On this day in 1536, Anne Boleyn was beheaded at the Tower of London, charged with high treason against her husband; King Henry VIII. As I have a huge interest in Tudor history, I thought I’d share with you some facts about Anne Boleyn, her life, and her execution. Here we go…
Contrary to popular portrayals, Henry was much nearer in age to Katherine than to Anne Boleyn. Katherine was only five and half years older than Henry, whereas Anne was between ten – sixteen years younger than the King (the exact year of her birth is debated).
Anne was not considered typically attractive during the time in which she lived. She had dark hair and dark eyes in an era that prized a pale complexion and fair hair. She was, however, very striking and fashionable.
Anne captivated Henry’s attention for a long time. The couple were courting for seven years prior to their marriage. Henry’s wish to marry Anne was the catalyst for the separation of the English Church from Rome and the Pope. Henry made himself Supreme Head of the Church of England in order to divorce Katherine, and this lead to the dissolution of the monasteries. For this reason, and for being the mother of Queen Elizabeth I, Anne is a very influential figure in history.
In the January of 1536 Anne miscarried a child, identified as male. Had this boy lived, Anne’s position would’ve been secure. Henry’s one true desire was to have sons that could carry on the Tudor dynasty after he was dead. This motivated his divorce from Katherine, the downfall of Anne, and his hasty marriage to Jane Seymour (just eleven days after Anne’s death).
In my opinion Anne Boleyn was innocent of all the charges laid against her. She was a clever, ruthless, determined woman, who had become Queen after years of scheming. Anne was not the sort of woman to risk everything she had won, against all odds, for a love affair. She was quick-witted and flirtatious, and this was used against her in building evidence.
Anne was not the only one sentence to death in order for Henry to remarry. Five men were executed for being her lovers, and therefore for committing treason. One was a commoner, the musician Mark Smeaton. Three were gentlemen and popular members of the court; Henry Norris, William Brererton, and Sir Francis Weston. The last was Viscount Rochford, George Boleyn; her own brother.
‘I heard say the executioner was very good, and I have a little neck.’
As Anne was to be killed by a sword and not an axe there was no block. Instead she knelt upon the scaffold, blindfolded.
No coffin had been prepared for Anne so instead her body was placed in a chest that had been used to transport bow staves to the Tower of London. Her ladies insisted that no man should touch the body of the Queen and so they wrapped and carried her remains themselves.
So there you have it… a little jaunt through Tudor England.
I’ve just finished reading ‘Bring Up The Bodies’, the sequel to ‘Wolf Hall’. Both are told from the perspective of Thomas Cromwell, and are a really good read for those that want to delve deeper into the rise and fall of Anne.
P.S As you can see, I’ve created some new illustrations of the six wives of Henry VIII, & their mottos. What do you think?