body. This achieved, they made a horrifying discovery. Henry VIII was dead.
The Wars of the Roses leapt to the minds of the two dukes. Henry’s heir had not yet been born. The country had much loved poor old Queen Katherine, and did not like Anne. For two hours they plotted. Cromwell, a man of low cunning, was quick to lend his help. He knew of a man in Flanders, probably descended from one of Edward IV many illegitimate children, who so strongly resembled Henry that they could be twins. He was a bit heavier, and of ill temperament, but he would only have to impersonate the king until Anne delivered the heir. They agreed that this would be best, and in a moment of rare accord, the dukes decided to carry out this deceit.
Brandon, who matched Henry in size and stature, took the king’s place on a litter, bandaged so as not to be recognised. He was carried to the king’s bedchamber, and Cromwell forbade any to enter, except for four men. The Groom of the Stool, Henry Norris, Francis Weston, William Brereton, and the queen’s brother, George Boleyn, Lord Rochford. A musician, Mark Smeaton, was summoned so that his music would keep anything from being overheard. Then disaster struck.
Anne miscarried Henry’s heir. The plan, already in motion, could not be changed. Brandon, again disguised as Henry, retreated to Richmond. There the imposter was trained by him to imitate Henry’s mannerisms. Norfolk had the impossible job of securing the queen. Anne now wished to reveal all, that she might reign as Regent for Elizabeth. This would never do, and so Cromwell devised a skillful plot to be rid of not only the troublesome queen, but the unfortunate witnesses as well. He accused them of perversions and treason, and in a strike that can only be described as lightening fast, brought about the executions of Anne Boleyn and the rest.
It would be often remarked upon, and recorded that the king changed dramatically in 1536. Gone was the charming chivalrous prince, and in his place a suspicious and cruel tyrant. Henry’s daughter Mary had been removed from her father for a lengthy time, and if she noticed anything, she failed to comment. The imposter had no trouble fathering a son, but his rages and displays of emotion would have terrible consequences. Anne of Cleves suspected that something was not right. Henry looked nothing like the portrait she had seen of him. The Tudor propaganda machine went to work, and Cromwell turned the words around. Not long after, Cromwell went to the block, in a scheme planned by his coconspirator, Norfolk. Norfolk then was imprisoned, and sentenced to die. Of all involved, only Charles Brandon, ever faithful, kept the secret and the king’s trust. Henry VIII died again on January 28, 1547.
Countless facebook pages and groups- Tudor Dynasty, Charles Brandon and Mary Tudor, What Really Happened, Not Just Tudors, and many more!
Tom Tucker, a descendant of Henry VIII armorer (sorry man, I know I wasn’t supposed to name names, but people want to know about the armor)
My own family history, especially you Uncle Jeff!
Some more about me, Jeff “the wiz” Berlin
Well, after an enjoyable interview with QueenAnneBoleyn.com I am currently on assignment. It is top secret and if I told you where and what it was, you would be astounded. Suffice to say, it is a big deal, and I am in grave danger.