Published online by Cambridge University Press: 02 April 2002
The lurid story of the fall of Anne Boleyn, her trial and condemnation on charges of multiple (and in one case incestuous) adultery has been used to support many different interpretations of the political and religious history of the reign of Henry VIII. This article argues that the fate of the queen and those accused with her was not the result of wider factional battles or a cynical sacrifice, either to appease a jaded king or to enable a shift in religious or diplomatic policy. Nor was it a case of justice catching up with a libidinous woman who was guilty as charged. In fact Anne's fall was far swifter and more dramatic than previous accounts have suggested, the result essentially of just two days of hectic activity at court and their aftermath. Anne fell, it is argued here, not as a result of what she did, but of what she said during the May Day weekend of 1536, in a series of incautious conversations with the men who were to be tried and executed with her.