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THE SIX WIVES OF HENRY VIII

 

Travel is people. You may go abroad to see the famous sites, but what you remember best are the people you meet. Among them, like unex-pected treasure, are a few memorable contacts that will make your travels unique, special, and delightful. "People" is devoted to some of those you may come in contact with during your Home At First travels.

WIFE #2 — ANNE BOLEYN

This article first appeared in May, 2007.                                                           Most recent update: 2013.

VII Things You Don't Know About

Henry VIII's VI Wives

III Catherines, II Annes, & I Jane

— IIND OF A SERIES —

Wife II —

Anne Boleyn


I.

Anne Boleyn grew up a courtier, first in England, then as a teenaged attendant to Mary, Queen of France, who happened also to be sister to England’s King Henry VIII. She learned French, and became fond of French fashion.

PORTRAIT OF QUEEN ANNE BOLEYN BY AN
UNKNOWN ARTIST SEVERAL DECADES
AFTER HER DEATH.

Portrait of Queen Anne Boleyn done by an unknown artist several decades after her death. PD-Art.

Cardinal Wolsey, Chancellor of England, who put an end to the romance between Anne Boleyn and Henry Percy. His failure to secure an annulment of the marriage of Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon led to his downfall. PD-Art.

II.

Anne returned to England at around 21 years old and became an attendant to Catherine of Aragon, wife of King Henry VIII. Anne became

engaged to marry two different noblemen, but both engagements were called off, the

second — to Henry Percy — was forbidden by none other than Henry VIII’s principal minister/advisor, Cardinal Wolsey, probably at the insistence of the king.

CARDINAL WOLSEY, CHANCELLOR OF ENGLAND,
PUT AN END TO THE ROMANCE BETWEEN ANNE BOLEYN
AND HENRY PERCY. WOLSEY'S FALL FROM POWER
OCCURRED WHEN HE DID NOT ARRANGE THE ANNULMENT
OF THE MARRIAGE BETWEEN KING HENRY VIII & QUEEN
CATHERINE OF ARAGON SO THE KING COULD MARRY ANNE.

III.

Anne’s older sister Mary—also an attendant in Henry’s court—had an affair with the king. While married to

another man, Mary bore a son that was assumed to be the king’s.

She called the boy Henry.

MARY BOLEYN, OLDER SISTER OF ANNE, WAS
A MISTRESS OF KING HENRY VIII BEFORE
HE KNEW ANNE. SHE BORE A SON, HENRY,
BELIEVED THE SON OF THE KING. THE BOY
WAS LATER KNIGHTED BY HIS COUSIN—AND
POSSIBLE HALF-SISTER—QUEEN ELIZABETH I.

Mary Boleyn, older sister of Anne, was a mistress of King Henry VIII before he knew Anne. She bore a son, Henry, was believed the son of the king. The boy was later knighted by his cousin--and possible half-sister--Queen Elizabeth I. PD-Art.

Anne Boleyn, shown in a sketch attributed to Hans Holbein the Younger. PD-Art.

IV.

In her late twenties Anne caught the eye of the king. Although Henry’s intentions were clear and not noble, Anne managed

to deny the king’s advances,
maintaining a principle of becoming his

queen and not being his mistress. As a result, Henry VIII began examining the potential of ending his long marriage with Catherine of Aragon, an inquiry that led to annulment or divorce six years later. During these years, Henry was clearly smitten with Anne. At least 17 love letters from Henry written to Anne at this time still exist. They are archived in — of all places — the library at the Vatican!

ANNE BOLEYN WAITED SIX YEARS FOR HENRY TO BE FREE TO MARRY. HER
MARRIAGE LASTED BARELY 1,000 DAYS. BUT THEIR MARRIAGE CHANGED
HISTORY.     
Drawing of Anne attributed to Hans Holbein the Younger.

 

V.

While Anne and Henry waited for a legal means to end his marriage with Catherine of Aragon, the king lavished her with gifts, including a noble title, Marquess of Pembroke. By the end of 1532 Henry had

broken Anne’s will — she was pregnant with the king’s child. Not long into 1533 they secretly married, despite the king still being married to Catherine of Aragon. In Henry’s mind, however, Catherine could never have been his legitimate wife, because she had been his brother’s wife and the Old Testament of the Bible decrees that childlessness will result from such a union. At Henry’s urging, Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury, annulled his marriage to Catherine. The Pope reacted by threatening Henry with excommunication. Henry, already aware of the stirrings of the Reformation, and perhaps covetous of the power and wealth of the Roman Church in Britain, created the Church of England with the monarch as titular head. The break with Rome now meant Henry and Anne were clear to marry.
 

Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury and minister to King Henry VIII. Cranmer granted the king an annulment of his marriage to Catherine of Aragon, clearing the way for the coronation of pregnant Anne Boleyn, already secretly married to Henry. Portrait by Gerlach Flicke from 1564. PD-Art.

ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY
 THOMAS CRANMER GRANTED
HENRY VIII THE ANNULMENT HE
 SOUGHT FROM  CATHERINE OF ARAGON, LEADING TO THE
CREATION OF THE PROTESTANT
ANGLICAN CHURCH. CRANMER
WAS BURNED AT THE STAKE IN
 OXFORD AS A HERETIC DURING
 THE REIGN OF CATHOLIC QUEEN 
('BLOODY') MARY I, DAUGHTER OF QUEEN CATHERINE OF ARAGON.

Queen Elizabeth I, c. 1575. Believing women unqualified for the English throne, her father, King Henry VIII, challenged the Pope and the Holy Roman Empire in his quest for a male heir. He divorced Catherine of Aragon to make pregnant Anne Boleyn queen. When Anne bore a girl child, but no living sons, Henry had Anne executed. Ironically, the girl child eventually became one of England's greatest and strongest monarchs, Queen Elizabeth I, shown in this portrait attributed to Nicholas Hilliard from c. 1575. PD-Art.
QUEEN ELIZABETH I, DAUGHTER
OF QUEEN ANNE BOLEYN
AND KING HENRY VIII
.-

VI.

That spring Anne — wearing a gold dress—sailed in a long procession from Greenwich upriver to the Tower of London.

The Tower of London was then one of the fortified royal palaces where British

monarchs lived. Here she was made ready for her coronation as Henry VIII’s second queen. On June 1 Anne was escorted to Westminster Abbey where Archbishop of Canterbury Cranmer crowned her Queen of England. She was already six months pregnant. All of England were hoping for a male heir. Indeed, three months later Henry’s great heir was born, but this future monarch was not male. Anne’s daughter would grow up to become Queen Elizabeth I and lead Britain during its first Golden Age.

 

VII.

Over the next 2½ years, Anne became pregnant twice more,

but each time miscarried. Now in

her thirties, Anne’s reproductive window was closing. She had also made powerful enemies in the court. And, Henry VIII had noticed a younger courtier, an attendant to Anne Boleyn named Jane Seymour. In the spring of 1536, Thomas Cromwell, a power-hungry protégée of the king, mounted a vicious case of treason against Anne Boleyn on alleged multiple extra-marital affairs with various nobles, including her brother, George, Lord Rochford. The Queen and several “co-conspirators” were arrested and imprisoned at the Tower of London. Anne Boleyn was incarcerated in the same quarters where she had prepared for her coronation only three years earlier. Trials took place, but the six defendants were not

King Henry VIII. Portrait attributed to Joos van Cleve from about 1531, during his extra-marital affair with Queen Anne Boleyn. PD-Art
KING HENRY VIII. PORTRAIT BY JOOS VAN
CLEVE FROM ABOUT 1531, DURING HIS
EXTRA-MARITAL AFFAIR WITH ANNE BOLEYN.

permitted a defense. Her brother was executed on Tower Hill, near the site of Tower Hill Underground Station. Two hundred and fifty yards to the south, the other five defendants were beheaded at Tower Green inside the walls of the Tower of London. Before she died, Anne Boleyn reportedly said: “I heard say the executioner was very good, and I have a little neck.” She also said, “…God save the king and send him long to reign over you, for a gentler nor a more merciful prince was there never.”
          After her execution, the head and body of Anne Boleyn were interred in the Chapel of St. Peter ad Vincula inside the Tower. Visitors to the Tower of London may visit her gravesite. (For other locations associated with Anne Boleyn in and near London you can visit, see: the Tudors.)

 


Live like a Queen when you come to London.
Stay at HOME AT FIRST’s Apartments at St. Katharine’s Marina.
They’re all named after their famous neighbors at the
Tower of London next door: the wives of Henry VIII.
For example, see HOME AT FIRST's
Anne Boleyn Apartment.

 

— END OF PART TWO —
LEARN ABOUT HENRY VIII & ALL SIX OF HIS WIVES:

HENRY VIII

CATHERINE OF ARAGON

ANNE BOLEYN

JANE SEYMOUR

ANNE OF CLEVES

KATHRYN HOWARD

KATHERINE PARR

TRAVEL MAKES HISTORY COME ALIVE

— HOME AT FIRST —