My notes from the second half of ‘Henry and Anne: the Lovers Who Changed History’


Part 2 27.02.2014

Suzannah Lipscomb
Suzannah Lipscomb

May 31 1533 Anne Boleyn parades through London to her coronation – climax of a passionate love affair driven to divorce his first wife
Henry had gambled with his kingdom’s future “set England on a collision course with much of Europe” but in three years she would be imprisoned
Seven years to actually marry and three years to fall apart
Anne was already pregnant when she became queen – 7 September 1533 Anne gave birth to a daughter – Elizabeth
Failed to give Henry a son – massive disappointment
Katherine of Aragon had been discarded for this exact reason
Henry needed to continue his dynasty – “image was everything in the Tudor court”, broad shoulders and splayed feet, bulging codpiece (NPG) masculinity, virility, potency
Intense pressure on their marriage from the beginning. Everything depended on a male heir
“Under such pressure Anne’s increasing desperation began to show”
In mid-1534 there were rumours of a pregnancy but no report of miscarriage or birth – phantom pregnancy?
Roman Catholics refused to accept Anne as Queen – “this conflict would lead to bloodshed”
April 1535 England has separated from the Pope but Roman Catholics are ready to defy the King at home and abroad
1534 Act of Supremacy and Act of Succession – swear an oath to this effect or suffer the traitor’s death
Prior John Houghton of the Charterhouse refused to swear the oath, ten of them imprisoned and then tried and executed by the traitor’s death – hung drawn and quartered, and blamed on Henry himself, more pressure on their marriage
“They needed a son more than ever to justify their actions”
Thornbury Castle in Gloucestershire summer 1535 Henry and Anne visited here for ten days and were still happy together “merry together”
“Relationship of sunshine and storms” – fights and ardent reunions, all was well at the end of 1535

Katherine of Aragon by Lucas Hornebolte
Katherine of Aragon by Lucas Hornebolte

7 January 1536 Henry was totally in control of England, Anne was again pregnant, Katherine of Aragon died
In Europe, Katherine was Henry’s only legitimate wife, Henry and Anne celebrated her death – Katherine was the victim and her only crime was a failure to have a son, denied a state funeral and was buried at Peterborough Cathedral
Katherine was a martyr in the eyes of Catholics but Henry and Anne treated her with contempt
“It was Henry’s overwhelming desire to keep his honour” – Henry and Anne’s relationship suffered a blow
Honour = masculinity, tournaments and jousts but his youth and athleticism were fading. Henry fell from his horse and suffered a blow to the head. His life was at risk, unconscious for over two hours, marked change in Henry’s personality?
If the frontal lobe was hit his personality and behaviour could have changed, could exacerbate existing traits, or could change completely
Old ulcer reopened on his leg – could have also made him more angry
January 29 1536 Anne miscarried a son just a week after Henry’s accident – three and a half month old foetus
Success of their marriage depended on having a son “miscarried of her saviour” – Anne sealed her own fate “I see that God will not give me male children” – God disapproved of the marriage.
April 1 1536 rumours circulated that Henry lost interest in Anne, never a popular queen, some would rejoice at her downfall

Jane Seymour by Hans Holbein c.1536.
Jane Seymour by Hans Holbein c.1536.

Henry was seeing Jane Seymour, rumours came from Chapuys “the concubine” “incurred the royal displeasure” “much indignation against Anne” – lady-in-waiting to Anne Boleyn as Anne had once been to Katherine
Jane returned a letter and purse of money from Henry – playing hard to get?
Henry wasn’t planning to marry Jane, wanted her as a mistress rather than a Queen – still pressuring the Holy Roman Emperor to recognise Anne
Rumours spread that Anne was being unfaithful – why and who is unknown, as is her guilt, was her downfall plotted?
“Did careless talk cost lives?” – unlikely that Anne would commit adultery, lack of surviving evidence, understand it through a more recent scandal – Princess Diana – Diana and Anne both seen as sexual women – usefulness outlived, condemn her in the eyes of the world, question of scandal
If scandal doesn’t exist, there will always be someone around to create it
No one would tell Henry that he was wrong even if he was because it would be a risk that could cost you your life – Henry truly believed it
Ordered an investigation – Henry Norris, groom of the stool, Henry’s closest companion, trusted
“Walls had ears” rumour and gossip in the court – “you look for dead men’s shoes for if aught came to the king but good you would look to have me” serious faux pas, imagined the king’s death = treason
May 1 1536 final downfall swift and sudden, joust at Greenwich for May Day
Smeaton confessed to sexual intercourse with Anne on three occasions – potential to destroy Henry’s masculine honour – needed to show control over his wife, Henry was also convinced of Norris’s guilt

Anne Boleyn National Portrait Gallery.
Anne Boleyn National Portrait Gallery.

Henry left the tournament and never saw Anne again – she didn’t have a chance to protest her innocence. She was arrested the next day and didn’t initially know the charges “beginning of the end” – no one suspected a queen of England might lose her head
Accused of treasonous acts. Henry disappeared from public life to avoid embarrassment
May 15 1536 trial took place in front of 2000 people and headed by her uncle the Duke of Norfolk, record of the trial including indictment
“Diabolically seduced” “violated and carnally known” “allured the said George into putting his tongue in her mouth” – depraved sexual appetite
Humiliating for Henry – lack of sexual prowess, George Boleyn read out that Anne said Henry had neither vigour nor potency – found guilty and sentenced to death
Unanimously found guilty – she now had nothing to lose “I am entirely innocent and cannot ask pardon for [the charges]” – didn’t show him the humility he deserved, a bit too feisty, spoken out too much? Had “fancies” and “suspicions” of Henry “never failed otherwise towards him”
Anne said she was innocent on peril of her soul’s damnation
“What happened to Anne was a terrible mishap” – too good at the courtly game, what attracted Henry in the first place “made her look guilty as sin”
Anne’s daughter, Elizabeth, made illegitimate, hope for Princess Mary’s restoration
May 16 1536 five men she was accused of sleeping with were beheaded, probably heard the noise outside, believed that Anne had her own prayer book in the Tower “tangible sense of reaching out to touch the past” – written in it “remember me when you do pray that hope doth lead from day to day”
May 19 1536 Anne’s day of execution, left her chamber before 8am, French swordsman summoned as an act of mercy within the walls of the Tower
“For by the law and according to the law I am judged to die” “I pray God save the King and send him long to reign over you all for gentler nor a more merciful prince was there never” “if any person will meddle of my cause I require them to judge the best”
Anne was beheaded with a single strike of the French blade – Chapel of St Peter ad Vincula within the Tower, buried here
Eleven days later Henry married Jane Seymour who gave birth to a son, Edward, who died six years into his reign. Elizabeth reigned for 45 years

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