Anne Boleyn

Anne Boleyn

Infobox British Royalty|majesty|consort
name = Anne Boleyn
title =Queen Consort of England

caption =
reign =28 May 1533 – 17 May 1536
coronation = 1 June 1533
spouse =Henry VIII
issue =Elizabeth I
titles ="HM" The Queen
"The Most Hon". Marquess of Pembroke
"The Lady" Anne Rochford
"The Hon." Anne Boleyn
Mistress Anne Boleyn
father =Thomas Boleyn, 1st Earl of Wiltshire
mother =Lady Elizabeth Howard
date of birth =1501/1507
place of birth = Blickling Hall, Norfolk, England [Letters of Matthew Parker, p.15]
date of death =death date|1536|5|19|df=y
place of death = Tower Green, Tower of London, England
place of burial = St Peter ad Vincula|
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Anne Boleyn (1501 or 1507 – 19 May 1536) was the Queen of England as the second wife of Henry VIII of England.

She was the daughter of Sir Thomas Boleyn, a courtier, and his wife, Lady Elizabeth Howard, sister of Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk. While still a child, Anne was sent to the Netherlands for her education, and later to France; she returned to England in late 1521.

Upon her return, she was made lady-in-waiting to Queen Catherine. Around 1525 or 1526, Henry became enamoured of Anne and began pursuing her. Anne parried the King's advances, refusing to become his mistress; she said she only wanted to be his wife. Thus, the King became absorbed with annulment of his marriage to Catherine so he could marry Anne. When Pope Clement VII seemed unlikely to grant the annulment, the inexorable rift between King Henry and the Roman Catholic Church began.

Sometime in late 1532, after being made Marquess of Pembroke in her own right, Anne finally gave in to Henry and quickly became pregnant. The two were secretly married on 25 January 1533. However, because the child was conceived before Anne and Henry were legitimately wed, the child was considered a bastard (as the marriage itself was technically not legal; Henry was already married). To make the imminent birth legitimate, Thomas Cranmer, the newly appointed Archbishop of Canterbury, declared the marriage of Henry and Catherine null and void and the marriage of Henry and Anne to be valid.

Anne was crowned Queen of England on 1 June 1533. She was the second commoner to be elevated to that title [Alison Weir "The Six Wives of Henry VIII",page145] . Later that year, Anne gave birth to a girl, the future Queen Elizabeth I of England. Like her predecessor, Anne failed to produce a surviving male heir, which proved her downfall. Sir Thomas Cromwell led a plot to replace her, some say at the King's order. Despite unconvincing evidence against her, she was condemned and beheaded as guilty of adultery, incest, and high treason.

Early years (1501–1522)

Anne was the daughter of Sir Thomas Boleyn, later 1st Earl of Wiltshire and 1st Earl of Ormonde, and his wife, Lady Elizabeth Boleyn (born Lady Elizabeth Howard), daughter of the 2nd Duke of Norfolk. As a child, Anne was familiarly addressed as Nan. [Fraser, p.115] Sir Thomas was a respected diplomat with a gift for languages; he was also a favourite of King Henry VII, who sent him on many diplomatic missions abroad. A lack of parish records from the period has made it impossible to establish Anne's date of birth. Contemporary evidence is contradictory, with several dates having been put forward by various historians. An Italian, writing in 1600, suggested that she had been born in 1499, while Sir Thomas More's son-in-law, William Roper, suggested a much later date of 1512. As with Anne herself, it is not known for certain when her two siblings were born, but it seems clear that her sister Mary was older than Anne. Mary's children clearly believed their mother had been the elder sister [. The argument that Mary might have been the younger sister is refuted by firm evidence from the reign of Queen Elizabeth I that the surviving Boleyns knew Mary had been born before Anne, not after. See Ives, pp. 16–17 and Fraser, p. 119] . Their brother George was born some time around 1504 [Warnicke, p. 9; Ives, p. 15] .

The academic debate of Anne's birthdate revolves around two key dates: 1501 and 1507. Eric Ives, a British historian and legal expert, promotes the 1501 date, while Retha Warnicke, an American scholar who has also written a biography of Anne, prefers 1507. The key piece of surviving written evidence in the argument is a letter Anne wrote sometime in 1514 [ [ Anne Boleyn's handwriting.] ] . She composed it in French (her second language) to her father, who was still living in England while Anne was completing her education in the Netherlands. Ives argues that the style of the letter and its mature handwriting prove that Anne must have been about 13 at the time of its composition. This would also be around the minimum age that a girl could be a maid of honour, as Anne was to the regent, Archduchess Margaret of Austria. This is supported by claims by a chronicler from the late 16th century, who wrote that Anne was 20 when she returned from France [ Ives, pp.18–20.] . These findings are contested by Warnicke in several books and articles, but the evidence does not conclusively support either date [. The date of 1507 was first put forward by an Elizabethan antiquarian, William Camden, and was favoured until the work of the art historian Hugh Paget, who argued against it in 1981. See Eric Ives's biography "The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn" for the most extensive arguments favouring 1500/1501 and Retha Warnicke's "The Rise and Fall of Anne Boleyn" for subjective speculation on a birth year of 1507] .

Anne's great-grandparents included a Lord Mayor of London, a duke, an earl, two aristocratic ladies and a knight. Tradition held that one of them, Geoffrey Boleyn, may have been a wool merchant prior to becoming Lord Mayor. [Weir, p.145.] [Fraser, pp.116-117.] This is disputed by some historians, [Ives, p. 3.] who make the case that the family had held a title for four generations. [Starkey, p. 257; Ives, pp. 3–5.] The Boleyn family originally came from Norfolk and lived at Salle, near Aylsham, which was, in the fifteenth century, a thriving community grown prosperous as a result of the lucrative wool trade with the Low Countries. [Weir,p.145] The spelling of the Boleyn name was variable. Sometimes it is written as "Bullen", hence the bull's heads that formed part of her family arms. [Fraser,p.115] At the court of Margaret of Austria, Anne is listed as "Boullan". [Fraser,p.119] She signed the letter which she composed to her father shortly upon her arrival in France as "Anna de Boullan". [Marie Louise Bruce "Anne Boleyn", p. 21] What is known is that at the time of Anne's birth, the Boleyn family was considered one of the most respected in the English aristocracy. Among her relatives, she numbered the Howards, one of the pre-eminent families in the land. From her maternal grandmother Elizabeth Tilney, Anne was a direct descendant of Welsh Prince Gruffydd II ap Madog, Lord of Dinas Bran of Powys Fadog and his wife Emma de Audley.

Time in the Netherlands

Anne's father had continued his diplomatic career under Henry VIII. In Europe, Thomas Boleyn's charm won many admirers, including Archduchess Margaret of Austria, the daughter of Maximilian I, the Holy Roman Emperor. During this period, she ruled the Netherlands on behalf of her father and she was so impressed with Boleyn that she offered his daughter Anne a place in her household. Ordinarily, a girl had to be 12 years old to have such an honour, but Anne may have been somewhat younger, as the Archduchess affectionately referred to her as "La petite Boleyn". It is not known if this was in reference to Anne's age or her stature. [Fraser and Ives argue that this appointment proves Anne was probably born in 1501, making her the same age as the other girls; but Warnicke disagrees, partly on the evidence of Anne’s nickname of "petite". See Ives, p. 19; Warnicke, pp. 12–3.] She made a good impression in the Netherlands with her manners and studiousness, and lived there from the spring of 1513 until her father arranged for her to become a maid-of-honour to Henry VIII's sister, Mary Tudor, Queen of France in the winter of 1514.

Time in France

In France, Anne was a maid-of-honour to Queen Mary and, afterwards, to Queen Claude of France. In Queen Claude's household, she completed her study of French and developed an interest in fashion and religious philosophy. She also acquired a knowledge of French culture and etiquette.Williams, p.103.] She made the acquaintance of the King's sister Marguerite d'Angouleme, a patron of humanists and an author in her own right, who encouraged Anne's interest in poetry and literature. [Alison Weir "The Six Wives of Henry VIII" p.153] [Antonia Fraser "The Wives of Henry VIII" p.121] Anne also spent time in the company of Queen Claude's younger sister Princess Renee of France.

Her education in France later proved to be of value. Anne made a good impression with her style and fashion sense, inspiring some new trends among the ladies of England. William Forrest, author of a contemporary poem about Catherine of Aragon, complimented Anne's "passing excellent" skill as a dancer. "Here," he wrote, "was [a] fresh young damsel, that could trip and go." [Fraser, p. 115.] These graces were important, as Anne was not considered to have beauty. One historian compiled a number of descriptions and concluded:

People seemed primarily attracted by Anne's charisma:

Anne's experience in France also made her a devout Christian in the new tradition of Renaissance humanism, although calling her a Protestant would be an overstatement. While she would later hold the position that the papacy was a corrupting influence on Christianity, her conservative tendencies could be seen in her devotion to the Virgin Mary. [ Ives, pp. 219–226. For a full discussion of Anne’s religious beliefs, see Ives, pp. 277–287.] At this stage of her life, Anne was described as "sweet and cheerful". She enjoyed gambling, drinking wine, and gossiping. [ Weir, p.153.] She was brave and emotional. However, Anne could also be extravagant, neurotic, vindictive, and bad-tempered:

Her French education ended in the winter of 1521, when Anne was summoned back to England by her father. She sailed from Calais, which was then an English possession, in January 1522.

At the court of Henry VIII (1522–1533)

Anne was recalled to marry her Irish cousin, James Butler. This was in attempt to settle a dispute involving the title and estates of the Earldom of Ormonde. The 7th Earl of Ormonde had died in 1515, leaving his two daughters, Margaret Boleyn and Anne St. Leger, as co-heiresses. In Ireland, a remote cousin named Sir Piers Butler contested the will and claimed the Earldom for himself. Sir Thomas Boleyn, being the son of the eldest daughter, felt that the title belonged to him and protested to his brother-in-law, the Duke of Norfolk, who spoke to the King about the matter. Fearful that this dispute could very well provide the spark to ignite a civil war in Ireland, the King sought to resolve the problem by arranging an alliance between Piers's son, James, and Anne Boleyn. She would bring her Ormonde inheritance as dowry and thus end the dispute. The plan ended in failure, perhaps because Sir Thomas was hoping for a grander marriage for his daughter. Whatever the reason, the marriage negotiations came to a complete halt. [Fraser, pp.121-124.]

Anne's sister, Mary, was at this time the King's mistress. Mary was the wife of Sir William Carey, a Gentleman of the King's Privy Chamber. It has long been suspected that one or both of Mary's children were fathered by Henry VIII, although some writers, such as Alison Weir, now question whether Henry Carey, Mary's son, was fathered by the King. [Weir, p.216.] Anne Boleyn was sent to the court of Henry VIII as a maid-of-honour to Queen Catherine. Anne made her début at a masquerade ball on 4 March 1522, where she was described as a woman of "charm, style and wit, and will and savagery which make her a match for Henry". [Brigden, p.111. Her music book contained an illustration of a falcon pecking at a pomegranate: the falcon was her badge, the pomegranate, that of Granada, Catherine's badge.] There she performed an elaborate dance accompanying the King's younger sister Mary, several other ladies of the court and her own sister. All wore gowns of white satin embroidered with gold thread. [Alison Weir,pgs 155-56.] Within a few weeks of this performance, Anne was known as the most fashionable and accomplished woman at the court and has been referred to as a "glass of fashion". [ Starkey, p. 264.]

During this time, Anne was courted by Lord Percy, son of the Earl of Northumberland. The exact nature of their relationship is unclear. A priest, George Cavendish, who disliked Anne but was friendly with Lord Percy, later stated categorically that the two had not been lovers. It thus seems unlikely that their relationship was sexual. [ Fraser, pp. 126–7; Ives, p. 67 and p. 80.] The romance was broken off in 1523 when Percy's father refused to support their engagement. According to George Cavendish, Anne was briefly sent from court to her family’s countryside estates, but it is not known for how long. When she returned to court, she gathered a group of female friends and male admirers around herself, but became famous for her ability to keep men at arm's length. Her cousin, the poet Sir Thomas Wyatt wrote about her in the poem, "Whoso List to Hunt", [ [ Full text of the poem "Whoso List to Hunt"] ] in which he described her as unobtainable and headstrong, despite seeming demure and quiet. [ Ives, p. 73.]

In 1525, Henry VIII became enamoured with her and began his pursuit. [ Scarisbrick, p. 154.] Anne resisted his attempts to seduce her and she refused to become his mistress, unless she could become his wife. Henry was all the more attracted to her because of this refusal and he pursued her relentlessly. Anne continued to reject his advances by saying, "I beseech your highness most earnestly to desist, and to this my answer in good part. I would rather lose my life than my honesty." [Weir, p. 160.]

Henry's annulment

It is possible that the idea of annulment had suggested itself to the King much earlier than Anne's presence, and it is highly probable that it was motivated by his desire for a male heir. However, there is no historical basis for claiming Henry ever intended to divorce Catherine. It is unproven that, without Anne as incentive, Henry would have thought to annul his marriage to Catherine. Before his father King Henry VII ascended the throne, England had been beset by civil warfare over rival claims to the English crown and it is possible that Henry wanted to avoid a similar uncertainty over the succession. The King had no living sons: all of Catherine of Aragon's children except his daughter Mary had died in infancy. [Lacey, p.70.] Anne saw her opportunity in Henry's infatuation and determined that she would only yield as his acknowledged|"" in the 1913 "Catholic Encyclopedia"]

In 1528, sweating sickness broke out with great severity. In London, the mortality rate was great and the court was dispersed. The King left London, frequently changing his residence. It is believed that Anne contracted--but survived--the sickness in June. Henry sent his second physician, Dr. William Butts to Hever Castle to care for her. [Bruce, pp.94-100.] [Weir, pgs186-87] It soon became the one absorbing object of the King's desires to secure an annulment from Catherine. [Brigden, p.114.] Henry set his hopes upon a direct appeal to the Holy See, acting independently of Cardinal Wolsey, to whom he at first communicated nothing of his plans so far as they related to Anne. William Knight, the King's secretary, was sent to Pope Clement VII to sue for the annulment of his marriage with Catherine, on the ground that the dispensing bull of Pope Julius II was obtained by false pretenses. Henry also petitioned, in the event of his becoming free, a dispensation to contract a new marriage with any woman even in the first degree of affinity, whether the affinity was contracted by lawful or unlawful connection. This clearly referred to Anne.

As the Pope was at that time the prisoner of Charles V, the Holy Roman Emperor, Knight had some difficulty in obtaining access to him. In the end, the King's envoy had to return without accomplishing much, though the conditional dispensation for a new marriage was granted. Henry had now no choice but to put his great matter into the hands of Wolsey. Wolsey did all he could to secure a decision in the King's favour. How far the Pope was influenced by Charles V in his resistance, it is difficult to say, but it is clear Henry saw that the Pope was unlikely to give him an annulment from the emperor's aunt. [Morris, p.166.] The Pope forbade Henry to proceed with a new marriage before a decision was rendered in Rome. Convinced that he was treacherous, Anne Boleyn maintained pressure until Wolsey was dismissed from public office in 1529. The Cardinal begged her to help him return to power, but she refused. He then allegedly began a secret plot to have Anne forced into exile and began communicating with the Pope to that end. When this was discovered, Henry ordered Wolsey's arrest and had it not been for his death from an illness in 1530, he might have been executed for treason. [Haigh p.92f] A year later, Queen Catherine was banished from court and her old rooms were given to Anne. Public support, however, remained with Queen Catherine. One evening in the autumn of 1531, Anne was dining at a manor house on the river and was almost seized by a crowd of angry, hostile women. Anne just barely managed to escape by boat. [Fraser, page 171] With Wolsey gone, Anne had considerable power over government appointments and political matters. When Archbishop of Canterbury William Warham died, the Boleyn family's chaplain, Thomas Cranmer, was appointed to the vacant position. Through the intervention of the King of France, this was conceded by Rome, the pallium being granted to him by Clement|"" in the 1913 "Catholic Encyclopedia"]

The breaking of the power of Rome in England proceeded little by little. In 1532, a supporter of Anne, Sir Thomas Cromwell, brought before Parliament a number of acts including the Supplication against the Ordinaries and the Submission of the Clergy, which recognised royal supremacy over the church. Following these acts, Sir Thomas More resigned as Chancellor, leaving Cromwell as Henry's chief minister. [Williams p. 136.]


During this period, Anne Boleyn also played a role in England's international position by solidifying an alliance with France. She established an excellent rapport with the French ambassador, Gilles de la Pommeraie. Anne and Henry attended a meeting with King Francis I at Calais in the winter of 1532, in which Henry hoped he could enlist the support of King Francis for his new marriage. Anne's position continued to rise.

On 1 September 1532, she was created "suo jure" Marquess of Pembroke, and became the most prestigious non-royal woman in the realm. She was the first female commoner to become a Peer by direct creation (as opposed to by marriage or inheritance); and she remains the only woman ever to have been made a marquess in her own right. She is sometimes incorrectly described as "Marchioness of Pembroke", but she was known as Marquess. [Fraser p. 184, Starkey p. 459, Denny p. 181] The Pembroke title was of emotional value to the Tudor family: Henry's great-uncle, Jasper Tudor, had held the title of Earl of Pembroke. With her later conviction for treason, the title was confiscated.

Anne’s family also profited from the relationship; her father, already Viscount Rochford, was created Earl of Wiltshire and, by means of a deal made by the King with Anne’s Irish cousins, the Butler family, he was made Earl of Ormonde. At the magnificent banquet to celebrate her father's elevation to the Earldom of Wiltshire, Anne took precedence over the Duchesses of Suffolk and Norfolk, seated in the place of honour beside the King which was usually occupied by the Queen. [Alison Plowden "The House of Tudor", page 93] Thanks to Anne's intervention, her widowed sister Mary received an annual pension of £100, and Mary's son, Henry Carey, received his education in a prestigious Cistercian monastery. The conference at Calais was a political triumph, since the French government gave its support for Henry's re-marriage. [Williams, p.123.] Soon after returning to Dover in England, Henry and Anne went through a secret wedding service. [ Starkey, pp. 462–464.] She soon became pregnant and, as was the custom with royalty, there was a second wedding service, which took place in London on 25 January 1533. Events now began to move at a quick pace. On 23 May 1533, Cranmer, sitting in judgment at a special court convened at Dunstable Priory to rule on the validity of the King's marriage to Catherine of Aragon, declared the marriage of Henry and Catherine null and void. Five days later, on 28 May 1533, Cranmer declared the marriage of Henry and Anne to be good and valid. [Williams, p.124.]

Queen of England (1533–1536)

Catherine was formally stripped of her title as Queen and Anne was consequently crowned Queen Consort on 1 June 1533 in a magnificent ceremony at Westminster Abbey with a sumptuous banquet afterwards. [Fraser.p.195] On the previous day, Anne had taken part in an elaborate procession through the streets of London seated in an open litter of white cloth of gold resting on two palfries caparisoned in white damask, although the crowds did not cheer and few men even bothered to doff their caps. She wore a surcoat and mantle of white tissue trimmed with ermine, and her long, straight black hair hung down from a coif encircled with rich stones. [Marie Louise Bruce "Anne Boleyn",page 224.] The public's response to her appearance was lukewarm. [Fraser pages 191-194.] Meanwhile, the House of Commons had forbidden all appeals to Rome and exacted the penalties of præmunire against all who introduced papal bulls into England. It was only then that Pope Clement at last took the step of launching sentences of excommunication against the King and Cranmer, declaring at the same time the Archbishop's decree of annulment to be invalid and the marriage with Anne null and void. The papal nuncio was withdrawn from England and diplomatic relations with Rome were broken off. In response, the Peter's Pence Act was passed in England and it reiterated that England had "no superior under God, but only your Grace" and that Henry's "imperial crown" had been diminished by "the unreasonable and uncharitable usurpations and exactions" of the Pope. [Lehmberg.] In defiance of the Pope, the Church of England was now under Henry's control, not Rome's. Anne, Cranmer, and Cromwell were delighted at this development. News of the start of the English Reformation spread through Europe, and Anne was hailed as a heroine by some Protestant figures, although many others did not think as kindly of her: Martin Luther, for instance, backed Catherine of Aragon in "The King's Great Matter" [Denny.]

Birth of Elizabeth

After her coronation, Anne settled into a quiet routine at the King's favourite residence, Greenwich Palace, to prepare for the birth of her first baby. The child was born slightly prematurely on 7 September 1533 between three and four o'clock in the afternoon, [Marie Louise Bruce "Anne Boleyn",page 234.] . Anne gave birth to a girl, who was christened Elizabeth, probably in honour of Henry's mother, Elizabeth of York. [Williams, pp.128-131.] The little princess was given a splendid christening, but Anne feared that Catherine's daughter, Mary, would threaten Elizabeth’s position. Henry soothed his wife's fears by separating Mary from her many servants and sending her to Hatfield House, where Princess Elizabeth would be living with her own magnificent staff of servants. The country air was better for the baby's health, and Anne was an affectionate mother who regularly visited her daughter. She often told Elizabeth of the love she had for her. [ Weir, p. 259–260.]

The new Queen had a larger staff of servants than Catherine had kept: over 250 servants to tend to her personal needs, everyone from priests to stable-boys. There were also over 60 maids-of-honour who served her and accompanied her to social events. She employed several priests who acted as her confessors, chaplains, and religious advisers. One of these was Matthew Parker, who would become one of the chief architects of Anglican thought during the reign of Anne's daughter Elizabeth I. [ [ About Matthew Parker & The Parker Library.] ]

Strife with the king

The couple was happily married for a time, but relations between them became strained. Henry disliked Anne’s tendency to stand up for herself, argumentativeness, and sharp tongue. She was once reported to have spoken to her uncle in words that "shouldn't be used to a dog". [Fraser] After a false pregnancy or miscarriage in 1534, he saw her failure to give him a son as a betrayal. As early as Christmas 1534, Henry was discussing with Cranmer and Cromwell the chances of leaving Anne without having to return to Catherine.Williams, p.138.]

Anne, unaware of the dangerous position she was in, presided over a magnificent court. She spent lavish amounts of money on gowns, jewels, head-dresses, ostrich-feather fans, riding equipment, and the finest furniture and upholstery from across the world. Numerous palaces were renovated to suit her extravagant tastes. [ Ives, pp. 231–260.] Anne also began to share in the blame for the tyranny of her husband's government. Public opinion of her dropped, following her failure to produce a son. It sank even lower following the executions in 1535 of her enemies, the Bishop of Rochester, John Fisher, and Sir Thomas More. [Williams, pp.137-138.]

Downfall and execution (1536)

On 8 January 1536, news reached the King and Anne that Catherine of Aragon had died. Upon hearing the news of her death, Henry and Anne reportedly decked themselves in bright yellow clothing (the colour of mourning in Spain), and Anne grumbled that such a fuss was being made [Letters and Papers of the Reign of Henry VIII, X.141, 199.] [Alison Weir, p.368, Henry VIII King and Court.] After embalming, Catherine's heart was discovered to be blackened; some thought Henry and/or Anne had been poisoning her. Modern medical experts are in agreement that this was not due to poisoning, but rather to cancer of the heart, something which was not understood at the time. [Fraser.]

Anne, pregnant again, was aware of the dangers if she failed to give birth to a son. With Catherine dead, Henry would be free to remarry without any taint of illegality.

Later that month, the King was unhorsed in a tournament and was badly injured. It seemed for a time that his life was in danger. When news of this accident reached Anne, she was apparently sent into shock and miscarried a male fetus that was about 15 weeks old. This happened on the very day of Catherine’s funeral, 29 January 1536. According to most observers, this personal loss was the beginning of the end of the royal marriage, although many others say it was already failing. [Williams, p.141.]

There is uncertainty about how many pregnancies Anne had, although Elizabeth was the only live birth who survived for any time. Mike Ashley speculated that Anne had two stillborn children after Elizabeth's birth and before the birth of the male child she miscarried in 1536. [Ashley, p.240.] Williams considers that she had a stillborn male child in the summer of 1534, and a miscarriage after almost four months pregnancy in January 1536. [Williams, chapter 4.] As Anne recovered from what would be her final miscarriage, Henry declared that his marriage had been the product of witchcraft. The King's new mistress, Jane Seymour, was quickly moved into new quarters. This was followed by Anne's brother being refused a prestigious court honour, the Order of the Garter, which was instead given to Sir Nicholas Carew. [Williams, p.142.]

Charges of adultery, incest, and treason

In the final days of April, a Flemish musician in Anne's service named Mark Smeaton was arrested and tortured. He initially denied that he was Anne’s lover, but under torture he confessed. Another courtier, Henry Norris was arrested on May Day, but since he was an aristocrat, he could not be tortured. He denied his guilt and swore that Anne was also innocent. Sir Francis Weston was arrested two days later on the same charge. William Brereton, a groom of the King's privy chamber, was also apprehended on grounds of adultery. The final accused was Anne's own brother, arrested on charges of incest and treason, accused of having a sexual relationship with his sister over the span of 12 months. Anne's midwife was forced to describe the miscarriages, which was also instrumental in her charges. [Williams, pp.143-144.]

On 2 May 1536, Anne was arrested at luncheon and taken to the Tower of London. In the Tower, she suffered a minor nervous breakdown, demanding to know full details of her family's whereabouts and the charges against her. Four of the men were tried in Westminster on 12 May 1536. Weston, Brereton and Norris publicly maintained their innocence and only the tortured Smeaton supported the Crown by pleading guilty. Three days later, Anne and George Boleyn were tried separately in the Tower of London. She was accused of adultery, incest and high treason. [Hibbert, pp.54-55.]

Final hours

Although the evidence against them was unconvincing, the accused were found guilty and condemned to death by their peers. George Boleyn and the other accused men were executed on 17 May 1536. Lord Kingston, the keeper of the Tower, reported that Anne seemed very happy and ready to be done with life. The King commuted Anne's sentence from burning to beheading and employed a swordsman from Saint-Omer for the execution, rather than having a queen beheaded with the common axe. They came for Anne on the morning of 19 May to take her to the Tower Green. [Hibbert, pp.58-59.] Anthony Kingston, the Constable of the Tower, wrote:cquote|This morning she sent for me, that I might be with her at such time as she received the good Lord, to the intent I should hear her speak as touching her innocency always to be clear. And in the writing of this she sent for me, and at my coming she said, 'Mr. Kingston, I hear I shall not die afore noon, and I am very sorry therefore, for I thought to be dead by this time and past my pain.' I told her it should be no pain, it was so little. And then she said, 'I heard say the executioner was very good, and I have a little neck,' and then put her hands about it, laughing heartily.

I have seen many men and also women executed, and that they have been in great sorrow, and to my knowledge this lady has much joy in death. Sir, her almoner is continually with her, and had been since two o'clock after midnight.Hibbert, p.59.]

She wore a red petticoat under a loose, dark grey gown of damask trimmed in fur and a mantle of ermine. Her dark hair was bound up in a white linen coif and she wore her customary French headdress. [Williams, p.146.] She was accompanied by four young ladies as she made her final walk from the Lieutenant's Lodgings to Tower Green. She looked "as gay as if she was not going to die". [Fraser,page 256] She made a short speech:

Death and burial

She then knelt upright, in the French style of executions. Her final prayer consisted of her repeating, "To Jesus Christ I commend my soul; Lord Jesus receive my soul." Her ladies removed the headdress and tied a blindfold over her eyes. According to Eric W. Ives, her executioner was so taken by Anne that he was shaken, and found it difficult to proceed with the execution. In order to distract her, the swordsman shouted, "Where is my sword?" and then beheaded her so she would not know that the sword was coming. The execution was swift and consisted of a single stroke. [ [ Anne Boleyn and Henry VIII - Miscellaneous Facts ] ] Across the river, Alexander Ales accompanied Thomas Cranmer as he walked in the gardens of Lambeth Palace. When they heard the cannon fire from the Tower, signalling the death of Anne, the archbishop looked up and proclaimed: "She who has been the English queen on earth will today become a Heaven's queen." He then sat down on a bench and wept. [ Denny, p.317.] When the charges were first brought against Anne, Cranmer had expressed his astonishment to Henry and his belief that "she should not be culpable." Still, Cranmer felt vulnerable because of his closeness to the queen. On the night before the execution, he had declared Henry's marriage to Anne to have been void, like Catherine's before her. He made no serious attempt to save Anne's life.Schama, p.307.]

Henry had failed to provide a proper coffin for Anne, and so her body and head were put into an arrow chest and buried in an unmarked grave in the Chapel of St Peter ad Vincula. Her body was identified during renovations of the chapel in the reign of Queen Victoria and Anne's final resting place is now marked in the marble floor.

Recognition and legacy

After her death, a number of rumours sprang up about Anne. It is possible some could be true, but most of them are probably not. It was reported by some that Anne suffered from polydactyly, having six fingers on her left hand. Although it is possible this is true, as accounts of her when she was alive have noted this, others claimed she had a birthmark or mole on her neck that was at all times hidden by a jewel.

Although the first legend is popular, there is no contemporary evidence to support it. None of the many eyewitness accounts of Anne Boleyn’s appearance--some of them meticulously detailed--mention any deformities, let alone a sixth finger. Moreover, as physical deformities were generally interpreted as a sign of evil, it is difficult to believe that Anne Boleyn would have gained Henry's romantic attention had she possessed any; especially considering that Henry refused to marry Princess Renee' of France because he did not consider her to be able to bear healthy children, due to a slight limp she had inherited from her mother. Anne was known by many to be of high intelligence, possessing wit and charisma, but she was also cruel, impatient, and bad tempered among other things and was said to be very talented at music and enjoyed literature. [ Warnicke, pp. 58–9; Lindsey, pp. 47–8.]

Following the coronation of her daughter as queen, Anne was venerated as a martyr and heroine of the English Reformation, particularly through the works of John Foxe, who argued that Anne had saved England from the evils of Roman Catholicism and that God had provided proof of her innocence and virtue by making sure her daughter, Elizabeth I, later became Queen regnant. Over the centuries, Anne has inspired or been mentioned in numerous artistic and cultural works. As a result, she has remained in the popular memory and Anne has been called "the most influential and important queen consort England has ever had love."


* Mistress Anne Boleyn (1501/1507–1525)
* The Hon. Anne Boleyn (1525–1527)
* Lady Anne Rochford (1527–1532)
* The Most. Hon. The Marquess of Pembroke (1532–1533)
* Her Majesty, The Queen (1533–1536)


In Popular Media

*Anne Boleyn is played by Natalie Dormer in the series The Tudors. She is a much more sympathetic character in the TV series than usual, shown to obviously love Henry and Elizabeth, though her ambitious and fiery character is also kept intact; mostly, the show makes an effort to humanize her.
*In The Other Boleyn Girl Anne Boleyn is played by Natalie Portman. In the film she is shown as an opinionated and ambitious character. When Anne finally does marry the king, she realises she is not as high as she once was. (The book does not depict Anne as much of a tyrant as the film does).
*Anne is also played by Helena Bonham Carter in the series of Henry VIII with Ray Winston as the King. In the early parts of the series, Anne is separated from lover Henry Percy on accounts of the King, by Cardinal Wolsey. Bearing a grudge against the Cardinal as she rises in the King's favour, she uses it in her advantage by eliminating him from court.
*Anne was portrayed by Genevieve Bujold in the film Anne of the Thousand Days opposite Richard Burton's Henry VIII. Bujold was nominated for a Best Actress Academy Award for her portrayal.

ee also

* List of English consorts



* Lehmberg, Stanford E. "The Reformation Parliament, 1529-1536" (1970).
* Hibbert, Christopher. "Tower Of London: A History of England From the Norman Conquest" (1971).
* Williams, Neville. "Henry VIII and His Court" (1971).
* Lacey, Robert. "The Life and Times of Henry VIII" (1972).
* Scarisbrick, J.J. "Henry VIII" (1972) ISBN 978-0520011304.
* "Anne Boleyn" by Professor Eric Ives (1986).
* Warnicke, R. M. "The Rise and Fall of Anne Boleyn: Family politics at the court of Henry VIII" (1989) ISBN 0521406773.
* Weir, Alison. "The Six Wives of Henry VIII" (1991) ISBN 0802136834.
* "The Wives of Henry VIII" by Lady Antonia Fraser (1992) ISBN 067973001X.
* Haigh, Christopher. "English Reformations" (1993).
* Lindsey, Karen. "Divorced Beheaded Survived: A Feminist Reinterpretation of the Wives of Henry VIII" (1995) ISBN 0201408236.
* Morris, T. A. "Europe and England in the Sixteenth Century" (1998).
* Brigden, Susan. "New Worlds, Lost Worlds" (2000).
* Schama, Simon. "A History of Britain: At the Edge of the World?: 3000 BC–AD 1603" (19 October 2000) ISBN 0-563-38497-2.
* Ashley, Mike. "British Kings & Queens" (2002) ISBN 0-7867-1104-3.
* Weir, Alison. "Henry VIII: The King and His Court" (2002) ISBN 034543708X.
* Starkey, David. "Six Wives: The Queens of Henry VIII". ISBN 0060005505; New York: HarperCollins (2003) ISBN 069401043X.
* Denny, Joanna. "Anne Boleyn: A New Life of England's Tragic Queen" (2004) ISBN 074995051X.
* Ives, Eric. "The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn" (2004) ISBN 1405134631.

Further reading

* "Anne Boleyn" by Marie-Louise Bruce (1972).
* "The Challenge of Anne Boleyn" by Hester W. Chapman (1974).
* "The Politics of Marriage" by David Loades (1994).

Fictional representations of Anne Boleyn

"See also Anne Boleyn in popular culture"
* "Queen Anne Boleyn" by Francis Hackett (1939).
* "Brief Gaudy Hour" by Margaret Campbell Barnes (1949) ISBN 9781402211751; ISBN 1402211759.
* "Murder Most Royal" by Jean Plaidy (1949) ISBN 1400082498.
* "Anne Boleyn" by Evelyn Anthony (1957).
* "The King's Secret Matter" by Jean Plaidy (1962).
* "The Concubine" by Norah Lofts (1963) ISBN 075243943X.
* "The Lady in the Tower" by Jean Plaidy (1986).
* "Blood Royal" by Mollie Hardwick (1988) ISBN 0312025483.
* "The Secret Diary of Anne Boleyn" by Robin Maxwell (1997) ISBN 155970375X.
* "The Other Boleyn Girl" by Philippa Gregory (2001) ISBN 0743227441.
* "Dear Heart, How Like You This?" by Wendy J. Dunn (2002) ISBN 9780958054355.
* "Doomed Queen Anne" by Caroline Meyer (2002) ISBN 0152165231.
* "The Queen of Subtleties" by Suzannah Dunn (2004) ISBN 0060591579.
* "A Lady Raised High" by Laurien Gardner (2006) ISBN 0515140899.
* "Mademoiselle Boleyn" by Robin Maxwell (2007) ISBN 9780451222091.

* "Anna Bolena", an opera by Gaetano Donizetti with lyrics by Felice Romani (1830).


* "The Private Life of Henry VIII" (1933)
* "Anne of the Thousand Days" (1969)
* "The Six Wives of Henry VIII" (1971)
* "Henry VIII and his Six Wives" (1973)
* "The Other Boleyn Girl" (2008)

External links

* [ A geo-biography tour] of the Six Wives of Henry VIII on Google Earth
*worldcat id|id=lccn-n79-63685


NAME= Boleyn, Anne
SHORT DESCRIPTION=Second wife of King Henry VIII, mother of Queen Elizabeth I
DATE OF BIRTH=ca. 1504
DATE OF DEATH=19 May 1536
PLACE OF DEATH= Tower of London

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