Anne Boleyn

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Anne Boleyn (1507 to 1536) was the second wife of King Henry VIII of England. Anne was brought to court by Henry while he was still married to the popular Catherine of Aragon, and it is widely believed they had an affair during that time.Henry annulled his marriage with Catherine, in order to marry Anne. In order to do so he broke with the Catholic Church which would not agree to sanction such an action and set up the Church of England with himself as the head. Henry and Anne were married in 1533. They had a daughter together, Elizabeth I, who would one day become queen. Anne's son with Henry was stillborn, helping to seal her fate.

Henry met Anne when visiting her father's house. He became infatuated with her, and arranged to have her brought to court, along with her friend, Lucy Maud, daughter of the Earl of Montgomery. However Catherine got wind of what was going on, and prevented Anne from staying at the palace. Instead she was put up at the house of Sir Thomas Erpingham, a little way into the country. Henry would visit the house regularly, and it is believed he conducted an affair with her, while he was still married.

By 1527 Henry had fallen for Anne Boleyn. She was not content to be a mistress, which set about a chain of events that shook up the nation. Henry sought papal consent to have his marriage to Katherine annulled since she had previously been married to his brother. The papacy, which was under a great deal of pressure from the Spanish not to grant the request, refused. This brought about the downfall of Cardinal Wosley in Henry's sight since he had virtually guaranteed their acceptance. Henry then made the decision to break from the Catholic Church who he claimed had no right to interfere in the political succession of England, which he stated was occurring since he had no male heir through Katherine. Catholic clergy then had to sign an oath to the king over the Pope. Many could not sign -- and died. With Henry now head of the Church, his divorce was granted and he married Anne in 1533 - a very unpopular queen with the people who had loved Katherine. Anne had a daughter in 1533 (the future Queen Elizabeth I) and not a son like Henry desired. She became pregnant again, but her son was stillborn. (In terms of shaping policy, Anne, who was strongly committed to Protestantism, was the most influential wife. Historians have vigorously debated explanations for the trial and execution of Anne in 1536. One school emphasizes contentious court factions in which Queen Anne was an innocent pawn. G. W. Bernard (1991) argues that she and the five men executed with her were probably guilty of incest and adultery as charged. Both points of view were also expressed by contemporary diplomats reporting from London, who may have been misled by rumors and deliberate government misinformation. Use of traditions of courtly love to explain Anne's relationship with the other accused (opening herself to slander) is speculative. Direct evidence for actual guilt is not convincing. Warnicke (1993) offers a controversial explanation: Anne gave birth to a deformed fetus in January, 1536, provoking in Henry, who learned of the miscarriage and its circumstances after some delay, both rage and fear, as well as a certainty of his consort's adultery and witchcraft, an explanation necessary not only to his psyche but to the preservation of the reputation of his kingdom and the schismatic church that he headed Never popular with the English people, Henry had tired of her as well. She was sent to the Tower of London and was executed after being convicted of adultery and incest on dubious evidence. She was executed by sword rather than the cleaner-cutting axe to indicate the extremity of her crimes, and her head was displayed to the public for three days rather than the normal one. It did, however, free the king to remarry again -- a course of action he would take four more times.


Sources

  • Bernard, G. W. "The Fall of Anne Boleyn." English Historical Review 1991 106(420): 584-610. in Jstor
  • Erickson, Carolly. Mistress Anne: The Exceptional Life of Anne Boleyn. (1984) 464 pp. popular biography
  • Ives, Eric. The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn (2005) excerpt and text search
  • Lindsey, Karen. Divorced, Beheaded, Survived: A Feminist Reinterpretation of the Wives of Henry VIII (1995) online edition
  • Starkey, David. Six Wives: the Queens of Henry VIII (2003) excerpt and text search
  • The New American Desk Encyclopedia, Penguin Group, 1989
  • Warnicke, Retha M. "The Fall of Anne Boleyn Revisited." English Historical Review 1993 108(428): 653-665. Issn: 0013-8266 in Jstor
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