Sir William went on his knees before the King and confessed his crime.
The King was obdurate and refused to pardon him immediately, but offered to give him a
chance. He said he would allow Sir William three days in which to invent a
muzzle for a bear; if it proved efficacious, his life would be spared, if not --
well, the bear would provide his punishment!
For three days Sir William was shut up in the tower. At the end of that time he
was brought before a bear. The bear was let loose. The prisoner flung his newly invented
muzzle over its head and escaped unharmed.
From that time the muzzled bear became the emblem of the Breretons.
(In olden days, bear baiting was a popular form of sport and the bear wore a leather
muzzle to prevent it from biting the dog.)
The Lover of a Queen
One April day in the year 1536 a Tournament of knightly sports was in progress was
in progress at the Tilting-Ground at Greenwich. King Henry VIII was there with
his queen, Anne Boleyn.
The Queen accidentally dropped her handkerchief, and a chivalrous knight picked it up
on the point of his lance and handed it to the Queen.
King Henry saw this act; he left the royal stand, where he and Anne Boleyn were
sitting, and his furious temper was plain to see. He ordered that the knight,
Sir William Brereton, and four companions should be arrested immediately, and carried
off to the Tower of London, to be charged with High Treason as lovers of the Queen.
Anne Boleyn was arrested a few hours later and never saw the king again.
A jury of Henry's choosing was impanelled and the five prisoners were hastily tried.
Though they pleaded "Not Guilty" they were sentenced to death and beheaded on Tower Hill
on May 17th 1536.
They were:- Lord Rochford (Anne Boleyn's brother),
Sir William Brereton; Sir Henry Norris; Sir Francis Weston and Mark Smeaton, a mere boy.
The hapless Queen was beheaded two days later at a scaffold within the Tower.
The following day the King was betrothed to Jane Seymour, and the marriage took
place ten days later at York Place.
There is some confusion about the identity of this Sir William Brereton.
Apparently he was Sir William Brereton of Aldford, the 7th son of Sir Randle of Malpas
Hall. He had presented Anne Boleyn with a greyhound named 'Urian'.
Also the details about the tournament may be an embellishment of the deeds of
Norris and not Brereton.
Sir William had previously accompanied the King and Anne Boleyn on a visit to check on the
inventory of Cardinal Wolsey's goods and chattels shortly before the latter's death.
This may have inclined George Cavendish, Wolsey's secretary, to testify against him.
(these stories were adapted from the booklet by Arthur L. Moir)