The Fall of Anne Boleyn: Day -24


On 25th April 1536, Queen Anne Boleyn had just twenty-four days more to live, yet her husband, King Henry VIII, was suddenly very hopeful of a male heir.

What was going on? Was Henry VIII still committed to Anne Boleyn? Or did he have another woman in mind?

Find out more about what Henry VIII said on this day in 1536 in my video from The Fall of Anne Boleyn series:

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And here’s today’s “on this day” video:

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11 thoughts on “The Fall of Anne Boleyn: Day -24”
  1. The letters kinda make me wonder if Henry was putting on a facade that he was soon not able to keep up or at this stage he still genuinely had hope for a reconciliation. My guess is the former.

  2. IIRC, at Blackfriars in the late 1520s, Henry gave a speech extolling Katherine of Aragon as a wonderful wife, and that he hoped that the marriage would be found valid. He was, of course, lying through his teeth. IMO, Henry’s reference to a “well beloved” queen, to the extent that it refers to Anne, has about the same credibility.

  3. Referring to Anne as his entirely beloved wife was mere convention, not even worth noting, as every King and Queen used such language. People were overly polite, even to people they hated. It’s no different to calling King Francis his brother and then going to war with him. Convention.

    Hoping for a child was looking to the future, speaking of hope with a new wife aka Jane Seymour. He didn’t want the public or foreign representatives to get wind of what was happening and to use the unstable situations at Court against him so he acted as if everything was fine and he and the Queen were in unity, in public at least. By writing thus he gave the impression not only that his marriage but his dynasty was strong. He was getting ahead of himself, he was excited about the future, he wanted everyone to know he believed he would have more children, sons even, but the woman he was referring to was Jane, not Anne. We call it being two faced.

  4. I agree Henry was being such a hypocrite, entirely beloved wife indeed! Although it was the way to write then, they always used flowery phrases we can see that it was not sincere, I believe by now the king disliked Anne quite a lot, and yes I do agree with Clare about his fall in January, I believe that gave him a jolt, he was unconscious we don’t know for how long as reports differ, but when you suddenly come face to face with death you re evaluate your situation, he was in his forties by now and all he had to show for his two marriages were two useless daughters, and worse his wife had just miscarried and the baby was said to have the appearance of a male child, that was a very black day for both the king and queen, and I do think that was when Henry decided to rid himself of Anne, he had a fancy for Jane Seymour and she was so very different from his shrew of a wife, calm natured polite and she treated him with reverence, Anne was said to have mocked the kings poetry and his music, and laughed at his clothes which shows disdain and a lack of respect, this could be because she knew he was seeing Jane Seymour but it did not endear her to the king, Anne was her own worse enemy, their relationship had broken down I feel beyond repair and Anne knew this and yet felt powerless to stop her nagging and tantrums, this was born out of insecurity and fear, Jane did come from a very fertile family her mother had born ten children, an incredible feat in itself and all this must have been going over in the kings mind, poor Anne was doomed.

    1. That sums everything up exactly, Christine, it’s a very embarrassing thing for a man, especially a King in the sixteenth century in his mid forties, after two wives and twenty seven years of marriage, to have no living sons and two daughters, only useful as marriage chips and with his other brother Kings having a number of sons, that made Henry even more conscious of his failure in the manhood stakes. If one of those women was accused of adultery, that meant he had no control over her. I can already hear the feminists screaming but that’s how people thought in the sixteenth century, a woman was property and a brood mare, end of story. Of course reality was very different, women had a much wider role than that, as patrons, as intercessor, as icon, as helpmate, as mother, as peace and home maker and in many households as the person who ran the domestic spheres. She was also the one who found husbands for her daughters and often sons, she was her husband’s representative in his absence and on farms up and down the country her responsibilities as a farmer were extremely varied. Henry needed a traditional wife, a fertile wife and sons, as many as possible to secure his kingdom. Katherine had been the wife he needed, Anne the wife he had passionate love with. However, neither had produced a son and to Henry and any self respecting man of standing and land would have needed male heirs to succeed him because very few people accepted a woman could rule. Not even Anne could see Elizabeth or Mary as decent enough rulers, she wanted to give Henry a son as did Katherine, but it wasn’t to be. Katherine didn’t have a problem with Mary as the heir and for a number of years Henry didn’t either, until he believed his marriage was cursed by God. He now saw the same sad pattern with Anne as he did with Katherine and Anne was not a young woman either. She was in her thirty six year, her child bearing days may well have been ending. Henry himself wondered if he could have more children because it took Jane several months to concede. Adding to the flaws Henry now saw in Anne, his added paranoia from his accident in January which may have made his reasoning powers turn off, his ardent desire to remarry quickly, the power gained by the Supremacy and a definite desire to avoid a long public divorce, it was fairly obvious that Anne Boleyn wasn’t his beloved wife any longer. Henry may not have contemplated getting rid of Anne by trial and execution just yet, but her days as her wife were numbered.

      Henry’s main problem with declaring his second marriage unlawfully made, however, was Anne’s public and very elaborate coronation. Henry had made certain the world and his wife saw her as his one legitimate wife and Queen with all the power and mystery associated with her coronation. He had also publicly had Katherine set aside and his marriage declared illegitimate and the second marriage was set up in law. Not only that but everyone over 12 had to swear an oath to acknowledge Anne as his lawful wife and Queen and only their kids as the true heirs. Now he was going to say all that was a lie. This may have more to do with Anne’s trial and execution than anything else. Henry was spared the embarrassment of saying he was wrong the second time through his wife being painted as a public wh*re, temptress, murdering traitor who planned to kill him and possibly his daughter and who had slept with even her own brother. By executing Anne, Henry was absolving himself of the blame of the crimes of the last few years, the turmoil he had put the country through and sparing himself the embarrassment of admitting he was yet again wrong. Henry found a way to reconcile the paradox he was about to create, but I doubt his subjects were that easily fooled. Anne was the innocent and convenient victim of Henry’s need for a neat and swift solution to a problem of his own making. Cromwell provided him with an escape clause and Henry believed yet another set of convenient “truths” because he wanted everything done yesterday. Henry no longer loved Anne Boleyn and he saw Jane as the perfect loyal and obedient alternative to her who was from a huge family of healthy brothers and who would give him a legitimate son and heir.

      In another twist of fate, however, Henry wanted a clean break and no challenges to the heirs he planned to have with Jane Seymour, so he also declared his marriage to Anne as being null and void, not because he needed to end it with Anne any longer, the terrible fate which awaited the poor lady would do that, no no, he wanted to ensure those potential children were his only legitimate heirs. Parliament, not the Pope or Convocation had declared Princess Mary as illegitimate, when her status should have been protected under a good faith clause as Henry only discovered his marriage was cursed many years after her birth and Henry now wished to do the same to Elizabeth. Anne’s execution still left her little daughter as Henry’s legitimate heir until she had a brother and successor if she didn’t. By forcing Anne to agree to an annulment Elizabeth was now the same status as Mary and Parliament could confirm this and make the children with Jane his only true heirs. Fortunately, Jane was lucky and had a son, Edward, who lived, but unlucky that she died within two weeks of complications from her after birth care. I can just imagine the clogs turning in Henry’s mind working all of this out like some pre programmed computer. He couldn’t reason out his second wife was faithful to him but he worked out an entire strategy by which everything fell into some neat set of boxes in the order he ordained and landed somewhere labelled “the truth of King Henry Viii”! Really? It was convenient because King Henry Viii said it was. I believe his mind was altered by that fall in January but not to the extent that he didn’t know what he was doing. Cromwell may have presented the evidence but it was Henry who decided it was true. That’s another thing which scares me about this entire three weeks, Henry was both in control and acting in a bizarre manner. Perhaps he really didn’t care.

      1. I think I bring this up every year about this time but I’m still a bit baffled at Henry.
        Religion in the 16th century regulated every aspect of life from the top of the social ladder down to the bottom. Things that happened to an individual or society were attributed to God’s pleasure or displeasure. Why did Henry immediately go to the ‘Gods displeasure’ side of the ledger when he had no sons? What if that was simply part of God’s plan? The Lord knows well ahead of time what’s going to happen, even with our free will. I freely admit I’m looking at this almost five hundred years on but I think it’s possible God knew his daughters would be Queens regnant even if Henry couldn’t imagine it. In other words no son needed and no one being punished. Unfortunately he broke one of them. (Mary)
        Were other European monarchs capable of the actions that Henry Viii took or is he unique? I know Richard I never had children but he wasn’t in the country long enough and his wife never made it to England.
        I just think of Henry II and his wife Eleanor of Aquitaine who actually raised arms against her husband and he didn’t execute her. This is more of a rant than anything else.
        BTW, The History of England podcast today you may enjoy- it’s on how Elizabeth I has been viewed by historians over the centuries.

        1. Michael, I don’t think God would have understood Henry Viii, let alone historians. You are quite right, but he had come across Leviticus and of course his advisers misinterpreted it to suit Henry. He took being childless to read as having no sons, which given that boys were more valuable than girls generally in society, that was no surprise. However, Leviticus says wife not widow. I see that as living wife and nakedness literally meant the sexual rights of someone, as in committing adultery. I am not an expert on Mosaic Law so again I may be wrong. Deuteronomy took precedence in most cases when a woman was widowed without children, saying that a surviving brother or uncle of her husband or other male relative, the closest usually who was not married should take her as his wife and his eldest child, reading son, belonged to the dead husband. In other words Henry as Arthur’s brother had a duty to marry Katherine. Katherine and Henry were therefore legally married. In addition to this they had gained permission from the leading authority of their day, the Curia in Rome aka the Pope gave them a dispensation, two in fact. Katherine also maintained that she was a virgin so her marriage to Arthur wasn’t lawful. Henry didn’t have any problems when he married Katherine which he did as soon as he was King and it was eighteen years before he did anything about it. So why did Henry interpret things in the negative? Good question. Answer. I really have no idea but he now realised one thing which he didn’t before, he couldn’t have any more children with Katherine. Henry chose to interpret things in the negative, because he wanted sons badly and he was looking for reasons why he didn’t have any. Yes, you are quite right nobody was being punished, Henry had two perfectly capable daughters, both of whom were capable of ruling so why not see that as God’s will? It could only be down to the way he had been taught. I doubt Katherine saw things the same way, although she did see the loss of her children in a very desperate manner and made several pilgrimages in order to have living children. Mary was accepted as Henry’s heir and sent to Ludlow in order to learn how to rule. Most people believed Mary would rule. It must have come as something of a shock when Henry started to believe his marriage was suddenly cursed and to start wanting to annul his marriage to Katherine of Aragon. They had been the ultimate power couple, a really strong and united partnership. I don’t buy it, Michael. I believe Henry thought only a son could rule but I believe until he passionately started to fall in love with Anne Boleyn that he really didn’t have a serious problem. Yes, he asked Thomas Wolsey to question the men of learning on the subject of his marriage before Anne Boleyn but he didn’t fully pursue the question until Anne Boleyn came along. Unfortunately, yes, Yahweh knows what is going to happen, even though we have free will, but Henry Viii didn’t know how his children would turn out. He could only see what he discovered in Scripture and how things were and with three sons dead and only one living child, a girl, he interpreted life and his relationship with God in a negative manner. Henry was devout as were many people, I believe he really believed as he said he did, which is unfortunate, but that’s the unique relationship between a King and God.

          No traitorous wives were not normally executed and Anne was the first in England. Kings didn’t normally marry their subjects, either and Anne was his subject. Why Henry was different to everyone else, because most King’s didn’t execute their wives, although they imprisoned them, is anyone’s guess. Having said that Maria of Brabant, daughter of Duke Henry Iii, who was married to Louis Ii of Bavaria, in 1256 was beheaded for adultery aged only 21 and after two years of marriage. Its believed he had gone mad and he fancied she had been unfaithful while he was away but no evidence of this was ever produced. She is another rare example. Eleanor Cobbam, Duchess of Gloucester was imprisoned for poison, witchcraft and astrology as in looking at the stars and predicting the death of King Henry vi, but unlike the unfortunate woman who provided the herbs and potions, who was burnt, Eleanor wasn’t killed. High born women could literally get away with murder and some did as well as treason. It wasn’t normally considered chivalrous to execute Queens and noble women, although in Europe a few did die on charges of witchcraft (nobles that is) and a Queen or two were imprisoned on such charges. The reason most of them didn’t feel the full weight of the law was a more practical one. These women were wealthy. Eleanor of Aquitaine was one of the most wealthy and powerful women in Europe. Not that Henry wanted to execute her, his relationship with her was passionate and complex but he couldn’t live without her or with her and she was the mother of five sons. The Aquitaine brought him power, land, wealth and rich territory and prestige as well as military support and inheritance. Henry couldn’t afford to lose it and it was Eleanor to whom it belonged. Henry’s bragging rights came with Eleanor, her ex husband was his overlord, King Louis of France and she was an astute political asset. Eleanor could have slept with half of his Court, committed every treason going, as long as Henry survived she would remain Queen, he couldn’t afford to lose the alliance that came with her. Women of high royal bloodlines were far too valuable and dangerous to execute no matter what they had done, it wasn’t chivalrous, it wasn’t done and it wasn’t sensible. Henry Viii, one might note didn’t execute the two most valuable women he married, Katherine of Aragon and Anne of Cleves, both of whom were from wealthy and powerful families, had powerful allies and the two he did behead were both English and his subjects. Not that Katherine of Aragon gave him a real reason to execute her, she was instead made powerless but she did also refuse to raise an army against him and Anna had the common sense to agree, reluctantly to an annulment. I doubt he had any plans to harm her anyway. I do believe Henry’s mind was affected by matters including his fall in 1536 and seven years of bitter opposition and a long bitter divorce. That most certainly contributed to a number of the unfathomable decisions he is now infamous for in his last decade.

  5. Hi BQ. Sounds like you’re as frustrated with Henry Viii as I am. To put it mildly he was an odd bird.

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