20+ Things That Prove Anne Boleyn Changed History Forever
Real-Life Game of Thrones
Her Family Wasn’t Always Wealthy
She Was Sent to France as a Teenager
She Nearly Married Her Cousin!
Anne’s Secret First Love
Scandal Ran in the Family
Was Anne King Henry VIII’s Daughter?
So Who Was Henry’s First Wife?
When Anne was around 25, she was a lady-in-waiting for Catherine of Aragon. Catherine was Henry VIII’s first wife. Anne was around 15 years younger than rival Catherine, but Catherine was a Spanish princess with British heritage. She was the third cousin of her father-in-law and fourth cousin of her mother-in-law. Her parents had been cousins, and Catherine had previously been married to Henry VIII’s brother, Arthur Tudor. Unfortunately, Arthur died six months after they were married, and so Catherine wed Henry soon after.
The Courtship Begins
When Anne was around 25, the King’s attention began to wander from his wife Catherine, and towards the youngest Boleyn girl. He wrote Anne love letters, and after a year of flirting and courtship, he asked her for her hand in marriage! Henry was very keen for her to become his mistress, but Anne refused. She had her eye on the prize, and that prize was the Queen’s title. While it is true that Henry was still married to Catherine, he assumed that he would be able to get an annulment swiftly. However, this didn’t turn out to be the case…
About That Annulment…
Henry was very keen to marry Anne, but it turned out that there were a few obstacles preventing them from being together. To begin with, he couldn’t legally marry Anne because of his previous relationship with Mary Boleyn. In those times, it was considered incest to marry the sister of someone you had slept with. You may remember that Catherine had been married to Henry’s brother, but the Pope had granted them a dispensation given that Catherine and Arthur had never consummated their marriage. Catherine bore Henry VIII no surviving sons, and he began to grow impatient…
No Sons for Henry
The Church of England
Henry and Anne, Sitting in a Tree…
Queen Anne’s Reign Begins
The New Queen’s Coronation
The Unfaithful King
We know that the King invented a whole new faith when Catholicism didn’t suit him. So when his wife Anne was unable to produce a son for him, Henry was again unfaithful and started having affairs with new mistresses. Anne was not particularly pleased, to say the least. She sent some of her own allies to seduce her husband in order to exercise at least some control over the women frequenting his chambers. Anne even sent one of her own cousins in! Uh-oh!
You know by now that Anne was not Henry’s last wife. He was notorious for having not two, not three, but six wives! In true Tudor fashion, the King’s next love interest was Jane Seymour, the Queen’s second cousin. Considering the drama that he created seducing the Boleyns, it is pretty surprising that King Henry VIII didn’t choose someone a little less, uh, related to pursue next. Nonetheless, Henry continued his reckless reign over England and pursued Anne’s second cousin without trying to hide it. He even gave Jane a picture of himself to wear around her neck, which Anne furiously tore from Jane.
Queen Anne, AKA the ‘Promiscuous Status Seeker’
Catherine of Aragon was the English public’s favorite. No one was particularly pleased that Anne had shown up from France and caused trouble between Henry and his first wife, so she had to work hard to win the public over. Some of her efforts to increase her popularity included trying to improve conditions for poor folk. She was also known for her fancy wardrobe, which was the envy of many noblewomen across England. But no matter how hard she tried, Anne Boleyn couldn’t shake her reputation as a “promiscuous status seeker." The only way to fix things was to bear a son.
There’s Good News…
But there was also bad news. Anne was pregnant again, and by January of 1536, Anne and Henry learned that his first wife, Catherine, had passed away. Her death was treated with suspicion at first, as Catherine’s heart was found to be blackened when the embalming process began. From the standpoint of the 21st Century, experts have agreed that it is likely that Catherine died from cancer of the heart. But back in 1536, it spurred rumors that Anne and King Henry VIII had poisoned his first wife. Anne was anxious about Catherine’s death, as she knew that if she didn’t bear a son, Henry would be free to marry a new wife without having to return to Catherine...
More Bad News
It turns out that things continued to go pretty badly for Anne. Catherine of Aragon was buried, and on the same day, Anne tragically miscarried and gave birth to a stillborn child. It is thought that she was under a great deal of stress after the King had been knocked unconscious in a tournament. His relationship with Jane Seymour did not make things any easier for Anne. To make matters worse, it seemed that the child she had miscarried had indeed been a male heir. Despite having given birth to their daughter Elizabeth, Henry was furious with Anne and began to take steps to end their marriage.
A Slippery Slope for Anne
Henry had already created a new church to annul his first marriage, so in order to annul his second marriage, a list of crimes was invented in order to delegitimize Anne and bring about her downfall. She was also accused of being a witch and a disciple of Satan. What’s more is that at least five men would be executed over their alleged involvement with the Queen, despite there being little evidence to support the charges. Most disturbingly of all, one more man was also accused...
Incest, Adultery, and Treason
Horrifyingly, the final man to be accused of committing adultery with Anne Boleyn was the Queen’s brother, George Boleyn. Anne had also been accused of conspiring to kill Henry in order to marry another man. Nonetheless, the two siblings were tried in the Tower of London, and Anne was found unanimously guilty by nearly 30 of her peers. The jury included Henry Percy, who you might remember as Anne’s first love. It seems that the verdict had a great impact on Percy, as he had to be physically carried out of the room. He died eight months later, and Anne’s marriage to Henry was declared null and void upon her conviction. So what came next for Anne?
A Family Betrayal
While it’s not surprising that loyalty wasn’t the Tudors' strong point, it remains shocking that Anne’s own uncle, the Duke of Norfolk, was the one to read her sentence aloud to the court. Her father had also been on a secret commission created to determine whether the Queen was guilty. Thomas Cromwell, a former friend of Anne’s, had also been on the commission. Historians now consider Cromwell to have been heavily involved in plotting against the Queen. It is well-known that Anne was executed after King Henry VIII had decided that he was finished with her. But she had something to say before it was time to go...
Anne’s Final Words
Before she was executed, Anne Boleyn gave one final speech to those that had gathered to witness her execution: "Good Christian people, I have not come here to preach a sermon; I have come here 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 of that whereof I am accused and condemned to 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."
Anne No More
On the 19th of May 1536, Anne's final day would come. Anne was to be beheaded but was afforded the dignity of having the execution performed by an expert swordsman. Generally, axes were used, which weren't quite as clean. The Constable of the Tower where Anne was held reported that she had joked about having a small neck, which would make the execution even shorter. Indeed, her death was swift, and the swordsman beheaded her in a single stroke.
What Became of Her Legacy?
The Tudors had not quite seen the last of Anne’s legacy. While Elizabeth I the only child born to Anne and Henry, she became an illegitimate child when her parents’ marriage was annulled. Nonetheless, Elizabeth kept her mother in her heart. Her half-brother, Edward VI, ascended the throne at the tender age of only nine. He would die from what is now suspected to be tuberculosis six years after his coronation. Elizabeth’s half-sister Mary took over but died in 1558. Finally, twenty-two years after her mother’s execution, Elizabeth became Queen Elizabeth I.
The Virgin Queen
If you can believe it, Anne Boleyn’s daughter chose not to marry or give birth. Elizabeth established a reputation for herself as the Virgin Queen; a reputation quite unlike the other women in her family. This reputation turned out to be quite different from her father’s too, as she was a careful negotiator and a measured thinker. She lived nearly 70 years, which was a long time back then, and was well-loved by the people she led. In 1588, she brought England to victory against the Spanish Armada, which only cemented her popularity. If it weren’t for Anne Boleyn, we wouldn’t have the Elizabethan era, and we might not even have England as we know it today. As it turns out, Boleyn’s ancestors are still alive today. Can you guess who they are?
Anne’s Living Ancestors
While Elizabeth I bore no children, Mary Boleyn had two, and we can trace their ancestors right up to the present day. Elizabeth Knollys married Sir Thomas Leighton and was the great-niece of Anne Boleyn. Kate Middleton is related to Leighton and Knollys, and curiously enough, Prince William is too. It turns out that Prince William and Kate Middleton are 11th cousins once removed through a Baronet named Sir William Blakiston, and Prince Harry and Meghan Markle are very distantly related through Ralph Bowes fifteen generations ago. Prince Charles and Princess Diana are seventh cousins once removed, and Queen Elizabeth and her husband, Prince Phillip are second cousins once removed, as well as third cousins. They share the same grandmother: Queen Victoria.
The Woman that Changed British History Forever
Can you imagine what England would look like today without Anne Boleyn? Considering the time she was working in, Queen Anne was almost something like a feminist. She refused to sleep with Henry VIII until they were married and ran her own household without her husband’s influence. As Queen, she remained outspoken but was influential even before she was coronated. Boleyn climbed right to the top by seducing a King and left an important legacy that will last as long as human history. England might even still be Catholic without Anne Boleyn!
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