Born: About 1504
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.