Posted By Claire on January 12, 2010
Anne Boleyn’s fall from favour and her very tragic end is still a hot topic over 470 years on, what with “The Tudors” on TV, the publication of books like Alison Weir’s “The Lady in the Tower” and G W Bernard’s book, “Anne Boleyn: Fatal Attractions”. We can’t get enough of her story; it troubles us, it gnaws at us, it piques our interest and, for some of us, it even keeps us up at night or haunts our dreams.
What is it about Anne Boleyn’s story that grabs us? Is it the scandal? Is it the fact that she was a queen? Is it that we like to fight for the underdog and seek justice for her? Is it the mystery and puzzle of it?
What drives you to find out more about Anne Boleyn? For me, it is the puzzle of her fall, the reasons behind it and the psychology of the man who let it happen, the man who carried on with his mistress while his wife was waiting to die. I want to know the truth behind the story. I want to find the Holy Grail. I want to be sure of why Anne fell.
Will I ever find out? Will I ever be satisfied that I have found the truth? Probably not, but that doesn’t stop me reading every book and primary source I can lay my hands on!
Possible Reasons for the Fall of Anne Boleyn
Over the next few weeks, I am going to look at the different theories, thoughts and opinions regarding the fall of Anne Boleyn and the Boleyn faction. Here are just some of the theories that I will be examining, but please feel free to add a theory to the comments below if you think that I have missed one out.
- Anne Boleyn was guilty of adultery and was a traitor to the Crown – There are obviously some people that believe that Anne was guilty of what she was charged with and that, as one Anne Boleyn Files visitor put it, “there is no smoke without a fire”. These people believe either that Anne was guilty of all of the charges or that she was guilty of some. The blurb on Amazon of G W Bernard’s “Anne Boleyn: Fatal Attractions”, which is due for release in April/May, says that Bernard “argues that the allegations of adultery that led to Anne’s execution in the Tower could be close to the truth”. Did Henry VIII ask Cromwell to investigate Anne and did Cromwell only act against Anne when he had evidence that Anne was being unfaithful and plotting against the King.
- Anne Boleyn could not produce a male heir so Henry VIII wanted to replace her with a new wife – Were her miscarriages her downfall?
- Henry VIII got fed up of her – Anne was too outspoken, jealous and argumentative and Henry could not take it any more. She was not queen material.
- Jane Seymour – Henry VIII had fallen in love again and needed to get rid of Anne. It appears that Jane Seymour may have learned from Anne’s example and refused to become the King’s mistress and held out for marriage, something which Henry could not offer her if Anne was still around.
- Anne Boleyn was a witch – The theory that Anne bewitched the King, miscarried a deformed foetus and even plotted to poison Catherine of Aragon and the Lady Mary.
- Anne’s fall was down to a faction battle – Those who believe this see Henry VIII’s court as split between the Boleyn faction, which supported Anne and Reformist ideas, and the conservative, Catholic Aragonese faction who had never agreed with the break with Rome or with Henry’s divorce and remarriage. Was Anne’s fall the result of the tables turning, to the Conservatives getting the upper hand?
- Thomas Cromwell’s pragmatism – Some believe that Cromwell saw that Anne Boleyn was losing popularity and the King’s interest and so decided to shift his allegiance to the Conservatives and plot against her.
- Foreign Policy – Some believe that Anne’s Pro-French stance and her influence with the King were wrecking Cromwell’s plans for an alliance with Charles V. Cromwell realised that he needed Anne out of the way or England would suffer.
- Cromwell’s fear for his own safety – Was it a case of “her head or mine”? It is said that Anne and Cromwell had argued over where the money from the dissolution of the monasteries was going and had become enemies. Cromwell knew that Anne had the ear of the King and feared that he would end up like Cardinal Wolsey or Thomas More if he did not act against her.
- Cromwell wanted to get rid of his enemies in the Privy Chamber and replace them with his own men – Is this why Cromwell went after men such as Sir Henry Norris, Sir William Brereton, Sir Francis Weston and George Boleyn?
- Karma – The idea that “what goes around comes around”. Some may believe that Anne ‘s fall was down to her having been the “other woman”, to her leading the King astray and causing him to treat his wife and daughter so badly.
- Religion – Was Anne Boleyn’s fall simply down to her reformist ideas?
- Anne herself – Did Anne’s pride, her ambition, her treatment of those around her and her recklessness lead to her fall? Did she only have herself to blame? Did she dig her own grave?
These are the theories that I will be looking at in my posts over the next few weeks and I hope you’ll join me on this journey.
Can you think of a reason that I have missed out? Please comment below.
See The Fall of Anne Boleyn for an interactive timeline of the events of 1536.