2 May 1536: Anne Boleyn is arrested

The second wife of Henry VIII is accused of high treason


The story goes that Anne Boleyn was watching a game of tennis when her own game definitively slipped away from her.

The date was 2 May 1536. After days of gathering tension, rumour and counter-rumour, Henry VIII had finally decided to move against the woman for whom he had alienated the papacy and divided England.

Anne’s position had been deteriorating for months. Although she had already given the king a daughter, Elizabeth, she had failed to produce the desired son and heir, and in the meantime Henry had fixed his eyes on the woman who would become his next wife: Jane Seymour.

At the end of April a musician in Anne’s service, one Mark Smeaton, had been arrested (and, probably, tortured), and it was Smeaton’s confession – that he had been the queen’s lover, and not the only one – that sealed Anne’s fate.

Most accounts agree that on her arrest Anne was taken immediately before a royal commission, led by her uncle and former patron, the Duke of Norfolk. There she was formally accused of adultery and high treason, before being escorted under guard to a boat, bound for the Tower of London. On arrival
she was greeted by the constable, Sir William Kingston.

The constable wrote later: “She said unto me, ‘Mr Kingston, shall I go into a dungeon?’ I said: ‘No, Madam. You shall go into the lodging you lay in at your coronation.’ She said: ‘It is too good for me; Jesu have mercy on me,’ and kneeled down, weeping apace, and in the same sorrow fell into a great laughing, and she hath done so many times since.”

Just under two weeks later, Anne was tried and found guilty. On 19 May she was executed. | Written by Dominic Sandbrook

2 May 1551

Birth in London of English antiquarian, historian and officer of arms, William Camden. His greatest work was Britannia, which was published in 1586. It was the first topographical survey of Great Britain and Ireland.

2 May 1611

The King James Bible, an English-language translation sponsored by King James VI & I, is published. It becomes one of the most influential books of all time, used to spread the Christian faith across the globe.

2 May 1670

The Hudson's Bay Company was established by Royal Charter as “the Governor and Company of Adventurers of England trading into Hudson's Bay”. Its first governor was English Civil War veteran Prince Rupert of the Rhine.

2 May 1808

In the Dos de Mayo uprising, the citizens of Madrid attack an occupying French army under the command of Napoleon's brother-in-law Joachim Murat. The rising is crushed after several hours of vicious street fighting and an estimated 200 prisoners are executed by the French on the following day. The rebellion marks the effective start of the Peninsular War as it inspires resistance to the French in other parts of Spain. The fighting and the subsequent French reprisals are vividly portrayed in two paintings by Francisco de Goya.

2 May 1829

After anchoring near the mouth of the Swan river, Captain Charles Fremantle of HMS Challenger takes formal possession of Australia's western coast in the name of King George IV.

2 May 1863

Confederate general Thomas ‘Stonewall’ Jackson was wounded by fire from his own men during the battle of Chancellorsville. The battle was to end in victory for the Confederates but Jackson died eight days later. | Read more about the American Civil War


2 May 1982

Some 323 lives were lost as the British hunter-killer submarine HMS Conqueror sank the Argentine cruiser General Belgrano. The Belgrano had been purchased from the USA and, as the USS Phoenix, it had survived the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941.

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