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The Romance, Persecution and Beheading of Queen Anne Boleyn

King Henry VIII and Queen Anne Boleyn
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Despite the fact that her tenure as the Queen of England lasted for only three shorts years, Anne Boleyn, the second wife of King Henry VIII, is one of the most recognized names in the thousand-year history of the English monarchy. Linked to a number of scandals by the time she was put to death, Anne is chiefly remembered for her role in the split between the Church of England and the Roman Catholic Church. She also gave birth to Elizabeth I, who is considered by many to be the greatest English queen of all time.

When Was Anne Boleyn Born?

Boleyn’s date of birth remains a matter of conjecture as there exists no accurate record of it, but a number of scholarly and academic papers have presented findings that indicate her birth to be somewhere between 1499 and 1504 in Norfolk, England. Nevertheless, there is equally compelling evidence to suggest a date of birth that is closer to 1507. Details about her early life are similarly vague, although Anne and her sisters received formal education following the wishes of their father, Sir Thomas Boleyn – something that was uncommon for women at the time.

The beautiful Boleyn had been in the company of the royal family since a very early age as an attendant for the Archduchess Margaret. She spent some time in the court of the French King Louis XII, as an attendant to Queen Mary Tudor, wife of the French King and also sister to King Henry. Upon the death of King Louis in 1523, she returned and was appointed as one of the ladies in waiting for Queen Catherine of Aragon, the wife of King Henry VIII. Her beauty, wit, and sophistication soon caught the eyes of members of the palace, in particular, Harry Percy. The Cardinal Thomas Wolsey learned of the matter and arranged for young Percy’s father, the Earl of Northumberland, to seek a bride for him. He also subsequently engineered for Boleyn to be cast out of the royal court.

The divorce of King Henry VII and Queen Catherine

By the time she left, King Henry VIII was already deeply infatuated with Anne, and made regular visits to Hever Castle, the home of the Boleyns. The King’s advances were rejected by the astute Anne, who had no desire to be yet another addition to the King’s long line of mistresses, which included her very own sister, Mary. She insisted that the only way she would consent to share his bed was through marriage. King Henry VIII attempted to gain the favor of Anne by appointing her father as the Viscount of Rochford. He even serenaded her, promising undying love, wrote poetries and sent her beautiful love letters – but all to no avail.

King Henry VIII finally relented and attempted to nullify his marriage to his wife, Queen Catherine. Frantic discussions took place between Cardinal Wolsey and the Pope, but the slow pace of the dialogue annoyed the impatient King. He brought Anne Boleyn to his court, and banished his wife, Queen Catherine, to her chambers. After waiting for years, King Henry eventually lost his patience with Cardinal Wolsey and replaced him with the Chancellor of England, Sir Thomas More, to lead negotiations with the Pope.

An 1872 painting by Karl von Piloty depicting the romance between Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn at Cardinal Wolsey's ball
An 1872 painting by Karl von Piloty depicting the romance between Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn at Cardinal Wolsey’s ball

The submission of Anne Boleyn to King Henry VIII

Anne’s resolve finally broke and she allowed the King to her chambers, and she became pregnant in January 1533. King Henry proceeded to formalize his union with Anne and married her, sending Queen Catherine away after successfully having their union declared as a ‘non-marriage’ by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Crammer.

Anne Boleyn was proclaimed Queen on June 1 the same year. Having learned of this, the Pope declared King Henry’s marriage to Anne Boleyn as illegal and gave him three months to reinstate Catherine as Queen under the threat of excommunication. King Henry responded by pressuring the Parliament the pass the 1534 Act of Supremacy, which made the reigning monarch as the official head of the Church of England. With the new power, the King severed the Church of England’s ties to the Vatican. Anne meanwhile, gave birth to a baby girl, the future Queen Elizabeth I, a fact that displeased King Henry, who was still without a male heir.

Anne Boleyn became pregnant again the following year but had a miscarriage. King Henry was extremely displeased with the news. A short while later Anne became pregnant yet again, but the news was overshadowed by the death of the former Queen, Catherine. The expected male heir never came, as Anne gave birth to a stillborn, prompting the King to resume his search for a male heir to the throne with mistresses. Before long, King Henry had his eyes on another one of the court’s beauty, Jane Seymour, and secretly conspired with Thomas Cromwell to get rid of Anne.

Anne Boleyn’s Beheading

Rumors began to surface soon after that Anne Boleyn was unfaithful to the King, and found her way to the throne by means of witchcraft. Furthermore, there were growing whispers of Anne’s alleged promiscuity with members of the court. Cromwell tortured a confession out of the Court Bard, Mark Smeaton, a close friend of the Queen, who under duress implicated four other members of the court as having sexual relationships with Queen Anne, including her brother, Lord Rochford.

Despite the lack of any concrete evidence, Anne Boleyn was tried in the Great Hall at the Tower of London and found guilty of treason. She was, expectedly, sentenced to death. An experienced executioner from France was brought in for the occasion, and Queen Anne Boleyn was executed at the Tower of London on May 19, 1536.

King Henry VIII took it quite well, as evidenced by his marriage to Jane Seymour eleven days later. And yet, in the end, Anne Boleyn had the last laugh as her child, Elizabeth I, eventually took the throne of England and ushered in an era of prosperity and peace, The Spectral Isle’s Golden Age. Queen Elizabeth I ruled England for 45 years and to this day is considered by many as arguably the greatest monarch the country has ever had.

 

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