Anne Boleyn

The Downfall of Anne Boleyn

The beginning of Anne Boleyn story

Born in 1507, Anne Boleyn was a talented, cultured, young English girl, who was educated in the courts of Europe. When Mary, sister of Henry VIII, married the king of France, Anne was included in her retinue. Besides becoming fluent in both English and French, Anne was a skilled dancer, musician and fashion designer.
Then, as now, blond, fair-skinned young ladies in Europe were considered the most attractive. Anne was neither. She had dark skin, dark eyes and long black hair. She had a large mole on her neck and was rumoured to have an extra finger on one hand. She could be caring and sympathetic, but also vengeful and ruthless.

When Anne returned to the English court in 1521, her elder sister Mary was mistress of King Henry VIII. The king’s wife, Katherine of Aragon was then barren, having had one surviving child, a daughter.

In the English court, Anne attracted many suitors, among them Henry Percy, the Duke of Northumberland, and Sir Thomas Wyatt, a famous poet, who was also her cousin. However, she seemed to have little interest in romantic affairs unless they could further her personal ambition.

Around 1526, Anne attracted the interest of the king himself. However, she refused to become his mistress as her sister had done; Anne was determined to be queen or nothing.

Henry had been trying for years to obtain an annulment to his marriage from his first wife, Katherine. He was extremely anxious to have a son to carry on his lineage. Katherine had only given him a daughter, and could have no more children.

The Pope refused to grant Henry an annulment. The king decided to break England’s ties with the Vatican, and start his own church. He declared himself Supreme Head of the Church of England and granted his own annulment. Katherine was imprisoned in the Tower of London, where she eventually died.

What happens next?

Finally, in 1533, Anne gave in to Henry, and she became pregnant. Henry was forced to do something in case the baby was his long-desired son. He married Anne secretly, even though he was still technically married to Katherine. Preparations began for an elaborate ceremony during which Anne would be anointed and crowned as queen of England.

During Anne’s pregnancy, Henry’s eye began to wander again. On September 7, 1533, Anne gave birth to a daughter, Elizabeth. The queen realized she was in great danger if she did not produce a son.

Anne had other problems besides. She was unpopular with the people, many of whom regarded her as a home-wrecker. They were also unhappy with England’s break with the Roman Catholic Church. When Henry had Sir Thomas More, a popular statesman,, beheaded for opposing his marriage, they blamed the queen for his death.

The queen’s problems continued to grow. In 1534, she became pregnant and miscarried the child. In 1536, a son was born prematurely and he died. Henry was furious and blamed Anne for the death. He determined to be rid of her.

On manufactured evidence, Anne was accused of having sexual relations with five men, including her own brother. On May 2, 1536, she was sent to the Tower of London. Since everyone from the king down to the commoners wanted her gone, Anne was convicted. She was executed on May 19, 1536. The five gentlemen were also killed.

The downfall

Since she was the first queen in English history to be beheaded, her request to die by sword rather than by a blow from an axe, was granted. Swords were sharper, so death was believed to occur quicker and less painfully.

Since no coffin was provided, Anne’s decapitated body was stuffed into an arrow box. Her head was tucked snugly under her arm. She was buried in the chapel of the nearby Tower of London, undoubtedly one of the most tragic figures of British history.

Some claim to have seen her spirit, carrying its head, drifting along the halls of the infamous tower to this day.

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