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The Tudors – Faction in the Tudor Court, 1509-1603

4. Did Cromwell destroy Anne Boleyn?

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In this module, we consider the possibility that Thomas Cromwell destroyed Anne Boleyn, focusing in particular on: (i) the importance of Cromwell in 1536; (ii) Cromwell's initial closeness to Boleyn and the grounds for that closeness; (iii) the question of when Cromwell had decided to turn on her; (iv) what Cromwell's involved in the Boleyn affair tells us about the operation of 'faction' in the Tudor court: the ability for people to switch sides, the relative weakness of ideological commitments, etc.; (v) the extent to which political alliances were formed (and disbanded) opportunistically once the writing was on the wall; and (vi) Edward Hall's evidence for the opportunistic breaking of relations with Thomas Wolsey after his downfall in 1529.


In this course, Dr Janet Dickinson (University of Oxford) explores the concept of faction in Tudor England, 1509-1603. In the first module, we introduce the concept of faction itself – what do we mean when we talk about 'a faction' or just 'faction'? In the second, third and fourth modules, we consider the extent to which faction is a useful tool for explaining the fall of Anne Boleyn. First, was there a faction around Anne Boleyn? Second, was Anne Boleyn brought down a faction? And third, did Thomas Cromwell destroy Anne Boleyn. In the fifth module, we fast-forward to the end of the Tudor period and ask whether there was a faction surrounding the Earl of Essex, before turning in the sixth module to consider to influence of faction more generally in the final decade of Elizabeth's reign. And in the seventh module, we offer some concluding thoughts as to the usefulness of faction as a means of understanding the workings of Tudor court politics.


Dr Janet Dickinson is Senior Associate Tutor in History at Oxford University’s Department for Continuing Education, where she teaches on a range of programmes. Her main research interests focus on the nobility and the court in early modern England and Europe, on which she has contributed a number of chapters to edited volumes. Her first book, Court Politics and the Earl of Essex was published in 2011.

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APA style

Dickinson, J. (2021, March 17). The Tudors – Faction in the Tudor Court, 1509-1603 - Did Cromwell destroy Anne Boleyn? [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Dickinson, J. "The Tudors – Faction in the Tudor Court, 1509-1603 – Did Cromwell destroy Anne Boleyn?." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 17 Mar 2021,

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