32 Anne Boleyn Facts That You Did Not Know
Anne Boleyn (1501-1536) was the second wife of the Tudor King Henry VIII. The drama that surrounded her controversial marriage to Henry VIII helped kick start the English Reformation. England went on to sever ties with Rome in 1532.
Anne Boleyn was seen as the woman to give Henry VIII a male heir. However, that was not to be. Instead, she gave birth to an even greater person – Queen Elizabeth I.
Sadly, her lack of any male issue, as well as her somewhat feminist attitude, caused her to be decapitated on charges of adultery and treason. What other surprising things do we know about Anne Boleyn?
Below, we present to you 32 facts about Anne Boleyn:
- Anne Boleyn came from a very noble and influential English family. Of all the wives of Henry VIII, only Catherine of Aragon surpasses her in terms of noble births.
- The queen of England had talents in a host of things – history, reading, writing, embroidery, household management, archery, falconry, horseback, dancing, hunting, and horseback riding. Anne sang and played the lute; she loved dancing; and she spoke French fluently. Also, she was fortunate to have received her education in Brussels and Paris.
- After she returned to England, Anne easily placed herself in the upper echelons of English society. Her clothing style and the manner in which she carried herself received the admiration of so many English noble men.
- She was close to marrying her cousin James Butler, 9th Earl of Ormond. James was the son of the Piers. For a long time Pierce and Anne Boleyn’s father Sir Thomas Boleyn were in a bitter tussle over the Earldom of Ormond. The marriage was designed to amicably resolve the issue between the two families. Eventually, the marriage failed to materialize, for reasons still unknown today. It has been stated that Anne proceeded to work as maid of honor in then Queen Catherine’s court. In 1522, Anne did use her connection to Henry VIII to help secure the Earldom of Ormond for her father. Piers became the Butler Earl of Ossory.
- Her father, Thomas Boleyn (1477–1539), briefly served as a foreign diplomat in the early years of Henry VIII’s reign.
- Anne Boleyn had such an intriguing personality that made her receive several advances from influential men in England. Sir Thomas Wyatt, the famous poet of the Tudor era, described her as the ‘Fair Brunet’.
- Anne was bold enough to reject King Henry VIII’s initial advances. She categorically stated that she did not intend to be a mistress to the King. This somehow propelled Henry to seek for divorce from his first wife, Catherine of Aragon.
- In the lead up to Anne becoming queen consort (that is, prior to Henry’s annulment of his marriage to Catherine), Anne was given the title Lady Marquis of Pembroke in 1532.
- Henry VIII’s passionate pursuit of a marriage annulment was commonly referred to as the “King’s Great Matter”. And many historians have come to believe that at the heart of Henry VIII’s matter was his desire to bear a male heir. That was when Anne Boleyn came into the picture. Anne was willing to go along with the King’s pursuits so long as he made her queen consort.
- Anne had a hand in Cardinal Wolsey losing his job in 1529. She believed that Wolsey’s allegiance had shifted to the Catholic Pope, instead of it being to England and the crown. There were plans to charge him for treason. However, he died of natural causes before any such trial could begin.
- In 1530, Anne Boleyn was allowed to occupy the chamber of Queen Catherine at the King’s residence – Greenwich Palace. The King had succeeded in sending Catherine packing to the countryside.
- Anne and Henry married twice. The first one, largely regarded as nonbinding and unlawful, occurred on November 14, 1532. The second, and proper, wedding ceremony took place on January 25, 1533. Six months later, Archbishop Cranmer issued out a declaration that legalized and validated the marriage between Anne Boleyn and Henry VIII.
- Princess Elizabeth (later Queen Elizabeth I) and Anne Boleyn were separated shortly after the former was born. The King reasoned that placing baby daughter Elizabeth in the countryside was best because the air was fresher there and better for the baby.
- Upon hearing news about the death of Catherine of Aragon in 1533, both Anne and the King were said to have been very happy. They even wore yellow clothes. Yellow was a symbol of joy and merrymaking. On the contrary, some historians believe that Anne and Henry were actually mourning her death. This is because yellow in Spain – Catherine’s home country – is actually a color for mourning.
- Prior to the death of Catherine of Aragon, Anne was somewhat rude and unforgiving to Princess Mary (Catherine’s only daughter and later Queen Mary, also known as ). She was saddened by the fact that her daughter, Princess Elizabeth, was behind Mary in the succession line. Hence the King took measures that sort of bastardized Mary. However, after the death of Catherine, Anne is said to have warmed up to Mary.
- Anne miscarried a 3-and-half month pregnancy on the very day that Catherine of Aragon was laid to rest. The cause of the miscarriage is believed to have been caused by the news of Henry falling off his horse during a tournament. The shock was too much to bear hence the miscarriage.
- Before Anne gave birth to her daughter, Elizabeth, Henry’s court officials and astrologists all maintained that the baby to born was going to be a boy. Coupled with all these heightened pressure, Henry felt extremely broken down about the baby not being a male.
- As queen consort, Anne often spent heavily on exotic clothes, fashion and riding. In some cases, this lifestyle earned her a lot of admiration from court officials. The public, however, did not like her, describing her as “the kings” slut. The English public never welcomed the idea of Anne becoming queen consort. Their allegiance seemed to sway in favor of Catherine of Aragon.
- In June 1528, Anne Boleyn caught the dreaded sweating sickness. The illness was a very harsh strain of influenza that caused death in a very short period after getting infected. Believe it or not, Henry VIII did save Anne Boleyn’s life. He asked that she leave immediately for Kent. Over there, Anne was cared for by Henry’s best physicians. She later made a dashing recovery to full fitness. Her brother-in-law, William Carey (Mary Boleyn’s first husband) wasn’t so lucky. He, along with a number of courtiers, died of the sweating sickness.
- Had it not being for the incessant instigation and false rumors spread by Thomas Cromwell (Henry VIII’s chief adviser), Anne Boleyn perhaps would not have been charged with treason and adultery. Cromwell and Anne fell out over issues of funding and church activities. Anne wanted resources to be properly invested in charitable causes and social initiatives. Cromwell, on the other hand, wanted those resources to be placed firmly in the hands of the King. Anne also accused Cromwell of enriching himself and engaging in a number of corrupt practices. Another account of the story states that Cromwell was simply doing the bidding of King Henry VIII. The animosity between Anne and Cromwell was fueled by Henry’s desire to eliminate Anne so as to marry Jane Seymour.
- Anne Boleyn had several relatives at court. There was her other sister, Mary Boleyn, who was believed to have been in a deep affair with Henry VIII before Anne got married. As a matter of fact, it was Mary Boleyn who first introduced Anne to Henry. Then there was Anne Boleyn’s aunt – Anne Boleyn. Her aunt married Sir John Shelton and became Lady Shelton. Anne entrusted her to take care of Princess Mary Tudor – the King’s daughter. At first she did not relate properly with Mary. However, as time went on, Lady Shelton became fond of Mary.
- Jane Seymour and Anne Boleyn often had spat in the court. Bear in mind, Jane Seymour was Anne Boleyn’s maid/lady in waiting. Henry VIII’s incessant interest in Jane Seymour. It is even believed that Henry once gave Jane Seymour a picture of himself. Jane carried the picture around her neck, until Anne Boleyn ripped it off her neck in tussle.
- Aside from Jane Seymour being Anne’s lady in waiting/maid, the two ladies were in fact cousins. Both their mothers (Elizabeth Howard – Anne’s mother, and Margery Wentworth – Jane Seymour’s mother) were first cousins; the two ladies grew up in the same household in Yorkshire.
- There were 27 people as jurors during Anne’s trial. The reason why treason was part of her charges is because under the Treason Act by then, an unfaithful wife of an English monarch was considered a traitor to the country as well. The punishment in such cases was death. The panel of judges that heard Anne’s treason case had Henry Percy, the Earl of Northumberland and Thomas Howard, Anne’s own uncle. After hearing the verdict of Anne’s trial, Percy was absolutely gutted and sad.
- During her trial, the responsibility of proving her innocence fell squarely on Anne Boleyn. Tudor law behoved on the accused to do so; it was in effect a guilty-until-proven-innocent type of trial. This made Anne Boleyn’s trial a farce of the highest order. She had no access to any form of defense. She was not even aware of some of the charges; neither did she know the intricacies of the charges she stood trial for.
- Even before Anne’s guilty verdict was out, it is believed that Henry or Thomas Cromwell had secured the services of the French swordsman that executed Anne Boleyn.
- In order to ensure that Anne did not become a martyr abroad, Cromwell insisted on moving the execution date from May 18 to May 19. This allowed him to properly screen the people that showed up to witness the tragic event. Cromwell and Henry did not want details of Anne’s execution to spread abroad, thereby harming Henry’s reputation.
- Rumors about Anne Boleyn having six fingers on her right hand were first spread by Jesuit Nicholas Sander. The devout Catholic made these sorts of statement during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. He hoped to undermine Elizabeth’s Protestant rule. Historians believe that such notions about Anne’s deformity were completely fabricated. Besides, there was no way someone as shallow as Henry VIII would have married Anne had she had a sixth finger. Back then, such body defects were seen as sign of witchcraft.
- Jesuit Nicholas Sander was also behind the rumor that Henry VIII and Elizabeth Howard, Anne Boleyn’s mother, had an affair. He went further to say that Anne Boleyn was actually Henry’s daughter. Historians today completely disregard this as untruths.
- Queen Victoria helped give Anne Boleyn the burial that she deserved in 1877. Kind courtesy to Britain’s second longest-reigning queen, Anne’s grave is now marked and has her name on the marble piece.
- Anne Boleyn’s legacy lies in the fact that her bloodline – that is Queen Elizabeth I – ended up being the greatest Tudor to ever live, as well as one of the greatest English monarchs in history. In sharp contrast to the remaining 5 wives that Henry VIII had, Anne Boleyn demonstrated time and time again that she simply would not kowtow to Henry’s desires and manipulations. At the end of the day, it was her high intellect and outspoken voice that threatened Henry VIII the most.
- During the Victorian Era, a group of scientist – tasked by Queen Victoria herself- discovered Anne Boleyn buried in between the bodies of two men. They also found Catherine Howard’s body buried close to Anne Boleyn’s. Catherine Howard was the 5th wife of Henry VIII. Like Anne, she too was decapitated on charges of treason and adultery. Victoria gave Queen Anne Boleyn a proper marked grave in 1877.