Anne Boleyn

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Entry by Eric W. Ives, 2004

Anne Boleyn, marchioness of Pembroke (Blickling, Norfolk? 1501? - London 19 May 1536), second wife of Henry VIII, king of England, was the second daughter of Thomas Boleyn, later earl of Ormonde and Wiltshire, and Elizabeth, daughter of Thomas Howard, duke of Norfolk. In 1513 she went as a maid of honour first to Margaret of Austria, then Mary Tudor, wife of Louis XII, and later Claude, wife of Francis I. Impending hostilities forced Anne to return home at the end of 1521, much to Claude's annoyance.

Anne's French education and style stood out at the insular English court, but no suitable marriage presented itself. From early 1526 Henry VIII unsuccessfully campaigned to make her his mistress. A year later despite moving to divorce his wife Katherine of Aragon, the king offered Anne a status analogous to maîtresse en titre. Anne again refused, but when he offered marriage she accepted, provided the divorce came through.

During five years of papal opposition to Henry's divorce, Anne's political importance increased significantly. She played a major part in the fall of Cardinal Wolsey in 1529 and promoting radical policies in 1530, 1531 and 1532 to achieve the divorce by making Henry head of the church in England. The king was less confident of success and created Anne marchioness of Pembroke. In October 1532 she and Henry met Francis I at Calais and received promises of support. The couple then began to cohabit (probably following a formal betrothal) and Anne was pregnant by December. Married canonically in January 1533, Anne was recognised as queen at Easter 1533 and crowned on 1 June. Her daughter Elizabeth (the future Queen Elizabeth I) was born on 7 September.

In August 1534 Anne miscarried, but despite this, Henry remained firmly committed to her. Since it was her challenging personality which had attracted the king in the first place, their marriage was at times stormy _ but at an intimate level the relationship was unique among royalty, being based on emotion rather than diplomatic calculation. Anne was not a popular queen. Her predecessor Katherine was widely respected, and women particularly resented Henry's treatment of a faithful wife. Also, rather than Elizabeth, Katherine's daughter Mary was seen as Henry's legitimate child. The Catholic Church and Habsburg Europe regarded Anne as Henry's concubine.

Anne was blamed unfairly for Henry's assault on church liberties. She was, however, a key figure in promoting moderate evangelical reform. Her inspiration was her early experience in France, and while not directly indebted to Marguerite of Navarre, clearly saw Francis I's sister as a role model. Anne spread the ideas and writings of men such as Jacques Lefèvre d'Étaples and patronised reformers such as Nicholas Bourbon and Clément Marot. In England she promoted the careers of reformist clergy and was substantially responsible for the establishing of a strong block of evangelical bishops led by Archbishop Cranmer.

Anne Boleyn was a person of considerable culture. Gifted as a dancer, singer and performer on the lute, she continued to appreciate both the choral music and chansons she had experienced abroad. She valued (and commissioned) illuminated manuscripts in the Franco-Flemish tradition she had encountered in her youth, but was also an enthusiast for renaissance fashions in both books and objets d'art. Her principal artistic importance was as the major early patron of Hans Holbein the Younger, even possibly being associated with his greatest surviving work, The Ambassadors which portrays Jean de Dinteville, the French ambassador who took part in Anne's coronation and Georges de Selve, bishop of Latour.

Anne miscarried again in January 1536, but although Henry began flirting with Jane Seymour, a lady in waiting, he continued his attempt to force Europe to recognise Anne as his legitimate wife. However, a split developed in March between Anne and her ally Thomas Cromwell, the king's chief minister. The principal issue was the redirection of monastic assets. Anne campaigned to divert them into education; Cromwell promised Henry to use them to bolster crown finances. Cromwell also saw Anne as an obstacle to making an alliance with Mary's cousin, the Habsburg Charles V. He decided to support Jane Seymour, concocted allegations of treason against Anne, her brother and four other courtiers and after rigged trials, the men were executed; Anne was beheaded in the French manner once her marriage to Henry had been declared void.

Selected bibliography

- Friedmann, Paul. Anne Boleyn: a Chapter of English History, 1527-1536. London, 1884.
- Ives, E.W. Anne Boleyn. London, Basil Blackwood, 1986.
- Starkey, David. Six Wives: the Queens of Henry VIII. London, Chatto & Windus, 2003.

Selected bibliography of images

- Émail anonyme. Le sceau de la reine Elisabeth [Queen Elizabeth's Ring]. Gouvernement de Sa Majesté, Chequers [inaccessible au public].
- Peinture anonyme [anonymous painting]. Londres, National Portrait Gallery.
- Peinture anonyme [anonymous painting]. Hever Castle, Edenbridge, Kent, Angleterre.
- Médaille anonyme [anonymous portrait medal] (portant l'inscription A.R. THE MOOST HAPPI ANNO). Londres, British Museum.
- Elsrack, Reynold. Anna Boloenia Henrici VIII Coniunx. Gravure publiée par Henry Holland, Londres,Bazilowlogia, 1618.


- "I find her so bright and pleasant for her young age that I am more beholden to you for sending her to me than you are to me" (Marguerite d'Autriche au père d'Anne, été 1513. Hugh Paget, "The youth of Anne Boleyn", Bulletin of the Institute of Historical Research, 54, 1981, p.164-5).
- "Ne l'eussiez oncques jugée Angloise
En ses façons, mais naïfve Françoyse"
(Lancelot de Carles, «Histoire de Anne Boleyn Jadis Royne d'Angleterre» [1536], in G. Ascoli, La Grande-Bretagne devant l'opinion française, Paris, 1927, p.169).
- [Au moment où Anne fut arrêtée] "I am in such a perplexity, that my mind is clearly amazed; for I never had better opinion in woman than I had in her; which maketh me to think, that she should not be culpable. And again, I think your Highness would not have gone so far, except she had surely been culpable" (Thomas Cranmer à Henry VIII, 3 mai, 1536, British Library, Cotton MS Otho C X f.230r).
- "People think [the king] invented the [charges] to get rid of her. Nevertheless the
woman herself suffered no great injustice by this for she was known to be a worthless character" (Marie, reine d'Hongrie et régente des Pays-Bas, à Ferdinand, roi des Romains, 25 mai, 1536, Public Records Office, London, PRO31/8 f.85).
- "[Thomas Cromwell] me loua grandement le sens, esperit, et cueur de la dicte concubine" (Eustace Chapuys à Charles V, 6 juin, 1536 _ voir Calendar of State Papers Spanish,1536-38, London, 1888, p.138).
- "Anne Boleyn, the bane of that virtuous and religious Queen Katherine, the ruin of many pious, worthy and famous men who favoured not that unlawful marriage, the first giver of entrance to the Protestant religion and the principal cause of her husband's dissolving of religious houses and slaughtering multitudes of religious people as not favouring her marriage with Henry VIII in the lifetime of his first wife." (Tresham MSS, vers 1610, in Historical Manuscripts Commission, Various Collections, London, 1901-14, iii.131).
- "Anne was not good; she was incredibly vain, ambitious, unscrupulous, coarse, fierce and relentless" (Paul Friedmann, Anne Boleyn, London, 1884, ii.297).
- "Anne Boleyn had the gift of arousing strong feelings; people were never neutral: they either loved her or loathed her." (Starkey, voirsupra «Choix bibliographique», p.257).

Anne Boleyn
Spouses Henry VIII, King of England
Birth date Around 1501
Death 1536
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