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anne boleyn

Queen Anne Boleyn

ANNE BOLEYN, Queen of King Henry VIII of England, daughter of Sir Thomas Boleyn, afterwards Earl of Wiltshire and Ormonde, and of Elizabeth, was born in approx. 1507.

The exact period of the beginning of Anne's relations with Henry is not known. They have been surmised as originating as early as 1523; but there is nothing to prove that Henry's passion was previous to the proceedings taken for the divorce in May 1527, the celebrated love letters being undated. Her name is first openly connected with the king's as a possible wife in the event of Catherine's divorce, in a letter of Mendoza, the imperial ambassador, to Charles V on the 16th of August 1527, during the absence in France of Cardinal Wolsey, who, not blinded by passion like Henry, naturally opposed the undesirable alliance, and was negotiating a marriage with Renee, daughter of Louis XII. Henry meanwhile, however, had sent William Knight, his secretary, on a separate mission to Rome to obtain permission for his marriage with Anne; and on the cardinal's return in August, Wolsey found her as the king's companion and proposed successor to Catherine of Aragon.

After the king's final separation from his wife in July 1531, Anne's position was still above that of the queen, and in 1532 she accompanied Henry on the visit to Francis I, while Catherine was left at home neglected and practically a prisoner. Soon after their return Anne was found to be pregnant, and in consequence Henry married her about the 25th of January 1533 (the exact date is unknown), their union not being made public till the following Easter. Subsequently, on the 23rd of May, their marriage was declared valid and that with Catherine null, and in June Anne was crowned with queen in Westminster Abbey. Anne Boleyn had now reached the pinnacle of her hopes.

But her day of triumph was destined to be even shorter than that of her predecessor. There were soon signs that Henry's affection, which had before been a genuine passion, had cooled or ceased. He resented her arrogance, and a few months after the marriage he gave her cause for jealousy, and disputes arose. A strange and mysterious fate had prepared for Anne the same domestic issues that had vexed and ruined Catherine and caused her abandonment. In September 1533 the birth of a daughter, afterwards Queen Elizabeth, instead of the long-hoped-for son, was a heavy disappointment; next year there was a miscarriage, and on the 29th of January 1536, the day of Catherine's funeral, she gave birth to a dead male child.

On the 1st of May following the king suddenly broke up a tournament at Greenwich, leaving the company in bewilderment and dismay. The cause was soon known. Inquiries had been made on reports of the queen's ill-conduct, and several of her reputed lovers had been arrested. On the 2nd Anne herself was committed to the Tower on a charge of adultery with various persons, including her own brother, Lord Rochford. On the 12th, Sir Francis Weston, Henry Norris, William Brereton and Mark Smeaton were declared guilty of high treason, while Anne herself and Lord Rochford were condemned unanimously by an assembly of twenty-six peers on the 15th. Her uncle, the duke of Norfolk, presided as lord steward, and gave sentence, weeping, that his niece was to be burned or beheaded as pleased the king. Her former lover, the earl of Northumberland, left the court seized with sudden illness. Her father, who was excused attendance, had, however, been present at the trial of the other offenders, and had there declared his conviction of his daughter's guilt.

The same day all her reputed lovers were executed; and on the 19th she herself suffered death on Tower Green, her head being struck off with a sword by the executioner of Calais brought to England for the purpose.  She had regarded the prospect of death with courage and almost with cheerfulness, laughing heartily as she put her hands about her "little neck" and recalled the skill of the executioner. "I have seen many men and also women executed, and all they have been in great sorrow, and to my knowledge this lady has much joy and pleasure in death." On the following day Henry was betrothed to Jane Seymour.
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©Vanessa Bowman
School of Communication, Western Michigan University
Kalamazoo, MI 49008
Last update on: August 15, 2011
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