- [bell tolls] - [bird caws] FEMALE NARRATOR: She was our most infamous Queen.
The second wife of Henry VIII.
Tried on his orders for crimes of adultery and treason.
Anne Boleyn was led from her rooms at the Tower of London to her death by an executioner's sword.
[metal door clangs open] [dramatic swell] This Tudor saga is one of the most familiar tales in English history.
But to really understand Anne's rise and fall, we need to know more about those who helped shape her.
Her tight-knit, cunning, and power-hungry family.
The Boleyns are one of the great stories in British history.
It is an extraordinary epic of hubris and pain.
The good and the bad kind of ambition.
[dramatic music] NARRATOR: Every member of the family had a part to play.
Thomas Boleyn, the ambitious patriarch.
George, the fearless son.
His sisters: Mary, the reluctant mistress; Anne, the calculating courtier.
And their brutal uncle, Thomas Howard.
The Tudor public had always been used to stories of tragic falls, the stories of falls of kings and princes.
But even they might not have imagined a fall as graphic as the fall of the Boleyn family.
NARRATOR: Based on rare original letters and documents, the Boleyns will tell this story from their own perspectives.
The Court could produce no proof of my incestuous guilt.
Other than I had spent hours in the presence of my own sister.
ANNE BOLEYN: I will not say your sentence is unjust.
My Savior has taught me how to die... and he will strengthen my resolve.
NARRATOR: The family played a dangerous game and paid the ultimate price.
But they left a remarkable legacy, changing the course of British history and taking their name from obscurity to the apex of power.
[eerie, ethereal music] NARRATOR: The Boleyns are the most powerful noble family in England.
But they are under huge pressure.
Unless they can convince the Pope to approve Henry VIII's divorce from Katherine of Aragon, their plan to make Anne Queen will be in ruins.
LAUREN MACKAY: Thomas Boleyn must still be feeling very apprehensive because they are in unchartered waters.
Henry could wake up and decide that he doesn't want to marry Anne Boleyn anymore and where does that place the Boleyns?
In a very dangerous position.
They always have relied on Wolsey and Wolsey is now gone.
They have to find alternative routes to an annulment and that's really where we see George Boleyn come into his own.
NARRATOR: Since Anne has been involved with Henry, her 27-year-old brother George has had a meteoric rise, from the lowest rungs of the Royal Court to the very heart of the King's inner circle.
The two siblings are incredibly close.
[laughing] Perhaps one day you could let me get a word in edgeways.
[laughing] NARRATOR: Their affection for each other is captured in a remarkable text from the time.
George translates a book of religious writings and in the front, writes his sister a dedication.
Besides the perpetual bond of blood that we share, our friendly dealings, which have so many and such diverse benefits, have bound me to love you in so many different ways.
In every one of them I am powerless and forever in your debt.
George Boleyn talks about how he hasn't sent Anne jewels or he hasn't sent her gold, because she has enough of these.
Instead, he's sent her something for her mind, for her soul, for her spirit.
Tis not jewels or gold, whereof you have plenty.
But I have been so bold to present unto you these writings of mine, which humbly desire of you to overlook the weakness of my dull wit, and instead see the strength of faith that drives them, which I know you share.
ELIZABETH NORTON: It speaks absolute volumes for the relationship between these siblings who are so similar to each other in their interests and one particular interest is very, very dear to both their hearts.
They were both incredibly interested in religious reform.
NARRATOR: England, like most of Europe at this time, is a Catholic country; the English church is controlled by Rome.
But George and Anne think the absolute power enjoyed by the Pope should be challenged.
[birds squawking] It's a belief Anne developed as a teenager in France, when she befriended Margaret of Angouleme, the sister of the French King.
Anne Boleyn had discussions with Margaret of Angouleme, about religion, about the new reformed ideas, about the corruption of the Catholic Church, about the Pope's authority.
She's never going to forget these years.
NARRATOR: By 1531, the concept of questioning the Pope, though heretical, is gaining powerful momentum across Europe.
And the Boleyns are determined to capitalize on this new movement for their own gain.
ELIZABETH NORTON: We can see George and Anne becoming increasingly vocal about this usurped authority of the Pope and trying to push Henry into taking control of his church.
Anne had a copy of William Tyndale's Obedience of a Christian Man.
This book is such an important text in the early Reformation, incredibly anti-papal, it speaks about the Pope usurping the King's authority, about the King having the power over the church, not the Pope.
It was a banned book in England.
NARRATOR: George and Anne's religious beliefs provide a potential solution for the family - but not all their relatives see it that way.
GARETH RUSSELL: Anne Boleyn's uncle Thomas Howard is of another generation, he's increasingly ambivalent about the attacks on the Roman Catholic Church.
For many people at the time, there is a different moment at which they get cold feet at the pace of evangelical change.
Thomas Howard gets cold feet a lot earlier than everyone else does.
NARRATOR: But while the family remain divided, Anne does persuade the only man whose opinion really matters.
GREG WAKLER: Anne left this book by William Tyndale for Henry to read.
And when he read it, he did indeed seemingly think exactly, this is what I've believed all along.
He wanted the church to solve the divorce.
The Pope won't let him.
This says Kings can do what they want.
NARRATOR: But it's not quite that simple.
To succeed, he needs to convince the Church in England to switch allegiance from Pope to King - overturning a millennium of religious tradition.
It's a massive task that will need skill and diplomacy.
He is looking for someone who can break the mold and start again.
And it's interesting that the man who begins to enter the political frame at this point is Thomas Cromwell.
DIARMAID MacCULLOCH: It would have been in the 1520s that Thomas Cromwell first met the Boleyns and probably across a crowded room, because they weren't in the same social class at all.
At that stage, Thomas Cromwell was a very minor official of Thomas Wolsey, Cardinal Wolsey.
Thomas Cromwell's rise at court at this stage is remarkably discreet.
In a very shadowy way, he was a counsellor of the King and a member of the Royal Council, but who was he?
An MP with no particular office at court.
NARRATOR: Since the fall of his beloved master Wolsey, Cromwell has quietly been rising in the King's estimation.
And the Boleyns know a potential ally when they see one.
SUSAN DORAN: From Anne's point of view, Thomas Cromwell might seem like an answer to a prayer.
He's full of ideas, he is by no means committed to the papacy, on the contrary.
He seems dedicated to the purpose of getting her an annulment, and he's no threat.
He comes from a background which is neither noble nor gentry.
Both sides were people of the Reformation.
They wanted to see change in the church.
This is a man they can do business with.
[soft music] NARRATOR: In February 1531, George Boleyn gives a speech to an assembly of powerful English Church leaders, trying to convince them to break with Rome.
It's the biggest moment of his career so far.
And it's Thomas Cromwell who is by his side.
The King's "supreme authority" as a ruler in his realm is grounded in God's word.
And in no case should it be restrained by any Popish laws or traditions.
This is a major appointment for George, all the leading churchmen of the day.
They're all there, and they're all watching him, he has to make this speech.
And he's there, with the weight of the fact that they all know that he's Anne Boleyn's brother.
So it must have been hugely daunting.
It is the King's duty alone to execute the office of spiritual administration in the church of which he, not the Pope, is head.
That's the essence of it, Master Cromwell, is it not?
It is indeed, Sir.
DIARMAID MacCULLOCH: I think churchmen at this stage really didn't understand what was happening.
And they could not believe that the King wanted to break with the Holy Father in Rome, the Pope.
NARRATOR: But the speech works.
The very next day, the Church authorities take the extraordinary step of declaring Henry Supreme Head of the Church of England.
GREG WALKER: Henry now has what he wanted, which is to make religious policy himself.
This is a revolution.
This is a King who had always traditionally had power in the secular realm now claiming that he had power in the ecclesiastical one as well.
And this gives him at last a machinery by which he can pronounce the divorce he wants from Katherine.
NARRATOR: Thomas Boleyn, part of the older generation, isn't quite so radical in his beliefs as his children.
But he's made his mind up to support them - whatever the cost.
LAUREN MACKAY: We do begin to see a marked shift in Thomas Boleyn's personality and his character.
He is becoming more assertive.
He is the father of the future Queen of England.
But also I think we see a frustration.
Once Thomas Boleyn is onboard with his daughter marrying the King, he pours himself into ensuring that's going to happen.
And he expects this of everyone else at court, but it's not the case.
There are still quite a lot of Katherine of Aragon supporters and this frustrates him.
NARRATOR: Thomas is painfully aware that his family is beginning to make enemies at court.
And much of the vitriol is directed at Anne.
NANDINI DAS: There's always mutterings about anyone who's in power, but it's particularly noticeable about Anne, and sometimes they take pretty threatening forms.
So there's one story that circulates in this period about Anne finding a drawing within her prayer book.
Come, Nan, see here a book of prophecy.
This is the King, this the Queen, weeping and wringing her hands, and this is myself - with my head off.
It bodes certain destruction if I'm to marry the King.
NARRATOR: In the story Anne has no idea who is responsible for this drawing.
But one thing is clear.... She now knows how unpopular her family's quest for power has made her.
It's a mere bauble.
I have hope the nation will rejoice in the children I will bear, and so I am resolved to have him... whatever becomes of me.
Let them grumble.
This is how it will be.
ELIZABETH NORTON: We can see Anne becoming more and more defiant in this period.
She was pushing for her queenship and for her marriage, in spite of really, really huge opposition coming from the very, very highest level in Europe, not just in England.
And so she must have felt often as though she was really pushing alone.
[chuckling] NARRATOR: The Boleyns desperately need foreign allies.
And so Anne turns to her old friend France.
[speaking French] GREG WALKER: Anne, of course, has those links with the French court, her connection to Francis I and to his courtiers and circle, that she can offer Henry as a lure, as a way of engineering this relationship.
Here is Anne saying, yes, of course, I can speak to the French.
I know their languages.
I know what's doing.
Trust me, we can bring Francis around.
And once Francis has recognized me, then Europe will recognize me.
NARRATOR: A meeting is organized in Calais between Francis and Henry.
As his mistress, Anne isn't formally invited.
But she manages to steal the show anyway.
According to one report, Anne and eight other masked women, including her sister Mary, sneak into the Royal Banquet and perform a dance.
[tense rhythmic music] Only at its climax does she reveal herself to the French King.
[male speaker reciting on-screen text] SUSAN DORAN: He knows who she is; she's removed the mask from her face.
And this is seen as public French approval for a future marriage between Anne and Henry, and Anne is delighted.
This is a clear message to the world.
That Francis I is here to support Anne.
Anne is relieved.
She finally has the support she needs to become Queen of England.
DIARMAID MacCULLOCH: The meeting at Calais really needed careful organization.
Who did it?
NARRATOR: Henry is increasingly reliant on Cromwell to solve his problems.
Not least, how best to sell his potential new Queen to the public.
DIARMAID MacCULLOCH: The printing presses back in London were churning out a little pamphlet to show the good folk of London what was happening in Calais, and showing how Anne was dancing with the King of France.
All this is presented to them in a really quite innovative way.
Government propaganda sort of dressed up like a tabloid newspaper.
That's Thomas Cromwell's idea.
NARRATOR: Anne and Henry now have the confidence to marry in secret, probably in 1533, certain that Henry's first marriage will soon be annulled.
And shortly afterwards, the English Church does just that.
GREG WALKER: This is still, of course, a deeply contentious and fraught situation.
The Pope hasn't officially sanctioned their relationship.
In fact, he's insisted that Henry separate from Anne and the court itself is not wholly unified in accepting the Boleyn marriage.
NARRATOR: The pressure and public scrutiny are starting to take their toll on the family.
Even more so, when Anne falls pregnant.
One source reveals a heated argument between father and daughter.
Thomas understands - perhaps even more than Anne - how much they are all relying on this baby.
THOMAS BOLEYN: You ought to take it away.
And thank God for the state you find yourself in.
It's your only security, so show it off.
I'm in a better condition than you ever wished me to be.
You cannot and will not tell me what to do!
ELIZABETH NORTON: Thomas Boleyn - he's an experienced diplomat.
He knows that although Anne is married, she's pregnant, the road ahead is not necessarily free of bumps.
They still haven't really dealt with Katherine of Aragon because although her marriage has been officially annulled, it's only been annulled in England.
And the Pope is still refusing to grant the annulment.
So Thomas Boleyn, if not Anne, would have been well aware of the dangers that they faced.
NARRATOR: For now, they put their differences aside.
Despite the risks, they have the most important day in their family's history to enjoy.
[lively music] ELIZABETH NORTON: The defining moment of 1533 is Anne's coronation.
Anne's parents are in attendance and watching this moment.
It was absolutely the proof that everything they had worked for over the past seven years had been worth it as far as the Boleyns were concerned, because Anne Boleyn had gone from being a nobody to being crowned Queen of England.
There she is, a star performer, all attention on her, dressed in white in a chariot, showing herself to the people of England as their Queen, and being accepted in a holy place, as the anointed wife of the King.
DIARMAID MacCULLOCH: London ran with booze.
And it was full of music, full of ceremony.
Well, who was organizing all this?
Surprise, surprise, Thomas Cromwell in every respect.
The coronation was his work.
Thomas Cromwell recruited people to write fancy Latin prose alongside beautiful, splendid pageants.
It must have been a little sick-making to feel that he had done all this for Anne.
She had been at the center of the triumph and he got no credit at all.
NARRATOR: The family has finally reached the summit of their ambition.
A Boleyn sits on the throne.
In September 1533, Queen Anne goes into labor to deliver the heir that Henry longs for.
But the baby is a girl.
ELIZABETH NORTON: There's no doubt that Elizabeth's sex was disappointing to both her parents.
Although, Anne is a fond mother to Elizabeth later on, and clearly devoted to her, she's not the prince that she's promised Henry.
GREG WALKER: But Henry puts a brave face on it.
He's convinced that with this new marriage, God now does favor him.
There's evidence that Anne is fertile and that he is himself still potent.
There will be sons to come, he says, and I think at this point, that is exactly what he thinks.
NARRATOR: Katherine of Aragon and many of her allies have been exiled far from court, replaced by Anne's own supporters and relatives.
ELIZABETH NORTON: Anne also takes her sister Mary into the household.
Mary's been a widow now for more than five years.
She has two children to support, and it's a big step up socially for her.
She's now the sister of the Queen, and she's expected to behave in a way befitting the Queen sister.
NARRATOR: But Mary has a secret.
ELIZABETH NORTON: It was a shock to Anne when Mary appeared at court pregnant in the summer of 1534.
This is outrageous.
LEANDA de LISLE: Mary has found love.
She has found a man nine years younger than she is, the handsome young William Stafford, who was a soldier and from a mere gentry family, and a huge scandal erupts.
This is a household in disorder.
And so to restore order, Anne has her expelled from court.
You can imagine how hurt Mary's feeling.
She's pregnant and she's been rejected by her sister.
NARRATOR: The Boleyn family has become splintered, isolated - and less able to exert influence.
Anne is at court with her brother, her sister has been exiled, and her father and mother have retired to their home in Kent.
GREG WALKER: Thomas Boleyn withdraws to Hever Castle and begins to play a much more local role as a magnate.
He's perhaps recognizing the dangers of being at court.
He's done what he needed to do in dynastic terms.
He's established his family at court.
It's a losing gamble to stay there.
Having got what he wanted, moving to Hever was a very sensible policy.
Get out of the way.
You've got what you want now.
NARRATOR: By 1534, Anne is feeling acutely vulnerable.
And she knows that most of Catholic Europe still don't recognize her as the rightful Queen.
Once more, she looks to France for help in bolstering her position.
She wants to arrange a betrothal between her one-year-old daughter Elizabeth and the son of the French King.
It would be a sign to the outside world that Francis considered Elizabeth to be legitimate, and the marriage to be valid.
And Anne is obviously hopeful that Francis will agree to this.
After all, it was through his recognition of her that she went ahead with the relationship with Henry.
NARRATOR: Anne attempts to charm the French ambassadors as she has always done before.
But she misjudges the situation.
The King of France gets cold feet.
ESTELLE PARANQUE: He doesn't recognize the union because let's face it, at that time in Europe, the Catholics didn't recognize the union of Henry VIII with Anne Boleyn.
Anne Boleyn is the mistress.
The Queen remains Katherine of Aragon.
Anne is completely devastated.
She realizes that she's now left alone, like she has no one else in Europe to support her.
ELIZABETH NORTON: The French visit comes at the end of a really awful year for Anne Boleyn.
You can't dress it up any other way.
She falls out with her sister and exiles her from court.
Support for her is falling away.
She hasn't given the King a son.
And we can see this in Anne's psychology.
She seems to get more anxious, more difficult to live with, if you like.
And then she falls out with her uncle Thomas Howard.
NARRATOR: Thomas Howard and his niece have never fully seen eye to eye.
Now in her desperation, Anne lashes out at him - and in reports from the time, it's clear he isn't prepared to accept her rebukes.
[door opens] Queen Anne heaps more injuries on me than on a dog, so much so that I was obliged to quit the royal chamber before I beat her head until it resembled a baked apple!
The Great Whore!
La Grande Putain blames me for the perfidies of the French.
Her own father has always counseled her thus, even her incompetent brother could see they have played us for fools.
But it's me that must be scolded for her blindness.
Thomas Howard had always been cognizant, he had always been vocal about the risks of Anne marrying into the royal family.
He had said that there were going to be trials and tribulations ahead and now it looks as if Anne is stunned and surprised that these tribulations are coming to her from the form of a notoriously unreliable ally in the form of France.
The relationship between Thomas Howard and Queen Anne is reaching a nadir.
It is defined by mutual loathing, an equally vibrant mistrust between the two.
NARRATOR: Anne has alienated her influential uncle and been abandoned by her closest allies.
But just as she reaches rock bottom, fortunes seem to change.
She learns of the death of her greatest rival, Katherine of Aragon.
ELIZABETH NORTON: Anne views Katherine's death as fantastic news.
Finally, she's the only Queen in England.
She's the only person who's Henry's wife.
Nobody else can claim this.
This is a real high in Anne's life, because not only has her rival finally died, but she's also pregnant.
But just a few weeks later, on the day of Katherine of Aragon's funeral, everything goes wrong and Anne Boleyn miscarries her baby.
OWEN EMMERSON: We know that it's a boy, that it's probably around 13 weeks.
It must have been horrendous for her.
OWEN EMMERSON: Anne feels not only that her child has slipped away, but that things are slipping away for her, too.
The son that she could have delivered to Henry and vindicated her whole career and her role as Queen was taken away.
Again, psychologically very damaging.
SUSAN DORAN: Henry is not very good when people fail him.
Her failure leads Henry to question the marriage.
If God had thought that it was legitimate, why was he denying Henry and Anne the male child that they both wanted and needed.
So Henry was distressed, he was having arguments with Anne.
And it was at that point that Anne's enemies begin to move in.
OWEN EMMERSON: Anne has been through a lot at this stage.
Um, I don't think perhaps she has recovered from the very traumatic miscarriage that she has had and she is increasingly concerned by the fact that the King isn't paying her as much attention in the marriage bed.
[uptempo tense music] NANDINI DAS: The person that Henry is distracted by at that point is that demure, quiet, blonde, light haired, light eyed, shy girl, Jane Seymour.
Jane has been very carefully trained.
She's come to the court with her two brothers and they are very much the people calling the shots behind her.
They're yet another Tudor family of hopeful, aristocratic lineage who have come to court to make their mark.
DIARMAID MacCULLOCH: The Seymours were a family whom Cromwell had known since the days of Thomas Wolsey and Thomas Cromwell was their friend.
As it became apparent that the King wanted to be close to Jane, well, Cromwell vacated his rooms at court for that to happen.
And Jane was instructed how to act in front of the King, which was basically to repeat the Anne Boleyn trick of refusing to allow the King to sleep with her until she had a promise of marriage.
SUSAN DORAN: What really tips the balance against Anne is the decision of Thomas Cromwell to work against her.
Thomas Cromwell seems to have been determined to bring down the whole of the Boleyn crew.
Maybe he was anxious that Anne would make a faction that could disturb him or threaten him.
He needed as it were to cut out the Boleyns like poison.
[birds chirping] NARRATOR: Perhaps Anne senses the impending danger to her and her family.
Her father Thomas is now rarely at court to advise her.
Certainly court is something of a young man's game and I think that Thomas Boleyn had begun to tire of the endless factional battles and the intrigues.
Perhaps he was feeling his age and he just chose to move away from court and focus on his role as Lord Privy Seal and, of course, on the county of Kent and all of the land-owners who so relied on him.
NARRATOR: But back at court, records provide evidence that around this time, Anne's behavior starts to become erratic.
Why do you look so sad?
OWEN EMMERSON: There is a very real sense to Anne here that everything is slipping away.
There's a strangeness to her behavior at this time.
She has these flirtations and then admonishments of men in her chamber.
What is it?
Why are you moping?
ELIZABETH NORTON: We can see rumors of the flirtatiousness of Anne Boleyn's household starting to leak out and it being commented upon.
She is friendly with a young musician, Mark Smeaton, who is very much beneath her in status.
He is perhaps in love with her.
And also she is friendly with Henry Norris, who has always been a good Boleyn friend and is close to the King.
You've been keeping Madge in suspense far too long.
Surely, its time now to ask for her hand?
I think I shall wait a while longer.
You're looking for dead man's shoes then?
For if anything were to befall the King, you would look to replace him and have me?
You can almost feel the tension at court in April 1536.
The sources are crackling with this, this tension and we can imagine what Anne's mental state is like.
She goes between such great highs and great lows.
She's clearly anxious, trying to put on a brave face, trying to put on a show of confidence and queenship and she's still fighting.
She certainly isn't down.
But she's no longer secure in Henry's affection and Henry's love.
And she knows full well he can bring her down as quickly as he has raised her.
NARRATOR: On the 2nd of May, 1536, Anne's worst fears are realized - and it's a member of her own family who delivers the blow.
Thomas Howard is the one who arrests his niece.
That responsibility is technically his.
Yes, he is asked to do it because he's the Duke of Norfolk, because he's Earl Marshal, because it falls in the purview of the roles he holds.
Yet, it's still a shuddering, unnatural moment to see an uncle arrest a niece.
[clicks tongue] He makes sure to ostentatiously tut, tut, tut at her, and this rings as the actions of someone petty, grandstanding; it's the actions really of a bully.
[uptempo dramatic music] We can only imagine Anne's mental state when she arrives at the Tower.
She's so confused and she's clearly looking around to try and find a reason for why she might be held.
She refers to members of her family, she talks about her mother dying of grief, and most poignantly she asks, "Where is my sweet brother?"
And she wants to know what is happening to George.
And is he all right?
And George Boleyn is very much not all right.
[bell tolls] [scraping] NARRATOR: George has also been arrested and brought to the Tower of London - along with several other male courtiers.
They, and Anne, are set to be tried publicly at Westminster, with a very familiar face presiding over the trial.
[heavy door slams] Queen Anne has been the wife of Henry VIII for three years.
She has despised her marriage and entertained malice against the King in that time.
In following her carnal lust, she did procure various of the King's servants to be her adulterers, by base conversations and kisses, touching, gifts, and other vile provocations.
Anne Boleyn is charged with having an adulterous affair with Henry Norris; Francis Weston, another of the King's gentlemen, William Brereton, and finally, Mark Smeaton, the young musician that she'd found standing looking longingly in her chamber window.
There was now evidence, very, very dubious evidence, that Anne had been committing adultery.
That's the sort of thing which Thomas Cromwell would realize could be fed into the ear of the King to see what would happen.
He had the chance to start poisoning the King's already shaky confidence in his wife.
GREG WALKER: So, where a mature sensible King in full control of his faculties would have said, oh don't be stupid, it's just gossip, now, Henry, in his paranoid schizophrenic rage looks at those men who've knelt before the Queen and told her they love her and thought, yeah, I just missed-- How did I miss that?
She is obviously a whore.
"I bet she had sex with 100 men," he said.
So it's his insane fury that drives this.
NARRATOR: But it's not just Anne who must be brought down.
George Boleyn, brother of the Queen, uh, must also be eliminated.
No question of leaving him around.
They were so close; they were brother and sister.
So, how can you destroy George so utterly and completely alongside Anne?
Also, several times at Westminster, the Queen incited her own natural brother George Boleyn, Lord Rochford, Gentleman of the Privy Chamber, to violate her, alluring him with her tongue in his mouth, and his tongue inside hers, whereby he carnally knew the said Queen, his own sister.
It's such an outrageous accusation.
At one level, one should think, well, it's just laughable, but on another it's... it's so deeply hurtful to her and to him.
ELIZABETH NORTON: Nobody really believes the charges against George Boleyn.
He put up such a good defense at his trial that people are actually wagering while it was going on that he would be acquitted.
The court could produce no proof of my incestuous guilt... other than I spent hours in the presence of my own sister.
Then a further charge was shown to me in writing with warning to read it and not speak it.
There's one moment where he's given a piece of paper, which lists some of the accusations against him and Cromwell explicitly tells him not to read them out aloud, because they're insults to the King.
George doesn't care.
He reads them out in front of the thousand-plus audience.
I addressed it to the assembly.
That the King was not adept at copulation.
That he had not the virtue nor the power to-- [laughs] There you are!
They said I knew of it from my sister - that it was our joke we shared around court.
This is what really seals George's fate.
The fact that he has read this hugely embarrassing accusation out so that everyone can hear.
He's embarrassed the King.
NARRATOR: But embarrassment isn't a capital crime.
And neither, in most cases, is adultery.
In order to eliminate the Boleyns permanently, Cromwell needs a clear cut treason charge.
You're looking for dead man's shoes then?
For if anything were to befall the King, you would look to replace him and have me?
Essentially what Anne had said here is, when the King dies, you'd look to have me, you want to, to marry me.
Anne here has admitted to imagining the King's death.
Now, there is no doubt in my mind that Anne is not plotting the King's death here.
She is engaging in that art of chivalry, but she's overstepped the mark.
She's been reckless.
[bell tolls] [leaves rustle] Because you have offended our sovereign and the King's grace, in committing treason against his person, you have deserved death and death is your judgement.
[bird caws] NARRATOR: It has taken four decades for the Boleyns to reach the height of their ambitions.
And all but two weeks to bring them down.
Anne, George and her supposed lovers are all sentenced to death.
George will be the first to die on the 17th of May, 1536.
LAUREN MACKAY: There is a falcon carving in the Tower of London and it is, of course, Anne Boleyn's falcon, it's the Butler falcon, it's her grandfather's falcon and it has been carved into the stone and it has no crown.
It's more than likely that George Boleyn carved this falcon.
It feels to me that it's a poignant mark of respect to the family to whom he had been so dedicated.
[low, dramatic music] NARRATOR: George is beheaded only a few yards from where his sister is imprisoned in the Tower, awaiting for her own fate.
Anne's execution is scheduled for two days later.
But she maintains her innocence until the very end..
I have ever been a faithful wife to the King, though I do not say I have always shown him that humility which his goodness to me merited, or appreciated the honors to which he raised me.
I have had jealous suspicions of him, which I did not have discretion or wisdom enough to conceal.
But I have not sinned against him in any other way.
Don't imagine I say this in hope of prolonging my life.
My savior has taught me how to die, and He will strengthen my resolve.
NANDINI DAS: The Tudor public had always been used to stories of tragic falls, the stories of falls of kings and princes.
But even they might not have imagined a fall as graphic as the fall of the Boleyn family.
[metal door clangs] NARRATOR: Anne Boleyn is beheaded on the 19th of May, 1536.
Her parents, Thomas and Elizabeth, don't attend the executions of their son and daughter.
They remain out of sight at the family home in Kent.
SUSAN DORAN: I don't think that Thomas Boleyn is a martyr by temperament.
And I think he realizes that there is no way of saving the children.
And so it would be an act of suicide, martyrdom, if he went down with them.
[birds chirping] OWEN EMMERSON: Thomas does return to court.
Indeed, we know he's present at the christening of Jane Seymour's son, Edward.
This is usually used as evidence of Thomas being ruthless, as moving on, um, and, uh, clambering up the ladder again.
But he doesn't really have a choice at this point.
Um, this is Thomas's world, and he has to get on with it.
[wind blusters] NARRATOR: The Boleyn family has been shattered into pieces.
So has the alliance between the Boleyns and the Howards.
GARETH RUSSELL: Understandably, there isn't a particularly close relationship after 1536.
The sheer horror of what Thomas Howard had presided over precludes any chance of a meaningful rapprochement.
Thomas Howard in the future does what Thomas Howard does best, he carries out the government's heavy work.
There's an extraordinary letter he writes, saying that every fault of the last 20 years were the result of his enemies and the relatives who didn't appreciate him enough.
So until the very end, this is a man who is almost allergic to the concept of personal responsibility for his faults.
[birds chirping] NARRATOR: Thomas Boleyn will never forgive his brother-in-law, but he does extend forgiveness to another member of the family - his only surviving child, Mary.
LEANDA de LISLE: Whatever quarrels or differences she'd had with George or with Anne, they must now all surely have been forgotten.
The good thing was that she became reconciled with her father.
And so, it seems things have turned full circle for Mary Boleyn.
Although, unlike Anne, she was never one of the greatest Queens in Christendom.
She was a survivor.
She had not only children, but grandchildren and great grandchildren and great great grandchildren.
This long, long line stretching into the future.
She also has a queen, our current Queen Elizabeth II, who is Mary Boleyn's direct descendant.
NARRATOR: Anne also has a daughter who will go on to shape the future of England.
Queen Elizabeth I takes England's throne 22 years after the execution of her mother Anne and her uncle George.
In 1578, the Queen visits Norwich Cathedral, near the home of her Boleyn ancestors.
There she has a throne placed directly opposite the Boleyn family tomb.
[inaudible] LAUREN MACKAY: It's a poignant visit in the sense that Elizabeth had always closely aligned herself with her father Henry VIII and her Tudor lineage.
She had shied away from her mother Anne Boleyn and her Boleyn heritage.
And yet here she is in Norwich Cathedral, which looms so large in the lives of her, of her Boleyn relatives.
She couldn't really talk about them openly.
She couldn't talk about her mother because of the disgrace on her mother's name.
Her mother had died a traitor.
But by sitting there, facing her ancestors, she was daring people to say any more ill of the dead - her dead.
DIARMAID MacCULLOCH: What does the Boleyn story mean when you stand back from it?
It's the story of how any landed family in Plantagenet and then Tudor England might rise to the top.
This story would have gone nowhere if it had not been for Anne.
And she left an heir to the Tudor Dynasty, who happened also to be quite exceptional, with her mother's intelligence, and her father's personality.
The Boleyns definitely changed the course of English history, through love, through passion, through talent.
NANDINI DAS: The poet Thomas Wyatt writes a poem about how there is always thunder rolling around the throne.
And that's a fantastic image, that the most troubled space is the space nearest to the throne.
And that's the circle in which the Boleyns had made the mistake of stepping into.
"These bloody days have broken my heart My youth, my lust, they both depart And all my blind ambition's gone The fall is grievous Those who turn from fortune's peak will quickly learn, As thunder rolls around the throne" [dramatic music] NARRATOR: To order The Boleyns - A Scandalous Family on DVD, visit ShopPBS or call 1-800-PLAY-PBS.
This program is also available on Amazon Prime Video.