Execution – Was it Anne Boleyn’s Only Claim to Fame?

Posted By on May 26, 2009

Anne Boleyn Engraving

Anne Boleyn Engraving

This blog post was inspired by a comment I received from an Anne Boleyn Files visitor who said:-

“I think that what most are forgetting is that Anne was only great because of her tragic end, she would never have been mentioned except she was the first Queen to be executed.”

I actually don’t agree with this statement at all. Yes, Anne Boleyn was the first English queen to be executed, and she wasn’t the last, but we don’t remember her for this. Actually, what many people remember her for is what they were taught at school – that Anne Boleyn was a traitor, an adulteress, a witch, a woman with six fingers… – but Anne Boleyn was so much more than this. Please don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that Anne Boleyn was a martyr who died for her beliefs, because she quite clearly wasn’t that kind of person, but she also wasn’t JUST the first queen to be executed.

Here are the reasons I think that Anne Boleyn was a “great” woman and why she should be remembered, but please feel free to add to this list in your comments or to disagree with me:-

  • “No English queen has had more impact on the history of the nation than Anne Boleyn” – That is what Joanna Denny says about Anne Boleyn and I have to agree. Anne Boleyn changed the course of English history by bringing about the formation of the Church of England. Yes, Henry VIII is responsible for breaking with Rome but he did it because of his love for Anne and because of her influence over him. Anne showed Henry evangelical tracts and books that gave Henry his ideas about rulers being answerable to God and not the Pope.
  • The Reformation in England – As well as being the cause of Henry VIII breaking with Rome, Anne also gave Henry many other ideas and encouraged his study into theology. Not only that, she also encouraged her ladies to read the “English” Bible.
  • Charity – Contrary to many people’s opinions, Anne Boleyn was actually popular with the English people. When she was arrested and tried, there was much unrest and Sir William Kingston was actually worried that the Tower of London would be stormed. Thomas Cromwell also postponed her execution due to the crowds of people who had gathered in support of Anne. Anne Boleyn was popular because she was kind and charitable. She often gave alms out to the poor and needy, and argued with Thomas Cromwell over the Dissolution of the monasteries – she wanted the money to go to the poor and into education, rather than the Royal coffers.
  • Elizabeth I – ELizabeth I may have had her father’s red hair and his strength of character but let’s not forget who her mother was. Elizabeth was the daughter of Anne Boleyn and we can actually see much of her mother in her. Like Anne, she was a woman ahead of her time, a woman who was strong, intelligent and powerful in her own right(Henry had given Anne Boleyn the title of Marchioness of Pembroke in her own right). Her reign is known as a “Golden Age” and England prospered during her 40 year rule.
  • Her patronage of the Arts – Anne Boleyn was the Royal patron of the famous artist, Hans Holbein, and her love of the Arts really helped the Renaissance in England.
  • Anne’s influence – Anne was intelligent enough for Henry VIII to treat her as an equal. He discussed foreign policy and domestic policy with her, debated theology with her and planned palaces like Whitehall with her. Her influence over the King was why Cromwell conspired to get rid of her. No other Queen had this type of influence over Henry, not even Catherine of Aragon whom Henry entrusted to keep England safe from the Scots while he fought the French.

We will never know who Anne Boleyn really was and what she really thought about things, and that’s what makes us so fascinated by her, but she was definitely more than just a queen who was executed.

What do you think?

P.S. If you like the Anne Boleyn engraving, there are cards and gifts featuring this picture on www.cafepress.com/anneboleyn