Born: About 1504
Father: Thomas Boleyn
Mother: Elizabeth Howard
Spouse: Henry VIII (1491-1547)
Queen Of England: 1533-1536
Children: Elizabeth I (1533-1603)
Died: 19 May 1536
Place: Tower Of London
Buried: Chapel of St Peter Ad Vincula
Anne Boleyn is perhaps the most famous of Henry VIII's six wives. Confident, clever, and very attractive, Anne caught the King's eye while she was a lady in waiting to his first wife, Catherine of Aragon. The King wanted to make her his mistress, but Anne refused him. Her sister, Mary Boleyn, had once been the King's mistress and had not fared well as a result. Anne wanted better treatment and told the King she would only sleep with him if he married her.
The more Anne resisted Henry, the more he wanted her, and by 1526 he was resolved to marry her. His wife, Catherine of Aragon, had failed to give him a son, a son he was desperate to have to succeed him, and he'd come to the conclusion that his marriage was cursed by God. Marrying a brother's widow was forbidden in The Bible and Henry had done just this in marrying Catherine. Henry believed the only way to put things right was to divorce Catherine, on the grounds that their marriage was invalid, and to marry Anne instead. Anne encouraged him, wanting to be Queen, and Henry petitioned the Pope for an annulment. Catherine, however, would not agree to a divorce and this put the Pope in a difficult position as her nephew was the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, a very powerful man. The Pope, not wanting to make a decision, dragged things out. For six years Henry tried to secure a divorce, doing everything he could to persuade the Pope to grant him an annulment, but his efforts were in vain. The Pope would not give it. Frustrated and angry, Henry fell out with the Pope and set up his own Church of England. As head of the Church he could grant his own divorce and his marriage to Catherine was finally declared null and void in 1533.
Having got his way, Henry married Anne, and she was crowned Queen of England in the summer of 1533. Henry and Anne were jubilant. Not only were they now King and Queen, but Anne was pregnant. She and Henry were convinced that the baby was a boy, as were philosophers and soothsayers, and the baby was going to be called Edward. However, it was not a boy that Anne gave birth to on the 7th of September 1533. It was a girl, the future Queen Elizabeth I. Henry and Anne were bitterly disappointed and things were never quite the same between them again. Henry began to wonder if his second marriage displeased God too, especially when Anne started to have miscarriages, and he slowly fell out of love with her. When his first wife died in the January of 1536, meaning he would not face petitions to take her back if he cast off Anne, Henry decided to get rid of Anne.
Anne knew her position was in danger, especially when she miscarried of a boy the same month that Catherine died, but not even she could have imagined what was to come. Not satisfied with having the marriage annulled, as he would have been with Catherine, Henry wanted Anne dead. In the weeks that followed, Anne was falsely accused of having committed adultery with many men, including her own brother, was put on trial, found guilty, and condemned to death. On the 19th of May 1536, in the Tower of London where she was being held a prisoner, Anne was beheaded. In what he considered to be an act of mercy, Henry allowed Anne to be executed by a sword rather than an axe. As there was no executioner with the expertise in England, Henry had a swordsman brought in from France.
Anne, who weeks earlier had been the second most important person in the land, was buried without ceremony in a wooden chest in the Tower's Church of St Peter Ad Vincula. Henry was glad to be free of her and within days married his new love, Anne's former lady in waiting, Jane Seymour.