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Did Anne Boleyn Dig Her Own Grave?

Posted By on July 16, 2009

I apologise for the “inflammatory” title but blame David Starkey as it was he who got me wondering!

When I watched Starkey’s recent “Henry VIII: Mind of a Tyrant”, the episode on Anne Boleyn really got me thinking if Anne Boleyn has to take some responsibility for her downfall and execution. In it, Starkey talked about how Anne’s forthright character and ability to say “no” to Henry, which had been so attractive in a mistress, was not what Henry wanted in a wife. Starkey talked of how Henry could no longer tolerate Anne’s nagging and jealousy, and this must have affected his feelings towards her.

(Video from YouTube – ignore the intro, it’s worth the wait!)

In her book “The Other Tudors: Henry VIII’s Mistresses and Bastards”, Philippa Jones talks about how Henry VIII had unrealistic expectations of women:

“Henry VIII was a man who longed for love. His tragedy was that he was looking for a love that could never exist. He had a vision of the perfect woman, an image of his mother, and no woman could measure up to this fantasy.”

He was attracted to Anne because she was so different to the usual English Rose – she was dark haired and dark eyed, she exuded sex appeal, she was intelligent and could debate subjects like theology with Henry, and she was feisty and would stand up to him – and the couple were known for their passionate arguments, and their passionate “reunions”, but it seems that Henry expected Anne to change once she was Queen. It appears that Henry wanted to “have his cake and eat it” – own a passionate woman but also a woman who was like his mother, or former wife, a woman he could control and master. Anne was not this sort of woman.

We know, from Eustace Chapuys the Imperial ambassador, that Anne Boleyn was jealous of Henry VIII showing attention to other women. Who can blame her when her position relied on keeping Henry’s interest and love? Chapuys writes of how Anne showed jealousy and had words with the King and that he replied that she should “shut her eyes and endure” and that he could lower her as quickly as he had made her rise. What a threat but, if you look at it through Henry’s eyes, a king was expected to have mistresses and dalliances, and a queen was supposed to turn a blind eye, just as Catherine of Aragon and Henry’s mother had done.

So, what mistakes did Anne make that could be responsible for her downfall and tragic end?

  • She nagged Henry – Henry wanted to be in control and live his own life, he certainly did not want a wife who nagged him! A documentary entitled “Days that Shook the World: The Execution of Anne Boleyn” states that there were two reasons for Anne Boleyn’s fall: her “refusal to curb the bold manners he once found so attractive” and her failure to provide a son.
  • She showed her jealousy and berated Henry for flirting with other women, like Jane Seymour – Chapuys describes Anne’s “intense rage” over Henry’s behaviour with Jane Seymour.
  • Anne made an enemy of Thomas Cromwell – Overnight, Cromwell went from being Anne Boleyn’s greatest ally to being her greatest enemy. If Anne had not argued with Cromwell over the dissolution of the monasteries and shown that she was pro-French and against an imperial alliance then Cromwell may well have stayed her supporter. We now know that Cromwell’s plans for an imperial-English alliance, and his fear that Anne would lead to his downfall, led to him conspiring against Anne.
  • Anne incriminated herself – Cromwell cooked up a plot that Simon Schama calls “pure devilry, a finely measured brew: one part paranoia, one part pornography” but did not have any real and credible evidence to convict Anne. As well as a confession of adultery with the Queen from Mark Smeaton, who only gave this confession under torture, Cromwell was fortunate enough to get evidence from the Queen herself. In her fright and confusion, Anne rambled and talked about possible events that could have been misconstrued. She spoke of episodes of courtly love – of Francis Weston declaring his love for her, of reprimanding Smeaton who had made eyes and “love sighs” at her and of reprimanding Henry Norris for looking for ” dead man’s shoes” – but all these entirely innocent shows of courtly love that Anne spoke of were fed back to Cromwell by Lord Kingston and twisted into orgies and adultery.
  • Anne did not provide a male heir – She promised Henry a male heir but did not deliver on her promise.
  • She openly supported the “New Religion” – Anne had an English Bible that she encouraged her ladies to read and shared heretical books with the King. She made many enemies because of this.
  • Anne made an enemy of Mary – Her fear and jealousy of Catherine of Aragon and Princess/Lady Mary led to her alienating Mary and making an enemy of her.
  • Anne believed in Henry’s love for her – Anne was naive enough to believe that Henry’s love and passion for her could last for ever. Who can blame her? Henry moved Heaven and Earth to get Anne!
  • Anne set a dangerous precedent – Anne had shown ladies at court what could be achieved. She, herself, had risen from a lady-in-waiting to usurp the Queen’s place and now somebody could do that to her. No longer did ladies just have to pin their hopes on being a mistress, they could be queen!
  • Anne was reckless – David Starkey talks of Anne’s ambition and recklessness. Was she over ambitious and too reckless?

However long I consider these mistakes that Anne is said to have been made, I can never convince myself that Anne Boleyn was responsible for her fall and execution. As Simon Schama says: “the author of this bloody drama was Thomas Cromwell” and he only acted because he feared for his life and knew that the King had fallen in love with Jane.

In my opinion, Henry VIII has to take responsibility for Anne’s cruel and tragic end. He had warned her that he could drag her down as quickly as he had raised her, and he was true to this promise. Henry VIII had tired of Anne, felt betrayed by her (because she had broken her promise to give him a son) and now wanted to move on to another woman. Henry’s priority was the succession. Unfortunately for Anne, divorce was out of the question and another ending was required – death.

We now know, from historical evidence and research, that Anne Boleyn was innocent of all charges and was executed an innocent woman. She had her faults, like any of us, but she did not deserve to die a traitor to the crown and did not deserve Henry’s hatred or worse, indifference.

What do you think? Does Anne have to take some responsibility for her downfall? Let me know!

The video I’ve included above is from “The Tudors” and, in my opinion, gives a great overview of the passion that Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn had for each other.

60 thoughts on “Did Anne Boleyn Dig Her Own Grave?”

  1. Christina says:

    I agree, I think that many people are to blame for contributing to Anne’s downfall, but she did contribute to it herself. She was ambitious and I think that deep down, she knew that there was consequences to aiming so high. I think because of her firey nature and their passionate relationship, good and bad, was the main reason why she wouldn’t last as being his wife forever. Henry tired of her and got rid of her, because he could.

    What I still don’t understand is, why didn’t Henry just divorce Anne?? Was it because it would be humiliating, that he divorce the woman he single-handedly broke from the Catholic church for?? It just seems so tyranical… to love someone for 10+ years and make such a harsh decision. I could understand that he wanted to be rid of her and didn’t want her as a wife because she wasn’t producing a male heir… but death?!

  2. Kate says:

    It’s just my two cents worth; but Anne’s main failing was that she had “shown the lion his own strength” and Henry, drunk with the ability to divorce a Queen who was known for her piety was no small feat.
    Henry certainly wasn’t going to be held back from divorcing Anne when he had ousted Catherine from the English throne–a queen known for her religious convictions and whose Spanish upbringing meant that she certainly didn’t mix in male company the way Anne did.
    At the time, most wives in Spain were excluded from the company of men not of their own family, they suffered in silence, and wore somber clothes. Bright colors weren’t usually worn by a wife–or by any woman–unless she was a prostitute.
    Add in the fact that Anne failed to provide Henry with his heir and she was gone. Had she carried a boy to term and the child lived, she could have ranted and raved all she liked. She might have annoyed the heck out of him and he certainly might have gone on progress frequently to escape her but she would have been his rightful, and secure, Queen.
    Even if she had adopted the meeker, more subservient, role that Jane Seymour did, it was over for her the instant Henry felt he would never gain a rightful male heir from her and finding a way to get rid of her was exceedingly easy.

  3. Kate says:

    “What I still don’t understand is, why didn’t Henry just divorce Anne??”

    When Henry broke from the Catholic Church the English people began a revolt. And he broke from the church specifically to marry Anne. He had divorced Catherine on flimsy terms and getting rid of Anne was going to be a problem. The people weren’t going to stand for some measley argument about “she won’t give me a son” and there certainly weren’t any theological arguments to be made (i.e., I uncovered my brother’s wife’s nakedness).

    Henry needed an excuse so bad, so awful, that the people would be ready to form a lynch mob in order to get the deed done. Hence, accusing her not only of infidelity, but of incest with her own brother.

    Apparently not many people were fooled–everyone was aware of why he wanted to get rid of her and Henry’s only goal was a male heir. Additionally, if she had remained living, she might have been a rallying point around which people would build a reason to revolt. Dead, she was a victim, but alive she would have been a symbol of something much greater. And some might argue that as the “rightful” queen, any male child born during Henry’s lifetime would indeed have been a “bastard” and the people wouldn’t have stood for him inheriting the throne upon Henry’s death. The “Wars of the Roses” played a large part in Henry’s thinking. Getting Anne out of the way had to be with finality–and her death was the only way to achieve that.

  4. lisaannejane says:

    I agree with you. The blame lies at Henry’s doorstop first and foremost. If Anne had a son, I think Henry would have been more tolerant of her. In my opinion, the desire for a male heir led Henry to behave like a tyrant. If I were Jane Seymour, I would have been scared every day! I like the part in “The Tudors” where Lady Bryan advises a young woman to marry a rich nobody who has no interest in politics – who wants to marry a guy who has the power to kill you!

  5. Claire says:

    Great comments, Kate and Christina, thanks!

    In addition to what Kate has said, Henry could not divorce Anne because this would have automatically made his marriage to Catherine of Aragon valid again and although she was dead it would make Mary legitimate again and Henry only wanted his subsequent heirs to be legitimate.

    1. Lynn Donovan says:

      Claire,
      Would it have mattered since a boy would have superceded Mary’s claim even if she was legitimate?

    2. JudithRex says:

      Divorcing Anne would have nothing to do
      with his divorcing Catherine – it could have been
      done on the exact same grounds, which it
      later was.

      He didn’t do it either because she would be
      a major pain like Catherine and it would take too
      long, or he believed she was a double dealing
      Traitor out for his throne or, at the very least,
      a real danger to it. I think it is the latter.

      The Tudors were aware they were
      usurpers vulnerable to replacement and they
      killed people with scant evidence other than
      discomfort. But all had basis in one way or another.
      Anne was trashing his manhood which was
      tied to his being a fit ruler. Who knows what
      else she was saying that was not made public
      at the trial? She was bad PR that she was
      daily making worse. We have the quotes from
      The tower, but she seemed to have no clue
      about self-editing and I bet there was a lot more
      she said prior when she thought she was
      safe from censure.

  6. Kristian says:

    Hi Claire –
    You bring up a great point that makes me a little crazy when I read treatises which “blame” Anne’s fiery nature for her eventual loss of favor.
    (But this is also the point on which I most connect with Anne, as I have a similar personality.)
    Blaming a woman for her personality is like blaming a leopard for it’s spots! She was who she was. Because she didn’t or couldn’t become someone else when Henry wanted her to, does she deserve blame for her eventual fate?

  7. Kate says:

    “Because she didn’t or couldn’t become someone else when Henry wanted her to, does she deserve blame for her eventual fate?”

    Many people, let’s call them “cotton headed ninny muggins” believe only that Anne was a home-wrecker who set her sights on the throne and got her head lopped off for her troubles.

    However, Anne–like many women of the time–was a product of her family and hopelessly dependent upon them. There were no laws protecting women and certainly no standards of child protection either. As a young woman, you had almost no employment open to you–it wasn’t like she could have gone out and gotten a job to support herself. You either did what your family told you too or you ended up being cast out.

    And then what? Your only hope of employment was with a friend of the family, perhaps as some kind of lady’s maid. If your family was one of the most powerful families in England at the time, did you really think they were going to take your side? Especially over that of your family who could grant them favors, land, and request things from the King? No.

    So Anne pretty much did as she was told but she probably took her family a little by surprise at how far she took it. After all, they were just hoping she could keep the King’s interest long enough to line their pockets, but Anne, seeing her sister Mary’s example, made a play for a much larger stake.

    It was a gamble and if she’d had a son, she would have been absolutely victorious. She didn’t and that, pretty much alone, was her entire downfall. If Jane had proved just as barren, Henry would have done away with her too. What drives me crazy is that very few people think of “Good Queen Jane” as being anything other than the perfect Tudor woman and Queen to boot. Very few people recognize that Jane was set up by her family to catch the King’s interest, just as Anne was, she did it by claiming chastity and refusing his sexual advances, just as Anne did, and that, unlike Anne, her one main accomplishment was to provide Henry with the male heir, after which she conveniently dropped dead. Henry might not have gotten rid of her, but I bet he would have been begging for another son the moment Edward made his way out of the womb. Anne might have gotten off lucky–though Henry was getting fatter as he got older, he was in pretty good shape for a good portion of their relationship. By the time he and Jane were married, he smelled–as one courtier put it “like a dirty chicken coop”. Who wants to sleep with that in her bed?

  8. Kate says:

    Crud, I should have mentioned that the only other option open to a young woman with no livelihood was the most obvious–prostitute. Which, given the rampant STD’s and lack of antibiotics and treatment was bound to give a very short, unpleasant, life.

  9. rochie says:

    I am a bit of a fan of conspiracy theories. Just wondering … did Anne know something about Henry, something personal and damning that he could not bear the thought of the world knowing about. Something sexual? Something not very manly? Did he not measure up? Was he a mummy’s boy? Anne would not be reliable to be discreet and so…
    Just a wicked thought.

  10. Sarah says:

    I like to think they were both control freaks and one would not back down to the other. I think Henry thought that Anne would change and settle down after being made Queen, and Anne thought she had far more power than she had and like many women, thought that she could change Henry.

  11. Claire says:

    Norma from the UK sent me this comment by email and said I could put it on here:-

    “Eric Ives believes that as the marriage was made because the couple were in love and not for dynastic reasons, Anne would have found it hard to find another way to behave when Henry became involved with Jane Seymour. Anne essentially though as we know had to go for factional reasons, she stood in the way of hope of a new found friendship with Spain and she disagreed with Cromwell on how the ‘money’ from the monasteries should be used. Cromwell knew it was her or him, Henry did want everything both ways, he needed a son of course (with the Wars of the Roses not that far behind the country this I can understand in an age when it was not thought that a woman could rule successfully) and also he needed money to fight his foreign wars. The more you read about Henry the less strength can be seen, physically powerful and charismatic certainly and being a bully helped him keep control, but I think Anne was a better ‘man’ than him, if you’ll forgive the gender problem there, she appears with the little of her we know to be honest about her faults as well as proud of her achievements. It appears also in the Eric Ives book that Henry at the end of his life admitted that he had used her badly.

    I did enjoy the David Starkey programme and enjoy his books too, the publication a few years ago about the young Elizabeth I was excellent. I think I might be in a minority when I say I did not like the TV series The Tudors or the film The Other Boleyn Girl, I found, again from what we know, there are too many major inaccuracies and a desire just to give modern audiences a sexy show with the standards of today being used and no thought given to the strict standards of those times, particularly the convention of courtly love.”

  12. Claire says:

    Kate,
    Love your comment about “cotton headed ninny muggins” – love it, must call someone that today!! Although I could never condone a woman coming between a married couple, Henry’s marriage to Catherine had been well and truly over for years. Warnicke writes of how he had been looking for a new wife, and considering foreign princesses, years before Anne even came on the scene. Anne was not a homewrecker and I don’t think she was a woman who had set her sights on the crown either. People talk a lot about her ambition and the whole “pride comes before a fall” but I’m not sure she was like that at all.

    Kristian,
    Yes, does a woman deserve to be executed for her fiery nature and the fact that she talks back to her husband, particularly when that was what had attracted the King to her in the first place?! Unlike everyone else he was surrounded by, Anne did not say yes to him all the time and say what he wanted to hear.

    Rochie,
    I love conspiracy theories too! Yes, perhaps Henry was scared of what she would say about his impotence problems and other secrets – my imagination could run away with me here….

    Sarah,
    Yes, definitely. I think of Anne and Henry’s relationship being a meeting of minds and passions. Finally, Henry had found someone who he could talk to as an equal, who shared his dreams but he wanted this somehow combined with a traditional submissive wife – what was he thinking?!

    Norma,
    I’m a major Eric Ives fan and yes, I completely agree that Anne was in a very vulnerable position with the marriage being based on love. She had no royal family to protect her, no country to go to war for her etc. Poor Anne. But, as you say, she was more of a “man” than Henry ever was and in many ways he was weak and cowardly because he let others manipulate him.

    Where did you find out about Henry admitting to treating her badly? I’d love to know because I read that he never mentioned her again. It would be nice to know that he did feel remorse.

    Regarding “The Tudors” and “The Other Boleyn Girl”. I love Philippa Gregory’s novels as an entertaining read (hated the film – appalling!) because they are inspired by real historical events but the trouble is when people read them and think that they are factual. The same with “The Tudors” – the series is obviously raunchy (but then so was H with his many mistresses) and in some ways has tried to stick to fact, with execution speeches and many of Henry’s speeches being the exact words that were said, but they have taken many liberties. Again the problem is when people treat the series as fact and then base their opinions on this. I think “The Tudors” is great to watch with a glass of wine ine the evening to relax too but it can never replace research. I love the fact that it has inspired a new generation of people to find out about the period and to find out the truth about Anne Boleyn. I’m not sure you are in the minority for disliking it, many people dislike it because of the liberties it has taken and liberties it has had to take because actors left etc. For me, it’s useful to illustrate a blog like this one. I found those clips quite moving as they did show the real passion that was between Anne and Henry, and Anne’s vulnerability.

  13. Claire says:

    I’m still struggling with Henry’s feelings for Anne and how he could go from loving her so passionately to executing her. I know us women are accused of being all emotional when we think like this and also accused of judging Tudor times through 21st century eyes but people are people and how can you do that to someone you have loved and done so much to be with?! I really do struggle with Henry’s psyche. Perhaps his jousting accident did affect his personality, I don’t know.

    1. Linda says:

      He wanted what he couldn’t have. Then he got it and tired of her. I don’t think he loved her.

  14. Matterhorn says:

    I think the responsibility ultimately lies with Henry. Even if Anne had been more of the meek, submissive type, I doubt this would have saved her. The fact that she was “humble and loyal” certainly did not keep Henry from getting rid of Catherine of Aragon when she failed to produce a son.

    I just had one question: wasn’t the marriage with Anne also annulled in the end? So, in a sense, he divorced her but had her killed anyway? That would make it all even stranger.

    I also think the question of whether she deliberately “had her sights on the throne” is a very interesting one. Might I ask, would you consider posting on this? It would be great to hear your thoughts on the topic.

    1. Lynn Donovan says:

      i think it actually comes to what thomas more said “if the lion knows his own strength,there will be no controlling him!”Anne and cromwell were guilty of informing henry what he could do not what he should to benefit themselves and it kinda backfired on them. So as bad as Henry was, Anne and Cromwell contributed to his tyranny. Some would Archbishop Crammer helped there too. Just presenting a new thought to the machete to the intellectual thicket (Sorry borrowed that from Captain Jack)

  15. Sherri says:

    Henry could very well have divorced Anne by the theological reasoning that he had an affair with her sister, Mary and that she also was precontracted to Henry Percy – not by the official route but by Henry Percy and herself agreeing to marry. These reasons might not have given Henry sufficient grounds for divorce but certainly for an annulment.

    Henry could not allow Anne to live because of several reasons. He needed a scrape goat for raiding the abbeys and monasteries for their riches as well as the reformation.
    Who better than Anne. I do not believe that Henry did it all for love. I believe that the opportunity arose and he took it. Yes, Anne among others let Henry know that he was a king without limits.

    Henry also could not have Anne live because he was obessed with her. Obession never goes away – it weakens but it is always there waiting in the background. By killing Anne he made sure that the subject of his obession was gone from his life.

    One of my own theories is that Anne could have challenged the throne with Elizabeth – she had enough passion, fire, determination and ambition to do that.

    Anne humilated Henry before his court and before all the monarchs of Europe. Henry lived large and had a large ego. Anne was browbeating him and making him look like a fool.

    I do believe that Anne was far more intelligent and intellectual than Henry – Elizabeth came by her intelligence and intellect from her mother not from her father. I think Henry as time went on knew that Anne was more of a man than he was and that in time Henry knew that she would surpass him.

    Anne’s and Henry’s expectations of a queen and her role were at two opposite ends of the spectrum. Anne thought that their life together would be the same whereas the position of queen required something totally different. Henry might have replaced Anne even if she had a son. Because he had conquered her by then and he wanted something different. Anne was the opposite of Katharine and Jane was the opposite of Anne.

    How do you go from loving a person into hating them or being indifferent to them – which I think Henry was to Anne. Henry supposedly loved Katharine also and look what he did to her. Henry was narcisstic – if he didn’t get what he wanted he could be very cruel, mean, angry and vengeful. Henry wanted the perfect relationship – as they say ” a whore in bed and a madonna in public.” (Hope I didn’t offend anyone). As the saying goes “look at how the man has treated the woman or women before you and beware because he will treat you worse than the last one.”

    Anne was Henry’s true match and their relationship was very complex as well as both their personalties were complex. I also read somewhere maybe in Eric Ives book that at the end of his life Henry did admit that he used her badly. Maybe one of the reasons he never mentioned Anne is that the pain and horror of what he had done to her haunted him.

    They created one of the greatest rulers of all time – Elizabeth 1st. Elizabeth got the best of both of them. Imagine if Anne had not been executed would Elizabeth still have been queen ? Probably not and that in itself is the greatest contribution and achievement that Anne ever gave to the world.

    Anne was not to blame but did accept her fate knowing that she left behind the “Tudor Sun”.

  16. Claire says:

    Matterhorn,
    You are correct, the marriage between Henry and Anne was annulled before she was executed making it ridiculous that Anne could be executed for treason (by adultery) when they were never married anyway. Henry needed the annulment to make Elizabeth illegitimate and to “draw a lline” under that marriage so he could make a fresh start with Jane.
    The question of whether Anne had set her sights on the throne at all costs is an interesting one and I may just consider that in another blog. Thanks for the comment.

    Sherri,
    Thanks for your great comment – lots to consider and think about. Your theories regarding the danger of Anne being left alive do make sense. I actually think that Anne would have done anything to keep her daughter safe and so would have gone off into exile but I think that Henry feared what she would do, what her supporters would do and whether there would be uprisings backing Elizabeth’s right to the throne.

    You’re right about Henry’s treatment of Catherine too, he treated her and Mary despicably so perhaps his treatment of Anne and subsequent wives is not so surprising. Henry does seem to have been a narcissist and perhaps that is the only way of looking at this extraordinary turn of events, from passion to indifference, from love to murder. I cannot believe that any human being can go on with their lives without some remorse or guilt eating away at them. It was clear to everyone that Anne was innocent, even Chapuys who hated her and called her “the concubine” writes of how Anne was innocent, so I doubt that Henry could have believed Cromwell for a minute.

    I’m sure that Anne would have been proud of what her daughter accomplished. Thanks for the comment.

  17. It’s really hard to say that she dug her own grave, when I don’t believe she knew that this would happen to her. The king fell in love with her, and married her for love. She believed that her position would be safe once she bore him a son. When that didn’t happen, she tried to maintain her personality that she had while she was his mistress. Anne didn’t think things too clearly. Marrying for love was a major feat, although weak when the conditions of bearing a son were so high.

    Cromwell wasn’t stupid… He knew that Anne’s position was vunerable when she didn’t have the promised son. Also his position was vunerable.. Henry wasn’t exactly happy with him, and it was either him or Anne. He played to Henry’s sensibilities, and it worked. Anne was the great love of his life, but he was more concerned with the line of succession. It’s really sad.

  18. Bassania says:

    History can ‘blame’ Anne because she didn’t produce a son, i nfact Henry did blame her, Her miscarriages were due a disease of the uterus, but also by this time in his life Henry did have a bit of difficulty when it came to potency, so Anne’s lack of pregnancy could also have attributed to this she also could have been the cause of this, but rather than accept that the problem copuld have been his own, he had Anne behaeded so she couldn’t spread word of his impotency, this is just a theory and of course could be completely off, but i think it might have had something to do with it

    1. Lynn Donovan says:

      Another theroy was she was rh- and henry was rh+ it would be really interesting to see if this was true then poor Anne would never be able to give him another living child. Sorry claire know you don’t particularly care for Allison Weir’s theroies but it would explain her miscarraiges.

  19. Claire says:

    Hi Bassania,
    Thanks for the comment. Where did you read about Anne having a disease of the uterus? There is an interesting article on Anne’s miscarriages at http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/1045600/anne_boleyn_the_reproductive_problems.html?cat=37 which talks about whether Anne’s miscarriages were possibly due to her being Rhesus negative or the immense stress she was under. Miscarriages can happen for all kinds of reasons and sometimes for no apparent reason. There is also an interesting article at http://www.pubmedcentral.nih.gov/picrender.fcgi?artid=1139382&blobtype=pdf which explores the myths surrounding the number of miscarriages that Anne Boleyn and Catherine of Aragon suffered, it makes interesting reading.
    I think you’ve definitely got a point about Henry beheading Anne so she could not publicise his impotency. Henry was obviously suffering with it at this point and did not want his power as a man to be questioned – much easier to heap all of the blame on Anne and get rid of her. Henry needed everyone to think of him as powerful and virile.

  20. Claire says:

    Hi LadytoAnneBoleyn,
    The title was very tongue in cheek but was inspired by some historians implying it by blaming Anne’s behaviour and character. You’re definitely right when you say that Cromwell knew how to play the King, he played on Henry’s doubts, fears and paranoia, and it must have been easy to turn an already paranoid king against his wife. A sad end to an incredibly passionate and interesting relationship. A tragic end for Anne and I’m not sure that Henry ever found happiness.

  21. Brittney says:

    Hey Claire! Just wanted to thank you so much for the Anne Boleyn FIles! I get on this site like, every day! LOL It’s really awesome that you keep it updated with new and fresh information though, anyway I really appreciate it! Thanks!!!!

  22. Claire says:

    Thank you, Brittney, that’s so sweet of you to say that and I really appreciate it. Although it’s hard work, I absolutely love it.

  23. Bassania says:

    i got the idea of the disease of the uterus while reading a biography of Henry VIII wives when i was about 12 years old and unfortunately can’t remember what it was called or who wrote it. i am hunting it down because i desperately want to read it again, it had some very interesting points in it, from what i can remember.

  24. Bassania says:

    Oh Thanks for those links, they were very interesting to read.

  25. Kate says:

    To be fair, I’m not a big fan of adultery either…but it’s a bit different here in 2009 than it was in Anne’s day. Women have options open to them, the means to support themselves, and the ability to live alone without being seen as “loose” or just plain weird.

    I firmly believe that Anne was set up by her family to capture Henry’s attentions. She wasn’t the only girl being paraded around in front of him–she just happened to be the one who caught and kept his attention. As I said, she couldn’t very well tell her family “no” because what else was she going to do? And at least very early on in their relationship she apparently had no interest in his attentions.

    Anne may have been one of the very earliest recorded examples of sexual harassment ever. One can’t tell their monarch, especially one whose family fortunes are so dependent upon his favor, “thanks, but no thanks”. Well, not and expect anything other than a one way ticket to the Tower.

    So here’s Anne, probably not wanting to be married off to some fat old lech after she’s no longer useful as the King’s bed mate. She set her sights much higher than the rest and also paid the ultimate price.

    I think Henry probably thought he loved Anne, had she borne him a living son, she might have been as well regarded as Queen Jane, and it might have been by her that he demanded to be buried (had he outlived her). I think Anne did eventually fall in love with him and after yielding up the “prize” but having nothing to keep him (i.e., a son), he rapidly grew disinterested in her.

    Poor Anne. I realize her remains were found and reburied during Queen Victoria’s reign. I hope they put what was left in something better than that old arrow chest her body was hastily thrown into.

  26. Kelley says:

    I think it’s unfair to blame Anne. Henry fell in love with her independent, forthright manner and then expected her to be placid and enduring after the marriage. I wrote before about working in a male dominated profession — construction — one of the last true bastions of male supremacy and mentioned how men can want women to be many things but only on their terms.It can be a misogynistic minefield. I can only imagine that the patriarchal entrenched culture of Tudor, England wasn’t very different. I’m not saying in general men are like this, I think that male dominant cultures influence a certain attitude that is long established. We’re still speaking of many different personalities and no one stereotype applies adequately. Henry fell in love with an amazing, incandescent woman and wanted to possess her — again like breaking a spirited horse. But her spirit was never broken and she failed to provide the heir he expected of her.

  27. Claire says:

    You’re right, Anne was blameless. Anne’s fall was down to Cromwell and he, in a way, was just trying to keep the King happy and save his own neck. Anne’s behaviour added the required fuel to Cromwell’s fire as her innocent flirtations could be twisted and used against her, but she did nothing to deserve being executed as a traitor. I’m glad that she had a strong faith to keep her going during those dark days.

  28. Aimee says:

    I think Anne made a classic error in trusting the King. She’d watched him betray, abbandon, and murder/execute multiple people, including close friends and his own former wife and daughter.

    Sociopathic types can be very charming and convincing. If Henry was a true sociopath, he would have gone out of his way to present himself as the kind of man he believed Anne Boleyn could admire and love (i.e., open-mindedness about educated women, theology, sincere, faithful lover, etc.) Once he “secured” her via marriage, such pretenses were no longer necessary, he “owned” Anne now, and his true colors and preferences began to show.

    As for Anne’s murder/execution, I think if Henry was a true sociopath….a classic sign of sociopathy is refusal of personal responsibility. Once the “marital bliss” and “joy of possession” wore off, and Anne gave birth to a daughter and miscarried a son, Henry suddenly needed answers for how he could have turned his entire country upside-down, abbandoned and humiliated his loyal first wife, neglected his daughter, killed Thomas More, etc…. He could not accept responsibility for these things, it was more credible to blame witchcraft (a common complaint at the time.) Henry may have convinced himself Anne was a witch. If he needed to nurture himself as “Bluff Prince Hal,” he had to scapegoat a “witch” for his fall from grace. Anne, without any real political or military power and unpopular with the court, the common people, and the whole of Europe, was an excellent candidate.

  29. Claire says:

    Hi Aimee,
    Great comment and yes, I think Henry did need a scapegoat for his atrocities. I can just see him thinking “How could I have killed Thomas, my great friend? I must have been bewitched. Yes, a spell has been cast over me!”. Yes, Anne was indeed the perfect candidate but his atrocities did not stop with her death!

  30. Linda says:

    Cromwell was the key to her downfall. He had to remove not only her, but the men that were closest to Henry that would rise to defend her if he had only attacked her.
    When Henry was weary of Anne, still desperate for a son, and paranoid over suspected treason,and smitten by the milky Seymour, he was easy pray to Cromwell’s plan to protect himself against Anne’s fry over his handling over the monntsteries. Henry still hold the responsibility for Anne’s death, and those condemned with her.

  31. marwin says:

    i think she herself brought her own downfall,because i beleive in all the charges put against her and also she was the cause of the reformation.A king forced his people to beleive in a heretic religion just for an annulment from a most devout wife only to end up having his whore,that he’d done so much for,executed.She may call herself a queen but for me she is a whore who caused so many people so much pain just so she can lead on a king only to use him in order to become a so called”QUEEN OF ENGLAND”

  32. Claire says:

    Hi Marwin,
    I find your comments very interesting. Even Chapuys, the Imperial ambassador of the time and Anne Boleyn’s number one enemy (he called her the concubine), did not believe that Anne was guilty of the charges so I am not sure where you have got this information from. Yes, Anne Boleyn was the catalyst of the Reformation in England because of Henry breaking with Rome and her sharing Reformist books with Henry but, as Alison Weir points out, Anne died a Catholic, a reformist Catholic but a Catholic nonetheless.
    There is no evidence that Anne was a “whore” or that she was unfaithful to the King and I think that Henry VIII has got to be held responsible for the suffering of his people, not Anne. Anne was not alive when events like the massacres associated with the Pilgrimage of Grace happened.
    What do you mean when you say that the King forced his people to believe in a heretic religion? Henry did indeed break from Rome but he was always a Catholic through and through and stamped on people who were too “reformist”. Starkey writes of how Henry sent for Cranmer when he was dying and clutched his hand as he died, and that this could be seen as Henry giving his blessing for Cranmer’s reformist ideas and the Protestant Church which he was to set up during Edward VI’s reign.
    Anne was no angel but I don’t believe that she deserved to be executed as a traitor when she was innocent of all charges. 5 innocent men were also executed and there was no evidence against them, apart from Smeaton’s confession which was probably gained under torture or under the promise that he would be executed like a nobleman rather than as a commoner – a much quicker death.
    I’d love to know why you think she was a whore and why she caused people pain.
    Thanks for the comment.

  33. Rosemary says:

    Anne was a temple prostitute in an occult organization. Her ascent to the throne was accomplished through witchcraft as she had the demon lilith in her. She had to be jealous as the spirit of Lilith is jealousy. Dont’ expect civilized behavior from a temple slut!
    Katherine of Aragoen was removed because all of the children that katherine had, except for Mary , were killed by sorcery. Anne experienced the same through another witch who took her place. There is nothing good or respectful about An ne. She has been a whore forever. Intelligent she is not. She spelled and controled men . appeared to be intelligent but she is witless and focused on sex with nothing else to contribute to a relationship.

    She drove him crazy; he wanted a whore and he got one. He had a wonderful queen and wife with katherine but he was that type and a very confused king, truly not worthy to sit as king.

  34. Claire says:

    Hi Rosemary,
    Thanks for taking the time to comment. Where did you get this information from? I’d love to know. Anne Boleyn was a very religious person and I don’t think she would have dreamed of getting involved in witchcraft and the majority of historians agree that she was framed and was innocent of all charges against her. Why do you have this opinion of Anne?

  35. Julia says:

    I think that Anne has not been proven innocent by “contemporary scholars” as said in the comments below. I think Anne was indeed guilty of many things. I think she had sex with her brother because she had waited years and years for Henry to make love with her after divorcing Katherine and she was hot for sex with someone. The only man allowed entry to her rooms was her brother. I think that accusation is true as her brothers wife also corroborated that she caught them. I think the accusation of poisoning of Katherine of Aragon is true too. I think she tried to poison Mary, Katherine’s daughter and I think she tried to kill Katherine of Aragon. They both hated each other and Anne often said that one of them would kill the other someday. I don’t know if anne actually had orgies but I think that she had sex with men other than Henry and her Brother. I don’t think the “scholars” who have proven that she was totally Innocent as heretofore said can prove her innocence at all. I think that Katherine of Aragon’s heart was black because she was poisoned and not because she had “heart cancer” as these people, eager to prove Anne innocent would say. Anne was an ambitious captivating sexual woman. She would stop at nothing, including poisoning her perceived rivals to be the Queen and keep Henry. sorry folks, Anne has NOT been proven innocent as you would protest that she has been in the five hundred years since her death.

  36. Claire says:

    Hi Julia,
    Thanks for your comment and I would love to know why you think this because even Chapuys, who hated Anne and who had adored Catherine of Aragon, thought that Anne was innocent. There is absolutely no evidence to support the charges against Anne. The dates Cromwell gave for Anne’s alleged adulteries do not make sense in that she was either with the King, in a different place entirely or in confinement on 13 out of the 20 dates. We do not know exactly what evidence Jane Boleyn gave and all we know is that George Boleyn spent a long time visiting his sister. Both George and Anne were highly religious and would have thought incest an abominable act. The fact that Anne swore her innocence when taking the sacrament is a good indication of her innocence as she would not have wanted to risk her soul by lying
    The whole poisoning story is just that, a story, with no foundation at all. There is absolutely no evidence that Anne tried to kill anyone. Her words were “she is my death and I am hers” which some people think she said of Mary and others say it was of Catherine. This does not mean murder, it simply is Anne saying that they would be the cause of her death (i.e. bring her down) or she could be the cause of theirs. Anne was known for her rants and raves and I can’t see these words as a death threat.
    I don’t think we can hand-on-heart say that Anne was definitely 100% innocent of all charges but there is no evidence to the contrary. All she was guilty of was flirtation, which was the common courtly love ritual anyway, and being rash in her words to Norris when she said that he looked for dead man’s shoes. She may have been a hot headed, passionate woman who had a quick temper but, from my research into her life, I do not believe that she was an adultress or murderess.
    We’ll just have to agree to disagree!
    Thanks for taking the time to comment, Julia.

  37. Sue says:

    Having read your list, I tend to agree with what most people have said that it was a mixture of several things. She herself said : “I do not say I have always shown him [King Henry] that humility which his goodness to me merited. I confess I have had jealous fancies and suspicions of him, which I had not discretion enough, and wisdom, to conceal. But God knows, and is my witness, that I have not sinned against him in any other way.”

    When you say she made the mistake of making Katherine and Mary her enemies, I don’t think she was entirely to blame on that score. Cromwell, she could have handled differently and they were both flexing their power – only he saw an opening to get rid of her. The King had fancies for another woman, he joined with the faction supporting her to bring her down. Interestingly I was just reading Weir’s new book, “the Lady in the Tower”, and she lays the blame squarely on Cromwell and the faction supporting Princess Mary. They worked very quickly and Henry went in two days from calling her his “beloved wife” to believing she wanted him dead. In cockney vernacular, she got “stitched up” and Cromwell made sure no one could get to Henry to change his mind by including in the charges some of his closest men from the privy chamber.

  38. james says:

    this is rubbish

  39. Claire says:

    Hi James,
    What is “rubbish”? The article? The video? People’s comments? Please elaborate on what you mean.
    Thanks.

  40. Edyta says:

    Could anyone answer me to this question?

    Does Henry loved Jane above Anne and Katherine as he said so, what’s your opinion?

  41. Claire says:

    I think he loved Jane because she gave him what he wanted, a son, and because she tried hard to be the queen he wanted, but it was not the passionate love he felt for Anne. I also don’t think it can be compared to his love for Katherine – they had been married for over 20 years and it had started off with Henry loving her and being attracted to her, it only started to wane when Henry realised she could no longer give him what he wanted and needed.

  42. Edyta says:

    Thanks Claire

    I was still hoping that Anne was Henry’s only real love and just because of his offspring he let her go…. I agree with you we can’t compare his feelings to any of his wives.

  43. Baroness Von Reis says:

    NO WAY!!!!! But Cromwell and Henry did true that.

  44. Shannon says:

    It’s been a while since anyone published on this but I can’t help but add my two cents in regards to why perhaps Henry had Anne killed. He had already decided he was going to marry Jane. He couldn’t have another former wife claiming she was the true Queen of England. He needed her dead. In addition, as long as she was alive, there could have always been people who were insistant that Elizabeth was the rightful heir to the throne just the way others had been for Mary (although this happened throughout both girls’ lives anyways).

    Henry saw what happened around Europe when it came to the legitimacy of his daughter, Elizabeth, while he was married. He did not need any complications about who his heir from Jane’s children should be.

    Speaking of Jane, can you imagine what she must have been feeling on her wedding day? I would have been terrified!!!

  45. margaret says:

    henry did not love anne ,he lusted after her as he lusted after other women it was sexual adventure he was after and he got it with anne but that did not last ,it never does,not 500 yrs ago and not now so anne knew that she was taking one hell of a risk by promising him a son and flaunted the fact while pregnant ,thats seems very stupid and vain to me ,did she think she would be treated better than catherine and mary ,who weree treated disgracefully

  46. Jo says:

    I’m not sure why you included “did not produce a male heir” to the list of her contributions to her downfall. Seeing that the gender of the offspring is determined by the male sperm, she has ZERO control over the gender of a child. That is the most archaic and ridiculous thing I have heard. She hoped to give him a male heir, yes, but that was up to his biology which – woman after woman – did not produce a male heir.

    I also think that this is a ridiculous article to begin with and was surprised to find it written by a woman. All of these arguments are those made by men in Henry’s day and age to support their poor actions. Anne was who she was, from the beginning. Henry signed on. He knew what she was like and you say yourself in the article that he had impossible expectations. He killed her. Basically, he murdered her. Nothing she did condones this act or takes any of the blame away from him. This is finger pointing at it’s worst. This entire article is pathetic.

    1. Claire says:

      You might actually want to read the article in its entirety before making a knee-jerk reaction. As I say at the beginning, the article was sparked off by things that David Starkey said and reasons that other people give for Anne’s downfall, not what I believe. I also conclude “However long I consider these mistakes that Anne is said to have been made, I can never convince myself that Anne Boleyn was responsible for her fall and execution…In my opinion, Henry VIII has to take responsibility for Anne’s cruel and tragic end. He had warned her that he could drag her down as quickly as he had raised her, and he was true to this promise. Henry VIII had tired of Anne, felt betrayed by her (because she had broken her promise to give him a son) and now wanted to move on to another woman. Henry’s priority was the succession. Unfortunately for Anne, divorce was out of the question and another ending was required – death.” Which is exactly what you say.

      So, “the most archaic and ridiculous thing” you have heard is not what I have said at all, it is one of the reasons that others have given for her fall.

      Also, it doesn’t matter what we know today about how gender is determined, what matters is what was believed at the time. Henry VIII had convinced himself that his marriage to Catherine was wrong in God’s eyes because God had not blessed him with a living son, so when the same thing happened with Anne he truly believed that that marriage was wrong too. Henry VIII was very religious and very superstitious, that is what he believed and his priority and his duty were to provide the country with an heir to secure the succession. Our present day knowledge and beliefs have nothing to do with that, Henry believed what he believed.

    2. Pam says:

      Jo, your comment “the most archaic and ridiculous thing” is ignorant. In those days it was believed that a woman’s “job” was to have sons & produce heirs. That was especially true for Kings. Henry was obsessed with providing a male heir so that the Tudor line did not end with him. They did not know about DNA and that the gender of the child depended on the sperm that the father provided. They had different beliefs back then. You missed the entire tone of the article. This was a list of things that possibly contributed to her downfall. Henry was growing tired of her, and her not giving him the male heir he desired was the straw that broke the camel’s back. It was not the sole reason as to why he decided to have her executed as a traitor. Was it wrong? Yes. Was she innocent? We believe so. Was it murder? Yeah pretty much.

  47. I think Anne Bolyen was born innocent. All of the problems, that she had weren’t her fault.
    Anne’s father but and her Uncle had no back bone. Thomas Howard wanted the Howard
    Family to rise, but he shouldn’t have blamed Anne for baptism not giving birth to a son.

    Anne no control over the sex her child. Lady Elizabeth Bolyen should have smacked the
    Fire out of her brother for not saving Anne and George. Henry VIII got away with Adultery
    and murder. He cheated on Catherine of Aragon.

  48. Anne was. Innocent. She was set up. Why didn’t Henry VIII send back her voice somewhere
    To live out her days away from his bank court. He wasn’t going to be satisfied with any
    of his wives.

  49. Henry. VIII wasn’t going to be satisfied with any woman, that he married. He bullied
    Catherine of Aragon, and cheated on her. He was a womanizer. Anne didn’t please him, No
    Male heir, so he looked to Jane Seymour.

  50. The Duke of Norfolk, Thomas Howard disgusted me, the way, that he used his sister’s daughters. He didn’t stop the executions of baptism Anne and George.

    He let a child bride marry Henry VIII when his niece Katherine married. Henry should have sent Katherine, Jane, and Anne away from his court. Enough blood shed.

  51. As for Elizabeth, poor child had no Mother. Only wives of Henry VIII, that showed any
    Concerns. For Elizabeth were Anne of Cleves be and Katherine Parr.

    1. Its only been the last four years I’ve taken a interest in Anne Boleyn and trying to peace together what is fact from history fiction or hear say that you find on many websites. One things everyone agree on is the fact no body can agree on anything when it comes to Ann’s downs fall.

      at best if Anne was guilty of anything was 3 key factors.

      1. She craved a good life style and worked her way up the ladder but like all women in those days. it was not worth being Murdered for.

      2. She was strong willed and very clever women and would not change a after her and Henry got married as I think Henry so wanted. Today if men we’re to treat women in such discontent as Henry did with most women this would be wrong and any man to treat a women as if a brainless moron with no hopes or dreams or who could not think for themselves but most of all he wanted Anne to keep her ” educated opinions” to her self and not to act like they did at the start of there relationship or court ship as its was known then I think Henry wanted s women as this then would have given him power of them and but with everything said and done …..he was king after all and women should know there place but Ann being Ann over stepped the find line sadly.

      3. because she did not give Henry a male child……fact!

      the real truth is we can debate until the cows come home the fact remains there was no justice. Ann was framed, set up made out to be cheating whore with six finger who dances around a fire was some witch as her baby was said to be deformed also but is there any truth or fact in this?

      Can you blame Ann for wanting a lavish life style, to be loved by one man and one man alone but that man used his male ego and middle area rather than his brain and because I’m king I can have any women or do anything I want…even getting away with Murder more than Once…

      Sorry I knew to all this

  52. Katerina says:

    I do not [edited] understand the male heir thing, the children is not coming from women its coming from the men, women are just caring for the baby until they’re born. what could she do if he couldn’t be able to give her a male sperm? she cannot change the babies gender in her tummy?

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