Friday, August 28, 2015

And Every One Was a Henry. Today's Henry: Norris

Henry Norris has the dubious 'honour' of being the recipient of the single, treasonous remark made by Anne Boleyn that was the tipping point between 'trumped up charges' and 'charges that stick.' 

Anne Boleyn, full of her own cool-girl awesomeness with a topping of snarkiness said to Norris, a widower of five years at the time that he (Norris) looked for 'dead men's shoes, for if ought but good came to the King, you would look to have me for yourself." 
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The caption just writes itself, doesn't it?
Big mistake, Anne.
Not only did she incriminate herself by the treasonous remark, she took Norris right down with her. 

Of all the men who were beheaded in the fallout of Anne Boleyn's stumble from greatness, Henry Norris's is perhaps the saddest.
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Born in 1482, he was father to at least three, and possibly four, children, and husband to Mary (nee Fiennes.) 
His wife, Mary, died in 1531 - and doesn't that make Anne Boleyn's remark  about 'dead men's shoes' just before her (and his!) arrest all that much more damning, said, as it was, to a fairly recent widower? 

Norris was part of the court since his youth and that was fairly standard operating procedure at the time.
He'd served as a Gentleman of the Bedchamber - thisclose to the King.

He was the only pal Henry VIII brought with him when Anne Boleyn, and Elizabeth Boleyn (mother to Anne) inspected (having claimed)  Cardinal Wolsey's property in October, 1529. 
Norris was responsible for the Palace of Westminster's maintenance and security. 
Later, that role was given to Norris's brother, and later still, to his son. 
This was no casual,"can I sit here at the lunch table?" friend - Henry Norris was as sewn into the court's fabric as was possible. 
He was older than the king by a decade or so; at his death he was 53/54.

 Even with impeccable credentials and a personal history of discretion and uncomplaining service, Norris was no match for the ambition of Thomas Cromwell.Image result for treachery
Cromwell had the King's wife removed to make room for the woman waiting in the wings for the wife-role, and to do that, there had to be a big, noisy fuss of such proportion that nobody would doubt its veracity.
By leveling charges of incest (against Anne Boleyn's brother) and general whoring (with four other men; my goodness, Cromwell, where on earth did you imagine she'd have found the time?) the King's adviser and Royal Fixer of Problems ensured the fuss was big enough and noisy enough to have to be true.

Henry Norris, at the moment Anne Boleyn made her 'dead men's shoes' comment, must have blanched and felt every bit of spit dry up in his mouth; for in the seconds it took her to say the words, she'd committed an executable offence. 
Anne Boleyn knew it, too, whether independently of seeing Norris's reaction or on her own, no matter.
The toothpaste was out of the tube on this one.
She'd let Smart-Ass Anne take over when In-Control Anne should have been running the show.

In-control Anne took over immediately and begged Norris to disregard the slip of the tongue.
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Norris and Anne knew they'd been overheard by a nearby cleaning woman; Anne, who should have zipped her lip, was a slow learner in this case.
Instead of brassing it out, she begged Norris to pay off the cleaning woman with hush money.
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Guilt and fear make poor decisions. 

The King spoke privately with Norris before the henchmen hauled Norris off to jail.
Did he level with Norris and say, "I need a son. She needs to be gone. You're going down to make it all legit; you cool with that?" or did he play along with the charade and weep as he said, "Norris, how could you do this to me?" Image result for how could you?
After a lifetime of service to Henry VIII, Henry Norris's reward was being hauled up onto a scaffold and made to watch while Anne Boleyn's brother, George, spoke his last words then had his head chopped off.Image result for chopping block
Norris's thoughts are unimaginable; he was plain and simply collateral damage in a spiral of events that sucked in the guilty, the innocent and the in-between.
He'd have knelt, leaned forward to expose his neck for optimal chopping aim, and waited. 
The last sound he heard might have been the grunt or the exhale of breath of the headsman as he swung the axe down to cleave off Norris's noggin. 
(!!! Don't you wonder if people in the crowds watching these executions ever puked their guts out? I know I would.) 
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So graphic. And that chopping sound! Whoops!

And afterwards, Henry VIII married again, his wife had a son, the son survived, and Henry VIII was happy again.
The King's happiness, after all, was all that counted.