A Love Triangle
A Love Triangle

Today’s post was inspired by a comment that was left a few weeks ago by Aimee, who always leaves wonderfully thought-provoking comments. Aimee really got me thinking deeply about Anne and the triangle which existed between her, Catherine and Henry.

Obviously this whole website is a celebration of Anne Boleyn’s life and an attempt to debunk the myths about her but I don’t want to put her on a pedestal and go too far the other way. Anne Boleyn was not a goddess or a saint, she was a human being and a woman with flaws.

Anne Boleyn – Not So Innocent

Here is Aimee’s wonderful comment and you’ll see what I mean by thought provoking. By the way, I have not written this article to attack Aimee’s point of view so I do not want any attacking comments (I know you’re all lovely anyway!), I simply want to look at Anne from another perspective.

“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 (banishment, exile, difficulty 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?”

Anne: The Other Woman

What a well thought out comment and thanks so much to Aimee for taking the time to leave it. But, it has left me in a quandary, and I don’t mind admitting that. Anne was indeed the “other woman”, the woman who ended Catherine and Henry’s marriage and I know that we all like to excuse this with the following reasons:-

  • Henry VIII’s marriage to Catherine was already over, he had been considering an annulment and remarriage long before Anne.
  • Henry had been unfaithful to Catherine many times.
  • It wasn’t Anne’s fault, she had no choice in the matter and could not refuse a King.

But can we really excuse Anne’s actions?

What if Anne was the other woman in your life? What if she was the other woman to your friend’s husband? We all know or know of someone who has been hurt by their husband leaving them for another woman so perhaps we need to view Anne from Catherine’s perspective.

Yes, Anne held on to her virtue but perhaps it was this that brought about the end of Henry’s marriage. Perhaps if Anne had slept with him and become his mistress, even his one and only mistress, he would have stayed married to Catherine and finally got bored with Anne, like he did with others. Catherine could turn a blind eye to Henry’s mistresses because a King was expected to indulge in this way but Anne became a real threat.

Yes, Anne did seem to give him the brush-off at first, this is obvious from his letters to her, but, as Aimee says, she gave in in the end and made it clear that it was marriage or nothing. So, was she responsible for the marriage break-up? Was Henry’s complete infatuation with her and his lust her fault?

Do you see what I mean when I say I’m in a quandary?!

I can understand why Anne was seen as a whore and I’m sure that if I had been Catherine’s friend or a lady at Henry’s court then I would have thought this too. This Boleyn woman destroyed a royal marriage, dashed the hopes of a Spanish princess and true Queen of England, “bewitched” Henry with her sex appeal and charms, came between Henry and his daughter Mary and caused a complete uproar. Hmmm…


Anne: The Victim?

As much as I can understand Catherine’s heartbreak and why Anne was vilified at the time, I hate the way that we still, as a society, heap all the blame on the other woman. Let’s see things from Anne’s perspective.

Anne was a single woman at the English court who had  been noticed by the King, the most important man in England, a man who could destroy her and her family in one stroke or who could raise her and her family in the same way. It became apparent that Henry VIII wanted a relationship with her and her father had noticed it too and was probably encouraging it, after all, families got rewarded for pleasing the King. But Anne wasn’t just any young woman, she wanted more to her life than being a King’s mistress, like her sister had been, and was desperate to keep her virtue and reputation so that she could marry well and have a good life. So, Anne refused the King’s advances and made it clear that she was not interested, but this did not stop the King. Henry knew what he wanted and he had to have Anne. Nobody said no to a king and Henry was not accepting a refusal from a simple maiden!

We all know how the story went. Henry bombarded Anne with letters and Anne eventually relented. I do believe that she was intoxicated by Henry and fell in love with him, but I also believe that she really had no choice in the matter anyway. A “no” would have displeased Henry and I’m sure that this would have had consequences for both Anne’s position at court and that of her brother and father. Anne did the only thing she could to protect her reputation and her beliefs, she refused to become Henry’s mistress.

And what about Henry VIII? Why blame Anne and call her a “whore” or an “adulteress” anyway? She wasn’t married, HE was. I know that is a rather lame excuse but it just annoys me that the other woman gets the blame all the time! I don’t think Anne was actively looking to form a relationship with Henry and I don’t think she tried to tempt him or seduce him in any way. He came on to her and she refused. Let’s give her some credit.

I think I see Anne as a victim in this. I’m not sure that I agree entirely with historian Karen Lindsey’s view of Anne as a victim of sexual harassment – see my post Anne Boleyn: A Victim for further information – but I can see Anne as the deer of Wyatt’s poem “Whoso List to Hunt”, Henry’s prey. Henry was the one with all the power and Anne had none apart from her virtue. He hunted her down until she relented and she was as much a victim as Catherine, they were both pawns on the King’s chessboard.

Anyway, I’ve rambled far too much as usual, but it’s a complex subject. What do you think?

P.S. See today’s other post on “The Beasts of Hampton Court Palace”.

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50 thoughts on “Anne Boleyn: The Other Woman”
  1. To Aimee: Thank you for sharing your point of view. I love reading and learning from such insightful words. I can understand how most people would feel that way about her.

    However, I must agree with Claire. We cannot fully understand that love triangle, if we can only interpret it through the eyes of a modern day woman. Matters are completely different now that (for the most part) women have more options. A woman’s only treasure was her honor and her family. Sadly, women were controlled by their fathers, brothers and husbands. I believe that her intentions were not to seduce a married man. If her resolve led to the destruction of a marriage, how can she be held responsible? Her fate was, again, sadly in the hands of the males in her life. What little control she had, I believe, was exercised wisely in her refusal to submit to the King. There is no such thing as complete innocence, but did she choose to acquiesce or survive?

    1. Henry the8th was a serial wive . Women kiler may he spin in his grave ann bolye family should have taken her to safety no they were social climbers disgracful

  2. I agree with your point-of-view on this, Claire. To have refused the king’s advances in Tudor England would have been tantamount to bankrupting her family and any future chance her family had at success. Even that reason being put aside, we musn’t forget that in those days, Henry could have had Anne whether she wanted him or not–if he hadn’t respected her decision to abstain from sexual intercourse as long as they did, it would not have been considered a crime (rape) for Henry to take her anyway, even should she scream to the highest rafters.

    Having said that, I have never thought Anne was an innocent, fragile, unwily woman who didn’t at some point merely hop on the bandwagon that was fatefully passing her–but I have thought that she had little choice to do so in order to make the best of a bad situation, unless she could have convinced her parents to put her in a convent–and once she caught the eye of the king, I doubt very much they would have put her in one anyway.

    It’s not a simple debate, is it? But I think you might as well condemn the Donner party for being cannibals by choice rather than necessity in comparison to Anne Boleyn’s situation–would she have done what she did (commit adultery, sexual or emotional) if the circumstances had been otherwise? I think not. I think she and her family merely wanted her to make a good marriage and Henry intervened in the process to claim her as his own.

  3. Hello all!
    As I was reading Aimee’s post, I was thinking, “yeah, I would not like it if my husband was giving gifts to another woman”. And yeah, I can see how people would think of her as a whore consisering that she was the “other” woman. And wasn’t she very promiscous in her earlier years?

    However, Anne was against the relationship with Henry from the beginning and she let him know it. She wanted to marry Harry Percy, and she didn’t want to end up like her sister. What choice did she have with Henry deterimined and her own family urging her so that they would have “status” and money. I agree that there is no such thing as complete innocence, but I really don’t think Anne committed adulty while married to Henry.

    Does anyone have any comments on why Henry was so fixated on Anne and having her completly when he had so many other women (such as Betsy Blount, with whom he had a son), or Mary Bolelyn who also had his son. Henry didn’t seem to go out of his way to be with any other. Just curious. Thanks.
    Julie B.

  4. Thank you Aimee and Claire for an interesting debate. I think that part of the problem for one is that were names applied to Anne (adulteress, whore, concubine) because the woman was always blamed. However, more importantly you couldn’t call the king any such names (even under breath) without risking everything including your life. Many people were unhappy with the situation, and the only person they could blame was Anne. At the risk of sounding like my sons, Henry started it. Anne is not without blame, but I do think that with her family being so ambitious she didn’t have much choice in the beginning.

  5. I to totally agree with the idea that Anne wasn’t a poor innocent lamb, but that she had no choice. Her only potential “carrier” was to marry a man of egal or superior ranking and bear him sons, mainly. I think that her plan was to say that she couldn’t loose her honor before her wedding. So, the king, crazy about her, would have found her a husband of a great family; then, after the wedding and the deflowering, he could have slept with her, and when he would have grown tired of her, she would have kept the husband, the titles and everything her surrendering would have been awarded. She surely dindn’t think of marriying the king himself. That was what happened to Elizabeth Shore, Edward IV’s mistress; Brantôme, a French writer of this time, said in his book “Les Dames Galantes” that it was usual for the kings and great lords to act this way, and there are many exemples.

  6. Nothing new to add to the conversation, but that I agree that once Anne was singled out as the next mistress, I really cannot think of how she could have said no. She had loved Henry Percy & she couldn’t even marry him. It was entirely a man’s world, and I don’t see anyone able to disobey the wishes of her fahter, uncle and the KING and live peacefully. Anne saw how her sister was treated, and to her credit, she should NOT be seen as “the whore” because she made Henry wait 7 years before they consummated their union! THAT fact alone negates the theory she was a whore. She did what she had to do to survive in the situation that her ‘loved ones’ forced her into.

    As far as Julie’s question,(why was Henry so fixated on Anne) Henry simply wanted that which he could not have. He believed in Royalty and played it to the hilt. He was a spoiled boy and became a viciously spoiled man. The church told him no, he breaks with the church.. Anne told him no.. he divorces his wife & England’s Queen of over 20 years to have Anne.. He got Anne, so he looked for another..he didn’t get an heir… he will keep trying till he gets what he wants…You get the point.

  7. Anne Boleyn and others like her had no choice in the matter of becoming the ‘property’ of the king. You make comparisons ‘if Catherine was your next door neighbour’, but that is not the same, your neighbour is not the King of England. She was a flirt but some people are like that, and received gifts and favours but that was the way of their life at court, but that doesn’t mean they took it any further. She kept him at arms length for seven years, in which time Henry was celibate, so much was his obsession with Anne. He had never been this passionate about any other living woman before. Anne did not want his attention, for she had seen the way of her sister and did not want to go the same way, she just wanted a quiet life with her Henry Percy. But Henry was like a pit bull that had sunk and locked his teeth into his quarry, and would not let her go! and basically that was that, no normal life for Anne Boleyn. If it had not been Anne it would have been another woman. Henry wanted a male heir and would stop at nothing to get one. Both Catherine and Anne failed to produce a living male and so one after another they both had to go! If we had not had Anne we would never have had Elizabeth I, who in my mind was the best Queen ever to reign. Anne did not consider herself towards the end, she accepted her fate, but it was her Elizabeth and the legitimacy of her daughter that concerned her. If the King said the marriage was legal then it was legal, if he said it was not legal then it was not, no matter what the public or even his councillors thought on the subject, he would have his own way and to disagree with him on these or any other matters was equal to signing your own death warrant! And no I do not think that Anne was a saint, she was just a normal woman who was framed with treason because Henry could not use the same reason again for her as he had used with Catherine, so it had to be death for Anne! And because of her flirting and magnetism that drew men to her, this was the ideal excuse the councillors were looking for, why not say she’s guilty of adultery? Everyone will believe that of her, she has spent time on her own alone in her apartments with her brother Lord Rochford, we’ll say she had intercourse with him too, and people will be disgusted with this idea! And so sealed the fate of Anne Boleyn and her brother, musician, poet etc..etc…all innocent of the charges, all had to accept their fate it must have sent them insane the night before their execution, some had wives and children, they were all pawns in Henry’s big chess game of life! If only he could have known his greatest heir to succeed to the throne was indeed his daughter between Anne and himself!

  8. Its understandable to try to see the whole situation as if “we” were in Catherine’s shoes and seeing Anne encroaching on our husband. If we do that, then clearly Anne was in the wrong.

    The problem is, we are then using a modern viewpoint to view a situation that happened in the past. But, even if we try to view it from a Tudor viewpoint, the whole sorry situation which was extremely unusual even then.

    A King and his Queen aren’t quite the same as Joe Bloggs and his wife. Its a whole different situation with very different rules.

    Anne and Catherine were both victims in very different ways. Both were “stuck between a rock and a hard place”. Catherine had relative protection from her own royal status as a Princess of Spain, Anne had no such protection except her wits and intelligence.

    If we had been in Anne’s position, what would any of us have done, taking very much into account the societal expectations of a woman of her status then.
    Perhaps she could have gone into a nunnery, but I don’t think Henry would have let her do so.

    Her only other choice, perhaps was suicide – but again, we have to think about the context of the times. Suicide was equal to murder – she would have been buried in unconsecrated ground, her soul left to torment. Her family would have been shamed by her disgrace. Its not something one could easily contemplate in those days.

    Poor Anne – all she really wanted was to be married to Harry Percy. She was denied all that because a King had decided he wanted her.

    Anne was at the mercy of a King whose word was law. She tried to let him know she wasn’t interested – he took no notice at all.

    Anne was forced down the only road left to her. It afforded her a little dignity at least and a family in Elizabeth.

  9. Julie B., it does seem odd- what was it about Anne in particular? I can only think (as others have speculated) that her very refusal and elusiveness must have fanned the flames. Henry was used to getting his way in everything and then, here comes this fiery, exotic woman who stubbornly refuses to give in to him…a maddening challenge he just had to overcome. Of course, he was surely attracted to her wit, charm, elegance and grace but I think the thrill of the chase also had alot to do with it.

    I agree with the commentators who say she was basically backed into a corner, but, on the other hand, I don’t think we can absolve her completely from blame. Whatever her feelings at the beginning of her relationship with Henry, she certainly was not sorry or regretful (when the moment finally came) about marrying the King, becoming Queen, displacing Catherine and Mary, etc. So I can understand why supporters of the latter would view her as the King’s accomplice in crime (sorry, I know that sounds harsh!)

    Great discussion, everybody, thanks!

  10. I share Aimee’s opinion. Anne was the “other”, but with the time Catherine became the “other”. She was totally replaced by Anne. I imagine how she felt after more than twenty years of marriage. It wan’t only that she was loosing her position as Queen and her husband, her daughter was about to become a bastard.

    But Anne did not have many options, and saying “no” to Henry was not a good option (trully I think it could be the worst for her). In my opinion, Henry was the one that started it. He always did everything for getting everything he wanted, and then tired of it immediately.

    I see most of Henry’s wives as victims, but for me Catherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn were the ones who suffered the most because of Henry. I believe they were probably the only ones that loved him.

  11. Although I am a devoted Anne fan I totally take on board Aimee’s points but on the basis of the context of the time and with the caveat that she was a human being and moreover a woman in a man’s world. She was no weak pawn but she was in a difficult position and I truly believe that she wasnot the personally manipulative character that history has portrays her as. The Helen Bonham Carter portrayal in ITV Henry VIII I think best shows how Anne resisted Henry and what he offered for far longer that usually accepted. I think she would have been far more content being the wife of Percy, and circumstances and a tyrant’s will scuppered this. I feel for Catherine and understand why people of the time vilified Anne for displacing her, but unlike contemporaries we have the value of hindsight to see Anne’s fate and we have the luxury of fixing the blame from a distance of time at the true villain, Henry.
    It is important to remember that history is written by the victors and therefore Anne’s reputation stood no chance of being anything less than black.I am with Ives in thinking that Anne’s unpopularity was not as universally bad as most have said, and it is conveniently forgotten the immense work Anne did for charity, education and the promotion of Christian values. If we take the ‘what if’ scenario a stage further and imagine if Jane Seymour had failed to provide a son, would her fate and reputation have fared the same? The only reason she is remembered well is hit the jackpot producing Edward, and Weir suggests that more than Anne, she was fully in control of her ambition to be queen and was as ruthless and cunning as her brothers and was also not the great love match as history tells and was in fact plain and dumpy. She was the right girl placed in the right time. If she had fallen in the same way as Anne would Anne’s reputation have been seen more sympathetically?
    As a footnote to my comments, can I point all Anne fans to a fascinating book i came upon by chance written in the 1950s by an Irish vicar which tells of the psychic experiences he had with Anne Boleyn and the other players of the time. I was sceptical of it at first but having finished it totally believe what I read and it gave me a brilliant insight into the unknown questions and was a spiritual experience and allayed my feelings of frustration and sadness of Anne’s story. it is called ‘The Return of Anne Boleyn – A Tudor Story’ by WS Pakenham-Walsh please read you won’t be disappointed!!

  12. I’m loving this debate! Lexy-your theory about Anne’s intentions makes so much sense and I never heard it put that way before-that she wanted Henry to marry her to another man. And Merce, I totally agree-Catherine and Anne were probably the only two wives who loved him. They were definitely his most important wives (sorry Catherine Parr!) think they probably got along great with each other until Henry set his sights on Anne.

  13. Like Merce said, I too think that all of Henry’s wives were in some way, shape or form a victim, with Anne and Katherine Howard being the ultimate victims. By all accounts I have read, Katherine Howard was guilty of the crimes she was accused of, but she did not deserve to die. Anyway, getting back to the debate. Anne was certainly not entirely innocent. She was clearly the other woman, in the eyes of England, Katherine of Aragon and certainly Mary I. Although I will always admire Anne for her courage and her outspokenness, in this case I just feel like Anne was definitely the other woman. I do admire her for holding him at bay for a long time, but ultimately she did give in to his advances. Looking at it from Katherine’s point of view, it would have been very painful to be cast aside and I would probably have reacted the same way to Anne that she did. I do think that Henry does not get his share of the blame for the triangle either. It seems like all of the animosity was towards Anne, which was not fair! Anyway, these are just a few of my rambling thoughts.

  14. I definitely think it was Anne’s elusiveness that made Henry pursue her so avidly and wait for her for so many years. Had she given in and slept with him immediately, she actually might have avoided much tragedy. But then, Elizabeth I wouldn’t have been queen and the break from Catholicism might not have happened in England. One of us needs to write an alternative history piece on this situation.

    But I have no doubt that had it not been Anne, Henry would still have wanted out of his marriage with Katherine–he was schizoid, frivolous, and flighty, so it would have been another if not our Anne.

  15. When King Henry VIII had been married to Catherine of Aragon and he cought the eye of the beautiful Anne Boleyn in 1526 rumours must have rife at court as to what was going on.Catherine of Aragon probably thought ah he has taken another mistress again but little did she know that her husband the king had more intimate and serious feelings about Anne.Anne had gotten to know the king through serving as a lady in waiting to Queen Catherine of Aragon.She had probably not had been in the queens service long before his attentions turned towards her.I can imagine when Catherine had found out that things were more serious between her husband and Anne she must have been lost for words and it must have created friction between husband and wife,she must have felt jealous.In 1531 the catholic queen has exclaimed about the lady Anne that she was the scandal in the whole of chritendom. A few catholic enemies of Anne threw slanderous comments at her when they new things had become more serious between Anne and the King.If she had succumbed to his advances from the beggining Henry probably would have remained with Catherine and as a result thus the church of England would have never of been created.Catherine was not willing to lose him to her ans she had put up a long hard fight to stay married to Henry and remain his queen.But when you look at things he had to give Catherine up whether he had wanted to or not if he truly wanted a son and heir for his throne.Henry had fought long and hard to trying to get his divorce from Catherine just so he could marry the woman of his dreams.There is no doubt that Anne had some kind of unique hold over Henry which spanned over a decade.I feel that Anne was being slandered because she was a lutheran lady who had stolen Henrys heart and the people of the time could see this and thus there was jealousy amid the air.I see that none of his mistresses were given such slanderous names.Anne was not any of the words that was put upon her by other people.Infact Anne was the total opposite it was her sister Mary who was the harlot.Mary had been the Kings mistress at one time aswell as the king of france’s mistress and the french king made a statement saying that Mary was a great whore the most infamous of them all.So it seems to me like certain people were reffering to Anne as the whore too when really they meant her sister.perhaps because of Mary Boleyn’s ways they looked upon Anne as being the same “Like sister”Like Sister”When in reality she was the totall opposite of her sister.she did not want to succumb to the king of Englands advances until he promised her marriage and a crownment.Also she would have wanted him to be free of Catherine first before she became too involved.I think Anne had the right approach and dealt with things in the right way.I feel that Anne was unique in her own way and had something different about her she was deffinately different from all his other wives and mistresses.I suppose before she came along no woman had ever rejected the king or ever dared to as she did.One would have wondered if his second choice in marriage had been a catholic lady what would have happened then? Catherine at the end of it all only suffered mildly in comparison to what por Anne had to go through.Catherine only received a divorce.Whilst Anne was the one who had suffered majorly out of the two.Well with Catherine she had been given the name dowager and had to remove her status as Queen and thus was confined to certain houses with a few maids I know of one place she stayed in where the rooms were damp and made her feel ill.upon notifying the king he had her moved to a more relatively healthier place.She had been disallowed to see or have anything to do with her daughter Mary for which I feel she should have been given the right to do.I know and can understand why though.Whearas Anne had certain allegations brought up against her which were untrue and false and was thus condemmed to die on theese charges.I feel she was not guilty of the charges that were brought against her.I feel that if Anne had given Henry the son he so longed and desired for a lot could have been prevented.Anne would have deffinately lived to see the light of day again for many years to come.It was not her fault just like it was not Catherines fault that neither of them could give the king a male heir of which he so desperately wanted.Obviously there was a certain problem but whether it was down to his wives themselves remains to be answered.I have often felt that the problem layed with the king himself or if not both man and woman,husband and wife were to blame.I beleive it was genetic.It is a known fact that some women only give birth to boys and some only give birth to girls,whilst others give birth to a mixture of boys and girls. Anne Boleyn is one of my favourite characters in Tudor history as I have been into the tudor era for quite a long a while.Anne also was outspoken and intelligent and tempestuous aswell as having sex appeal.All theese things attributed to getting the attention of the king. plus the fact that he had probably liked the chase,the persuing of a woman he could not get.I feel though that his feelings had only changed towards her firstly when princess Elizabeth had been born because a prince had been so wantonly expected then as she went on to miscarry of her saviour a boy only made matters worse and then thirdly to give birth to a defective foetus which must have been the last straw between both Henry and Anne and thus as a result he started losing interest in her,taking a mistress and wanting to be rid of her.I think Henry must have given up all hope of conceiving a a boy with her.He probably thought that if he had tried again with her it would have just been the same thing again.By this time he must have lost all patience with her.I feel that Henry and Anne do make an intrigueing story.It does make me sad to think of what happened and how it had all gone tragically wrong for this woman.Taking into account that she had once been the love of the king’s life and for the whole relationship to just crumble and fall as it did has a really heartfely impact.Anne even on her own is intrigueing.In all she was an ambitious woman with an ambitious familly.Her familly used her as a pawn in the game of court intrigue.Thus by firstly throwing infront of the king and incouraging her to follow into something she did not really want and this was all because so her but most of all her familly would be kept and fed and clothed and had money and given all the powers and privelliges that went with having a daughter or relative being married to a king.

  16. Thanks Melissa! I’ve come to imagine this theory while reading Brantôme: it was usual for kings to provide brilliant matches for the single ladies they were in love with, in order to sleep with her while the husband turned a blind eye to what his wife did. I think that Anne had saw what happened to Bessie Blount, to her sister and to other ladies at the French court where Francis I gave his maiden mistresses to his high ranking courtiers. In ” The Gallant Ladies”, by Brantôme, there is the anecdote of a woman saying to her “prince” that she couldn’t sleep with him until she was married to a great lord and her honor made intact. Maybe she even thought of Henry Percy planning this!

  17. Thank you for that very interesting debate. It really got me thinking out of the box of ‘poor Anne how could everyone be so cruel to her!’
    I see what you mean by looking at it from Catherine’s perspective and that of her supporters. No matter how much I like and admire Anne I always couldn’t help but feel sorry for Catherine. A princess born and bred, left to die in exile while a much more lowly born woman took her place as Queen. I personally saw no impediment in Catherine’s and Henry’s marriage, it could’ve been dealt with in other ways than an annulment.
    Wolsey offered to Henry that any children he had with Anne would be legitamised, that path would’ve been much safer for Anne probably would have never ended up on the block, sure Henry would tire of her but if she delivered him a son and that son was considered ‘legitimate’ she would be in the king’s good graces and her and her family would be well off. I look at the example of Bessie Blount indeed she didn’t gain too much after giving Henry a son, but I believe the king loved Anne a lot more than her and considering Bessie never denied him it is likely that their relationship was purely sexual like it was in the case Madge Shelton and his other mistresses. Henry probably liked Bessie because she was considered pretty. Anne however, played Henry’s passions and made him in love with her a lot more than any of his pretty mistresses did.
    Anyway, I believe that if Anne and Henry agreed to the Pope’s offer to legitimise their children. First not many would argue because the Pope’s word is law, second Anne would have gained as much favours as she would if she were queen (if she gave Henry a son) and third if any accusations of adultery poped up she would’ve have been executed because technically she wasn’t Queen. That reminds me of a question that I have been longing to ask: When Anne was sent to the tower, Cranmer proclaimed her and Henry’s marriage ‘null and void’ and Elizabeth a bastard. So if Anne was never Queen in the first place, how could’ve she been executed for adultery?

    PS I also like looking at the situation from Anne’s perspective. Imagine if Anne was your friend and told you about the situation with Catherine and Henry. Wouldn’t you think Catherine stubborn and wouldn’t you be supporting Anne all the way?

  18. Here’s the thing though, if Anne Boleyn is innocent, why is it that Jane Seymour is villified by Anne’s modern day supporters? I think that neither woman can be condemned fully. Yes, Jane followed the same game as Anne did, but Jane would not be able to really say no, just as Anne couldn’t say no.

    I feel that if Anne is going to be exonerated, Jane must really be exonerated as well. It’s hypocritical to forgive one but blame the other. (Not that I am accusing you of doing that.)

  19. I have been the other women,now or in tudor times you can,t help who you fall in love with. We could all be so “noble” and say Anne should have said no to Henry but maybe the thruth is very simple. Anne loved Henry and as they say love is a drug. Let,s also not forget if Henry was happy even Anne,s bewitching charms could not have forced him to move so ruthlessly towards Catherine.

    1. I was the other woman without knowing it (an illegal lied to me about his girlfriend.) Some people play a good game. Be careful

  20. I agree with Rachel,some people seem to villified Jane for doing the exact same thing that Anne did. Anne set the precedent,Jane just follow them. Personally, I think it’s in poor taste to accept a marriage proposal from a man who already married. As for not having a choice, well we all have choices. Anne could have made up her own rules. she could have agreed to Henry demands ,and made up her own. she could have made sure he chose a suitable husband for her,and give her a title (which he did) and land. It took 7 long years for Henry VIII to get his divorce ,and lot of things changes in 7 years. So if you think about it, if Anne hadn’t became pregnant when she did,would Henry VIII had broke with church to married her?

  21. Wow! What wonderful comments! Let me respond to you:-

    Nancy – I agree with you. I think Anne’s actions were based on survival and turning the situation to her advantage.

    Cynthia – I agree, it’s not a simple debate and that’s what I love about it. There’s just no right answer because we have no way of getting into the heads and hearts of the people concerned. My problem with Karen Lindsey’s theory of sexual harassment is that it does make Anne into a victim and although I don’t feel that she had much choice in the matter I do believe that she wanted to be married to Henry and that she wanted to be Queen. I don’t believe that Henry was the monster that The Other Boleyn Girl movie makes out, with him raping Anne, I see their relationship as consensual once Anne had realised the depth of Henry’s feelings.

    Julie – Yes, Anne wasn’t a willing participant in the beginning, she had her life planned ut and it did not include being the King’s mistress! You pose an interesting question about why Henry was fixated on Anne and why he went out of his way to give her what she wanted. I think it was because 1) He had fallen in love and was besotted with her – we all know how that feels. Not just lust but love which makes you want to do anything to be with that person for ever. 2) Anne wouldn’t back down – I don’t think that Bessie Blount or Mary Boleyn ever demanded to be more than a King’s mistress. They accepted their place and got on with pleasing the King. Anne would not accept even the title of one and only mistress so Henry either had to give her up or do what she wanted.

    Carla – I love what you say about Henry starting it! I think he has to take the ultimate responsibility for Catherine’s heartbreak, how May turned out and what happened to Anne. Anne wasn’t a saint but she didn’t deserve to be vilified and executed.

    Lexy – Yes, Anne didn’t really have much in the way of career choices did she?! It is interesting what you say about Brantome’s writings about other monarchs and what was acceptable at the time. Although it is interesting to draw comparisions between the past and modern times, we can’t really make judgements on a time so different to our own.

    Marie – I love your idea of Henry as a spoiled boy and I think Jonathan Rhys Meyers shows this really well in The Tudors – what he wants he gets, simple!

    Janette – Yes, how can we compare the situation to a modern day situation really. Life was so different in Tudor times and, as you say, our neighbour is not married to the King of England! Alison Weir talks of how there were many victims in the coup – Anne, her brother, the other 4 men and their families, Henry and Elizabeth. Lots of people suffered as a result of what happened to Anne – so sad! I can’t imagine what it must be like to wait for such an awful death! It is sad too that Henry had no inkling of what Elizabeth would grow up to be. I know he had to strive for a male heir to protect the Tudor line but how ironic that it was Anne’s daughter who is still today seen as one of England’s greatest monarchs!

    Elizabeth – I totally agree with you. I don’t think that Anne had any choice at all in the matter. She had to think of the consequences for her family and I think she chose to survive. I love what you say: “Anne was forced down the only road left to her. It afforded her a little dignity at least and a family in Elizabeth.” – I think Anne did fall in love with Henry and in him she found someone who matched her intelligence and I can imagine them having the most wonderful debates and rows and then ending up in bed! She also had Elizabeth, who she took great joy in. It is a tragedy that Anne never got to enjoy her daughter growing up and that Elizabeth was left without a mother.

    Matterhorn – Yes, Anne was no angel and she certainly didn’t make things easy for herself with her rantings and ravings about Catherine and Mary!

    Mercè – It is interesting what you say about all of the wives being victims and Catherine and Anne suffering the most because they loved Henry. I do feel very sorry for Anne of Cleves too – being in a foreign country, being rejected by a King and wondering if he was going to dispatch you by execution must have been so scary! poor girl! Catherine Howard was also a sad case – David Loades makes the point that in her naivety Catherine may have believed that Henry was as omnipotent and omniscient as God and that he knew her past “sins” so she did not have to tell him that she was not a virgin. How sad if that is true!

    Catherine – I haven’t seen the Helena Bonham-Carter portrayal of Anne or Ray Winstone as Henry so I will have to get the DVD sometime. Your comment “It is important to remember that history is written by the victors and therefore Anne’s reputation stood no chance of being anything less than black.” is spot on and that is exactly why Anne is still thought of as a whore and adulteress today, so many centuries of having a bad name! I’m also an Ives girl, I don’t think that Anne was universally despised. That book you mention sounds really interesting, I’ve put it on my list!

    Melissa – I love these kinds of debates too! So much fun!

    Carrie – I feel so sorry for Catherine, she certainly didn’t deserve the treatment that Henry dished out to her and Mary. I’m sure that she and Mary would have had a far happier life if she had agree to go into a convent but why should she? She believed, and it was true, that she was Henry’s true wife and Queen and so why should she step down. She had made her vows in front of God and it was against everything she believed to stand aside for another woman plus she wanted to fight for her daughter’s rights.

    Cynthia – Oooh an alternative history would be fun!

    Tudorrose – Yes, Anne is an incredibly interesting character, whatever people think of her. I think she was “tarred with the same brush” as her sister and I think she was trying to be virtuous and live to her own moral standards. She did the best she could to refuse the advances of the King and keep her virginity, but in the end all she could do was to relent but on her terms. What an amazing woman to actually be able to do this, to have the courage to say “no”. To keep the most powerful man in England hanging like that! I’m sure that she never expected Henry to actually wait for her and to break with Rome for her, I think she thought that he would give up on her and find an easier target. She never set out to trap a married man or to seduce Henry.

    Lina – I love trying to get into people’s head and trying to look at things from different perspectives. It’s so easy to just make judgements without looking at the situation, the time they lived in, the consequences, the feelings of all those involved etc. This situation was awful for everyone, even Henry. Henry had managed to convince himself that his marriage to Catherine was unlawful and he just couldn’t understand why she couldn’t see this too. So he set about making things right in God’s eyes by finding an new wife who would also give him an heir, something that was crucial for England’s future and Henry’s security. Although it appears really brutal to us today, I think that Henry honestly believed that he was doing the right thing.

    Rachel – An interesting comment and you’re completely right. If we believe that Anne was innocent and that she had no other choice then why do we slate Jane? My feelings on the subject are that you’re right, we cannot vilify Jane for what happened, only the way she went about things. I think the difference between the two women was that Anne wasn’t playing a game and yet Jane was. Anne never set out to trap Henry and yet I think Jane did. I think Anne was honest about who she was and what she wanted and Jane wasn’t. Jane copied Anne’s example and combined it with Catherine’s wifely example and became Henry’s perfect woman. Does that sound rather harsh? That’s just my own personal opinion and I do realise that, at the end of the day, Jane had no choices either, I just get fed up with Anne being painted a whore for what she did and Jane being portrayed as a saintly perfect wife who saved Henry!

    Sharon – Thanks for your honesty and insights. Yes, love is definitely a drug and it makes us do things we wouldn’t normally do and act in ways that we never thought we could. I hope things worked out ok for you.

    luvprue2 – Yes, it does seem in poor taste to accept a marriage proposal from a married man! I’m still not sure that Anne had choices or that she could make up her own rules. I think she did the best she could by refusing Henry but he just wouldn’t let go. I’m sure that she must have thought he’d give up, after all, we all know that Henry was a passionate man who liked to have his own way. I don’t think that Anne could ever have predicted what was going to happen. She was a woman in a time when women just didn’t have choices so I think it is amazing she did what she did.
    An interesting question about Anne’s pregnancy! I love “what-ifs”!

    Well, thanks for all the wonderful comments!

  22. If Catherine and Henry were my neighbors, I would have tole him to f— off, especially if he had slept with my sister and may have had a child by her! This sounds like a Jerry Springer show. You really can’t compare your neighbors with royalty. Your neighbor can’t do what a king can do. Henry is the one to blame for causing so many women so much heartache. None of the women could live and tell him where to go!

  23. It is exactly like a Jerry Springer show, lisannejane! Can you just picture Catherine going on and telling her story and then Jerry bringing out Anne and Henry? Then he’d bring out a few of Henry’s past mistresses, including Mary Boleyn, then he’d bring out Princess Mary and personalities like Henry Percy and Thomas Wyatt, and it would be great fun! Fights, cat-fights, shouting, swearing etc. I can picture it vividly.

  24. This story is better and more dramatic than any Mexican telenovela I ever watched while I was growing up…lol and that’s saying something!!

  25. I am no expert, just a Tudor fan. I find this post very interesting and I must agree that Anne was mostly innocent. She didn’t have a choice. Saying ‘no’ to the King in those times? Who knows what tragedy that might have caused. I also believe that she was ‘used’ by her family. They encouraged it and pushed her into it, to gain power and wealth. I feel very sorry for Anne. On the other side, she was just a human being with flaws. She definitely did enjoy all the attention, excitement, being wanted by the most important man in England. Who would not?

  26. Hi Charmain,
    I’m glad that you enjoyed the post. Yes, I think she revelled in all of the attention and, as you say, this would have been perfectly natural. I think Henry was quite a catch, not only in the fact that he was King of England, but because he was attractive, intelligent and charming – just like Anne. H emust have made her feel very special.

  27. While Anne has been painted a whore, I have seen comments toward Jane that painted her the same way. I’ve also seen people try to present Anne as playing a part to trap Henry. I do not think this is true of either woman. Jane’s actions even after Anne was gone seem to suggest she was really meek and submissive. It is likely that the people trying to trap the King were her brothers, but only after he was showing an interest in Jane.

    To gain a better understanding of the situation, we must remember that Jane wasn’t at all the type of girl who would attract Henry’s physical attentions. He wasn’t scouting for a wife when he first became attracted to Jane, he was looking for sport. Much like Anne, he only got the idea after he was refused. And just as with Catherine, before he met Jane, it is likely Henry was already getting the idea to get rid of Anne. Henry seems to have the ideas first, but get the initiative when he has a replacement later. The same nearly happened to Katherine Parr when Lady Willoughby presented a viable option, but Katherine was able to save herself and Henry wasn’t nearly as dedicated to swapping Queens as he once was.

    Before Jane, Henry had always been with beautiful and vivacious women. Katherine of Aragon, Anne Boleyn, Mary Shelton. These women all stepped outside the usual roles of the submissive woman. Katherine of Aragon was lively and fun before she become overly religious. Anne…well…was Anne. Mary Shelton was a member of a poetry group involving Thomas Wyatt, it is likely that she was creative and exciting.

    And then there is Jane. Jane was plainfaced, quiet, and dowdy. How on Earth did the King choose her? It is likely that he was persuaded in much the same way Louis XIV was with Madame de Maintenon (who was very similar to Jane.) Both women were calm and religious and offered an outlet for the King to vent his frustrations.

    Henry probably had the chance to talk to her while visiting Anne’s rooms. It must have taken time for the interest to grow, probably starting before his affair with Mary Shelton. I can’t really see Henry, who was fanatic about beauty, merely being duped by a girl who was never once described as lovely. Just as he loved Anne, I have to believe he loved Jane.

    Naturally, we can never know, but Jane doesn’t seem intelligent or crafty enough to have the skills necessary to ensnare the King. He may be a man, but he was not oversexed like Francois of France. He was in search of the perfect woman, as Kelly Hart would say. Henry was an intelligent man who was not easily fooled. Let’s give a bit of credit. He lived at court all of his life, he watched courtiers try to pull one over on each other. He would be able to spot similar games.

    Henry most likely recognized the same game that Anne played from Jane. But what if it wasn’t a game, like Anne’s wasn’t? What if Jane really was intent on saving her modesty? It’s all she really had. She was a spinster, unattractive, from a family that didn’t have much to offer by way of dowry. Becoming a mistress would be a lucrative position. Henry had given Bessie a marriage shortly after his affair with her and Mary Shelton was engaged to Henry Norris after her affair with the King. It would probably the only chance Jane would have for a marriage.

    Jane can easily be accused of playing a game, but it is worth considering that maybe she didn’t. I am not claiming she is a saint at all. I hate one sided theories about the wives’ personalities, such as Anne of Cleves being ugly, Katherine of Aragon as a saint, and Katherine Howard the whore. I believe each woman had flaws and virtues. But I think that these situations need more than one perspective. It isn’t one thought that goes into such moments, but multiple thoughts. Doubt, hope, certainty.

    Even if Jane played the King, there was no way she could ever have known that he would ACTUALLY execute Anne. No Queen had really ever been executed before. Just like Anne, Jane could have believed Anne would become a nun. By the time it became clear that the King was intent on executing her, Jane would be powerless to stop him. She could not even stop him from executing the Pilgramage of Grace rebels. How on earth could she change his mind about Anne? And would anyone desire her to? Would it be safe to?

    Jane, just as much as Anne, deserves some compassion. Both women died long before their time and were married to a difficult man.

  28. Yes, Rachel, at this time women you married and women you slept with were not the same; but i have to correct you on one point, and that will lighten Jane’s life maybe. Madame de maintenon is often depicted as pious and plain, but in fact she was beautiful according to the time’s cannon. She was a former libertine ( one of her lovers, Villarceau, painted her in the nude), frien of the great courtesan Ninon de Lenclos and probably good in bed. She surrendered the King before their wedding, he confessed it in his Memories. In fact, the majority of French historians believe that she affected the pious apparence to seduce an aging King who feared for his soul. It didn’t prevent her from having lovers, according to letters she wrote to them. Lighten what Jane did,hmm?

  29. I was not aware that Madame de Maintenon had lover’s during her marriage to the King? I know that she had some in her youth, though I believe that was before she came to court. I know that she later complained to her confessor of the King’s attentions and constant demand for sex even at the age of 70.

    Thanks for the corrections

  30. I recently discovered it reading a book about the love stories related to Versailles; in one chapter the author reproduces a letter that she wrote to one of her male servants, while married to the king: she tells him that she loves him more than Louis XIV and can’t wait for having him in her bed. I admit that I was surprised too!

  31. Let’s also remember that Catherine was a liar. She lied to stay in England when Arthur died…and then she used her influence once replaced to try to de-throne Henry (TREASON)…(from A New Life of England’s Tragic Queen by Joanna Denny).
    And Anne wrote in her surviving papers that she gave in to Henry because she viewed herself as Esther from the Bible. She believed that God wanted her to be Queen to aide the Reformaiton. So she started out not wanting Henry, and refusing him, but who can refuse Henry forever? He could be so perfectly charming when he wanted to be…and she was cornered by him, her family, and her own belief that God wanted her to aide those being persecuted in the Reformation.
    Anne isn’t completely without blame in displacing Catherine-but if it hadn’t been her, it would have been another woman. The death of Henry’s son by Bessie Blount also proppelled her further-Henry was going to legitimize Henry Fitzroy, but he died at 17, so there went those hopes.

    1. What evidence do you have that Katherine was a liar? Where you actually present during all of the attempts of Arthur to consummate his marriage? Nobody actually knows the truth about this issue as nobody else was there. However, there is evidence from Arthur who made out he had sex with Katherine, but he was young and drunk and inexperienced and a lad, which means he was either boasting or had tried and failed. There is also evidence from numerous others who swore that Katherine was distressed and sullen and everything was not as it seemed the next day. Katherine was acting like a bride whose husband was awkward and had not consummated the marriage. Two inquiries, one in Spain found this to be so but others gave the testimony above in Blackfriars in 1529. Katherine swore on her immortal soul that she was still a virgin. Katherine was ill as was Arthur for most of their marriage and they were also kept apart for some of it. The evidence is contradictory, not conclusive. Katherine also made it public and it wasn’t up to Katherine or anyone else but her parents and Henry Vii as to whether she remained in England before she actually married his son Henry Viii so lying or not would make no difference. Katherine also challenged Henry as to whether she was a maid or not on their wedding night. Henry knew the truth and did not answer. It can’t be said for certain but all of the evidence points to Katherine telling the truth and Arthur being mistaken.

  32. Picture this: the most important and richest man in your country wants you. He is older, but still dashing. He has the charisma of a rock star. He showers you with attention and gifts. He even says he’ll leave his wife for you and offers to marry you.

    What would *you* do?

    Honestly, it’s easy to see how Anne could have fallen in love with Henry and the idea of marriage to him.

    I think it’s easy to say she should have kept firm, never fallen in love with him and given him the brush off. But as we know by looking around, plenty of people are less than saintly and find themselves in similar situations.

    Lets not forget that Anne more agreed that Henry’s previous marriage should be null and void. I’m pretty sure Henry assured her Catherine was lying, that he was in the right, and Anne believed it. After all, he had assured her it would be a swift separation.

    It turned out to be an extremely long, but after so many years had passed what was Anne supposed to do? She could desist, and go live in some corner of England, probably never to be married after the three-ring circus that had become her life. Or she could keep her faith that Henry would triumph, that they would be married.

  33. This is a different Rachel from the one who commented above. I think this was a wonderful post, and Aimee and you Claire both present cogent arguments, as have the other contributors to the discussion. The incredibly tedious and simplistic “Anne was a scheming schemer who chased a married man” business that you see online (especially on the IMDb boards and some Facebook groups – TOBG has a lot to answer for) just drives me up the wall. It always intrigues me that Anne is so often derided as a “schemer” but Jane Seymour (at least not as much), Catherine Howard and Catherine Parr are not, when they too were women who married well above their expectations, but were in a position that you ultimately wouldn’t wish on anyone.

    Recently on Facebook I saw a bizarre comment – from a poster who openly admitted that she deliberately was “talking outside the era” and looking at Anne as if she lived today – that Anne had “options” and therefore was “greedy” for accepting Henry’s suit. Options like _what_? Go into a convent? Get herself a job? Jump into bed with him anyway, since the sixteenth century was obviously so sexually permissive and laid back, with no double standards … oh wait … As soon as the King telegraphed his interest in Anne, as if any eligible unmarried man of her class was going to present himself as another “option” – just as Thomas Seymour retreated once Henry set his sights on Catherine Parr.

    She clearly was not interested initially, especially as she would have known about her sister’s liaison with him, and she didn’t want to go down the same path – the transient benefits of being a King’s mistress were not worth the damage to her reputation, and were far outweighed by the lifetime security of a good marriage. Honestly, what do people like the “Anne was greedy” person expect her to have done? Is she seriously expected to have said “no” to a man with absolute power? In fact, she did say no to start with – he just persisted. He was hardly an easily manipulated jock. The King was offering her the chance of the greatest match of all, was obviously deeply enamoured of her and saw her as a fitting consort – for any woman, in an era where the objective was to secure the best marriage possible, that’s an offer one couldn’t refuse. When a man who literally has the power of life and death over his subjects and is telling you that a) his marriage was invalid and therefore to all intents and purposes (once the technical details are sorted out) is single and b) he is determined to marry YOU, as if anyone’s going to say, “Sorry, I’d rather stay just friends.” Especially since she was already in her early to late 20s (depending on which birthdate you accept) and was getting on a bit by contemporary standards – she certainly wouldn’t have wanted to delay much longer and risk totally missing out on a decent match. The fact that it became partly a love match – Anne came to genuinely care for Henry – was a bonus. Also, when someone is showering you with gifts and compliments and attention, it is very seductive, and it’s easy to fall for someone doing that; one of my friends is now married to a guy who did just that – she wasn’t mad keen on him initially, and it was interesting to see how all of a quickly she became besotted with him after the $1000 earrings appeared (it came across as really creepy to outsiders, actually). Lis’s comment above is absolutely spot on.

    I’ve no doubt once it seemed a realistic prospect, Anne certainly wanted to become queen. Once she achieved that goal, she filled the role admirably, I think. It’s interesting to note how many qualities she and Katharine of Aragon shared – intelligence, political ability, an interest in the arts and education, strong religious views, compassion and philanthropy, and a very strong concept of queenship.

    This is not to downplay the dreadful way Katharine of Aragon was treated, but in a sense, Anne was put in an impossible position, where she was damned either way: derided as a “whore” either for sleeping with the King, or for not doing so. She was acutely aware of this and therefore made the best of it. Anne was neither a “schemer”, but nor was she a passive victim either.

    I wonder how much of the opprobrium directed against her stemmed from jealousy and/or resentment that she was not “royal” – if Wolsey say had successfully negotiated a match with a European princess to replace Katharine once Henry made his views on the validity of his marriage known (this had been done plenty of times by medieval kings and nobles – putting one wife aside either because she was “barren” or because politics demanded it, getting an annulment and then marrying another), would that princess have been the victim of such vitriol – then and now? I doubt it.

    Thanks for a really fascinating discussion.

  34. I can totally understand that she probably tried to put him off, but I think she would have been better off becoming his mistress. She wasn’t all that smart trying for a respectible marriage with Henry. Henry treated women badly. Her own sister got dumped with a kid! I think Anne gambled on providing a son, and she lost. I think if she had had a boy, she would have never been executed. Catherine’s death caused her downfall because then Henry felt a little guility about treating her so poorly. That coupled with the miscarrages was the end. Henry thought that he was being punished for marrying his brother’s wife, then he thought he was being punished for adultery with Anne. I think he was a little bit nuts, and convinced himself that she cheated on him, eventhough, the whole thing was impossible.

  35. “She wasn’t all that smart trying for a respectible marriage with Henry. Henry treated women badly. Her own sister got dumped with a kid!”
    This comment assumes that Henry VIII fathered Mary’s children, and that Anne knew this – neither of which was necessarily the case, and also seems to be looking at the situation from a 21st cent. perspective. For a sixteenth century noblewoman, it would have been incredibly stupid to follow in Mary’s footsteps, and especially if this was the case, precisely for that reason. MORE stupid than holding out for marriage. In addition, I don’t think she – or anyone – at that time would have thought of Henry as “treating women badly” (even if they did, that was a man’s prerogative, unfortunately); in fact, he was remarkably restrained for his time, more of a serial monogamist who was a big fan of chivalry and gallantry. No one knew at that stage that Henry would go on to marry six times, or have two of his wives executed. Personally, I think Anne was backed into a corner, where whichever choice was likely to be the wrong one, and took the only palatable course open to her.

    “I think he was a little bit nuts, and convinced himself that she cheated on him, eventhough, the whole thing was impossible.”
    Oh, I certainly agree that Henry was a bit nuts (I think most monarchs were – that much power gets to you). I don’t think he convinced himself that she cheated on him though – in fact, I think he knew damn well that the allegations were bogus. Some of the charges were a physically impossibility – eg when Anne was recovering from childbirth and still in seclusion, so no man other than Henry or a doctor or maybe a priest would have been allowed near her. It’s interesting to contrast his behaviour in the lead up to Anne’s execution with that when the allegations against Catherine Howard came out. Henry was furious and absolutely *distraught* when Cromwell went to him with the allegations against Catherine. Francis Dereham was subjected to the full, horrendous traitor’s death; Thomas Culpeper escaped that because of his rank, but both were tortured. It was as a result of this that adultery in a queen was criminalised as a treasonable offence – adultery was not even a secular crime (but an ecclesiastical one) at the time of Anne’s death, which is why they had to manufacture the ridiculous allegation that she plotted to murder Henry with her co-accused (as if – her position depended on Henry being alive!).

    Contrast this with Henry’s behaviour with Anne – Chapuys apparently commented something along the lines that he was the happiest cuckold he’d ever seen (can’t remember the exact words). He cheerfully courted Jane Seymour and disported himself with the ladies of the court. Not the behaviour of a man who has found out and believes that his wife – whom he once loved – has slept with five men including her brother. Mark Smeaton, of whom Henry had been quite fond, was treated the same as the other men and given a more merciful death (interesting – Dereham arguably outranked Smeaton, but was given no mercy). Further – and I hope someone will correct me if I’m wrong – I remember reading somewhere that the men’s heads were not displayed on London Bridge, which was usual for executed “traitors” whereas Dereham’s and Culpeper’s were (I could be wrong though).

  36. What’s love got to do with it? I understand the situation as a triangle of power, survival, and personal ambition. With a web of other players entangled in the mess. Anne, Catherine, and Henry; Thomas Boleyn; the lack of a male heir concerning everybody. What I don’t get is why Henry picked Anne when he could have any other girl? I would say that somebody lost patience with the whole thing, well, if this was going to be, then let it be and the D- take the hindmost!

  37. Anne had no means to support herself. For an independent young woman, that was really hard. She could not stay unmarried, nor in her father’s house, forever. Tell me then, what would have become of her? Anne was in a tightening trap, and knew it.

  38. Oh And Henry. He was a playmate and a sparring partner… Anne loved only one person in her whole story, and that was Elizabeth.

  39. if you call Anne a whore then the same must be said of Jane Seymour . Catherine understood that her husband would have affairs as it was his perogative to do so as king. Anne shouldn’t be demonized she did what was expected of her

  40. anne Boleyn did have a choice ,she could have said no to henry and kept saying no,what could he have done to her ?why after 7 years did she give in to him and suddenly as well ,he was still married to Katherine when their so called marriage took place,if anne was so supposedly religious why did she have no problem whatsoeverby practically just moving in with henry and becoming the other woman,katherine was displaced as queen by henry as he had ultimate power to do this but anne went along with it and did not have a problem nor a conscience about katherines treatment,one one hand we have anne as as being told what to do as it was a mans world and then we have anne as a strong willed feisty woman who would stand for no nonsense from anyone and far beyond her years ,no one deserves to die like she did ,but she was very careless and reckless ,and I know you can not think in modern terms of tudor times but emotions more or less stay the same and henry was getting older fatter lost youth in other words mid life crisis here and still no son in the picture a very dangerous combination for someone like henry and we have anne ,courtly love ,courtly traditions and all that and a lot of fit young men pandering to her ,not her fault but an explosive situation regarding henry and her.

    1. I’m not sure what you’re meant to do when the King of England, God’s anointed sovereign, tells you that he believes his marriage is wrong in God’s eyes and that it it God’s will that he marries you. I think Anne did the only thing she could, she rebuffed him when it was clear he just wanted a mistress and then when Henry said that he wanted marriage and a son, and that he believed that his present marriage was contrary to God’s law, then she went along with that. There wasn’t anything sudden about it, he offered her marriage in summer 1527 and the couple had been fighting for it since then. I think Francis’s show of support in autumn 1532 led to Henry making the decision to enter some kind of betrothal with Anne, and to the couple finally sleeping together. Once they’d risked pregnancy, things had to move quickly to make sure that any resulting child would be legitimate.

      Anne was not “supposedly religious”, evidence clearly points to her having a true faith. She only co-habited with Henry once they had made promises to each other and consummated their relationship, thus making a binding marriage by Tudor law. You have to remember that neither she nor Henry believed that his marriage to Catherine was valid so they felt free to marry. That’s just how it was. If the King told you that his marriage was contrary to God’s law then you believed him!

  41. One has to consider the possibility that Anne might not be as innocent as some are trying to make her out to be. She was an exceptionally bright and politically astute young woman- one who, as Thomas Wyatt would have us believe- knew how to play with the affections of men. She had seen her sister Mary be cast aside in favour of another young woman at court-and must have been determined that she wasn’t going to simply be another royal bed buddy; she used her natural charisma to ensnare the King, and then made the ultimate demand that he dissolve his marriage of twenty- such years. When she finally had the King, her political astuteness caused her to be wary of Princess Mary, especially after the birth of Princess Elizabeth and the miscarriages. She mistreated Mary horribly, and managed to drive a rift between her and her father, possibly attempting to ensure that Mary couldn’t take the throne. To me, Anne Boleyn, rather than being a woman trapped by the standards of sixteenth century society, was a woman who absolutely knew what she was doing. If she truly had not much political motive, and wished to honour her King, she would have consented to being his mistress from the start. That sounds awfully woman- hating, doesn’t it? I’m really not trying to convey any sort of woman- hate, in fact, I rather admire her for having her own agenda in such a misogynistic era as the sixteenth century. I just find her role in “The King’s Great Matter” slightly shady.

  42. I am late to the party, but in addition to everyone’s point I would also like to add that in a world where divorce was not an option, and it took Henry about 7 years to (sort of) get one, who can blame ANYONE for cheating? These days, we all can accept that someone falls out of love, but we can’t accept cheating because we expect them to break it off before proceeding to the new relationship. Many times, married people are only separated when they are in a new relationship and this is acceptable because they have made their intentions clear to the other party, and just waiting for divorce to be formally finalized.

    As for Henry, he wanted a divorce, and made this clear to Katherine, but she did not accept it and he wasn’t allowed a divorce. I am not sure how I feel about calling him out on it. I love Queen Katherine, I really do. And I respect her immensely. I also know that Henry was only thinking about himself. But strictly from a “cheating” perspective, I don’t see that he had any other choice.

  43. Although Anne did try to put Henry off, she did commit adultery with him willingly and she was not a blameless victim. She went further than his other mistresses because she refused him until he promised to make her his wife. Katherine was still married to Henry and his Queen and although Henry had looked into the validity of his marriage to Katherine, he didn’t go further until he fell in love with Anne Boleyn. The relationship with Anne was much more serious than an occasional mistress while his wife was pregnant or one or two who had his children Anne and Henry embarked on a full blooded passionate love affair and agreed to marry. Henry was determined to make Anne his new Queen and she promised him sons. She even became vindictive in the way she spoke about Katherine saying she would rather see her hanged than acknowledge her any longer as her mistress( as in Queen). Henry refused to give up Anne and Katherine refused to give up Henry and all three lived in the palace as a weird trio. Katherine behaviour shows that she was still his wife as she still made his shirts and Henry wore them. Katherine still appeared in public with Henry and he only abandoned his marriage in 1531. None of his mistresses came close to being his wife as Henry only wanted them for sex. Anne might also be described as not even being his mistress as officially they were not having sex in order to prevent an illegitimate child being born and because Anne refused, although it was most likely Henry also agreed to these terms. However, they were practically living together and had sexual contact. They were more serious than a King and mistress and intended to marry. However, because Henry was still legally married he and Anne were committing adultery by having a full blown love affair while he was married. Henry may have believed he was a bachelor, but he was petitioning the Pope even in late 1532 to hurry up. Henry knew he was not free to marry before ending his marriage, which Thomas Cranmer did in April 1533. However, he didn’t have the authority to do this in the eyes of the Church and rest of the world, but even so, the fact he went through so many legal and theological procedures to get an annulment means that his marriage to Katherine had not ended, even if Henry saw them as over.

    The blame for the affair and end of the marriage and adultery belongs to both partners who knew what they were doing and you can’t blame Anne as a home wrecking whore, as she was seen by many, without seeing Henry in the same light. Henry as King had the power, but he didn’t exactly drag Anne kicking and screaming into the chapel and marriage bed. How do you say no to a King? Well Anne Boleyn did say no to a King for some six or more years and it was very simple, she told him she would only give herself as his wife. Anne had a choice. She wanted to be Queen and went for it. Henry and Anne fell in love and formed a partnership based on mind, body, intelligence and passion and they both had the same aim. Anne also promised Henry sons, the things he wanted most.

    Anne became a victim in the end because she was no longer powerful and her enemies closed in for the kill. She was innocent of the charges that were brought against her and could do nothing to stop what happened to her. In that sense she was a victim, but she was not a victim in her rise to the crown.

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