Anne Boleyn – No innocent victim, apparently
Posted By Claire on July 27, 2016
Warning: emotive post and mini rant! Feel free to ignore if it’s not your cup of tea.
With running an Anne Boleyn blog, having made videos about her and having written books on her, I come across the following views on a fairly regular basis:
- Anne was no innocent victim
- She knew exactly what she was doing
- She played a game and lost
- She knew the dangers/risks
- She didn’t deserve to die, but she was far from an innocent victim
- She was a whore who took a man from his marriage and got her just desserts
- She got what she deserved
- She may have been innocent of the crimes but her death was karma
The general idea I get from these types of commenters is that even if Anne was innocent of the charges against her in 1536, she can’t be viewed as an innocent victim because her fall was her own fault; she was overly ambitious and set her sights on a married man because she wanted the crown. Pride comes before a fall, don’t you know?
I’m sorry, but I struggle with this type of view. These comments make me very cross.
Anne Boleyn is not a fictional character. She’s not a Game of Thrones character. Anne was a living, breathing person whose life ended on a scaffold when her head was removed from her body by a sword. Yes, her head was cut off. Before that brutal end – and it wasn’t a fake CGI death, it was real – she had had to come to terms with the fact that she had been sentenced to death for crimes she didn’t commit, that five innocent men had lost their lives because of a plot against her, that her daughter would grow up without her mother and believing her mother to have been a traitor, that her family name would be blackened by the charges against her, that her parents were losing a son and a daughter, that her husband had already replaced her… Can you imagine what she went through in those last days? I can’t even begin to imagine.
But, hey, guys, we can’t feel sorry for her because she knew exactly what she was doing – right?
Yes, apparently, back in the 1520s, this young, power-hungry woman with her eye on the crown set her sights on Henry VIII – a married man no less – seduced him and manipulated him, all the time knowing that she risked this bad end. The crown was worth it all. She knew the risks! Yes, she knew she risked death because this had happened before, hadn’t it?
Erm, no, since when had a queen consort been executed? Ooops, hadn’t she read The Other Boleyn Girl?
How could Anne have been aware of the risks? How could she have known what she was doing, what she was letting herself in for? Even if we go for the sexual predator-type Anne Boleyn doing all she could to get the crown, how could she ever know that her actions would lead to her being on the scaffold on 19th May 1536? I just can’t see how it can be said that “she knew what she was doing”. There was no precedent, she wasn’t one of Henry VIII’s later queens who’d seen how the earlier ones had been treated.
But this sexual predator-type Anne Boleyn doesn’t even fit with the evidence we have regarding her early relationship with Henry VIII. OK, so we’ve only got Henry VIII’s love letters to Anne and not her replies, but these surviving letters do give us some insight into their courtship and it is possible to ‘read between the lines’ at points. It is clear that Henry set his sights on Anne and that he then wooed her, going all out to obtain her, wanting her to become his mistress, then his official mistress, and then, after her refusal of this offer, wanting her to become his wife. He was obsessed with her, he wanted Anne at all costs and it is clear that Anne rebuffed him at first, that she even left court and retreated to the family home at Hever in Kent. But Henry didn’t take no for an answer, he was king after all. One author goes as far as to depict Anne Boleyn as a victim of sexual harassment, basing this idea on Thomas Wyatt the Elder’s famous poem “Whoso List to Hunt”:
“Whoso list to hunt, I know where is an hind,
But as for me, hélas, I may no more.
The vain travail hath wearied me so sore,
I am of them that farthest cometh behind.
Yet may I by no means my wearied mind
Draw from the deer, but as she fleeth afore
Fainting I follow. I leave off therefore,
Since in a net I seek to hold the wind.
Who list her hunt, I put him out of doubt,
As well as I may spend his time in vain.
And graven with diamonds in letters plain
There is written, her fair neck round about:
Noli me tangere, for Caesar’s I am,
And wild for to hold, though I seem tame.
In this poem, which is based on Petrarch’s “Una Candida Cerva”, Wyatt starts with a challenge, telling those who want to hunt that he knows the location of a hind, but he goes on to say that he is weary of the chase and that his hunt failed, that the hind was claimed by Caesar: “Noli me tangere [don’t touch me],” says the hind, “for I am Caesar’s . This “wild to hold” hind can’t be Wyatt’s, she doesn’t belong to him. It is thought that this poem is about Wyatt’s feelings for Anne Boleyn, and, in an article in The Guardian, Carol Rumens writes:
“But this is still a love-poem, and nowhere more obviously than in that final, para-rhymed couplet, where, having quoted the injunction, Noli me tangere, the hind describes herself as “wild for to hold”. This instantly transports us to a hinterland of erotic excitement, and registers the extent of the poet’s loss and hurt, now that the King has claimed Wyatt’s dear as his own.”
It’s a poem about a lost love, but is Wyatt saying something even more by depicting Anne Boleyn as a hind? Is he seeing her as a quarry hunted down by the King, ensnared by him and becoming his whether she liked it or not? Being owned by him, even labelled by him as his possession. Perhaps that’s reading too much into it, but Karen Lindsey, author of Divorced, Beheaded, Survived: A Feminist Reinterpretation Of The Wives Of Henry VIII certainly sees Anne as Henry’s victim:
Today, Henry’s approach to Anne would be instantly identifiable as sexual harassment. Anne however, had no social or legal recourse against a the man who ruled the country. She continued, as so many women before and since have done, to dodge her pursuer’s advances while sparing his feelings. It didn’t work… It was a hellish position. Could she really tell the king to his face that she had no interest in him? She could reiterate her desire to keep her chastity and her honor, but clearly he didn’t respect that. She could ignore his letters and stay away from court, but he refused to take the hint. To offer him the outright insult he asked for would be to risk not only her own but her father’s and brother’s careers at court. She undoubtedly kept hoping he would tire of the chase and transfer his attentions to some newer lady-in-waiting.
But he didn’t and she was trapped: there was no chance of her making a good marriage when every eligible nobleman knew the king wanted her. She began to realize she would have to give in. [as Wyatt wrote in his poem ‘Whoso list to hunt’] ‘Nole me tangere, for Caesar’s I am’.
Virtually every account of Anne’s story cites the poem, yet its central image is ignored. Anne was a creature being hunted, and hunted by the king — like the buck he had killed and so proudly sent to her. There could be no refuge from the royal assault; no one would risk protecting her from Henry’s chase. She could run, hide, dodge for a time, but the royal hunter would eventually track down his prey. And he would destroy her. The hunt was not an archaic metaphor in sixteenth century life, it was a vivid integral part of that life and everyone knew what happened to the wild creature at the end.
You may feel that Lindsey is going too far, and you may believe that Henry’s wooing caused Anne to fall in love with him, but then it still appears that he was the instigator. He chased her, she rebuffed him; he made her a good offer while also wooing the hell out of her, and she accepted it. Only then did she start to fight for her position, support the King in his quest for an annulment and support his treatment of his first wife and daughter. I haven’t see one iota of evidence that Anne set out to seduce Henry, that she dangled her virginity as bait for him.
Yes, Anne had a hand in the ill-treatment of Catherine and Mary, something that she appears to have regretted in her last days, but she wasn’t solely responsible for it and Henry was very much in charge. No woman ever controlled Henry VIII, he wasn’t a puppet. If you think that Anne Boleyn deserved to be beheaded because of Henry’s treatment of these women then I really don’t know what to say to you, I just don’t.
As for her being responsible for England breaking with Rome, for the executions that took place during the Reformation, for Mary I turning out the way she did and doing what she did, for Henry’s ‘tyranny’… Hmmm… I didn’t realise that Anne was the one in charge? What else can we blame her for? World poverty?
Just desserts, karma, you reap what you sow, what goes around comes around…
I despair when I see these types of comments on social media about historical people being executed. Perhaps I should be glad that there are such perfect people in the world who can sit in judgement on those of us who are flawed. I pity people who make these types of comment about Anne Boleyn, I really do, because they have no compassion. I’d like to take them out of their ivory towers and glass houses back in time to Anne Boleyn’s trial, to the executions of those five men, to Anne’s last days in the Tower, to the nights she spent in prayer, to Anne’s execution, to Archbishop Cranmer’s garden when he explained to his good friend Alexander Alesius that Anne was being executed that day before being overcome with grief, to the Boleyn family as they heard the news of their children’s deaths… “This is real”, I’d remind them over and over, “this is not a Game of Thrones episode.”
I’m sorry that this is an emotive post and not at all a scholarly article, but sometimes I worry about people and sometimes it all becomes too much for me and I have to have my say. I don’t believe that Anne Boleyn was an angel, I don’t believe that she should be put on a pedestal, I think that she had her flaws and that she wasn’t a nice person at times. Like all of us, she had her good points too – she appears to have inspired love and loyalty in those around her, she was charitable and was interested in poor relief and education, she was a patron to religious reformers, she believed in the dissemination of the English Bible, she was courageous, she was witty, she spoke her mind and was true to herself and her beliefs… She was a multi-faceted character and that’s what makes her fascinating to me. Whatever her flaws, though, she didn’t deserve her end. It wasn’t karma, it wasn’t her “just desserts”, it wasn’t the result of any game she played, it was a travesty and a tragedy. It’s something that should make us feel horrified and sick, not satisfied and happy.
Just minutes before she was executed, Anne Boleyn said: “And if any person will meddle of my cause, I require them to judge the best.” I choose to do that and thankfully I’m not alone.
You may also be interested in my article Anne Boleyn: A cheat who deserved death? I don’t think so which looks at the charges against her and why I don’t believe she was guilty..
Notes and Sources
- Wyatt, Sir Thomas, Whoso List to Hunt.
- Lindsey, Karen (1996) Divorced, Beheaded, Survived: A Feminist Reinterpretation Of The Wives Of Henry VIII, Da Capo Press.
- Rumens, Carol (2009) “Poem of the week: Whoso List to Hunt by Thomas Wyatt”, The Guardian, Monday 10 August 2009. See https://www.theguardian.com/books/booksblog/2009/aug/10/poem-of-the-week-thomas-wyatt
- My own addled brain!
261 thoughts on “Anne Boleyn – No innocent victim, apparently”
The only mistake that Anne did is to fall in love with someone who is stronger and dangerous like Henry.
You can’t chose who to fall in love with and defently it was a karma.
When someone is in love he fills that his lover will do everything for him.so Anne trusted Henry because of that.
Anne did s mistakes that she let the political peaple to play whit Henry mined. Henry did a mistake that he believed them.
She did nothing to Henry expected playing hart to get, and she is a victem.
I believe she didn’t expect that end.
I think Anne loved Henry in the same way Patty Hurst loved the men who held her captive at gunpoint, she grew feelings for someone who threatened not only her life and livelihood but that of her family out of desperation. Her love wasn’t a mistake, it was self defense after other defensive tactics failed. She didn’t play hard to get, she let him know that she wasn’t at all interested, he stalked her and made marrying him her only option. I take exception to calling what he did to her anything other than forcing her, it is permissive of the culture that can recognize Henry as a murderer, but not take into account that he literally forced at least two of his wives into marriage with him (meaning he raped them after coercing consent). Not only did he coerce at least those two, but in both cases either he or someone acting on his behalf broke up relationships so that Henry could coerce these women to marry him. Henry’s mistake was to try to force women to love him and to spurn a woman who seems to either really have loved him or (as I believe) to have been so in love with her own power that she was just as willing to allow people to die as he was to gain her own end.
Amy, that’s a REALLY interesting theory…essentially you are saying that Anne was a victim of the STOCKHOLM SYNDROME, in which the hostage falls in line…or love…with the hostage keeper. This is what many people believe happened to Patty Hearst, by the way.
Interesting theory, but the evidence points to Henry falling for Anne and courting her in hope of making her his mistress. Anne seems to have at first refused as she did not want to be his mistress, he tried a few times, was more and more passionate in his letters, courted her only to find that she wanted marriage. Anne went back to Hever, but a love struck Henry wrote and visited. Anne did respond, positively at some point, from then the relationship was mutual with Henry offering what Anne wanted, marriage. By 1526/7 we know that they were planning marriage because of the suit to Rome which has a metaphor for Anne within it. The evidence is lacking for Anne being held captive or coercion of any kind or her being a sexual predictor. The information points to a neutral relationship that developed into love and a desire for marriage with the promise of an heir coming from Anne herself. Some historians believe that both Anne and Henry agreed to refrain from sex as if Anne became pregnant before the divorce was settled that the child would be illegitimate and undermine the reason for the suit in the first place. Henry was claiming that his marriage to Katherine was not valid, not that he was in love with Anne, but had modified this secretly. The years of course dragged on, Anne became more impatient as she could have married someone else, Henry just wanted to be free to marry Anne. Finally it all changed, Anne was pregnant, Katherine had left, the marriage was done, then ratified and Anne was crowned. However, Anne got a shock as clearly she believed that Henry would be devoted to her alone and when she neared her tume he had a mistress. This was expected while the wife was pregnant so in no uncertain terms Henry told her to put up with this. Even though Elizabeth was a girl there is no evidence that she was a great disappointment. Anne and Henry were reasonably good together for another two years. Things did start to go down hill and I believe that at some point Anne loved Henry more than he loved her. When she sadly lost their son in January 1536 Anne said that it hurt her to see that he loved others. Anne did seem to recover his affection but for unknown reasons it went downhill and Henry, hearing rumours ordered the fatal investigation. Anne could not have known that her marriage would end this way. Henry at the time of their courtship and early marriage was not a monster. Anne and Henry were well matched but they grew apart after January 1536. Political and personal forces conspired to bring her down, her husband turned against her, love turned to hate and she was brutally set up for the chargers against her. Anne was an innocent woman who was executed on false charges but she had been in love with Henry, did want to marry him and was not forced to marry him.
Hi Banditqueen, I think you are correct, Anne had seen first hand what happened to her sister and she wanted more … a whole lot more, ‘Marriage to a married man who just happened to be a King with a respected loyal Queen’. No, I don’t say ‘Anne deserved her end’ but what did she want to happen to the King’s Queen??? What good could possibly come out of such a desire and, as they say, … the rest is history.
I don’t think any of his wives loved him.
Great article Claire. Some people are really easily able to lay blame and show little compassion. You only have to look at so many comments via social media. Keep writing and remembering that these were real people living in very different times
I think of the current news about sexual harassment and I know this will be an unpopular thought, but ladies we really have come a long way. Anne was not the owner of Anne…a man was. Her father and uncle were and then Henry was. Women were to be bartered with, plain and simple.Remember this was a complicated story, there was a King who took his role extremely seriously, a man who NEEDED to have a male child, throw in the religious reform that was spreading before Henry wanted rid of Katherine and this is a story for the ages.I have always viewed Henry as a monster, but it has occurred to me that his desire for Anne and a male child were interwoven, and Anne, well she was being offered up as a whore for him by her politically inclined family, she may have decided to try for the crown, alot of women might have. And lastly I blame Katherine of Aragon for the deaths of so many. She was a real royal, from a royal family, she knew about civil war and understood the need Henry felt for male offspring. She was past childbearing being I think 7 years older, why didn’t she just retire in comfort?
Anne loved Harry Percy, not Henry, who split them up.In those times women married who they were told to, given that Anne was’nt servile by nature, circumstances were against her.
While Anne did try, at first, to avoid Henry’s pursuance, her father and uncle Norfolk got in the act and encouraged her to grab the crown….and as a family they destroyed Catherine and Mary’s position in Henry’s affections and place at court. Anne was quite vindictive, and many people opposed to her usurping the crown were executed, sometimes quite painfully. Anne may not have been able to fend off Henry, but she could have been decent to Princess Mary, and could have told Henry she did not approve of the deaths that incurred over his break with the Catholic Church. So, I think the outcome was rough but in keeping. When Anne and her brother were executed, her father didn’t care. In fact, he helped judge her and the men guilty.
Can I just ask what evidence you have for her father and uncle getting in on the act and encouraging her to grab the crown as although they did the King’s bidding as far as diplomacy regarding the annulment was concerned, evidence seems to point towards Thomas Boleyn actually not being happy about his daughter’s involvement with the king. Also what evidence is there for Thomas not caring? He had to sit in judgement on the four men, he didn’t have any choice as he was appointed to the commission, but he didn’t sit in judgement on Anne and George, and we don’t know about his personal feelings.
Regarding Mary, Anne actually did try with Mary and she was rebuffed by her on a number of occasions. I’m not trying to condone Mary’s treatment or to paint Anne as blameless but it was Henry’s responsibility not hers, and Mary found out that to her cost when her treatment got worse after Anne’s execution. Henry was brutal to those he felt had betrayed him or were defying him.
“So, I think the outcome was rough but in keeping” – so are you saying that Anne deserved to be beheaded?
I think she did love him but she also used her new position for political reasons sorry but as a stepparent she should’ve understood how mary felt and just told henery to let her be but instead she saw her as a enemy. She did promise him sons so in a way she gambled and then lost . Can anyone please tell me about anne second pregnancy was she due maybe in October ? Sometimes u do come off as Condoning anne behavior towards mary
You can’t compare 21st century step family dynamics with a 16th century royal family which meant that political factions grew up around children of Monarchs. There was so much more involved the pure step parenting.
Anne’s pregnancy dates:
September 1533 – Elizabeth born
June/July 1534 – Miscarriage/stillbirth
June 1535 – rumour of miscarriage – disputed by some historians
January 1536 – stillborn son
I had a asshole of a stepfather ( mom finally woke up) so Catherine,henery and anne will always get a bitch face from me about the way mary was treated and the way she turned out. Thank you for the clarification the information I find about anne 1534 pregnancy is that she gave birth to a stillborn son in August but was due in November. Was anne birthday really may I always thought of her as a winter or fall baby?
No one knows exactly what Anne’s birth month and date is but Ives and Fraser both said they thought it was likely the month was the end of May or early June.
Try not to personalise your views on other families, especially families from a bygone era because your circumstances are so completely different as to be night and day apart.
Well answered Claire,
l think Kaye has read too many fictional (of which there are many) books on the subject of Anne’s life, admittedly there gaps in her “real” life, which one can fill with wishful thinking, but on the whole the historians have got her life right,, l often wonder what thoughts Cromwell had before he lost his head, (probably “l thought the king was my friend !!!!
I agree Henry VIII pursued Anne Boleyn and blocked any possible suitors from coming her way. However she was aware of rumors of a Queen being burned or beheaded and she knew the risks as far as years it was taking to get the divorce. If she r ally didn’t want to marry him she could have easily said or stated she had a dream or feeling she would not bear him a son. His whole purpose for finally proposing is that Catherine couldn’t bear him a son- if he had any doubt Anne couldn’t he wouldn’t have married her. There were a picture left on her pillow of Catherine, Henry and Anne with a severed head. I’m sure she had to have known the risks but believed she would bear a future King. As for Catherine Howard she had her cousin Anne losing her head to know the risks but being so young she was probably scared to turn him down .
First of all, great article. I’d like to know where some people keep harping about Thomas’ awful abuse & bartering his children for his own gain. Probably Philippa.
Fiction, TV and cinema seem to be much more powerful than non-fiction and these stereotypical views just seem to stick. Very frustrating!
Apologies for this late reply, but just started my Tudor history journey. So glad I found your website! I’ve been binge watching your YouTube videos as well! There are many rumors and lies about Anne Boleyn. I have seen quite a few BBC documentaries about her and most of them paint her in an unfavorable light, something I am not comfortable with. They depict her as ruthless, cunning, ambitious and cruel towards KOA and Mary.
You asked what evidence that a poster had that Anne’s brother and father were “in on the act” of encouraging Anne to grab the crown, so to speak. The fact is, there IS NO evidence of this, just like there was zero evidence that Anne was guilty of ANY of the charges leveled against her. Many things are written about Anne and it is very hard to find out what the real truth. although I think you do THE BEST job of painting Anne the way she really was. Many people say Anne “deserved what she got” or she “got her karma,” etc. etc. She did NOT deserve to have her head chopped off. Where are these people coming from?? No one has the right to judge someone nowadays on little to no evidence, much less someone that lived 500 years ago!! We have to be very careful of that. I know a little about this, as my husband is a retired homicide detective. He and I both are history buffs. He won’t even bring charges against anyone without SOLID FORENSIC EVIDENCE He said that Anne wouldn’t have even been brought to trial if this had happened in our time. Many of the other allegations against her were just based on jealousy and gossip. Look at the allegations that she was cruel to Mary and KOA. Anne couldn’t have acted alone towards either one of them without Henry’s knowledge. Mary’s cruel treatment (usually attributed to Anne) continued long after Anne’s murder, so it was Henry all along behind Mary’s and Elizabeth’s cruel treatment. I wish people wouldn’t be so quick to judge Anne as we weren’t there and don’t really know what happened. It’s a dangerous game to judge someone guilty without any evidence. Henry and Henry alone was responsible for Anne’s death. Why do people want to blame her for her own death??
I am very glad I found your website, Claire, and my husband and I are really enjoying all your videos!!
‘When Anne and her brother were executed, her father didn’t care. In fact, he helped judge her and the men guilty.’ Sorry I can’t agree. Henry ruled as a psychopathic despot, he wanted a guilty verdict and a guilty verdict he would get, or else. All members of the jury knew that they had to bring in a guilty verdict. Putting Anne’s father on the jury only further ‘justified’ to the eyes of the world the verdict as even her own father found her guilty. Henry was the master manipulator! And all jury members would know what happened to Wolsey and More.
Read more: https://www.theanneboleynfiles.com/anne-boleyn-no-innocent-victim-apparently/#ixzz4WdjJvBAL
Hi Moderator …… I took an face value what Claire said re Anne’s father sitting in judgement onhwer. That may not be the case and my comments are not valid. Please remove them. Regards Peter
Hi Moderator … sorry I misquoted Claire …. it was Kaye Hartfield who made the claim that Anne’s father sat on the jury …. which, in fact, he didn’t!
Well said Claire.
I completely agree. Maybe it is unfortunate for those of us with the imagination to think of those last few hours. To bring to mind the prayers, postponements. the agony of waiting for a horrendously violent, public and inescapable death. Add to the torment that this travesty of justice has the full support of a man who up until 2 days before was your husband. The one and only man in the land who can save you from this ordeal is also the man who has allowed his servant to invent the evidence that has convicted you.
I am not in any way an apologist for the inexcusable things that Anne did in her lifetime. In my humble opinion once marriage and the crown had been offered she used her wit, her intelligence and every other skill she processed to achieve her aim. However to be honest I do not know that there was any real palatable choice other than marriage or bust by that time. As the article states, Anne probably did have some choice, marry the King and see it through, remain single forever and deny her family any political advantages, or maybe take the veil.
I have visited the Tower many times and several times on the 19th May. It never fails to make me emotional. How she could have made it to the scaffold with her composure intact I will never know or understand. My hope is that the faith she has practiced and studied her whole life gave her courage to endure what no human being should be subjected to.
Well said, Gayle Hulme,
If we had lived at that period of time could we have done better ? each person makes choices,we can not always change our path, and have to take the consequences of our actions. I think she was minipulated by those around her, once she acceppeted the challenge no going back.
Anne was not a coward , remember she gave England, Elazabeth 1,
Totally agree with you Gayle. From what I have read of her she was an intelligent woman, who perhaps sometimes lived life on the edge but certainly didn’t deserve to die.
Perhaps Anne was lucky inasmuch as she didn’t know that Henry had requested the services of the swordsman from Calais prior to her trial. Henry was a sociopath who believed that God’s will was straightly in line with whatever Henry wanted.
I agree that she did some inexcusable things. But, who hasn’t at least once? I never judge & I liked what you had to say. Thanks!
Also, can’t imagine going to the tower. I think I’d be emotional also.
Well written emotive post. No need to appologize for it; there are times when it’s needed. I view an as a women born ahead of her time. Strong willed, intelligent, and not afraid, when given the opportunity, to use her position to champion causes greater than herself. Being pursued by a king…it could be very intoxicating. When her attempts at rebuffing his advances failed, she chose not to play the marttor and enter a convent, but bravely embrace what Henry was offering & dare to trust in is love/obsession for her. Of all his wives, I believe she was closest to his equal. Yet there is always a far greater plan. Had she not suffered the way she did in the end, her daughter may not have grown into the strong woman she became. There is the karmic rub….that Henry’s greatest legacy was not the long saught after son, but the daughter of his most demonized wife. Elizabeth I may not have been “Gloriana”, Shakespeare’s love stories may not have been so dramatic, complicated, or comical, had Anne and Henry’s relactionship never existed and unfolded the way it did.
In terms of Elizabeth, I don’t think Anne’s suffering and sacrifice was worth it. Elizabeth was loyal to her father.
Yes, she had a ring with Anne Boleyn’s picture / likeness in it. So what.
She referred to herself as the lion’s cub, I realize she did this to point out her right to be Queen.
I feel she went overboard with the praise of her father. How could anyone love and praise a parent like that. Did she naively convince herself that her father was innocent in her mother’s murder ? For someone who was so smart, I find that hard to believe.
In Elizabeth’s defense she had been declared illegitimate. Her own sister Mary said she looked like Mark Smeaton. So she played up her father and her resemblance to him to so the world could not deny her right to the throne
I was not aware of that. Ok it makes sense now. Thank you.
I just wonder if she ever wished that she could have returned to France, not that anywhere was safe, but this seems to have been her happiest times. Poor soul….
Its always amazes me how people (particularly women) will overly blame “the other woman” when a man strays from his marriage and rarely say anything about the man’s role in it all. Especially in this case when we are talking about the 16th century where women had very little control over their lives. Henry was the king… an absolute monarch who had total control. I totally agree with your analysis above Claire. She did not “deserve” to lose her life. They were different times and in my view, she was a victim of political/religious manoeuvering that used the disappointment of a petulant king in not providing the son he had hoped for.
I could not agree more. Even worse is when blame Anne for the destruction of Catherine’s marriage (which was really over even before Anne) Yet these same people don’t blame Jane for the destruction of Anne.
Excellent point Tidus.
Word! If Anne is a homewrecking whore whose death was karma, the same can be said of Jane Seymour.
I agree with Sue. Henry always got what he wanted! His biggest was his betrayal of his catholic faith. Anne encouraged that. Anne didn’t deserve to die, in my opinion Henty deserved to die. But that’s history!!
Betrayal of the Catholic faith? Hardly. The catholic faith in England existed before Henry’s reign, during his reign, and after his reign. The catholic faith survives in the world today, yes, even in England, notwithstanding the centuries old machinations of worldly men who insist that it is their “right” to interpose themselves between the living God and those who still worship him and him alone.
Hello Karmi, you are quite right, Henry remained essentially Catholic and orthodox, although of course he denounced the Pope as the Head of the English Church and replaced himself in that role. Thankfully the Catholic Church was strong enough through her people to withstand all the attacks of the past and survives today.
Anne was an intelligent, charismatic, ambitious woman. Deprived of her first love Harry Percy, she set out to bring down Cardinal Wolsey for his part in the destruction of their relationship.
Anne was a manipulator. Her huge error was in not recognising the brutality of Henry VIII, another mistake was to encourage his streak of cruelty in regards to Katherine and Mary. Unleashed tyranny from a royal Pandora’s Box. She had an infatuated monarch as a weapon and she used her wiles unwisely, thinking the king would never do her any harm.
It was not her fault she was executed, but Anne miscalculated the character of her husband not seeing just how potentially vindictive he was.
Agreed! Henry was a vindictive psychopathic despot with a long memory. Why did he have Anne executed? Catherine was dead and his marriage to Anne was already annulled before her death. Therefore there was no civil nor religious reason stopping Henry from marrying his next to be wife. But Anne was a significant player in the downfall of Henry’s best mates, Wolsey and More. Her premature death was payback time to a woman whom he formerly loved.
Great post! Thank you, Claire, for all your work!
Excellent article Claire! Walk in someone’s shoes before judging and Anne, I always think the best of you !!!!!
I’m with you Claire! Sounds like many of the same things ignorant people say about rape victims.
God bless queen Anne, will fight to quote t your innocence
Great post. IMO, that Anne did not deserve the death penalty does not alter the evidence indicating that she did have some warning of what could happen to her. After all, – Wolsey wasn’t defiant, only unsuccessful — and from the way he treated Katherine and Mary, she had warning that Henry would turn on his “nearest and dearest”. However, I don’t think Anne could have done much about this — since Henry was such a megalomaniac, she couldn’t turn him down.
I’m with you! I get so upset when I watch shows etc. She may have done alot of things but she did not deserve her head cut off. And your right, innocent men died as well. Glad her Faith was strong!!
Most of what is written about Anne Boleyn’s character is speculative. What is pretty certain is that she – like her successor Jane Seymour – was a pawn in the hands of her power-crazed family. A lot of her character traits were reported by Eustace Chapuys, Katharine of Aragon’s Spanish ambassador, and we all know how reliable HE was in matters Anne Boleyn. Not. All in all I agree with what’s been said here – Anne had little choice in the matter, and was cast as the villainess because she “took” the throne from Katharine of Aragon. Henry was the main string-puller in the whole affair, and what better way to get rid of a queen who couldn’t give him a son? – and emerge with his conscience intact.
Curious … since you don’t think Chapuys is reliable, do you think Anne was guilty? A good chunk of the case for Anne’s innocence is in those dispatches. Furthermore, there is some corroboration … why would she ask Lady Kingston to beg Mary’s forgiveness if she didn’t feel she had mistreated her? There is also no conflict between Foxe’s pious and charitable Anneand the idea that she threatened the lives of Katherine and/or Mary. That Anne wasn’t a villain does not alter the reliability of Chapuy’s accounts.
Wonderful post and so true! I have studied the Tudors for years and even have taught a class on them for a local group. I am very biased in Anne’s favor. Henry pursued her relentlessly, what do you do when the most powerful man in the country will not leave you alone? It has been historical knowledge Henry wanted son and was thinking of divorce before he met Anne. Wolsey was looking for a French connection. How anyone can think Anne deserved her end is beyond my comprehension. Sure when she had no choice she may have schemed and worked at keeping it, not always nicely, but put yourself in her shoes. I totally agree with you Claire, and do not apologize for the post, you have the right of it!
Anne has always been slut-shamed, even while still alive. However, what I try to always keep in mind is that she really didn’t have a choice in any of it–Henry was going to have her or keep her from being involved with anyone else regardless. Her family, the law, the government–all would override any one woman’s stand as if she were just mere chattel. It is exactly what happened to Catherine of Aragon, too–she, even royal, had no rights. So in my opinion, all Anne did was to attempt to make the best of a bad situation by placing a higher value on herself than did others who were mistresses. It was a given that Henry was losing interest in Catherine and was going to have another queen ASAP, and it was a given that Anne would never be allowed to disregard Henry’s interest in her, so why not shoot for being queen? Needless to say, this doesn’t make me think that Anne was perfect or always behaved well, but I think the origin of blame falls to Henry and Wolsey.
While I understand your reasoning, I will say this: Anne also had Henry exile Katherine Of Aragon to a small manor house, had Henry’s poor daughter Mary (a princess in her own right!) be her daughter Elizabeth’s maid, was systematically on bad terms with almost everyone, starting with Wosely on to her own uncle. She was known to alienate people and to be downright cruel ( her celebrating both Wosely and Katherine’s deaths with parties) and slowly made enemies of almost everyone except her own, small inner circle.
Did Henry sexually harassed her? Perhaps. Did she have no choice or did she actively seduce the King? That has been a topic of debate for centuries, however her nastiness to other people, especially those she felt had less power, was well known.
I choose to think her story is neither black or white but a complex mix of character features.
quote: “I will say this: Anne also had Henry exile Katherine Of Aragon to a small manor house, had Henry’s poor daughter Mary (a princess in her own right!) be her daughter Elizabeth’s maid”
Anne didn’t have or make Henry do anything. This was all Henry’s doing. He was an absolute King who did what he wanted period. No one could make him do anything he didn’t want to do. Anne did try to get along with Mary, Mary refused. Do I think Anne should have tried harder to be kinder and get alone, Yes. Do I think it would have done any good, No. Mary hated her and nothing would change that.
Tidus and Stacy: Tidus is right, Stacy. It suited Henry to allow “people” to think that Anne was the one responsible for his cruel treatment of Katherine and Mary so that he could (at least in his own eyes) remain the beloved monarch.
Katherine was banished but it was hardly a small manor house. In fact the first home, the Moor was as grand and as large as any palace. Henry and Katherine had visited there many times. Originally it belonged to Cardinal Wolsey who added a wing for the King and a wing for the Queen. It had two long galleries and several upper and lower rooms as well as a large great hall and gardens. However, her later home at Buckden and Kimbolton Castle, although not small were not very well maintained because they were not the healthiest places in the world. They were luxurious and I doubt having 200 servants is a total hardship. What made things worse for Katherine was the constant harassment. Suffolk was sent to remove Katherine from one place to another and she refused to go, locking herself in her rooms. He removed all the furniture but had to put it all back and her servants and only removed six, two of whom were her chaplains. Father Bell later refused the Oath and was executed. She still had 200 servants when she moved to Kimbolton but she was separated from Mary. She also had to have permission to receive visitors and was effectively under posh house arrest.
Anne did mistreat Mary or gave orders on this, but it was with Henry’s consent and he continued to bully his daughter until she gave in after Anne was executed. Anne wanted Katherine sent from court but it was Henry who determined what happened to her and her treatment.
I have always found it deeply ironic and disturbing that Anne was and is considered a whore because she REFUSED to sleep with a man unless he married her. Yes, she eventually did give in, but if she had agreed to be his mistress, she wouldn’t have been the one in the middle of his divorce mess.
I fully agree with you, Claire; Anne wasn’t a saint, as none of us are, but I always felt she was a victim of Henry’s wrath, executing her for crimes she didn’t commit, and dragging five other poor souls into the fray. I’m sure many people who believe she was a w**re and a Jezebel seductress have only seen Hollywood’s version of the story, and haven’t done much if any scholarly research into Anne’s life. That’s the case with many historical figures who’ve been Hollywoodized. Historical accuracy isn’t what sells movie tickets and brings TV show ratings. (and some books, I hate to say)
Great work, as always, no apologies needed!
I think we also mustn’t forget the sequence of events in the context of the time. Religion then ruled and affected deeply every human being. Theirs was a much more philosophical attitude to death perhaps than nowadays. I have always believed Henry was a much weaker man than he was a King and that he was over sensitive to the precariousness of the newly founded Tudor dynasty which made an heir a necessity. Gossip, rumours and deliberately dripfed snippets about Anne by courtiers including Cromwell may have made him feel deeply threatened and that he had been made a fool of and laughed at, something that would never have sat easily in the shoulders of any King of those times. I believe Anne never loved Henry but she loved the power, the riches, the attention once she became queen. Had she had a son her position would have been invincible. However she was nervy, brittle and sharp tongued at times, possibly she had hyperthyroidism. Henry had bitten off more than he could chew and sadly Anne didn’t recognise the signs that she was pushing the boundaries in terms of the way she spoke and behaved towards him. By our standards of course she didn’t deserve execution. By the time she saw her world crumbling things had moved too far too fast. I often wonder, had Henry allowed her to be merely divorced and exiled how her life would have panned out. However he made a knee jerk and hasty decision. I also think that such a strong personality as hers would never have died with her ,and Henry must have thought about her many times for the rest of his life, but he could never have publicly admitted he had perpetuated or gone along with an injustice. I have read that on his deathbed he expressed regret and sorrow for her death. We will probably never know.
I love this!!! Thank you.
I believe Anne was sucked into a dangerous game without the possibility to get away from it or to forfeit without risk. And so she played it to the best of her abilities, regarding her limited options.
She may have been shrewd sometimes, she may have needed to be to at least try to ensure her daughter’s safety. But more than that, she must have felt helpless, sad, terrified and horribly alone.
In the end, this was one game she was never meant to win. And she paid dearly for her loss.
At least she can claim one victory: Queen Elizabeth I.
She was strong women ahead of her time.She would be a heroine today.Don’t judge anyone unless you have been there.She will always be my heroe!!
Anne did have her faults, but to be executed in such a manner? No, Henry bears the full responsibility for that. He knew there was little that anyone could do to resist him. Placing all or even part of the blame on Anne or her family is refusing to admit that Henry was the sovereign who pitilessly used and abused people.
I can so, SO relate to this “rant,” Claire (“rant” in quotation marks because it’s actually very logical). I get so tired of self-righteousness. Thank you so much for giving voice to what I have often felt and seethed about.
And, by the way, I don’t know how you manage to deal with this type of misogynistic commentary. I’m too much of a hot-head partisan to be able to–I’d just blow up all the time.
You and me both.
Great article by the way Claire.Thanx
Well said! If all the modern mistresses in the U.S. were beheaded, Marla Maples, Donald Trump’s second wife would no longer be with us. It is unimaginable in this day and time to think of the treatment Anne Boleyn endured during her final days.
I currently teach this portion of Tudor History and when I visited the Tower for myself, I stood at the stairs leading to “Traitor’s Gate,” and wondered how Anne must have felt as she entered at that spot. I left with a feeling of melancholy. The woman was trapped from the beginning and her fate, I believe, was sealed with her final miscarriage. Like you, I am fascinated by Anne Boleyn because she was an extrodinarily different type of woman for the 1500’s. Being well educated and traveled, opinionated, and sharp witted would make her not only stand out, but intimidating to men in general. Especially to men who were against reform. Thanks for the post! I thoroughly enjoyed it!
quote: “Being well educated and traveled, opinionated, and sharp witted would make her not only stand out, but intimidating to men in general.”
I don’t think Anne actually arrived at the Traitors Gate Mindy, that’s just a story the Beefeaters tell for effect.
Always makes me laugh when teachers and so called historians have people arriving at the Tower through Traitors Gate. First of all the river gate in question was used by Edward I as a private entrance to his palace and fortress, but was later reinforced for defence with three portcullucis, two murder holes and triple gates. It’s a defensive entrance, not for bringing prisoners in. The name Traitors Gate was invented in the late eighteenth century and popularized by Wellington when he introduced the first guide book to the Tower as it was opened for tourists. State prisoners were taken to the main set of steps to the side, now the main entrance and two private entrances to the royal apartments also existed. Anne Boleyn was probably brought to the main steps and escorted across the courtyard to the royal apartments where she was housed. As Traitors Gate is an invention as you quite rightly point out, Anne certainly did not come to the Tower that way. You would think a teacher of history to know that.
Hi, I have studied the Tudors foe many years. I have visited Hampton Court many times in my life. I have worked at the National Trust, England at Blickling Hall, where she was born. I have more or less decided that Henry was a serial killer. He was also a murderer. After Anne was murdered he had carte blanche to kill who he liked, who was going to stop him? Whether Anne was innocent or not, will anyone really know the truth. It was very dangerous being near the crown, as it was in many of the kings and queens courts in our history in England. Not only England I’m afraid but all over Europe.
Great post, I totally agree. Especially,
“Henry was a serial killer. He was also a murderer. After Anne was murdered he had carte blanche to kill who he liked, who was going to stop him?
It makes one wonder did any of these people who condemned Anne & the other’s with her not realize that the same thing could happen to them. Did Thomas Cromwell (just before he was executed) think, maybe I shouldn’t have been so quick to pull Anne Down. That this was his just deserts for what he did to her ?
I’m surprised all of England didn’t (in mass hysteria) leave England by any means necessary.
I don’t know how true to life the series “The Tudors” was but it portrayed Anne’s father and uncle as power hungry and forcing her to pursue Henry. If that is true then they are more to blame than she is.
The Tudors was “not” historically accurate. But Anne’s family probably was power hungry – who wasn’t in that court? They no doubt hoped she could help enrich the family. I doubt the original thinking was that she would be Queen, just a new favorite mistress.
I think it is very comforting that Anne’s daughter became such a great queen – and although Elizabeth always identified with her father in public, she seems to have honoured her mother’s memory too.
I love a good pro/con discussion. What history tell us is that she was the second wife of Henry VIII due to several circumstances before she ever caught the King’s attention. One must go back to the era in which Henry lived. A male heir was a necessity not a want or desire. Most of Catherine’s children died before birth or shortly after. Catherine’s advancing age meant she could no longer get pregnant so the King wanted out of his marriage to her. If it not had been Anne it would have been someone else that he wanted to “use” to get out of his marriage. The question put forth is was Anne a victim? Yes and no. She was well educated, a courtier was also educated at the French court as well. Which means she was not dumb as to what went on at court or how the King or Kings of the era were like. In this aspect she was a ” willing victim” by her family and herself as they all saw an opening and knew that he price would be high if she succeeded and failed to produce a male heir or if she failed to get the King to divorce Catherine as not only she but her family would also be punished in some way. There were probably other women wanting to catch the King’s attention but history does not tell us about most of them except that Jane Parr was just literally around the corner waiting herself for a chance with the King. As soon as Anne failed in her duties to give the King a son Jane and her family made her move. Same situation different end results…… Anne’s victimization comes starts early on as the lay people the people of the kingdom thought of her as a whore a who was hurting “Good Queen Catherine”. Her reputation was ruined earlier on. Thus laying the foundation to accuse her of being a witch later on. The King used her to get out of his marriage, he then used her to break from the Catholic church so he could get the divorce he wanted and do as he wanted without Rome on his back. Her family used her to advance themselves at court, get lands, titles and money. Anne used the King to remove people from court; even Henry’s daughter Mary and had her declared a bastard to get Elizabeth as his only heir, advance herself and her family. All in all I would say she is both the victim and victimless in different situations. So where one person states their opinions they are right depending on the situation that is being spoken about.
Jane Seymour or Catherine Parr? I don’t believe for one second that Catherine Parr wanted to be Henry’s wife. She would have suffered the same fate due to her beliefs and powerful enemies. She lucked out and Henry died before she could be found guilty of heresy or treason.
Jane Seymour is a question mark in my mind. I’m not sure she had ambitions to be queen, but she evidently did not want to be just a mistress either.
Henry was a tyrant and an impulsive child in a man’s body. Once he tired of a plaything, it was cast aside like so much trash without a second thought. Anne was very intelligent, but her folly was in believing Henry would be monogamous because he was so madly in love with her, and unwilling to turn a blind eye. She was unable to carry a second child to term and give him the promised son. Whether that was due to a physical ailment of Henry’s or Anne being RH negative, who knows? Fate dealt a cruel hand to her. I’m not saying she was completely innocent in the wrongs done to Queen Katherine and Princess Mary and others, but I do believe she and the men who died with her were completely innocent of the crimes they were accused of. Henry was a cruel, vain and selfish man. Although the festering wound in his leg and head trauma he suffered may have played a part in his personality traits. A wound like that would put anybody in a bad mood!
I very much agree with you, Claire! People so often don’t think things through, or they judge events back then as if they happened in the context of society today ( like ‘why didn’t Anne tell Henry off’ or some such nonsense). I agree that Anne really didn’t have any choice but to accept when Henry offered marriage. She’d rebuffed him twice already, and you don’t do that to an absolute monarch very easily! And with Henry’s temper to boot! And after that, she just tried to make the best of it. And yes, she wasn’t perfect. Who is??
In the 16th century, the bottom line was if you were in any way involved with the court, all things flowed through the king. Anne was a young woman whos entire family, not just her father and brother, were dependent on the king. If Anne had rebuffed Henry in a harsh manor, there were far reaching consequences that effected probably a hundred people, if Henry had wished to retaliate. Manors, offices, social standing, future grants and marriages for her family were all at stake. In fact, maybe heads would roll with trumped up charges by an angered Henry. Anne had pressures to stop rebuffing Henrys advances that no modern person can fully appreciate. As for being the seductress and “other woman”, that is pure Hollywood. Why is SHE held responsible for Henrys straying? He already had an illegitimate son by Bessie Blount and children (or at least a child) by Annes own sister. There are illusions to other fleeting affairs by Henry throughout these years. Much of the demonizing of Anne as a scheming seductress with er eye on the crown come from foreign Catholic ambassadors, and much later fictional books in Victorian times. I personally find it hard to believe that Anne loved Henry in any romantic sense. She had to choose, after trying for years to discourage Henrys advances, to buckle under and take the most advantageous route. A route that she was continuously being pushed to by her large and powerful family. Talk about being between a rock and a hard place! We look through modern eyes, and forget that the choices available to a young daughter of a minor court official are radically different then we as women have today. Henry used sexual pressure and social blackmail to achieve his goal. That goal was to bed Anne using ANY tool at his disposal, whether ethical or moral or not. Even after she became Queen, her powers were limited and the threat of ruination for herself and her family was an ever present danger. ALL the court suffered the same risk of ruination under the mercurial whims of Henry. Anne was not perfect by any means, but she was a victim of an egomaniac with unlimited powers. His own children feared for their lives under his reign. I have sympathy for Anne, flaws and all.
I think Anne was caught up in a whirle wind that she didn’t have much control over. She may have manipulated the King a bit but the King ultimately got what he wanted and he could have cared less whom he hurt. I think Queen Katherine and Princess Mary got a raw deal, it wasn’t fair to them and it caused Mary to have mental health issues because of the terrible treatment and stress caused to her. Anne in my opinion was just as much a victim as all the other wives of Henry. He didn’t have to kill her but he wanted to prove a point. If she had only had a son, what a major history changer for the Tidor era! Her daughter became one of the best monarchs that England ever had, I’d like to think her spirit was able to see that her beloved daughter became queen!
I do think Anne could have been nicer to Mary.
However, It’s up to the parent’s (Henry & COA)to protect they’re children. Neither could be bothered. COA was too concerned with herself and being Queen, and Henry was too concerned with having a son. COA & Henry both treated Mary worse than Anne ever did.
As far a mental issues, Henry, COA & Mary all had something wrong with them.
Katherine of Aragon wasn’t concerned with her status and treatment … she could have done much better for herself in those regards by giving in to Henry’s demands (as Anne of Cleves would do). If the marriage wasn’t valid, Katherine had been Henry’s mistress for over twenty years, so if ot is admirable in Anne to refuse to be Henry’s whore, it should be equally admirable in Katherine of Aragon to refuse to admit that she was a whore. Furthermore, Henry did not have to mistreat Mary to end the the marriage to Katherine and re-marry — there was a “good faith exception” that his sister used to protect Lady Margaret Douglas’s legitimacy when Margaret Tudor got her second marriage annulled). If he truly cared about the successioin (instead of his egomaniacal concern about his son, rather getting a husband for Mary and leaving the throne to a grandsom), he would have used this exception … English history showed that child rulers were also brought disaster.
She was a smart woman born to power. For sure, she maybe played her cards wrong. But even someone as brilliant as Katherine of Aragon was reduced to begging to see her daughter and pay her servants. Anne of Cleves must’ve been clever and lucky and had a helluva nice personality to manage to keep her head, let alone status.
The main reason I can’t see Anne Boleyn as an “innocent victim” is because, from my perspective, she was playing hard in the reformation game. Whether or not she was in any way responsible for the deaths of the Carthusian monks and Thomas More (as conflicted as he may have been) and Wolsey, she was aware of the consequences of trying to wield power, influence a king, and put her stamp on the world. She wasn’t, I don’t think, just a pretty girl like Katherine Howard who got caught in a tragic soap opera. She was a power-player. Sudden Death was potentially part of the game, and she knew it.
Regardless of how Ann became Queen, there is no evidence of her being unfaithful or anything but devoted to Henry. As her marriage progressed and Henry’s attention waned, she became paranoid about Mary inheriting the crown instead of Elizabeth. Once again, there is no evidence that I’ve seen that she actually plotted Mary’s death. Aside from wanting Mary dead, her only crime was not producing the male heir that Henry so desperately desired. Even at the end, Ann wished no harm to her husband and she expressed her devotion to him. For whatever she gained by marrying Henry, it was not worth the price she paid.
I think that Anne Boleyn has been SO badly treated by history! Like Richard III, she is a victim of Tudor vilification, in her case to justify her execution by order of Henry VIII. I get so annoyed at the portrayal of Henry as this great lover, this wronged King who was let down by women he ‘loved’, and who was ruled by his conscience! He was a spoilt, arrogant and selfish man, who, when he wanted something, would move heaven and earth to get it, as he did with Anne. He pursued her relentlessly, and just how do you refuse a King, who has the power of life over death, and can ruin anyone he likes, whenever he likes? She tried, she did not ask for his passion, his obsession. When she finally accepted the inevitable, and gave Henry his desire, then I think that was the start of her downfall. Once the battle was over, the challenge won, Henry realised that Anne was a woman like other women, not the perfect goddess of his fantasies. He was caught in a situation of his own making, had ostracised his wife, Katharine of Aragon, his daughter Mary, and many of his subjects in his pursuit and ennobling of Anne, and I don’t think it was possible that ANY woman could have lived up to his expectation. Anne was like the rest of us, imperfect, flawed, made mistakes, BUT if you want to point the finger of blame, then point it at Henry!! HE took her, raised her up, and then sent her crashing to her doom when she did not produce the son that Henry wanted, and he was bored with her and was actively pursuing Jane Seymour! He was responsible for Annes’ death, along with the 5 men that he executed along with her. He had to ‘justify’ getting rid of Anne permanently, and accusing her of adultery was his way out, and killing her ensured that she would be silenced forever. I wonder what he would have said, had he known that we would be fighting her corner in the 21st Century? It is said that he never spoke of Anne after her death – but I would like to bet that she was forever in his thoughts! Rant on Claire – I am right with you on this!!
Excellent post and I totally agree.
As for him never speaking of Anne after her death (my understanding is no one else was allowed to either) I believe it was because he didn’t want people sympathizing with her and speaking the truth, That she was set up by him and very much a victim.
It’s true that Anne was the victim of Tudor vilification but Richard 111 was a different kettle of fish altogether, in his own time Richard had already lost the trust of his subjects especially after the disappearance of his two nephews, Shakespeare painted him as an evil hunchback which did sway peoples opinion of him yet his own behaviour did cause dissension, that’s a different subject anyway we don’t wish to go off subject, Anne actually hasn’t been badly treated by history it’s Henry who has, his hasty execution and even more hasty marriage to Jane Seymour caused grumblings throughout the court and in the lowliest of his subjects, in fact iv often wondered if Jane was pregnant because of the way it was so rushed?
What bothers me is that by saying Anne deserved what she got because she was a “whore,” you are using the same logic as the “she was asking for it, what was she wearing” argument. Women are not only worth something, worth saving, if they are”pure.” Blaming a woman for a man’s infidelity is encouraging misogyny and oppression. If Anne deserved to be beheaded, Henry deserved to be drawn and quartered.
Just to make it clear, I wasn’t saying that, that’s what others say. I don’t think anyone is deserving of being executed on false charges.
Great article Claire. Thank you.
@Claire technically Anne was charged with treason though… and she did say “You look for dead men’s shoes. For if aught came to the King but good, you would look to have me.” to Henry Norris which wasn’t perhaps the wisest thing she ever did. It gave Cromwell the hook he needed to elaborate on. N’est ce pas? (Still doesn’t mean she deserved it but it was a crime back then to even imagine the king’s death)
Yes, she was definitely charged with treason, but I don’t believe that she was guilty of it. It is clear from her words that she is reprimanding Henry Norris for his thoughts and actions, and not imagining it or compassing it. I think these words were reckless, but I don’t think they constituted treason. They weren’t even twisted to use against her or the date of that conversation listed in the indictmenrs, which I find interesting. They’re not mentioned in the charges against her at all. She was charged with plotting the King’s death, rather than mentioning it.
I don’t think we have enough information on the trial to know everything that was brought up. We do know that Henry knew that once she was in the Tower there was little chance she would be exonerated. He said that later in life non specifically. Cromwell was a wiley character and he wove a rich tapestry from the least little comment that she made while in prison and from the people around her. Sadly she didn’t stand a chance. But if Chapuys said she was innocent when he was the one who relished calling her the great whore….then we can be pretty sure, she was innocent.
We have the full indictments though, so we know the charges that were laid against her and the dates the charges were allegedly committed.
Yes, the outcome was never in dispute as far as Henry was concerned. The executioner must have been ordered before her trial, her household was disbanded, he told Jane Seymour that Anne would be condemned etc. Anne never stood a chance, as you say. And, of course, in those days the defendant was presumed guilty.
@ Maria, Another excellent post and I totally agree. I can’t understand how anyone, let alone a woman can encourage misogyny and oppression even back then but especially in this day and age.
@ Claire, I could be wrong but I don’t think she meant you. It’s obvious you are an Anne Boleyn fan.
Probably not, I’m not sure. Anyway, I’m just clarifying that I’m not arguing that Anne wasn’t a whore and therefore didn’t deserve death. I don’t believe she was a whore but even if you did believe that of Anne then I would still say that she didn’t deserve the end she came to. I’m not arguing that she was pure and therefore undeserving of her death. Phew! Hard to explain!
Well said Claire. Anne Boleyn was set up by Thomas Cromwell on the orders of Henry VIII. He was an absolute monarch who could do as he pleased and wanted rid of Anne even if it meant killing her. I think the fact that he set up the commissions of oyer and terminer in the months leading up to her execution shows how desperate he was to get rid of her. In my opinion Henry VIII was an absolute monster.
Excellent article! One must remember that Henry was very narcissistic. To rebuff him too much was dangerous, and I think Anne realized what a precarious situation she was in. You could only provoke a king like Henry so much before both you and your family paid the price.
She was a very intelligent woman who made the best of her situation and did not deserve what happened to her.
Well all I can say Claire is that for an”emotive post”, I think you’ve stated the facts pretty coherently . Yes Anne was flawed but aren’t we all? How some people feel they can judge someone badly when they don’t have all the facts, especially from another age and time I don’t know. The pressure that Anne must have been under ever since Henry first “set his cap at her”, must have been immense. I think she did pretty well coping as far as she did really. I’ve always feel that Anne is maligned far too much. Such a pity such a fascinating woman met such a brutal end.
I love this web site!!! thanks for all your hard work!!! these people who say all these thiings don’t really know to much about anne boylen as well as the tudors or their era, things were soooo much different back then. u canot judge someone without being in there shoesand and in a diiferant era on top of it.there is some evidence that we just don’t have , an may never find I think all these tv shows should portray their characters as true to the eveidence that we do have.agian thanks !!!!!
I have to admit she was a victim of circumstance.. I have to mention…know your English history. I am direct decent of Margaret Tudor, King Henry’s sister who married a Scottish King.I am also related almost every woman of King Henry’s wives. I am related to the Boleyns, Howards, and the Parrs . According to history, a group of people were not a fan of Anne Boleyn. When King Henry the 8th met Anne he wanted her to be his mistress ..she refused to be that sort of like her sister, Mary who was his mistress. Anne did serve in the court as a lady-in -waiting for Catherine of Aragon .It is true that Anne happen to be smart,intelligent and saw in France the uprising of protestant and King Henry was astounded some of the things she learned of the protestant movement. To some people that this is a threat who wanted to keep England as a catholic country. Without Anne , King Henry would not had stated the Church of England who wanted to divorce from his 1st wife. If anyone like to know my connection to the Tudors…I will be able to look into my family tree and historical notes !
Brilliantly said. There are a lot of people who have taken fiction for fact in regards to historical figures – Anne Boleyn being no exception. As you stated, we have little to no evidence of what Anne actually did or felt. We only have SOME contemporary accounts, most of which were recorded post-pivotal events or written with extreme bias to one faction/religion or the other. So, we can only infer (using Tudor attitudes and styles) what she would have felt/responded.
If many of these people condemning her were to research her truly and in-depth, they would find an inspiring, intelligent, charismatic woman who was centuries ahead of her time in many respects. She increased the money the crown gave to the poor, she demanded decorum and uprightness from her ladies, she championed education. If people were to do a little more research and remove their emotions (and their copies of The Other Boleyn Girl) they might find a woman that they not only respect but can look to for inspiration even in this day and age.
As Wolsey and Cromwell found out, they could not control the lion that was Henry (“those claws, those claws”). Anne, much to her dismay, found that out as well. When Henry is finished with someone, they are truly finished-either they are dead to him in his mind or in reality.
Anne, in my humble opinion, thought that she had control of her love affair with Henry; she could make him cry and “run away” to Hever. Henry loved being in love and the chase. Once he “caught” her, he became disenchanted and looked to get rid of her. By any means possible. He did not want any man to have her, so he wanted her dead and disgraced. It did not matter if tow daughters were bastards; he finally had his son from dead Queen Jane.
Did Anne deserve this? No. Did she bring it on herself? She had a sharp tongue and a haughty attitude, but, one thing all should remember: Henry was always in control-Anne didn’t stand a chance. She was convicted long before she stepped foot into the court room.
Thank-you Claire. Excellent post. Anne Boleyn should be respected and admired. She did nothing wrong.
I agree wholeheartedly and share your frustrations. I believe the relationship between Anne and Henry was more about attrition. He wore her down and took away her options. She played the hand she was dealt. I can’t imagine the stress and mental anguish of losing babies, being constantly on guard for every political scheme at court and the knowledge that your husband is cheating all at once. That would make anyone crack, but the knowledge that your families standing in society and career are riding on your shoulders as well?
Anyone who says she deserved what she got is basing their opinion on trashy fiction novels, not history or truth.
She was a fascinating woman, and her life was taken unjustly.
Wow Claire, you are putting your head on the scaffold today. You sound very angry. The amount of feedback on this could be never ending, just like the life of our dear Anne. I know exactly how you feel. I too have a great passion that I am pleased takes over my daily life and the responsibility we take on is HUGE . When I hear untruths and ridiculous accusations it too gets my back up especially when people will not accept the truth even when the evidence is before their very eyes. I hope by doing this post you will now lay to rest all the pent up frustrations that must have been building up over the years. Take a break away from all that is ‘Anne’ for a while, I know it is very hard, as my passion follows me where ever I go on this earth, no doubt Anne follows you no matter where you go. There will always be someone who does not believe or even want to know the truth but simply wants to wind you up and will say things and believe things that simply are hideous. Your website is a credit to you and all you stand for regards Anne. Blessings Claire & good kama.
Anne was innocent, I believe that, not sure I would have liked her but did she deserve that, absolutely NO
Quote Prof. Dustin Wood : “How positively you see others is linked to how happy, kind-hearted and emotionally stable you are…..”
You can see that Claire looks for balance in her summaries and appraisals, which we all like and value, don’t we? She is also passionate about her subject, which is simply infectious. And personally, I like a good rant, now and again. It’s honest!
You’ve just made my day! Thank you.
I feel that Ann was a victim of several people. Her father, king Henry , and the Protestant leaders. I feel also that she was very intelligent and wanted to make a difference in freeing England from the then corrupt Catholic Church. Did any woman really have a choice back then? She didn’t want to be a kings mistress. He was on the prowl for a new fertile wife, and ann became his obsession. I am so thankful things are different.
Hello Claire, your feelings and emotions have hit the nail on the head for me. Exactly how I feel. These people make me sad and angry at the same time.
People just don’t understand sometimes that those were different times back then. You did not tell a King no and if you did you didn’t do it for long because a king will have what he wants. For her to say she played a game and lost…that is cruel. To them, this story is an episode of The Tudors. They do not really think about the REAL lives who were affected deeply and forever by this.
I think one of the problems we face when we judge those from the past is that it is very hard to make any accurate judgement unless we have studied the time in which those people lived, and know what they believed, the way society thought, the laws, what was expected of women within the framework of their culture.. Modern day society is so different than the past. It is easy for us, used to our modern day viewpoint, and the benefit of already knowing how things are going to turn out, to think we would be not act as they acted, but we are not in an environment where a King can pretty much, legally do what he wants with you, even unto death. We do not have laws that make us from a legal, social and religious standpoint, little more than property. A society where we have little choice but to marry where we are told, and where our behavior could potentially have a real effect on our family’s honor or position. If we decided to disobey, at all costs, and “be independent,” there were hardly any opportunities to make your way in life, except prostitution. Very few women were educated and there was no Public Assistance. Most people don’t have the historical knowledge or all the relevant information to judge someone from the past, and do a fair job of it.
Henry was an absolute monarch in every sense of the word. He seemed to like to play and above all have his own way. If things went awry he had his scapegoats and many heads rolled for that. He was quite capable of throwing people under the proverbial bus. Look at the track record, Woolsey, Cromwell, numerous others. He liked others to take the blame so maybe he did have a little bit of conscience because he wanted out from under. I think Anne as so very clever and put him off for so long and he wouldn’t take no for an answer. She wished to marry elsewhere he saw to the fact that wouldn’t happen via Woolsey. I think he would have let her go had he had his way and maybe tired of her like the others. But he was defied and it intrigued him so I think he liked “this game”. He won in the end and perhaps Anne thought “if he was willing to do all this for me, he truly loves me”. Heady stuff. Henry wanted a son bottom line and rid of a wife who couldn’t give him one and Catharine and Mary were a sacrifice he made to that end. Anne would provide it. She didn’t of course so I fully believe therein lies her eventual fate. I think it must have been awful for her to realize he after all they went through could toss her aside as he did. That in itself must have been torture for her. Then to take down her brother and others with her blame others. He wants a son, Anne didn’t comply and personality wise she probably defied him a little again, so it was Jane he turned to. Poor Anne, to die as she did for what? I don’t believe her guilty, not in a million years though I am certainly no expert on history but what I’ve read she was set up literally. Claire is right what an awful, awful death that poor lady had and the worry of what he would do with her beloved child Elizabeth. Her brother and innocent Mark Smeeton. Such a sad tale. Henry could rise above it all Cromwell’s and other people’s doing. She was discarded in the worst way is how I see it. Henry once again absolutely exonerated. Poor Henry! He didn’t fool anyone really except maybe himself. I often wonder how he slept nights. He really was a tyrant. Cromwell found that out as well. Another eventual disposal . Henry quite remarkably a tyrant and poor Anne and so many others felt the brunt of that.
Anne is said o be a victim of circumstance. Sbe, just like Catherine, was not lucky enough to produce a male heir. Henry was convinced that he needed a male heir so he got rid of the useless spouses. Divorced, beheaded, etc. Still, he did have an heir from his firts marriage tha lasted 22 year – he had Mary.
England had never been ruled by a woman before but there had been queens regnants. Mary should have been seen as an heir (and actually she became an English queen).
I blame some of the negativity towards Anne on Phillippa Gregory. She seems to have a lot of negative feelings towards a lot of the subjects of her novels. I used to enjoy her books, not so much anymore. The Constant Princess sets up Katherine of Aragon as a liar. I couldn’t even get through her book about Katherine Parr, I forgot the name of it. Also Wolf Hall portrayed the Boleyns as the worst sort of people… No fair and balanced portrayal there! I enjoy your website and articles very much. Thanks.
I find Phillippa Gregory’s novels rubbish, even in the documentary called ‘ The last days of Anne Boleyn’ she commented that it was probable she could have slept with her brother as she was very ruthless, I mean honestly, it’s not something a woman does to get a child, the incest accusation has stuck with Anne thru the centuries yet like the deformed foetus tale there’s nothing to back it up, people surmise that out of desperation she chose her brother to impregnate her as he alone she could trust, yet those are the actions of a sexually depraved woman, not an intelligent one who held the king at bay for many years before giving in when she knew her hearts desire was finally coming to fruition, that of becoming his wife and queen, what people don’t realise is it’s out of touch with her very character, she wasn’t going to turn into a raging nympho and risk her very marriage and reputation after she had tried so hard to achieve that end, and as we have seen it was virtually impossible for a queen to commit adultery as she was surrounded by so many people most of the time, even when they were in bed they had a maid who usually slept at the bottom and a man servant was positioned outside the door, she couldn’t just slip away to some discreet hunting lodge as kings were wont to do, as indeed Henry had in the past during his marriage with Katherine, for queen consorts it was different and in fact it was something her daughter Elizabeth remarked on many years later, she was killed on trumped up charges because Henry couldn’t allow her to live, he couldn’t have another wife causing trouble in the background when he married his third wife, he wanted no impediment to his marriage to Jane or any children they may have, so Anne had to die alive she would have caused trouble as Katherine had, her character was maligned in the most dreadful way and she was brutally put to death yet Henry to has suffered because of what happened to his second wife, his reputation as a tyrant from the minute Anne’s head rolled in the straw has became part of England’s bloody history, six people executed in the same week, Hilary Mantel said Anne wasn’t a victim she played a winning hand and ultimately she lost, she was it’s true calculating vindictive and ambitious, she was the cause of both Katherine and Mary’s misery and of the deaths of More and Fisher, the break with Rome and the upheaval it caused, yet she couldn’t do it alone, Henry was in charge of his actions even tho he was blinded by lust yet Henry was no puppet jerking to her strings, in the end she became as much a victim of his rage and transitory affections as his first wife and his former favourites, and his obsession for a son, I don’t feel she was an innocent victim either, she was a very strong incredibly brave woman but she did not deserve to lose her life, her so called lovers I feel were the real innocent victims here as they were just caught up in the turbulent maelstrom of Anne’s doomed marriage.
Anne was Not the cause of Katherine & Mary’s misery. Henry and even Katherine to a degree were responsible for that.
Her refusal to agree to a divorce- annulment which was obviously just her refusal to step down as Queen.
She also was not the cause of More and Fisher’s death’s, & the break with Rome. Henry alone was responsible for that.
I did also say that she didn’t do it alone, I meant she wasnt wholly responsible, Henry had the final say over what happened in his kingdom, she did however create the circumstances that led to it.
I do too. I won’t read anything by Phillippa Gregory anymore. She seem’s to love to malign
Anne Boleyn and anyone else she has a problem with.
I too find Anne fascinating and believe she was a person of many contrasting personality traits. I also believe that as additional pregnancies did not provide a son she did what some people do when they are nervous or scared, they get angry and lash out or take on a haughty attitude. Also, I have met very few second wives who don’t lash out at the first wife for who they may feel is causing trouble or simply not going quietly away. The same could be true of her feelings for the child of that first wife. I also think it is human nature when you feel everyone believes you to be unqualified that for some people they act angry, haughty and superior. What Anne didn’t know was how the wheels that were now in motion for setting Katherine aside would be used to a murderous effect on herself. Sadly I believe Anne and certainly Henry felt fate would not keep them from having a son. A son for Henry and a savior for Anne.
Applying 20th Century middle class mores to 16th Century royal marriage is comparing apples and oranges. Marriage is a very different kettle of fish for us than it was for royalty. We marry for love and companionship. These were things kings were accustomed to find outside of marriage, as they married strangers for state purposes.
Henry and Katherine were rather unusual in this respect. They knew each other for years before they were married. Had Katherine had sons, they would have stayed married.
Katherine was a failure as Queen. She may have been popular, and admirable in many ways, but she did not do what a Queen must do to succeed. She did not produce healthy, living sons.
The break was bound to come. Henry really had to have sons.
Henry however had no stomach for a state marriage to a stranger. The one time he tried it, it failed instantly. So when Anne came along, and he found in her what he was looking for in a wife, the break came.
I feel sorry for all of them. The divorce ruined Henry, and ultimately killed Katherine and Anne.
It was England that suffered the most.
And perhaps, in the end, it is the people who deserve the most sympathy. They paid the piper for all of it.
First I don’t believe in karma so for me if someone deserves punishment under the law it is as a result of actually having committed a crime, being in the right frame of mind and fully aware that their choice could lead to this and they have been proved guilty, with absolutely certainly in a court of law. Few crimes are actually committed under these conditions, however, many other factors play a part, mental health, being brain washed, brain injury, personality flaws, desperation, poverty, greed, revenge, personal motives, complexity of the situation, a combination of the above and of course pure evil. The idea that people are punished because they made error x earlier in life or something else happened is appalling to me. Anne Boleyn may have seriously upset some high born people, people in with the King, people who supported Queen Katherine, but that does not mean that she deserved the terrible and unfair fate that she was unjustly given.
Anne Boleyn was a woman who did something that few Queens, if any had done, she had replaced a present, royal born, popular Queen in Katherine of Aragon. Henry Viii was as much to blame for this as Anne as he agreed to marry Anne in the first place. However, had Henry not persued Anne Boleyn it is possible that he would have married someone else as even before Anne he had another obsession and dynastic need, Henry and England needed a male heir. As wonderful as Katherine was, the tragic reality is that she could not give him a son. Henry was already looking for a reason to escape his marriage before his pulse raced at the sight of Anne Boleyn. Henry found himself falling desperately and passionately in love with Anne, who initially said no to Henry, making him want her more. Possibly with some encouragement from her family, who lets face it saw the financial rewards of having a daughter in the royal bed, Anne responded favourably. Her response, though was conditional; yes, but to marriage not being Henry’s mistress. Thomas Boleyn was also in royal service for many years and knew that Henry needed a new wife and son, why should that not be provided by Anne? There is no evidence that Thomas Boleyn pushed Anne towards Henry, but well he could have mentioned it in passing.
Anne and Henry fell in love and committed mutually to marry. Nobody could have predicted the difficulties which led to the seven years delay before their marriage, all of which I feel put a strain on their marriage from the start. The difficulties also probably had an affect on their personalities, making them more demanding of each other. We are given conflicting evidence about the first two years of marriage, but the couple grew throughout some hard times. Anne was clearly fertile as she had a healthy child in their first year, who, although a girl, was not a great disappointment but was doted on by Henry and Anne. Unfortunately, Anne did have a miscarriage in this time, she also had some health problems, mentally she was down and may have been seriously ill after the miscarriage. Anne was worried about Mary and this has been seen as her wanting to kill the Princess, but as Claire has pointed out in other posts, Anne was under a tremendous strain, she was unable to provide a son, she was being criticised, she may have been ill, she was not thinking about what she did or said. We are also told that Anne and Henry were merry together during this time more than with Katherine and had parties a lot. Anne was, however, her own person, she could not make the transition from haughty, confident, outspoken mistress to submissive, obedient wife. Anne despaired when Henry took a mistress, she was very critical of him, something that he began to resent.
Then came the fatal turning point. In 1535, Anne and Henry made a successful and triumphant progress which ended with Anne carrying a son. Anne was on a high in January 1536 with the death of her rival Katherine must have made the future seem secure, but then it all went wrong, partly because Henry did something stupid, partly because of a change in the foreign policy of Cromwell and the Emperor. Poor Anne suffered from a tragic loss of their son in dramatic circumstances. Henry had an accident in the tournament which almost killed him and Anne found Jane Seymour on his knee. The combined shock of these two events, within days of each other caused premature death of the son Anne was carrying, followed by an almost hysterical reaction and grief for Henry. Please note we are given great detail that Henry was devastated, but nobody tells us about the great distress and upset to Anne. The mother was normally blamed, but Anne must have felt depressed and really upset. What now?
What happened in the last few months of the marriage of Anne Boleyn and Henry Viii has been hotly contested by historians but it is unlikely that Anne Boleyn was executed for not having a son. It is more likely that this loss and breach with the King was such that it gave her enemies an opportunity to work against her. Cromwell turned against her as she stood in the way of his grand plan, his foreign policy, monastic policies, the Seymour factor came into play, Anne became more unstable and unguarded, the game of courtly love was twisted against her, rumourd spread and in April Cromwell was asked to investigate the talk about the Queen. Henry was wanting out of the marriage, word came to his attention that Anne had been foolish enough to make the famous words that Henry Norris wanted to marry her if Henry died, which was treasonous, Cromwell pounced on the most vulnerable person in Mark Smeaton and the lies and accusations began. As a result of all this poor Anne and five innocent men were killed, the evidence invented, Henry believed the lies as two juries found the evidence creditable and the rest is history.
Anne Boleyn was not the perfect role model, she had some unfortunate character flaws that could have been used against her, she made some people angry and upset, she did not always watch her tongue, powerful enemies watched for her to mess up and tragically she lost the male heir who could have protected her from them. However, Anne had another side which is forgotten by historians and commentary, she was generous and good to her friends. Anne cared about social justice, she promoted education, she helped some people in prison, she was interested in reform, which may not have been popular, but she encouraged her household to read a Bible that she left for them to share, she was modest as well as fashionable, she was intellectually above many at court, she tried to make people like her, she was gracious, an affectionate mother, she was Henry’s equal in many ways, they were actually well matched. But a number of people and unfortunate circumstances, a personality change in her husband, allowed her enemies to speak to his suspicious nature and condemn his Innocent wife for ridiculous invented crimes that she could not possibly have committed.
P.S. Claire please don’t apologize for making such a heartfelt and emotional posting, you feel passionate about Anne and we are all the richer for that and this beautiful article.
I enjoyed your “rant” very much, in particular the quote from Karen Lindsay. I read her book several years ago, and it completely changed my thinking regarding Anne Boleyn — and Anne of Cleves. Lindsay offers what is, to me, the only logical explanation for the Holbein portrait being so pretty — Anne of Cleves actually WAS. Henry just didn’t like her. For some reason, though, historians — even female ones — have consistently accepted his word for it that she was ugly, despite the evidence of the portrait. I have the same desire to rant about comments like “Holbein was painting the inner beauty of her soul,” etc., that you have with comments like “Anne Boleyn deserved her death.”
As for Anne deserving her death, I think you are right that she clearly didn’t. What crime had she committed? Advising Henry to get rid of his first wife/daughter/Thomas More? Nasty, perhaps, but not a crime. Arguing with Henry? Dumb probably, shrewish perhaps, but not a crime — they had to make something up, and the fact that they had to kill five innocent men to get rid of her says far more about Henry that it does about Anne. I’ve always remembered two points: (1) that when Kingston told her in the Tower that everyone in the King’s realm got justice, she laughed (sardonically, I’m certain — she knew exactly what sort of justice she could expect); and (2) the difference in Henry’s attitudes about being “cuckolded” by Anne (complacent — he knew it wasn’t true) and Katherine Howard (devastated, because he believed it).
Love your blog — happy lurker for two years.
Who could tell “the King,” no? Seriously? I love reading your finds. Keep up good work!
Like most people here, I agree that Anne did not earn her fate. Between her father mother, uncle , and the King, she didn’t have much of a choice. But like you Claire, I have to wonder about her last hours . She knew the 5 men that wee going to die, including her own brother, and the thought of leaving her young daughter behind in such a discgraceful manner would have scared most women to death. She was not responsible for all of this mess. There are people who were, and it is on them . Funny thing is that people look at historical events like this and apply the standards of their own time to them. And that is something you cannot do, these people and events were in a different time and place,
Well said Claire! I too find it frustrating the things that are said about Anne, and also how she is depicted in books and shows such as the Tudors. In the Tudors, it is at least kind of shown that she did not prey on him, but it makes her out to be this lusty w**re that was manipulated by her uncle and father. And as you have said, there is no historical evidence showing this at all.
Thank you for your continuos research.
Anne was brave and courageous when she faced the final moments. I would wish she would have instead reminded all present that she was the victim of a mentally unstable tyrant who should have himself been imprisoned for his evil deeds.
Oh Claire, I feel your pain! There really is little humor to be had when reading such defamation of a historical person by people whose knowledge does not extend beyond the TV set. I blame this on the many inaccurate TV shows and movies, as well as poor instruction in our classrooms.Poor Anne! The first word that comes to my mind is “victim”. These misinformed folks need to read some real books (and I mean-heaven forbid-scholarly works) based on primary sources. I guess that is too much work.
I myself just had a similar and just as irritating experience with someone who had read my review of “The Cradle King”, a very well-written biography of James I and VI. The person accused me of not writing a review but a political diatribe (his words, not mind) against James because I assumed that he was a homosexual. He stated that nowhere in the book does it say this. Perhaps it doesn’t; I read it in 2011 (how do these people find me?). My answer to him was that it was and is accepted that he was a gay ruler who lavished much money and affection on his male favorites. That he had no mistresses and thus no illegitimate children. I quoted a few contemporary accounts from the huge amount of information that supports this “assumption”.
My review of the book and James I were quite positive. Since it’s been so many years, I don’t recall if the author delved into James’s sexuality. But to be accused of advancing my own “hateful political agenda” really knocked my socks off. I must have provided enough evidence since I never heard from him again but, like you, I was fuming at the profound ignorance being shown today.
Anne is to be pitied. It doesn’t seem she will ever get a full pardon in the eyes of so many people, although IMO “Anne of the Thousand Days” was a much kinder portrayal than she has received by others who conjectured instead of checking their facts. Great piece of writing on your part. It feels good to let it out, doesn’t it? 😉
A woman so youthful and caught in a world of hunger by her father and uncle. She was treated like a piece of meat dangling in front of a hungry lion. In the end result, she was left beheaded and a legend of a corrupted witch. Our view on reformation left in shambles to devise a future of tyranny and deceit.
She was a pawn of her father and uncle to secure favor with the king. Henry always twisted things to get his own way. It was sad about his treatment of Mary and Elizabeth but that was the times. My husband is a distant cousin of Ann Boleyn and I am a distant cousin of King Henry. We laugh about that sometimes.
Claire, so many people have responded. I will only say you & I are in sync. The awful execution of five innocent men and Anne, all based on lies was horrific. Anne’s courage & bravery in facing death on May 19, 1536 is moving & makes me admire her. No she was not an angel. But neither was she the Great Whore. She was a complex woman living in a perilous time for women who basically had no control of their fate.
I agree with your assessment of Anne’s situation. SHe had no choice really. And, as he presented his best side to her, I believe she fell for him over time. Much like in Anne of A Thousand Days. She didn’t love him the way she did Percy but I think he did grow on her. Sadly, once he’d ‘caught’ the hind, the thrill of the hunt was over for him and he was off to stalk someone else. Anne was brave, full of life and laughter, smart, well-educated, stylish as well as religious. She made the best of a bad situation and sure, the stress got to her. Maybe she wasn’t always nice to Kathryn and Mary, but mainly because of the stress of keeping Henry at bay while waiting for the Pope to come to a decision.
Bravo Claire! I bend a knee.
Brava, Claire. I couldn’t have said it better myself. If only people would read the history books and not some smutty novel that portrays our fair Queen as a simpering idiot.
Anne is, and will always be, a fair and noble Queen.
Excellent rant! If there is one thing I’ve learned from all of your research Claire, it’s that there is no black and white with the Tudors. You show us that these are real people, with virtues and faults, all of them, Katherine, Henry, Anne, Thomas More, Cromwell, George and Thomas Boleyn, Jane Seymour, etc. When I look at the names on the brass plate in St. Peter ad Vincula, it makes me so sad to think of all those lives lost and how many Henry was responsible for. The more I learn, the more I am able to enlighten my family and friends so they can understand my Anne Boleyn obsession.
There is one small consolation. in Alison Weir’s book, Mary Boleyn, there is evidence to support that Elizabeth I was given a sympathetic view towards her mother, perhaps by her Aunt Mary and Uncle William Stafford. Elizabeth held her aunt and uncle in high regard and did not think her mother was guilty of treason.
I’m sorry but I personally think that the truth lies somewhere in the middle on this. I don’t think that Anne was a terrible,evil person who only wanted the crown and went after it by any means possible. But I also feel that it’s just as unfair to portray her or excuse her negative actions as ok because of the time period, or because she was forced into the love affair/marriage with the king. She could have been decent to Mary as she was declared a bastard, and was no threat to Anne. It’s one thing to dislike someone, but entirely different thing to HATE to the point you plot in your mind and among others to kill.or wish harm on the child. I don’t think that is acceptable in any century. Plus if we are to paint Anne as just being human, then we cannot judge any of the other wives in a negative light. Otherwise we would be merely playing favoritism, which I am not claiming has been done here, only if the other wives are being judged, in any type of negative light.
I think a good rant is called for on occasion, especially a well written one!
I think Anne’s problem was that she was a modern day woman born in the wrong time. From what I have read she did try to have her say with Henry and that seems to have been her downfall.
I usually don’t comment on these articles because, as a historian, it’s important to try and remain objective. I am glad you are discussing this issue, Claire, and it is something that Susan Bordo covers extremely well in The Creation of Anne Boleyn. Generally, the historiography of Anne Boleyn has become increasingly positive in recent times. Academic historians such as Eric Ives, Retha Warnicke, David Loades and those working on the Reformation, such as Diarmaid McCulloch, have enriched our understanding of Anne’s life and have demonstrated that she was a complex, multifaceted being who exerted an important influence in the early Reformation. They have also shown her abilities in patronage, politics and diplomacy. More popular historians such as Elizabeth Norton, Amy Licence and Alison Weir have also studied Anne’s life in detail and must be commended for their excellent work in shedding light on areas of Anne’s queenship that have previously been neglected.
These historians have, by and large, replaced the view of Anne as a sexual predator, and I would recommend in particular the works of Ives, Warnicke and Bordo – these three scholars should be appreciated for the work they have achieved in replacing the negative view of Anne with a more complex one that stresses her talents and character, while showing her influence in the period 1526-36.
However, it is in the realm of fiction that the negative view of Anne remains, and I would say, Claire, that novels such as The Other Boleyn Girl and Bring Up the Bodies, as well as the TV series The Tudors, are mainly responsible for encouraging this hostile depiction of Anne as a manipulative, cruel and promiscuous woman, who did not hesitate to commit adultery, incest or even murder.
Claire, you have covered this issue very well. I would encourage anyone interested in the Tudor period to read the above works. Anne was not a sexual predator, neither was she a manipulative woman who sought to destroy Henry’s marriage from the beginning. She was a complex, ambitious, intelligent and three-dimensional woman who had her flaws, but also had her virtues. If you are interested in Anne, please read the facts, not just fiction.
maybe King Henry tired of Anne because she was too intelligent, and wanted to use the money from dissolving the monasteries for a good purpose. and King Henry wanted to use the money to fund his wars. He didn’t want a wife who was too feisty and embarrassed him in public she wasn’t perfect but she could have been a great queen if only King Henry hadn’t have been so selfish
For me the work of Prof Ives is definitive. Even so, in an age when religion was everything, Anne Boleyn was a highly intelligent, highly religious lady. So hours before you’re about to come face to face with God, are you REALLY going to lie through your teeth? Which, having taken the sacrament, she confessed her innocence.
It all boils down to one thing and one thing only: Anne’s only “crime” was being unable to produce, carry to term and deliver the king a healthy male heir. Period! Back then they didn’t know that gender was determined by the male’s genetic material and also seemed to believe that a woman controlled the sex and health of the fetus she carried in some deliberate way. So, if a baby was miscarried or born with some deformity.
, such a being female, it was solely the mother’s fault! Well, imagine the pressure that puts on a woman! Never mind the risks inherent in childbirth under the best of conditions to begin with. Add to that the expectation to produce the next king of England or risk being hated by all and put aside by your husband if you fail. No wonder women miscarried so often! No wonder Henry’s first two queens miscarried! Ultimately, Anne was executed for being a human woman with the failings that a woman’s body is capable of when under the right amount of stress. Forget everything she may or may not have done to get to where she was. She could have been anyone and received the same fate simply for not performing a miracle at the Kong’s command. She deserves every woman’s sympathy and understanding on that basis alone. The same could have happened to any one of us in that day and age.
Excellent post !!!!!
I lol @ “at the Kong’s command” seem’s fitting.
Jennifer Faith said: “Anne’s only ‘crime’ was being unable to produce, carry to term and deliver the king a health male heir.”
You know, it was only two years ago that the law of inheritance of the Crown of England was changed so that the sex of the child doesn’t matter, just the order of birth.
I agree with the article, thank you. I don’t think Anne ever loved Henry Vlll but saw the writing on the wall. It was no hardship for her to deny Henry sex, in fact I’m sure she loved the excuse of not wanting to be his mistress. Is it was possible that she was actually hoping she wouldn’t have to marry him? What choice did she have? So she did what she had to do. She took advantage of Henry’s affection for her to raise herself and her family up. The only thing that bothers me about Anne is her treatment of Mary and Katherine. No excuse for it.
I feel as the years went by Anne grew increasingly frustrated by all the obstacles that were placed in her path by Henrys first wife, she would not go quietly and then there was the disobedience by princess Mary, Anne was offered marriage and all what was needed was the Pope to declare Henrys first marriage invalid but he was under sway of the Emperor Charles who was Katherine’s nephew, thus the first obstacle was put in their path, had everything gone smoothly no doubt Anne would not have had cause to be spiteful to Katherine and Mary, had Mary been more amiable and understanding of her fathers need for a son and not flouted him so openly who knows? Anne may well have become friends with her and treated her with much kindness and honours, (she made several overtures to her which Mary snubbed), Instead the Pope refused to grant the divorce, Katherine refused to go to a nunnery and insisted on calling herself queen and there was the clergy who didn’t agree with Henrys putting his wife also, that was a lot for Anne to put up with which led to her bad temper and shrewish ways, she saw both Katherine and Mary as a very real threat to her happiness, and so Anne who no doubt was pleasant enough to begin with, ended up like a nagging harpy because she had found very much to her detriment, that the path of true love did not run smooth at all.
Excellent post. I agree.
In terms of people getting all upset with Anne’s treatment of Mary, lets face it, Anne tried to be friends with Mary but Mary hated her and refused. That’s on Mary, not Anne.
No excuse for her to be a bitch towards a child will everyone stop excuse ing her ugly behaviour yes she was under stress so we’re a lot of people back then and now . Sorry but Catherine had a right to fight marriage was everything back then henery was basically saying that she was a no good who’re and denied there was any love ever between them. Anne of cleves situation was apple to oranges they never liked each other. Anne knew she was wrong because she apologised to mary while locked up in the tower. I don`t think she was a lying who’re who should’ve died but I tend to think like this people say everyone love to bash Hillary maybe because there is something to bash. Sorry for the rant but this site loves to reduce her not so good side of personality and it comes off has bias!!!!!!
What I try to do with this page is to treat Anne Boleyn and other historical personalities from the Tudor period as three-dimensional people, people with good and bad points. “this site loves to reduce her not so good side of personality and it comes off has bias!!!!!!” – I’m sorry if you feel this way. I attempt to debunk the propaganda that is out there which is based on the work of people like Nicholas Sander, whose aim was to blacken Elizabeth I’s mother, to correct the depictions promulgated by fiction and to try and build a picture of the real Anne Boleyn. I don’t believe that I have reduced her not so good side and I have never condoned her treatment of Catherine and Mary, just pointed out that their treatment was actually down to Henry at the end of the day, he was the one in control and if we blame Anne entirely then we are giving her more power than she could possible have as queen-in-waiting and queen consort. According to Chapuys, Anne encouraged this poor treatment and said some awful things about them, and, yes, this was wrong and I don’t think there’s any getting away from that.
I don’t mean to come off as trying to excuse it.
I have said myself I think she should have tried harder to be nice to Mary. I don’t believe there was anything she could have done though.
I do want to point out though, that while Mary was young, she was not a child. She was 17 yrs in 1533, that’s an adult especially back then. And yes, it does make a difference. Referring to her as a child makes it sound like she was quite a bit younger than she actually was.
@Love. I don’t believe that anyone is seriously trying to down play the fact that Anne could have a nasty side or to excuse her words concerning Mary, but it has to be remembered that Anne was now Queen and felt that she had a right to be treated with respect by Mary. However, she should also have been sensitive to the real feelings of sn eighteen years old, who up to now had been treated as the heir to the throne, with every comfort and honour, but who now found her mother banished and seperated from her and who now found herself disinherited and sent to wait on the infant who had replaced her. Anne did offer to intercede with Henry if Mary acknowledged her as Aueen but Mary rebuffed her naturally as how could she deny her birthright or her mother as Queen? Anne made a few attempts to win Mary but was rebuffed. Anne, with the King’s approval had Mary punished and was cruel, but we also know that Henry was also behind this as he sent people to bully Mary into submission after Anne ded. This was a shock to Mary who had blamed Anne, but saw that her father was prepared to be ruthless if she wanted his approval. If Mary wanted to be reconciled with Henry she had to submit and denounce her birthright. Yes, Katherine was right to fight for her marriage, but that does not mean that Anne wrecked the marriage, Henry wanted a divorce and he wanted Anne who promised him a son. Anne and Henry were actually well matched, but it all went wrong. Anne Boleyn was not the perfect wife or Queen, but she did not deserve anything that happened to her. She was innocent of all charges and it is not being biased to weigh up some of the more foolish stuff Anne came out with in the context that it was said. Anne was under a terrible strain, she was not reasonable as she was feeling under undue pressure, insecurity and could have been depressed at the time. Anne may also have been suffering from post parnum depression if she had recently miscarried. Her family were concerned about her behaviour and warned her not to be foolish, she appears to have done so. Yes, Anne could react and was cruel but she was also generous and tried to be a good queen. Her flaws show that she was human, not that she deserved to die or that the fictional rubbish written is true. Even Chapyus was shocked by the arrest of both Anne Boleyn and George Boleyn and said that they could not be guilty and he had no reason to defend her, but he did.
The truth is often between the two extremes, but in this case there is a misaligned loyalty to Henry, especially in light of how despotic he was – like we feel compelled to identify with the aggressor by deifying him and vilifying Anne.
Great job Claire! Thanks for being balanced. Seems like I remember reading that it was Wolsey who put the idea in Henry’s head to divorce Catherine and get a new wife. French? Do you know anything about that? Is there an article already on your site about it?
I agree 100% with you, Claire…thankyou for sharing your thoughts!!!
I would be surprised if Anne had any “Virginity” to “dangle” at Henry. She may have been good in bed and that was what he was after, even if he thought that equated to love
Why wouldn’t she have any virginity to dangle? In those days your chances of a good marriage were doomed if you had lost your virginity, unless you had been a royal mistress, and there is no evidence that Anne slept with any man before Henry VIII. It would be very surprising if she wasn’t a virgin.
Peter, your comment comes across as misogynistic. It took years for Anne and Henry to consummate their relationship, that’s not the typical behavior of a woman which has lost her virginity, and even if she wasn’t, the reason why Henry fell for her may have nothing to do with her vagina. Physically, she wasn’t particularly attractive woman but she was sophisticated, witty, clever and very intelligent, from what I read qualities that Henry appreciated. So if anything, she seduced his brain. She was not the typical woman of her time, and what may have been a thrilling novelty for him in the beginning of their relationship it may have been also her demise.
Claire, thank you for such a good article that put a lot of things about Anne in perspective and gave me a lot to think about. I’ve always thought she was treated very badly and unfairly and that Cromwell had a lot to do with it.
Poor Anne. For a woman ahead of her time she paid an awful price.
I just want to thank you for publishing the Anne Boley Files. I have been fascinated by Anne BOlean and have read a number of books about her, and of course, seen a number of films and programs about her. I thoroughly enjoy the information and insight you bring to the table.
Claire, Bless you for writing this and sharing it…. PERFECTLY explained. I have not partaken of the site for a while, what a nice welcome back to read your well educated ‘rant’. I hope people who make those kinds of statements that upset you, DO read this. Your feelings, explanations and wording are wonderful, and so interesting to read.
After reading YOUR post above, I must say your thoughts DO make a lot of sense. A lot more than I had thought about through the years even though I have been fascinated with Anne Boleyn’s story since childhood. The whole Henry as King–entitled monarch who persued, and eventually always got what he wanted Does play a MUCH more huge part in this than even I gave credit to… It is actually amazing that Anne held him off as long as she DID!!
Marvelous explanation, Thank you. I love your writings… Do please continue to enlighten us.
Now if we could only get those OTHER people who have upset you to read the above….
Your article completely ignores and/or makes light of serious cruelty of Anne Boleyn of several innocent people that has been documented and to say that she was a hopeless victim of henry the 8th is silly when you consider many people wrote about how disrespectfully she treated him several times and would even yell at him when he angered her. That is not the behavior of some abused, helpless little victim. She came from a ruthless greedy race where her own father helped accuse her and she was cruel to her own blood sister.
I don’t think anyone deserves to die for a crime they did not commit. However, I think it would be foolish and too bias to go to the other end of the spectrum and claim that she was this angelic helpless victim who was a pure soul underneath it all. She wasn’t. Deal with it. You can like someone who isn’t the best person in the world, but just analyze what parts about her you are admiring. Was it her ambitious nature? Her ruthless manipulation? Or was it that she played a part in the emergence of a new religion that came with positives and negatives alike?
I simply view Anne for the part she had to play in history and I know it had to happen. But I don’t see her as a she-devil nor do I see her as this angelic poor soul who was controlled by her husband.
Thank you for your comment.
“Your article completely ignores and/or makes light of serious cruelty of Anne Boleyn of several innocent people that has been documented” – which cruelty?
“and to say that she was a hopeless victim of henry the 8th is silly when you consider many people wrote about how disrespectfully she treated him several times and would even yell at him when he angered her” – That’s completely missing the point of my article. Anne was an innocent victim because she was executed for crimes she did not commit. I argue that whatever you think of Anne she was a victim, nobody deserves to be executed on false charges.
“She came from a ruthless greedy race where her own father helped accuse her and she was cruel to her own blood sister” – Well, we all come from that race, don’t we? Her father didn’t help accuse her and, yes, the Boleyns cut Mary off after she defied them, as I said in a recent article, and I said then that although it would have been completely normal for the time that it wasn’t their finest hour.
“However, I think it would be foolish and too bias to go to the other end of the spectrum and claim that she was this angelic helpless victim who was a pure soul underneath it all. She wasn’t. Deal with it.” I don’t see where I say that Anne was angelic, but she was helpless in May 1536, I don’t see how it can be claimed otherwise.
“You can like someone who isn’t the best person in the world, but just analyze what parts about her you are admiring.” Yes, as I’ve said countless times, I don’t condone or like Anne’s encouragement of Henry’s treatment of Anne and Catherine, for example, but I do admire what she did to further reform and poor relief.
“I don’t see her as a she-devil nor do I see her as this angelic poor soul who was controlled by her husband.” Nor do I, I find her a fascinating, multi-faceted, flawed historical woman.
It’s the same with Thomas Cromwell, there’s another person who gets the “karma” type comments, but, at the end of the day, was brought down by members of the King’s Privy Council and didn’t deserve his end in a botched execution. A person can have power, can be distasteful at time, can do bad things etc. and still be an innocent victim.
I find it hard to like Anne Boleyn when various accounts and documents have been produced to show that the even the people who were “on her side” when she came to power ended up not being able to stand her and quickly turned on her. She never got along with her own blood sister and had few, if any, friends and more than enough enemies both by nature of the circumstances and ones she had made with her own doing. That is not even mentioning her treatment of people like Mary or Katherine and even people who helped her. She would turn on people as soon as they were no longer useful to her.
I don’t think she deserved to die on false charges, but I think it’s laughable how many of you worship a woman whose only claim to fame is through her daughter Elizabeth, but even that would be giving her too much credit because she never raised the child, thank God. Elizabeth wouldn’t be who she was if she was influenced by her mother.
When nobody likes you, and the few people who did can’t stand you – the problem is you, not everyone else.
And in others she inspired love and loyalty. Isn’t that typical, particularly of someone who rises to a position the way she did, and, in doing so, replaced a queen everyone loved who had been queen for 20+ years.
“She never got along with her own blood sister” – I’m interested to know how you came to that conclusion as I have found nothing in the primary sources about their relationship as children, or even young women. I’ve certainly found nothing to suggest they didn’t get on apart from Chapuys’ account of Anne banishing Mary in 1534.
“She would turn on people as soon as they were no longer useful to her.” Who?
“When nobody likes you, and the few people who did can’t stand you – the problem is you, not everyone else.” Again, who?
“but I think it’s laughable how many of you worship a woman whose only claim to fame is through her daughter Elizabeth” – who is worshipping Anne Boleyn? I am fascinated by her. Her relationship with Henry VIII had a major impact on England and she was not your typical queen consort, she spoke out and used her status to further reform. There were men in the church who were patronised by her. She also died as the result of a brutal coup. Her rise and fall, which happened so quickly, is interesting, I’m hooked, but why does being interested in a historical figure mean that you automatically worship that person.
I love that we all have different opinions and I’m not trying to whitewash Anne, my whole point is that she was a flawed person but still didn’t deserve to die the way she did.
Clair, can I ask what you think about the views that you sometimes hear about Anne being to blame for the death of Thomas More? In Anne of 1000 Days we see the popular fiction that Anne first stops Henry arresting More and Fisher and then nags hum to execute them. There is also a story, although I don’t know the sources that when news comes that More has been killed, he blames Anne (well he would) but the evidence does not appear to support this. Henry and Cromwell came up with legislation that made Henry head of the Church and the heirs of Anne Boleyn and his marriage the only legal heirs. It was also made treason to speak, write, act against this. Thomas More could not go there, so after 15 months he was tried and executed. But Henry and Cromwell had done their best to get him to change his mind. I see nothing in the record that Anne encouraged Henry to execute these men. The only person that she really fell out with was Cromwell because she did not approve of his selling monastic lands to grerdy courtiers and she wanted him to use the money for charity and educational institutions. It seems to me that Anne came out worse from this encounter than Cromwell. Anne Boleyn was a human being with flaws, she had many good sides and some poorer qualities, but during those last days she was helpless. She was innocent of the ridiculous charges and people need to read historical sources and not Philippa Gregory.
Gerdy should read greedy, sorry my Kindle keyboard is crap. Claire, I think this is a great article and if people read more articles they will understand that you give a balanced and well researched presentation on Anne. Personally I don’t worship Anne Boleyn or anyone else, but I do appreciate that she has been seriously misrepresented by films and fiction. We have to be neutral in our assessment of history, which your site tries to do. Carry on the good work.
Yes I find writers like Jean Plaidy and Norah Lofts wrote more realistically about their subjects and for me I don’t think you can beat Norah Lofts she was wonderful, Philippa Gregory’s books are more fantasy than fact, the story where Anne and Henry were playing cards when the news of More’s death is brought to him I think has it’s basis in fact. Both Plaidy mentions it in her historical fiction book ‘Murder Most Royal’ and Lofts in her biography of Anne, Henry apparently then said ‘thou art the cause of this mans death’ to Anne he could play no more and it’s that story where Lofts then says it shows what the situation was like between them, Henry was becoming disillusioned, however it is easy to as you say to look at films and read historical fiction and think that’s what actually happened where they are often wide of the mark, especially Gregory’s, Plaidy did in fact say that she did try to keep as much to the truth as possible and she did a lot of research on her subjects.
The people who post on here are interested in Anne, her life and the times she lived in, the brutal way she met her death and the fact that she has been called the most enigmatic of Henry V111’s wives, it does not mean we worship her in fact had many of the people here (myself included) ever known her personally we probably wouldn’t like her very much, as for her and Mary not getting along there’s no evidence for that at all, in fact when Mary was banished from court it was Anne who sent her a purse of gold coins, and you say she would turn on people when they were on longer of use to her, how do you come to that conclusion? Anne in fact had friends who were loyal to her throughout her time as queen and served her faithfully, the women who accompanied her to the scaffold were distraught at her death and wouldn’t let any man handle her after her execution which says a lot about how they thought of her and carried out the awful task themselves by carrying her body and head to the church to be buried with respect, she made enemies in her lifetime because she replaced a much loved queen and her very nature didn’t endear people to her, yet it must be said that all the evidence shows that she was extremely kind and generous to her friends and supporters and only fought those who stood against her, she tried three times with princess Mary yet in the end gave up because the latter wasnt interested, she had helped elevate Cromwell to his position yet there must have been some power struggle there as they did fall out eventually, she also tried to win the people round by her charity donations and her and her ladies were involved in sewing clothes for the poor, this she didn’t have to do and she was also very religious, she also loved her daughter very much and would have her sit next to her on a cushion, she loved to spoil her with beautiful outfits and this shows that she was a woman of strong maternal feelings, and then you say thank god she never raised her, she would have had no say anyway, royal children had their own households and the mothers had little influence over that sphere in their lives, her only claim to fame was not Queen Elizabeth, she was the catalyst in the break with Rome which led to England having her own church, she is not worshipped, she was not mother Theresa but neither was she Jezebel, we find her fascinating because she was unique amongst her female contemporaries strong and ambitious, and she achieved that which had never been done before, that of effectively ousting a crowned queen from her position and changing the religious structure of the nation, yet she was all too human and maybe that’s another reason why we find her fascinating to.
Yep. Mary I will forever be the sinless mother of Christ
Thank you for all the comments and I’m glad that so many of you enjoyed my post and ‘got’ where I was coming from.
I do think that some readers have read what they wanted to read, though. I’m not whitewashing Anne Boleyn, I’m not painting her as pure or angelic, I’m not making light of the negatives, my article isn’t a defence of her, I’m pointing out that she didn’t deserve to be decapitated for crimes she did not commit whatever her faults. She WAS a victim, she was the victim of a plot that wiped out a queen and five courtiers. I’m sorry but I can’t see those six people as anything but victims.
Some people who make comments here haven’t done much research on Anne Claire and I feel they get most info from films and soppy fiction books.
First off, this is Claire’s sight. The title of which is “The Anne Boleyn Files” it’s not the “I hate Anne Boleyn Files”. Yet it seem’s some come here with the intention of not only bad mouthing her “Anne Boleyn” but worse still, giving Claire grief for not sharing their opinion. I see Claire having to defend herself and her views. This is just wrong.
Another way of looking at it. Let’s suppose you are a huge fan of lets say, Catherine of Aragon. You have a web site about her. You post about her life, how she was wronged etc. Then someone who doesn’t like her and / or doesn’t agree with your views comes to the site and gives you grief for not sharing their opinion. Now, Why do you think the person who doesn’t like Catherine of Aragon would come to your fan site in the first place ?
Could not agree more. I am a supporter of Katherine of Aragon, but I also believe that Anne Boleyn has had a poor, unfair press with all sorts of media, fictional books and films, as well as early historians. It is surprising what you find about the real Anne Boleyn when you do some research. The articles on this site and others are well referenced and researched. The sources are reasonably accessible today, all we had at school in the 70s were books, with some quotations, you could not study original sources. Our central library kept some research stuff that I used and got me into a couple of archives to get copies of a few sources, but nothing like what is available now. You don’t have to agree with Claire or anyone else on the site, but it is not difficult surely to disagree cordially and not resent the opinion offered in the articles.
Hilart Mantel said in The Last Days of Anne Boleyn that we cannot just simply see Anne as a victim, that does her an injustice, that she took a chance, gambled and lost. She also pointed out that this is a very human story between a man and a woman. I can appreciate were she is coming from as Anne was more than than one thing, she was a queen, mother, daughter, scholar, reformer, intelligent, she was generous and she was proud and outspoken, she was a gambler, she thought she could change the world around her, she had her own mind, she was a sophisticated party girl, a spokeswoman, a diplomat, the sparkling diamond at the French and English court, she pushed an agenda that kept her daughter at the centre of her world, she was influential in many ways, but she made enemies. In the end, the man who professed to love her betrayed her, turned his back on her, ignored any appeals to give her a fair hearing and believed terrible lies about her. Just what makes a man, or woman turn on the partner that they love and kill them? I cannot answer that question, but something froze in Henry, something had changed him, for believe the lies he did, he may even have been behind Annes fall, leading to Anne becoming an innocent victim of a terrible miscarriage of justice.
I understand where Claire is going with this article, nobody deserved the terrible fate she enjured with five innocent men. I am sure Anne made many mistakes, we all have, but she did not cause her own downfall, nor was it Karma. Cromwell and Henry turned against Anne in a way never before set against an English Queen. The ruthlessness and speed of her fall, arrest, trial and execution is staggering. Henry Viii became a paranoid tyrant from this time onwards, this could have been the start, but in the end, even mighty powerful Norfolk became a victim of Tudor paranoia. Anne Boleyn was not just a victim, yes, she was so much more, but in the end she was helpless and only a foreign Ambassador spoke up for her. The charges against her were false, Chapyus was the only one to say it.
thank you Claire for voicing what I have felt for a long time. I love your articles as they really make you think.
Hmm….isn’t it interesting that the same opinions some people have about Anne Boleyn are the exact same opinions so many people have of Hillary Clinton?
Very good article. My thought is we can not equate what a woman can say and do now with what Anne could do and say in the 16th century. No, I don’t see her as being anywhere near a saint, but she was a woman of her time that a man that was the king of England pursed and her family did not help the matter of her getting away from Henry. What would have been her choice, leave England? Then what? I feel she in a way was trapped and did what she thought she should do. She gave in to Henry. Henry was, I believe, the reason Mary I became the way she was. Not Anne so much. It is too easy for us now to throw stones at the past and say I would have not done this or I would have done that. You do not know just what you would have done being a woman at that time. Having a feminist attitude would have done you in quickly. Anne and the 5 other men who died with her did not deserve this fate. They were trumped charges all the way around. None of us are sin free, and I can not believe that there are authors, historians who sit and throw stones at the Boleyn’s and say Anne had it coming. Crap, non of them had it coming. It was a king who did this and I also blame the men he had around him advising him. They to me where like the little devils sitting on his shoulder and whispering in his ear. Anne had her faults and she may have done things that were wrong, but not wrong enough to loose her life and to have her memory tarnished. Thank you Claire, wonderful rant!
Bravo Claire! An excellent article.
Thank You Claire for such a thought provoking article. The clarity you provide in respect to Wyatt’s poem in illustrating your point is great stuff. As a therapist, I have always been most interested in the thought processes of famous historical characters. Few are more intriguing than Anne and Henry and that has lured me into reading over 40 books on Tudor history. Henry clearly enjoyed the chase and once having his mind set upon it , it was a necessity to his psyche to see it through to fruition whatever that may bring. He was in a sense blinded toanything else when in the chase. As for Anne, I feel that despite all her intelligence , quick wits and court experience , the pursuit of a love struck king cannot have been an easy thing to manage emotionally. Add to that the constantly changing political drama at court , family pressure and the numerous factions against her, it had to be a confusing and very stressful courtship for a young woman and further points to her personality strength. I subscribe to a set of related beliefs that when it came to this love affair, she was initially passive and more or less seeing what developed and once invested did her best to manage and endure a extremely difficult and trying relationship. I do not sense that she controlled things at all especially given the role of women. I have also always felt that the years of waiting that both partners endured, and particularly on Anne, created a taxing and emotional strain on their relationship that contributed to the stress and friction that immediately played out in the marriage.
Thanks again for the wonderful group that allows us to have a venue to express thoughts on all the reading.
I have “favorite” historical personages, too, and can certainly understand your pique with unwarranted character assassination. I truly think that the genesis of these un-reflected opinions is the whole genre of historical fiction. The memories of true human beings, with all of their faults and graces, are reduced to fodder for fiction, which depends on the bias of the author. Each of us who reads these works comes away with a skewed understanding of the historical facts. Yes: there are two sides to each issue and sometimes more than two sides to a person. Fiction is generally black-and-white, hero(ine) and villain(ess). Why people would rather spends their hours reading historical fiction than a true representation of the personage is a mystery to me. Unfortunately many remember the fiction instead of the history, and, thus, make statements like the ones that rightly upset you.
I have always felt bad for Anne, despite her despicable behavior toward Katherine of Aragon. I had much regard for Katherine of Aragon, & she was most definitely a Queen, in every sense of the word. Anne Boleyn did not deserve the title of Queen in any way. She stole that title. It was never meant to be hers. But I honestly do not believe for one minute that she was a participant in any of the things she was executed for. I do not think she was ever in love with Henry, she was just looking toward her future. Of the two….Anne & Henry, Henry was the real villain. He just was not a decent person. He wanted power & he wanted everything his way. No exceptions. He used Anne, in the end, as much as she used him. Probably more. She paid with her life.
Well said Clare. And just to throw the cat amongst the pigeons…….When people hold Anne responsible for the break from Rome, and the human and artistic tragedies that followed, I sometimes think of Katherine of Aragon’s role in this. I understand all of the reasons she fought the divorce. But if she had decided to go into a convent, would the break with Rome have happened?
I think it’s something that really troubled Catherine in her final days, the idea that she was somewhat responsible for what happened because of her defiance. I think if she had agreed to take the veil, as Campeggio and the Pope wanted, Henry would have been granted his annulment and there would have been no break with Rome, not in his reign anyway. I’m sure new religious ideas would have still had some effect but not in the same way.
I have loved the story of Anne Boleyn since I first heard of the history many years ago. I bought every non fiction book about her. I feel for her. To be young and singled out by the king as an object of love must hae been heady stuff indeed. Her parents must have perked up considerably when they heard the love word. Their daughter would be the queen. Anne will alway be my point of admiration. I picture myself at that age singled out by the most handsome, rich and powerful man in their world swearing love, showering gifts and preferments. I would have been cognizant that their beloved queen was losing favor. Her words and looks no longer pleasing. No son.I would have been dazzled. In a very authoritarian society, women’s wombs were valued above the woman. Poor Anne. I still love her and feel her pain. She must have been something bright and fascinating. It’s a shame she didn’ t realize that Henry’s past behavior was a predictor of future behavior.
Anne was a victim,a victim of her ambitious family,of her times and of the King. Innocent of the charges brought against her,she was still put to death because the King wanted to marry someone else.I side with Queen Anne Boleyn.
What sources are you relying upon when you say Anne was victim of her ambitious family?
I bet I can guess…am I the only one who raged at The Tudors and The Other Boleyn Girl? Also, I was watching your videos on YouTube and loves them! I am curious about a comment made though..it stated that Anne still roams this earth as karma…I’m guessing they are saying she was guilty and so bad that killing her wasn’t enough of a punishment so she is a ghost now.? They were joking right?
I would think the karma comment is in reference to Anne being innocent, they executed an innocent woman and now they have to deal with her ghost. Karma being the ghost.
I have read every book I can lay my hands on about Anne and her daughter. I agree with what has been said about the myths and I have never agreed with them either. There is no proof. You put into words my own thoughts. Thank you for that.
Her death was horrific. When I was a child my parents took me to the Tower and pointed out where Anne had died. My mum was a Tudor fanatic. She read Jean Plaidy and Norah Lofts. I was introduced to Hampton Court and mum was pointing out different things she had read about.
I have taken my own children and my granddaughter. The trait has been passed down.
I love reading your articles.
Thanks for sharing.
Thank you, I’m so glad you enjoy my articles. It does annoy me when people use an absence of evidence to come to a conclusion or twist things to suit their purpose.
Yes, Hampton Court Palace is beautiful and it’s so good that you’re introducing it to the next generation.
I completely agree with the article. I have always felt that Anne was a women strong in the sense she lived and handled the reality of living in the time and circumstances she did with her head up. Perseverance, and intelligence. Henry is the one to me that played a unfair game. He chased her down and would not let go. He had to of known that he was in the position of power, not her. Speaking freely was just part of the courtly game and it was a game he loved but she couldn’t ever tell him no. Not to mention she was being blamed simply bc the people couldn’t lash out at him for leaving Katherine so it had to be her fault. It just amazes me that even knowing he continues to a destructive pattern with the women of his life that anyone could think she is to blame. I don’t believe she was in love with Henry but accepted what she had to and tried to do her best with the hand she got. I cannot imagine the heartache, treachery, fear she felt in the end. Dealing with the pain a spouse can cause along with loosing a brother, friends and having the gut wrenching worry that your actions to help yourself in any way could cause awful things for your child!? Not to mention the fear of the execution itself! I don’t think I could have done it as regal as she did. Henry was a narcissistic man who delt out mental abuse. I know there is reasons to state that this part of him doesn’t come out till or after Anne but I don’t see that being Anne’s fault but of Henry’s own making. Of course I have wondered if he had diabetes and possibly brain injuries from his jousting accidents…On another topic..I have worked as a phlebotomist for many years and there are situations where due to blood types, if a mother doesn’t get a shot right after delivering a baby then the couples next child will more than likely miscarry or be stillborn. Has anyone ever pitched this as a possible reason of why he only has one living child with said wife?
Haha, why are you all SO obsessed with Anne Boleyn??!!
Dianne, might I suggest that if you don’t like it, you go elsewhere.
Longtime lurker late to this party, but I found your “rant” well-founded, Claire, and as unbiased and fair as this site in general. Just today, looking for info on Henry’s death, I came across reference to Henry charging Anne with witchcraft at her trial -and this, from a site with “anne boleyn” in the domain name! Yikes, the disinformation still out there…
However, I find this blog and your devotion to primary sources invaluable-thank you!
Well, I’ve always thought that Anne should have simply pulled a Bessie Blount – assuming she truly didn’t desire the king’s attention. Once he had her, he would have gotten tired of her, and it’s not like if a king’s former mistress was an unmarriageable material. Which is why I don’t buy into the narrative that she was a brave woman who was forced into the relationship by the king and her scheming relatives – either she wanted the relationship herself, deep down, or she wasn’t brave enough to displease her family.
I’ll begin by saying I don’t think Anne deserved to die. I don’t think she was guilty of the charges. However I also don’t think she was a saint either. Henry was a married man when he and Anne met. Seeing as she had been brought to England to be married I doubt she had any ideas about being either queen or mistress at first. She’d seen her sister used and cast aide by both Francois and Henry and she didn’t want that for herself. But it would have been in the Duke of Norfolk’s interests to encourage such a liason. Not to mention Thomas Boleyn would have wanted it too. I imagine she was being pressured by them to accept Henry’s advances and, with an eye to both her own interests and their demands, she went about things her own way. Did she manipulate Henry into proposing? Perhaps, in a way. Anne was very smart and she didn’t grow up at the most sophisticated court in Europe without learning anything. She probably saw how other women used their charms to manipulate men. And in many ways Henry was only a man. Of course when Katherine and Mary realized Anne was no Bessie Blount they were angry and threatened. I don’t think you understand exactly what complying with Henry’s annulment would have meant. How could Katherine admit that she had been living in sin for the past twenty years and that her daughter was a bastard? How could Mary admit that? How could she say her mother was a whore and she was the daughter of a whore? They were asking Katherine, princess of Spain, devout Catholic, daughter of Isabella of Castille and Ferdinand of Aragon, both monarchs in their own right, to announce to the world that she was a whore, an adulterer and that her daughter was a bastard. Was Katherine of Aragon, daughter of kings, to step down for the daughter of a commoner from Kent? One can say that Katherine should have put aside her pride but what would you have done?
I know this pretty slow on the drawl,but i haven’t had access to the internet for quite some time. But i do now,thank god. Anyways i would like to point out a few things. Claire: I read your the article and I agree with you. I HATE comments like the ones that are also making you upset. And I get very angry when i read those. Among many, one sticks to me like glue.It was someone on You Tube. It stated what an awful person Anne was,she got what she deserved. After all SHE was responsible for the ruin of Wolsey,Mary Tudor,Moore,Katherine of A.,Bishop Fischer….GRRR! Its absurd to blame her for their ruin. There are so many factors to consider when we think of the listed people above. These people were Anne’s enemies,yes,but the fact IS,that it was ultimately Henry who called the shots-that’s the biggest. And another thing is that Henry’s treatment of Mary got worse after he killed Anne-just to name a couple. So please don’t be sorry for the emotional rant factor of this posting. I really appreciate it. Also,I don’t think your too biased. You state Anne as a unique fascinating lady who had her flaws. A good word for the way you portray her is simply ‘human’. Not some saint. Another thing i would like to address would be the GOT statement I read above. I’m really not sure if you were referring to my article(where i use the leading female character to explain how much hate she gets for no apparent reason other then the fact she is a woman) in early 2015( where the posting on your website was about The Jezebel Effect and Slut Shaming, and how women were judged way to harshly and if there is some sex involved in the given situation the woman is automatically the whore, and all her other talents overlooked),but if u did happen to have my article in mind, i just want to say that my intention was never to list or put Anne on some level as an actress on a show in which fictional characters are portrayed. My only intention there was to give an example of how The Jezebel Effect is still going on strong today(most unfortunately). I am sensitively aware that Anne Boleyn was a real person who had go through a horrible imprisonment falsely accused, brutally abandoned by the man who was her husband and a terrible gruesome death that i cant even begin to imagine. I just wanted to make that clear. But once again thanks for this post and the website, i’m a big fan.
Was thaf person Rayarena?
I am sure Anne had no choice . Just like her sister Mary. Women had no rights . they did what their husband parents told them to do. none of these men cared anything about these women.
Just money control and EGO.power over people who had no choice. in the matter. Who would not call these men the same names that people call the women? They were not allowed to do anything without the Kings ok. women were brought up to be pawns for who had control. did you know that all of Henry the VIII wives were related .
Was that person Rayarena by any chance?
Was what person Rayarena. We haven’t had any comments by Rayarena on this site.
I was responding to the person on YouTube who goes around insulting Anne. A youtuber named Rayarena goes around saying Anne is the moral equivalent of Hitler
I put much of this down to the popularity and influence of The Other Boleyn Girl and The Tudors, in which Anne is presented as little more than a temptress. In the latter, early on in their courtship Anne tempts Henry by running down a corridor and hiding from him, before he imagines her naked against a pillar. In other scenes, she gazes seductively at him and then averts her eyes. In another scene, she toys with him by asking him to find a hidden ribbon in a secret part of her body. In The Other Boleyn Girl, Anne openly flirts and banters with Henry in the Great Hall, in front of everyone. In the novel, she is consistently coquettish, flirtatious and charming, but in a manipulative and ruthless way: we know she is exploiting Henry’s interest in her, just as she exploited Henry Percy earlier in the novel, and just as she exploits and manipulates her family throughout the novel.
In these adaptations Anne is stunningly beautiful: long dark hair (often immaculately washed and combed in a way that a Tudor woman’s hair would not have been), beautiful dark eyes, a flirtatious manner, a dazzling smile and a perfect body. The real Anne, of course, was said to be not a great beauty. In these adaptations, Anne is indeed manipulative, she is ruthless, she is cruel and she dangles her sexuality in front of the king to ensure that she is made queen. The reality was probably a good deal more complex.
Adaptations and films such as these are, I think, most to blame for why Anne continues to be seen as no innocent victim or as a ruthless predatory woman responsible for the break up of Henry’s first marriage. In the nineteenth- and early twentieth-century, Anne was not regarded in this way: if you read novels from that period, yes she can be spiteful, she can be alluring, she can be ruthless, but more often than not she is presented in the guise of a romantic victim, a woman wronged by Henry and cruelly put to death on his orders. In the last decade, such a view has become very unfashionable. It is more titillating – and shocking – to represent Anne as a manipulative, highly sexual, ruthless woman who knew exactly what she was doing and even if she was innocent in 1536, then her execution was “karma” for her earlier behaviour.
This is a shocking view, but I think we can see the likes of TOBG and The Tudors to blame for this.
I agree with you that TV adaptations are responsible for the “Anne got what she deserved” brigade. However, I do have one tiny nitpick in your argument above. You say that in The Tudors “Anne tempts Henry by running down a corridor and hiding from him.” I have just rewatched that episode and it is actually a dream sequence – it’s in Henry’s imagination. But everything else you say is true.
Personally, I believe that Anne was a victim of her father’s and uncle’s ambitions. Whilst they may not have set out to dangle Anne in front of Henry, they certainly did take advantage of the situation once it was clear to them that Henry was pursuing Anne. Thomas Boleyn didn’t not care that his children were so ruthlessly executed by a spoilt despot – he did condemn them though – but given his situation, he probably didn’t have a choice.
I’ve just finished reading Alison Weir’s “The Lady in the Tower,” about the last days of Anne Boleyn. It is a very interesting read, and confirmed my earlier opinion that the real villain of the piece was Thomas Cromwell. He hated Anne, and he had reason to dislike the five condemned men, so he fabricated one huge plot and got rid of all his enemies. I have always had my doubts about whether Henry actually believed that Anne was unfaithful… it is my opinion that he was so desperate to get rid of Anne that he went along with the story that Cromwell created.
My fascination in Anne Boleyn and the Tudors is a fairly new one – a couple of years – and in that time I have read countless books, and the more I read the more fascinating I find Anne. This was a woman who lived in a time when women were merely chattel. They had no value other than being bartered for political gain and for producing heirs… you see how Henry, after maintaining his obsession for Anne for close to a decade, and pretty much turning the entire country upside down so he could marry her, quickly lost interest once she couldn’t produce the much desired heir.
Even after all she went through with him to obtain the coveted crown, he still saw her as little more than a human incubator.
The minute Henry began his obsession with her Anne was put in a horrible position. Sure she tried to rebuff him at first, escaping to Hever, but how long can a mere girl in the 16th Century ignore the most powerful man in the kingdom… not to mention a spoilt one at that. Whichever way this would have played out Anne was ruined for other men… had she not given in to Henry he would have ruined her family, and nobody would have touched her with a barge pole. By becoming Henry’s obsession no other man would dare touch the girl whom the kind had claimed as his own.
Anne did not have a choice… she had to acquiesce… she really had no other option.Henry was a fickle man, and if she’d have given up the goods early on then he would have taken what he wanted and discarded her the way he did with so many others, and then her marriage prospects would have been ruined… so why not hold out for the big prize… she really had nothing to lose (well… except her head… but she didn’t know this at the time). Henry’s marriage to Katherine was over before Anne came into the picture… she didn’t break up a lovey dovey happy couple. She is no more guilty than Jane Seymour was.
Anne did not have it easy… by being Henry’s paramour/mistress/obsession… whatever… she was hated all over Christendom. She was called names, and attacked…. and all that time she had to keep Henry sweet so that he shouldn’t get fed up of her. She couldn’t afford that… by the time Henry married her she was close to 30 (or in some opinions she was already 31), and that was really old for a girl circa 1530. She had to maintain Henry’s interest because by that point she was villified, hated, and an old maid… and nobody would have wanted her. She had no choice but to see it through.
The poor girl must have been exhausted. She had the weight of the kingdom on her shoulders… and yet somehow all anyone can see is the scarlet letter of the other woman.
Given the period in which she lived where women were considered as nothing more than property to be bartered, Anne is an inspiration to women today. She was educated, witty, opinionated, and didn’t take any crap from anyone. She found herself in an impossible predicament and used it to her best advantage.
There was no way in hell she could have foreseen her end. She was a victim of politics, ambition, and at the mercy of a fickle and merciless tyrant. Her death is a blight in history… and whilst she may have had her flaws she did not deserve to die in so horrible a manner as she did and be buried in what is the equivalent of a pauper’s grave. She did not get her “just desserts,” she did not know what she was letting herself in for.
Her death is a tragedy and her life should be celebrated.
Disclaimer – sorry for the ramble… it’s basically thought vomit… and personal opinion.
Feel free to ramble, I often do!
I think some people when they judge these historical characters forget 1) That they were real human beings, and 2) the context. It is clear from Henry’s letters to Anne that she rejected him and retreated to Hever. That really should have been the end of it as I’m sure she would have expected him to just move on, but he pursued her. We don’t know the truth behind Wyatt’s poem “Whoso list to hunt” but if it is definitely about Anne, which it appears to be, then he depicts her as a deer pursued relentlessly, hunted down, and then made a possession. Could a young woman really keep saying “no” to God’s anointed sovereign? I don’t think so. I think she did fall in love with him later though, but I don’t believe she can be depicted as a whore, a woman who set out to break up a marriage or who used Henry to get the crown.
Wonderful article, Claire, I couldn’t agree with you more!
Anne was an innocent victim of Henry and Cromwell wish to see her dead and buried, and Cromwell also seems to have used the opportunity to get rid of some other thorns in his side (Brereton and George Boleyn).
People blame her for “ruining” Henry and Katherine’s marriage, even though that marriage was already over in most ways, at least on Henry’s side.
Henry pursued Anne, Anne said “no” (which many people like to forget… and instead twist her refusal into a seduction… She must be the only woman to be called a whore for REFUSING to be a mistress), Henry continued his pursuit, Anne still refused (apparently with her father’s support!), Henry (the King of England, Anne and her family’s sovereign) proposed marriage, Anne said yes.
There’s also some that instead of blaming Anne decides to blame her father and uncle, they say they “pushed” for her to seduce the King or simply accept his pursuit, even though Chapuys (who would have no reason to paint the Boleyns in a good light) said Thomas Boleyn was against the King marrying his daughter, so why in the world would he be okay with him simply sleeping with her???
People blame her for Mary’s abuse, even though it was Henry that made the decisions… He was the one who ordered Mary to live in Elizabeth’s household. We even have a letter from Anne to her aunt Lady Shelton that she should continue to treat Mary as the KING commanded, and not to try to make Mary change her mind for Anne’s sake:
“Mrs. Shelton, my pleasure is that you do not further move the lady Mary to be towards the King’s Grace otherwise than it pleases herself. What I have done has been more for charity than for anything the King or I care what road she takes, or whether she will change her purpose, for if I have a son, as I hope shortly, I know what will happen to her; and therefore, considering the Word of God, to do good to one’s enemy, I wished to warn her before hand, because I have daily experience that the King’s wisdom is such as not to esteem her repentance of her rudeness and unnatural obstinacy when she has no choice. By the law of God and of the King, she ought clearly to acknowledge her error and evil conscience if her blind affection had not so blinded her eyes that she will see nothing but what pleases herself. Mrs. Shelton, I beg you not to think to do me any pleasure by turning her from any of her wilful courses, because she could not do me [good]or evil; and do your duty about her according to the King’s command, as I am assured you do.”
The only “evidence” of Anne being the instigator of Mary’s abuse, is Chapuys writing “A gentleman told me that Anne had sent to her father’s sister, who has charge of the Princess, telling her not to allow her to use that title, and if she did otherwise, she must box her ears as a cursed bastard”, but that was thirdhand information from an unnamed gentleman, which makes me doubtful, because one reason for Chapuys not to name the gentleman, is that there really was no gentleman at all…
They also blame Anne for England’s break from Rome, but tbh, that doesn’t really bother me, since that’s something that I can imagine she was a bit proud of, even though the decision was ultimately Henry’s.
She was a reformer from a reformist family after all, they were even called “more Lutheran than Luther” by Chapuys. Anne and her family risked their lives smuggling heretical books, Anne patronized many reformist students, she shared her forbidden books with her friends and Henry etc, she even helped to bring about the return of Simon Fish to England.
BUT, even she had been the cold-hearted seducer from certain fictional books, even if she had been solely responsible for all of Mary and Katherine’s hardships, even if she somehow was the puppet-master for Henry’s decisions, none of that makes her any less of a victim when it comes to her death.
Sorry but I agree that Anne got what she deserved.
You do Anne Boleyn no justice when you paint her as a sweet, angelic, innocent victim. She was a strong, courageous woman, she fought hard and long to get where she got. She was no wilting flower.
Anne Boleyn got to where she was because of her strength and determination. She knew the risks and risked everything.
But she deserves to be remembered for who she really was. She was no innocent victim. But I think I respect her more for who she really was.
She refused Henry until he offered her marriage, I can’t see how that makes her deserving of death?
And how in the world could she have known the risks of being his wife when no queen consort had ever been executed before? Even when guilty of rebellion and treason they were only ever imprisoned, so how was Anne supposed to know she would be executed for simply not giving birth to a boy?
Tbh, this seems like victim blaming, unless I’m misunderstanding what you’re saying?
There’s no way Anne could have known what they’d do to her. Who could have imagined such a thing? Terrible mistake to tangle with Cromwell…who would mess with that guy? Painting with a broad stroke, it seems to me it was hubris that got her Henry and hubris that lost him.
But she couldn’t have known they’d kill her and the others.
Interesting reading about Anne. I think we all have our idea what she was like, but really it’s mostly, if all of it, pure conjecture. We don’t know what she might have said or how she was with court life and Henry. Personally I’d like to think she might have stood up for herself on judgement day and told her accusers that her brother was innocent and she’d done no wrong, and said “it was my accusers and the King who want me out of the way because I didn’t produce a male heir”. After all she knew she was going to die whatever she said. I agree on one aspect of Anne in that she may have been quite ambitious, BUT I do think she was manipulated by her father and uncle who in turn were obsessed with getting in the King’s favour for power and wealth……….that’s what it really boils down to isn’t it…….and still going on to this day. I thought the film ‘The Other Boleyn Girl’ was extremely well acted, scripted, and the lighting was perfect for that period in time. A modern approach to that century, yes, but the facts were there even if the script was pure speculation I enjoyed it.
Great post and discussions.
I’ve said this before and I’m saying it again-Henry was a monster, an abusing SOB who, typically, blamed his victims. I despise him and I always will.
Anne probably thought he would be free of Katharine much quicker than he actually was. As time dragged on, she grew desperate. I think her virtues outweighed her vices but her neuroses clearly outweighed her talents.
And even those who are anti Anne need to point fingers at the one to blame- Henry VIII. The fact even Chapuys was appalled at Anne’s execution speaks volumes.
Also i don’t excuse Anne for the fault she played in Katharine’s treatment at all. But Katharine’s fate was sealed when Ferdinand and Henry VII refused to let her return to Spain.
Let all the wives of “Great Harry” rest in peace.
I too believe Ann Boline did not deserve to Die. I believe she couldnt produce a son and Henry tired of her. He found a replacement for her and had to get rid of her. So he had to kill her. He was the one who chased her she wasnt in love with him she loved another and wanted to marry him. Henry wasnt having that because he was king and could do what he wanted. So he did. Henry the viii was a Tyrant. He was a womanizer and was sleeping with who ever he wanted and had kids while he had his Queen. I truley fell sorry for all the Queens who had to live with this so called King. I really felt sorry for Queen Ann Boline.
if u had the ability to take them back in time to witness anne and the others’ suffering….they’d probably enjoy it. a lot of people like watching others suffer.
for a long time, i thought anne had been the cause of her own downfall, as well. i thought that she wouldn’t have miscarried her son in 1536 if only she’d stayed in her room. anne blamed her miscarriage on seeing jane seymour, the latest romantic interest, on henry viii’s lap. w/a son, she’d be secure.
i didn’t think it was her fault, but i did think she caused it. (miscarriages are due to chromosomal abnormalities, so it wasn’t it.)
“While excessive stress isn’t good for your overall health, there’s no evidence that stress results in miscarriage. About 10 to 20 percent of known pregnancies end in miscarriage. … Most often, early miscarriage is caused by a chromosomal abnormality that interferes with the normal development of the embryo.”
Early miscarriage: Is stress a factor? – Mayo Clinic
another reason? she fought a lot w/henry. it’s not her fault ’cause that’s what he wanted in a mistress….just not in a wife. “remember your predecessor” henry warned jane. she fought for her beliefs, but henry got mad about it.
but….reading your article convinced me that there was nothing she could’ve done to prevent it. you mentioned that eric ives quotes a primary source(s) that they fought a lot ’cause that’s what those in love do, but they loved each other. alison weir had portrayed their marriage as dead except in public ’cause anne was an angry, bitter nag w/a sharp tongue.
fact is….hen was sick of anne. so….he replaced her. the end. well, he authorized cromwell…who was obviously going to obey her.
her own father buttered cromwell up and was back in the king’s good graces soon afterwards. even considered for marriage to the king’s niece. if they had been married and had kids, here’s how the conversation could go, “so….your 1/2 sister anne….was your mother’s uncle’s wife. he had cranmer annul the marriage. had her killed for adultery w/her brother and 4 other men. yes, her brother was your 1/2 brother and my son. anne was my daughter. they were all innocent. also, your other 1/2 sister mary? well, she also slept w/henry. my first wife, elizabeth, didn’t. just a rumor, possibly started to imply henry was possibly marrying his own daughter. and….don’t ever be mean to henry. my career depends on remaining in his good graces. good night! ”
(i know they didn’t get married or have kids since he died in 1539 shortly after anne’s mother in 1538.)
I thought this was a really well written and insightful article. I enjoyed reading it and share your views! Thank you for sharing.
As A Roman Catholic I am delighted that Anne was executed. The church teaches no one other than Katharine of Aragon is the queen of England. Sorry but Elizabeth II is not queen today; Katharine of Aragon is.
Anne was a Catholic too and surely a person of true faith should not delight in the brutual execution of another humand being on false charges. And how has Elizabeth II got anything to do with this? She was descended from Margaret Tudor and Henry VII. And how can Catherine of Aragon be queen today, she died in 1536?
Well i mean no one othet than Katharine of Aragon and Mary I are legitimate monarchs. Mary I was the last legitimate monarch of England. Katharine was Henry’s only true wife. all Catholics agree with me. We hold Mary I so high she is even in tje catechism as that one must pray to Mary I to receive salvation.
Elizabeth sits on the throne but Katharine sits in the hearts of all Roman Catholics. Shakespeare called her the queen of earthly queens.
It’s a bit weird to use different names to comment under – Helen Davis, Angry Catholic, Andromeda, H…. Anyway, thank you for your comments, Helen, but I have to completely disagree with you. I don’t know a single Catholic who believes that salvation is found through praying to Queen Mary I. That’s bizarre as Mary herself was Catholic and there were plenty of Catholics before she was alive. The history of Christianity is one of my interest as Religion was actually what I studied at university and I just don’t get why you would say that. Please can you direct me to the part in the Catholic catechism that states that Catholics must pray to Mary I for salvation. Obviously the Virgin Mary is very important, but you’re talking about Mary I.
And, no, I don’t know a Catholic who believes that Mary I was the last legitimate monarch of England. And, no, Catherine of Aragon does not sit on the throne in the hearts of all Roman Catholics. That may be your view but it is not the view of other Catholics.
And, no, Shakespeare did not call Catherine “the queen of earthly queens”, he has Henry VIII saying “The queen of earthly queens: she’s noble born; And, like her true nobility, she has Carried herself towards me.” That is Henry VIII’s view of her in the play “Henry VIII when he has just married her. That is Shakespeare’s character in a play saying it, not Shakespeare’s view.
And you weren’t just saying that Catherine and Mary were the true legitimate heirs, you were saying that Anne Boleyn deserved to die, and I don’t know a person with a true Christian faith who would say something like that. It’s an absolutely awful thing to say. She was decapitated on false charges leaving a little girl without a mother, and a griefstricken family and friends.
Are you actually confusing Mary I and the Virgin Mary? Mary I isn’t a Catholic saint or even beatified.
Anne was a victim from the start. There was no way this was going to end up well. Henry was too crazy. Consider Anne’s age as well! What did you all know at 18 or younger(I believe she was born in 1507). He was 16 years older, a king and had been married for several years and taken many mistresses. Come on! Anne didn’t have a snowball’s chance in hell. She also was basically raised at court. Whether it be France or England, it was her life. She felt the pressure from all sides and fell for it. Or rather, she had no choice. Her fate was not hers to decide and was sealed when Henry decided he wanted her. She got caught up in the illusion and was in way over her head–no pun intended! Once you are in that position, there is no way out. Court was a very toxic environment. How could it not have affected her? It did and she made mistakes and it cost her her life. It was a perfect storm. I believe she was innocent of all the charges. I have thought at times that Henry loved her but I don’t think he did. I don’t think he was capable of real love. He wanted a son and heir and he chose Anne to do the job for him. I think he felt challenged by her integrity and that’s why he obsessed over her. She wasn’t easy. Something he had never encountered in a woman. But he didn’t love her. I don’t think Anne really ever loved him either. Again, she got caught up in the illusion. She was born into an extraordinary life and it is utterly fascinating and utterly tragic.
I really believe that Anne Boleyn was innocent and that Henry VIII was a monster, but I don’t feel much sympathy for her.
It bothers me to read this page because Anne’s fans always try to justify her actions but don’t give the same courtesy to other wives, especially Katherine and Jane Seymour.
For example, Anne’s fans say they admire her for not wanting to be just the king’s mistress but want Katherine to admit that she was.
They don’t like to hear that Anne got what she deserved but they say that Katherine got what she deserved.
They make excuses to justify the way Anne treated Mary but they call Jane a bad stepmother for Elizabeth, even though Jane never mistreated Elizabeth like Anne mistreated Mary.
In fact Anne’s fans try to vilify Jane without giving her the same benefit of the doubt they give Anne.
This is not about making these people as complex and understanding as possible, it’s just making excuses for Anne’s behavior while hypocritically criticizing Jane and Katherine.
Antares I agree. I don’t get the cult following Anne has. Because she gave birth to Elizabeth I? Ask any Roman Catholic, Elizabeth was no Gloriana. Still a great monarch but not the woman of Protestant propaganda.
In fairness though, Anne did try to avoid Henry. But she was a horrible stepmother to Mary and basically neglected her own child.
Katharine of Aragon was the daughter of a monarch . She had every right to fight. Jane just replaced an unpopular woman. No wonder Chapuys said that Henry had come out of Hell into heaven when he married Jane.
I am one of those who feels Anne deserved to die. Nothing will convince me Katharine of Aragon was not the rightful queen and that Mary I has been mistreated.
Cult following? Well, here at the Anne Boleyn Files, I’m more about history than establishing a cult. I don’t think that people are fascinated with Anne because of her being the mother of Elizabeth I, I don’t think that has much to do with it, for me it’s more about her dramatic rise and fall, her role in the Reformation and the huge miscarriage of justice she suffered.
“basically neglected her own child” – how? She was very much involved in Elizabeth’s life. We know that she sent orders regarding weaning and that she personally ordered items of clothing. It was traditional for a prince/princess, particularly the heir, to be brought up in their own household away from court and the mother could not have a hands-on role.
“I am one of those who feels Anne deserved to die.” – Wow, just wow! A woman who was framed, and even Chapuys did not believe that she or the men were guilty, deserved to be decapitated. That is a truly awful thing to say. Catherine was the rightful queen, as was Anne, as was Jane and so on, they all married Henry VIII in good faith, but let’s forget his role in what he did to them and just blame the women, shall we?! And let’s forget that Mary’s treatment got worse after Anne died. Do you not put any responsibility on the man who was the powerful one in all of this?
Claire I stand by my comments. Anne was a whore who broke up Henry and Katherine. The British people at the time blamed her and not Henry and rightly so.
Was Henry innocent? No. But both parties are to blame.
Mary’s treatment did not worsen after Anne’s death. Queen Jane restored her to Court and the succession.
Anne was not a whore who broke up Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon. You can’t call someone a whore who left a man’s letters unanswered and left court to get away from him and who was then pursued relentlessly by a man who believed his first marriage was invalid and whose own canon lawyers told him that.
And, yes, Mary’s treatment did worsen, she was threatened by memmbers of the king’s council sent by her father and Chapuys feared that she would be executed. Anne was dead at that time. And, no, Jane had nothing to do with Mary’s restoration, she was only welcomed back at court after she had submitted to her father and signed the oath, and Chapuys persuaded her to do that. It is a myth that Jane had anything to do with it. Chapuys told her not to read what she was signing and that the pope absolved her.
I’d also like to remind you of some correspondence we had last year where you wrote about how Mary wasn’t evil, but wasn’t a saint either, and you also said that you adored Anne Boleyn. I’m rather bemused by your comments now!
Claire did you consider the charges against Anne were true? I believe every word of them.
Henry believed her guilty and he knew her wrll
It had to be to be true: there wete witnesses and people who spoke against her. She plead guilty. Mark Smeaton confessed.
Katharine of Aragon the true queen of England! Saint Mary Tudor!
Also ask English Catholics how they fated under your precious Gloriana. Bloody Bess is a better title.
Well, you are in the minority and I find it telling that Chapuys, Catherine’s great friend, and Mary of Hungary, the emperor’s sister, didn’t believe what was happening either. They were Catholics.
Which witnesses spoke against her? The records we have state that no witnesses were called and she did not plead guilty, she pleaded innocent. Where are you getting all this from. We have contemporary sources for her trial.
And she’s not my Gloriana, I have written and spoken about the persecution of Catholics in her reign and highly recommend Jessie Childs’ book “God’s Traitors”. I’m not narrow minded with regards to religion or history. I do find it hard, though, to believe that anyone with a true Christian faith can support the beheading of another person.
Claire answer this
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If anyone doubts Katherine of Aragon ‘s superiority over Anne Boleyn ,answer this question .
Two of the most preeminent men in Europe ,Two of the most respected men in Europe , Two of the most profound scholars in the world ,one a Cardinal ,the other ,a former chancellor, with great courage and dignity laid their heads on the block, and in turn ,were canonized saints ,in defense of Katherine of Aragon ,the true queen and sovereign princess .
Who defended Anne Boleyn in so profound a manner? Nobody .
I rest my case.
May the Lord Bless Queen Katherine of Aragon.
Antares, I wanted to say that, but you took the words out of my mouth, although I don’t have much love for Jane Seymour either.
Anne isn’t like Catherine Howard; she played a game, she knew what she was doing, and she lost. She didn’t even try to reconcile with Mary or to put the family back together as Henry’s later wives did (although the main credit there goes to Katharine Parr.)
Anne did get what she deserved. The wives I feel pity for are Katharine of Aragon and Catherine Howard.
How can you possibly say she deserved to be executed? Anne was beautifully flawed. LIke all of us. That is why people are drawn to her. Have you not done things that you regret? Have you not made terrible mistakes in your life? Why don’t you write them all down for me and I will make a book out of them for the world to see. Then, because you didn’t give your spouse what he wanted, let’s have you beheaded. I honestly don’t think people who defend Anne excuse her mistakes. They see a woman born into a life in which she had very little choice. But when she tried to be true to herself, she wasn’t allowed. She was way, way, way, light years ahead of her time. The fact that her own father after her execution went back to court, speaks volumes of the power Henry held over people. We simply cannot relate. And therefore, we should not judge. In my opinion, she is why Elizabeth was so amazing a queen. She. And she alone. Anne Boleyn, with all her flaws and weaknesses and shortcomings was also an amazing human being. Her story, her life is utterly amazing, utterly unbelievable and she lived it. That’s why people are drawn to her. There will only ever be one Anne Boleyn. Period.
I didn’t say that she deserved to die, in fact I think she was innocent and that she didn’t commit the crimes for which she was executed, I just said that I don’t regret her and I don’t like her.
anyone doubts Katherine of Aragon ‘s superiority over Anne Boleyn ,answer this question .
Two of the most preeminent men in Europe ,Two of the most respected men in Europe , Two of the most profound scholars in the world ,one a Cardinal ,the other ,a former chancellor, with great courage and dignity laid their heads on the block, and in turn ,were canonized saints ,in defense of Katherine of Aragon ,the true queen and sovereign princess .
Who defended Anne Boleyn in so profound a manner? Nobody .
I rest my case.
May the Lord Bless Queen Katherine of Aragon.
And the Catholic church is all about power and oppression. Anne was fearless and strong and it got her killed. Anyone who opposes great power puts their life in jeopardy. Are you willing to give your life for what is right? Or are you just a follower, enslaved by the corrupt world? I think you sound like the latter.
In fairness, Jane didn’t do much to Elizabeth one way or the other. She basically neglected her. One could argue that is worse than abuse though.
Jane was a Catholic. Had she lived, Elizabeth likely wouldn’t have gotten to the throne as shs would have pushed Edward and Mary’s rights and considered the daughter of Anne Boleyn a royal bastard.
Please can you stick to one identity!
Claire, about your comment above I think it’s a misunderstanding.
I think that was another Antares, I will change my nickname in future comments.
That doesn’t make sense, Elizabeth only became queen after Edward and Mary were dead. Edward died in 1553, Mary died in 1558, and Mary chose Elizabeth as her successor.
You comment under different identities and keep changing your mind about things.
I keep changing my mind because I want to please everyone.
So your views can’t be very strong then.
Anne Boleyn didn’t deserve to die and she’s certainly not a martyr. She saw how Henry treated the (then) Queen, Catherine, and kept on with the King and if Mary ever referred to herself as a Princess informed anyone who heard to have her ears boxed. She was hateful to Mary all on her own, though no one can surpass Henry. Play stupid games, win stupid prizes, and above all, eff Henry VIII who ruined Catherine of Aragon’s life, murdered Anne Boleyn justly (though she’s overly sympathized, did not deserve to die and wasn’t some Tudor slut,) killed Mary’s godmother because he was ticked at her son, all of it.
Henry VIII was more that willing to be brought away from his marriage, and he had to work hard to convince Anne. I do not believe she was guilty of the crimes charged against her, however I do believe she committed adultery – with Henry. Do I believe she got what she deserved? No. Henry was just as guilty. Sorry, but the marriage with Catherine of Aragon was valid, as the scriptures that Henry cited to justify his divorce only apply if his brother were still living at the time he and Catherine were united. The Levitical decree has no bearing in the case where the brother (her original husband – Arthur) has already died. Whether his divorce from Catherine was valid or not should be the debated issue. I do not judge Anne – apparently Henry was a wonderful seducer and so is such unmitigated power. God rest her soul.
Yes 16th century England was a very dangerous place and Henry VIII executed anyone with a claim to his throne. He gave wonderful opportunities to talented individuals like Cromwell, Wolsey and Anne Boleyn. But it always ended badly. Anne’s sister had been Henry’s mistress and Anne was trained as a diplomat and courtier at the courts of France and the Netherlands, so she knew the score. Henry VIII was a romantic and he loved Anne as his mistress but not as his wife. He liked the chase but he didn’t want her once he caught her. And she didn’t produce a male heir for him. He had isolated himself from the pope and Europe and he needed a male heir to continue the Tudor dynasty. The English people didn’t like Anne, Catholic Europe hated her and she only had a small circle at court supporting her. Then she had a falling out with Cromwell. She had to go.
The one who unequivocally got what he deserved was Cromwell.