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April 26, 1536 – Anne Boleyn Asks Matthew Parker to Take Care of Elizabeth

Anne Boleyn charging Matthew Parker with the care of her daughter (c) The Trustees of the British Museum

Even before Mark Smeaton’s arrest, Anne knew Henry was up to something: she asked her chaplain, Matthew Parker, to take care of Elizabeth if anything happened to her.

Two days earlier, Thomas Cromwell had quietly appointed a commission to investigate “every kind of” treason “by whomsoever committed” in the counties of Middlesex and Kent (you can read more about that here). Thomas Boleyn was a member of the commission, and while nothing was said there to implicate Anne, his suspicions must have been aroused enough for him to pass on the information to his daughter.

Matthew Parker was a good choice – if for no other reason than he honored that request for the rest of his life. We don’t have evidence of the help he provided Elizabeth during her brother’s reign (as a reformist, he was sidelined under Mary…) but he was close to Somerset and Dudley and undoubtedly protected her as best he could. When Elizabeth acceded to the throne, she named him Archbishop of Canterbury (since Reginald Pole, who had held that position, died on the same day as Mary – opening the field to all sorts of religious changes).

Although Parker had married during Edward’s reign, he was a moderate and so the choice was a natural one: Elizabeth was determined not to offend any of her subjects. Parker is said not to have really wanted the position, but he took it to honor the promise to Anne he made on this date.

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