Today we’re going beyond the pages of our September Book of the Month, Anne & Henry by Dawn Ius, to learn about one of the real people whose story inspired the book … Anne Boleyn. (And tune in on Friday for more on Henry VIII, too!)
Anne: The Facts
- Born 1501 (Probably; there’s been some dispute)
- Died May 19th, 1536
- Titles: Queen of England from 1533-1536
Marquess of Pembroke
- Daughter of Thomas Boleyn, 1st Earl of Wiltshire, and Lady Elizabeth Howard
- Surviving Heirs: Queen Elizabeth, I
Anne Before Henry
Before she began her tumultuous relationship with King Henry VIII, Anne Boleyn was actually engaged … twice!
In 1522, there were plans for Anne to marry her cousin James Butler, but the marriage was broken up by Cardinal Wolsey — who secured her a post as maid of honor to Henry VIII’s first wife, Queen Catherine of Aragon.
She was also secretly engaged to Henry Percy, son of the Earl of Northumberland, in 1523 — but Wolsey also broke up that little arrangement and sent Anne back to Catherine’s court, where she would eventually catch the eye of the king.
Earlier in her life, Anne studied in the Netherlands and France.
Anne & Henry & the Catholic Church
Henry began pursuing Anne in 1526 — despite still being married to Catherine of Aragon. Anne’s sister Mary had already been one of Henry’s mistresses, but Anne supposedly refused — which lead Henry to vehemently pursue an annulment of his marriage to Catherine so he and Anne could get hitched and have crazy royal sex (presumably).
Henry’s determination to end his marriage to Catherine despite the Catholic Church’s refusal to do so is what began England’s break from the Vatican and the creation of the Church of England (the movement known more commonly as the English Reformation).
Anne and Henry were married on January 25th, 1533 (Um, creepy … my wedding anniversary is also January 25th) — despite the church still being in a bit of upheaval.
A few months later, Thomas Cranmer (one of the leaders of the English Reformation) declared Henry and Catherine’s marriage null and void, and that Henry’s marriage to Anne was totes legit.
(This also caused the Catholic Church to excommunicate both Cranmer and Henry, at which point the Church of England came under the King’s control … and, you know, eventually lead to a lot of bloodshed and death and violence and war. But that’s a story for another day.)
Anne was crowned Queen of England on June 1st, 1533, and she and Henry got busy trying to make babies. Baby boys, specifically.
That endeavor was not met with success, however.
Anne gave birth to her first child, the future Queen Elizabeth I, on September 7, 1533. Elizabeth was Anne’s only surviving child; her subsequent pregnancies ended in stillbirth or miscarriage.
Anne’s failure to produce a male heir marked the beginning of the end for Anne. Though this was not the only reason for strife in their marriage — historians have noted that Anne was smart, politically savvy, and outspoken, all qualities that were not desirable in a wife — the lack of a son made Anne vulnerable to the king’s anger.
By the Spring of 1536, while still married to Anne, Henry began courting the woman who would become his third wife, Jane Seymour — and had Anne arrested, held in the Tower of London, and investigated for high treason.
The charges against Anne included adultery, incest, and witchcraft. Her trial was swift, and she was quickly found guilty and beheaded … conveniently paving the way for Henry to remarry. (Which he did — just days later!)
Anne left a lasting legacy on England and its future. When her daughter Elizabeth was crowned Queen, Anne was called a martyr and hero of the Reformation