Anne Boleyn and Henry VIII’s Marriage: Doomed from the Start?

As I said in my article “A Timeline of Anne Boleyn’s Relationship with Henry VIII – From 1528-1533”, Anne Boleyn and Henry VIII got married in a secret ceremony on the 25th January 1533, nearly 7 years after Henry declared his love for Anne at the 1526 Shrovetide joust.

But what happened after they married?

We know that the marriage ended tragically, just over three years later, but was it always doomed? Were Anne and Henry unhappy from the moment they tied the knot?

Yes, it was doomed

  • Henry’s passion quickly abated – Alison Weir, in her book “The Lady in the Tower”, writes that “it had not been the happiest marriage” and also that “in the three years since their secret wedding in a turret room in Whitehall Palace, Henry VIII had not shown himself to be the kindest of husbands.”1 She continues by saying that Henry’s passion for Anne “rapidly subsided” and that he started to take mistresses from her first pregnancy, “telling her to ‘shut her eyes and endure as more worthy persons had done’… and that ‘she ought to know that he could at any time lower her as much as he had raised her’.”2 He turned from the earnest, desperate lover to an unkind and fickle husband.
  • The thrill of the chase was gone – Alison Weir writes of how the years of waiting had taken their toll on Anne and Henry. They had both fought so hard for the marriage so was it a bit of an anti-climax when it finally happened? Eustace Chapuys reported in August 15333 that the relationship had cooled and that Henry’s flirtations and Anne’s jealousy were causing problems.

  • Anne’s “shrewish” nature – Alison Weir writes of how Anne had become “haughty, overbearing, shrewish and volatile”4. David Starkey in his TV series “The Six Wives of Henry VIII” says “within the privacy of the royal bedchamber the tensions were increasing. It was acceptable for a woman to be difficult and demanding when she was the mistress but when she became a wife she was expected to be submissive. Anne Boleyn had refused to make the transition, with terrible consequences for herself; for that feistiness which had so fascinated Henry when he was wooing her, he found intolerable when she was his wife and queen, and he said so.”5
  • Henry “was no good in bed”6 – David Starkey says that Anne had her complaints about Henry too and apparently told a lady of her bedchamber that her husband was no good in bed.
  • Anne was in an impossible situation from the very start – As David Loades points out, “she had won the King by her charm and sexual panache, and could lose him the same way”, so Anne was jealous of Henry’s flirtations with other women and reacted with anger. Loades writes that from autumn 1534 the relationship became more and more “erratic” and that “Anne could never relax and although he was ultimately responsible for this edginess, Henry eventually began to find it tiresome.”7
  • Evidence of Eustace Chapuys, the Imperial Ambassador – As early as August and September 1533, he reported that the relationship had cooled, that Henry’s flirtations and Anne’s jealousy were causing problems and that “with the long time the King has been away from the Lady, that he has begun to repent.” In 1534, Chapuys wrote of how Anne wanted to send a beautiful woman away from court because Henry was paying her attention8.
  • Henry’s infidelity – Charles V wrote in Aug 1533: “It is said that the English nobles are ill-disposed towards Anne on account of her pride and the insolence and bad conduct of her brothers and relations. For the same reason the King’s affection for her is less than it was. He now shows himself in love with another lady, and many nobles are assisting him in the affair.”9 BUT Ives notes that this letter is actually dated wrong and is from autumn 1534, so not a few months after the marriage.

No, it wasn’t

  • George Wyatt’s evidence – George Wyatt, grandson of the poet Thomas Wyatt, wrote that “they lived and loved, tokens of increasing love perpetually increasing between them. Her mind brought him forth the rich treasures of love of piety, love of truth, love of learning; her body yielded him the fruits of marriage, inestimable pledges of her faith and loyal love.”10
  • Just lover’s quarrels – Although Chapuys reported in September 1533 that Anne was “full of jealousy, and not without cause” and that a heated argument had led to Henry not speaking to Anne for two or three days, Chapuys was quick to say that “no doubt these things are lovers’ quarrels, to which we must not attach too great importance”. G W Bernard points out that reports of quarrels “must be seen more as evidence of a tumultuous relationship of sunshine and storms than as precursors of the eventual disaster” because “First, Chapuys often cast doubt on the significance of the gossip he recorded. More than once he tempered his account of Anne’s jealous words by adding that no doubt these were lovers’ quarrels to which too great importance should not be attached. Secondly, Chapuys’ gossip must be set against the far greater weight of evidence which shows that Henry and Anne were often happily together and that, despite occasional outbursts, their marriage seemed set to last.”11
  • Many reports of Anne and Henry’s happiness – G W Bernard writes that “on many occasions the King and Queen were reported as merry, notably in October 1535 when they went on progress together. If then their relationship was at times frank, not to say quarrelsome; if something of the idyllic passions revealed in the love-letters written in 1527-8 had passed: none the less Henry and Anne were still very much man and wife in autumn 1535.”12
    Sir William Kingston commented in a letter to Lord Lisle on the 20th July 1533 that  “The King and Queen are well and merry”13, Sir Anthony Browne wrote to Cromwell on the 24th July 1533 “Today I received your letter dated London, 17 July, with news of the good health of the King and Queen and my other friends.”14,  “I never saw the King merrier than he is now” was what Sir John Russell wrote to Lord Lisle on the 6th Aug 153315 and George Tayllour wrote to Lady Lisle on the 19th August 1533, saying  “The King and Queen are in good health and merry.”16
  • Reports of the King being besotted with Anne – “They say in Flanders “that the King is abused by the new Queen, and that his gentlemen goeth daily a playing where they woll, and his Grace abides by her all the day long, and dare not go out for the rumor of the people.”17
    Eric Ives writes of how “In late October 1533 Anne’s maids of honour were repeating Henry’s brazen remark that he loved the queen so much that he would beg alms from door to door rather than give her up.”18
  • Reports of happiness as late as January 1536 – Although Chapuys reports that Henry had not been speaking much to Anne before her miscarriage in January 1536, G W Bernard states that we have reports of the couple rejoicing over Catherine’s death, Henry parading Elizabeth around happily and jousting. When Anne did miscarry a son, Bernard points out that “when Anne attributed her misfortune in part to her love for the King, so that her heart had broken when she saw that he loved others, Henry had been much grieved and had stayed with her”19. Anne was also quick to reassure her ladies by saying that she would soon be pregnant again. Bernard concludes that the evidence suggests “that the relationship between Henry and Anne was volatile, fluctuating between storms and calm” and although the happiness reported in the autumn of 1535 may have given way “to a period of coolness in early 1536…  this does not mean that Henry had finally tired of Anne, or that her miscarriage had irrevocably damned her in his eyes.”20
  • The King’s infidelity does not mean that he was falling out of love with Anne – Although we have reports of Henry having flirtations and Anne plotting with Lady Rochford to remove one damsel from court because she had caught Henry’s eye, we have to remember that it was a King’s prerogative to take mistresses and was common, particularly when his queen was pregnant. Even Jane Seymour may have been a passing flirtation if events had not conspired to bring Anne down.
  • Henry was committed to Anne – G W Bernard comments that even in early 1536, Henry was committed to Anne and to having her recognised as his Queen. “Once Catherine was dead, Henry could have passed the divorce over in silence, the more so if he was thinking of discarding Anne: instead he continued, obsessively, to insist upon the exclusive validity of his interpretation of canon law, as the instructions sent to his ambassadors in France show. The strongest evidence of Henry’s undiminished commitment to his marriage with Anne Boleyn appears in a most significant diplomatic development in April 1536”, the summoning of Eustace Chapuys to court and his “asking and getting Chapuys to recognize Anne”. Bernard concludes that “this offers compelling evidence that at least up to 18 April Henry still regarded Anne as his wife and had not the slightest intention of discarding her.” He points out that this “is reinforced by the fact that Henry dissolved the Reformation Parliament on 14 April. Between 1529 and 1536 he had frequently prorogued it: the dissolution of Parliament strongly suggests that he did not expect any urgent business which would require a Parliament for some time, possibly for several years. If Henry had already been thinking of getting rid of Anne, he would very likely have kept Parliament in being to deal with the problems of succession which a further divorce would cause: his failure to do so suggests that nothing was further from his mind.”21
  • Chapuys was a gossip, read too much into situations and got things wrong – Eric Ives talks of how Chapuys’ information was often tainted, in that it came from Anne’s enemies, and that he did get things wrong. Also, when Chapuys wrote of the new lady being “the damsel whom the king has been accustomed to serve”, Ives points out that the phrase “accustomed to serve” is the language of courtly love and chivalry, so is not describing a real, serious relationship. Ives concludes that “it is easy to see why an amour which remained superficial should attract a man anxious to appear a terror with women, but deeply uncertain of his capacities” and that while Anne was recovering from a miscarriage, Henry was simply using “a lady to serve” as a substitute.22
  • A passionate and volatile relationship – The thing is that Anne and Henry were lovers not just King and Queen, and their relationship had grown out of love, not out of diplomacy. They had lovers’ quarrels and their relationship was “storm followed sunshine, sunshine followed storm”. “In an ultimate sense, the problems of Henry and Anne arose from the fact that there was emotion in the relationship” and “the conventions of the day, of courtly love, of sovereign and consort, were simply not capable of accommodating the fierce passions which united Anne Boleyn and Henry Tudor.”23
  • The relationship suffered tension from external factors which worsened as time went on – It is no wonder that Anne and Henry argued when their relationship was put under so much pressure and stress. Eric Ives and David Starkey both talk of the tension caused by factors such as Mary refusing to recognise Anne and Anne being blamed for Mary’s treatment, Anne’s unpopularity and the hostility towards her, Anne being blamed for the religious and political changes which resulted in bloodshed, Anne’s struggle to give Henry a son and Anne’s French connections. David Loades writes that “Anne, rather like Wolsey, was entirely dependent upon the favour of the King, and she was skating on thin ice by the end of 1534”24 due to the constant tension caused by the behaviour of Mary and Anne’s unpopularity.

My Own Thoughts

Having read through contemporary reports and the various arguments put forward by eminent historians, I have to agree with Eric Ives’ view that Henry and Anne’s relationship was one where “storm followed sunshine, sunshine followed storm”. Both Anne and Henry were passionate people with hot tempers. They argued passionately and made up just as passionately. They might exchange cross words and sulk for a few days but it would all blow over and was quickly forgotten. Even Chapuys, a man who was always eager to report any breach in their relationship and any hope for a reconciliation between the King and Catherine, put their arguments down to “lovers’ quarrels, to which we must not attach too great importance”.

I do not believe that Anne Boleyn and Henry VIII’s relationship was doomed from the start but I think that it finally failed for the following reasons:-

  1. Anne’s jealousy, which was a result of her precarious position as Henry’s lover, not just his queen
  2. Henry’s belief that he was cursed – He began to wonder if his lack of a male heir was a sign that the marriage was cursed
  3. External factors which put pressure on Anne and Henry and which caused tension between them
  4. Anne’s enemies ‘drip-feeding’ Henry and making him doubt Anne in May 1536 and causing him to move against her – They knew Henry’s vulnerabilities and his paranoia
  5. Anne’s inability to provide Henry with a son

What do you think?

Notes and Sources

  1. The Lady in the Tower, Alison Weir, p10
  2. LP vi.1069, quoted in Weir
  3. LP vi.975
  4. Weir, p11
  5. The Six Wives of Henry VIII, David Starkey on Channel 4
  6. Ibid.
  7. The Six Wives of Henry VIIIDavid Loades, p68-69
  8. LP vii.1193
  9. LP vi.1054
  10. Weir, p10
  11. The Fall of Anne Boleyn, article by G W Bernard in English Historical Review, 1991
  12. Ibid
  13. LP vi.879
  14. LP vi.891
  15. LP vi.948
  16. LP vi.1004
  17. LP vi. 1065
  18. The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn, Eric Ives, p193
  19. Bernard
  20. Ibid.
  21. Ibid.
  22. Ives, p195
  23. Ibid.
  24. David Loades, p68-69

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60 thoughts on “Anne Boleyn and Henry VIII’s Marriage: Doomed from the Start?”
  1. Well written! I completely agree with you. There are so many factors that play in the downfall of their marriage. I think a lot of it really was stuff people were feeding to Henry and also his belief in being cursed.

    Not to mention – Anne is of Plantagenet descent too. Hot tempered they both were….(as the Plantagenets are WELL KNOWN for! And believe me, I should know. I’m descended from them myself and it’s still running strong in our family! LOL)

    Brilliant article! 🙂


  2. I couldn’t possibly agree with you more. One of the best articles you’ve written. I think you do have to look to Chapuys for some help. I agree that not all of his information would have been correct. You have to consider he ran in circles which would not have been favorable to Queen Anne. However, knowing that and seeing him repeat time and time again that he didn’t put too much stock in the rumors of the time is very telling. For what he heard and what he actually saw were clearly two different things. Instead Anne was much more of a victim of Henry having doubts and those around him being in position to pounce and to strike at the correct time. I’m not sure that if they had attempted this even a month later the result would have been the same. Henry and Anne may have made up again. Knowing this they acted swiftly and with deadly results.

  3. Excellent analysis, Claire. I agree that theirs was a passionate love affair that started with Henry’s infatuation with Anne but I think she ended up in love with him, too. Once married and pregnant (and all the insecurities that brings) of course she was jealous of other, younger women to whom Henry paid attention. I remember my own pregnancies and there were lots of teary times for my poor husband! And, when she had a daughter rather than a son, that made her position shakier. But I think the attraction between these two was such that Henry could not leave her alone, even though he got angry sometimes. His own jealousy, played upon so brilliantly by Anne’s enemies, came from his passion for her and his inadequacies as a lover. By this time, he was in his early 40’s and his sexual powers were beginning to wane. This natural fact of aging would have thrown a man like Henry off his game, to be sure! So, he could more easily believe she might seek satisfaction elsewhere–the lust of women was quite respected back then–no Victorian guilt in the Tudors!

  4. She played with fire and got her fingers burnt which she deserved, So many people died as a result of her need for power in return for ‘love’ it becomes hard to feel sympathy for her. Once Henry was free of the the restraint of the Church he regarded himself as having a God given right to do whatever he wanted regardless of it being either right or wrong as he considered himself above the laws of Church and society.

    She chose a bad man and because of her flawed judgement along with so many others who were innocent of anything paid the price.


    1. Hi Jennie,
      I have to disagree with you on various points:-

      I don’t think anyone deserves to be treated the way that Anne was, executed for something that she did not do.
      I think she was and is used as a scapegoat for the deaths of people like More and Fisher. Ultimately, their deaths were down to Henry who could not abide anyone rebelling against him.
      I don’t think she married Henry for power, she married him because he chose her and she fell in love with him.
      She may have ‘created a monster’ in that it was through her and her Reformist views that Henry saw that he was only answerable to God and not to the Pope, but she cannot be blamed for the atrocities that Henry carried out.
      She did not choose a bad man, a bad man chose her. Anne was a woman, she did not have choices, particularly when it was a King who wanted her. I also don’t see that she had flawed judgment and that this led to people paying the price.

      Just my twopennies worth!

      Thanks so much for your comment.

      1. Well said! I too was once chosen by a “bad” man and my whole family and all my friends blamed me for choosing him. The fact was, once I realized what he was, there was no way out. And the judgmental friends and family wanted nothing to do with helping me, as they were all scared of him which made me even more trapped. But I escaped eventually. Anne Boleyn had no escape and never would have dreamed in a million years what was in store for her. And if we had any choice in who we fall in love with I would choose a 99 year old billionaire!

      2. I agree with you clare, we may be fast to consider all that was going on at the time, and blame it on Ann, some which she had no control over. Anyone in her situation, a new Queen at such a time with those circumstances, it was tough for her from the time she became Queen. But I’m still sad at how men such as her father used their daughters for personal gain. It is not a good thing when lady’s are denied the choice to follow their paths and have to submit to family obligations and the likes. Thrown to such cruel and ruthless men of influence. Her execution was most unjust, no matter what she did or did not do. In my view it shows weakness of character on the part of the King.

      3. Good counter Claire, I think when we look at Anne Boleyns’ situation, we must also consider the times, social customs and hierarchies as well as the role that men and women were expected to play at that point in time.
        It really ISN’T as simple as ‘she chose him’….In that I think you are right Claire, she as well as everyone in that court was beholden to the king….obviously and (a very volatile one at that) so being ‘noticed’ by him was not always a good thing, regardless of favor. For example we also have to take into account that often times a king would ‘grace’ someone with his presence in their home with the intent to ruin them since it was expected that he be treated as a king in their home. This would financially obligate and burden them with the manner in which he was accustomed to living.
        Also, Anne lived in a time where women were used as political bargaining chips for rank and social standing in society through marriage and I’m guessing her father did NOT spare her any pressure nor did he castigate her for welcoming the kings advances. As in most dances, the woman does NOT lead and I highly doubt that she would have or could have actively pursued the king if he did not desire her in the first place. That is the prerogative of kings.
        As for the way it ended Jennie, I’m sure that if you consider her place as his subject: Queens did not have more power than their kings BUT queens did have some protection if they had familial backing. It would not be a good idea to stir the pot with another country by treating their princess badly but Annes family had no such clout and usually queens were a tool for politics and succession anyway but ultimately the dynamic of kings and queens were NOT mutual lovers who got to choose each other.Also, once the sh*t hit the proverbial fan, I think you can easily see that its far smarter and less dangerous for everyone to blame her rather than the king. Would YOU point the finger at the man who would chop your head off with less qualms than cracking an egg?
        I’m sure Anne must’ve felt giddy with the amount of sway she held and it must’ve given her the false impression that she could act on her feelings as she saw fit, but perhaps what she may have lost sight of was that while, as you say she chose a bad man, he may be a man but he was a man that saw himself as king FIRST and that, on top of his personality made navigating the waters of a relationship very dangerous and unstable, especially once he gained more power.
        If you pair that up with the inability to give him what he wanted: A son, she essentially had no leverage when the sharks started circling and I think as everyone well knows how gossiping starts out with something small that ends up being twisted into something sinister or totally lewd, depending on how popular or UN popular you are you quickly start to realize how high the stakes are when you’re dealing with people in power.
        I had once been in a relationship with a man who’s ego grew exponentially with his bank account and let me tell you sister, I could not have recognized him from the man I met. Hell, considering the way WE ended (it was NOT good) you’d think he would have some humility and loyalty with the woman who stocked his house because he couldn’t afford it and willingly rode the bus with him because he had no car…I recognized he had some insecurities and a little unwarranted arrogance from the get go but I was not anticipating how badly it would get out of control and he wasn’t any king but I digress; you get my point…. Sometimes what you end up with is NOT what you started out with and a little bit of power goes a very wrong way with some people. That being said, I’m sure Henry’s superiority complex went out of control and outgrew his love for her once he set himself above the church and then she found herself holding a tiger by the tail.
        One thing that I’m surprised that no one has mentioned is the fact that Anne did not grow up royal and therefore received no tutelage on being queen. She was as she was and behaved as she always had, probably thinking that since it yielded no danger before that there was nothing wrong with her temperament or acting on her desires as his lover rather than a queen whose duties and political responsibilities as well as expectations of domestic conduct as a queen were anything but a cake walk and I’m sure she was very quickly high up in that tree on a very precarious limb before she had a chance to look down so it must have been terrifying to her. I won’t go so far as to play devils advocate here but I do believe she over-played the cards she was dealt at some point, that is all. In any case, she was put where HE set her, sadly for her, it was right on the chopping block.

    2. She didn’t have a choice on being pursued, she was used by
      men in her family for power and Henry because he could. She was
      murdered in cold blood because another man wanted his power to
      grow, along with the power hungry Seymours shoving Jane into his

  5. Very good article, Claire. I don’t think the relationship was doomed from the start, but a lot of factors having no connection to Henry and Anne’s feelings put them under pressure and finally led to a tragic failure. However, I believe that passionate relationships between two hot tempers could hardly last more than a few years. And Henry knew that he could not end up in divorce with Anne, because she was too impulsive and would eventually cause many problems, affecting his image (although his image has been more affected by his decision to sentence her to death!).
    And even if Anne would have provided Henry with a male heir, I think in several years they would have ended up separated, because Anne was not able to accept infidelities. She required to be wanted and respected all along.

  6. You hit the nail on the head once again Claire…….I have often thought how nice it would have been to have gotten a “Shrinks” opinion on our Henry!! A doctor from today….He had issues, maybe he never grew up do you think. Always wanted to be with the boys so to speak. Who paid the price, the women in his life paid the royal price. All around him could see his mood swings of which there were many. Seems nothing really kept his interest for a very long time including war. Imagine what Oprah could have found out if she could interview Henry. If made to answer for his deeds I often wonder what Henry would say as to the whys and wherefores of his actions? I do believe our Henry would be considered a spoiled brat and very much hung up on himself. Can you even begin to believe how difficult it would have been to be around him…..whew!!!!!

    1. Thanks, David. I think Henry had major issues! He wanted a woman like his mother but he also wanted passion and excitement. He loved Anne’s passion, feistiness, intelligence and the way that she had the courage to stand up to him, but at the same time he also wanted a submissive wife. I don’t think Anne could win – if she had changed after their marriage and become the perfect Tudor wife then Henry would have got bored but he got fed up of her aggression because she did stay the same. I think he was also fickle and was a hopeless romantic, always looking for Miss Right and enjoying the thrill of the chase, then getting bored. His poor wives!

  7. I agree with Claire’s remarks. I think the political climate doomed Anne and why Henry allowed it to happen is beyond me. I will never understand why he allowed her to be killed. I think she was the great love of his life and probably regretted her death to the day he died. Personally I do not think she really loved him but went for him as it was because he demanded it and she felt she had no choice. After all when the King says he wants you, what do you do except say yes. Really too bad she did not die of the sweat and thus avoid the terrible death she had to face. Always makes me wonder why some people have to die so horribly in life. But I think she is much admired today and Henry is not admired. I only have of contempt for Henry VIII. I do admire the life of Anne. Don’t you know she was thankful for Elizabeth’s reign of truimph>>

    1. “After all when the King says he wants you, what do you do except say yes.”

      If you’re the mother of the future “Princes in the Tower” and the king wants you, you draw a knife and threaten his you-know-whats apparently. :-p

      I personally do think their marriage was doomed from the start, just as any marriage after his first was, because by then all the politcal plotters had figured out Henry was easily manipulated and all they needed to get their way was a willing wench with a pretty face.

  8. This article is very thought provoking! However, I would like to add a couple of points that make me believe that they were doomed, though perhaps not from the start. Anne’s inability to deliver the heir that Henry craved would have opened the door for him to doubt her and to listen to her powerful enemies. And more than Anne’s sheepish nature, I feel like Henry’s colossal ego was more of an impediment to a marriage with a woman who was his intellectual equal.

    In no way did she deserve the injustice that ended her life, though few here would see her as a saint. She was certainly a flesh and blood woman of intelligence and ambition and Passion. I believe the extent that Henry went to have her and her consistent popularity with lovers of history are a powerful testimony the extraordinary woman that she was.

  9. How could Anne be to blame when It was Henry who persued the relationship. Anyways, Henry was the king and no one said no to the king, right?
    Anne was already aware of the kings behavior with women since her own sister was pregnant with his baby. Did Anne’s daughter Elizabeth know Mary Bolelyn’s child? They would have been cousins, right?

    1. Exactly, Julie.
      Yes, Elizabeth was close to the Carey children. She made Henry Carey a knight and baron and rewarded him with many important offices, and Catherine Carey was Elizabeth’s Chief Lady of the Bedchamber.

  10. I believe that Anne and Henry were far too alike in personality for the marriage to have truly worked. They both had a fierce temper and enjoyed getting their way. I also believe that Anne failed to transition into the role of a wife instead of a mistress. For seven years, Henry was delighted with her opinions and bold personality. When he married her, he expected her to fill the role of a wife, but even more so, a Queen. Having bold opinions and a temper is not suitable for a queen, especially in Tudor England. It wasn’t until Elizabeth that the role changed. Perhaps Anne was centuries early, but this miscalculation made her vulnerable to her enemies. She didn’t deserve to be executed for it, but she was unprepared for the role of Queen.

    There are other examples in history of women who gained the love of a King, but were unprepared for the demands of being a Queen. Notable, Elizabeth Woodville and Empress Elisabeth of Bavaria. I think if Anne had been open to help for her new position or even received any help, she would have survived better.

    1. I’m not sure that the marriage would have worked even if Anne had become the submissive Tudor queen that Henry expected her to become because then she wouldn’t have been the Anne he fell in love with. Their marriage was based on love, not diplomacy, so Anne had to keep Henry’s love and his interest and I think she wanted to remain the woman he had fallen in love with. I think Henry’s expectations were impossible to live up to. It’s the whole “cook in the kitchen, wh*re in the bedroom” thing!

  11. I recently read Alison Weir’s book and her argument is that Henry did not intend to get rid of Anne, but he was maneuvered into it by Cromwell and couldn’t back down. This was a new point of view for me, because I always thought he wanted to get rid of her, and Cromwell figured out how to do it. I think Claire is right when she says that Henry was always looking for a woman like his mother. His other wives fit that picture-except Catherine Howard, who was too young. Catherine Parr was sometimes openly motherly.

    I am new here and am thrilled to find other people as obsessed with the Tudors as I am. I am glad that other people didn’t like Phillipa Gregory’s portrayal of Anne. I read the book but didn’t see the movie because I did not like the historical inaccuracy. I am going to read her book on Margaret Beaufort because I don’t know a lot about her and don’t feel as strongly about her as I do about Anne Boleyn.

    1. i think henry was obsessed with anne and really got under his skin and in his warped mind he decided if she was dead she couldnt get to him anymore also with anne that much younger and “much prettier” than henry i would say he was very jealous of all the young courtiers around while he got progressivly older ,fatter, uglier,and more loathsome and impotent as well ,so he convinced himself she ,anne was evil and had to be done away with ,while cromwell did have a hand in it along with others it was henry who signed the death warrants .

  12. I don’t believe the marriage was necessarily doomed from the beginning, and I obviously don’t agree with a word Weir writes. Anne had come to love Henry, and as much as he was capable of, Henry loved Anne.
    I think enemies of the Boleyns were only able to drip feed Henry with rumours about Anne because by 1536 his love for her had waned. They would not have dared do so unless they knew his love for her had waned or it would have been them facing the executioner. Henry believed what he wanted to believe.
    I suppose you could argue that the marriage was doomed from the start, but only because the husband, and the shallow nature of the man, was incapable of enduring love and loyalty, even toward the love of his life.

  13. I also believe that another factor that caused the demise of the marriage and Anne’s downfall was the people’s hatred and loathing of Anne herself. Many of the people looked to her as a strumpet who was displacing Queen Catherine who was loved by the common people. Henry had always enjoyed the popularity of the common people and I think he believed that the people would accept Anne and grow to love her like he did. If Elizabeth had been the male child Henry desired or if Anne had given him a son, I think they would have eventually accepted her, but when she failed to have a son and had miscarriages after Elizabeth was born, I think the people continued to hate her. They blamed her for the bad crops and the changes occurring in England when many of the events going on were not of her making and out of her control. Henry started feeling their displeasure and wrath and with the ever present threat of invasion by the Emperor on behalf of his aunt and cousin, the Princess Mary, I think he started to blame Anne for the people turning on him too.

    Anne, in my opinion, just like Catherine of Aragon, were victims of circumstances, many of which were beyond their control and Henry himself was the puppetmaster pulling all the strings.

  14. Brilliant article!! You explained it all so perfectly, Claire, thank you!!

    I totally agree with you about the sunshine that followed the storm and so on. I think that the royal marriage had the potential to succeed but there was too much pressure on Anne and Henry. If only Anne had had a son, she could finally relax and deal with the problems in a different way. She would be much less defensive, I think

    “In late October 1533 Anne’s maids of honour were repeating Henry’s brazen remark that he loved the queen so much that he would beg alms from door to door rather than give her up” Henry did say that?? He must have been so much in love, no King would even consider saying that he would do so back then, and especially for a woman.

  15. Wonderful article! Very fair and balanced as always. There are never any completely innocent parties when it comes to love lost. I don’t think their relationship was doomed from the start, it suffered because of their bad choices, unfortunate events and (sometimes) infantile behavior. Thanks so much for the website and your articles Claire!

  16. Could she really chose? Another path ? another man? She was put to this task by her family and especially her father. Even after her sister was dismissed by the King, her father still asked her to take up the task and try to keep the interest of the King. Greed men, vying to climb to the top through any way they can, including their own children!! You may blame Ann, but she tried, she tried to live up to the task she was asked to fulfill till she died. She knew the King too well, having dismissed her sister so misserably and after her sisters name was not good with the people. She did not want that. Anne’s persuasive ways were directly influenced by her sisters experience. He was no other but the all too powerful and even arrogant King Henry, who did whatever he wanted. She had nothing but her good charms to keep him, she was well aware of that. But how could she have chosen, a different path, a different man???

  17. Very intriguing article Claire and I keep thinking about what David said about Henry appearing on the Oprah show. I can just picture Oprah explaining to Henry how your views about women and marriage were largely influenced by your parents and how he was looking for a wife to replace his mother. Maybe he would be better off on The Jerry Springer show which was about kings behaving badly toward the women they love

    1. “Bad Kings and the Queens Who Love Them” That might be a bit dangerous for Mr. Springer, since I could see Henry giving the orders to confine him to the Tower of London.

      Could you imagine the ensuing staged “catfights” between Katharine of Aragon, Anne and Jane?

      1. I wonder if Katherine would be surprised at what Henry looked like at the end of his life. I gather that when he first met Anne he was still attractive. I can imagine Katherine’s shock at seeing him, then I imagine her laughing at him. “Henry es muy gordo” I can hear her saying. “Henry no es muy guapo” and Anne saying something like “Yikes! I can’t believe what I see!” The women may just look at him and say what they really thought about him, especially since he sure didn’t look and act like the man they had married. I can imagine them comparing notes on what an overbearing man he was and Henry having a temper tantrum and acting like he still had power. Maybe one of them would finally tell him to shut up. Jane might have a few choice words to say about her family and how she was used and really had no choice but to marry him. Anne might admit that she said no but in the end she had no choice either. Then Anne of Cleves might come on and say how she was used by her family too and was afraid of being executed the whole time they were married, Catherine Howard would look young enough to be his daughter and she might admit to making some errors but her family placed her there and she was not remotely prepared to deal with an old man corrupted by power. Than Catherine Parr could say she had wanted to marry someone else and realize her bad luck with men, The security guards would probably join in laughter as Henry shouted orders at them and maybe the audience would join in. I don’t imagine a catfight but a realization that they were women of their time and at the command of the men in their lives. Of course this is a work of fiction on my part so please don’t take my overactive imagination too seriously.

  18. Wonderful, thought provoking article. It raises so many questions, of course, but the answers are probably lost in time, and in all manner of incidents that might have taken place out of the public gaze and thus out of the history books. A word said here, a joke there, a misplaced relationship, an inappropriate act of some kind, that might have set the whole thing in motion. The only way to gain some insight into it is perhaps through the writing of fiction, to bring the whole story forward a little in time to somewhere where we can feel more comfortable and to which we can relate to more easily than Tudor times. That is where the work of the novelist can be of value, I think, in raising possibilities and presenting them in a way which we, today, can more readily comprehend.

  19. Dear Claire,

    I have been trying to be polite and not to speak my mind about anne Boleyn , but I get frustrated at the way that you and her followers try to portray her as a saint, martir , you all have conveniently forgotten that she was a home wrecker she took Catherine of Aragon place and she even made Henrry to deny Mary of her rights as a legal princess it was shocking that behaviour, her marriage was doomed because she got involved with a married man , that is adultery and as much as innocent you want to portray her I still think that she was a manipulative, power hungry women that did not stop at nothing to have another woman’s man , so when she was married she had a bit of her own medicine by having a husband who did not respected her, so that is my opinion , and for me Catherine of Aragon was a more worthy women than Anne boleyn , that is my opinion!!!

    1. Dear Yesenia,
      While some people who visit this site may believe that she was a saint and martyr, I do not and I have never said that she was. This website and my research is dedicated to finding out the truth about Anne Boleyn using primary sources, i.e. contemporary evidence, and my research shows that while Anne may have not been an angel she certainly was not guilty of the charges laid against her.
      In calling her a “homewrecker”, you show that you are looking at the situation with 21st century eyes and judging Anne on that basis. At the end of the day, Anne did not have much of a choice in the matter. She was a Tudor women with no rights and a man, THE KING, had chosen her. She told him no, she retreated to Hever, his letters show clearly that she refused to be his mistress and was not interested in him, but how many times can a woman say no to a King. She did the best she could to protect her virtue, her “maidenhead”, and insisted that only her husband would take that from her. Obviously Henry then proposed and Anne said yes – do you believe that she could really say no? I don’t think so.
      Catherine of Aragon was an incredible woman who suffered so much and I am not justifying the treatment she received or Anne’s spitefulness, but it is clear from the evidence that Anne has been used as a scapegoat for Henry’s ill treatment of Catherine. Mary found out after Anne’s death that her father had been responsible for her and her mother’s ill treatment, and Mary’s suffering carried on after Anne was gone. Henry would not tolerate people disagreeing with him and rebelling against him and he punished those who did so harshly. Catherine refused to back down and agree to the annulment, she would not quietly slink off to a nunnery, as Henry wanted her to, so he punished her brutally. He was the King, he was her master and she refused him so she had to suffer. HE made Catherine’s life a misery, not Anne. Whilst Anne spoke spitefully against Catherine and Mary, she really had no power to treat them badly, so Henry must take the responsibility for that.
      You are obviously entitled to your opinion but I do not agree that the historical sources back it up. Again, to re-iterate, I do not think that Anne was a saint or a martyr, I agree that Catherine was a worthy woman and I admire her hugely, so please do not make this into a Team Anne Team Catherine thing, and I find it sad that you feel that Anne “got a bit of her own medicine”. She was decapitated and has been maligned by history for crimes she did not commit and although she was a flawed person who made mistakes she certainly did not deserve that.

      1. What a wonderful comment, Claire, and I could not agree with you more. Catherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn were very different women, but both were admirable and, when all was said and done, BOTH were victims of Henry VIII. I find it sad that even today there are those who will insist on setting them against each other, making one of them a saint or a heroine and the other a villainess. (Though the image of people walking around wearing “Team Catherine” and “Team Anne” t-shirts does amuse me!)

      2. I’ve never felt that this site or the majority of the posters see Anne as a saint or martyr–far from it! But we have to recognize that BOTH Anne and Catherine were the victims of Henry’s selfish and egomaniacal side and of circumstance. To slap a label of tramp or sl*t or homewrecker or saint or martyr on any of these people is to deny them their full and dynamic personalities. Even Henry had his good moments. I think we understand them better when we see that they were just people, extraordinary and important people, but flesh and blood just the same.

      3. hi i would like to know what would have happened if anne had said no to henry ,and i mean no to everything including marriage ,while i dont think she was guilty of charges against her she was intelligent enough to know what she was to gain and lose by having anything to do with henry ,i dont think she loved henry at all ,i think the only one she ever loved was henry percy and when that went wrong all her hope of true love went and she got bitter ,she was very jealous and annoyed when henry took mistresses but maybe because of ego and vanity more than any love for henry yes jane seymour did the same thing as anne and became henrys new woman while another was rightfully his wife and this is wrong whether by henrys command or not ,jane did to anne what anne did to katherine and they could not have been that stupid not to realise no good could come of it ,jjane died so no one knows what would have happened ,henry did not i believe love any of them he was obsessed by anne but that is not love and i am not judging this through 21 century eyes it was clever manipulation off all the boleyn family to get as high as they got and anne knew this and played it to her advantage and so did jane and her family so i think they knew what they were doing certainly anne did but was plain silly thinking that henry would change his ways for anyone least of all a mere wife ,he had to be in control and he was ,and anne downfall happened because he was still obsessed albeit sexually with anne ,she could still get to him and rattle him he didnt feel safe emotionally with her ,like he did with the others he just had to have her gone along with all memories erased of her ,

  20. Well said, Claire! I deeply respect Catherine of Aragon, but the extent to which Henry stalked Anne as we would say now, left her with nowhere to hide.

    1. Sorry, I got rather passionate! I really try to give a balanced view of Anne, the other five wives and Henry, so I’m not keen on being labelled as someone who sees her as a saint and martyr. I love Anne, don’t get me wrong, and she is a huge part of my life, but I accept that she was not the nicest of people at times. It’s the fact that she was flawed but still made an impact on history and an impact on people today that really fascinates me.

  21. Just to add my $0.02: I think Catherine of Aragon knew perfectly well that the cause of her misery was Henry. Obviously Anne Boleyn wasn’t her favorite person in the world, but Catherine was one of the people who knew Henry best. She knew he was childish at best, harsh and plain ol’ mean at worst. And maybe Anne eventually saw her position as Anne v. Catherine, but I don’t think Catherine ever felt that way. (And when all was said and done, I don’t think Anne thought that either; I also don’t believe Anne saw it as Anne v. Jane.)

  22. It didn’t help, either, that many European rules saw H8 as a widower after KoA’s death. As such , he could be encouraged to make an new alliance without any of the former concerns relating to his first marriage and it’s annulment.

  23. Despite the marriage being founded on love, Henry was still a King and expected Anne Boleyn to play the part he put her in. He commented that Katherine at least understood her position when it came to his affairs. Anne and Henry may have been in love, but that is never enough when you are a ruler. You have to be mindful of appearances and fulfill the country’s expectations in that regard.

    What is really telling is the comparisons of Catherine Howard and Anne Boleyn. In reading comments from previous articles, I’ve noticed that Catherine is criticized for placing herself in a position that would leave her open to gossip and danger. Anne may not have been guilty, but she also put herself in a precarious position. The best example of this was when she made Norris confess to her confessor so that she could clear her reputation. She was innocent and frightened, yes, but reacting in such a way left her vulnerable. Had she behaved in a more reproachable manner, I don’t think it would have been so easy to create evidence against her.

    Henry is often blamed for Anne’s downfall or Cromwell, but we should remember that Anne was not a saint. No one is completely guilty in this outcome, but no one is entirely innocent either.

    1. It’s very true that no one is completely guilty nor completely innocent, but I do think that some are more guilty than others. And in this case, I would maintain that Henry was the guiltier party by far. He wasn’t evil, but I do think he was a bully with a capacity for great cruelty, and this showed itself in many ways throughout his life, including his treatment of Anne.

      Don’t misunderstand, I don’t believe for a moment that Anne was ever an innocent little lamb, but I think she was much more innocent than Henry could ever claim to be — or Cromwell, for that matter.

  24. I actually didn’t read some of the above quotes before replying. I want to make it clear that I am not accusing anyone of calling Anne a saint or martyr. I also am not accusing Claire of being biased. I just realized that my post could be construed that way and I don’t want to ruffle feathers. I am just playing devil’s advocate.

  25. Hey Rachel, I think people tend to go to extremes when it comes to Anne and Henry, when in reality it always takes two to tango! Anne was no saint, and neither was Henry. But Anne was not evil, and Henry wasn’t really either (complicated and mentally insane, sure. Pure evil, IMO, is a bit extreme.) 😉

    1. I know judge , we must not. To label others evil or saint, for we are but human. But the cruel! cruel! cruel! executions of innocent men! I know not all of them were innocent! but the innocent ones! dying so cruelly! That hurt! But judge, we must not! For we are but human.

  26. I don’t believe for a second that Anne Boleyn was a saint or a martyr. Neither do I think she was a scheming seductress. I think she was pursued relentlessly by an obsessed king, to the point of stalking. In the end she gave in as there was nothing else she could do. There were no womens shelters back then or opportunities to travel away. I think in some ways the relationship was doomed, as were most others Henry Vlll undertook. Rejected, beheaded, died in child birth, annulled, beheaded, and the lucky last…widowed. Any marriage to Henry was as doomed as being married to Bluebeard.

  27. A very Intresting discussion . by the way Is there really any evidence that Annes family or father intentionally putting her and her sister in front of the king to catch his attention ??.
    that they were more than willing to benefit from the relationships after they had started is clear. But is not “Pimp Daddy Boleyn” more an invention of films and TV-series.
    It is af we have diffiuclt to accept that Anne Boyleyn or even Jane Semoyr may have been very willing to accept the king once they realised that he was serious in his attention.
    Becoming queens they would become the most powerful woman in the country and bring wealth and position to their families. And in Anne boleyns case Henry VIII was propably still atractive in the mid 1520thies. Her initial refusal of him may not bee becouse she found him unnatrictive but because she did not want to become his mistress

  28. I have been following this website almost since it began. Can’t recall Claire ever setting up Anne as a saint or martyr or anything like that. Most of us here admire Anne Boleyn, so it’s only natural that we have positive views. What is said here is always backed up with sources and is balanced and fair.

  29. I’m not taking sides or trying to ruffle any feathers, but by reading these comments it doesn’t look like things have changed much in the nearly 475 years since Anne’s execution. Why do some people think that it is the “other woman” who is always at fault? Even today, many people see the married man who cheats as the “victim” of an evil woman’s seductiveness.

  30. I agree with you, Claire, when you say that Anne and Henry VIII’s marriage was not doomed from the start. I think that a series of misfortunes happened and changed the history of them. Anne’s jealousy was one of those things. It was certain that Anne Boleyn could not continue behaving like she behaved before marrying the King. She was supposed to be subservient and passive – she should close her eyes to everything the King were doing in order to keep her head.

    Henry’s paranoia was another thing. As Anne was not able to give Henry a son and as his close friends and allies – Charles Brandon and Thomas Cromwell – did not like Anne (although in the very beginning, Anne was an ally to Cromwell during the Reformation process in England. When Cromwell noticed that Anne would be a problem, he quickly decided to get rid of her), I believed they (not only them, but others too) started plotting in Henry’s mind the idea his marriage to Anne Boleyn was doomed ( and they got what they wanted, unfortunately!).

    Anne, unfortunately, couldn’t keep her mouth shut and behaved in a wrong way in Henry’s court. It costed her life! Poor Anne…

  31. I believe that Henry and Anne were happily married up until the end. It seems to me that perhaps Henry did believe the accusations against Anne of being unfaithful. I think that it is unlikely that Henry would have had Anne so thouroughly eradicated from history if the alligations were of his making. It would explain why they seemed to be so happy up until things very suddenly changed. Henry had waited years for Anne, it seems far fetched to believe that his feelings could change so suddenly. He also acted like a man who felt betrayed, removing all indication that she was ever there, and his anger also trickled down to Elizabeth who he previously seemed to be so proud of and affectionate towards. I believe that Anne made many enemies at court that were all to eager to bring her down. It isn’t entirely out of the question that one faction or another came up with a plan to bring about her demise just as the Boleyn faction brought about the demise of Katherine of Aragon’s queenship.

  32. Anne may have been many things but used by her family men was the main one you only have to look at the way mary, annes sister was used and thrown aside to see that. Im sure that anne was no saint but who is? When love is strong between two poeple who knows who will suffer along the way, im sure catherine was a loving and devote wife but after 20 odd years from henrys point of view it had grown stale and he wanted a male heir and she had gone through the menopause, he was bound to take some one else if it wasnt anne then it would have evntually been someone else so lets all stop blaming anne and look at all the facts for what they were.
    Once a marrige has gone “bad” thats it, weather both sides want it or not. we are very lucky in these times that we can devorce as quickly as we can and this might i add is in a long way is down to anne and henry!!!! I like anne but i like his other wifes too,lets face it if we want blame then jane commited adutery too, anne c was stupid to think that marriage to henry was a good way to get away from her brother, catherine h was stupid to think that her past would not catch up with her and catherine p should have never married him but was even more silly to marry thomas seymour!!! But this is not in our time and we do not live as these people did where it truely was a mans world where wemen were not to have the freedom that we have now!!!
    its easy to jugde as we can look back on it now as a story, but think of your own lifes and the mistakes that are made every day before you jugde any of henrys wifes to harshly.

  33. I believe Henry VIII was also a man of his time which means he had to convince himself that he was in the right – whether he was or not. He was not stupid; he knew he had no grounds to leave Katherine, after all he had received a dispensation from the church to marry her! But he wanted to have a affairs and then have a new wife once he met Anne and that meant his marriage to Katherine had to be invalid. When “evidence” was brought to him of Anne’s adultry and incest, he had to believe that so he could execute her and marry elsewhere – again. Each time he wanted something that he knew to be wrong, he revised the sceario – in his own mind – so that he became the victim and he could justify his actions. That he believed his new, new improved versions of events I have no doubt. He was a strong willed man who could convince himself of anything to maintain his own inflated opinon of himself. I was married to such a man. After two decades of standing by him through $250,000 of child custody cases (we had custody), building a buisness and buying my clothes at thrift stores while he dressed from Nordstroms, raising his children and giving up any hopes of having my own, I one day fell asleep on the sofa after work. I woke to him beating me for the first time. Why? His girlfriend had threaten to call me and the act of a devoted family man was going to fall apart. His only out was to twist facts to suit his own ego; turning me into the one who drove him to another woman and he convince himself that I was the one that destroyed our marriage. During the divorce it came out he had molested one of his daughters; he even convinced himself that was not his fault but mine!! After watching him go through this process and then re-reading Henry’s biography, I was struck by the similiarities of the two men. Both had to believe they were virtuous, noble men who were not capable of doing wrong; and to maintain their self image, they had to revise scenarios to suit their opinon of themselves. In Anne’s time, when women were viewed as possessions to be used to gain power and wealth through marriage, it would be easy for Henry to accept the “evidence” against her by convincing himself she was a witch and undeserving of his love and protection. People like this can be charming and gently; they can easily pursuade others to their virtures and be held in high esteem. But if for any reason, they believe their “act” is about to fall apart, they will lash out at the first available person and lay blame on them. Having been the “Anne” to my ex-husband, I can attest to the total futility of trying to make such a man remember the facts once he has revised events to suit his own ego. I can well imagine Henry’s thought process in this and have no doubt that Henry went from a loving husband to a tyrant determined to have his revenge on the witch who cast a spell on him causing him to act contrary to his value system and beliefs. When you add this ability into Henry’s equation; you can see the pattern. He is the virtuous king who must maintain that self image for his own sake – and his own sake is all Henry VIII ever really cared about; not even his son would meant as much to him. I knew my ex-husband was incapable of unconditional love and could never put another above his own wants and needs when the night before we separated his asked me to write down HIS children’s birthdates. At the time the youngest was 22 so he had plenty of time to remember them. I find that incrediibly sad.

  34. This relationship was absolutely doomed from the word go. It had disaster written all over it. Anne was playing a very dangerous game, and it did end up in disaster.

  35. Yes, I can see why some suggest that there is an element of feminizing Anne Boleyn, her role and her fate.

    Let me offer a male perspective which will attempt an objective analysis:

    I think we can all agree that Henry would likely never have divorced Katherine had there been a male heir from her. The lack of a male heir was an obsession for him which in the context of those times is probably understandable. He could have and did satisfy his sexual needs to the extent that Katherine could not do so with his multiple mistresses.

    He believed – and Anne likely encouraged him in his belief – that she could produce a male heir. When that did not occur – and given that Henry was getting on in years with a likely corresponding decrease in his sexual prowess, he felt that the only option was to try and do so through another wife.

    Other factors such as Anne’s feistiness, her inadaptability when it came to her role as queen vs mistress, plots against her, her alleged infidelity, etc provided a backdrop to Henry’s decision to oust her.

    I think the question that one should ask oneself is whether either Katherine or Anne would have met the fate they did if either one had produced a male heir?

    Interesting website, BTW!

    1. agree with above regarding henry with katherine ,he would have went along with his marriage to katherine merrily enough had he had a son or two with katherine and though he would have met anne ,there would have been no question of him marrying her but because he had no heir anne played on this weakness of henry and stupidly promised him sons ,ok she could have been lucky but was not .

  36. I think Henry wanted a wife who was just like his mother, he probably idolised her, she was beautiful gracious and dignified.

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