ANNE BOLEYN

Anne Boleyn is history's most famous "other woman," who tempted Henry VIII away from his first wife, thus sparking the English Reformation. She is known as flirtatious, clever, and beautiful. Yet she was the first of Henry VIII's wives to be executed.  

anne boleyn portrait

ANNE BOLEYN'S EARLY LIFE

Anne Boleyn was born in 1501, though there is some debate on this date, to Thomas and Elizabeth Boleyn. Whilst her father was not of high birth, after marrying a noble woman, he was elevated to gentry and became the French ambassador. His position would eventually facilitate the meeting of Anne and Henry VIII. She was intelligent, clever, and charming with a strong command of both the French and English language.

WHEN ANNE MET HENRY

Likely thanks to her father's connections, Anne and her sister Mary were made ladies-in-waiting to Henry VIII's first wife Catherine of Aragon. However, this is not where Anne first caught Henry's eye. The King initially entered into an affair with Mary Boleyn, otherwise known as "the most infamous whore." It wasn't until Anne took the lead role in a court masque that Henry began to notice her. 

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ANNE MARRIES HENRY

After Henry dismissed Catherine of Aragon from court, he married Anne Boleyn in a secret ceremony. However, the marriage was technically bigamous as his marriage with Catherine was not yet officially annulled. Henry officially divorced Catherine a few months after, becoming the head of the Church of England a year later. Henry VIII's marriage with Anne Boleyn sparked the English Reformation as he was forced to break from Rome (i.e., Catholic rule) to facilitate the annulment of his first wife. 

ANNE AT COURT

Anne Boleyn was a Tudor-style icon who introduced French fashion to the courts. With her rambunctious personality, eye-catching dress sense, and unconventional beauty, Anne had many admirers at court besides the King. Both poet Thomas Wyatt and the eventual Earl of Northumberland, Henry Percy, lusted after Anne. In 1523, a year after meeting Henry VIII, Anne was secretly betrothed to Percy, but, knowing the King's interest in her, Cardinal Thomas Wolsey prevented the marriage.   

anne and henry at court
queen elizabeth portrait

PRINCESS ELIZABETH IS BORN

Like Catherine of Aragon, Anne Boleyn also experienced several miscarriages during her marriage to Henry VIII. However, on the 7th of September 1533, Princess Elizabeth I was born - Elizabeth would later become Queen and the last of the Tudor monarchs. Whilst Anne doted on her daughter, her relationship with Princess Mary was strained. Mary refused to acknowledge Anne as queen, remaining loyal to her mother, Catherine of Aragon. 

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HENRY GROWS TIRED OF ANNE

After the birth of Princess Elizabeth, Anne and Henry failed to have any more children and Henry remained without a male heir. Anne blamed the stress of Henry's latest affair with her lady-in-waiting, and future Queen, Jane Seymour, as the cause of her most recent miscarriage. To make matters worse, a potential new alliance with the Holy Roman Empire floundered as Charles V refused to acknowledge Anne as queen. This is unsurprising as Charles V was nephew to Catherine of Aragon.

jane seymour portrait
the beheading of anne boleyn

ANNE IS BEHEADED

With Henry's spiritual disposition, Anne's inability to deliver a male heir made him question whether marrying her was the right decision. Her tempestuous attitude also began to grate on the King, so he determined that it was time to end the marriage. In 1536, Thomas Cromwell, once an ally of Anne, made accusations of adultery against the Queen. Although these accusations were entirely unfounded, Anne Boleyn was arrest and then executed on May 19 of the same year. Before her execution, she is said to have joked, "I heard say the executioner is very good, and I have a little neck." 

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

HOW OLD WAS ANNE BOLEYN WHEN SHE DIED?

Anne Boleyn was 29 when she was executed. However, that's if you believe she was born in 1501. It may be the case that she was born in 1507, making her 35 at the time of her death.

HOW DID ANNE BOLEYN DIE?

Anne Boleyn was executed at Tower Green after accusations of adultery were levied against her by Thomas Cromwell. 

WHAT DID ANNE BOLEYN LOOK LIKE?

Anne Boleyn was not considered conventionally beautiful. She had brown hair, dark, sparkling eyes, and olive skin. Given the attention she received from men, she was undoubtedly attractive. However, some reported that she had a sixth finger which she carefully concealed, but this was likely a rumour spread by her enemies.

WHERE IS ANNE BOLEYN BURIED?

Henry VIII's second wife is buried in the Chapel Royal of St Peter ad Vincula at the Tower of London.

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