Henry perceiving Norris Take up Anne Boleyn's Handkerchief at the Jousts, George Cruikshank's thirteenth steel-engraving for Windsor Castle. An Historical Romance for the eleventh instalment in Ainsworth's Magazine. "Book the Sixth: Jane Seymour," Chapter V, "What Happened at the Jousts," facing p. 302 — 9.9 cm high by 13.9 cm wide, framed, originally published in the final (June 1843) number. Cruikshank illustrates the plot of Herne the Hunter's continued interference as "the tall monk" assists Sir Henry Norris to defeat Henry in the lists, and seal his own fate. [Click on the image to enlarge it.]

Scanned image and text by Philip V. Allingham. [You may use this image without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose as long as you (1) credit the person who scanned the image and (2) link your document to this URL in a web document or cite the Victorian Web in a print one.]

Passage Illustrated: Henry discovered wooing Jane Seymour in April 1836

"You have ridden well, Norris," cried Henry, advancing towards him.

"Place yourself opposite me, and let us splinter a lance together."

As Norris reined back his steed, in compliance with the injunction, the tall monk stepped from out the line, and drawing near him, said, "If you wish to prove victorious, aim at the upper part of the king's helmet." And with these words he withdrew.

By the time Norris had placed his lance in the rest, the trumpet sounded. The next moment the word was given, and the champions started. Henry rode with great impetuosity, and struck Norris in the gorget with such good will that both he and his steed were shaken.

But Norris was more fortunate. Following the advice of the monk, he made the upper part of the king's helmet his mark, and the blow was so well dealt, that, though he did not dislodge the royal horseman, it drove back his steed on its haunches.

The success was so unequivocal that Norris was at once declared the victor by the judge. No applause, however, followed the decision, from a fear of giving offence to the king.

Norris dismounted, and committing his steed to the care of an esquire, and his lance to a page, took off his helmet and advanced towards the royal gallery, near which the Earl of Surrey and Sir Thomas Wyat were standing talking with the other dames. As Norris drew near, Anne leaned over the edge of the gallery, and smiled at him tenderly, and, whether by design or accident, let fall her embroidered handkerchief.

Norris stooped to pick it up, regarding her as he did so with a glance of the most passionate devotion. A terrible gaze, however, was fixed on the unfortunate pair at that moment. It was that of the king. While Henry was careering in front of the gallery to display himself before Jane Seymour, a tall monk approached him, and said, "Look at Sir Henry Norris!"

Thus addressed, Henry raised his beaver, that he might see more distinctly, and beheld Norris take up the embroidered handkerchief, which he recognised as one that he had given, in the early days of his affection, to the queen.

The sight stung him almost to madness, and he had great difficulty in repressing his choler. But if this slight action, heightened to importance, as it was, by the looks of the parties, roused his ire, it was nothing to what followed. Instead of restoring it to the queen, Norris, unconscious of the danger in which he stood, pressed the handkerchief fervently to his lips.

"I am hitherto the victor of the jousts," he said; "may I keep this as the prize?"

Anne smiled assent.​ [Book the Sixth, "Jane Seymour," Chapter V, "What Happened at the Jousts," p.​302]

Commentary: The Purloined Handkerchief from Othello Adapted

All the resources of etching were now fully within Cruikshank's command. He could design the most dramatic scenes and fill them with dozens of individualized figures each engaged in a characteristic activity. (Johannot notably failed in this regard.) He knew how to scratch every line so its inherent texture read mimetically to evoke stone or foliage or cloth or light. His skies and clouds and shadows breather atmosphere. — Patten, p. 174.

The tournament scene contrasts the vigorous, baroque action in the lists below with the concentrated observation of Anne and her ladies (left) and the judge's box, right. Cruikshank suggests a crowd of spectators through the ten figures at the top of the crenellated wall (upper right), but his focus remains the gallant figures below the reviewing stand: Henry VIII on his rearing, caparisoned steed, centre, salutes the ladies, while Sir Henry Norris snatches up Anne Boleyn's favour and makes significant eye-contact with her. Strategically, Cruikshank has placed the hangings and the large-scale royal coat-of-arms of Lion and Gryphon (England and Wales) between a dynamic Norris on the ground and the royal watcher above. Her role as a trapping of royal power will interfere with her relationship with the gallant knight, and this overt display of favour will shortly lead to both of their downfalls. Significantly, Cruikshank leaves out the Iago fgigure of Herne in disguise because it is not plausible that he should be standing near the mounted monarch.

For King Henry (in whose position we have Ainsworth imitating Shakespeare's Othello here) this public display of affection between the Queen and her favourite, Sir Henry Norris, is not so much the last straw as it is a definitive pretext: Henry has been looking for a publicly-justifiable rationale to dispose of Anne Boleyn, and this scene at the jousts will serve his turn. Norris is a repetition of the handsome Michael Cassio in the Shakespeare tragedy. There have already been rumours of lovers and assignations, notably with Sir Thomas Wyat. In the previous frame, the first illustration for the concluding book, Norris, an athletic professional soldier, has been privy to an intimate scene indicative Henry's marital infidelity in Anne Boleyn receiving proof of Henry's passion for Jane Seymour. His presence in two of the concluding plates for the June 1843 number in Ainsworth's Magazine underscores the historical aspect of the story, for Norris, a Berkshire knight, was grilled by Henry's legal team investigating Anne's (supposed)​ adulterous​ affairs. A Groom of the Stool, fifty-four-year-old Norris or Norreys (circa 1482 – 17 May 1536) was both keeper of the king's privy purse​ and an adherent of the Queen. Accused of treason and adultery with her, Norris was executed with a number of other nobles whom Ainsworth does not mention: the Queen's brother, George Boleyn (Viscount Rochford), Sir Francis Weston, William Brereton,​and, most infamously, Mark Smeaton. Henry's legal mastermind, Thomas Cromwell, likely trumped up the charges, and extorted the damning testimony. Certainly Ainsworth and Cruikshank describe a personable Norris who is both more youthful and more handsome than his historical counterpart. Moreover, Ainsworth implies that Anne's relationship with him was at least confidential, if not intimate.

At the tournament for the May Day celebrations at the Castle, Sir Henry performs brilliantly, eclipsing Henry VIII at the jousts. He throws the King off-balance by directing his lance at the King's ornate helmet, precisely as "the tall monk," Herne the Hunter in disguise, has suggested. To make matters worse, Norris makes a great show of having won Queen Anne's favour in the joust, stirring Henry VIII's jealousy and resentment — and almost certainly sealing his own fate. In actual history, Norris had held significant posts in Henry's administration, and in fact had acted as the king's agent in the promotion of the new marriage with Lady Jane Seymour.

On 1 May 1536 Norris took part in the tournament at Greenwich, and at the close Henry spoke to Norris, telling him that he was suspected of an intrigue with Anne, and urging him to confess. He was then arrested and taken to the Tower by Sir William Fitzwilliam. He was tried on 12 May in Westminster Hall. He pleaded not guilty, but was found guilty, and executed on 17 May. He was buried in the churchyard of the Tower.​ [Luminarium]

Ainsworth's intention in making Norris a young, handsome, athletic soldier would seem to be to make it appear that he and the Queen are intimate, if not lovers. The perception of an inappropriately close relationship also serves to exonerate Ainsworth's muscular and attractive though flawed monarch, whose defeat in the lists has been engineered by the devious Herne. Thus, in the novel Herne rather than Henry must take the blame for Anne's fall from power and execution for treason. Less than three weeks after his tournament victory, Norris was executed, but the architect of his demise was not Herne the Hunter, but Cromwell, the bureaucrat.

Suddenly breaking off the tournament, Henry rides off in high dudgeon, and Anne, retiring to her apartments, is placed under arrest, along with her "lover," on a charge of "incontinency towards the king's highness" (303). Captain Bouchier's halberdiers under the command of the Duke of Suffolk also arrest the hapless Sir Henry for treason and march him to the strong-room in the lower gateway. Even though Norris had apparently agreed to co-operate with the devious Herne, who had caught him in a compromising position with the Queen after the scene with Henry and Jane Seymour, he seems doomed. Thus, Ainsworth exonerates all but Herne, and, in particular, dramatizes Anne Boleyn, mother of the future Queen Elizabeth, as blameless of anything other than sympathy for the smitten Norris.

Supporting Scene sketched by Delamotte

Above: Delamotte's realistic wood-engraving of the site where Norris is supposedly incarcerated, Prison Chamber in Henry the Eighth's Gateway (Book VI, headpiece for Chapter VI. [Click on image to enlarge it.]


Ainsworth, William Harrison. "Preface" to Rookwood. A Romance. With 12 illustrations by George Cruikshank. London: George Routledge, 1882. Pp. xxxiii-xxxviii.

Ainsworth, William Harrison. Windsor Castle. An Historical Romance. Illustrated by George Cruikshank and Tony Johannot. With designs on wood by W. Alfred Delamotte. London: Routledge, 1880. Based on the Henry Colburn edition of 1844.

Chesson, Wilfred Hugh. George Cruikshank. The Popular Library of Art. London: Duckworth, 1908.

Jerrold, Blanchard. The Life of George Cruikshank. In Two Epochs. Illustrated by George Cruikshank. 2 vols. London: Chatto and Windus, 1882.

Patten, Robert L. Chapter 30, "The 'Hoc' Goes Down." George Cruikshank's Life, Times, and Art, vol. 2: 1835-1878. Rutgers, NJ: Rutgers U. P., 1991; London: The Lutterworth Press, 1996. Pp. 153-186.

"Sir Henry Norris, d. 1536." England under the Tudors. Luminarium: Encyclopedia Project. http://www.luminarium.org/encyclopedia/norris.htm

Vann, J. Don. "Windsor Castle in Ainsworth's Magazine, June 1842-June 1843." Victorian Novels in Serial. New York: MLA, 1985. P. 23.

Worth, George J. William Harrison Ainsworth. New York: Twayne, 1972.

Last modified 26 December 2017