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Although Anne Boleyn’s birth was so insignificant that there is no documentation on it; she pressed her way into the royal courts. There she gained reputation with the renowned. She entranced King Henry VIII and they were soon married. She was thought to be the one that would bring King Henry his long-awaited heir. A scandal materialized against her, though, and she was soon executed on prevaricated charges. Anne Boleyn is known to be the most memorable and controversial of Henry VIII’s wives.
Anne Boleyn’s place of birth was extremely controversial because she was so unimportant when she was born. She might have been born in Blicking Hall in Norfolk, or maybe it was at Hever Castle in Kent (“Queen” 1). Her date of birth is also vague. Historians have stated that she was born somewhere between 1501 and 1507. She was born to Sir Thomas Boleyn and Elizabeth Howard (Kendell n.pg.).
As a daughter to a somewhat noble family, she would have to take her place as a lady in waiting. When Anne Boleyn was around twelve years of age, she became a maid of honor to Margaret of Austria, the regent of The Netherlands. She was then moved to the French Court a year and a half-later (“Tudor” 2) in the autumn of 1514 (Fraser 120) to be a lady-in-waiting for Henry VIII’s sister Mary. Mary was just married to King Louise as a type of peace offering between France and England (“Tudor” 2). Shortly after the marriage, King Louise died and Anne was sent back to England. As a lady in waiting in Queen Catherine’s court, a scandal occurred between Anne Boleyn and Henry Percy sometime around 1522 and 1523. Percy and Boleyn were secretly in love and vowed to marry one another. Lord Chancellor, Cardinal Wolsey, learned of their affair and told the king. King Henry VIII immediately informed Percy’s father whom ended the relationship and forced Percy to marry the woman of equal class he had selected for Percy. Anne Boleyn never forgave Wolsey for that, and it would show in the future. She returned disgraced to her home (“Tudor” 2).
Around 1524 or 1525, she rejoined King Henry’s court. In 1526, Anne was openly sought after by King Henry VIII (“Tudor” 2). This caused her many enemies who spoke ill of her. Anne Boleyn was said to look very ordinary, pale, with black hair and black eyes (“Queen” 1). This complexion was the complete opposite of the beau ideal of fair hair with blue eyes (Fraser 122). She also had a mole the size of a strawberry on her neck (“Queen” 1), known at that time period as the “Devil’s Pawmark”(Lofts 36), and an extra finger on her left hand (“Queen” 1). The Venetian ambassador describing her pronounced her “not one of the handsomest women in the world” (Fraser 122). But those that were loyal to her spoke of her in a different way. To others she was known to be very attractive with beautiful eyes, a long neck, and dark silky hair (Fraser 123).
King Henry was an experienced seducer and visited with her often, but Anne was sullen, cool, and evasive and gave no interest with him. This caused King Henry to yearn for her more (“Queen” 2). Boleyn’s sister, Mary, was known to be a past mistress to Henry VIII, and she knew that it would lead her no where (“Queen” 4). She simply stated to him, “I would rather lose my life than my honesty” (“Tudor” 2). So, King Henry VIII began his quest to get rid of Queen Catherine and marry Anne Boleyn.
Henry VIII told Cardinal Wolsey that his marriage to Queen Catherine was an offense to God, since it was his dead brother’s wife. Cardinal Wolsey was to annul the marriage between King Henry and Queen Catherine; However, Wolsey failed. The Pope claiming that one Pope could not change what another Pope had declared, Wolsey was denounced from his position, and shamed. He died on his way to London to face his impeachment trial. Because the Pope would not annul Henry VIII’s marriage to Queen Catherine, he drew away from Papal rule. He declared himself head of the church and selected Thomas Cranmer the Archbishop of Canterbury. Naturally, Cranmer declared the marriage of Queen Catherine and King Henry fallacious and he was able to marry Anne Boleyn (“Queen” 2).
Anne Boleyn and Henry VIII’s marriage was set in a disclosed place. There is no documentation of the location, date, and witnesses. Cranmer does say, however, that the wedding of King Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn took place on January 25, 1533. He did not perform the wedding, though (Fraser 187). It needed to be as discreet as possible because once Anne Boleyn recognized that the King’s intentions were serious, she yielded to him and became pregnant (“Queen” 2) close to the end of the first week of December in 1532 (Fraser 187). If people discovered that their child had been conceived out of wedlock, they would see the child as a bastard, and dismiss it.
Her Coronation began on Thursday, May 29, 1533. People came, but not to cheer, just to stare. She was crowned on Sunday, June 1, 1533 (Lofts 108-115) at eight o’clock in the morning. Kings were not present during their queen’s coronations, so Henry VIII watched at the banquet from a gallery in Westminster Hall (Fraser 195). Because the commoners were ridiculing and mocking Queen Anne, Henry VIII made it illegal to address Katharine as Queen from that point on (Lofts 116).
Anne Boleyn would have problems keeping this title, as she befalls many problems trying to bear a male heir for King Henry VIII. Their daughter, Elizabeth, was born in September 7, 1533 of that year (Kendell n.pg.). Henry VIII accepted the birth of Elizabeth as a promise of things to come (“Queen” 2). After having Elizabeth, though, Anne Boleyn began to worry of her security as queen. She became pregnant again after Catherine’s death and rejoiced (“Tudor” 3). Unfortunately, she had a miscarriage. She was far enough into the pregnancy for it to be a noticeable boy. There is controversy as to how she lost the child. One story states she caught Jane Seymour, one of her maids of honor, on King Henry VIII’s lap. She threw a fit and became hysterical and lost the child (“Tudor” 5). The other story states Henry VIII fell from a horse during a hunting trip and was in a coma for two months, but they told Boleyn that he had died and she collapsed and lost her son. Either way, her son was lost on January 23, 1536 (“Queen” 5).
King Henry VIII was growing tired of Anne Boleyn and beginning to think she could not give him the heir he needed. With the help of Thomas Cromwell, Henry VIII created a plot to get rid of Anne Boleyn (“Queens” 3). King Henry charged and imprisoned her with adultery with her brother, three gentlemen of the privy chamber, and a musician of the court and of conspiring with these men against the king’s life (“Boleyn” n.pg.). She and the five men were tortured into admitting the charges were true (“Queens” 3).
Anne Boleyn was held in the Tower of London on May 2, 1536 (“Boleyn” n.pg.). Anne Boleyn’s uncle, Thomas Howard, third duke of Norfolk, presided over the judges who condemned her to death (“Boleyn” n.pg.). On May 17, the musician was hanged and the other four beheaded. Two days later, Anne was also beheaded (“Boleyn” n.pg.). She was beheaded not by a clumsy axe, but by a skilled man, brought over from France (“Queen” 3). As she was brought to the square, she made a speech to the crowd watching:
Good Christian people, I am come hither to
die, for according to the law, and by the
law I am judged to die, and therefore I will
speak nothing against it. I am come hither
to accuse no man, nor to speak anything
die, but I pray God save the king and send
him long to reign over you, for a gentler
nor a more merciful prince was there never:
and to me he was ever a good, a gentle and
sovereign lord. And if any person will
meddle of my cause, I require them to judge
the best. And thus I take my leave of the
world and of you all, and I heartily desire
you all to pray for me. O Lord have mercy
on me, to God I commend my soul.(Lofts 178-
After being blindfolded and kneeling at the block, she repeated several times, “To Jesus Christ I commend my soul; Lord Jesu receive my soul” (Lofts 178-179).
Anne Boleyn is probably the most historically significant of all the six wives of King Henry VIII. She lived the roller coaster life all of King Henry VIII’s women lived. She pushed her way to the top of the social ladder not knowing what the future held for her, enjoying it all the while. Then it all came crashing down when she could not bear a male heir, being punished by death. Anne Boleyn will always be known as the most memorable and controversial of Henry VIII’s wives.
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