Anne Boleyn’s childhood home, Hever Castle

 

Today is the anniversary of Anne Boleyn’s execution.  She was put to death at 8.00am at the Tower of London on 19th May 1536 due to charges of adultery and incest.

Just in case you aren’t aware of her, one of the most famous women in history…. Anne was Henry VIII’s second wife, the one he broke with the Catholic Church in order to marry.  The one who refused to be his mistress for several long years.  The one who Henry came to hate so much, he had her decapitated.  The one who became the first English queen ever to be executed.

Here we are, 481 years later, and Anne still captures our imaginations.  This morning she was trending on Twitter, and history bloggers and authors are commemorating her all over the internet.  Here’s why Anne Boleyn fascinates me…

She got under my skin at a young age

I first learnt about Anne in primary school. She was a Bad Woman who was sentenced to death for not being a good wife to the king.  It didn’t cross my 10 year old mind that she could be innocent; the king wouldn’t just kill his wife for no good reason!  As I grew up and learnt more about her life, I began to realise that she was innocent of all of the accusations against her….   Now is a great time to be interested in Anne’s life, because modern historians have worked to clear her name in a way that previous generations have not.

She rose so high and fell so far

I can’t think of anyone else who had such a quick rise to power, only to come crashing down to her death (except for maybe her rival, Thomas Cromwell).  Anne was not from the wealthiest or most noble family. Her predecessor was a princess of Spain and she was only a lady-in-waiting.  After years of waiting, when she became queen in 1533 Anne must have felt invincible…. but three short years later she would be dead, and all trace of her very existence was removed from court.

She is an enigma

I am driven to understand Anne and get inside her head, a quest which remains unfulfilled.  We know that her time at the French court gave her a polished air of elegance, a mystery and charisma that led to her being admired when she arrived back in England.  But…

How can a woman be so adored by the most powerful man in England, and end up despised by him?  What was it about her that captured Henry’s heart?  Did she love Henry? Or was she only driven by ambition?  What about her caused Henry to kill her?  How did it happen so quickly?

We know what Henry wrote to Anne, but her replies are lost to us.  I don’t think we’ll ever know the truth of her story for sure, which pushes me on to learn more and read more!

The injustice

Even if Anne had schemed and plotted to become queen, even if she treated Katherine of Aragon abominably (this she undoubtedly did), even if she HAD committed adultery with Henry’s friends (I believe her to be completely innocent of this)…. she did not deserve to be killed.

In her, Henry VIII met his match, and for that, she had to die.

Her legacy

The irony is, that in her rejected, illegitimised daughter, Anne gave the world one of the greatest monarchs in our history, Elizabeth I.  Henry may have yearned for a son, but little did he know that his greatest heir would be his daughter by Anne!  Anne’s failure to provide a son would, in hindsight, be a blessing.  I hope Anne’s soul managed to find some peace.

What about Anne intrigues you?

  • For me, Anne Boleyn is the least favourite monarch. How she acted towards Katherine of Aragon and the women in general was terrible. A woman in the 16th century could only hope she will be protected by her husband, what Anne pushed Henry to do for her gain was selfish. It’s not a mystery why she wasn’t loved at court. Hoping that Henry will treat her better than he treated his first wife was puzzling.

    Have you read the novels by Philippa Gregory? I’m reading now the Tudor series and it’s fab. I finished the Cousins’ War and it was amazing, Elizabeth Woodville was a fantastic queen. After reading the books I would check facts online. I’m also watching the TV shows with Lucy Worsle, they are so interesting. I like to learn about history like this, especially as for me everything is quite new. In school I didn’t learn any British history (I finished my studies many years before moving to UK).

  • I absolutely loved this post, Llinos! You’ve really captured the charm and mystique of Anne Boleyn! I fell in love with her through Phillipa Gregory’s character in The Other Boleyn Girl, and when I studied Tudor History at A-level, I loved her even more! I think she was incredible, she obviously had amazing confidence, charm, and charisma to capture the heart of a king and cause him to change so much of British history for love! I genuinely believe that in Anne, Henry met his match, as you rightly say here! It doesn’t surprise me that Elizabeth I turned out to be one of the greatest English monarchs ever, given that Anne was her mother! Enough gushing from me, well done on a fantastic post!

    Abbey 😘 http://www.abbeylouisarose.co.uk

  • Ellis Woolley

    Love this so much! The whole Tudor story fascinated me as a child and still does to this day. I never thought to start sharing it on my blog as you have here 🙂 great post & some awesome points made! Ellis x // http://www.elliswoolley.co.uk

  • That’s so interesting and right about Anne thinking she would be treated better than her predecessor, all she had to base that on was the hope she would produce a boy! Also one thing I have never understood is why Henry kidded himself that marrying his brother’s widow was wrong, but it was ok to marry the sister of his previous lover… I believe Anne had a selfish and ruthless streak for sure.

    I love the Tudor series by Philippa Gregory and anything that Lucy Worsley does. I am so glad that you’re enjoying learning about British history.

  • Thanks so much Abbey, glad you enjoyed, I agree with every word you say! Can you imagine how proud Anne would have been of her daughter.

  • Thanks so much Ellis, it was a lot of fun to write this and share my love of history. PS I’m a Hufflepuff too!

  • Food & Baker

    This is such a great post, haven’t read about the Tudor story since History in school – everything has been simply intriguing and educational to read! Thanks for sharing!

    Jessica & James | foodandbaker.co.uk

  • Happy to refresh your memory, glad you enjoyed!

  • Lifethrough Tsg

    This is such an interesting post! I didn’t know much about Anne at all, so this has definitely taught me a lot!
    Hayley X

  • Alisha Valerie.

    I loved this blog post. I was a massive fan of doing History at school and loved learning about the past etc. Such a wonderful different read, thanks for sharing lovely! 🌸💗✨

    With love, Alisha Valerie. x
    http://www.AlishaValerie.com | http://www.twitter.com/AlishaValerie

  • Glad you enjoyed learning about her x

  • Really glad you enjoyed it, thanks x

  • Omg you’ve already told me so much I didn’t know before, and this is fascinating!!

  • When I visited London and went to the London Tower, I was awed by the strong and palpable atmosphere of the history there…in the actual tower, the beheading stone, everything. I’ve always loved the Tudor Dynasty and I love The Other Boleyn Girl.

  • You are so right about the palpable atmosphere!

  • So happy you enjoyed!!

  • Gwennan Rees

    Llinos I want to be able to comment on every post you’ve ever written as a pay back for all you do for me but lord I don’t know where to start so hopefully this one post and my eternal gratitude for always supporting me will be enough <3 I also LOVE Anne Boleyn and just that period of History in general, I find it so interesting and it was the reason I did A Level in it. I also love love love Hever Castle, what an amazing place, I want to go back a lot, I feel like I didn't have enough time there!

  • Haha yes that’s enough! So happy you are a Tudor fan. When I buy Hever, you can have your own room 😉 xx

  • I loved learning about this era at school, though I will admit that I don’t remember a huge amount of it. There are so many things about Anne Boleyn that are fascinating, and that make her a perfect character for a book. You can see why so much historical fiction (though I guess a lot of it isn’t really fiction) has been written because these people was so multi-dimensional and had so many different things going on in their lives; so much plotting and scandal.

  • You’re exactly right, a woman like this from real history is more than any author could make up from their own imagination! I don’t think I would have lasted a day in court with all that plotting, I would be bound to slip up straight away.

  • Gwennan Rees

    VERY keen on this idea haha!