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A story I will not be using in my researches though it remains muckilly fascinating in the downfall of Anne Boleyn. A documentary last night reminded me of the specific incident. I had forgotten her fateful conversation with poor Henry Norris, who, trapped in an extraordinary moment of Flirting Gone Well Wrong, replied that he would rather his head was off his neck. For sure it wasn't a gallant response, but he must have had worrying premonitions at that point. Somehow she had lead him into a coversation that could - in fact did - get them both killed. And there she was, making things worse by her anger at his protest that he didn't fancy her enough to wish the King's death!

Perhaps she needed him to buy into the comment as a joke in order to render it harmless. Anne was a woman of vivacity and wit, but it was a very dangerous thing to say even in the language and traditions of courtly love. Hers was an interesting mindset; to hold out against the king's desires for seven years does not suggest the kind of woman who sleeps with five men including her brother. It just doesn't ring true, and indeed in a letter to Charles V, the ambassador Chapuys suggests that Cromwell told him he made it up at the king's behest. Chapuys loathed Anne (He called her 'The Whore,') and would doubtless have been pleased to have the epithet justified, so to report that the whole thing was a fabrication can't have pleased him. He probably believed it, despite his preferences.

I do wonder about Anne and that conversation. It was a spectacularly stupid thing to say, especially for such an intelligent woman. Still, the court seems to have been a place of peculiar sexual undercurrents and hopelessly blurred boundaries, a terra incognita to the 21st century mind. She had become the wife of a man who bedded her mother and her sister in the full knowledge of her male relatives, and indeed the whole goldfish bowl of her world; such an environment was hardly condusive to measured behaviour. From before her birth, her family's fate had been bound to the king's caprices and the presumably unimpressive contents of his underpants.

The story has been told and retold many times. Last night's documentary placed the emphasis on the possibility of Cromwell setting Anne up because she was becoming his adversary. It could be the case but relies on Henry being easily manipulated by his councillor, and the evidence for that is very flimsy. While Cromwell may have wanted to render the queen less powerful, he would have risked a truly nasty demise by trumping up a story of such ghastliness unless he knew the king wanted to hear it.

It is one of those flashpoints in English history, colourful, lurid, grotesque, but I won't be following it up because it has been done again and again. If I was going to write the story, my approach might be from the point of view of Henry Norris. It's not like he was unfamiliar with poo having the grand job of wiping the king's arse, but the moment of Anne's terrible comment? I have visions of the poor guy going to his chambers, locking the door, pouring himself a tankard of ale and muttering, with his head in his hands; 'Shit! Shit! Oh shit!'

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