Henry VIII marries Anne Boleyn


Henry VIII marries Anne Boleyn

Whitehall, London The 25th of January 1533 AD

Anne Boleyn has become one of the great romantic heroines on British folklore, but whether or not she deserves such a position is open to debate, as is much about her, even including her date of birth.

Historians are divided about her birth, 1501 and 1507 being the dates most often cited, though one Italian historian from the 17th century wrote of her as having been born in 1499.

Born into the family of a trusted confidant and diplomatist of Henry VII , Anne spent her early life as a lady in waiting to Archduchess Margaret and Queen Claude of France, before making her first appearance at court in 1522. Her expected marriage to the Earl of Ormonde fell through, and her next suitor, Henry Percy, was prevented from marrying her by his father and by the intervention of Cardinal Wolsey – possibly as she had come to Henry VIII’s attention by this time, though she moved seamlessly to a probably platonic affair with the poet Thomas Wyatt when Percy faded from her world.

Mary Boleyn, Anne’s older sister, had become another in a long line of mistresses to Henry VIII , and some are inclined to believe he fathered her two children – they were certainly well cared for when her husband died. When Henry began overtly courting her, probably in 1526, though it may have been earlier than this, Anne had learned from her sister’s treatment, and she refused to be bedded by Henry.

In 1527 Henry, partly spurred on by lust, partly by the failure of his marriage to Catherine of Aragon to produce a son, began to investigate the annulment of that marriage. Pope Clement VII dragged his feet, a stance made stronger by Charles V, Catherine’s nephew, having the Pope in his grasp. Wolsey’s failure to obtain the annulment led to his dismissal.

Henry sought allies to support him in annulling the marriage without the Pope’s agreement. Religious radicals weighed in behind the king, seeking to sever the ties of the church in England with Rome. Thomas Cranmer , her family’s chaplain, was given the archbishopric of Canterbury when the post became vacant.

On September 1532 Anne was made Marquess of Pembroke, the first female commoner to be accorded such an honour in her own right. That winter talks in Calais with Francois I ended with an agreement to support Henry against the Pope’s authority as regards the annulment. At roughly the same time Anne and Henry finally became lovers, and by December it was clear she was with child.

On January 25th then Henry married Anne at Whitehall Palace in London, though he had not yet officially ended his union with Catherine. Anne should have noted his capricious nature well. It was not until May that the previous marriage was publicly annulled. The lovers had probably already undergone a secret ceremony in Dover on their return from the Calais conference. A rather grander ceremony was held on June 1, when Anne was crowned as Queen of England.

The marriage to Catherine had been circumvented, the reason given that it had been contrary to church law for Henry to have married her when she had been betrothed to his older brother Arthur shortly before the latter’s death. After years of waiting Anne was Henry’s lover and wife; Anne was already conveniently pregnant, surely with the long awaited son and heir. What could go wrong?

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