The Malleus Maleficarum stated that, aside from fornication, “the chief aim of the devil is to corrupt faith” (43), which the English Catholics interpreted as the influx of Lutheranism coming from Henry’s break with Rome after his marriage to Mistress Boleyn. Bluff King Hal was beyond reproach, but his concubine was not. Anne – an intelligent, radical thinker with her own ideas about religion – became a rallying point for the Reformers. However, Katherine Lindsay’s book Divorced, Beheaded, Survived points out there was no record of the queen “denying the doctrine of transubstantiation, one of the central Protestant concerns,” and she clung to the Catholic notion “that good works could assure a place in Heaven,” as opposed to the Lutheran “insistence on justification by faith” (100). It seems evident, therefore, that the queen believed herself to be a good Christian. But the plotting courtiers painted her in an entirely different light.
Witch Crime #2: Anne Boleyn was suspected of being a key player in a diabolical plot to overthrow the Church of Rome.
Archbishop Chapuys reported to his employer (Emperor Charles V) that His English Majesty was “bewitched by this cursed woman . . . does all she says, and dare not contradict her” (Chapman, 151). For as Alison Weir explains in The Six Wives of Henry VIII, Cromwell had told him the king “made this marriage seduced by her witchcraft, and for that reason he considered it null and void” (304). The Malleus decreed that “if witchcraft takes effect in the event of a marriage” it “destroys the contract” (4). This gave the unhappy husband a loophole to be rid of Anne so he could wed Jane Seymour instead. By itself, however, enchantment was not a sufficient reason to execute a royal wife. Other charges were needed. So as the case against Anne grew she became accused of “having poisoned the late Queen Katherine [and] attempting to do the same to Lady Mary” (Weir, 326) – which on top of the multiple counts of adultery (including incest with her brother) amounted to the heinous crime of witchcraft.
Exodus 22:18 commands, “Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live,” and the Catholic Inquisitors were quick to condemn all women as inherently wicked “because of the first temptress, Eve, and her imitators” (Malleus, 44). According to Pierre Brunel’s Companion to Literary Myths, Heroes, and Archetypes the sorceress became “the core, the center of all that cannot be understood or accepted.” She attracted fear, hatred, and loathing until she was no longer seen as a human being but instead turned into “the expression and cause of the misfortune” suffered by all (1165). In short, the cunning woman became the royal court’s scapegoat.
Witch Crime #3: Being an instrument of darkness, Anne Boleyn was directly and indirectly responsible for all the wrongs in the kingdom.
Yet who did the most damage to the Queen’s reputation? The answer may surprise you! Check back for Part Three on Thursday.
Sources Cited in Part Two:
Brunel, Pierre. Companion to Literary Myths, Heroes, and Archetypes (London and New York: Routledge, 1992)
Chapman, Hester W. Anne Boleyn. (London: Cape, 1974)
Holy Bible (London: Collins)
Kramer, Heinrich, and James Sprenger. The Malleus Maleficarum (New York: Dover, 1971)
Lindsey, Karen. Divorced, Beheaded, Survived (Worldwide: Addison-Wesley, 1996)
Weir, Alison. The Six Wives of Henry VIII (New York: Ballantine, 1993)