Anne was then thrown into a marriage negotiation with James Butler, in order to settle some dispute for the Earlmond of Ormond, but the decision fell through another man became the Earl instead. During the marriage proposals, Mary Boleyn was married to William Carey, one of the minor noblemen in Henry VIII’s court, in 1520. However, no marriage plans worked for Anne. She was seen as an amateur lady of the court until she appeared in a Green Castle pageant to honor some of the visiting dignitaries and ambassadors, alongside her sister Mary, Mary Tudor (Henry VIII’s sister), other court women, and even her future sister-in-law Jane Boleyn. She took part in a dance called “Perserverance” and showed Henry’s court that she could very well be a fashionable and sophisticated socialite.
She was also involved in a relationship by that time with a man named Henry Percy, and entered a secret betrothal with him. It was said that she loved him, but they never engaged in anything beyond a passionate love for one another. The engagement was broken off when Henry Percy’s father refused to support any idea of marriage. After she was briefly at a countryside manor, she became a maid-of-honor to the Queen, Catherine of Aragon. Sir Thomas Wyatt told Henry VIII of Anne’s brilliance and charm, and he became very interested, especially when he was trying to get out of his marriage to Catherine of Aragon. There is no doubt that Anne resisted this treatment at first, and she often tried to escape the court to Hever Castle, the Boleyn countryside retreat.
The dynamic relationship between Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn is one of the most talked-about in the history of England. Love letters written between the both of them suggest that the relationship wasn’t sexual at all until just before their marriage (those who portrayed Anne as a witch are now deemed as trying to destroy her reputation).
It was not long before Henry began to pursue an annulment between his marriage with Catherine of Aragon. Anne made the idea easier for him by saying that she would not engage with him socially until she was made his queen. While this idea is controversial, it shows us that Anne did care for the Biblical concept of virginity and even for Catherine, and it supports that Anne was literally thrown into a marriage she was not even sure about. Finally, his marriage with Catherine was declared illegitimate on May 23, 1533. She had become the Countess of Pembroke on September 1, 1532, so the ‘peasant girl’ theory was marked out of the question. Although she and Henry secretly married on January 25, she was formally declared Queen of England on May 28, 1533. It was the same day their marriage was validated, Catherine was stripped of her title as Queen of England, and Henry’s daughter by Catherine, Mary, was declared illegitimate. Anne was crowned on June 1.
During her marriage, Anne was in no way leaning upon her husband. She acted very independently, but also did love her husband, despite the fact that she was an extremely unpopular queen. In addition,
Anne was already pregnant by Henry before her coronation and presumably even before her marriage was declared valid. Meanwhile, Pope Clement VII excommunicated Henry VIII and Thomas Cranmer, the current Archbishop of Canterbury, for not accepting Catherine of Aragon as the true Queen of England. Anne’s marriage also forced two devout Catholics who supported Catherine throughout the annulment trial, Bishop John Fisher and Sir Thomas More, into the Tower, and both were executed soon afterwards for their refusal to acknowledge Anne as Queen. Henry also broke off his relationship with the Catholic Church and made himself the head of a new church, the Church of England.
Anne settled at Henry VIII’s favorite palace, Greenwich Palace, to await their birth of her baby. On September 7, 1533, Anne gave birth to a daughter that was named Elizabeth, presumably after her paternal grandmother Elizabeth of York or maybe even her maternal grandmother as well. Many thought that the baby would be a male, and thus be Henry’s coveted heir, but Anne loved her daughter and enjoyed being around with her. Elizabeth was declared the Princess of Wales and first in line to the throne, and had a very lovely christening. She was given her own household at Hatfield Palace, and Henry VIII’s illegitimate daughter, Mary, was sent to be Elizabeth’s lady-in-waiting. During her time as Henry’s queen, Catherine’s daughter never acknowledged Anne as the rightful queen. This was also the beginning of a rift in the marriage between Henry and Anne, since the reason Henry had married her in the beginning was the fact that he believed she could give him a son.
Anne was lavished upon as Queen and had many more servants and improved things to use. Meanwhile, she was not considered beautiful or lovely by nearly anyone in England. She was referred to as many nasty things during her time as the English queen, and she became extremely unpopular because she could not produce a son. On January 8, news of Catherine’s death reached the King and Queen. The King put on a great show and celebrated, and Anne and Elizabeth were displayed to the public in yellow. Yet, this made Anne’s situation even worse, because Henry had the right to marry again and be accepted by Catholicism. After a miscarriage, Anne’s favor began to drastically fall, and Henry was thinking of ways to marry again. He also had his eye on another young lady of the court: one of Anne’s ladies-in-waiting, Jane Seymour.
By February 1536, he had his answer. He accused Anne of adultery, something that now we are absolutely positive she did not do. Henry VIII became convinced that Anne was an evil sorcereress who had charmed him into a terrible marriage, and accused five men-including Anne’s own brother-of adultery and had them arrested in March. One of the accused was a court musician, and being a commoner, he was tortured into confessing that he and Anne had once had a sexual relationship together after Anne became Queen. Historians are now saying that he confessed because he was tortured into confessing, and the purpose of the torture was to get him to say that he had comitted adultery, which was exactly what Henry VIII wanted to hear. Anne’s downfall is believed to have been orchaestrated by Thomas Cromwell, one of Henry’s new advisors.
On May 2, 1536, Anne was arrested and sent to the Tower for adultery and high treason. The five men accused of sexually engaging with Anne were beheaded at Tower Hill on May 17. Anne’s execution was scheduled for May 19. Some say that she was happy to escape her frightening life as Queen, but surely she must have been sorrowful to leave her daughter behind. Indeed, Elizabeth would reflect upon a motherless life for quite some time, and it was very true that Anne loved her daughter and appreciated the ability to have her.
On May 19, 1536, Anne approached a scaffold at Tower Green, the tower reserved for royals. She was a wearing a gray gown trimmed with ermine and a scarlet petticoat, and before she rested her head on the block, she had a few last words to say:
“Good Christian people, I come hither to die, for according to the law, and by the law I am judged to die, and therefore I shall speak nothing against this. I come hither to accuse no man, nor to speak anything of that, whereof I am accused and condemned to die, but I pray God save the king and send him long to reign over you, for a gentler nor more merciful prince there was never: and to me he was a good, a gentle, sovereign lord. And if any person will meddle of my cause, I require them to judge the best. And thus I take my leave of the world and of you all, and I heartily desire you all to pray for me. O Lord, have mercy upon me; to Jesus Christ I commend my soul.”
Anne was going to be killed by a professional, French swordsman. It only took one blow to kill her, and some even say she was still alive a few moments after it happpened. In many ways, you could say that Anne Boleyn was a terrific mistress but not a good wife for Henry VIII. Her beauty, elegance, charm, and wit were maybe too cutting edge for a king that believed he was the only independent man in the world. She was also strikingly different than Catherine of Aragon, not just in appearance but also in personality. Catherine of Aragon was the fair princess that represented everything that the world was leaving behind, and her sense of dignity went with her to the very end. Anne Boleyn was the fair maiden that no one expected could charm her way into Henry VIII’s heart, and represented all that the future lay ahead. They had different religions, different physical appearances, different preferences, different lifestyles, and yet they both ended their lives with a sad defeat. Anne Boleyn was the perfect woman and had all the right things, but her elegance and mystery was just too great for the world to handle.