There’s no denying that Anne Boleyn is the most maligned and misunderstood of Henry VIII’s six wives. Even today, in an age where we have unprecedented access to primary sources and the likes of historians Eric Ives and Alison Weir spreading the message that Anne Boleyn was innocent and framed, Anne Boleyn is still misrepresented in fiction, non-fiction, TV programmes, movies, radio shows, podcasts and online. I am regularly asked why I feel the need to dedicate my time to researching and writing about an historical character who was a traitor to the crown and a homewrecker – aaaggghhh!

So, what are the labels that Anne Boleyn is wrongly given?

  • wh*re – The imperial ambassador never referred to Anne Boleyn by name and instead called her “the concubine”, “the she-devil” and “the wh*re”, the Abbot of Whitby called her “Common stewed [professional] wh*re”, a lady called Margaret Chanseler (quoted in Eric Ives “The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn”, p200) referred to Anne as “The Goggle Eyed wh*re” and she was also known as “The Great wh*re”, “The King’s wh*re” and a “naught paike”!
  • “The Scandal of Christendom” – This is what Catherine of Aragon called Anne.
  • Homewrecker or the other woman – This is the kind of label you see in Team Catherine vs Team Anne type arguments. People who give Anne this label feel that Anne purposely broke up Henry’s marriage to Catherine.
  • Seductress, plotter, tease and sexual predator – The belief that Anne Boleyn set out to purposely seduce and trap Henry VIII so that she could be queen.
  • Poisoner – In “The Other Boleyn Girl”, Philippa Gregory, suggests  that Anne poisoned Bishop Fisher and his dinner guests, Cardinal Wolsey and Catherine of Aragon.

  • Witch – The idea that Anne Boleyn was a witch who put Henry under a spell. If you are eagle-eyed, you will have spotted Anne Boleyn’s portrait on the wall of Hogwarts in the first Harry Potter film, “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone” (The Sorcerer’s Stone).
  • Deformed – Nicholas Sander, a Catholic recusant in Elizabeth I’s reign, wrote of Anne Boleyn having six fingers, a projecting tooth and a large wen under her chin.
  • Adulteress – Anne was charged with adultery and incest and some people believe that ‘there’s no smoke without a fire’.
  • Traitor – She was executed as a traitor, as someone who had not only committed adultery and slept with her brother, but also as someone who had plotted against the king.
  • Bigamist – In “The Other Boleyn Girl”, Anne Boleyn marries Henry Percy and they consummate their union, therefore, according to Philippa Gregory, Anne was a bigamist.
  • Kidnapper – In “The Other Boleyn Girl” (do you get the idea that many of the stereotypes and labels can be blamed on this novel?!), Anne adopts her sister Mary’s son, Henry, without Mary’s permission. She steals him.
  • That she gave birth to a monster – The idea that Anne gave birth to a monstrously deformed baby and that this was a sign that she had committed incest or was a witch.

And I’m sure you can think of more.

But those who seek to avenge Anne Boleyn also make her out to be someone she is not:-

  • Protestant martyr and saint – One website ( claims that Anne’s “only ‘crime’ was breaking up an incestuous relationship between King Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon”, that her death was part of a conspiracy to keep England under the Catholic Church, that her doctor made sure that she did not have a male heir and that Anne should therefore be seen as a saint and martyr.
  • Victim of poison – The same website I mentioned a minute ago speaks of how Anne was given the cantarella of Borgia (poison) to make her miscarry.
  • A Sibyl or prophetess – I heard that one radio show on Anne Boleyn was claiming that Margaret of Austria ran a spiritual academy for sibyls (seeresses and prophetesses), a Renaissance version of Hogwarts, and that Anne was educated as a sibyl and groomed to be queen.
  • The Leader of the Reformation in England – Some people believe that not only was Anne groomed to be queen by the likes of Margaret of Austria and Marguerite of Angoulême, but that she was also groomed to break the Catholic Church in England and lead the Reformation.
  • Vampire – I had to add this as there seems to be a trend at the moment in fiction for Tudor characters to be portrayed as vampires. A kind of Twilight meets Sookie Stackhouse meets The Other Boleyn Girl! Hmm…

Reading through that list, I’m not sure which is worse: the labels given to her by those who sought (or seek) to discredit her or the ones used by Anne Boleyn “avengers”!

Obviously, at the end of the day, we are never going to know who the real Anne Boleyn was because we just don’t have the primary sources to give is that full pictures. Our theories, and those of historians and academics, are just that, theories, based on our interpretation of the sources and if you look at how two esteemed historians like Eric Ives and G W Bernard can disagree over Anne, then you can see what a minefield the subject of Anne Boleyn is. Anyway, I digress, let’s look at these labels and the truth behind them…

Anne Boleyn the wh*re

It’s easy to understand why Eustace Chapuys would label Anne “the wh*re” or “the concubine” because his allegiance was with Charles V, Catherine of Aragon’s nephew, and therefore with Catherine and Mary. In his opinion, Anne was the evil other woman, the woman who had led Henry VIII astray, and he did not recognise their marriage. Also, think about the general public, the people who had had Catherine as their queen for over 20 years. She was well respected and popular and Anne, in their opinion, had usurped her position. Just think about the public’s reaction to Camilla Parker-Bowles when they found out that Prince Charles had always loved her and had spent his honeymoon with Diana ringing Camilla. Also consider that the royal family are concerned that Camilla will never be recognised as queen by the British public, yet we are in the 21st century, a time where divorce is a fact of life. I know it’s not quite the same, but it does help us to understand people’s reaction to Anne Boleyn and the fact that she was labelled a wh*re, even though it is pretty clear that she was a virtuous woman who tried to refuse the King’s advances.

The Scandal of Christendom

An understandable reaction from Catherine, she’s not exactly going to praise the woman who has caught her husband’s eye and who is the cause of all her woes. Just look at what happened to Catherine and her daughter, it’s easy to see why they held Anne accountable for the annulment, their loss of status and the cruel treatment they suffered. Once Anne was dead and gone, Mary had a rude awakening when she realised that it was her father who was ultimately responsible for her treatment, when things got worse instead of better. It is understandable that Catherine blamed Anne because she loved her husband and Mary loved her father, but it doesn’t make their assessment of Anne a true one. Now, I’m not trying to paint Anne as a angel, as she certainly was not, she said spiteful things and she flew into rages, making rash threats against Catherine and Mary, but we have to hold Henry accountable for what happened to these women really.


The people who label Anne as a “homewrecker” are people who look at the love triangle with 21st century eyes. What we have to remember is:-

  1. There were rumours of Henry VIII annulling his marriage to Catherine in 1514, long before Anne came on the scene and he had already stopped sleeping with his wife.
  2. Anne did not chase Henry, she did not initiate the affair and she actually said “no” to begin with.
  3. Henry had already concluded that his marriage was not valid or legal, that it was incestuous.
  4. Anne had no choice – She tried saying no and it didn’t work, she tried retreating to Hever and that didn’t work, Henry always got what he wanted and he was the King.

So, please let’s blame Henry for the deterioration and subsequent end of his marriage, not Anne Boleyn.

Sexual Predator

I think this idea stems from books and films like “The Other Boleyn Girl”, where we see Anne purposely throwing herself at Henry VIII while Mary is pregnant so that the Boleyns still have influence. In the book, Elizabeth Boleyn says of Anne, “Thank God Anne has him in her toils. She plays with him like you might tease the queen’s dog. She has him on a thread” and we come away with the idea that Henry is powerless and that Anne’s sexuality gives her all the power, that she is calling the shots. Well, anyone who knows anything about a woman’s place in Tudor England and about Henry VIII knows that although Anne may have been an influence on Henry she certainly was not the one pulling the strings.

Author Karen Lindsey (“Divorced, Beheaded, Survived: A Feminist Reinterpretation of the Wives of Henry VIII”) goes as far as to say that Anne Boleyn could have been the victim of sexual harassment. Henry was infatuated with Anne, he wrote her 17 letters, when he usually hated writing, and he complains in those letters about Anne not replying to him and rejecting his advances:-

“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.”

In my opinion, Anne was definitely more prey than predator. Henry fell for her and he wanted her, he was not used to someone saying no to him and did not give up, he pursued her relentlessly. Of course, we don’t know what Anne’s feelings were, as we only have his letters, but it is clear from those that he had to persuade her into the relationship. However, I don’t see Anne as a victim of sexual harassment, just the object of a very passionate man’s affections, and I think she was flattered by him and then fell in love with him. They shared many interests and they were very alike at that time, so it was a very natural partnership.

Poisoner and Murderess

In “The Other Boleyn Girl” book, Mary Boleyn is told by her husband, “She [Anne] poisoned Bishop Fisher, poor sainted man, and she has the deaths of three innocent men on her conscience for that. She poisoned Cardinal Wolsey and Queen Katherine…” and in her notes on the book Philippa Gregory writes of how Anne Boleyn was guilty of at least one murder – who? There is absolutely no evidence that Anne tried to poison anyone and she was not charged with murder or attempted murder at her trial. There were rumours that Catherine of Aragon had died of poisoning after it was found that her heart was black and that her illness had worsened after drinking some Welsh ale, and, after Anne’s fall, Henry VIII led Henry Fitzroy to believe that Anne had planned to poison him and his half-sister, Mary, but there was no basis to these accusations. Catherine died of cancer and Henry VIII was just ranting and blustering – he also spoke of Anne having 100 lovers!

A Witch with Six Fingers

OK, just because Anne Boleyn’s portrait is on the wall at Hogwarts it does not mean that she was really a witch – ha! Seriously, although Henry VIII said to a courtier that he had been “seduced and constrained by sortilèges“, sortilèges meaning “sorcery, spells or charms”, and that his marriage must be cursed because he had not been blessed with a son, it does not mean that he believed that Anne was a witch. In her book “1536: The Year that Changed Henry VIII”, Suzannah Lipscomb writes of how, at the time, “sortilèges” meant “divination” and that Henry could have meant that he “was persuaded into the marriage by the premarital prophecies that Anne would bear sons” or that Henry could simply have been referring to his infatuation with Anne, how she had bewitched him, entranced him.

In “The Rise and Fall of Anne Boleyn”, Retha Warnicke writes of how Anne Boleyn gave birth to a deformed foetus in 1536, what Nicholas Sander describes as a “shapeless mass of flesh”, and that this was a sign that Anne used witchcraft and that she had committed some kind of sexual sin. When we combine that with the fact that Sander describes Anne as having six fingers, a projecting tooth and a wen under her chin, then it makes us wonder where she hid the black cat and broomstick!

There is a “but” of course, and it’s a big but – BUT, there is NO evidence that Anne miscarried a deformed foetus or that she had six fingers etc etc! Nicholas Sander did not even know Anne (he was born around 1530) and he was a Catholic recusant writing during the reign of Anne’s daughter, Elizabeth I. His aim was to discredit Elizabeth by blackening her mother’s name. Surely, the rather paranoid and vain Henry VIII would not have considered marrying a disfigured woman, never mind breaking with Rome for her, and you would think that Chapuys would have joyously spread the news of Anne’s monstrous baby, rather than describing it as a male child of around 3 and a half months in gestation. Need I say more!

Adulteress and Traitor

At her trial, on the 15th May 1536, Anne Boleyn was accused of incest, adultery, promising to marry Norris after the King’s death, conspiring the King’s death and laughing at the King and his dress. Although Anne protested her innocence, a jury of her peers (or rather her enemies!) found her guilty and she was sentenced to death. The men that she was said to have committed adultery with had already been found guilty, so her trial was completely prejudiced, and the executioner had been ordered from Calais before her trial had even taken place.

You can read more about my thoughts on why I feel that this trial was a show trial and that Anne had no hope of justice in my article “A Foregone Conclusion”, but if you consider that the dates of Anne’s offences listed in the indictment make no sense, that even the man who called her “the concubine” did not believe she was guilty, that Henry was off gallivanting with ladies (and Jane Seymour) and that Anne’s household was broken up before the trial, her guilt was definitely a foregone conclusion. The majority of historians believe that Anne was innocent and that she was framed, I agree wholeheartedly.


No! Anne may have been in love with Henry Percy and the couple may well have been planning to marry BUT Cardinal Wolsey and Percy’s father, the Earl of Northumberland, put a stop to the relationship and Percy was married off to Mary Talbot. According to a letter written by Chapuys in July 1532, Henry Percy had to deny, in front of the whole council, that there had been a pre-contract between himself and Anne Boleyn, after his wife reported that he had claimed, during a quarrel, that their marriage was not real because he had been legally contracted to Anne Boleyn. Percy also denied the pre-contract in 1536 when Archbishop Cranmer questioned him. There is, therefore, no evidence that Anne and Percy had been pre-contracted or that they had consummated their union (à la “The Other Boleyn Girl”).


Another “The Other Boleyn Girl” misrepresentation of Anne. In the book, after the death of Mary Boleyn’s first husband, Anne Boleyn adopts Mary’s son, Henry Carey, without Mary’s permission, she takes Mary’s beloved son and Mary says, “She takes everything… She has always taken everything. But I will never forgive her this.” The truth behind this accusation is that Henry VIII appointed Anne Boleyn as Henry Carey’s guardian in 1528, after the death of his father, William Carey. This was nothing unusual. Mary Boleyn Was a widow and Anne was in a position to provide for Mary’s son and to ensure that he had a good education. As Anne Boleyn Files visitor, Rachel Fitzpatrick pointed out, in a discussion we had on Facebook, that it was standard practice for the King to grant wardships to wealthy and influential courtiers, for example, Lady Jane Grey was Thomas Seymour’s ward and Catherine Willoughby was Charles Brandon’s.

Protestant Martyr and Saint

As I said earlier, call Anne Saint Anne Boleyn and write of how her story mirrors that of the Biblical Queen Esther:-

“Like her Old Testament counterpart Queen Esther, Queen Anne risked her life to tell Henry the good news of the Gospel of Christ. All the time she was carefully watched by wolves like Cardinal Wolsey and Sir Thomas More.”

The martryologist, John Foxe, wrote of Anne Boleyn in his Book of Martyrs (Actes and Monuments):-

“Godly I call her, for sundry respects, whatsoever the cause was, or quarrel objected against her. First, her last words spoken at her death declared no less her sincere faith and trust in Christ, than did her quiet modesty utter forth the goodness of the cause and matter, whatsoever it was. Besides that to such as wisely can judge upon cases occurrent, this also may seem to give a great clearing unto her, that the king, the third day after, was married in his whites unto another. Certain this was, that for the rare and singular gifts of her mind, so well instructed, and given toward God, with such a fervent desire unto the truth and setting forth of sincere religion, joined with like gentleness, modesty, and pity toward all men, there have not many such queens before her borne the crown of England. Principally this one commendation she left behind her, that during her life, the religion of Christ most happily flourished, and had a right prosperous course.”

But however much we admire Anne and however much she helped to promote reformist ideas and encourage the reading of the English Bible, she did not die because of her faith. defines “martyr” (in the sense we mean) as:-

  1. A person who willingly suffers death rather than renounce his or her religion.
  2. A person who is put to death or endures great suffering on behalf of any belief, principle, or cause: a martyr to the cause of social justice.

Do either of those definitions describe Anne? No, they don’t.

Also, Anne Boleyn did not risk her life by smuggling reformist books into England, her father and brother did that.

Victim of Poison

What is it with Anne Boleyn and poison?! Despite’s claim that Anne’s miscarriages were caused by poison, there is absolutely no evidence that her miscarriages were anything but bad luck. The same site also claims that Catherine of Aragon’s was “shut up” by God to prevent her having male children as her marriage to Henry was incestuous. I applaud the site for its passion but it does not present any evidence for its wild claims.

A Sibyl or Prophetess

Michelangelo's Delphic Sibyl

Another outrageous claim! For those of you who have not got a clue what a “sibyl”, define a sibyl as

  1. Any of certain women of antiquity reputed to possess powers of prophecy or divination.
  2. A female prophet or witch.

As I have said, the radio show I heard about was claiming that Margaret of Austria ran a special school for gifted girls and women, for sibyls, and that Anne was one of those women. At Margaret’s school, Anne was also encourage to fulfil her destiny and groomed to be Queen of England. Now, Anne Boleyn went to the court of Margaret of Austria in 1513, just 4 years after Henry’s marriage to Catherine of Aragon and a time when Catherine was fertile and was getting pregnant. Obviously we are meant to think that as a sibyl Anne knew her destiny, but there was no hint then that Henry would give up Catherine. To me this claim is just way off base. What do you think?

Leader of the Reformation

In my article, “Anne Boleyn: The Myths and Bad History”, I quoted playwright Howard Brenton as saying that Anne Boleyn was “a Joan of Arc, driven by religious vision” and in his play he certainly does paint her as a brave reformer who changed English history. Well, I agree that Anne had courage, that she had reformist views, that she owned books that could have got her condemned as a heretic, that she influenced the appointment of reformist bishops and that she had a genuine strong faith, but I would not say that she led the English Reformation or, as I heard someone claim, that she broke the Catholic Church in England. I stand by what I said in that article:-

“We also have to remember that Anne Boleyn was no Protestant, that label did not even exist then. She may have been a catalyst of the English Reformation and influenced Henry VIII with her ‘heretical’ reading material, but she was reformist rather than Protestant and she died in the Catholic faith. As my good friend, Olivia Peyton, said to me: ‘Anne Boleyn did not want to throw the baby out with the bathwater’, meaning that Anne could see that the Catholic Church was fundamentally ok, she did not reject the established religion and its rituals, but she realised that reform was required – the church needed some work! Anne’s almoner, John Skip, defended the ceremonies and rituals of the Catholic church in a sermon supported by Anne, defending them as aids to memory rather than the belief that they had sacred power. Eric Ives points out too that the reformist literature Anne was reading was not necessarily challenging the belief in transsubstantiation, that Christ’s body was present in the consecrated host, but instead was challenging “the late medieval focus on the miraculous mechanism of the mass rather than its significance”.

Eric Ives explains that:-

“Her attitude would be characteristic of all shades of English evangelical reform for at least a decade more: real spiritual experience, yes; the priority of faith, yes; access to the Bible, yes; reform of abuses and superstition, yes; but heretical views on the miracle of the altar, no.” “


Do I really need to argue the case against this one? One recent vampire book had Anne Boleyn being hanged as obviously you cannot be a vampire if you have been decapitated. As much as I’d love to imagine Anne as a kick-ass vampire causing havoc in Tudor England, it’s just not Anne is it! I love historical fiction and I love vampire novels but that doesn’t mean that I love Tudor vampire books!


So, where does all this leave us? Who was the real Anne Boleyn? What was she really like? Well, she didn’t fit into any of the above labels and stereotypes! The real Anne Boleyn for me is the one Eric Ives describes so eloquently in his book “The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn”. As I read about her background, her relationship with Henry, her reaction to the birth of Elizabeth, her love of fashion, art and culture, her strong faith, her downfall and the courage and dignity with which she faced her last days, I see glimpses of the real Anne Boleyn and begin to know her. She is a puzzle and always will be, she is an enigma and we will never know the entire truth about her, history won’t let us, the sources are not there.

What we do know is that she wasn’t an angel or a saint, but she also was not the devil incarnate. She was a woman who was passionate, intelligent, forward-thinking, hot-tempered, reckless at times and also quite spiteful. She didn’t care what people thought of her (“let them grumble”), she tossed around empty threats and had a cruel streak (she ordered that Mary’s ears be boxed if she didn’t start toeing the line), she had heated arguments with her husband and was not afraid to question his judgement and disagree with him, she was jealous, she was insecure, she had reformist ideas but was not a radical. Although I admit to admiring her and being obsessed with her and her story, I’m not sure, if she was alive today, that we would be friends, I’m not sure I could cope with her mood swings and I think she was more comfortable in the presence of men.

Anne Boleyn is different things to different people and the puzzle of her story allows us to form her into what we want her to be and to love and admire her with a passion. Even today, she is causing arguments and heated debates, provoking strong reactions; and perhaps now, more than ever, inspiring people to write books and produce art and craft dedicated to her. She is like a modern day celebrity in that way, yet she lived over 450 years ago. Anne Boleyn is an icon.

What do you think? Who is your Anne Boleyn?

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85 thoughts on “Anne Boleyn – The Mysterious and Maligned One”
  1. Anne is the most complex of the wives, because of the dual views of her and the continual controversy over what, really was the truth. I think the best way to view it is that she was a VERY complex woman, neither saint nor sinner, but a little bit of both.

    I love Karen Lindsey’s book, but I do agree that calling Anne the victim of sexual harrassment might be going a little far, especially since that is a more modern interpretation of certain behavior. In today’s world, however, I wonder how much of the royal treasury Henry would have to drain in order to afford legal counsel?

    Ms. Lindsey’s summations of Katharine of Aragon and Anne of Cleves are VERY good ones, though. Paraphrases, since I don’t have the book on my desk at this moment.

    “If Katharine of Aragon had been the oldest, instead of the youngest daughter of Isabella and Ferdinand, she might be remembered, not as the discarded consort of a marriage addicted King, but as the powerful Queen Regnant of Spain, following in the footsteps of her formidable mother and altering the course of 16th century history. Unlike her sister Juana, who was cheated out of the throne, Katharine had much of Isabella’s steely purposefulness and intellect.”

    The summation for Anne of Cleves really takes out the long knives for Henry:

    “If the stories of Henry’s first two marriages are high tragedy, with Henry as the ruthless destroyer of two strong, but ultimately helpless women, that of his fourth is broad comedy. The narcissistic buffoon foiled by a woman with common sense.”


    If Anne were alive today, I think you’re right, she might be difficult to befriend. There are times when I wonder if perhaps she was an artist in some sense, because she seemed to have an artistic temperament. Brilliant, but moody and somewhat distracted.

    Of course, as someone pointed out in an earlier article you wrote about Anne and her pregnancies, she was continually pregnant or recuperating from childbirth (in Elizabeth’s case) or from a miscarriage. She was under a lot of pressure to produce the much desired son, she was losing babies, and Henry did not help matters by keeping mistresses. Her hormones were all over the place, so yes, she probably was not the most pleasant person in the world under those circumstances.

    But in modern times, with proper medical care, some ice water to chill Henry out – maybe even a stern talking to by Oprah about fidelity? – and time to allow her body to recuperate properly from miscarriages, who knows? Especially without the constant threats to her peace of mind.


    There was another fictional tidbit about Anne that I read, which I found both amusing and silly. Anne Rice, most famous as the author of Interview With The Vampire, also wrote a book called The Witching Hour, about a family of witches, who were haunted by an odd spirit/entity called a Taltos, which could somehow or another, if conditions were right, be born of a witch. Anne’s downfall, according to this particular novel, was because she gave birth to a Taltos, (which coincides with Anne’s final miscarriage) which would go from infant to full adult within minutes.

    I remember reading that, then holding my head and groaning.

  2. Claire, fantastic article! I can say that I would be friends with her, if what we know of her personality is correct. She was the kind of person I really do get on. On the subject of whether or not she got on better with men, it MAY just seem that way because the men who knew her wrote down their recollections of their acquaintance with her, rather than the ladies-in-waiting and maids-of-honour who she probably spent most of her time with. There is some evidence that she was well-liked by the duchess of Ferrara and that she had a close friendship with Lady Bridget Wingfield, Lady Margaret Lee, Lady Anne Savage and, of course, the countess of Worcester. Plus, if Julia Fox is correct, at some point she was close to her sister-in-law, Lady Rochford. Either way, though, we’ll never know. Fantastic article!

    1. Thanks, Gareth, I’m glad you enjoyed it. Well, according to one Tudor quiz recently, I’d be a peasant farmer in Tudor times so I don’t think Anne and I would move in the same circles anyway!
      You make a good point about the whole man/woman thing and I think that she did have very close relationships with her ladies, I just see her as a woman who loved to be surrounded by men and who could hold her own in conversations with them.

  3. To me Anne is just a fantastic source of inspiration, her story and the whole enigma of her personality just adds to the appeal.

    I know she’s not a saint or angel and to me that just makes her more interesting, the fact that she could be spiteful and hot tempered just makes her feel more human.

    I agree, I don’t think Anne would be a great friend of mine, her mood swings would leave me paranoid and in all honesty, like her, I’m far more comfertable hanging around with men but I would love to just have one conversation with her, just to sit down and ask her a few questions, the same with Elizabeth, I need to ask Elizabeth about her relationship with Robert Dudley!

    No surprise here, but great blog Claire, as always!

  4. What a great article, Claire. Anne remains the most controversial wife because there is such variances of opinion of who she was, but like Ives (2004) noted, until more information is avaliable about Anne, we can never truly no who she was, only what she did.
    Anne was and remained an independent, intelligent, attractive women throughout her life, and she was unapologetic about it. It seems people, then and now, are scared of women who know what they want and take on the world themselves.
    It’s frusturating that Anne is so maligned by history, yet Henry’s role in “The Great Matter,” his treatment of Catherine of Aragon, and his choice to break with Rome are placed at the feet of Anne. I guess it is easier to blame a women’s whose repuation was torn to shreds by a delusional tyrant than to place the blame squarely where it belongs: on Henry.
    Perhaps there will come a time when all of Henry’s wives will be treated with the same repsect and reverence placed on other historical figures. Until then, Claire I am glad you are a champion for these women, especially for Anne.

  5. I enjoyed the article so much, thank you, Claire!

    My opinion is that Anne was a strong, intelligent woman ahead of her time, who is a constant source of inspiration for me. Certainly no saint and no devil, but a real flesh and blood woman with many virtues, but also flaw, like every human being. For me she is the most interesting historical figure and I love the fact that there is always a side of her that remains hidden and unknown.

  6. As a practicing Catholic, many of my friends like to tease me by saying my idol was a Protestant. I re-educate them but they lose interest in the truth. So, thank you for publishing the information about Anne as a Protestant!

  7. I agree that Anne’s the most complex of the wives, because for every report praising her virtues, there’s another one calling her a wh*re. She’s kind of like the moon: One side will always be hidden.

  8. Claire – best article yet! It is also possible that Anne was rh-. It is a rare blood type – but possible. With a typical case the first baby is born healthy, then the remaining births all perish. Today this condition can be easily treated, but treatment has been a recent development.

  9. The reason I most admire Anne is simply because she had courage to stand up and state her views. She gained the respect of countless men with her intellect and bold nature. In a time when men ruled the roost, I view Anne as one of the first feminists. Go women! 🙂

  10. I think Anne was harassed and bullied by Henry. She left court and wanted nothing to do with Henry, but he would not give up. There was a great deal of good in Anne, but promises Henry couldn’t keep I think drove her slowly to distraction. I think Anne’s main charms were her spritely manner and flirtatious side.Henry loved that about her. Norah Lofts in “The Concubine” gave what I think was possibly the real reason for the marriage failure. Henry had been whipped into a frenzy of desire for Anne, but when he actually slept with her, she was inexperienced and “just another woman”, to quote Ms Lofts. She did not give him the promised prince. All Europe was laughing at them. Henry didn’t stand humiliation – hence his anger at Blackfriars Court. I think he grew to resent and then loathe Anne. And in stepped demure Miss Seymour…

  11. Thanks for giving me another reason to hate Harry Potter (don’t know why people practically worship him) I didn’t know that they helped to spread the belief that Anne Boleyn was a witch.

    Anne for me, is likely a woman who stuck by her morales by refusing to be a mistress and then got caught up in political game that unfortunately led her to the scaffold. Thomas Cromwell may have helped conspire to bring her down, or Henry VIII may have been looking for a way out so he could put Jane Sermour in her place. I guess we’ll never know for sure.

    Do you think we’ll ever see a representation of Anne that puts her in a favorable light? I mean Natalie Dormer was great in The Tudors, but I highly doubt Anne Boleyn was that sexy and predator like. I’ve heard Anne of a Thousand Days isn’t bad, but I was irritated by it after twenty minutes when they made it seem like she hated Henry VIII. I guess Hollywood can never get history right.

    1. The Anne Boleyn portrait is seen for a split second in the first Harry Potter film. Anne isn’t mentioned in any of the seven books. JK Rowling is not spreading the belief that Anne was a witch. I’m sure most people watching the film would miss the portrait, too.

  12. Anne was most deffinately the most interesting of all of the wives with the exception of her younger cousin Catherine Howard. They both are, well seem to me to be very simmilar in ways the only difference was is that Anne never commited adultery but Catherine Howard did but notice how they just hapned to be accused of the same thing as eachother ? That is ironic if you ask me and also not only that but they were also of what was known to be off the same simmilar colouring aswell not to mention they were cousins plus last but not least they both lost their heads too. It just seems like the Howards the Boleyns had what was called a lot of bad luck just like I think Henry himself did. I mean that is all you can put all of this down to.

    It is Anne Boleyn aswell as Catherine Howard out of all the wives that I feel the most sorry for as when you take a look at all the other wives they seemed to have faired a lot better in society amongs the people and with life unlike Anne and Catherine. Perhaps this is just a coincidence. Anne was no wh*re or witch like her contempories liked to say of her. I think that they were just heartless bullies who were just jealousy fueled by the Anne and not to mention or not forgetting her dark looks, because she was dark plus due to the fact that Anne’s sister Mary had been a wh*re going from one man to another it does not mean that Anne was this way or had been this way inclined. I think that the “Tudors” well the “Tudor” people seemed to have a very one sided narrow view upon things rather than taking certain situations and looking at them as a whole they just tended aswell as were keen to just look at things from their perspective and point of things rather than taking it all in and looking at it all as a whole. people obviously looked at thing in a very different light than we do today that is all I can say. Had Anne of been fair and had her sister not been so free with herself aswell as making herself so availible to the opposite sex Anne would be looked at in a total different light or would of been at the time.

    Yes I would also like to see Annes name cleared of the things and all of the charges that had been and were brought against her just as I would like to see the same done with her brother and the other four men that had been co-accused with her.It is I think about time in this day and age to do so but until further evidence is found , if it exists that is which who knows will never be, will never happen until that evidence more evidence is found unfortunately to prove it fully one way or another. I mean we all know that she had been and was innocent but it is not us it other people who sadly do not would not see things from are prespective. sad but true. As for Mary Boleyn we all know what she was and was like plus we all know what catherine Howard was like but as for Anne it was a conspiracy. She was framed and had no way out just like the others, just the same. Their trials were all one sided ans unfair aswell as unjust. I mean were is the sense in all ? where is the justification in that or the fairness ? There had been none that was the case. If only we could all travel back in time that would be a god send would it not ? people but for that “A time machine would be needed and thus have to be invented” for anything like that to happen. Then we would all know exactly what went on and where at what time aslong as we could all come back afterwards it would be fine.

    Just to clear another point it would also be good if we could aswell change the course of history and save these people but if we did that we as a whole would be changing everything and as a result Anne would not be as such an iconic figure that she is today if we were all to do that. Plus there would be more information on her more for us to research aswell as know about and know of. I mean it would interesting though. Well it was just a thought that came to mind. Mind you! 🙂

  13. Hi there can you tell me the name of the book where Anne is hanged and is a vampire and whatnot? It sounds a rather interesting read. Thanks

      1. Thanks claire, i just ordered it from, since its only availble in the UK as a kindle edition, and sadly i don’t have a kindle…thingy yet.

        Here’s hoping it’ll be enjoyable

  14. I wonder if Henry would have stayed married to any of his wives if they had produced a son. Would the idea of divorce even had been brought up if Catherine had had a boy. Or even Anne, even Jane, who had a boy, finally, but died soon after.
    Would he have been happy enough with Catherine to be married for life?
    Maybe it was just in his nature to “play the field”. He probably enjoyed the excitement of the new romance!

    1. I agree with you about the fact that Henry was in love with love itself, he was really romantic and looking fot the ideal woman- but what he was looking for didn’t exist, perfect women don’t exist. But I think that if any of the wives had a son he would have not divorced them or gotten rid of them. He would have mistresses, but he could not put aside the mother of his beloved prince.

      1. Eliza, I agree with you. If Anne had given him a son, her position would have been secure and he could never have put her aside no matter how much she angered him. She truly was on the edge of a “golden world” before the miscarriage, but that doesn’t mean Henry would have been faithful. If she had lived, Anne would have been forced to play the submissive wife in public. Henry might have sent her to one of their country palaces for a few months until she learned to cope with his bad behavior, but he could never have divorced or executed the mother of his son and heir.

  15. I agree with a previous poster, who pointed out that the threats and hormones surrounding Anne must’ve made her somewhat more moody than she would’ve been otherwise. Accounts of her before her marriage to Henry were complimentary; she was describe as charismatic and brilliant rather than sullen and dull (though we all know she wasn’t dull anyway, of course!) Surely Anne would not have made so many friends at court if she was a moody madam, and she was even described to appear happy when she made her way to die, so, like so many other things, I blame any change in personality on Henry!!!

    Thankyou for dismissing the stereotypes that surround Anne. I stew whenever I see somebody refer to PGs work to talk about Anne, I’ve been known to jump into conversations with strangers, once in real life and several times online, just to put them straight! I had an English teacher who told our class she’d read Wolf Hall and that Anne Boleyn was ‘a total bitch’ (or something along those lines), and I had to resist the urge to challenge her by reminding her that the book is from the perspective of Thomas Cromwell! There appears to be a divide in society; either people admire and are fascinated by her, or they believe she was a homewrecking witch. There’s no inbetween – anybody else doesn’t know a thing about her.

    Sorry for this very long comment, fabulous article!

  16. One thing that I had forgotten to mention and that was the picture. That picture Claire I like it, tell me whose idea was that you or your husband Tims? I mean it is very eye catching to say the least. I like it, though the picture was already eye captivating enough with out that but just to mention it is of a stereotypical Anne and not of the real one well all the things that she had been acsosiated with that show in the picture that is as for her looks she may well have been very dark in colouring who knows as that is how this portrait shows her whilst others show her with lighter auburn hair aswell as lighter coloured brown eyes. Hazel instead of the near to black. I mean her looks may have been deliberately made to look darker to coincide with what people at the time considered her character to be, nobody really knows for sure do they really, one way or another! That cat just looks like mine! Exactly! 🙂

    1. I asked Tim to take a portrait of her and to add in some of the labels and myths that are associated with Anne and that’s what he came up with.

  17. I forgot to mention that I also deeply admire Anne for keeping her honour and refusing to become a mistress of the King. Not every woman can say that she would muster the courage to say no!

  18. MiladyBlue – If Katherine had been older than Juana, then she would have been pushed to marry “Philip the Fair” and possiby would have made a better job of the marriage. if Juana had been the youngest, then she would have been destined for Arthur and then Henry and I DREAD to think of the mixture of Henry and Juana (Gives me the shudders).

    Although we are not exactly sure what AB looked like, the impression I get that whilst she was not considered to be beautiful, seh was considered to have great style and great learning. Remember she had been educated at two continental courts not only in grooming, but everything else. In some ways, she must have seemed like a breath of fresh air when she finally appeared in the Tudor Court and with her looks/style/education, would have attracted the men either from a physical or mental point of view. Maybe that is one of the reasons H8 wanted her because everyone else did and he could put the clappers on that one very easily. If H8 decided he wanted something/one then no one else got a look in.

    I have known for years about the supposedly 6th finger – didn’t know about the tooth and the cyst tho. I know that in medieaval/Tudor times, people did have a thing about witches – but IF Anne had these strange appendages, surely someone would have noticed before – Or (to be tongue in cheek) did she just growth them for H8? And was it that blind all the years he chased after her??? Out of all the charges, I find this the most wierd.

    AND if all the accussations against AB were to be believed, then no one would shiver at the names of “Medici” or “Borgia” – Two very familiar “hate” names in history.

  19. Another great article, Claire. I agree Anne is the most interesting of the wives. I also think she was put in an untenable position–in love with Henry Percy but then pursued by the King! It would be like being pursued by, I don’t know, Bill Gates or someone. Henry was rich and could woo her with everything he had, which he did. She tried to avoid him but, when she found him implacable, she used her ‘honor’ as a ploy to keep him away. That sort of backfired and when she found he wanted to make her queen, she had to go along with it. We also forget that from 35-45, Henry wasn’t bad, especially early on–he was smart, handsome, tall, manly, atheletic, musical–the true Renaissance prince–she must have fallen for him at some point. Who can blame her?
    But I do not believe she ever set her sites for him or set out to break up his marriage. Her mystery and her tragedy are what draw me to her–She, too was well-educated, worldly as she had lived abroad at the French court and was a Renaissance woman. Though not beautiful, she had charisma, as did Henry and also Elizabeth. I cannot imagain Henry falling for a woman who had huge moles on her neck or other deformities–not when they considered such marks a sign of witchcraft. I think she was passionate and interested in the New Learning, and new ideas about religion. A reformer…she did not agree with tearing down all the monestaries and fought Henry on that issue. She had courage to stand up to him and yes, she could be haughty and high-strung. Elizabeth was also high strung.
    Oh, I can’t wait for the next wife!! Thanks again.

  20. lets face the facts anne boleyn was instructed by her father , to be the king’s bedmate
    so on that note and her uncle , later we find that uncle’s family bred three generations of traitors , i believe that ann boleyn was a girl who want the best but in the end got gossiped about nby the barren women who coulkdn’t produce a son ,

  21. Anne was complicated in a time when complicated women were looked down upon. My brother recently asked me why I found her interesting and I replied “Because she was a bad-ass.” Which she was. As you said, she did not care what people thought, made jokes of it with that awesome motto of hers, and was opinionated. Same reason I like
    P!nk. If you want to read some bad history read “Elizabeth’s Women” by Tracy Borman. Read her resume in the back and then read the first chapter called “Mother.” You’ll be pulling your hair out by the end. She’s supposedly this very qualified historian yet she makes statements such as “Anne Boleyn was born in 1501.” Um, actually we don’t know that. Why don’t you just say that? She also says “Mary Boleyn had a mentally disabled son that Anne Boleyn kept away from court.” She did? Really? Where did I miss that? Oh, I forgot, it’s not in any history book anywhere, that’s why I missed it! Henry Carey served as an ambassador for Elisabeth and was a Baron, does not sound like he was mentally disabled to me. There are various other things which make me want to hurl the book across the room, I just don’t get how people can pass off anything they want in a nonfiction book. Someone is going to read that and believe it. I read that vampire book by the way, entertaining, I’ll give it that, but too much blood and brains exploding for me!

  22. I have always felt great empathy for Anne. Anne was never destined to have the life she so wanted. A home, husband that she loved and loved her and children. I often wonder if she was resolved to her fate in the last several years of her life. I also feel that Anne was very intuitive and politically astute. She sensed what would happen to her in the end if things did not go her way such as producing a son. I still am on the fence whether Anne actually loved Henry or as a woman of her time she was just resigned to the fact that Henry was king and as king he got what he wanted. If she resisted there would be consequences for not only herself but her whole family.

    Anne’s intelligence and intellect as well as creative abilities worked against her. Anne’s personality attracted men. Men who were not just lusting after her but took great delight in knowing her. Henry was one. Henry also had the examples of his mother, Elizabeth who was a peacekeeper (i think this is where Jane Seymour came in) and his grandmother, Margaret who was a very strong woman and was the woman behind the man in his fathers reign. I think that his grandmother was also alive when he first became king. So, he was between the two always looking for women who resembled them both physically as well as mentally and intellectually.

    There are so many reasons for her downfall – not having a male heir, making many enemies, being too powerful, assisting and influencing Henry. I do think though the main reasons were that she was extremely tempestuous, too intelligent, didn’t produce a male heir and was not the queen that COA had been. This was not an alliance of countries. This was a love match. So, Anne’s expectations of being Henry’s wife was different than his. Anne expected the relationship to remain the same. Henry expected the relationship to change. Anne’s purpose was to produce a male heir for England. Anne must have been very confused with the relationship with Henry after they were married. Henry was mercurial, narcissistic and unpredictable. Henry idolized his wives and put them on a pedestal. When they fell it was a direct personal assault against Henry. The bloom was also off the rose so to speak. Henry was bored easily as well as being addicted to love. The first rush of excitement, adrenaline pumping, sneaking behind everyone’s backs, the clandestine meetings, the secret marriage. Henry was pumped and then he found out that Anne was a mortal human woman. Then, all of a sudden life became normal – as normal as could be for a king and queen.

    I adore Anne. Her fiery nature, her strong personality, her sense of self. She knew who she was. Anne’s confidence oozed from her body. This was no simpering, whimpering, whining, subservient woman of the times. Anne could never be anybody else and she went to her death for it.

  23. I know the Tudors to be very inaccurate, but I do think they did a good job in attempting to show Anne as a reformer, not a radical. One scene springs to mind: Anne confronts Cromwell over the the practice of taking wealth from the destroyed monasteries and putting in in the King’s exchequer. She makes the claim that it should have gone into making the monasteries better.

  24. Thank you Claire for this article. I plan to reread more slowly and carefully later but wanted to dash off some initial thoughts.

    Alison Weir may now be spreading the message that Anne Boleyn was falsely accused but I think her initial Six Wives book in the early 1990s helped perpetruate much of the current thinking of the myths, long before Philipia Gregory’s destruction.

    Weir has done a real disservice over the years to Anne. I particularly take issue with how Weir takes Chapuys without any bushel of salt. Accepting Chapuys at face value would be like taking Karl Rove at face value about Obama or James Carville about George W. Bush! You expect him to twist and dissemble, you don’t expect the unvarnished truth from Chapuys always but she seems to believe that’s the case. I’m sure he did tell the truth at times but he never even met Anne!

    I do think Henry wrote more than 17 letters. Those are just the stole ones.

    As far as Percy, I certainly think he could have denied the precontract for both his love of Anne (he had to know she wanted to be queen) and his hatred of his wife. He certainly could have been telling the truth in 1532 but there certainly were reasons he could have lied then. And of course in 1536 the biggest reason for lying was to save his own head. Look at what happened to Dereham. Percy had to be scared to death that by admitting to a precontract in 1536 that he would be executed too. What evidence would you expect?

    Honestly, there’s no more evidence that there was a precontract or wasn’t anymore than there is about Arthur and Catherine of Aragon having sex. Only 2 people know for sure. I think with both the Percy/Anne relationship and Catherine/Arthur relationship there’s plenty of reason for people to see both sides. I just don’t see it as clear cut as you do regarding Percy. I do think ultimately that Robin Maxwell may have had it right in Mademoiselle Boleyn. That Anne and Percy didn’t consumate their relationship because she after being in Francois’ court knew the importance of saving herself for marriage. I think ultimately that’s what happened

    I am going to go back to my old saw. Any Anne Boleyn fan must read Robin Maxwell’s Mademoiselle Boleyn. It’s such a beautiful telling of Anne’s early days. She so “gets” her in that book.

    I like how Ives calls Anne a feminist icon ahead of her time.

  25. Jenny, We may not “know” for sure she was born in 1501 but logic would indicate that was the truth based on Thomas Boleyn’s comments about his wife’s pregnancies. It certainly wasn’t 1507 because the regent wouldn’t have taken such a young girl in 1513 but would have accepted one born circa 1501. I think Borman’s point is she’s taking the 1501 date over the 1507 date that’s been so often pushed (that Henry fell in love with this teenager in 1525-26 is something I just read on a pro Catherine site this very week).

  26. Claire, very nicely done!! I applaud you for your very hard work on this site and restoring Anne Boleyn to Anne Boleyn!!
    In my opinion, I agree with what you have stated above but wanted to add my extra thoughts on her. Anne was a beautiful woman far ahead of the Tudor times in thought, independence, loyalty, and generosity. She did love Henry or she wouldn’t of fought so hard to keep him from going out on her but he persued her and was infatuated with her from the beginning. Anne eventually grew to love him very much and they had a long waiting period before they could truly be together. I believe in that time frame (pre-marriage) she really enjoyed all the attention Henry gave her and he gave her the promise of marriage. Of course she had mood swings and was spiteful at times, she had to because of the pressure she was under constantly and she was under the microscope for years. I think she tried so hard to be perfect that she lost herself in the midst of it all. That to me is her downfall, or maybe the start of it.
    I think if she lived in the “now” she would be a completely different person than she was in “Tudor” times.
    I see her as a faithful, loving, caring wife and mother. She will remain in my eyes as the “Quene” who never had a chance. I adore her, admire her, and believe in her innocence as well as her faults because everyone has faults. No one is perfect and she was who she was, strong, independent, and vibratious. I will always believe in her innocence…
    I think she would make a great friend to me because I can see her as a motivational friend that would tell me to buck up and not let the pety things in life bring me down.

    Again, thanks Claire!! You are doing a marvelous job here!

    On another note, has anyone ever tried to contact her spirit over at the tower? I have heard that people see her ghost from time to time around the guard bringing her into the tower and her fainting??? I was curious because if someone really could contact her spirit through a “psychic” or whatnot maybe some questions could really be answered. I know to some it might seem silly but, hey you never know. It would obviously have to be with a true gifted median (sp) or “psychic” person.
    Maybe something to think about on your next trip there??? Let ms know I’m
    Very curious 😀

  27. What an excellent summary! I don’t have time to respond today with the thoughtful and considered comments that many other people have but I did enjoy that article.

    Just a couple of tangental points which this triggered in my head……

    I thought that having AB’s portrait at Hogwarts was a fun and amusing touch. JK Rowling loves little jokes like that – it’s not to be taken seriously!

    Tracy Boorman’s book is very illuminating and enjoyable but she is given to sweeping statements which she does not backup. At one point, she refers to Wallis Simpson, Duchess of Windsor as “a known sufferer” of Androgen Insensiibility syndrome (something I know Claire has written on on the Elizabeth site). There is no citation given, no footnote – it’s just presented as fact. It’s not . It has not been disproven but on the face of it, medical evidence contradicts it. I thought it a very telling example of how rumour, gossip and myth cluster about any prominent controversial figure, especially females, even in modern times. If such a theory can take root now about the Duchess of Windsor, how much more about Anne and indeed Elizabeth?

  28. Are there really people who honestly believe that Anne was, in fact, a genuine witch? I’ve known people to say that this was one of the things which was SAID about Anne at the time, but I’ve never encountered anyone (thank goodness) who actually believes it was true. If there are people out there who really believe it… well, that blows my mind.

    As for the portrait in Hogwarts, I always took that to be a nudge-nudge-wink-wink sort of thing, a little inside joke for people familiar with Anne’s life story. I’m pretty sure we’re not meant to take it seriously. But then, I tend to find it impossible to be annoyed by anything related to Harry Potter. 😉

    1. I do not know if there is any particular person or any particular people that suspect her of being so, it was just something that had and was suspected at the time about her and not forgetting the Tudors had been and were very supersticious people so anyone who had been seen as different in any way wether due to deformity or anything else then it would have automatically been frowned upon by the people of the time at the time and not to mention being dark in coulour must have been looked at differently too.I think that because she looked dark that is why thats without any physical imperfections that she may or may not have had.

      I have just to add to things read that some people beleive the six finger theory to be true and upon seeing this written I was surprised as nobody would able to prove or disprove this one way or another as forensic testing would be needed to be done on the bones to prove it one way or another.It is really in my opinion hard to say and to prove I mean as it was so long ago and all we have is the accounts given by her catholic contempories who were and had been enemies of the Boleyns anyway so I really do not know. I mean and that is how things should be left for now. I mean please feel free to say what ever yuor theory or theories may be like I have done but without DNA analysis and further information and evidence I mean we can only make guesses and give our opinionated opinions on what we thought had been and what exactly was the case.

  29. Oh – and I forgot to say, I find the school for sibyls idea absolutely hilarious! That’s much more inventive than the vampire idea. There are some vivid imaginations out there!

  30. i dont think your crazy for being so interested in Anne. I share your interest as well and just as much! i love this article so good and well said. I think your cracking down on who Anne really was more then all the other searchers and writers. :]

  31. She truly is the female Richard III: no saint and no villain, but a intelligent, courageous character, maligned by politicians and historians–and certain novelists!–to suit their own purposes.

    I’m also fascinated by our fascination with her. (I wonder what Anne herself would make of our opinions?) I like to think that Anne Boleyn and Richard III appeal to our sense of justice.

    1. Well said! Both Richard and Anne have been vilified unjustly over the years. We’ll never know the truth about either one, but there’s enough evidence to suggest that commonly held beliefs are inaccurate.

  32. Speaking of Anne Boleyn and Vampires, I’m currently reading a fictional book about Elizabeth I called The Secret History of Elizabeth Tudor, Vampire Slayer. In the book, Anne and Elizabeth come from a long line of female vampire slayers going back to their ancestor Morgaine Le Fey.

    It’s part of a new trend in books, taking history, historical figures, or classic books in public domain an giving them a horror or science-fiction twist.

  33. Anne was a very smart, capable woman. I believe that most of the ridicule she has received has been because she was an independent woman in mind and spirit. She was also very beautiful and that can be a blessing and a curse. Of course, everyone should know that Henry VIII was the one who pursued her and was relentless in doing so. Anne was also a sexual woman as well, but that does not mean she was a wh*re or any other choice words she has been called. She used her sexuality very strategically, but was never frivolous with it. If you want to get into a debate about who was the most promiscuous of Henry VIII’s wives it was obviously Katherine Howard. It has been proven that Katherine committed adultery, it has nor never will be proven with Anne. I have a tremendous respect for Anne. She was put in such a precarious position, but she handled herself with dignity. Anne was handed a raw deal with her marriage to Henry VIII and with history.

  34. Great article Claire! You really nailed all the junk that is still out there about Anne. Good junk or bad junk, it dehumanizes her. Like all of us, she had good and not so good qualities. She was intelligent and I think that she did make the most of a marriage to a difficult man. Of course she made mistakes and probably regretted them. I know I have suffered from foot in mouth disease at times and wish I could take back what I said. Unfortunately, the media likes to play up the bad stuff at the expense of the truth. I am sure the upcoming show on the Borgias will use every bad story or rumor that was heard of them. I never take a tv show or movie or miniseries without wondering what is more likely to happen and what is most likely gossip. The vampire one is really going too far. As much as I like Twilight, it is a fantasy. And Gandalf is not going to come from Middle Earth to talk to people.

  35. Anne Boleyn seems to be portrayed as a master politician. A sort of Machiavellian character and yet she alienated almost every one of her supporters, including her infamous uncle, The Duke of Norfolk who I believe was instrumental in her fall. This left her at the mercy of her mercurial, ruthless and fickle husband.

    Even after all these centuries she still intrigues many and also raises passions for those for and against her. What a magnetic personality she was. I feel this is one of the keys to Anne’s personality, she never lost sight of herself or tried to be anyone other than herself and this was her undoing.

    What began as an obsessional love (on Henry’s side) quickly turned to outright hatred and an almost obsessional need to annihilate this woman whom he had loved almost to madness. What provoked Henry into turning on his wife?

    Anne Boleyn’s biggest mistake was to reveal to Henry his true self, warts and all. This was a man utterly incapable of self-evaluation, who saw himself through very rose tinted glasses and here was his wife, telling him that he wasn’t perfect or a genius that he was indeed fallible and to top it off she tells the Court he wasn’t man enough to satisfy her.

    In the end Anne held up a mirror to Henry and he hated what he saw and to him this was unforgivable, he could fool himself but he couldn’t fool his wife and Anne let him know it. This was a man who while thinking of divorcing his own wife(Katherine of Aragon) took it upon himself to criticize his sister for the very same thing, lecturing her that marriage was ‘divinely ordained’ and calling her behaviour into question and also Rome’s sanctioning of her divorce as “shameless” sentence sent from Rome.” What hypocrisy!

    There are many things I admire in all of Henry’s wives, but there is very little I admire in him.

    A very illuminating portrait of a remarkable woman and Queen, who still after all these centuries no-one, can say who Anne Boleyn was and perhaps that is the way she would have liked it.

  36. Why does Anne Boleyn still charming us?

    The answer I find is simple: she was indeed a human being, a remarkable woman whose complexity is so big that most of people cannot understand (even nowdays). Mark Twain said once “mind is like a parashute, only can work wide open” Anne Boleyn is in my opinion a real test for this quote. I admire so much her passion for life and her determination. But yet some persons think her like a wh*re or witch, I guess when we admire someone we should remember they were what we are now, human beings and this fact is exactly makes them so fascinating.

    We also have to remember Henry VIII as the king whose temper (as his father’s) used to change according to his interest (mostly personals) and wherever his sifilis lead him.

  37. The Tudors just to clarify were and had been very supersticious people anyway without all of these assumptions given by one person and then given by another without any substantial evidence that is and also if she did have any and that is if any physical imperfections surely the King being that close to her and wife would have noticed these things and surely he would not have gotten involved with her if that being the case. So some things just do not add up in my view.

    Was it just a falsity and conspiracy or had there been or is there more to this than we may know? I mean just a thought. Well we will never know the full truth on and behind Anne Boleyn which is just as true as it is unfortunate. Not forgetting one last thing and that is not to judge a book by its cover. The people then obviously did the opposite and did judge them by there covers. The word not should be taken out here. So instead of saying “Do not judge a book by it cover” Do judge a book by its cover”

  38. Very good analysis of the misnomers. I have to also agree with the comments by DeAnn that a lot of what we know of Anne was reported by Chapuys who hated her with a passion. Then we have that travesty of a book “The Other Boleyn girl” which would be fine if the author thought of herself as a fiction writer but P.Gregory purports to be a historian. Even going so far as to say on her website that she strives for historical accuracy. Sadly she has just propagated the myths and propaganda from the past and started new ones! However, I find your articles on all the wives are usually very even handed and based on solid primary sources. Great job as always.

  39. Claire ~

    I have never responded to any of your postings, but I do read them religiously as I too, am an Anne Boleyn/ Tudor fanatic. What an in depth look at the many myths of Anne Boleyn! She was quite a women, and it fascinates me to ponder what she may have been like. All the different approaches we can take, the myths we can debunk, it intrigues me in every way.

    I love how your articles expand my thinking and knowledge of this mysterious time period. Anne, although some may be infatuated with her and others may despise her, has left a ghostly impression on us with her story. That in itself, tells us that she will always have an incredibly strong presencse throughout time.

    Kudos to you Claire for all your hard work! Thank you for sharing with us as always.

  40. Excellent article, Claire! I have to say though, I feel I may disagree by your statement that Anne is the most ‘misunderstood’ of Henry’s wives, for I feel that, actually, we know quite a lot about her, in comparison to his other brides.

    For instance, in my opinion, Jane Seymour is the most misunderstood. Almost nothing is known of her childhood, her birthdate is unrecorded, and it is unclear when she came to court. She has inspired none of the understanding, obsession or fascination that Anne was and still is able to conjure, because she is often conveyed as a scheming, cold bitch – to put it bluntly – who literally stepped over her dead mistress’s corpse to become queen. And yet Jane was, let’s face it, turning out to be an excellent queen, as Alison Weir strongly argued. She reconciled the troubled Tudor family, brought a measure of peace and stability to the realm, provided a virtuous, serious influence at court that banished any thoughts of French lust and sexual immorality that had lingered in the golden era of Anne Boleyn’s power, and most importantly of all, she gave Henry VIII a son and heir, her most important duty. All this she did without complaining, arguing or resentment – which Anne had done throughout her reign and which, to a lesser extent, Katherine of Aragon sometimes engaged in.

    And yet, for all this, people detest and despise Queen Jane. Why? She did nothing worse than Anne Boleyn. Anne probably wanted Katherine dead, and would have become queen over her dead body had there been the chance; it is possible – we have to admit it! – that she may have engaged in poison with Princess Mary or other people such as Fisher, although it is unlikely. What did Jane do wrong?

    I also feel Katherine Howard is widely misunderstood. People have very different perceptions of her; Lacey Baldwin Smith depicts her as a vicious, egotisticial and downright nasty ‘juvenile deliquent’ in his biography, while Joanna Denny keenly and dramatically portrays her as an innocent, abused child bride who was beheaded before the age of seventeen, manipulated and used by her ambitious family. Films and TV series, such as the Tudors, portray Katherine as a fun-loving, self-indulgent, selfish teenager, which she most probably was; the portraits that are most likely Katherine – the one by Holbein, painted probably in her first Christmas as Queen and another, lesser known that MAY be the unfortunate Queen:,
    which may prove that it is Katherine and that she was born in 1524 or 1525, and was thus just 17-18 at the time of her death.

    1. I love the way you put this! And you are right, but this site is on Anne. I think if their was a Katherine Howard files dot com, or Jane Seymour files dot com then those theories can be put to the test..I would love to read in debth about all Henry’s wives.

  41. A few more thoughts.

    One question I’ve long had about Borman’s book is she says Elizabeth wore in a famous Tudor family picture her mother’s “A” necklace. I’ve seen Anne wearing “B” necklaces but never an “A” one. Where on earth does Borman get the claim that Anne wore an “A” necklace. She doesn’t have a footnote either to back up the claim. I thought maybe through her royal at HRP she had access to something I don’t know of?

    Finally regarding Anne and her infamous uncle, much is always made of their kinship. But nothing is ever made of Nofolk’s relationship to Henry. He was Henry’s uncle by marriage. I think Anne was almost certainly named for Howard’s first wife and for all we know she was Anne’s godmother. (would stand to reason). So both Henry and Anne were his niece/nephew. I think people overlook that long uncle-nephew association at their peril.

    Regarding Jane Seymour, Conor I think your claim that she reconciled the Tudor family is also a myth. There is absolutely no documented proof that I know of that she lifted a finger for Elizabeth. It was in her best interest to keep Elizabeth away from court. It was to Cromwell that her great aunt Margaret Bryan wrote, not the queen. Mary Tudor Brandon was dead. Margaret’s daughter was at court at this time but Jane doesn’t seem to have had much to do with her. To say by bringing Mary back into the folk reconciles the entire family is just wrong.

    Until her latest book, I think Alison Weir hated Anne so much that she was part of the Team Catherine, Team Jane folks that would lift the first and third queens up so much to make the second look bad by comparison. Pilgramage of Grace defies the idea that she brought peace and stability to the realm. And she did complain and Henry quickly put her in her place. I often wonder if Alison’s newfound admiration for Anne was because she genuinely researched the issue and decided she was innocent or if she thought Anne had become so popular ni the 21st Century that it would help line her pockets. I hope it’s the former but can’t rule out the latter.

    To compare what Anne did and what Jane did to me defies logic and decency. Henry wanted to annul his marriage to Catherine before Anne arrived on the scene. Did she spur him on to new levels? Certainly. But Catherine was exiled to relative luxury at homes lived in by Wolsey (who certainly wasn’t a pauper). Jane literally pledged her willingess to marry Henry in a bethrodal ceremony while Anne’s red blood was still dripping from the executioner’s sword. There is no proof that Anne tried to kill Catherine. However, it’s fact that Jane agreed to marry Henry on May 20, the day after Anne was executed. That’s a not a decent woman that I could ever admire. And is very, very wrong to me.

    But while we’re going to talk ideas with no proof, I think Jane was pregnant and that’s why there was the rush to get Anne killed at any cost and Jane married. And I think she quietly lost that baby after a month or two. And of course it would have been shushed up because that’s the last thing Henry wanted the world to know for so many reasons. But there’s no more proof of my theory than there is Anne tried to get anyone poisoned.

  42. BTW, though, Anne did have an historical precedent: Henry’s grandmother, Elizabeth Woodville. Though she couldn’t have expected to be as successful. Edward IV wasn’t married — merely “maybe” pre contracted to Eleanor Butler. Last, Anne had no reason to be afraid of Henry during their courtship, as he had not yet turned ostensibly “scary.” Catherine Parr had good reason. As well as the lady who volunteered that “if she had two heads, one would most certainly be at Henry’s disposal.”

    Poisoning an unborn child to abort? I think not. She knew how important it was to have a legitimate heir. She would have been shooting herself in the foot. Doesn’t make sense.

    Cranmner, the former Boleyn chaplain (? Have I got this correctly?) who survived Henry, described her as virtuous.

  43. I say let the Queen alone. Wouldn’t one think iof she was a witch she could control the number and sex of the children that she could bear with King Henry V111 ? Wouldn’t one think that by degrading her she could come back and haunt the heck out of whom ever is stating the untruth about her.
    She was what she was . Leave the dead lay sleeping.
    Renee’ from Ypsilanti, MI USA

  44. DeAnn I

    I have to agree with you about Jane Seymour being pregnant and miscarrying. I thought that as well but have never actually read or heard of any historical data supporting this theory. It makes sense though because of several reasons. Jane Seymour’s family had very loose morals. Henry was on good terms with Anne and had no reason to believe that Anne could not produce a male child until she miscarried and then Henry compared her to COA’s miscarriages. Henry did not want to give a second Queen the time as he did not have much time left to produce an heir to the crown. He was so paranoid about the Tudor dynasty and knew that it was on shaky legs. So, once he had carnal relations with Jane and for all we knew he was told that Jane was pregnant so Cromwell and Henry devised the plan to get rid of Anne in order for Jane to replace her. I think Anne’s destruction was planned wisely all through hastily. I also think that Jane’s brothers and her father assisted in this plan of not only Anne’s destruction but of the Boleyn’s. The Seymour’s were extremely ambitious and had no scruples. Whereas, even though Anne was useful with her family’s ambitions her father, brother and uncle had steadily risen from the bottom to the top not only because of Anne becoming Queen but because of their own merit. So, it just wasn’t a downfall of Anne but of her whole family.

    I also agree with you DeAnn on the view point that Conor has on Jane Seymour. Jane Seymour was a master of disguise – she gave what was wanted and required. The apple does not fall far from the tree and her brothers were both overly ambitious so why wouldn’t she be ? There is more to Jane Seymour than we know maybe that’s why there is nothing known about her. Jane was not who she seemed to be. Henry ensured that the mother of his heir would never be under scrutiny or blemished. If Henry was so proud of her why wouldn’t he ensure that Janes and her family’s history etc live on. Look also at what happened to both her brothers after Henry died.

    Also about Anne miscarrying so much – yes that seemed to be the norm in that time period. As thoughts go about Anne being RH negative – if she was than was COA and many of the other Queens of that time period as well as before and after ? I think that interbreeding was the problem as well as sanitation and medicine The royalty and nobility in Europe (France, Spain, England) had common ancestry. If Henry wanted heirs he should have stayed wedded to Anne of Cleves – “the flanders mare”.

    Claire – great articles and debate. I look forward to Jane Seymour.

    1. Yes, The Tudors of Europe did infact interbreed, not with their very close relatives though mind you, it was with their distant realtives and they did have so many people related them through and via not just England but also through France and Spain but just to add they also had relatives through the Germans too so that means that all of King Henry’s wives had been related to him in some way and that is all them distantly of course but still related. Do not forget that all of his wives descended from King Edward I, the confessor.So if Henry had taken a liking to Anne of Cleves he would have still been facing a problem, a similar problem to which he was facing before.

      I agree like I said earlier on in my post with the fact that interbreeding had been and was an issue plus sanitary issues, for example hygeine problems aswell as medicine. I totally agree with this part and side of things.

  45. Wonderful article, you’ve given me inspiration for an essay 🙂

    I never used to be a great fan of Anne, and she’s not my favourite wife, at the moment she’s hovering between third and fourth place, but she like the other wives have admirable qualities and she like they, was a very complex woman. I like that you try to discover Anne the person and not Anne the icon. I must say though, that I would not like to befriend Anne. As said above, she would probably be very trying to know but I can’t help but admire her no nonsense approach.

    I look forward to your article on Jane, I hope it’s not too harsh on her though. Most pro- Anne people are unfairly anti-Jane and she is just as complex and misunderstood as the rest of the wives.

  46. I wonder if things had worked out differently-if Anne had given Henry a son that survived-would she be as maligned today? Maybe there would be a different perception of her, or maybe not.

    I also wish we knew more about how Anne felt and what she thought. I think it is reasonable enough to assume that she did not like hearing her sister called “The Great Prostitute” so how must she have felt to know that she was called “wh*re, witch” etc.

  47. Hi Claire:

    This article was complex, fantastic and I will return to it again and again. Thank you, everyone, for your input as well. Anne the Vampire? I have been an Anne fan for over 45 years and learn something new at this site all the time!

    I wonder how Anne would react to all the books, articles, movies,etc., if she were alive today? I KNOW she would love this site!


  48. I found this article very interesting. With Anne Boleyn i think people either love her, or hate her. She is either a saint or a sinner. I love Anne though! The way she got what she wanted, just by her gestures and wit is simply amazing. This article was very interesting, and brought forth some new ideas i have never thought of before. Thank you for writing!

  49. I found this quite interesting, thank you. Anne is sadly very misrepresented by loads of people. The business or entertainment doesn’t help with the very much either, sadly.

    I believe she was an innocent woman from all charges. My thoughts are that Henry was just tired of Anne, as he had been with Katherine and therefore need excuses for a divorce. The excuses were, of course, outrageous, however, they were execuses nevertheless. Unfortunately, these accusations were also realistic enough to send an innocent woman to her untimely death.

    Henry fell so out of love with Anne that he accused her with anything an individual can think of. Basically, “name it, she did it.” This is a horrible fact that must no longer be acknowledged among historians, scholars, or normal folk who love history. 🙂

    1. Henry was {for his time} a cultured man, BUT, because of his position, he could have, and do, anything he wanted. Catherine couldn’t give him a living male child, she had to go. Hence, he wanted Anne, he could have Anne. When Anne objected to Jane Seymour, probably vehemently, and also did not appear able to produce a male, she too had to go.
      “Moving on”from one woman to another had been Henry’s way since he became King

  50. Your article was really good. I like that it addressed all of the different things that people saw in Anne. I will admit that I read “The Other Boleyn Girl” and enjoyed it. It was the book that made me want to know more about Anne. So so my endless resaerch of Anne began!
    I believe that Anne had no real choice when it came to Henry. I feel that she made the most of a difficult situation. Demanding Henry rid himself of Catherine was a major gamble. And, depending on your view, may or may not have paid off. Did she really want become Queen? Only Anne really knew that answer.
    One thing I admire greatly about her is the fact that she was a strong woman in an era where women were generally meek and unassuming.
    I do believe that Henry potted against her, or at least knew what was happening, No one did anything without tthe expressed permission of the King. I think he planned to seal her fate because execution was the only real way of moving on to the next fertile woman.

  51. I agree with you about Anne being “more prey than predator” but completely disagree with Karen Lindsey’s idea of sexual harassment. Anne, in fact, DID reply to Henry’s letters (the replies were destroyed in a fire in about the 18th-19th century; only one survives) and as for locking herself away in the country to ignore him – that was actually done on the advice of her parents and the king, as Anne was ill with the deadly sweating sickness and dared not come to court.

    Anne, though probably pursued by Henry, did not discourage him. She wrote the very leading comment “by daily proof you shall me find/to be to you both loving and kind” beneath a picture of the Annunciation and gave it to Henry – certainly provocative.

    She was certainly treated very badly by Henry and by history (I don’t believe anything about her being a murderess) but I do not believe she didn’t lead Henry on in any way.

  52. Someone may have said this already, but with Henry and all his naughty behavior, Anne is a symbol of how we blame the other woman when a married man misbehaves. However, we must keep in mind that it was Henry’s signature alone that caused the problems. Maybe it’s all that nonsense of divinely appointed monarchs, and of course he or she would NEVER do anything bad. Therefore, someone else must have guided his hand when he signed the death warrants!

    I also appreciate the comment that Camilla received the vilification for how Charles behaved, when he was the one dialing the phone during his honeymoon!

  53. Honestly I don’t know what to think about Anne. She obviously broke up the kings marriage to Catherine. But being an adultress? I’m not sure. The one to blame for her death and her brothers death. Lady Jane Boleyn. She was jealous of George’s attention to his sisters.

  54. Claire, as you know, I’m quite new to this site, but I love your well researched sources.. I don’t know whether I could have been Anne’s friend, because her personality is very similar to my own. But I could have been a faithful companion, which is slightly different. It’s a bit like Princess Diana – who could really understand such complex personalities thrust into court intrigues 400 years apart?

  55. Hi there, just became aware of your blog through Google,
    and found that it’s truly informative. I’m gonna watch out for brussels.
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  56. Hi Claire, rereading this article, I have to agree with you that although I admire Anne Boleyn greatly and am somewhat obsessed with her, I doubt we would be friends in real life for the reasons you mention. I think I could have been friends with her daughter though!

  57. I said this in an earlier post, no way was Anne a wh*re she was vilified because the King was going to replace Catherine with her, she didn’t expect Henry to fall for her and chase her so ardently she was quite content to marry Harry Percy she must have dreamt of life with him and the children they’d have like all young women, that came to nothing after the intervention of Henry and Wolsley and Anne was sent home in disgrace to Hever she was upset and miserable like every girl when a relationship ends, then she was putting her life together and was back at court and that’s when Henry started to persue her, she certainly didn’t ask for it, what are you supposed to do when the most powerful man in the kingdom is chasing you and sending you passionate love letters? You can’t tell the King Of England to get lost she didn’t want to become his mistress and good for her, why should she? She had to much respect for herself he offered her marriage, most people in the country was calling her a wh*re and yet what would they have done if they were in her shoes, she was in fact a victim of circumstance if the King Of England offers you the greatest prize of all what woman wouldn’t accept that, after he’d offered Anne the crown she probably then began to get a bit ambitious as that changed the whole outlook on their would be relationship, she must have had respect for Catherine as her Queen but then she had to think of herself and her future, she must have believed it was her destiny to be Queen, her cruelty and disregard for Catherine and Mary I believe only occurred when frustration set in after years of waiting and all the obstacles that were put in their path from the Pope and most of the clergy of England, I think after Henry had split the country asunder to marry Anne he was a fool three years later to abandon her to her fate she wasn’t past her childbearing years and could have in time produced a healthy son, then she was vilified again for sleeping with five men one of whom was her brother, the people by then and most of the courtiers believed she was innocent including Chapyus and this is a view that’s been taken by historians down the centuries, she really is one of the most vilified women in history like Lucretia Borgia and possibly Catherine De Medici but as I said before I do believe Anne was just a victim of her times, of circumstance and of a fickle powerful man.

  58. Henry VIII had syphilis, and they didn’t have effective treatment at that time. A person with syphilis is not constantly contagious, only periodically. It is conceivable that, within the context of a longer relationship such as Catherine of Aragon and Anne Bolen, that these women were exposed. Syphilis causes miscarriages and fetal deformities. Some sources maintain that male fetuses are more likely to be miscarried; however, this is not a universally accepted fact.

    Many medical researchers consider that syphilis plays a role in the miscarriages of Henry VIII wives. I have long considered that the weak health and early death of his son, Edward VI, to be caused by being born with syphilis. It would be nice to read about more historians considering this as well, both with Anne Bolens later pregnancies, and in the personality of Henry himself.

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