Anne Boleyn: “I hear he’s quite good. And I have a little neck!”

 

 by Lanique Ruffin

                        Anne Boleyn was the daughter of Thomas Boleyn  and Elizabeth Howard who was the daughter of the second Duke of Norfolk and sister of the Third Duke. It is not accurate as to what day she was born, guesses at the year have varied from 1501-1509. Historians also do not know the location of her birth, however estimates have thought either Blickling Hall in Norfolk, or Hever Castle (Biography). Boleyn’s father actually came from a rather poor background, however his talent for knowing several foreign languages helped him to become a member of the Privy Council and later a diplomat who served the English King (Anne Boleyn). Boleyn’s mother bore three children, Anne, Mary and a son, George. Mary later fell into Henry VIII good graces and became his mistress helping to elevate her father’s position to viscount Rochford in 1525. It is believed that after Boleyn’s sister Mary was wed by Henry VIII to the “aged king of France” (Biography) Anne went with her sister to become a lady-in-waiting. It is mentioned that she was very young for her title, but she became educated due to her position in France. After the King of France died, her sister Mary went back to England, and Anne stayed in France to become educated in literature, arts, flirtatiousness, and fashion by the French queen Claude. We now know that Boleyn was an “accomplished musician, singer, and dancer”, all of these helped her to gain the attention of King Henry VIII.

            Around 1521 or 1522, Boleyn ventured back to England where she was requested as a lady-in-waiting- to Henry VIII’s first wife, Catharine of Aragon. After it became apparent that Queen Catharine could not give Henry VIII a son for an heir to the throne, Henry VIII began looking for another mistress to bear him a son. His eye fell on Boleyn, but unfortunately she already had her sights on Lord Henry Percy, the son and heir of the Earl of Northumberland. However, Henry VIII was not to be rejected easily. Henry asked Cardinal Thomas Wolsey to end the love affair between them and sent Percy to be wed to the Earl of Shrewsbury’s daughter. During the time that the love affair was being disposed of, historians believe Henry VIII tried to gain the attention of Boleyn, but being distraught over Percy’s marriage, she did not wish to be in any type of relations with the King. There is another theory, Henry did not make any advances at her until Percy had been married to his wife for four years. Honestly we don’t really know exactly what happened during this time, but we do know that after some time the King began to openly flirt with Boleyn wanting her to become his mistress. However, Boleyn was not satisfied with becoming his mistress, she wanted to be his wife, and acquiring the title, Queen of England. Being known for her wit, outgoing personality, flirtatiousness, and stark appearance plus an arrogant nature, she kept the King under suspense, becoming recognized as the first woman to ever tell the King ‘No!”. Henry maintained affections for Boleyn and underwent the tedious task of annulling his marriage to Queen Catharine of Aragon. Henry went to the pope in 1527, however, Catharine maintained a number of supporters during this whole ordeal and many of her supporters posed threats toward the pope. One such supporter included her own brother who happened to be the Emperor Charles V. It is said that because of these threats the pope “lacked the freedom to make a decision on the matter”. After several years Henry finally got the Archbishop of Canterbury to declare his marriage to Catharine invalid. Here is where many rumors are circulated because many believe that Boleyn was actually wed in secret before Henry’s marriage was annulled. On the other hand people believe she was already pregnant with Elizabeth during this time, and as a result they married secretly. Then there is the rumor that Boleyn wanted to actually wait until the annulment was announced and then wed openly so that all of her subjects would recognize her marriage as final and valid. Obviously from the many stories of her pregnancy and marriage reasons, we don’t really know exactly what happened here, we can speculate that she did become pregnant very soon after her marriage (once again it could have been before) but then again there is always that slight misgivings of fiction. In essence we don’t know the facts of the case and don’t want to come to any conclusions that might be proven false. Anyhow, Boleyn did marry Henry before her loyal Protestant Reformer subjects (very few citizens of England actually wanted the union of Boleyn and Henry VIII) and was pronounced Queen of England on June 1, 1533.

            Boleyn and Henry VIII marriage was quite an obstacle course. They had their first child early on in their marriage, and even though both parents believed they would have a son, it turned out that she would have a daughter, Elizabeth on September 7, 1533. Henry, although quite disappointed at the sex of the child, did receive Elizabeth as his heir and asked Elizabeth’s half-sister Mary (who was the daughter of Catharine of Aragon) to renounce her title. After much struggle with Mary and the death of her mother Catharine of Aragon, Mary did write a letter renouncing her title as princess under extreme force from both Boleyn and Henry VIII (Biography). Boleyn later went on to become pregnant three more times, but all three were miscarriages of sons. Throughout the time that Boleyn became pregnant and miscarried, Henry had begun to take less interest in her, and had begun to flirt openly with two women. One we don’t really know the name of for sure, but the other was actually Boleyn’s cousin and lady-in-waiting Madge Shelton. As you can guess, this created quite a dispute within Boleyn and Henry’s marriage, however it was becoming obvious that Henry was tired of Boleyn’s smart mouth and arrogant attitude. It came to the attention of Boleyn that her only saving grace to stay in Henry’s good favor was to give him a son. If a son was born to him he would not declare their marriage invalid, and discard her like he did Catharine of Aragon. This was not to happen however, and soon Henry was indeed making negotiations to have Boleyn completely dispelled of. The fact that Catharine of Aragon had already died created rumors that Boleyn would actually be beheaded. Henry, learning from his relationship with Boleyn and their constant issues with Mary and her mother, wanted to completely rid himself of Boleyn. It was obvious he did not want anything coming between his relationship with his new wife, and the heir to his throne. Therefore, after Boleyn was arrested and charged with adultery, witchcraft and incest, it was clear that her meager efforts to try and salvage her reputation and her life were far from her reach. Henry eventually had her and a few of her friends and supporters beheaded, and left Elizabeth to become an orphan declaring her birth illegitimate (Biography)

 

            Interesting queries about Anne Boleyn:

 

1.      Anne was described as having a large mole on her neck and an extra finger on her left hand

2.      Best physical features: Eyes and Hair

3.      Might have been raped at the age of 7 by one of her father’s friends

4.      Was locked in her room during the engagement of Lord Henry Percy and his wife

5.      Actually never really liked Henry VIII

6.      Was a gold-digger

7.       Had her sister Mary removed from court when she married Henry( for fear of embarrassment)

8.      Was actually honored with the title of marquess of Pembroke on September 4, 1532 at Windsor Castle before she married Henry VIII

9.      Was actually liked by a majority of the population of England until it became clear that she was not just a mistress, but was about to become Queen of England.

10.  Loved playing cards, and dice, and acquired quite a debt from these games

 

References:

www.departments.kings.edu/womens_history/anneboleyn.html

www.tudorplace.com.ar/Documents/sweatingsickness.htm

www.englishhistory.net/tudor/monarchs/boleyn.html#Biography

www.www.nellgavin.com/boleyn_facts/

Back to Biographies' Page