Historians still continue to debate about how far Henry VIII was involved in his second wife's murder. It may surprise many who are not well-acquainted with the academic debates surrounding Henry's personality to learn that in many modern histories he is presented as an essentially weak sovereign, who was easily manipulated by those around him. In this scenario, the chief culprit for orchestrating Anne's downfall becomes Thomas Cromwell, the King's chief adviser and her one-time ally turned mortal enemy. I do not agree with this interpretation of events and it seems to me that the arguments put forward by J.J. Scarisbrick and Derek Wilson, that Henry was the main architect of what happened.
"For me personally, however, the missing third of this tragedy is not Thomas Cromwell, but Henry VIII. It was, after all, Henry who signed the death warrants and whilst it may have been Cromwell who organised the interrogations, arrests and trials, it frankly beggars belief that Henry could have been so easily duped into believing in his wife’s guilty. As far as I’m concerned, Henry was neither a participant nor a victim in what happened in 1536 – rather, he was the chief architect and the author of the tragedy. Cromwell certainly organised the details and oversaw the execution of the plot, but under no circumstances could he have dared act so audaciously – and so manically (the entire thing was a swift, brutal mess, without any of Cromwell’s usual slow, brilliant, relentless tactics) – without having been told to do so, in so many words, by Henry and to do so quickly."
Click HERE for the post on Henry's role from last year.
Above: Australian actor Keith Michell as Henry VIII in the television series The Six Wives of Henry VIII (1971.)