On this day in History
19 May - 1536 – Anne Boleyn, the second wife of Henry VIII of England, is beheaded for adultery, treason, and incest.
Anne Boleyn (/ˈbʊlɪn/, /bəˈlɪn/ or /bʊˈlɪn/) (c. 1501 – 19 May 1536) was Queen of England from 1533 to 1536 as the second wife of King Henry VIII and Marquess of Pembroke in her own right. Henry's marriage to Anne, and her subsequent execution, made her a key figure in the political and religious upheaval that was the start of the English Reformation. Anne was the daughter of Thomas Boleyn, 1st Earl of Wiltshire, and his wife, Lady Elizabeth Howard, and was educated in the Netherlands and France, largely as a maid of honour to Claude of France. She returned to England in early 1522, to marry her Irish cousin James Butler, 9th Earl of Ormond; the marriage plans were broken up by Cardinal Wolsey, and instead she secured a post at court as maid of honour to Henry VIII's wife, Catherine of Aragon.
Early in 1523 Anne was secretly betrothed to Henry Percy, son of the 5th Earl of Northumberland. In January 1524, Cardinal Wolsey broke the betrothal, Anne was sent back home to Hever Castle, and Percy was married to Lady Mary Talbot, to whom he had been betrothed since adolescence. In February/March 1526, Henry VIII began his pursuit of Anne. She resisted his attempts to seduce her, refusing to become his mistress – which her sister Mary had been. It soon became the one absorbing object of Henry's desires to annul his marriage to Queen Catherine so he would be free to marry Anne. When it became clear that Pope Clement VII would not annul the marriage, the breaking of the power of the Catholic Church in England began. In 1532, Henry granted Anne the Marquessate of Pembroke.
Henry and Anne married on 25 January 1533. On 23 May 1533, Thomas Cranmer declared Henry and Catherine's marriage null and void; five days later, he declared Henry and Anne's marriage valid. Shortly afterwards, the Pope decreed sentences of excommunication against Henry and Cranmer. As a result of this marriage and these excommunications, the first break between the Church of England and Rome took place and the Church of England was brought under the King's control. Anne was crowned Queen of England on 1 June 1533. On 7 September, she gave birth to the future Queen Elizabeth I. Henry was disappointed to have a daughter rather than a son but hoped a son would follow and professed to love Elizabeth. Anne subsequently had three miscarriages, and by March 1536, Henry was courting Jane Seymour.
Henry had Anne investigated for high treason in April 1536. On 2 May she was arrested and sent to the Tower of London, where she was tried before a jury of peers – which included Henry Percy, her former betrothed, and her own uncle, Thomas Howard – and found guilty on 15 May. She was beheaded four days later. Modern historians view the charges against her, which included adultery, incest, and witchcraft, as unconvincing. Following the coronation of her daughter Elizabeth as queen, Anne was venerated as a martyr and heroine of the English Reformation, particularly through the works of John Foxe.[ Over the centuries, she has inspired or been mentioned in numerous artistic and cultural works. As a result, she has retained her hold on the popular imagination. Anne has been called "the most influential and important queen consort England has ever had", since she provided the occasion for Henry VIII to annul his marriage to Catherine of Aragon, and declare his independence from Rome.
Downfall and execution: 1536
On 8 January 1536, news of Catherine of Aragon's death reached the King and Anne, who were overjoyed. The following day, Henry and Anne wore yellow, the symbol of joy and celebration in England, from head to toe, and celebrated Catherine's death with festivities. In Spain, the home country of Catherine of Aragon, yellow was the colour of mourning, in addition to black.[ For this reason, the wearing of yellow by Henry and Anne may have been a symbol of mourning. With Mary's mother dead, Anne, for her part, attempted to make peace with her.
The Queen, pregnant again, was aware of the dangers if she failed to give birth to a son. With Catherine dead, Henry would be free to marry without any taint of illegality. At this time Henry began paying court to Jane Seymour. He gave her a locket with a miniature portrait of himself inside and Jane, in the presence of Anne, began opening and shutting it. Anne responded by ripping off the locket with such force her fingers bled. Mary rebuffed Anne's overtures, perhaps because of rumours circulating that Catherine had been poisoned by Anne and/or Henry. These began after the discovery during her embalming that her heart was blackened. Modern medical experts are in agreement that this was not the result of poisoning, but of cancer of the heart, something which was not understood at the time.
Later that month, the King was unhorsed in a tournament and knocked unconscious for two hours, a worrying incident that Anne believed led to her miscarriage five days later. Another possibility for the miscarriage was an incident in which upon entering a room, Anne saw Jane Seymour sitting on the lap of Henry. After flying into a rage, Henry soothed her, saying "peace be sweetheart, and all will be well." Whatever the cause, on the day that Catherine of Aragon was buried at Peterborough Abbey, Anne miscarried a baby which, according to the imperial ambassador Eustace Chapuys, she had borne for about three and a half months, and which "seemed to be a male child". Chapuys commented "She has miscarried of her saviour." In Chapuys' opinion, this loss was the beginning of the end of the royal marriage.
Given Henry's desperate desire for a son, the sequence of Anne's pregnancies has attracted much interest. Author Mike Ashley speculated that Anne had two stillborn children after Elizabeth's birth and before the male child she miscarried in 1536. Most sources attest only to the birth of Elizabeth in September 1533, a possible miscarriage in the summer of 1534, and the miscarriage of a male child, of almost four months gestation, in January 1536. As Anne recovered from her miscarriage, Henry declared that he had been seduced into the marriage by means of "sortilege"—a French term indicating either "deception" or "spells". His new mistress, Jane Seymour, was quickly moved into royal quarters. This was followed by Anne's brother George being refused a prestigious court honour, the Order of the Garter, given instead to Sir Nicholas Carew.
Charges of adultery, incest and treason
According to author and Tudor historian Alison Weir, Thomas Cromwell plotted Anne's downfall while feigning illness[ and detailing the plot 20–21 April 1536.Anne's biographer Eric Ives also believes that her fall and execution were engineered by Cromwell. The conversations between Chapuys and Cromwell thereafter indicate Cromwell as the instigator of the plot to remove Anne; evidence of this is seen in the Spanish Chronicle and through letters written from Chapuys to Charles V. Anne argued with Cromwell over the redistribution of Church revenues and over foreign policy. She advocated that revenues be distributed to charitable and educational institutions; and she favoured a French alliance. Cromwell insisted on filling the King's depleted coffers, while taking a cut for himself, and preferred an imperial alliance. For these reasons, Ives suggests, "Anne Boleyn had become a major threat to Thomas Cromwell." Cromwell's biographer John Schofield, on the other hand, contends that no power struggle existed between Anne and Cromwell and that "not a trace can be found of a Cromwellian conspiracy against Anne... Cromwell became involved in the royal marital drama only when Henry ordered him onto the case." Cromwell did not manufacture the accusations of adultery, though he and other officials used them to bolster Henry's case against Anne.
Historian Retha Warnicke questions whether Cromwell could have or wished to manipulate the king in such a matter. Such a bold attempt by Cromwell, given the limited evidence, could have risked his office, even his life. Henry himself issued the crucial instructions: his officials, including Cromwell, carried them out. The result, historians agree, was a legal travesty. However modern lawyers have concluded that the rules of the time were not bent in order to assure Anne Boleyn's conviction; there was no need to tamper with rules that guaranteed the desired result, law at the time, like armies, being an engine of state, not a mechanism for justice.
On 2 May 1536, Anne was arrested and taken to the Tower of London by barge. It is likely that Anne may have entered through The Court Gate in The Byward Tower rather than The Traitor's Gate, according to historian and author of The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn, Eric Ives. In the Tower, she collapsed, demanding to know the location of her father and "swete broder", as well as the charges against her.
In what is reputed to be her last letter to King Henry, dated 6 May, she wrote:
Your Grace's displeasure, and my imprisonment are things so strange unto me, as what to write, or what to excuse, I am altogether ignorant. Whereas you send unto me (willing me to confess a truth, and so obtain your favour) by such an one, whom you know to be my ancient professed enemy. I no sooner received this message by him, than I rightly conceived your meaning; and if, as you say, confessing a truth indeed may procure my safety, I shall with all willingness and duty perform your demand.
But let not your Grace ever imagine, that your poor wife will ever be brought to acknowledge a fault, where not so much as a thought thereof preceded. And to speak a truth, never prince had wife more loyal in all duty, and in all true affection, than you have ever found in Anne Boleyn: with which name and place I could willingly have contented myself, if God and your Grace's pleasure had been so pleased. Neither did I at any time so far forget myself in my exaltation or received Queenship, but that I always looked for such an alteration as I now find; for the ground of my preferment being on no surer foundation than your Grace's fancy, the least alteration I knew was fit and sufficient to draw that fancy to some other object. You have chosen me, from a low estate, to be your Queen and companion, far beyond my desert or desire. If then you found me worthy of such honour, good your Grace let not any light fancy, or bad council of mine enemies, withdraw your princely favour from me; neither let that stain, that unworthy stain, of a disloyal heart toward your good grace, ever cast so foul a blot on your most dutiful wife, and the infant-princess your daughter. Try me, good king, but let me have a lawful trial, and let not my sworn enemies sit as my accusers and judges; yea let me receive an open trial, for my truth shall fear no open flame; then shall you see either my innocence cleared, your suspicion and conscience satisfied, the ignominy and slander of the world stopped, or my guilt openly declared. So that whatsoever God or you may determine of me, your grace may be freed of an open censure, and mine offense being so lawfully proved, your grace is at liberty, both before God and man, not only to execute worthy punishment on me as an unlawful wife, but to follow your affection, already settled on that party, for whose sake I am now as I am, whose name I could some good while since have pointed unto, your Grace being not ignorant of my suspicion therein. But if you have already determined of me, and that not only my death, but an infamous slander must bring you the enjoying of your desired happiness; then I desire of God, that he will pardon your great sin therein, and likewise mine enemies, the instruments thereof, and that he will not call you to a strict account of your unprincely and cruel usage of me, at his general judgment-seat, where both you and myself must shortly appear, and in whose judgment I doubt not (whatsoever the world may think of me) mine innocence shall be openly known, and sufficiently cleared. My last and only request shall be, that myself may only bear the burden of your Grace's displeasure, and that it may not touch the innocent souls of those poor gentlemen, who (as I understand) are likewise in strait imprisonment for my sake. If ever I found favour in your sight, if ever the name of Anne Boleyn hath been pleasing in your ears, then let me obtain this request, and I will so leave to trouble your Grace any further, with mine earnest prayers to the Trinity to have your Grace in his good keeping, and to direct you in all your actions. From my doleful prison in the Tower, this sixth of May;
Your most loyal and ever faithful wife, Anne Boleyn"
Although the evidence against them was unconvincing, the accused were found guilty and condemned to death. George Boleyn and the other accused men were executed on 17 May 1536. William Kingston, the Constable of the Tower, reported Anne seemed very happy and ready to be done with life. Henry commuted Anne's sentence from burning to beheading, and rather than have a queen beheaded with the common axe, he brought an expert swordsman from Saint-Omer in France, to perform the execution. On the morning of 19 May, Kingston wrote:
This morning she sent for me, that I might be with her at such time as she received the good Lord, to the intent I should hear her speak as touching her innocency alway to be clear. And in the writing of this she sent for me, and at my coming she said, 'Mr. Kingston, I hear I shall not die afore noon, and I am very sorry therefore, for I thought to be dead by this time and past my pain.' I told her it should be no pain, it was so little. And then she said, 'I heard say the executioner was very good, and I have a little neck,' and then put her hands about it, laughing heartily. I have seen many men and also women executed, and that they have been in great sorrow, and to my knowledge this lady has much joy in death. Sir, her almoner is continually with her, and had been since two o'clock after midnight.
Her impending death may have caused her great sorrow for some time during her imprisonment. The poem "Oh Death Rock Me Asleep" is generally believed to have been authored by Anne and reveals that she may have hoped death would end her suffering.
Shortly before dawn, she called Kingston to hear mass with her, and swore in his presence, on the eternal salvation of her soul, upon the Holy Sacraments, that she had never been unfaithful to the king. She ritually repeated this oath both immediately before and after receiving the sacrament of the Eucharist.
Death and burial
The ermine mantle was removed and Anne lifted off her headdress, tucking her hair under a coif. After a brief farewell to her weeping ladies and a request for prayers, she kneeled down and one of her ladies tied a blindfold over her eyes. She knelt upright, in the French style of executions. Her final prayer consisted of her repeating continually, "Jesu receive my soul; O Lord God have pity on my soul."
The execution consisted of a single stroke. It was witnessed by Thomas Cromwell; Charles Brandon, 1st Duke of Suffolk; the King's illegitimate son, Henry Fitzroy; the Lord Mayor of London, as well as aldermen, sheriffs, and representatives of the various craft guilds. Most of the King's Council were also present. Cranmer, who was at Lambeth Palace, was reported to have broken down in tears after telling Alexander Ales: "She who has been the Queen of England on earth will today become a Queen in heaven." When the charges were first brought against Anne, Cranmer had expressed his astonishment to Henry and his belief that "she should not be culpable." Still, Cranmer felt vulnerable because of his closeness to the queen, and so on the night before the execution, he declared Henry's marriage to Anne to have been void, like Catherine's before her. He made no serious attempt to save Anne's life, although some sources record that he had prepared her for death by hearing her last private confession of sins, in which she had stated her innocence before God. On the day of her death a Scottish friend found Cranmer weeping uncontrollably in his London gardens, saying that he was sure that Anne had now gone to Heaven.
She was then buried in an unmarked grave in the Chapel of St Peter ad Vincula. Her skeleton was identified during renovations of the chapel in 1876, in the reign of Queen Victoria, and Anne's resting place is now marked in the marble floor.
William Powell Frith (1819-1909)
Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn Deer Shooting In Windsor Forest
Vielka Helen - Princess Eboli