20 Interesting Facts about Anne Boleyn

I started the latest series for the Anne Boleyn Files and Tudor Society YouTube channel, “Facts about…”, with some interesting facts about Catherine of Aragon, first wife of Henry VIII, so I thought I’d better follow it with one on Anne Boleyn, even though I’d done a Top 10 Facts about her in the past. So, I’ve shared 20 more interesting facts about this second wife of Henry VIII.

I expect, as an Anne Boleyn Files follower, that you know most of them, if not all of them, but enjoy the video anyway!

And here’s my previous one on Anne Boleyn, in case you missed it:

And this is the one I mention on the spelling of “Boleyn”:

Here are links to the playlists I mention:

And here is my Catherine of Aragon video:

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10 thoughts on “20 Interesting Facts about Anne Boleyn”
  1. Thanks for these very helpful questions and facts on Anne Boleyn. They will also be helpful to someone starting out on Anne Boleyn as they cover a good range of her life. I love these videos and your lovely site.


    1. differently it’s be a honour to be inspired anne life she is differently my favourite queen on earth to become in heaven hello by name with her brother george and catherine howard in peace

  2. I thought the same thing, for the novice it’s a perfect way to introduce Anne Boleyn, these facts also clear up many of the myths about her.

  3. Anne Boleyn was by no means the most perfect human being on planet earth, but then none of is are and yet she continues to either be worshipped as a feminist martyr and icon or to be maligned. There is real controversy around Anne because she achieved something impossible. Queens had been replaced before in the marriage bed, not too often but they had been, one for as little a wrong as being ugly or so her husband said. Their only real crime was not having male children or any children at all. However, they were always replaced by another royal bride. So what was different about this time?

    Why was Anne Boleyn replacing Katharine of Aragon so difficult and so different? Well for one thing Katharine wasn’t going to budge and Henry didn’t force her out. Although he did abandon Katharine in the end as well as Rome and get his own divorce, he went through a long series of actions to get his marriage annulled, during which time, he remained publicly committed to Katharine, treated her as Queen and continued to live with her as his wife. He also took a pragmatic approach that the annulment would be granted. For at least four or years Henry proceeded with his case based on the advice of Cardinal Thomas Wolsey and moved at a patient pace. Katharine, meanwhile played a counter movement match and there seemed to be no end to it all.

    Others had been persuaded to accept the annulment of their marriage or been given little option but Katharine fought back and she had powerful backing. The fact was that from the moment the armies of Charles V marched into Rome and sacked it in 1527, Henry Viii was never going to be granted any annulment and Katharine knew it. Henry could have forced her to comply by committing her to a convent but its unlikely that she would have agreed even then and that would only provoke Charles. So the snails pace of the annulment went plodding along and Henry had the mistress and the wife, both of them very determined strong women, giving him one hell of a time. Eventually Anne pushed Henry into action and after the disaster of Blackfriars in 1529 the first step towards a break through was taken when Henry dismissed Cardinal Wolsey. The problem now was the case was in Rome and for two more years nothing very much happened.

    However, Anne made a bold move. She told Henry about a book which had been confiscated from her lady and after it was returned, she got him to read it. This was the Tyndale manoeuvre which saw Henry reading his book Obedience of a Christian Man and seeing himself as not governed by Popes or prelates. The book appealed to his ego and the King took a series of measures to remove the power of the Vatican in England. He forced the clergy to submit to him and was declared Head of the Church as far as the law of Christ allowed. This was later changed to make Henry Supreme Head and Protector of the Church. Henry Viii had broken from Rome but he still lived with Katharine and wore the shirts she made for him. Enter Anne yet again.

    Henry was now persuaded to abandon Katharine in 1531 and move his wife to the Palace built by Wolsey, the More. It was very palatial and it is still being studied for its actual layout. Katharine at first wasn’t under house arrest or confined, she had a full staff and was attending grand events. This would change, however after Henry’s marriage to Anne with several restrictions and although she lived in comfort, some of the houses had hidden damp problems and her health declined. She was also separated from her daughter, Mary, who was srnt to live with Princess Elizabeth. With the removal of various obstacles and the death of Archbishop William Warham in 1532, the path was now clear for Anne to marry Henry. The impossible had been achieved as Pope Clement still refused to budge and Katharine never accepted that she wasn’t Queen. Katharine wouldn’t go into religious retirement either and at one point it must have seemed that Katharine would remain Queen forever. Its all this that makes Anne’s achievements of the Crown as remarkable. She wasn’t a member of another royal house either so this wasn’t a new alliance with a dowry and everything, but a love match between a passionate couple who had been through it all to get what they wanted.

    This annulment and new marriage was expensive in terms of money and the politics and power struggle between the three people involved. The country had paid in terms of traditional religious faith and being now separated from the rest of Christendom. The people and nobles and even some of Henry’s loyal friends and servants would suffer in terms pf their lives. Turmoil had barely been avoided and freedom to say what one thought on the matter was now turned into treason. It would cost many more their commitment in blood and even Anne and five others would pay the price with their heads because this also changed the King.

    Anne was blamed for much of the spilled blood and her own reputation was deeply sullied along the way. She was blamed for taking the King away from his beloved wife and daughter. She was blamed for the death of More and Bishop Fisher. Then Henry destroyed Anne and her reputation with terrible lies and false charges of multiple cases of adultery and incest and plotting to kill him with those lovers. Here Anne gained a lot of sympathy and even at her execution people showed her respect and murmured against her fate. The fall out, however, is the cause of so much myth around her and her family.

    If Anne is exhonorated then her parents are blamed for putting her in the King’s bed, or they are blamed for not riding to her rescue. If Anne died, then its karma because she mistreated Princess Mary or someone else. The number of myths around Anne are staggering. We need to address them with facts. The only way to untangle the nonsense is to tell her story in the simplest way. There are many myth busting facts in these videos. Only by repeating them can we educate people who are naturally fascinated with Anne, but really only know the myths.

    1. Yes those who decried Anne blamed her for the king leaving Katherine, but he was on the point of doing so before he ever met her, as he was increasingly worried at the lack of a son, to put away one wife and replace her with another was nothing new, it had been done before so Henry was quite confident that he would be able to get an annulment , it was said the king read the passage in Leviticus where it decreed that it was sinful to marry his brothers wife as you thus uncovered his nakedness, and the marriage would be barren, I do sincerely think that Henry pious and deeply religious and god fearing as he was, was of the belief that his marriage was cursed, and to prove his point, he had many dead children as testimony, many wives had gone quietly before without fuss, they accepted the situation and retired to a nunnery yet lived in comfort still, and some had children to comfort them,and the women who replaced them did not cause a stir either, but the situation regarding Henry Anne and Katherine was very different, Katherine was appalled because her husband was saying to her utter astonishment, that their marriage had been no marriage at all, and they had merely been living in sin for many years, Katherine was incensed and extremely worried because it meant that Mary would lose her status as Henry’s true born heir, however legally her situation would not be changed, because if a marriage was entered into in good faith, any child born of that union would still be recognised as legitimate, but Katherine knew her husband was planning to marry Anne and get a son on her, she was also much loved very popular and been queen for two decades, the clergy were incensed so were Henry’s lawyers, and Wolsley and the people of England to who revered Katherine, so we can see why people hated Anne, she was blamed for stealing the king away from his wife, the country folk reviled her if there was a bad harvest and yet, we know no woman can make a husband leave his wife unless he wants to, she was called a wh*re which she was not, she was blamed for the harsh treatment merited out to both Katherine and her daughter, and yes the deaths of More and Fisher, the break with Rome which was shocking in itself because England had been Catholic for centuries, she was called the wet nurse of heresy, and her name really was mud because she was blamed for all this upheaval, and really it was all down to Anne saying ‘no’ to Henry, he wanted her in bed but she was too proud to do that, it is really amazing when we consider, and to her contemporaries to who must have thought the same, that this king turned his realm upside down just because some flighty young woman was unwilling to jump into bed with him, a queen was replaced, a new church was founded the country lost its ties to the seat in Rome, a new religion was born just because of a kings lust and obsession, had it not been for Anne Henry would eventually have married another, a foreign noblewoman maybe, Wolsley favoured a French marriage and Katherine may have retired to a nunnery without fuss, yet would he have still used Leviticus to promote his cause, it was a rather weak one to because the Pope of the day had allowed a dispensation for their marriage and Katherine had been crowned, also on the other hand, the passage in Deuteronomy said that it was considered holy and noble to marry ones sister in law, if she was a widow, Henry did not have a very good argument and also she was the aunt of the Emperor Charles who had the Pope in a vice, getting an annulment would not be easy, and she still was in love with her husband so any divorce/ annulment would have been extremely painful to her, it is very sad when we think of Katherine and her dilemma but also we can understand Henry’s need for a Prince, she knew he had been paying court to one of her own ladies in waiting, a mere knights daughter and the court was agog with gossip, eventually she learnt that her husband wished to marry her, why should she make way for some one so socially inferior to her just because he was blinded by lust? Anne Boleyn was not queen material why give way to one of her own ladies? We can see her mind thinking he’s been in love before and it will soon burn itself out, there was Bessie Blount as an example and several others down the years, also Mary Boleyn, but there was something about Anne that held the kings interest and he fell madly and blindly in love, Chapyus reported back to his master that the king cannot leave her for an hour, the kingdom and Europe were astounded at the way this king behaved himself, he was like a man possessed, he was Anne’s devoted servant, and and he remained so for seven long years whilst he strove to rid himself of his queen,he lavished gifts on her, sent her ardent passionate letters. and elevated her to the peerage, the people muttered in the streets Katherine refused to back down and the threat of war from Spain loomed ever near, Anne grew ever more hated and she knew it, and over the years due to frustrated ambition, she became increasingly bad tempered and arrogant, she bewailed her passing youth and began to speak out about Katherine and her daughter, the queens stubbornness infuriated her and the Lady Mary was insolent toward her and still called herself the princess even after Elizabeth was born, her path to the throne had not been easy and after all the kerfuffle, after she had been crowned and anointed she was dead in just three years, she became a legend the minute she raised her eyes to the king and said ‘no’, no other woman had ever dared refuse him, she was unique because her refusal to become mistress eventually earned her a crown, but her glory was short lived which proves you should not rely on Lady Luck, when she died the legend endured because she became the first queen to be executed, and myths have arisen around her since, she was a sorceress the king even said so, she had six fingers on her left hand, she had a deformed baby, the Beefeaters at the Tower are also responsible for the many myths in her story, but their job is to entertain the eager onlookers as they crowd around the scaffold memorial on the green, Anne’s rival and predecessor fared better than her and his first queen, because she presented him with his longed for son, but her glory was also short lived because death claimed her soon after, none of Henry’s other queens made such an impact on his reign as Anne Boleyn did, theirs was a very real love story, and we have King Henry’s letters to her which give us an insight as to his very deep feelings for her, what we cannot understand is his complete abandonment of her, after striving to possess her for so long, but human nature being what it is, fickle and contrary whilst basically not making much sense, is the raw fact that having wanted something for so long, when that someone or something comes into that person’s possession, it begins to lose interest, once the hind is caught, the thrill of the chase is over, and Henry besides wanting Anne also wanted a son, her character also had changed from being ‘sweet and cheerful’ as she was described when young, to insolent arrogant ill tempered, distrustful and she argued with plenty at court, she began to weary the king who fell out of love with her, they quarrelled and he began to notice a quiet young lady amongst her household, a lady from a big fertile family with sons, he liked her respectful manner towards him so unlike his sarky tongued queen, Anne’s final miscarriage sealed her fate and I believe then that the king decided she had to go, though he was still outwardly supporting her they were set to travel to France that spring, he was disenchanted with her and thought she could never give him a son, together with Thomas Cromwell they began to plot the seeds of her destruction, the lady had no chance, unpopular as she was, with no powerful country behind her, and the king wishing to rid himself of her, her end was inevitable, but what was so shocking was the swiftness of her fall and unprecedented death, that is why to this day, Anne Boleyn remains the most controversial and fascinating of all Henry V111’s wives.

      1. Some commentators say Henry questioned the legitimacy of his marriage as early as 1514, which kinda makes some sense as he had been married for five years without any sign of an heir and he had been to war. He had left Katharine in charge and she won a great victory over the Scots and then lost another child. There isn’t very much evidence for this but Henry certainly had plenty of reasons to be anxious, including a perceived attempt to remove him in Edward Stafford, 3rd Duke of Buckingham and before 1524 he had suffered several accidents and one near fatal infection. However, there really isn’t any solid evidence for an actual move towards an annulment until 1526.

        Anne and Mary Boleyn had certainly been around the Court since 1520 and 1522 when Mary was married and when both took part in the Shrove Pageant of the Chateaux Verde. Both entered the service of Katharine of Aragon and we actually know very much about them during the next four years. Mary has two children, Catherine and Henry and several grants are given to her and her husband by the King, but we know little else. Then there is the mystery of the first move for an annulment in 1526 when a private commission met to determine the legality of Henry’s marriage. This was before his pursuit of Anne Boleyn. As you said, Henry was genuinely concerned about the legitimacy of his marriage because he had married his brother’s wife and he saw in Leviticus that he may have sinned by doing so and would be childless. Leviticus is a difficult text and the interpretation may be incorrect as the text says sleeping with the brothers wife, not widow. To uncover the nakedness of someone meant to commit adultery, to sleep with their wife. It doesn’t really mean widow, although I guess it can be taken that way. You would need an expert in Jewish Law and tradition and the Talmud as well as other texts to understand what it actually meant. That’s well beyond my knowledge. You have to remember the Bible was written in Hebrew and Greek and Aramaic and not Latin or English. The texts found since the sixteenth century are older than the Bible Henry Viii knew, older and far more accurate than the Bible scholars of his day had to study and we know far more now about the meaning of texts because of older discoveries. However, we can only work with how they did interpret this text and how its usually interpreted, which was that if you married your brothers wife, then your marriage will not be blessed with children, interpreted by Henry’s clerical advisors to mean no sons.

        I agree that Henry genuinely believed this to be a serious problem and that it wasn’t simply something he had a headache over. Many countries had a problem with the idea of a female ruler. Hundreds of texts existed that said women couldn’t do the same things as men. The reality of women having power was quite different to the theory, but that didn’t change anything. No law said a woman couldn’t rule in England, although they were excluded in France. Even then Queens ruled as Reagents for a King more normally in France than they did in England. Spain had a series of female rulers, as did Navarre and the Netherlands. The sixteenth century saw a collection of female rulers around Europe. Women were recognised as capable rulers, but men still preferred to have themselves in charge. Even the Vatican was dominated at this time by a batch of highly influential, highly intelligent and powerful women. Yet a load of nonsense was being circulated by printing regarding women as other or as far below the intellect of a man. Henry had real fears and concerns about the security of the throne if he left it to a woman. Yet, Mary had the education of a male ruler. She was also sent to Ludlow in order to learn to rule. Henry was a better theologian than many priests and he understood Scripture well. He genuinely did believe everything he said about the annulment, that he and Katharine had sinned by marrying and thus God had withheld his blessing from them via children. This was a common belief, he didn’t invent it. His conscience bothered him and nothing anyone said changed that. This was the first reason for wanting an annulment. Remember, Henry wanted to remarry, so divorce was out of the question, but proving a marriage wasn’t valid was far more difficult.

        Katharine counter arguments make sense from her point of view as well. Henry and Katharine had been given a dispensation to marry by the Pope. Katharine insisted her marriage to Arthur wasn’t valid because they hadn’t consummated the marriage. Although everyone assumed at the time the young couple did consummate things, the dispensation allowed for all eventualities. It actually didn’t appear to matter. Henry had a duty to marry Katharine and her lawyers argued that as a childless widow he had to provide for her and give her an heir for her dead husband. Male relatives had a duty under Deuteronomy Laws to widows. The Book of Ruth is a perfect example of this. Katharine later swore that she was a virgin when she married Henry and the archives in Spain provided historians with testimony that backs up her story. I think Arthur being 15 and drunk on his wedding night was actually incapable and merely thought he had consummated his marriage the next day and was boasting. Evidence suggested that Katharine was quiet and embarrassed and even cried, hardly the actions of a satisfied bride. Arthur and Katharine were separated for three weeks while it was determined if they were old enough and well enough to live together. Sex was considered unhealthy for young men. As they got on well, they moved in together. They then moved to Ludlow where they didn’t live in a damp castle but in wealthy and luxurious and refurbished royal apartments on which Henry Vii had actually spent a fortune. They would also have lived in the separated house at Ludlow for more privacy. The number of fireplaces and the panels give us an indication of the luxury the young couple endured. They were not ill for their first few months but fell ill in March 1502. Why they then failed to consummate their marriage is a complete mystery. Arthur was ill for a few weeks and then Katharine became ill. Up to these last weeks there was no indication of him being ill beyond normal childhood illnesses and so he certainly wasn’t a weak child. He took part in sport and was active in learning to rule. Arthur died on 2nd April aged 16. His young wife was too ill to be told at first and when Elizabeth and Henry heard the news they were inconsolable. 36 years old Elizabeth made a rash decision which killed her, to give Henry a replacement son as they now had one son left from three. Theories about the cause of death vary widely, including testicular cancer which explains why he couldn’t consummate his marriage, tuberculosis, the sweating sickness which should really be dismissed and some kind of plague. We might also consider a genetic disorder that might also have affected the children of Henry and Katharine, his sons Henry Fitzroy and Edward vi. If this was the case, what ailed Katharine? In any event Katharine was most likely truthful and Henry obsessed with his conscience.

        Where Henry did go wrong was to ask for a dispensation to marry Anne Boleyn, even though she wasn’t actually named. He asked to marry a woman he loved even though he had previously slept with her sister. This of course was incest but permission was granted all the time. Maria, Katherine’s own sister married two brothers. Richard iii married Anne Neville, daughter of Richard Neville, Warwick the Kingmaker and had to obtain two dispensation documents as his brother was still married to her older sister, Isabella. Two brothers and two sisters is double no no. It did not stop them having healthy sons, even though Prince Edward of Middleham later died of some kind of infection when he was between 8 and 10 years old and Anne was infertile afterwards. George Duke of Clarence and Isabella Neville had four children, a girl born during the voyage to flee England, who died and Margaret, later Margaret Pole, and Edward, later Earl of Warwick, both living into full adulthood and another son who died. Margaret and Edward of Clarence were both executed, so who knows, and Margaret was 69. Edward was 25 when he was executed. If these people had healthy sons and daughters and married within normally forbidden degrees, then Henry’s argument falls flat. Henry Viii also waited more than 18 years and really only pursued an annulment fully when he fell for Anne Boleyn.

        I agree as I said that Henry’s marriage was probably over when he looked for an annulment but he was unable to obtain a private one and Katharine found out and objected. By 1527 Henry and Anne were in a relationship and she offered herself as an alternative wife. Her refusal to be Henry’s mistress is well documented and that made Henry want her more. However, it is probable that Henry wanted to refrain from sexual intimacy in order to prevent Anne becoming pregnant and risking an illegitimate child. They seem to have had similar aims and this was most likely a mutual decision. Henry’s desire for a legitimate son and heir was long term and genuine but after so many years the marriage was ended because he was passionate about Anne Boleyn and would do everything to have her. Anne made herself available to Henry as a new wife, she promised him sons and they marched on as a partnership. Although Anne is often seen as a homewrecker, it was Henry who initiated the annulment and who just simply had to have a son to succeed him. If he hadn’t have met Anne maybe he might not have pursued an annulment quite so passionately, but there is one thing I do believe, if he did obtain one without Anne in the picture, then a French Princess was on the cards because Cardinal Wolsey thought for a time this was Henry’s intentions and he pursued such a possibility on his master’s behalf. Anne Boleyn might have been the real driving force behind Henry’s actions, but the need for a son was the initial catalyst and was extremely urgent.

  4. 12th April, yesterday, Easter 1533, Anne came into Church to hear Mass and was dressed as a Queen and treated as Queen for the first time in public. She processed to Mass accompanied by 60 ladies, dressed in velvet and scarlet and wearing Royal jewellery. She was now formally Queen Anne Boleyn.

    The day before Anne had been prayed for as Queen and the Council told to pay her homage as Queen. Queen Katharine was visited by agents of the King and William Blount, her servant was told to give her the bad news that she was legally no longer Queen. She was now to name herself Dowager Princess of Wales, accept the will of the King and she would want for nothing. However, Katharine refused and never accepted and she was threatened with the loss of access to her daughter, Mary. She must have been very distressed at this and she was unwell at the time as well. However, Katharine was strong willed and resilient and believed herself to be the true wife of Henry Viii. Of course she refused and lost contact with her daughter and friends. Henry kept up with the pressure on her but to no avail. Katharine lived and died a Queen of England.

    1. This event, triumphant as it was, was of course criticised by Chapuys as presumptuous but that’s to be expected because of his loyalty to Queen Katharine and a devout Catholic who believed that Henry’s marriage with her was totally legitimate. The case was still in Rome and he believed that the decision hadn’t yet been reached. He wasn’t even certain that Anne and Henry had been married, although he knew the rumours. Without the decision in Rome, Anne’s marriage to Henry wasn’t legal in the eyes of the Catholic Church because Henry was still married to Katharine and the English Church gave up the right to decide in the manner with her appeal. Before this, Cardinal Wolsey had complete power to investigate the matter and to hear it, but Katharine put on end to that. Once Rome was involved, literally nothing very much was likely to happen, simply because Clement Vii procrastinated and the Emperor saw to it that no realistic decision was possible. Oh Henry had a number of agents in Rome, but whenever his cause tried to move forward, the Pope made threats and Henry was still subject to him, so they were taken seriously. It was Anne’s accidentally introducing Henry to the William Tyndale, who actually disapproved of Henry’s divorce, which made the breakthrough in the case. Henry’s theological argument was actually a load of rubbish because Leviticus had no standing in his case and Deuteronomy took precedence. There are other reasons his case failed theologically, which is why he was legally in a bind and he was never going to win. However, the break from Rome paved the way for a decision in England, not in the Courts but via a Commission at Dunstable and this declared Anne and Henry’s marriage lawful. It also dissolved Henry’s marriage to Katharine. So now Anne was officially Queen and officially married to Henry and appeared in public as such and be hailed as such as well as prayed for as Queen. Anne could now look forward to her coronation and she was four or five months pregnant. However, as far as Rome was concerned and as far as Chapuys was concerned and most people around, Henry was still married to Katharine and had committed bigamy. Chapuys never accepted Anne as Queen, never would and only met her once for a few seconds. Anne might be triumphant, but she couldn’t escape public or private censure.

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