Henry may have wished that the memory of Anne could be erased with her execution, but her earthly actions lived on. Particularly, the new reformed religious community that Anne had been a part of worried about the after-effects of her execution. In this letter to Thomas Cromwell, we can read the Bishop of Salisbury’s concerns for what would happen now that Anne was dead. Like Thomas Cranmer, he, too, expressed his shock at being “exceedingly deceived” by Anne:
“I beseech you, Sir, in vis[ceribus] Jesu Christi, that ye will now be no less diligent [in setting] forth the honour of God and his Holy Word, than [when] the late Queen was alive, and often incit[ed you thereto]. Leave not off for God’s sake, though she [by her misconduct have] sore slaundered the same. And by the lo . . . . . . . . . . she hath exceedingly deceived me, for . . . . . . . . . . . the great day, Sir, I would have thoug[ht] . . . . . . that vice that she was found fawt[y of had not the like] in Christendom.”
One wonders how many expressed their shock of Anne’s “deception” to both Cromwell and Henry in the days following her execution. What would have been either man’s reaction? Did either doubt her guilt before the swordsman’s blade sliced the air, or were they thoroughly convinced of her guilt throughout the accusation process? And finally, can we take statements like the Bishop of Salisbury’s as a method to save one’s own skin in Henry’s court, or can it be viewed as a passive-aggressive attempt to place blame on Cromwell and the King?
Unknown artist, print, possibly 17th century © National Portrait Gallery, London