Anne Boleyn is one of the most recognizable figures in English history. She was born the second daughter of Sir Thomas Boleyn and Lady Elizabeth Howard around 1501. When Anne and her sister Mary were sent abroad to receive an education. Anne spent many years at the court of Queen Claude of France and became one of the Queens favorite maids. While in France, Anne learned to speak and read fluent French, dancing, music, fashion or power dressing, and theology. Queen Claude supported and sheltered many protestants in her court, and this exposure is often seen by historians as the source for Anne’s more radical spirituality in later years. The positioning of Anne so strongly on the continent leads many historians to think she was never meant to return to England. Instead they argue that she was meant to be married off to a French noble. When war between England and France became more likely, Sir Thomas recalled Anne to England.
When Anne was brought home she was betrothed to one of her wealthy Irish cousins, but the contract fell through. She was then accepted into the service of Queen Katharine. During her early years at court Anne caught the eye of Henry Percy, the only heir to a rich Earl, but their requests to marry were not approved by King Henry and Cardinal Wolsey. Soon after this denial Henry began to court Anne and asked her to become his mistress. Anne’s refusal lead Henry to change the course of English history forever.
Henry desperately wanted a male heir to succeed him on the throne, and Anne was young and lively. Henry fell in love with Anne’s French styles and mannerisms. This began the proceedings to annul Henry’s marriage to Queen Katherine. The proceedings wore on for seven years. During these years Anne began to have increasing influence over Henry with matters of state and religion. She gave him protestant texts, a risky move at the time, which denounced the Pope’s authority within individual kingdoms. Henry also ennobled Anne as the Marquess of Pembroke in her own right which had never before been done for a mere woman. The turning point came when Anne finally consented to sleep with Henry, many years into their relationship it seems, and Anne became pregnant. This is when Henry broke with Rome and married Anne, Then having the Archbishop of Canterbury declare his marriage to Katherine invalid and his marriage to Anne lawful.
Anne was crowned in 1533. The procession was elaborate and included new members in the train- the judiciary. Anne knew that the law would be her sword and shield in a world where the Church as no longer all powerful in the realm. The people of London did turn out for her coronation procession, but not as many were cheering as Anne and Henry had wanted. In September 1533. Anne gave birth to the Princess Elizabeth. A minor disappointment but one healthy child lead the King and Queen to try again. A still born boy was one of the results, and the fetus was rumored to be deformed. In the context of their world, this was a bad omen.
As Queen, Anne played the model English Queen. She and her ladies stitched shirts for the poor, distributed more alms than her predecessors, and attended mass regularly. Anne had several portraits painted in the traditional Gabled Hood and at least one in her famous French Hood. In Anne’s rooms, there was a copy of the bible in English on a lectern. Her ladies were all encouraged to read from it for their own spiritual nourishment. Anne also encouraged the estrangement between Henry and his first daughter Mary. Anne feared that if Mary was not put into a lower station that she would try to outshine Elizabeth.
In 1536, Henry’s advisers tried to find a way to bring down Anne. When it became clear that the Christian world would not tolerate the same biblical verses being used to discredit this union, the courtiers worked on discrediting Anne. Anne and 5 other men were convicted of adultery and high treason. To further vilify Anne, she was charged of having incest with her brother. After Anne’s beheading her body was stripped of all clothing by her few attendants and placed in an arrow chest. Anne was buried in an unmarked grave under the chapel of the tower grounds. The remains were exhumed during the reign of Queen Victoria during renovations to the chapel. When her body was examined they discovered that she had no sixth finger as her enemies had stated. Anne was reburied with dignity under the same chapel, but she now lays near the high altar with a name marker.
Anne’s daughter Elizabeth would later become Queen Elizabeth I.
In the Tudor Project, this is the amazing woman I tried to reproduce. From her clothing to playful attitudes.
Hanson, Marlee. "Anne Boleyn: Biography, Portraits, Primary Sources."EnglishHistory.net. Englishhistory.net/Tudor.html, 02 Nov. 2008. Web. 13 Feb. 2012. <http://englishhistory.net/tudor/monarchs/boleyn.html>.
Toscani, Melissa. "Anne Boleyn." King's College. Department of Women's Studies, 29 Mar. 2007. Web. 13 Feb. 2012. <http://departments.kings.edu/womens_history/anneboleyn.html>.
Weir, Alison. The Lady in the Tower: The Fall of Anne Boleyn. New York: Ballantine, 2010. Print.
Weir, Alison. The Six Wives of Henry VIII. New York: Grove Weidenfeld, 1991. Print.