The opinion of modern scholars is divided about the nature of Anne Boleyn's relationship to Sir Thomas Wyatt, the Tudor poet. On the basis of a few of his verses and three Catholic treatises, some writers have concluded that Anne and he were lovers. In these analyses not enough attention has been paid to the role of Henry VIII, the third member of this alleged lovers' triangle, who guarded his own honor and inquired into that of his wives, before, during, and after their marriages to him. A comment on the way in which the king viewed and defended his honor will be useful to this examination of the evidence customarily accepted as proof of Anne and Wyatt's love affair.
A gentleman's honor, as Henry's contemporaries perceived it, was a complicated concept. First and foremost it was assumed that a man's birth and lineage would predispose him to chivalric acts on the battlefield where, in fact, only one cowardly lapse would stain his and his family's reputation forever. Secondly, the concept embodied the notion that it bestowed upon its holder certain social privileges and respect. During Henry's reign, moreover, the “realm and the community of honour” came to be viewed as “identical” with the sovereign power of the king at its head. One result of this “nationalization,” was that the behavior of crown dependants and servants affected the king's good name in both a personal and a public sense, and his ministers took care to do all that was appropriate to his reputation in settling disputes and in negotiating treaties.