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Anne Boleyn Has Had a Bad Reputation for Nearly 500 Years. Here's How One Historian Wants to Change That
A s the second wife of King Henry VIII, Anne Boleyn was one of the most powerful women in the world in the 16th century. In fact, Henry&rsquos desire to annul his first marriage to Katherine of Aragon so he could pursue Anne is widely credited as a key factor leading to England’s astounding break with the Roman Catholic Church in 1533. Even so, her peers at the Tudor court didn’t hold back when it came to their ideas about her. Contemporary descriptions of Boleyn painted her as a seductress, as power-hungry, and even as a witch with six fingers who enchanted the king.
And those descriptions stuck.
For hundreds of years, Anne Boleyn’s bad reputation has run throughout both conventional historical narratives and popular depictions of this time period. And there’s been no shortage of them: The story of the woman who had been Henry’s queen for only three years before he ordered her beheading in 1536, on charges of treason, has retained public interest &mdash look no further than the film The Other Boleyn Girl, in which Natalie Portman portrays Boleyn as a scheming temptress, or the television series Wolf Hall, featuring Claire Foy&rsquos Anne as part of an ambitious and social-climbing family.
But for historian Hayley Nolan, those portrayals of Boleyn raised several unanswered questions.
&ldquoI wanted to get to the truth of why and how Henry could do that to Anne,&rdquo says Nolan. &ldquoThen in researching him, I discovered that everything we&rsquove been told about Anne is not the truth.”
Nolan&rsquos new book, Anne Boleyn: 500 Years of Lies, is part biography and part historical exposé, challenging the conventional sources often used to explore Boleyn&rsquos life while highlighting the queen&rsquos humanitarian, religious and political efforts.
Many popular histories paint Boleyn as setting her sights on Henry in pursuit of power, and the king making the ultimate sacrifice for love in choosing to break with Rome in order to wed her. Much has been made of the love letters Henry VIII wrote to her. Although undated, the surviving letters of their correspondence (only Henry&rsquos remain Boleyn&rsquos have not survived) are thought to span almost three years.
As Nolan’s account makes clear, however, the king had been making inquiries in secret about divorcing Katherine of Aragon years before Boleyn came on the scene, and Boleyn actually resisted the king&rsquos advances. She ran away from the royal court for a year starting in the summer of 1526 to escape, and those love letters appear to encompass the time when she was absent from court, distancing herself from his advances. &ldquoThe historians who do acknowledge this say it was a calculated tactic and sexual blackmail &mdash the ultimate example of &lsquowhen a girl says no, she really means yes,&rsquo&rdquo says the historian. &ldquoThere are historians who are calling Henry&rsquos harassment love letters and claim that he sentenced the queen he loved to death. I&rsquom sorry, but the manner in which a man kills a woman does not prove his love for her. If it can end in decapitation, it was never love.&rdquo
Nolan sees parallels with how some stories about women are told today. Earlier this fall, a New Zealand jury found a 27-year-old man guilty of the murder of British backpacker Grace Millane. His defense rested on the claim that Millane had died accidentally during consensual sex several media headlines about the case were criticized for disproportionately focusing on Millane&rsquos sexual history.
&ldquoEven if people try and say [the Tudor period] was a different time, no it wasn&rsquot,&rdquo says Nolan. &ldquoIt&rsquos always trying to discredit the victim when actually we need to be defending the victim &mdash that&rsquos why we can&rsquot dismiss the romanticization of Anne&rsquos story. It filters down and has an effect.”
No part of Boleyn’s story makes that clearer than the end.
Boleyn was arrested along with five men she was accused of committing adultery with &mdash one of whom was her own brother George &mdash in May of 1536. She was tried first and found guilty of adultery, incest and high treason, including the charge that she planned to kill the King so she could elope with a lover. But by this time, Henry was already deeply besotted with his own mistress Jane Seymour he would be betrothed to her the day after Boleyn&rsquos execution.
Nolan suspects there was more to the story than adultery, a contentious issue about which historians have disagreed for decades. Many historians suspect that the charges against Boleyn were at least exaggerated and at worst wholly fabricated by Thomas Cromwell, an adviser to Henry who was engaged in a power struggle with the Queen Nolan argues that the Queen’s lack of privacy and her deeply held religious beliefs would have made it difficult to be unfaithful at all, much less with multiple men.
Two months before her execution, Boleyn was involved in passing nationwide legislation titled the Poor Law, which stated that local officials should find work for the unemployed. The law entailed creating a new governing council that rivaled the one headed up by Cromwell. &ldquoSuddenly we have a much more devastating reason as to why Cromwell would be immensely threatened by the Queen,&rdquo says Nolan. &ldquoShe wasn&rsquot a ruthless bully or seductress she was actually a working politician who died for pushing this radical anti-poverty law through parliament.&rdquo While the law’s creation has long been attributed to Cromwell, Boleyn’s involvement was recognized as part of U.K. Parliament Week this November.
The traditional historical interpretation of Anne Boleyn has relied on sources that obscured that part of her story. For example, Nolan says, the Spanish Ambassador Eustace Chapuys is a source of much contemporary writing about her, but he was a supporter of Katherine of Aragon. And even beyond the ambassador, the people who kept the records in the 1500s and the people who interpreted them in the centuries that followed tended to be overwhelmingly male. To Nolan, they brought the perspective that women only achieve power by “trickery.”
And, she argues, correcting Boleyn&rsquos story has broader implications for the way women&rsquos stories are told. &ldquoWe send out a dangerous message to the world when we tell readers and viewers that women only want power for selfish and frivolous reasons,” she says. “When we tell readers that Anne was killed because she had a string of torrid affairs, it implies that women deserve their downfall.”
In Women and Power: A Manifesto, classicist Mary Beard traces the roots of misogyny all the way back to the Ancient Greeks, finding the image of the poisonous Medusa transposed onto contemporary female leaders, including Angela Merkel and Hillary Clinton. In the U.K., this year several female politicians have announced they will not run in the upcoming December general election, citing increasing abuse in the form of death and rape threats. It was this climate that left Nolan determined to make Boleyn’s story heard.
“Her story is more relevant now than ever before, because she was a politician who was taken down,” says Nolan. “This is still happening, and this is why we need to learn what really happened in order to make sure that history never repeats itself ever again.”
Anne Boleyn - History
Anne Boleyn, attributed to John Hoskins
Born: Between 1500 and 1509
Probably at Blickling Hall
Married to Henry VIII: 25 January 1533
Probably at the Palace of Whitehall
Executed: 19 May 1536
The Tower of London
Buried: 19 May 1536
Chapel of St. Peter ad Vincula at the Tower of London
For a woman who played such an important part in English history, we know remarkably little about her earliest years. Antonia Fraser puts Anne's birth at 1500 or 1501, probably at Blickling (Norfolk) and the date of birth seems to be at the end of May or early June. Other historians put Anne's birth as late as 1507 or 1509.
Anne spent part of her childhood at the court of the Archduchess Margaret. Fraser puts her age at 12-13, as that was the minimum age for a 'fille d'honneur'. It was from there that she was transferred to the household of Mary, Henry VIII's sister, who was married to Louis XII of France. Anne's sister Mary was already in 'the French Queen's' attendance. However, when Louis died, Mary Boleyn returned to England with Mary Tudor, while Anne remained in France to attend Claude, the new French queen. Anne remained in France for the next 6 or 7 years. Because of her position, it is possible that she was at the Field of Cloth of Gold, the famous meeting between Henry VIII and the French king, Francis I.
During her stay in France she learned to speak French fluently and developed a taste for French clothes, poetry and music.
The legend of Anne Boleyn always includes a sixth finger and a large mole or goiter on her neck. However, one would have to wonder if a woman with these oddities (not to mention the numerous other moles and warts she was said to have) would be so captivating to the king. She may have had some small moles, as most people do, but they would be more like the attractive 'beauty marks'.
A quote from the Venetian Ambassador said she was 'not one of the handsomest women in the world. '. She was considered moderately pretty. But, one must consider what 'pretty' was in the 16th century. Anne was the opposite of the pale, blonde-haired, blue-eyed image of beauty. She had dark, olive-colored skin, thick dark brown hair and dark brown eyes which often appeared black. Those large dark eyes were often singled out in descriptions of Anne. She clearly used them, and the fascination they aroused, to her advantage whenever possible.
She was of average height, had small breasts and a long, elegant neck. The argument continues as to whether or not she really had an extra finger on one of her hands, but it seems to be unlikely.
Life in England and the Attentions of the King
Anne returned to England around 1521 for details for her marriage were being worked out. Meanwhile she went to court to attend Queen Catherine. Her first recorded appearance at Court was March 1, 1522 at a masque.
After her marriage to the heir of Ormonde fell through, she began an affair with Henry Percy, also a rich heir. Cardinal Wolsey put a stop to the romance, which could be why Anne engendered such a hatred of him later in life. It has been suggested that Wolsey stepped in on behalf of the King to remove Percy from the scene because he had already noticed Anne and wanted her for himself. Fraser asserts that this is not the case since the romance between Anne and Percy ended in 1522 and the King didn't notice Anne until 1526. It is possible that Anne had a precontract with Percy.
Somewhere in this time, Anne also had a relationship of some sort with the poet Sir Thomas Wyatt. Wyatt was married in 1520, so the timing of the supposed affair is uncertain. Wyatt was separated from his wife, but there could be little suggestion of his eventual marriage to Anne. Theirs appears to be more of a courtly love.
Exactly when and where Henry VIII first noticed Anne is not known. It is likely that Henry sought to make Anne his mistress, as he had her sister Mary years before. Maybe drawing on the example of Elizabeth Woodville, Queen to Edward IV (and maternal grandmother to Henry VIII) who was said to have told King Edward that she would only be his wife, not his mistress, Anne denied Henry VIII sexual favors. We don't know who first had the idea of marriage, but eventually it evolved into "Queen or nothing" for Anne.
At first, the court probably thought that Anne would just end up as another one of Henry's mistresses. But, in 1527 we see that Henry began to seek an annulment of his marriage to Catherine, making him free to marry again.
King Henry's passion for Anne can be attested to in the love letters he wrote to her when she was away from court. Henry hated writing letters, and very few documents in his own hand survive. However, 17 love letters to Anne remain and are preserved in the Vatican library.
The Rise of Anne Boleyn
In 1528, Anne's emergence at Court began. Anne also showed real interest in religious reform and may have introduced some of the 'new ideas' to Henry, and gaining the hatred of some members of the Court. When the court spent Christmas at Greenwich that year, Anne was lodged in nice apartments near those of the King.
The legal debates on the marriage of Henry and Catherine of Aragon continued on. Anne was no doubt frustrated by the lack of progress. Her famous temper and tongue showed themselves at times in famous arguments between her and Henry for all the court to see. Anne feared that Henry might go back to Catherine if the marriage could not be annulled and Anne would have wasted time that she could have used to make an advantageous marriage.
Anne was not popular with the people of England. They were upset to learn that at the Christmas celebrations of 1529, Anne was given precedence over the Duchesses of Norfolk and Suffolk, the latter of which was the King's own sister, Mary.
In this period, records show that Henry began to spend more and more on Anne, buying her clothes, jewelry, and things for her amusement such as playing cards and bows and arrows.
The waiting continued and Anne's position continued to rise. On the first day of September 1532, she was created Marquess of Pembroke, a title she held in her own right. In October, she held a position of honor at meetings between Henry and the French King in Calais.
Sometime near the end of 1532, Anne finally gave way and by December she was pregnant. To avoid any questions of the legitimacy of the child, Henry was forced into action. Sometime near St. Paul's Day (January 25) 1533, Anne and Henry were secretly married. Although the King's marriage to Catherine was not dissolved, in the King's mind it had never existed in the first place, so he was free to marry whomever he wanted. On May 23, the Archbishop officially proclaimed that the marriage of Henry and Catherine was invalid.
Plans for Anne's coronation began. In preparation, she had been brought by water from Greenwich to the Tower of London dressed in cloth of gold. The barges following her were said to stretch for four miles down the Thames. On the 1st of June, she left the Tower in procession to Westminster Abbey, where she became a crowned and anointed Queen in a ceremony led by Thomas Cranmer, the Archbishop of Canterbury. [Read an account of her coronation]
By August, preparations were being made for the birth of Anne's child, which was sure to be a boy. Names were being chosen, with Edward and Henry the top choices. The proclamation of the child's birth had already been written with 'prince' used to refer to the child.
Anne took to her chamber, according to custom, on August 26, 1533 and on September 7, at about 3:00 in the afternoon, the Princess Elizabeth was born. Her christening service was scaled down, but still a pleasant affair. The princess' white christening robes can currently be seen on display at Sudeley Castle in England.
Anne now knew that it was imperative that she produce a son. By January of 1534, she was pregnant again, but the child was either miscarried or stillborn. In 1535, she became pregnant again but miscarried by the end of January. The child was reported to have been a boy. The Queen was quite upset, and blamed the miscarriage on her state of mind after hearing that Henry had taken a fall in jousting. She had to have known at this point that her failure to produce a living male heir was a threat to her own life, especially since the King's fancy for one of her ladies-in-waiting, Jane Seymour, began to grow.
The Fall of Anne Boleyn
Anne's enemies at court began to plot against her using the King's attentions to Jane Seymour as the catalyst for action. Cromwell began to move in action to bring down the Queen. He persuaded the King to sign a document calling for an investigation that would possibly result in charges of treason.
On April 30, 1536, Anne's musician and friend for several years, Mark Smeaton, was arrested and probably tortured into making 'revelations' about the Queen. Next, Sir Henry Norris was arrested and taken to the Tower of London. Then the Queen's own brother, George Boleyn, Lord Rochford was arrested.
On May 2, the Queen herself was arrested at Greenwich and was informed of the charges against her: adultery, incest and plotting to murder the King. She was then taken to the Tower by barge along the same path she had traveled to prepare for her coronation just three years earlier. In fact, she was lodged in the same rooms she had held on that occasion.
There were several more arrests. Sir Francis Weston and William Brereton were charged with adultery with the Queen. Sir Thomas Wyatt was also arrested, but later released. They were put on trial with Smeaton and Norris at Westminster Hall on May 12, 1536. The men were not allowed to defend themselves, as was the case in charges of treason. They were found guilty and received the required punishment: they were to be hanged at Tyburn, cut down while still living and then disemboweled and quartered.
On Monday the 15th, the Queen and her brother were put on trial at the Great Hall of the Tower of London. It is estimated that some 2000 people attended. Anne conducted herself in a calm and dignified manner, denying all the charges against her. Her brother was tried next, with his own wife testifying against him (she got her due later in the scandal of Kathryn Howard). Even though the evidence against them was scant, they were both found guilty, with the sentence being read by their uncle, Thomas Howard , the Duke of Norfolk. They were to be either burnt at the stake (which was the punishment for incest) or beheaded, at the discretion of the King.
On May 17, George Boleyn was executed on Tower Hill. The other four men condemned with the Queen had their sentences commuted from the grisly fate at Tyburn to a simple beheading at the Tower with Lord Rochford.
Anne knew that her time would soon come and started to become hysterical, her behavior swinging from great levity to body- wracking sobs. She received news that an expert swordsman from Calais had been summoned, who would no doubt deliver a cleaner blow with a sharp sword than the traditional axe. It was then that she made the famous comment about her 'little neck'.
Interestingly, shortly before her execution on charges of adultery, the Queen's marriage to the King was dissolved and declared invalid. One would wonder then how she could have committed adultery if she had in fact never been married to the King, but this was overlooked, as were so many other lapses of logic in the charges against Anne.
They came for Anne on the morning of May 19 to take her to the Tower Green, where she was to be afforded the dignity of a private execution. [Read the Constable's recollection of this morning]. She made a short speech [read the text of Anne's speech] before kneeling on the scaffold. She removed her headdress (which was an English gable hood and not her usual French hood, according to contemporary reports) and her ladies tied a blindfold over her eyes. The sword itself had been hidden under the straw. The swordsman cut off her head with one swift stroke.
Anne's body and head were put into an arrow chest and buried in an unmarked grave in the Chapel of St. Peter ad Vincula which adjoined the Tower Green. Her body was one that was identified in renovations of the chapel under the reign of Queen Victoria, so Anne's final resting place is now marked in the marble floor.
Why artistic license is so important
Before Mantel’s famous bestsellers, there were other fictions of Anne’s life that stressed her historical importance by mixing facts with inventions – even with fantasy. The Anne in Deryn Lake’s Sutton Place (1983), in a moment of fear, helps a sorcerer cast a spell as she realises she may not give Henry the son he needs.
Robin Maxwell’s The Secret Diary of Anne Boleyn (1997) adopts its diary form to imagine Anne’s most private thoughts. We follow her from her first days at the royal court to the night before her execution. Most of the real Anne’s writings are lost to history, but this novel works with our desire for the “true” story by imagining it at an emotional and psychological level.
Anne Boleyn was guilty of adultery, new biography claims
A new biography of Anne Boleyn is set to claim that, far from being framed for adultery, Henry VIII's second queen may not have been innocent of the affairs for which she was sentenced to death.
The widely held view among contemporary historians is that the charges brought against Anne – that she committed adultery with five lovers, including her brother – are too preposterous to be true, and were either trumped up by one political faction to do down another, or invented by Henry as a result of his desire to marry Jane Seymour, after Anne had failed to give him a son. But George Bernard, professor of early modern history at Southampton University and editor of the English Historical Review, believes that the queen could well have been guilty of some of the charges laid against her – or at the very least that her behaviour was such that it was reasonable for Henry to assume she had committed adultery.
Examining a 1545 poem by Lancelot de Carles, who was then serving the French ambassador to Henry's court, Bernard concludes that the poem, entitled "A letter containing the criminal charges laid against Queen Anne Boleyn of England," offers strong evidence that Anne did, in fact, commit adultery. She was accused of "despising her marriage" and "entertaining malice against the king", with her indictment claiming that "by base conversations and kisses, touchings, gifts, and other infamous incitations" she seduced men including the musician Mark Smeaton, chief gentleman of the privy chamber Henry Norris and her brother George, Viscount Rochford, "alluring him with her tongue in his mouth and his in hers". All five men, and Anne, were executed.
De Carles's poem, says Bernard, explains how Anne's affairs came to light, following a quarrel at court between a privy councillor and his sister who, on being accused of promiscuous living, points to "a much higher fault that is much more damaging" in the queen. Bernard identifies the lady as Elizabeth Browne, wife of Henry Somerset, second earl of Worcester, and her brother as the courtier Sir Anthony Browne, and says that clues offered in the poem can be supported by remarks made in contemporary letters.
"It's not that I've discovered the poem for the first time – it's been known to scholars because an edition was printed in the 1920s – but on the whole scholars have dismissed it because it's a literary source," said Bernard, who speculates that a reason for Anne's adultery could have been to try and produce a son for her intermittently impotent husband. "But it seems to me that [it presents] a plausible scenario – we can identify the accuser as the countess of Worcester, and we can link her to the queen."
Of the conclusions he draws from this latest evidence, Bernard says, "It's a hypothesis – not a proof. In a court of law you might not condemn her for the crime, but I don't think you'd acquit her either."
His biography, Anne Boleyn: Fatal Attractions, due out from Yale University Press in April, also disputes the view that Anne held back from sexual relations with Henry until he agreed to make her his queen, claiming that it is "highly implausible". He believes that it was Henry, not Anne, who held back, on the grounds that he wanted their children to be his legitimate heirs. "He would, I suspect, have been astonished and horrified to discover that later generations have supposed he did not sleep with Anne in those years because she would not let him," Bernard says.
What did Elizabeth I think of her mother, Anne Boleyn? Historian Tracy Borman explains
Did Elizabeth I and her mother, Anne Boleyn, have much of a relationship? Anne was executed when Elizabeth was just a young girl – but that didn't mean Elizabeth just forgot about her. So what did she think about her mother, Henry VIII's second wife? Historian Tracy Borman explains.
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Published: June 30, 2020 at 11:46 am
What did Elizabeth I think of her mother, Anne Boleyn?
On 19 May 1536, Queen Anne Boleyn, second wife of King Henry VIII, was executed by beheading within the confines of the Tower of London. She had been queen for just three years.
Anne and Henry’s daughter, Elizabeth – who became Queen Elizabeth I in 1558 – was just a small child at the time of her mother’s death. So how did Elizabeth I view Anne as she grew up?
Historian Tracy Borman explains…
“The popular misconception is that Elizabeth didn’t really regard her mother at all she only mentioned twice in her life. In fact, Elizabeth mentioned her a good deal more than that.
“But you can see why Elizabeth didn’t make a song and dance about her mother. She would have been upsetting swathes of the population by aligning herself to a woman who’d gone down as a scandal (as the ‘great whore’, as she was known). So Elizabeth had to be careful not to associate too closely with her.
“That said, Elizabeth expressed her loyalty in subtle ways. She promoted her Boleyn relatives at court and she wore Anne’s jewellery. For example, she had a locket ring that contained two portraits, one of Elizabeth and the other of Anne.
“That locket ring was kept in a locked casket by Elizabeth until the day she died. It was clearly one of her most treasured possessions.”
Watch: Tracy Borman on what Elizabeth I thought of her mother – in less than 60 seconds
Tracy Borman was talking to Rachel Dinning at BBC History Magazine’s 2017 History Weekend
Anne Boleyn (abt. 1501 - 1536)
In 1513, Anne was sent to France and trained in all the skills as a lady of the court by Margaret of Austria. She became fluent in French and impressed Margaret with her intelligence. In August of 1513, Anne was with her sister in France when Mary Boleyn served as fille d'honneur to Mary Tudor, Queen of France, when she married King Louis XII of France. When King Louis XII died in 1515 she joined the household of Queen Claude of France the queen of King François I.  
By 1522, Sir Thomas, Anne's father made a request that she be returned to England after the death of Queen Claude. Henry's sister Mary (Tudor) Brandon the Duchess of Suffolk appointed Anne to the household of Queen Catherine. Shortly after arriving in England, Anne became one of the Queen's ladies. That year, she attended and participated in one of the revels at the court of Henry VIII. 
Life with a King
It was around this time that the King began to take an interest in Anne. Thus began a struggle for the King to win Anne's affections. She aspired to become more than just another mistress and refused him. With her vibrancy and intelligence, she would woo Henry and then push him away. This continued for several years until Henry realized his only recourse was to marry Anne. His battle to obtain an annulment from Catherine had already begun.  
There were many letters exchanged between Anne and Henry. A year after Henry became enamored with Anne he wrote a letter to her:
" In turning over the contents of your last letter, I have put myself in great agony, not knowing how to interpret them, whether to my disadvantage, as you show in some places, or to my advantage, as I understand them in some others, beseeching you to earnestly let me know expressly your whole mind as to the love between us two. It is absolutely necessary for me to obtain this answer, having been for above a whole year stricken with the dart of love, and not yet sure whether I shall fail in finding a place in your heart and affection, which last point has prevented me for some time past from calling you my mistress because, if you only love me with an ordinary love, that name is not suitable for you, because it denotes a singular love, which is far from common. But if you please to do the office of a true loyal mistress and friend, and give up yourself body and heart to me, who will be, and have been, your most loyal servant, (if your rigour does not forbid me) I promise that not only shall the name be given you, but I will take you for my only mistress, casting off all others besides you out of my thoughts and affections, and serve only you. . H R " 
On 1 September 1532, she was, created Marchioness of Pembroke.  . Anne first secretly married Henry on 25 January 1533/4. Anne became pregnant and the Archbishop Of Canterbury Thomas Cranmer approve the annulment of Henry and Catherine's marriage.     On 19 May 1533, Henry publicly declared his marriage to Anne. He made Greenwich Palace, her home, and a great celebration took place. 
A Princess is Born
On 7 September 1533, their first child Princess Elizabeth was born at the Palace of Placentia. Elizabeth's birth was celebrated in full royal regalia. However, Henry wanted a male heir, which was a concern for Anne. Elizabeth was the only child that Anne gave birth to that did not die as an infant.  
The christening of the Princess was a grand affair. It took place at Greenwich Palace, and Dukes and Duchesses and many others were summoned to attend. The palace was decorated in true royal fashion. The Archbishop of Canterbury was Godfather and christened the baby girl. 
Jane Seymour had been appointed one of Anne's ladies, and the King took an interest in her. His dissatisfaction after three years of Anne not being able to produce a living male heir had grown. In April of 1536, Henry was admitting he had grown weary of Anne. 
She was accused of beguiling several men, committing adultery and incest, with her own brother George Boleyn, Lord Rochford. Anne along with these gentlemen were all convicted of adultery and plotting to kill the King. One of the men accused, Mark Smeaton initially denied the accusations, but eventually confessed and threw himself at the mercy of the King. Some of the other men accused were Sir Francis Weston, Henry Noreys, and, William Bryerton, they all pled not guilty but, were all convicted. A few days later, Anne and her brother George declared their innocence of the accusations.
" Your Grace's displeasure and my imprisonment are things so strange unto me as what to write or what to excuse I am altogether ignorant. Whereas you sent unto me, willing me to confess a truth and so to obtain your favour, by such an one whom you know to be my ancient professed enemy, I no sooner received this message by him than I rightly conceived your meaning and if, as you say, confessing a truth indeed may procure my safety, I shall with all willingness and duty perform your command." But do not imagine that your poor wife will ever confess a fault which she never even imagined. Never had prince a more dutiful wife than you have in Anne Boleyn, "with which name and place I could willingly have contented myself if God and your Grace's pleasure had so been pleased." Nor did I ever so far forget myself in my exaltation but that I always looked for such an alteration as now my preferment being only grounded on your Grace's fancy. You chose me from a low estate, and I beg you not to let an unworthy stain of disloyalty blot me and the infant Princess your daughter. "
They too were convicted and condemned to execution. The men were all drawn and quartered, while Anne was made to witness their torture.  
The Archbishop of Canterbury pronounced Henry's marriage to Anne null and void on 17 May 1536,  and on 19 May 1536 Anne was beheaded at the Tower of London, her punishment chosen by the King. The same day the Archbishop of Canterbury declared Anne's daughter, Princess Elizabeth illegitimate.   
The King's Great Matter
In 1528, Henry first sent an appeal with his secretary to Pope Clement VII to annul his marriage to Catherine of Aragon. However, Catherine was the aunt of Charles V, the Holy Roman Emperor, and the pope was being held prisoner by the emperor. Henry did not get the answer that he wanted, and so he asked Cardinal Wolsey to act on his behalf. Wolsey called an ecclesiastical court to consider the request, but the Pope's reaction was to forbid Henry from marrying until Rome decided the matter. Henry, dissatisfied with Wolsey's performance, and Wolsey was dismissed in 1529 from his position as chancellor, dying the next year. Henry replaced him with a lawyer, Sir Thomas More, rather than a priest.
In 1530, Henry sent Catherine to live in relative isolation and began to treat Anne at court almost as though she were already Queen. Anne, who had taken an active role in getting Wolsey dismissed, became more active in public matters, including those connected with the church. A Boleyn family partisan, Thomas Cranmer, became Archbishop of Canterbury in 1532.
That same year, Thomas Cromwell won for Henry a parliamentary action declaring that the king's authority extended over the church in England. Still unable to legally marry Anne without provoking the Pope, Henry appointed her Marquis of Pembroke, a title and rank not at all usual practice.
Anne Boleyn is one of history's most divisive figures
There are plenty of controversial kings and queens throughout history, but few have inspired quite as much fervor as Anne Boleyn, the young woman who enchanted a king to the point where he jumped through seemingly impossible hoops to marry her. only to later behead her for a variety of alleged crimes.
Born to the high-ranking Boleyn family sometime in the 16th century, Anne Boleyn rose through the ranks of both the French and English courts, eventually catching Henry VIII's eye. while he was married to Spanish princess Catherine of Aragon. When Anne refused to be Henry's mistress on the grounds that she needed to preserve her virtue for the sake of her family, Henry moved heaven and earth to divorce Catherine and marry Anne, breaking with the Roman church and the Pope himself to annul his first marriage through a complicated maneuver that took several years.
However, after Anne only bore Henry a daughter and miscarried several times — and her alleged temper and high spirits became supposedly tiring to Henry — the king figured out a way to dispose of Anne, accusing her of crimes that included treason, incest, and adultery. After several courtiers implicated with her, including her brother George, were convicted and executed, Anne Boleyn was beheaded at the Tower of London in May of 1536, three years after her coronation. According to some historians, Henry announced his betrothal to his third wife, Jane Seymour, that same day.
It looks like Turner-Smith, the first Black actress to play Anne, will depict the downfall and death of the strong-willed queen — which will make for a pretty fascinating story. The three episode series "Anne Boleyn" is set to air on England's Channel 5 soon, and Sony will distribute the series across the world.
Anne Boleyn was most likely born around 1499 or 1501 somewhere in July. Anne was Born in Hever castle which was the main home of the Boleyn family. At 16 Anne was sent to France to become a lady-in-waiting to Queen Claude of France. Anne was sent back to England to marry an English Earl. But the marriage never happened for an unknown reason. Anne was then sent to the English court to serve as a lady to Catherine of Aragon. Catherine's claim to the role Queen Consort of England and Ireland was weak because she had not given her husband Henry any heir. Henry started having affairs with Catherine of Aragon's friends. out of all of Catherine's ladies. Anne was his favourite. Henry split from the Catholic church to marry Anne. Anne was unpopular. People called Anne "Nan Bullen" and accused her of being a witch.
Anne soon gave birth to a healthy daughter to future Queen Elizabeth I. Henry was upset as Elizabeth was not a son. Henry had an affair with Anne's best friend Jane Seymour. Henry grew tired of Anne and beheaded her on May 19, 1536.