Anne Boleyn, the Nidd Hall portrait - An "old" looking Anne

Anne Boleyn is such a puzzle isn’t she? And that’s what fascinates us, the fact that she is an enigma, a puzzle to solve, a code to break. But, isn’t it frustrating when we can’t even be sure when she was born?!

The two dates put forward by historians are 1501 and 1507, with most historians believing the 1501 date, making Anne around 35 years of age when she was executed. But, Gareth Russell, on his blog “Confessions of a Ci-Devant”, has put together a very good argument for giving Anne a summer 1507 birthdate, making her 28 at her death. See “The Age of Anne Boleyn” for Gareth’s excellent article on this issue.

1501 or 1507 – Does it matter anyway?

“What’s the difference between Anne being 35 or 28 at her death?”, you may ask. Well, I can’t put it any better than Gareth so I will quote him and you will see that it really does matter:-

“If she was 28, as one of her stepdaughter’s ladies-in-waiting claimed, then the reasons behind her execution become infinitely more sinister – at 28, Anne Boleyn was still undeniably in her childbearing years. Yes, she would have been at the tail-end of them by Tudor standards, but she would have had at least four or five more years before she was considered infertile, and so the idea that it was just her “failure” to produce a son which led to her death in 1536 suddenly becomes a good deal less convincing and the idea that it was her husband who orchestrated her monstrously unfair death becomes infinitely more likely.

However, if she was 35, then she was already practically middle-aged by Tudor standards and it becomes far more likely that the entire reason for her destruction was politics pure and simple, with Anne – and to some extent, perhaps, maybe even her husband – being victims of a savagely brilliant process of character assassination, lies, manufactured hysteria and ruthless palace coup organised by the King’s chief adviser, Thomas Cromwell.” (Gareth Russell, “The Age of Anne Boleyn” at “Confessions of a Ci-Devant”)

A Solid Case for 1507

Much as I have always believed that Eric Ives, and other historians were right in picking 1501 as Anne Boleyn’s date of birth, due to her going abroad in 1513, I am swayed by Gareth Russell’s argument because he presents such compelling evidence and concludes his article:-

“Examining all the evidence impartially it is impossible, I think, to accept that Anne Boleyn was born as early as 1500 or 1501. Any piece of evidence that has been put forward to support the idea that she was born at the turn-of-the-century can be refuted, once common sense is applied to the problem… Independently of one another and with absolute certainty, Jane Dormer and William Camden both stated that Anne Boleyn had been born in 1507 and to my mind there is no evidence whatsoever that has yet come to light which contradicts them.”

Have a read of Gareth’s article and let me know what you think and also comment on Gareth’s blog, I’m sure he’d be interested to know your thoughts on this.


Related Post