Anne Boleyn – “The Great Whore”

Posted By on June 18, 2009

Hever Castle Portrait

Hever Castle Portrait

Yes! Finally, I can get to write about Anne Boleyn again – phew! I’m sorry that Henry VIII has dominated the last few posts but, with the 500th anniversary of his coronation on June 24th, there are many special Henry VIII events taking place over the next week.

Anne Boleyn: “The Great Whore”

Today, moving on from Anne Boleyn “The Witch”, I’m going to explore the idea that Anne Boleyn was a whore. The idea that Anne Boleyn was a whore or strumpet has absolutely nothing to do with her own moral standards, but stems from public opinion of her, the opinions voiced by Catherine of Aragon’s supporters and those who set out to blacken her name after her execution and during Mary I’s reign.

Both the public and Catherine of Aragon’s supporters blamed Anne Boleyn for stealing the King away from Catherine, usurping Catherine’s place as Queen, turning Henry against the Catholic Church and for causing the tyrannical behavior of the King which resulted in good men (Sir Thomas More and Bishop John Fisher) losing their lives and monasteries being ransacked. Phew! No wonder Anne Boleyn was so unpopular when she first became Queen!

Names for Anne

It was believed that for her to hold this kind of power and influence over the King (to make him act this way), she must have some kind of sexual hold over him, after all, in those days sexuality was a woman’s only power! So, Anne became known as:-

  • “The Great Whore”
  • “The King’s Whore” and a “naughty paike” (from Michael Farquhar “A Treasure of Royal Scandals”)
  • “The concubine”, “the she-devil” and “the whore” – Chapuys, the Imperial Ambassador
  • “The Goggle Eyed Whore” – Margaret Chanseler (quoted in Eric Ives’ “The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn”)
  • “Common stewed [professional] whore” – the Abbot of Whitby
  • “The scandal of Christendom” – Catherine of Aragon

When we look at Anne through the eyes of the public who loved (and were still loyal to) Catherine of Aragon and who saw their beloved King Henry turn into a man who now committed brutal and atrocious acts on a seemingly daily basis and who treated his previous wife and daughter with such contempt and cruelty, we can well understand why they thought of her as an evil woman who had some kind of hold over the once virtuous King.

The Injustice of it All!

But to think of Anne Boleyn as some kind of harlot or sexual predator who stole the King’s heart from the true queen is to do her a might injustice.

There is absolutely no evidence at all that Anne was sexually immoral, that she had sexual relationships before her relationship with Henry VIII or that she was unfaithful to him. Unlike her sister, Mary Boleyn, who had a reputation for her sexual promiscuity, Anne is thought to have held on to her virginity until shortly before her marriage to the King and it was the King who “deflowered” her.

What we do have is evidence that Anne Boleyn was a religious and virtuous woman, who was charitable and giving (she gave alms regularly and sewed garments for the poor), and a woman who spoke out against injustice – she argued with Thomas Cromwell over the fact that money taken from the monasteries was going into royal coffers rather than to the poor and needy.

By the time of her execution, she had actually become quite popular and Sir William Kingston, her jailer, was actually worried that the Tower of London would be stormed by her supporters. The public were shocked by her treatment and disapproved of the King’s behaviour with Jane Seymour.

Catherine of Aragon

Catherine of Aragon

It was unfair of people like Eustace Chapuys to blame Anne for breaking up the marriage of the King and Catherine of Aragon. Chapuys never properly acknowledged Anne as Queen and always referred to her as “the concubine” or “whore” in his dispatches because he felt that Catherine was the true Queen.

However, the marriage of Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon was over years before Anne even came on the scene. Kelly Hart in “The Mistresses of Henry VIII” writes that the first rumours of annulment of the marriage started to circulate in 1514 and Retha Warnicke (“The Rise and Fall of Anne Boleyn”) writes of how the King had decided to annul the marriage before even considering a new wife.

Now I know that I have been accused of being biased about Anne (and I am really!), but I certainly don’t believe that she was a martyr (more on this next week) or a perfect woman. I cannot condone her behaviour with a still married man but I feel that it is injust to paint her as a harlot, witch or adulteress. Henry VIII was responsible for his actions and even though I know that Anne had some influence over him, and that he discussed things with her, she cannot take all the blame for the atrocities he committed or for the man that he turned out to be. The change from virtuous prince to tyrannical monster was not all down to Anne.

What Do You Think?

What I really love about The Anne Boleyn Files is that it’s become really “interactive” and that’s what I wanted. I don’t profess to be an historian or expert on Anne Boleyn, so I love to learn more about her from you guys too and your comments are always really enlightening and thought provoking.

Please leave a comment about why you think Anne was/wasn’t a whore and your thoughts on her. Thanks!

P.S. I’ve added more “The Tudors” replica jewellery on to the shop! See https://www.theanneboleynfiles.com/products-page/tudor-jewellery-accessories/

71 thoughts on “Anne Boleyn – “The Great Whore””

  1. Poor Anne – her behaviour in terms of entering a relationship with a married man is something that should not be condoned. Too many marriages have broken up because of that.

    But, in Anne’s case (and arguably in Jane Seymour’s case as well), when the King singled a woman out, it was essentially fait accompli.

    In a time where a woman’s only options were marriage or a convent (and that latter option was fast being removed in the 1530s), what could Anne have done when her refusal to be a Mistress to the King was ignored. Henry continued to chase her, Anne tried to remove herself from the Court but to no avail.

    No other man would have dared to attempt to “rescue” her once Henry made his choice clear. As Thomas Wyatt eloquently said “Noli Me Tangere, for Caesar’s I am”.

    Anne probably had no real choice. She was the King’s to command.

    The film “Anne of the Thousand Days”, though not perfectly historically accurate (what film is?) is actually very much ahead of its time in the way it portrays Anne. And this is bearing in mind, the seminal work of Eric Ives was 17 years away from publication.

    In the film, there are a few interesting scenes based at Hever where Anne is living. Her behaviour towards the King in these scenes is cold and at times, bordering on uncivil and perhaps even lèse majesté. After a dancing scene where Anne has insulted the King once more, the King marches her out of the hall and into a private ante chamber. He makes it abundantly clear what power he has over her and her family. Anne doesn’t really care but then the King orders Anne back to court to be at his side at all times. After a direct command, Anne now realises she has no choice but to obey the King, and sinks down in a deep court courtsey to him, albeit defiantly.

    Its a powerful scene, its a dramatic scene designed solely for the cinema. But, it is probably what Anne faced. She tried to run from Henry. He refused to allow it – she HAD to obey him in the end. There was no other man to rescue her.

    How many of us could cope with that sort of stress in our lives?

    1. Claire says:

      Wow, super comment, Elizabeth! Thank you for taking the time to leave this comment, you make some great points. Yes, I don’t think that Anne, or any of Henry’s mistresses or wives, had a choice really – you can’t refuse a king and yet Anne managed to keep her virtue for so long.

      I haven’t seen that film since I was a young girl and I’m going to have to order it and watch it again, it sounds great. I agree that Anne must have had an incredibly stressful life – trying to keep Henry happy, saying no to Henry, marrying him and having such a dramatic rise in favour, worrying about losing him, worrying about not having a son, coping with miscarriages and knowing about Henry’s infidelity – it’s not something that I could cope with!

  2. Gemma says:

    I think Anne had the same problem as women of today, once some men have had a woman they lose intertest and get rid (except they can’t behead them anymore!).
    I think she helped Henry realise he could do what he wanted but I don’t think it was all her fault.
    You had to look out for yourself and thats what she tried to do!

    1. Claire says:

      Yes, perhaps Henry enjoyed the challenge of Anne and the thrill of the chase and then got bored when he actually had her. She definitely did help Henry to realise his own power because she gave him Tyndale’s “Obedience of a Christian Man” which helped Henry to realise that he was answerable to God, not the Pope.

  3. sarah r. says:

    Well, taking the term literally, as a woman who receives payment for sex, clearly the term ‘whore’ is inaccurate and absurd when applied to AB. She had no need, nor wish to engage in that kind of behaviour.
    So it was a derogatory term, an insult, bandied about by her enemies. In this sense the answer to the querry here is simply ‘NO WAY.’
    When considering her behaviour, and whether it was whore-like, well that is where disputes occur. By the standards of the time, which were pretty loose, she was not particularly promiscuous – until all the accusations were broadcast, of course, when even the Tudor’s were probably just a bit shocked. These were, as rightly pointed out in numerous places here, entirely fabricated. Even in our own enlightened times, men who are jilted or who cannot in some sense handle the passions of their women, will label them in moments of hysteria as ‘whores.’ It is an easy piece of mud to sling. And Henry at the time was glad of those who were ready to sling it, of course. Very unfortunate, and not to the credit of anyone concerned.
    SR

    1. Claire says:

      I think that Anne may have oozed sex appeal but she definitely was not promiscuous or deserving of the names that she was called. Yes, I agree with you that people lash out at exes or people who have hurt them and it is so easy to get an undeserved bad name. It’s sad that the mud has stuck for so long and we are still fighting these Anne Boleyn myths.

  4. Melissa says:

    I think “naughty paike” sounds kind of adorable.

    1. Claire says:

      It does, doesn’t it!

  5. Sabrina says:

    I think if Henry didn’t want her, she would’ve been totally fine with that. For those who have called her a whore, well it takes two. Henry knew what he was doing, he knew he was married, and still proceeded to pursue her. I understand why they stuck up for Katherine, but come on! It’s a bit ridiculous honestly.

    1. Claire says:

      I can definitely understand people being loyal to Catherine, she was their Queen and a good person, but putting the blame solely on Anne just is not right.

  6. Shelby says:

    I think that after so long waiting for Katherine to bear him a living son, it makes sense that Henry began to consider a divorce from her even before he had a woman in mind for his next wife. When Anne came onto the scene, caught his eye, and managed to maintain his interest beyond any other woman, it only makes sense that he became fixated on obtaining the divorce in order to have the chance of siring a legitimate son.

    Perhaps Anne’s heart had not been without love for other men before Henry, but I don’t think her virginity is something a woman in that time would want to lie about due to the scandal such a lie being discovered would cause. I think anyone can tell that the adultery charges were atrocious lies made up by her enemies in order to convince Henry to get rid of her. Perhaps they didn’t think that the Kindg would have her killed in order to accomplish it though.

    As Claire points out, there is no definitive proof of Anne’s sexual promiscuity, only speculation in an attempt to please the increasingly overbearing King Henry. I know that fictional interpretations of Anne’s life have intimated that she and Thomas Wyatt (The Tudors) and or Henry Percy (The Other Boleyn Girl) were intimate before Henry’s interest made her off limits to all other courtiers, but in these cases the stress must be on their fiction aspect.

    I definitely agree with other comments that once Henry set his eyes on a woman he wanted she was helpless to say “no” – he was the King after all and no one – let alone a mere woman – says no to the King. After 3 years, one daughter and a least one miscarriage Henry somehow convinced himself that Anne could not bear him a son and he needed to move on to a more likely candidate: Jane Seymour.

    I think it’s a terrible oversight of historians when they leave out the love that Anne had cultivated from the English people during her time as Queen. I especially think that her insistence of using the Cromwell’s confiscated monies for the poor and common citizens instead of cushioning the King’s purse.

    1. Claire says:

      Yes, Anne actually did become popular after being initially seen as a harlot who had usurped the true queen. She did much to help the poor and was known for her alms giving and there was public outcry over her execution and the news that Henry had been secretly meeting Jane Seymour.

      I love both The Tudors and historical fiction like Philippa Gregory’s novels but there is a danger that people take their depictions as the complete truth and we have to remember that they are INSPIRED by history and are not documentaries or historical texts. We need to look at evidence, where there is any, and draw conclusions.

      Thanks for the comment, Shelby!

  7. Kristian says:

    So glad you brought this up Claire – it makes me CRAZY when people place all the blame on the “loose woman” who ruins a marriage. They did it in the 16th century and they still do it today. Watch any talk show and it’s always the “other woman” who caused the breakdown of the marriage. Interesting, considering the other woman is not even one of the parties who is MARRIED! Where is the man’s/husband’s culpability? Why do we always fall back on the easily blamed “whore”? Why must the man be “led” astray? He has no mind or libido of his own? Please. How often does the male brain think of sex as compared to the female?
    (sorry, I’m ranting now)

    Henry saw the writing on the wall for his dynastic dreams after Catherine’s last failed pregnancy in 1518 and I believe he would have moved on one way or another. He fell in love with a woman who didn’t fit into the 16th century ideals and was, thus, easy to criticize. A woman had only her reputation and honor so to question that was the “lowest blow.”
    Add to that, it was treasonous to criticize the King. I do think that some people realized at the time that it was not all Anne but no one dared take that anger out on or disagree with what Henry wanted, so Anne was the easiest target.

    As I read more and more books on Anne and The Great Matter, however, I am always astounded by how many people thought Anne’s control and political power knew no boundaries. One only need to look at the speed of her fall to know that she walked a fine line throughout her entire relationship with Henry.

  8. Claire says:

    Kristian, feel free to rant! That’s what I love about history, and about Anne in particular, you can get passionate about it!!

    I have recently been accused of “feminising” and “popularising” Henry VIII’s reign by concentrating on Anne Boleyn but you can’t have it both ways – people can’t blame Anne for the bad things that Henry did and the tyrant he became and then say that his six wives had absolutely no influence on him or his reign! Soap box time again!

    1. Sabrina says:

      Oh god… are you serious? You did not have to do anything.. The story alone has enough drama for anyone to discover. Henry was a tyrant and did not treat any of his wives well.

  9. Claire says:

    Yes, Sabrina! I know! I do get a bit tired of carrying this soap box around with me you know!

  10. Emma says:

    I’m late on catching up with this! As usual I read this site before bed and fatigue probably makes me sound like a nutcase. Stream of consciousness comments:

    Some of the accusations made about Anne’s sexual history are so ridiculous they are borderline amusing (her precocious childhood “affair” with a butler which caused her father to send her away). Sexuality seems to be the Achilles heel when trying to tear down a strong woman.
    Kristian made so many points I agree with. Men are just dismissed as being naturally promiscuous but women get the blame. In Tudor times, men were expected to have mistresses but women were called whores if they cuckolded their husbands. Interesting how Henry’s famous mistresses, like Bessie Blount, were not slandered in such a way… but Anne, the one who actually stole his heart, earned the degrading sexual names.
    Obviously I don’t think she was a whore. There is just no evidence. Even if she did have relations with Percy, which I don’t think she did, that doesn’t make her a whore.

    A thought about her frolics (platonic) with a married man – just something I’ve wondered about. His marriage was being questioned at the time. Henry himself felt he was never legally married to Catherine (whether he deeply believed that or just desperately wanted to is another debate). So with that viewpoint, it wasn’t the same situation as say the Duke of Norfolk (I believe it was him), who had a wife but publicly toted around his mistress. Certainly the general public didn’t feel that way, but perhaps Anne felt that the marriage with KA was a moot point. That, and she was just sucked up in the whirlwind of life with Henry.

    Speaking of Mary Boleyn, the incorrect information from The Other Boleyn Girl (of the angelic sister to evil Anne) has driven me to near insanity. I know SO many people who have read the book or seen the movie and who don’t understand the “fiction” in “historical fiction”. People will just go on about how utterly horrible Anne was, and how can I admire that, etc. Then after my long-winded diatribe, they regret asking me. 😉 I swear my new mission in life is clearing her name from the damage done by TOBG.

    Today the term “bitch” is slung around frequently about any woman who is outspoken and powerful. I often wonder if Anne would have been given that label too!

    1. Claire says:

      Emma, I’m glad that I’m not the only one who causes people’s eyes to glaze over after I’ve corrected their perceptions of Anne Boleyn!

      Yes, sexuality was (and still is) used against women in power and yes “bitch” would definitely have been used.

      Thanks for the great comment!

      1. Ashley says:

        I agree!! TOBG really riled me up. She has been slandered too often for too long and sadly enough its only recently that people are trying to really change their perspective. I can’t stand how people still try to blame her when she was swept up in circumstances that were pretty much out of her control. I rather enjoyed Joanna Denny’s take on Anne Boleyn and Katharine, especially Henry, it felt good to read that book, really good, especially compared to other books or opinions labeling Anne as a loose vindictive social climbing whore, and Katharine as completely innocent and Henry completely blinded by her “ways” Now I’m starting to rant, I just can’t stand it when people have such a bad and clearly wrong opinion of Anne Boleyn, it drives me up the wall, and then I can’t shut up about it until I feel my point is made. Henry was a complete and utterly awful tyrant, Katharine was not wholly innocent and Anne was not a whore or any of those other slanderous things people have tried and still try to place on her! I have a lot of respect and sadness for her, in my opinion she changed the course of history, she was the catalyst for the break with the church of Rome and England’s eventual conversion to Protestantism (sp?)

        1. Claire says:

          Hi Ashley,

          Thanks for the comment. I’m always getting on my soap box where Anne is concerned so I completely understand your point of view. It’s time to set the record straight about Anne and to admire her for who she really was.
          Thanks!

    2. Albert Quentel says:

      I wonder if enough attention has been paid to the fact that the Bible ( the Old Testament) depicts kings like David and Solomon as having many wives without suffering penalties from God on this account. David is denounced by Nathan the prophet not for taking Bathsheba as a new wife per se but for doing it by exposing Uriah the Hittite to certain death. Clearly kings like Henry VIII (who used a passage from Leviticus as his rationale for divorcing Catherine of Aragon) could see in Old Testament kings like David and Solomon a model for their own sexual behavior with the only modification being that,as Christian monarchs, they could not make an official wife of more than one sexual partner at a time. Women by contrast were never depicted as having more than one husband at a time,not even one as renowned as Deborah in the book of Judges.

  11. sarah r. says:

    Great Emma! And of course what we should never forget is that the ‘witnesses’ in this instance were providing evidence under torture. Given the fact that women in AB’s position would rarely have had a moment unattended at Court, and that for much of the time in question she was either pregnant or recovering from miscarriage, and the whole thing is so preposterous as to defy belief! I think it is fine when novelists play with the facts to make a good story, but not when the result is the defamation of a real historical character who does not deserve it.
    SR

  12. Pinkie says:

    Elizabeth’s comment is exactly what i was thinking, I mean there was no other way to go obey or ???. Henry really was all powerful and left a nice path of destruction behind him. I have always been enthralled with this time in history and feel like Anne in her day was absolutely an outspoken intelligent feminist and this is obviously one of the main contributing factors in her demise. (I am also clearly Anne bias)
    Fantastic blog!

    1. Claire says:

      There’s some great comments on this post – I love starting off a debate! Thanks for your kind words on the blog, Pinkie, check out the forum too – I’ve only just started it so it needs some people to get posting on it! x

  13. sarah. r says:

    It just occurred to me, regarding that rather unpleasant name of goggle-eyed whore that you mentioned as being applied to Anne by her enemies: – when somebody has a very over-active thyroid gland (hyperthyroidism) it can (though by no means always) lead to that kind of swollen, bulging, goggle-eyed look. Other symptoms include: feelings of restlessness, hyperactivity, increased heart rate or palpitations, having infrequent periods or difficulty becoming pregnant. It all sounds a little like Anne in her final years. But of course impossible to diagnosis at such a distance of time. Certainly the ‘Anna Bullen’ portrait at Hever Castle, suggests this kind of look in its milder stages, don’t you think? Perhaps. Poor Anne!
    SR

    1. Claire says:

      I’ve always wondered why she was called a “goggle eyed whore”. I suppose her eyes are quite prominent in the other Hever Castle portrait so perhaps there is something in your theory, Sarah.

  14. lisaannejane says:

    I must say that a loved reading all the comments, many insightful remarks made! Glad to know that I am not the only one who thinks Anne should never be described as a whore. I live in California and it’s amazing how people think that movies are accurate, and yes, I do get on my soapbox and rant about the image of Anne, in movies especially.

  15. JUNE DECK says:

    SINCE SEEING ANNE OF THE THOUSAND DAYS WHEN I WAS ABOUT 12 I WAS FASCINATED BY ANNE. I HAVE READ EVERY BOOK, ARTICLE AND THEN SOME I COULD FIND ON THIS WOMAN, AND SHE STILL HOLDS SOME SORT OF POWER OVER ME. I FEEL SHE WAS WITHOUT POWER OVER HER LIFE ONCE THE PIG, AKA HENRY TURNED HIS ATTENTION TO HER. HER FATHER ALL BUT SOLD HER, AND SHE PROBABLY AT SOME POINT GAVE UP HERSELF AND ENTERED INTO A DANGEROUS GAME. WAS SHE EVIL? NO, BUT SHE DID JOIN ‘EM SO TO SPEAK, BUT BY THAT TIME SHE WAS IN IT FOR HER LIFE I WOULD THINK. I WOULD LOVE TO SEE A REAL RENDITION OF HOW SHE LOOKED, HER FAMOUS PAINTINGS GIVE LIE TO THE FACT SHE MUST HAVE HAD SOME GOOD LOOKS TO GO WITH HER FAMOUS PERSONALITY. HER FEAR AT THE END OF HER LIFE MUST HAVE BEEN OVEWHELMING AND I FEEL ALOT OF COMPASSION FOR HER. HER GREAT LEGACYAND HER “OWN BACK” IS UNDOUBTABLY HER DAUGHTER, WHO I BELIEVE GOT HER GREAT MIND AND HER WIT AND MAGNETISM NOT FORM HER FATHER BUT HER MUCH MALIGNED MOTHER. GO GIRL!

  16. JUNE DECK says:

    I am so happy to have found this site, being obsessed with a dead woman is kinda weird, I know, but well, it is what it is!! I wanted to add to my earlier comment that I believe in our time Henry would have been diagnosed as a sociopath. I truly believe he was evil, a man with so much power that he was corrupted, but all that aside he was a mental case and we now know that men like him are psychopaths. He more than likely had sexual issues along with his great love of all things in excess. I think pennicillin and viagra may have helped as well as a good diet. His prediliction for blaming the women in his life just screams mental illness. Any female having to deal with this gross man was automatically in danger, Anne of Cleves was one lucky woman! As was Katherine Parr, who herself almost lost her head. What a damned pity Katherine of Aragon did not produce a live and long living son, so much could have been different and the Reformation would have undoubtably happened in a different and less violent and bloody way. But all in all, Elizabeth was the product of all that transpired, and who can argue that the loss of her would have changed our history. Anne had the last word.

  17. Claire says:

    I’m glad you found the site too, June! Thanks so much for your insightful comments. I do wonder if Henry VIII’s jousting accident did cause some brain damage as his behavior did seem to get more tyrannical from that point on. I also think that his impotence affected him as he probably felt less of a man and therefore had to act more of a man!

  18. Lyd says:

    I think that Anne Boleyn is amazing. I am fascinated by her story and family, even though I am only 13. I am quite biased as I love her whole idea, but I still know my fair share.
    I am having a party at christmas and I am attending as Anne Boleyn!!!
    My friend is going as Mary and someone else as George and Catherine (Carey) and little Henry. Even William Stafford! Fun!

  19. Claire says:

    That sounds such a brilliant party – have fun! Anne Boleyn is an amazing and fascinating historical character, and I’m so glad you’ve found The Anne Boleyn Files! Welcome!

  20. lana says:

    Anne Boleyn was no whore, the king would have replaced Kathrine either ways .i keep wondering what if queen Anne was not excuted, what if Henry shared all his remaining years with her??Queen Elizabeth is still remembered till this day, let’s not forget who her mother was.

  21. JUNE DECK says:

    Whenever a man has an affair or the like, the other woman is always blamed, not the man. How stupid is that? We still do it today! I have always believed Anne did not give in to Henry’s sexual demands until the time we know of, shortly before the marriage. She may very well have been a sexually attractive woman, but not all that inclined to actually ‘doing it’. Or she may not have wanted to go the way of her sister, or she held out for the crown, we can never know. That she was somehow to blame for his wandering eye, and remember, Katherine was older than him, is incredibly short sighted, he simply wanted out of the marriage to an older, less attractive woman, who if historians are correct had become rather old for her age. Also I hve read that Katherine was, after so many miscarriages, not healthy in a female way and was even perhaps by then in menopause.Lets not forget also the grossness of this man!!!!She was not the whore here here, but as my very apt daughter would say when younger he was a Man Whore!!

  22. Claire says:

    I so agree with you, June! I’ve been writing about this today in my “Anne Boleyn: The Homewrecker” blog post, we just always seems to villify the woman whereas actually Henry VIII had already committed adultery on many occasions and Anne refused his advances many times. Love your name “Man Whore”!

  23. Rebecca says:

    Anne Boylen was not a whore, she was victim of her time period and her father and uncle’s want of political gain. She gave more money to charity and education organizations than any of Henry’s wives and queens in general. She had no desire to marry Henry but lost the man she really wanted to marry in the first place because of Wosley’s orders from Henry Tudor. Her sister had been his mistress and saw the strain it put on her but none the less the carried on. Anne Boylen did one of the few things that women would not do back then. She did not compromise. She did not want to be a whore she wanted to be a wife and ended up a queen. While other women struggled in silence with adultery, she let Henry know very loudly that she would not accept his activities. She wanted to be an equal and ended up setting off a religious war with the Catholic Church. Although it was on here behalf, what people don’t relize is she died a Catholic. She was not a whore, the devil, evil or anything else. She was a pawn on a chess board that ended up taking a queen off the table and putting herself in the place she had been moving to across the board.
    People also don’t realize ( or choose to ignore) that Catherine of Aragon and Henry the 8th were an arranged marriage over a period of like 10 years. Henry finally ended up courting Catherine who was somewhat older than him for that time period as a political move for an alliance with Spain…and to annoy his father who wanted Catherine sent back to Spain after her first husband passed. The marriage like all in the day where politically motivated.
    In a nutshell, Henry obsessed with an heir to prevent another War of Roses, wanted a start with a younger queen. Anne gave him a daughter and after the daughter she became so stressed she miscarried. Henry (who was rumored to have syphillis and known to have gout which always carried his moods) lost his biggest campaign ever and wanted to start again so she was killed. This woman was not a whore, a blasphemer, hypocrite. She was a woman who would not let society make her into a mistress to be forgotten. It was all or nothing, she never compromised and payed with her life for never doing so. I am so proud to be able to call her my great 20X aunt.

  24. Rebecca says:

    By the way, I love your site. I don’t know if you have peerage with her too but I really do enjoy this site and read it often. I have always been fasicnated with her story even as a kid so for me to find peerage to her was so incredibly special, please keep updating your site I love it!

  25. Rebecca says:

    Oh and one more thing, the reason the pope did not grant the divorce was because Catherine of Aragon’s nephew the Holy Roman Emporer was a close friend and I think family memeber. If it had been anyone else, there would have eventually been an annullment in time. Catherine’s religious ties where very strong with papal society and it showed. Anne could have not gone through 7 years of courting if Catherine had not had strong ties the way she did.

  26. Claire says:

    Hi Rebecca,
    Thanks for your wonderful comments, you make some great points. I’ve never tried tracing back the genealogy of my family but I really must. I’ve always loved history, particularly the Tudors and Stuarts, and there’s just something about Anne’s story that moved me and has got me addicted, hard to explain!

    I think you’re right about the annulment, other monarchs in Europe had managed to “get rid” of wives but Catherine had powerful allies.

    No, Anne definitely was not a whore. I do not think she used her virginity as bait for Henry and she cannot be blamed for breaking a marriage that was already over, Henry should take that responsibility.

  27. Aimee says:

    This is a difficult comment for me to make, especially on a MB celebrating the best of Anne Boleyn. I have always admired and respected Anne Boleyn, and I’ve pitied her, too. Her situation was far from enviable if one examines all the facts.

    That said, yes, Anne Boleyn was indeed a “whore” and an “adulteress” by the standards of the time.

    To those who feel she is “innocent” because she did not immediately consummate her relationship with Henry VIII, I ask this question: would you consider another woman “innocent” of adultery if she accepted love letters and gifts from your husband? If she accepted at least partial financial support and multiple favors from him?

    There is such a thing as emotional love affairs and Anne and Henry had one. There is much evidence proving that, in the beginning, at least, Anne gave resistance, but ultimately she chose to acquiesce to Henry’s desires. She did not have to make that choice, other choices were available, and I won’t dispute they weren’t GOOD choices (bannishment, exile, dificulty for her family, perhaps.) But the bottom line is that Anne made the choice to accept Henry (a married man’s) suit and support.

    The King’s true marriage could not be dissolved without the intervention of what amounted to a kangaroo court for the times. If you were married in a Christian church and your husband married another in a Buddhist temple, would you consider yourself no longer married?

    I don’t take issue with the terminology used to describe Anne’s position and behavior. It might sound cruel, but if the shoe fits you’ve got to wear it. I doubt even Henry’s strongest supporters really viewed Anne’s marriage as a true marriage.

    I don’t take umbrage with Chapuy’s use of the term “concubine.” What else could Anne be called? For better or worse, she elected to accept the King’s suit, eventually had relations with him and conceived a child, and married him in a controversial private ceremony.

    Ask yourselves if Katherine of Aragon was your next door neighbor, and her husband put her through similar treatment? What would you call his new significant other?

  28. Ashleigh says:

    Hey,
    Ive been pretty interested in the boleyn and Tudor families for a couple of years now and at my high school i am going to do a presentation on “The damage done by Anne Boleyn – I know she had a very strong influence over Henry IIIV and that she wasnt very respected by the common people of that time but still alot of people go on about her! they call her a legend and some amazing person when she had the nerve to do that to Catherine. Anne had the cunning and wit that many people called “Being a whore” but she was not a whore – i admit – but just an extremly ambitious person doing that to King Henry and the queen.
    I suppose Anne Boleyn and Henry Tudors daughter Elizabeths talent to be a great queen may have come from Henry but what came from Anne – you can barely tell shes her mother!?

  29. Claire says:

    Hi Ashleigh,
    I’d be interested to know what you’re going to say in your presentation about the damage that Anne Boleyn did – do you mean to Catherine, England, Henry or all of them?
    Yes, she had a very strong influence over Henry but he was a strong character too and would only do what he really wanted to do. I don’t think that she can actually be blamed for what happened to Catherine, I think Henry has to take responsibility for that. He had a string of mistresses before he met Anne Boleyn and had been looking to annul teh marriage and remarry for many years before Anne even came to the English court. Yes, Anne was the catalyst for him actually going through with the annulment and breaking with Rome because she refused to be just his mistress but I’m not sure that she can take the blame for everything.

    Yes, she was known as a whore by supporters of Catherine & Mary, because they felt that she had usurped the throne and wasn’t really Henry’s wife or Queen, but this does not mean that she was unfaithful or promiscuous, it’s just a nasty word to fling at someone. Anne definitely had a quick temper and malicious streak but Henry was responsible for the cruel treatment of Mary and Catherine, not Anne, and I think that Mary realised this after Anne had been executed.

    Yes, Elizabeth was very much her father’s daughter but she also had a lot of Anne in her too – see Anne Boleyn’s Influence on Elizabeth I Part 1 and Anne Boleyn’s Influence on Elizabeth I Part 2. Elizabeth also looked like Anne, although she had her father’s red hair.
    I’d be really interested to hear how your presentation goes – Good luck!

  30. Ashleigh says:

    Hey,
    Sorry – what i meant by “The damage done ” to Catherine and Henry is that she changed alot in England. She caused the break with Rome and her ambition saw Catherine tossed aside – even though Henry had wanted a reason for a while! I suppose Anne wasnt that bad but alot of chanegs happened while she and Henry were together and most of them were to suit herself. It kind of sucks that Anne was beheaded because Henry had his people search to find a reason for her to be tossed aside just like Catherine. And adultery and witchcraft doesnt really sound like Anne?

  31. Ashleigh says:

    Hi again 🙂
    Just to let you know i changed my topic for my presentation because it sounded pretty harsh – Instead Im doing the “Shadows of Anne Boleyn” – as in the people always behind her – Mary, George, Queen Catherine, Her father and Henry

  32. Claire says:

    I love that title, Ashleigh, and it sounds like a great presentation – they’re all such interesting people. Good luck with it. 🙂

  33. Ashleigh says:

    Today i did my presentation on “The Shadows of Anne Boleyn” It was fantastic
    So many people were asking me questions about her so i told them to go to the Anne Boleyn files.com to find out most of the answers 🙂

  34. Claire says:

    Congratulations Ashleigh, that’s brilliant and thanks so much for spreading the message about the AB Files. I’m so glad that it went well. 🙂

  35. Leesa Miele says:

    since Im 12 years old I have been facinated and obssessed with the tudor dynasty. Anne boleyn has always been my favorite queen Ilove this website and am so happy i stumbled across it while surfin the web looking for Anne stuff!! I dont believe Anne was a whore at all it was her father and uncle that were the whores they would and did do anything to further themselves I see Anne as a victim first from her family then Henry I think if Anne were alive today she would be a powerful and succesful woman!

  36. Maya says:

    I once read that Anne was born ‘centuries too soon’, which is so true. If she were a modern day woman, she would probably be running the world.

  37. Mads says:

    I do believe that catherine and Henry were a fair couple, and the issue of not having a son was fair to the situation, But Anne was a intelligent and moderate woman and calling her a word such as that was unfair.
    I’m on this website because I’m doing a project on Catherine of Aragon, which is quite interesting…I must say

  38. sylvia says:

    If Anne Boleyn was a whore than I`m the next Queen of England! What nonsence! It`s been happening all through the centuries that when a woman doesn`t reach expectancies whether from her own husband, lover, boyfriend or peer , she becomes the target for jealousies and bad karma and people would try anything to bring you down .and it will carry on till the end of time. It is human nature. Anne achieved what dozens of women at court and in the realm would have given anything to achieve, so of course she made enemies, high and low. And as Henry, after all was a weak man, he was more than ready to believe anything negative against Anne. and it was a wonderful `reason`to kill her.

  39. Emily says:

    Anne was not a whore, she was just a woman who knew what she wanted.
    But, like Elizabeth said in the first comment, it didn’t turn out to be all well and good. The scene she was writing about reminded me of the scene in The Tudors where Anne leaves the castle to catch up to Henry and see why he was leaving. He pushes her away, but she curtsies in return.
    She went from a simple girl at court to Queen in what probably seemed like no time. Yes, she hooked Henry initially with her looks and allure. But she turned out to be an intelligent, fiery, and powerful young woman. I don’t think he expected that.
    I absolutely agree with Sylvia, he just wanted a reason to end her. Once he got what he wanted, he was done. She was also trying so hard to give him a son, but he took her for granted.

  40. Daniella Bottinga says:

    I think that Anne And Henry stopped communicating somewhere in the middle of there marriage.
    I believe that Anne and Henry (when he was courting her) discussed there issues and troubles with one another, and after a number of years, they didnt talk anymore.

    Maybe if he would have talked to his wife and not listened to gossip at court, Anne might have had a marriege annulment,just like Catherine.

    Because I do really believe That Henry Loved Anne…

  41. emmalemmala says:

    anne was a 20th century woman born 500 years too early. she wasnt a whore henry was a whore and there is no evidence that she was unfaithful. i believe that if henry knew elizabeth would be the best successor, he would of said anne was the love of his life and be buried next to her instead of jane.

  42. Vin Smith says:

    …Which actress made the b est Anne Boleyn? Genvieve Bujold, Jodhi May, Natalie Dormer or Natalie Portman? Which portrayal was closest to the actual historical Anne Boleyn. And no, I don’t think she was evil. She was a woman of the times who found power and position as a direct result of her uncle and father’s naked ambtio–which Anne picked up somewhere along the way. In that sense, my vote would go to Natalie Portman–but that is undoubtedly because of the script.

  43. Jessica says:

    Wow, a whole website dedicated to Anne Boleyn! Squee!

    No, Anne Boleyn was not some whore like most people think. She was actually quite popular amongst the common people. The unfortunate truth is that most historians focused on Catholic sources on Anne Boleyn for a long time, sources that accused her of being a witch, and having a six finger and a wen on her neck, etc. These sources are obviously heavily biased and completely ridiculous. The main source being Chapuys who never even met Anne Boleyn. Only now are people beginning to look at the Protestant sources. These new insights show that Anne was quite popular in England, not so much among the nobles but certainly with the common folk. Since most of lower England was becoming Protestant when she came into power, it stands to reason that they supported her. It was the mainly Catholic nobles who didn’t.

    I’ve done a lot of research on Anne and read several books and I can say without a doubt that she was an honorable woman who unfortunately got sucked up in a game of politics and lost.

  44. Joanne says:

    Whore is a very strong word to use. And it goes back to the sources really. There was tremendous change going on in that era and she represented it to a lot of folks who didn’t LIKE it. Was she a saint? No, but she was no whore either. It was an awful position for her to be in really. Here she is this sophisticated courtier brought back from France to attract a suitor closer to home and she lands the eye of the king, a man no one dare defy. What could she do? She surely did not want to follow her sister’s example, Mary was practically disowned by her family for her shenanigans. No other suitor would dare court her after Percy was sent on his way. What could she do, really? So here she has the big H chasing her and all she could do was hold him off and hold out for a wedding ring. No one expected Katherine of Aragon to be so obstinate, and no one really expected the run around they got from the Pope and the Emperor’s part in this. It was not unheard of to put away a barren wife, it had been done before, and Henry gave them the excuse to use to do it with his research of Leviticus.

    Henry of course has a lot to answer for in all of this. He chased her, he treated his wife and daughter badly during the chase. He eventually broke with Rome to get his own way when he saw the political writing on the wall. Katherine of Aragon also has to answer for some of it with her refusal to go quietly as it were, she set some of the tragedy in play that became her daughter’s life. Anne was not totally innocent here either. She did not always behave well either. But she wasn’t what I’d call a whore by any means. She was just trying to make it work for her since there really weren’t any good choices out there for her to make.

  45. veronica says:

    i think you are correct in your vision of Anne, as for her being with a married man, She tried not to indulge, but Henry was not going to allow it. I think she was a victim of this tyrannt, as anyone of his other wives. Henry was Loyal to no one. Had she been allowed to marry Percy, we ,may never have known of her. Yet she was a the most intersting women in history, and a true heroine.

  46. Brittany says:

    I think that Anne definitely knew how to get the King’s attention. However, I also think that she was place under Henry’s nose by her father and Uncle who were desperate for status and power in Henry’s court.

    I really don’t agree with some perspectives that Anne was a ruthless, conniving, selfish, short-tempered adulteress, who flaunted her sexuality openly. I do not think she was a “Great Whore” or anything remotely close to that title that was bestowed upon her by her enemies. I think that it was her love for Henry that sometimes made her act the way she did. When she and Henry were finally married, I think she did become a little paranoid and jealous when Henry drew the attention of the ladies at court. But I don’t believe she was the hot-tempered, jealous, short-fused woman that many seem to have believed she was.

    I believe that Anne was a human being above all. She is inspiring and I have no doubt that she was a strong, confident, empowered woman, but I also believe that she had her faults. I mean, who doesn’t? Sure she may have been a little uptight when Henry’s eye started wandering after they were married, but when you are married to the most powerful attractive man at court, how could you not be paranoid that he might drift to adultery with any of the eligible bachelorettes at court? Anne knew wat Henry’s personality was like, and therefore she had reason to be a bit concerned. Was she jealous? Maybe. Paranoid? Perhaps. But when you entire future rests on the possibility of bringing a male heir into the world, how could she not have panicked a bit?

    No, I do not believe Anne Boleyn was a “Great Whore”. I believe she was a victim of her circumstances and her name was muddied after she had be wrongfully executed for crimes she did not commit.

    Rest in peace, Anne, for we know who the true criminals were; the King’s power-hungry advisors and subjects.

  47. Anne Barnhill says:

    I don’t believe Anne was a whore–I think, instead, she was a woman facing an impossible situation. The King was not one to be denied. If she angered him, her family could suffer his displeasure. On the other hand, I don’t believe she liked him all that much in the beginning and did NOT wish to become his mistress. So, she did the unthinkable–she declared her virtue and sort of hid behind it in order to tell him no, without getting her dad in trouble. This fired ole Henry up as he was quite the hunter, whether in the field or in the bedroom. Plus, he needed that son and Cathrerine was not going to be able to fulfill this. Anne made the best out of a bad situation and she did it with style and courage. I believe she was a virgin until Henry, though Henry Percy and she might have gone pretty far—he said as much. But she would have been foolish to allow complete intercourse as there was no reliabel birth control and pregnancey would have ruined her and her family. She was a brave, smart and clever woman who loved life–too bad hers was cut short.

  48. Alexander von Sachsen Altenburg says:

    Anne was not a whore, but a social climber for sure … and an intelligent woman. Her bllod line died with Queen Elizabeth I her daughter, but the Boleyn blood still flow in the Royal family. It is through her sister Mary Boleyn, who had 2 children from Henry VIII whose blood flowed in the veins of both Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother and that of Lady Diana Spencer, the Princess of Wales.

  49. Jack says:

    Anne Boleyn (Bolina) was a total whore. And her father was her pimp. He couldn’t get his first whore to work the king over but the second did, temporarily. Don’t get me wrong, the king was obviously a bastard as well.

    Jack

  50. Sophie says:

    Personally, I don’t think she was a whore, like people have said, it’s too strong a word. My art exam I decided to do something to commemorate the execution of Boleyn and of course when looking for opinions the majority turned up to be that she was a whore or witch, even a murderess (I heard something that she may have poisoned Katherine of Aragon, or something similar), so it was refreshing to find some positive opinions on her.

  51. Good site! I truly love how it is simple on my eyes and the data are well written. I am wondering how I might be notified when a new post has been made. I’ve subscribed to your feed which must do the trick! Have a nice day!

  52. Raychelc says:

    Maybe she was, but if so, we must look to her possible pimp. The Tudors series shows Anne being very much shoved and pressured to manipulate the King, to ensnare him..to secure a marriage to him in order to elevate her family and further her father’s ambitions.

    But..is this what happened? If you read about it, it seems to be the general consensus that Anne was a lady in waiting, and Henry was attracted to her.In other words, that she was already there, and happened to be notices, thus not ‘put before the King”.

    Either way it began, I’m sure her male family members DID push for it. Afterall, what better way to become wealthy and powerful, right?

    I don’t condone her behavior, but I try not to look at it from my modern eyes as much as I can separate the two.

    Poor Anne was only a woman, and could hardly have afforded to displease her father and be disowned, or..for her eventual marriage to the King to not work out.

    Before they ever married, there she was on that rock and hard place, already mired in that battle with Catherine.

    Can anyone among us envy her one bit, much less judge her really?

    I can’t.

    Jane Seymour on the other hand..modern eyes or not, what woman can be THAT crazy/bimbo-esque to go for a man with all claws right after he’s had his last wife beheaded?

    She..is another fascinating subject!

  53. Mark says:

    Calling Anne a whore an injustice?

    She’s not the victim here. Let’s talk about Queen Catherine and Princess Mary who endured the most terrible injustices thanks to Anne.

    She got what she deserved!

    1. Claire says:

      Catherine of Aragon and Mary suffered at the hands of Henry VIII. Anne was dead when Henry VIII sent members of his council to bully her into submitting to his supremacy. They threatened her physically and she was terrified. I think you’re blaming the wrong person.

      As for getting what she deserved, I find it disturbing that anyone would feel that being beheaded for treason when you are innocent of the charges is appropriate.

      1. Lia says:

        I agree with you, Claire. Although Anne Boleyn hated both Catherine and Mary, she really didn’t do anything to them. She certainly didn’t tell Henry to have his men bully the crap out of Catherine, he did that all on his own.

  54. Christine says:

    No Anne wasn’t a whore, she refused to be Henrys mistress she had dignity and virtue, she didn’t expect Henry to fall in love with her and chase her so ardently therefore calling her a whore isn’t fair, if she had been a whore she would have fallen into bed as easily as her sister Mary, we all know it’s easy to blame the woman but Henry had a choice here, he didn’t have to divorce Catherine and offer Anne marriage, he was the one doing all the chasing, she wanted to marry Henry Percy but wasn’t allowed, people seem to forget that, he offered her marriage and she accepted, what women wouldn’t? She didn’t set out to snare him, it was because she was taking Catherine’s place that her enemies vilified her, but if it hadn’t have been Anne it could well have been another because Henry was tired of his wife anyway, as Eric Ives says in his book, it was easy for her enemies to accuse her of moral laxity.

  55. Albert Quentel says:

    I wonder if enough attention has been paid to the fact that the Bible ( the Old Testament) depicts kings like David and Solomon as having many wives without suffering penalties from God on this account. David is denounced by Nathan the prophet not for taking Bathsheba as a new wife per se but for doing it by exposing Uriah the Hittite to certain death. Clearly kings like Henry VIII (who used a passage from Leviticus as his rationale for divorcing Catherine of Aragon) could see in Old Testament kings like David and Solomon a model for their own sexual behavior with the only modification being that,as Christian monarchs, they could not make an official wife of more than one sexual partner at a time. Women by contrast were never depicted as having more than one husband at a time,not even one as renowned as Deborah in the book of Judges. The Patriarchs had concubines as well(see Abraham). So this probably in Henry’s mind afforded him a license to dally with the likes of Bessie Blount and Mary Boleyn and sire illegitimate offspring like Henry Fitzroy.

  56. Myra says:

    I think it’s crazy that they called Anne Boleyn a whore. What about Jane Seymour she wasn’t a whore? I think she was all too happy to see Anne fall because she hated her for what she believed she did to Catherine of Aragon. Jane did the same thing to Anne but the only difference Catherine of Aragon wasn’t beheaded. I saw the episode where Jane was dancing happy tune where Anne was in Tower of London preparing for her death. She didn’t feel bad for Anne at all. So it’s okay to call Anne a whore but not Jane because she was meek and obedient. Yeah she was also smart and she was hoping to take Anne’s place. I think all where she can about Lady Mary and Lady Elizabeth was for a show so she can be close to Lady Mary.

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