Today in 1536, four men went on trial and were to come out on the short end of the stick, for sure. Henry Norris, William Brererton, Francis Weston, and Mark Smeaton were all found guilty of having their trousers around their ankles in the company of Queen Anne Boleyn.
Their trial was at Westminister Hall; Anne and her brother George, however, would be tried by their peers in a separate event because of their social standing. So although the siblings had to endure humiliating charges against them, at least there was more dignity in the setting than for the other four men.
And what of the sentence? Norris, Brereton, Weston, and Smeaton were meant to be part of a veritable circus of horrors before they actually died. They would individually be dragged by a horse-drawn cart to a scaffold where they’d be hanged…almost. The executioner would take them down just before the rope actually killed them, only to chop off their naughty bits and then hack them into quarters. Such drama!
Fortunately (?), Henry VIII commuted all their sentences to just beheading. Whew! Aristocratic Anne and George were of course given the privilege of beheading as well. And not one of those Tower Hill executions in front of the riff raff, but a private execution on Tower Green. Prestige has its rewards, no?
Not only would Anne enjoy the dignity of a beheading, she would be beheaded by The Best: a master swordsman sent from France. Merci!