Anne Boleyn: Triumph to Failure

Guest Article By P. Deegan

The Rise and Fall of Anne Boleyn
Part 2: Marriage – Triumph to failure

(Find Part 1 Here)

Following the official meeting with the French king in autumn of 1532, Henry and Anne went through a secret marriage, it is thought, on 25 January 1533. She was pregnant at the time as Elizabeth was born in September.  The marriage may sound bigamous in that as far as everyone else in England and Europe were aware, Henry was still married to Katherine. No formal statements had been made to change that. But from Henry’s point of view, that marriage was about to be annulled and that wouldn’t mean that his first marriage was then terminated but that the marriage had never been real in the first place – so he was therefore really a bachelor and thus free to marry for the first time.

Public Domain

Public Domain

Katherine was instructed to move to Ampthill, some distance from London, but at this time she wrote to her nephew and the pope saying she would not sanction any invasion of England on her behalf

In March Anne’s regal household was set up and on the 26th the Convocation (an early church synod or assembly) was asked to pronounce on the validity of a dispensation to marry a brother’s widow. Unsurprisingly the convocation found in Henry’s favour. Katherine was notified on the Wednesday of Holy Week (the week before Easter) that she was really the dowager princess of Wales and had to adjust her lifestyle accordingly and on the Saturday before Easter Anne went to mass as queen, in cloth of gold and laden with jewels, accompanied by 60 maids of honour. On the 1st June Anne had a grand coronation with festivities lasting four days.

In July Katherine was offered a fine estate if she submitted to the King’s wishes but she refused and was made to move to Bishop of Lincoln’s Palace at Buckden in Huntingdonshire at the end of the month. This was not a very healthy place and later in the year Katherine requested that she be allowed to move to a healthier place. However the only option given her was Fotheringay castle, which was worse, and so she declined.

One minor point during this time I found unnecessarily mean towards Katherine and surprisingly it wasn’t Henry’s fault this time but Anne’s.  It wasn’t that Anne took Katherine’s barge – but that she demanded the beautiful christening robe that Katherine had brought with her from Spain for the children she expected to have in England. This was not an English state asset, owned and used by the current sovereign and their consort, but personally brought here by Katherine. Yes, clothing was valuable and was included in wills but Henry would have arranged for Anne to have made absolutely any of the finest baby clothing she could dream up: the finest material worked on by the most skilled embroiderers. But, no, she just wanted Katherine’s baby clothes.  Katherine had surrendered everything demanded so far – if not as fast as Henry expected – but she flat refused to give Anne this and I was pleased to say Henry did not enforce the demand.

Anne gave birth to Elizabeth in September 1533 and she was given a grand christening.  From Henry and Anne’s viewpoint it was unfortunate that she was a girl, rather than the prince Henry was so desperate for, but Anne had given him a live and healthy baby first time which meant a better result than that of Katherine’s first pregnancy.

Another quick conception meant Anne was pregnant 3 or 4 months after her first child and Chapuys noted in February 1534 that the King was expecting a son this time. Anne’s condition was showing by April (and that in a woman known to be slightly built or even thin) and Henry ordered a grand cradle to be made. Katherine was moved to Kimbolten Castle in May 1534 where the accommodation was more comfortable but people, loyal to Henry, were appointed her stewart and chamberlain and instructed not to let any people visit her unless they had a license from the king.

In July 1534, Anne’s brother, Lord Rochford, was sent on a diplomatic mission to France to ask for the postponement of a meeting between Henry VIII and Francis I because of Anne’s condition: “being so far gone with child she could not cross the sea with the King”[1]. But Anne must have miscarried, with circumstantial evidence showed it is likely to have happened early in July on their summer progress. As this date would have meant she must have been at least six months gone, this suggests a late miscarriage. Late enough for the sex of the foetus to be obvious and, considering a later remark of the king to her (“he would have no more boys of her”), the child they lost in 1534 was probably a boy. No formal acknowledgements of what had happened were made though.

Apart from the dynastic hopes of a prince in the first part of the year, 1534 turned out to be a productive time of significant new laws:

  • The Act in Absolute Restraint of Appeals which transferred all payments from the pope to the King. It also laid down that all future abbots and bishops were to be chosen for election by the King [2].
  • The Act of Succession which settled the right of succession on the children of his marriage with Anne. Anybody who opposed the marriage or the act was subject to penalties. It also gave Henry the right to extract oaths that people supported the act with a refusal to swear meaning treason.
  • The Act of Supremacy which made Henry the Head of the Church of England

Sir Thomas More refused to swear to the Act of Succession and was imprisoned for it. He was then executed in 1535. As was John Fisher, Bishop of Rochester and (briefly) Cardinal.

On the personal side, from 1534 Henry is thought to have taken a mistress and shown a courtly love interest in various ladies of the court but Henry and Anne’s marriage continued on, in it’s volatile fashion, throughout 1535.

Some have retrospectively read Henry and Anne’s visit to Wolf Hall (Jane Seymour’s family home), during their 1535 progress, as the start of Henry’s interest in Jane as she would become his next wife in the following year. But Jane was already a lady in waiting to Anne and had been since 1534 when she, along with others of the queen’s ladies, received a standard new year’s present from the king.  There are no contemporary reports of Henry’s interest in her romantically before January 1536. In fact Anne finished the progress pregnant again but things were difficult in the country as bad weather had meant they’d lost half the harvest and there was an outbreak of plague. Also in October 1535, unknown to Henry, Katherine had appealed to her nephew, the emperor Charles V, to intervene on her behalf.

However she must have been ill at the time of this appeal as Katherine’s health went downhill quickly in late December and she died on 7th January 1536.  A form of primitive autopsy was done and had shown a growth on her heart which modern experts have interpreted as a form of cancer though Katherine’s contemporaries thought that it meant she had been poisoned.  Is it too fanciful to say that losing Henry and her throne, together with being separated from her daughter, literally broke her heart? Henry, Anne and the court were ecstatic when the news was reported to them – Henry because there was no risk of war to the country and Anne because there was now nobody else claiming to be queen and she was definitely pregnant with what she hoped would be the long awaited son, which would cement her position at court. Henry would never do to the mother of his son what he had done to Katherine.

Public Domain

Public Domain

However later that month, on the 24th, Henry had a serious accident whilst jousting and was unconscious for two hours. He had slowly been gaining weight for decades and had already had accidents whilst jousting, as it is thought a jousting accident was responsible for the chronic infection in his leg dating from the late 1520’s. However by 1536 he had become quite overweight and, at 44 years old, was not the strong athletic young man that he had once been.

Katherine was buried in Peterborough Abbey as the widow of the Prince of Wales on the 29th January. This was the date that Anne was said to have miscarried again and one report of this event said that the sex of the foetus had been male. Various exchanges between Henry and Anne, in the aftermath of the miscarriage, were reported by different people. One report was that Anne tore into Henry, blaming the miscarriage on the shock of his accident and that she was upset because he paid attention to other women because her love for him was so much stronger than Katherine’s had been.  I find the comparison that she used very interesting: why didn’t she just say because she was upset because she loved him so much? What had Katherine’s love to do with anything? Pure speculation but did she raise this because at some point before the miscarriage Henry had read out Katherine’s final letter to her? Katherine had complained of Henry’s behaviour towards her in it but at the end it read “Lastly, I want only one true thing, to make this vow: that, in this life, mine eyes desire you alone, May God protect you.“ Had she felt that Henry had been secretly impressed by Katherine’s lasting devotion (if not by her stubbornness)? It seems odd otherwise that Anne would use Katherine as the gold standard for anything unless Henry had been unfavourably comparing her with Katherine when they were in private.

Anne took some time to recover from this miscarriage and stayed at Greenwich when Henry returned to London for the final session of the Reformation parliament.  During this session Parliament passed some manors into the queen’s possession and Henry summoned her back to court when she had recovered. On March 18th Chapuys reported that Jane Seymour was “a young lady whose influence increases daily”[3] but Anne was still queen and distributed alms to beggars and washed their feet, in a traditional duty of queens on Maundy Thursday in April.

On May 1st 1536 King Henry VIII and Queen Anne attended the May Day jousts at Greenwich as king and queen and contemporary sources state it appeared to be the usual happy event. Half way through, the king got a message and left with a small body of men… On 4th June 1536 Jane Seymour was publically declared queen.

In between:

  • Five men were arrested and taken to the Tower. These included four gentlemen of Henry’s Privy Chamber: George Boleyn (Viscount Rochford and Anne’s brother), Sir Henry Norris (who had been called “best beloved of the King” and who had served him for 20 years), Sir Francis Weston and Sir William Brereton. They also arrested the musician Mark Smeaton who was not high born.
  • Anne was called before the Privy Council which charged her with committing adultery. Then later in the day she was arrested and taken to the Tower of London, without her ladies, and held in the lodgings where she had briefly stayed three years ago before her coronation. Though at that time it was her palace and not her prison.
  • Two other men, Sir Thomas Wyatt and Sir Richard Page were also arrested and taken to the Tower.
  • Henry instructed Archbishop Cranmer to find the grounds for annulling his marriage to Anne.
  • Rather than pass an Act of Attainder in Parliament, the accused were sent for public trial and the charges at the trials also included conspiring the death of the King. Wyatt and Page were not amongst the men who went to trial. The commoners (Norris, Weston Brereton and Smeaton) were tried together at Westminster.
  • Anne was tried later in the King’s Hall at the Tower of London but the public were admitted to this, at the King’s command, and Chapuys reported that “the thing was not done secretly, for there were more than two thousand persons present”[4]. Rochford was tried there after his sister.
  • After the trials and sentencing, Cranmer obtained Anne’s agreement to the dissolution of her marriage which left her daughter a bastard and thus removed from the succession to the throne.
  • The convicted men were executed.
  • A foreign swordsman was sent for to execute the queen.
  • Anne was executed and buried.
  • Henry was betrothed to Jane Seymour.
  • Henry married Jane Seymour.

And all in 34 days! No wonder there are conflicting theories by historians about how such a dramatic change happened and why.

Footnotes

  1. http://www.theanneboleynfiles.com/the-pregnancies-of-anne-boleyn-and-catherine-of-aragon/#ixzz3n4bzPTYh
  2. http://www.historyonthenet.com/tudors/catherine_aragon_timeline.htm
  3. Weir, Alison., 2009, The Lady in the Tower: The Fall of Anne Boleyn, Pg 49, London: Jonathan Cape
  4. Weir, Alison., 2009, The Lady in the Tower: The Fall of Anne Boleyn, Pg 209, London: Jonathan Cape

Bibliography

Ives, Eric., 2005, The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn, pg 95, Oxford: Blackwell Publishing

Weir, Alison., 2009, The Lady in the Tower: The Fall of Anne Boleyn, London: Jonathan Cape

http://www.historyonthenet.com/tudors/catherine_aragon_timeline.htm (Accessed 2015)

http://onthetudortrail.com/Blog/2011/01/07/the-death-of-catherine-of-aragon/ (Accessed 2015)
http://englishhistory.net/tudor/monarchs/jane-seymour/ (Accessed 2015)
The Pregnancies of Anne Boleyn and Catherine of Aragon Posted By Claire on February 3, 2010  on http://www.theanneboleynfiles.com/the-pregnancies-of-anne-boleyn-and-catherine-of-aragon/ (Accessed 2015)
Wikipedia (yeah – sorry)

 

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