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Anne Boleyn (1502-1536)

Born: 1502 at Blickling Hall, Norfolk
Queen of England
Died: 19th May 1536 at Tower Green, London

Anne Boleyn, the second Queen of Henry VIII, was the daughter of Sir Thomas Boleyn, afterwards Earl of Wiltshire, and Lady Elizabeth Howard. Anne was thus the maternal niece of Henry's courtier-statesman, the Duke of Norfolk. She spent some years at the French Court, before 1522, when she first seems to have attracted the notice of King Henry. Her elder sister, Mary, was, for a short time, the King's mistress at about that date. Anne was sought in marriage by the heir of the Percys and was perhaps privately contracted to him. By 1525, however, the King was secretly courting her.

At what date Anne actually became the King Henry’s mistress we do not know for certain. From 1527 onwards, it was publicly known that Henry was seeking a divorce from Catherine of Aragon and it soon became evident that, in spite of Wolsey's remonstrances, he intended Anne to take her place as Queen. She travelled about with him and had magnificent apartments fitted up for her wherever he was until her marriage with him, which took place privately some time on 25th January 1533. We do not even know precisely where the marriage took place - either Whitehall or Westminster - or by whom it was celebrated. But it was made public at Easter and Cranmer, as Archbishop, held an inquiry into its validity, in favour of which he pronounced. Anne was crowned with great magnificence on Whit Sunday.

The hatred of all but the most servile courtiers for Anne and for all the Boleyns was open and avowed. Her only surviving child, afterwards Queen Elizabeth I, was born in the September. But Henry was already tired of Anne and it is pretty clear that she was but a vulgar coquette of neither wit nor accomplishments and, strange to say, without any extraordinary beauty. As to her chastity, both before and after her marriage, it is difficult to pronounce with certainty. Acts of adultery, and even of incest, were alleged against her at her trial, which took place before a court of peers, with her uncle, the Duke of Norfolk, as president, in May 1536; but, though sentence was unanimously given against her, it could hardly be called a fair trial, as some of her alleged accomplices had been pre­viously convicted and put to death. She was beheaded on Tower Hill on 19th May 1536.

Edited from Emery Walker's "Historical Portraits" (1909).

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