Anne Boleyn

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Anne Boleyn Anne Boleyn Signature.svg

Anne Boleyn [ ˈbʊlɪn, bʊˈlɪn ], 1st Marquess of Pembroke (* 1501 or 1507 , probably in Blickling Hall ( Norfolk ), † May 19, 1536 in London ) was the second of the six wives of Henry VIII and Queen from 1533 to 1536 of England .

Her refusal to surrender to the king as mistress led to his divorce from Catherine of Aragon and was one of the triggers for the emergence of the Anglican Church through the separation of the Church of England from Rome. However, like Katharina, she did not give Henry VIII the hoped-for male heirs. Anne Boleyn fell from grace and was beheaded on May 19, 1536 for alleged adultery and high treason . Her daughter Elizabeth I later became one of the most important and longest reigning queens of England.

Anne's cousin Catherine Howard was the fifth wife of Henry four years after Anne's death and was beheaded for adultery in 1542.

Historical meaning

Anne Boleyn as a young woman

Since the Pope did not want to grant him annulment of his marriage to Catherine of Aragon , Henry VIII turned away from the Roman Catholic Church by splitting off the Anglican Church with himself as head to enable a marriage to Anne Boleyn. The divorce of the King from Catherine of Aragón - against the papal dispensation and against the judgment of the Pope - marks the beginning of the English Reformation, the breakaway of the Anglican national church and the end of the Pope's sole influence on royal marriages and divorces within the Anglican national church, which existed since the 6th century. Heinrich later also became the head of the English Church, which alone could decide on religious questions. Therefore, the marriage to Anne Boleyn not only a split in religious terms, but also a spin-off of the country England from the Roman Catholic Church is (See: History of the Anglican Church ) . Anne was later hailed as the martyr of the English Protestants (especially in the works of John Foxe ). Anne Boleyn is the best known of the six wives of King Henry VIII of England. Her rise to the king's favorite, and eventually Queen of England, happened just as quickly as her decline later. To this day, due to the ambivalent historical and recent presentation, she is one of the most controversial and fascinating women at Henry VIII's side.



Manuscript by Anne Boleyn 1514

Anne Boleyn's date of birth is controversial. In a biography of her daughter Queen Elizabeth I published in 1614, it is given as 1507. However, recent research suggests that 1501 is more credible. A letter written by Anne Boleyn in 1514 is more likely to come from a 14-year-old girl than a seven-year-old. If Anne had been born in 1501, she would have been 32 when her daughter Elisabeth was born, so from the point of view of the time she would have been quite old for the birth of a first child and about as old as Katharina von Aragón when her last child was born (stillborn 1518).

Anne Boleyn's place of birth is also unknown. She was probably born in Hever Castle or Blickling. Anne Boleyn came from the lower nobility on her father's side and the English aristocracy on her mother's side. Her father was Thomas Boleyn , who made a career as a diplomat at the court of King Henry VII . Her mother, Elizabeth Howard , was the daughter of the 2nd Duke of Norfolk. Anne had two siblings, Mary and George . As ambassador to Margaret of Austria , the Habsburg governor of the Netherlands , Thomas Boleyn managed in 1513 to secure entry into the aristocratic circles for his daughters as ladies- in- waiting at Margarete's residence in Mechelen . Both spent two years in Flanders and then at the French royal court, where Anne was lady-in-waiting to Claude de France and Renée de France . There, as a member of the royal household, she acquired an excellent education and later conveyed European influences in clothing and culture at the English court. Her musical talent is also said to have been recognized and promoted at the court of Margarete von Österreich, who at the time attracted the most famous musicians in Europe. The song O Death, Rock Me Asleepe is said to have been composed by Anne, but this is questioned by today's historians. Many biographers attribute her own compositions to Anne, but the authorship of none of these songs and poems has been proven beyond doubt.

Return to England

Presumed portrait of Anne Boleyn

A year after Mary Boleyn, Anne also returned to England in 1521, where, like her sister, she was appointed maid of honor Catherine of Aragón, the first wife of Henry VIII. The reason for her return to England was her father's plan to join Anne marry. With the support of Henry VIII, she was to marry James Butler, the wealthy heir to a title of count. She made her court debut at a masked ball in March 1522, where she performed an elaborate dance with the king's sister and her own sister Mary Boleyn . Anne Boleyn quickly became known as the most elegant and perfect woman at court. She chose her clothes according to the fashion of the French court and stood out with cut-out robes and French bonnets, which showed more hair than the normal bonnets of English ladies. Anne not only stood out because of her appearance, which impressed with her dark complexion, very dark hair and a long, narrow neck, but also because of her wit, her extraordinary education and quick-wittedness. These were all traits that were particularly challenging to many men in the sixteenth century, as most women were quiet, submissive and humble according to contemporary custom.

A romance with Henry Percy, 6th Earl of Northumberland , a wealthy bachelor, ended on the king's orders. Some biographers claim the marriage plans fell apart when Cardinal Thomas Wolsey was informed of the relationship between the two. Details of the end of the liaison are not known, and Anne and Heinrich's recognized biographers are also unsure what the exact reason was.

Although the English poet Thomas Wyatt - who was already married - dedicated several poems to her, he was only an admirer of Anne. Only later was both said to have had an affair to brand Anne as a notorious adulteress. Wyatt was sent by Heinrich on a diplomatic mission to Rome in 1527. In 1536 he was charged with having a sexual relationship with Anne, but the lawsuit was dropped. He was sent to Spain as the English ambassador in 1537.

Poem by Sir Thomas Wyatt Whoso List to Hunt, I Know Where Is An Hind In this poem Sir Wyatt already refers to the king's interest in Anne.

Whoever wishes to hunt there, I know a game,
Not intended for me, oh, I can no longer do it:
Tired of futile complaints ...
Whoever wishes to hunt there ...
Like me, he easily wastes time,
engraved in diamonds and lined up
around their pretty ones Neck one can read:
Noli me tangere, I am consecrated to Caesar, who
appears tame, but wildly shy away from fetters.

Anne and Heinrich

At that time the king was still in love with Mary Boleyn, which he ended in 1525. A year after Mary returned from France (1519), on February 4, 1520, Mary married Sir William Carey, a wealthy and well-off courtier. Henry VIII was invited to the wedding as a guest, and the biographers of Heinrich as well as Anne Boleyn suspect that the king made the bride his mistress shortly after the wedding. The relationship between the two lasted two years and was not made public, leaving Mary unable to take advantage of her status as, for example, the mistresses of the French kings did. Shortly after the affair with the king ended, she gave birth to her second child - a son she named Henry. Their first child, a daughter, was baptized Catherine Carey (1524–1568).

Since Heinrich visited the Boleyn family on his travels, he may have met Anne on these occasions and thus became aware of her. Henry VIII had been in love with Anne Boleyn by the end of 1526 at the latest. A legend claims that he composed the famous love song "Greensleeves" for her. Heinrich is out of the question as a composer, however, since the song is composed in the Italian style of Romanesca, which only spread in England after his death. 17 love letters from the king to her have survived from the years 1527 and 1528. When Anne could not be at court for a few days, the king wrote the following letter to her:

“My mistress and friend, I and my heart put themselves in your hands and ask you to recommend us to your favor and not to let up in your affection for us through the separation. It would be too cruel to add to our grief, since your absence is enough for us […]. Since I cannot be with you myself, I am sending you what comes closest to my person, my picture, set in a bracelet […] and I wish to be in his place whenever you like it. This by the hand of your devoted servant and friend; MR."

- after Thoma

Anne was familiar with the fate of abandoned or disgraced mistresses through her stay in the Netherlands, France, Austria and through the example of her own sister. The king's lovers could attain power, wealth and influence at the French court, but their high status always depended on the whims of their royal lovers. If the king withdrew the attention of his mistress, she would also fall out of favor at court and was even disregarded by servants. Security with titles, goods and income was the most important thing in order to secure a later life in relative independence as a former lover.

Her insistence on a valid marriage is not only a sign of Anne's great self-confidence, but she wanted to have the greatest possible security for herself, her family and her future children that Heinrich could offer her: an officially and validly concluded marriage. Furthermore, Anne is described as a proud woman who would not have been satisfied with a second position behind the queen, not even with an exclusion of her children with Heinrich from the line of succession. Her official status as Queen of England meant a social upgrade for her family. Many historians attribute this striving for security to Anne Boleyn's immeasurable ambition and ice-cold calculation, or claim that Anne systematically seduced Heinrich - with the sole aim of becoming Queen of England. Even Henry VIII sent his close relatives, members of the Courtenay and Pole families , to the scaffold without pity for alleged conspiracies because they stood in the way of his own claim to the throne (more precisely, that of his children).

Anne Boleyn was not impressed by the king's persistent wooing. Her skilful tactic of refusing to act kindled the king's longing to finally be heard by Anne. Heinrich begged tirelessly for Anne's love and attention. No letters from Anne to the king have survived, but she apparently often kept him waiting for an answer, because in his letters he complains:

“Although you, my mistress, did not like to remind you of the promise you made to me at our last meeting, namely that I should learn news from you and receive an answer to my last letter, I do think so It is fitting for a faithful servant (since he cannot find out anything else) to inquire about the condition of his mistress. In order to fulfill the duty of the faithful servant, I am sending you this letter and ask you to give me a report on your condition [...] and so that you will think of me more often, I have this messenger send you a roebuck, which I did last night shot with your own hands, in the hope that you will think of me more often when you eat it. "

- Henry VIII.
Autograph letter from Henry VIII to Anne Boleyn from 1527/1529 in the collection of letters Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, Vat. Lat. 3731A, fol. 15r

From the spring of 1527 Heinrich seems to have been more and more concerned with the idea of ​​how to end his marriage to Katharina, since Anne did not let him make her a royal mistress. Failure to consummate the marriage was ruled out as a reason for annulment because it was proven to have failed. Heinrich then resorted to an argument of ecclesiastical marriage law that initially stood in the way of entering into marriage and could only be dispelled by a papal dispensation :

“If someone takes his brother's wife, it is a hideous act. You should be without children, because he has violated his brother with it. "

- 3 Mos 20,21  LUT

Since Catherine of Aragón had not given birth to her husband the longed-for male heir to the throne, Henry wanted to have his marriage annulled on the basis of this passage in the Bible, which forbade a marriage to the widow of his own brother - completely unaffected by the papal dispensation from the year 1503. Pope Clement VII . showed no interest in the dispensation of his predecessor Julius II. annul, who had annulled the previous marriage with Henry's brother.

In addition, Pope Clement VII at this time had more pressing problems than divorcing Henry VIII's marriage with Catherine of Aragón. He had given up his approach to Charles V and in May 1527 experienced the Sacco di Roma , the sack of Rome by German mercenaries and Spanish mercenaries.

Katharina, who did not go unnoticed by Heinrich's plans, held steadfastly to the legality of her marriage. In May 1529, Clement VII sent a representative who, together with Cardinal Thomas Wolsey, was to chair a commission entrusted with investigating the divorce issue until Pope Clement VII ordered the case to be negotiated in Rome . The king's anger over this papal decision erupted on Cardinal Wolsey , who escaped execution only because he died on November 28, 1530.

During this time Anne still did not grant the king his desire for a sexual relationship. Heinrich already treated Anne at court as his wife. He is said to have kissed her in front of everyone and showered her with gifts. At court festivities she had precedence over Heinrich's sisters, and her father was admitted to the peer class as Viscount Rochford . Besides the king, only the queen had the first position at court. If the king treated another woman like his wife, he publicly insulted her reputation, family and status. The main scandal in Heinrich's behavior was that he treated Anne as queen, but was neither divorced from Katharina nor officially married to Anne.

Until June 1531 Heinrich maintained the image of the problem-free marriage with Katharina for the English people. Official appearances were made by the king and queen. From July 1531 Anne took on the role of queen for all to see. In October 1532 she accompanied Heinrich to a meeting with Francis I in Calais . Shortly before this trip, Heinrich appointed her Marquess of Pembroke on September 1, 1532 . While the common courtesy title Marchioness referred to the wife of the respective marquess, Henry VIII gave Anne the title in her own right, so that she was allowed to use the male form of marquess to refer to herself . It was the first marquessate given to a woman. For this trip, Katharina had to give Anne her crown jewels, which she wore for all to see at official receptions and celebrations.

Probably shortly after her return from France, Anne finally gave in to Heinrich's recruitment. At the end of December 1532, she must have informed Heinrich that she was pregnant. Heinrich now had to act quickly so that his child would legitimately be born. On January 25, 1533, he married Anne Boleyn in a silent ceremony in a chapel near the Greenwich Palace . The marriage was initially kept secret, as Heinrich was not yet divorced and thus lived in bigamy .

Thomas Cromwell and Heinrich's newly appointed Archbishop of Canterbury Thomas Cranmer were commissioned by Heinrich to finally divorce his marriage to Katharina - with the paint of canonical correctness. Thomas Cranmer was ordained Archbishop of Canterbury on March 30, 1533, as Heinrich von Cranmer promised support for his divorce from Catherine. In addition, Cranmer was the family chaplain of the Boleyns, so his support for removing the obstacles to making a marriage between Anne and Heinrich possible was very obvious to Heinrich. Cranmer declared Henry VIII's marriage to Anne Boleyn, which had been concluded in January 1533, to be valid. In doing so, he drew the wrath of the Vatican, which responded with a papal threat of banishment and a year later with a ban. Henry VIII then declared the separation of the English Church from Rome and himself as its head. On May 23, 1533, a divorce court of the English Church declared the marriage to Catherine of Aragón invalid. With this act, carried out without the consent of the Pope, the first step towards a break with the Roman Catholic Church and the establishment of the Anglican state church was taken.

Marriage to Henry VIII.

Even as the king's lover, Anne had not made many friends, and even as Heinrich's wife she did not succeed in making allies. Anne is said to have behaved imperiously at an early age and to appear arrogant and angry with courtiers. Since Anne had a sometimes cynical and sarcastic sense of humor, her words could often have been misinterpreted or misunderstood even then. An example of her very own humor was her reaction to the protests when she became Queen of England. For a short time she chose a motto that basically meant: Grumble as you want. It will be like this and not otherwise. She was also only accepted, not accepted, by the English people, who continued to admire Catherine of Aragon. During a solemn procession through the streets of London on May 31, 1533, the whole city is said to have admired Anne in her decorated litter, but cheers are said to have been heard only very rarely. The Londoners even made fun of the intricate initials of the king and the new queen, H and A , and shouted - instead of cheering: HA! HA! HA! . Anne Boleyn's coronation as Queen of England took place on June 1, 1533, when she was clearly pregnant.

Coat of
arms of Anne Boleyn as Queen Consort of England

Two weeks before the due date, Anne retired to her maternity ward in Greenwich. On September 7, 1533, she was given birth to a healthy girl who was named Elizabeth - after Heinrich's mother. The king was disappointed that no son was born to him again. A tournament planned for the christening ceremony was canceled by him. Elisabeth was given out as Heinrich's first legitimate child and the now seventeen-year-old Princess Maria - his daughter from his marriage to Catherine of Aragón - was declared a bastard .

Mary as a young woman (painting by Master John)

Soon after the baptism of Elisabeth, who Heinrich did not visit, he wrote to his daughter Maria that she had to hand over the title of Princess of Wales to his daughter with Anne Boleyn, since Elisabeth was now ahead of her in the line of succession. He further demanded that Maria recognize the validity of his marriage to Anne, as well as the legitimacy of her half-sister, which Maria refused. Enraged by her refusal, Heinrich arranged for her to vacate her Beaulieu house and move to Hatfield House . Maria is also said to have responded to the order to pay her little sister Elisabeth the service as Princess of England, with the words that she knows no other Princess of England than herself. In 1536 Maria wrote the letter requested by Heinrich, in which she said Annulment of her parents' marriage, her own illegitimacy, and Henry accepted as head of the English Church.

Anne nevertheless tried to get closer to Maria, on the condition that Maria accept her as Queen. Maria responded with an insulting response to Anne's invitation to receive her at court.

“I know no Queen in England but my mother. But if you, Madam, as my father's mistress, will intercede for me with him, I should be grateful. "

“I don't know any Queen of England except my mother. But if you, madam, as my father's lover, want to mediate between my father and me, I would be grateful. "

- Maria Tudor

Anne repeated her invitation to Maria, who again declined. After Maria's rejection, Anne never tried again to be friends with her stepdaughter.

Anne and Heinrich initially had a harmonious marriage. Heinrich continued to take loving care of Anne and also of his youngest daughter Elisabeth, whom he often carried around with him and with whom he played when he visited her in her household. During this time Anne was probably pregnant twice. In 1534 the queen's pregnancy resulted in a stillbirth in the eighth month. Other versions report that she was just faking the pregnancy or was so desperate that she imagined it was pregnant. What is certain is that Anne Boleyn had a miscarriage (a son) in 1534 and 1536. Anne completely collapsed nervously and is said to have reacted hysterically to the second stillbirth. At that time she must have already suspected that Heinrich was slowly slipping away from her and that her temperament, her wit, her willingness to discuss, which had fascinated him years ago, were now increasingly distancing Heinrich from her. In the summer the Venetian ambassador wrote that the King of England was "already tired of this new queen". Unlike Queen Catherine of Aragón, Anne did not overlook Henry's infidelities. Also out of fear of competition, she jealously watched her ladies-in-waiting and reproached the king for neglecting her if he devoted his attention to other people. The queen's behavior shows very strongly her fear. As long as she had not given birth to a son Heinrich, her position was vulnerable and weak. As long as Catherine of Aragón was alive, Anne was not the only queen in England, and as long as Mary was alive, Elizabeth was not the only potential heir to the throne.

The judgment of Pope Clement VII also worried Anne. In March 1534 this had decided in favor of Katharinas for the legality of her marriage to Heinrich. Immediately the English parliament passed the Supreme Act, which declared the English king to be the head of the Church of England. A successor law also confirmed the validity of the marriage to Anne Boleyn. This marked the final break with the Roman Catholic Church in January 1535 .

Anne falls from grace

Margaret Wyatt, Lady Lee

With the second miscarriage, the relationship between Heinrich and Anne worsened. She had disappointed the king's hopes for the second time and was surrounded at court by people waiting for any sign that the king's interest in Anne would wane. Even the royal ambassadors from France courted Maria and Anne, preferring Maria as the unofficial princess, first visiting and thus openly duping Queen Anne. The only people Anne trusted were her closest friend and lady-in-waiting, Lady Margaret Lee, sister of Thomas Wyatt, and her brother George Boleyn . His wife, Lady Jane Rochford, later made a testimony during their interrogation that seriously incriminated Anne and George. However, Lady Rochford did not testify in the trial of her husband and sister-in-law.

At that time Heinrich had already considered the next marriage candidate, Jane Seymour . Ironically, Anne's greatest protection was that Catherine of Aragón was still alive, because Heinrich feared that if he would invalidate the marriage to Anne, the marriage to Katharina would automatically be valid again. Therefore, the death of Catherine of Aragon in January 1536 sealed Anne's fate. Anne's miscarriage occurred a few days before Katharina's death.

The king felt betrayed by Anne's stillbirth and fell into self-pity. As with Katharina, he tried to talk himself out of the fact that he had been bewitched by Anne. This is also the reason why God denied him a son. Heinrich tried to find arguments against Anne that would normally have led him back to his wife Katharina (she would have lived on).

The often put forward thought that the king's syphilis could be the cause of the miscarriages and stillbirths of his wives is considered very unlikely by historians, since none of his surviving children showed symptoms of the disease and the king himself never received the six-week treatment that was customary at the time underwent with mercury. Another hypothesis for the many miscarriages is that Anne and Heinrich had a Rh incompatibility . In such couples, the first birth proceeds without complications, but all subsequent pregnancies can lead to miscarriages and premature births due to antibodies in the mother's blood.

The English court reacted quickly to the waning interest in Anne and the rising star of Jane Seymour. The exact reasons for an intrigue against Anne at court can no longer be precisely traced and verified today. Therefore, some historians suspect that the ambitious brothers of Jane Seymour, together with Thomas Cromwell, had been planning the dismissal and indictment of Anne for a long time and that they had spread rumors and suspicions against Anne that she had long affairs with other men, including her own Brother belong.

On May 1, 1536, Anne accompanied the king to a tournament in Greenwich. During the break between the fights, the king was brought an urgent message, the content of which is still unknown to this day. Then Heinrich left the tournament. Anne never saw her husband again. A day later she was arrested in Greenwich and brought before a commission chaired by her uncle, the Duke of Norfolk.

Trial and Execution

After the death of Catherine of Aragón, only Anne stood in the way of her marriage to Jane Seymour. Since Heinrich was bound to a valid marriage with Anne by the Supreme Act passed by the English Parliament, another way had to be found to separate Anne from him. If Heinrich had openly contradicted the Supreme Act and had his marriage annulled, his reputation all over Europe would have been jeopardized. So there was only one way for him to break up with Anne: a death-ready indictment and a trial that would surely end in a death sentence .

Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk , uncle of Anne Boleyn (painting by Hans Holbein )

Anne Boleyn was charged on May 2, 1536 with multiple adultery, incestuous relationships with her brother, and the plot to kill the king. Although these allegations remained unproven, she was sentenced to death for high treason.

On May 6, 1536 Anne wrote a letter to Heinrich:

“Sire, Your Grace's displeasure and my incarceration are such strange things to me that I don't even know what to write or what to apologize for. […] No prince has ever had a more loyal wife in all duty and affection than you have found in Anne Boleyn. […] Let me interrogate, good king, but give me a fair trial, and do not let my sworn enemies sit before me as my accusers and judges. Yes, give me a public trial, for my truth will have no public disgrace to fear. Then you will either see my innocence cleansed, your suspicions and consciences satisfied, the wickedness and calumnies of the world silenced, or my guilt declared publicly so that whatever God and you may decide on me, your grace will be publicly criticized will be released, and when my guilt is then legally proven, your grace will be free both before God and before men not only to execute legal punishment on me as an unfaithful wife, but also to follow your inclination, which is already established, for the sake of which I am where I am now […] My last and only request is that I alone bear the weight of Your Grace's displeasure and that it does not affect the innocent souls of the poor nobles who I hear , are also in strict custody for my sake [...] from my woeful prison in the Tower on this May 6th, 1536, your most loyal and steady s devoted wife Anne Boleyn. "

- after Thoma
Thomas Boleyn , father of Anne Boleyn (portrait of Hans Holbein )

One day after Anne, her alleged lovers were arrested. These included the treasurer of the royal private box, Henry Norris , the chamberlains Francis Weston and William Brereton, and the musician Mark Smeaton and Anne's brother, George Boleyn , Lord Rochford. With the exception of Smeaton, all men denied the allegations. Historian Eric Ives suspects that Smeaton was trying to avoid a ghastly death. He was the only one brought before the court in chains and was the only one of the defendants not entitled to a quick execution by beheading . His only salvation from death by hanging, disembowelling, and quartering was a confession. According to current law, the accused in a traitor trial could only hope for a pardon if he pleaded guilty and completely abandoned himself to the judgment of the king. If convicted, a confession could result in a less gruesome death.

The sentence "[...] if something happened to the king, you would want me", which Anne thoughtlessly said to Sir Norris, was interpreted in the trial as a murder plan against the king. The entire trial of Anne was based on stories and testimony of witnesses who were either prepared or had long been hostile to the Queen. Lady Rochford - her own sister-in-law - testified that Anne had once told her, "[...] that the king was incapable of sleeping with his wife and had neither skill nor manhood." ( After Helga Thoma )

Sir Henry Norris, Sir Francis Weston, William Brereton and Mark Smeaton were sentenced to death on May 12, 1536 at Westminster Hall. Anne and her brother George Boleyn went to the tribunal on May 15 to face incest charges. Here, too, Lady Rochford (George's wife and Anne's sister-in-law) testified that there had been "improper confidentiality" between the siblings. Neither Anne's uncle, Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk , who presided, nor Thomas Boleyn , the father of Anne and George, tried to help them. The allegations against the Boleyn siblings were already questioned by contemporaries. But they also had a religious component. Since George Boleyn was an avowed Protestant , he was considered a criminal by conservative Catholic circles for a long time. Legend has it that when his widow Jane Parker (Lady Rochford) was about to be executed in 1542, she confessed that she lied about her husband:

“God has permitted me to suffer this shameful doom as punishment for having contributed to my husband's death. I falsely accused him of loving in an incestuous manner, his sister, Queen Anne Boleyn. For this I deserve to die. "

“God gave me this shameful fate because I contributed to my husband's death. I falsely accused him of loving his sister, Queen Anne Boleyn, in Incest. For that I deserve death. "

Thomas Cranmer , Archbishop of Canterbury (artist unknown)

In modern historiography, however, it is certain that this quote was invented.

On May 17, 1536, the five convicted men were executed on Tower Hill. Anne's execution was postponed for two days, because before that Thomas Cranmer declared her marriage to Heinrich invalid and the daughter Elisabeth a bastard .

Henry sent for the execution of his wife on May 19, 1536, the executioner Jean Rombaud from Saint-Omer (Calais region) , who was known for his abilities in beheading with the sword. A group of officers had gathered in the Tower to watch the execution.

The doomed woman gave a short speech on the scaffold.
Original text translation

Good Christian people, I am come hither to die,
for according to the law, and by the law I am judged to die,
and therefore I will speak nothing against it.
I am come hither to accuse no man,
nor to speak anything of that,
whereof I am accused and condemned to die,
but I pray God save the king
and send him long to reign over you,
for a gentler nor a more merciful prince was there never:
and to me he was ever a good, a gentle and sovereign lord.
And if any person will meddle of my cause,
I require them to judge the best.
And thus I take my leave of the world and of you all,
and I heartily desire you all to pray for me.
O Lord have mercy on me, to God I commend my soul.
To Jesus Christ I commend my soul; Lord Jesus receive my soul.

Good Christian people, I came here to die
because according to the law and by the law I was condemned to die
and so I will not speak against it.
I did not come here to prosecute
anyone , or to say anything about
why I was accused and sentenced to death.
But I pray: God save the king.
Long may he rule over you.
For there has never been a gentler and more indulgent prince than him.
He was always a good, kind, and gracious gentleman to me.
And if any person interferes in my cause,
I ask them to judge as best they can.
And so I bid farewell to the world and all of you,
and I sincerely wish you to pray for me.
O Lord, have mercy on me, to God I commend my soul.
I commend my soul to Jesus Christ, Lord Jesus receive my soul.

She did not admit her guilt, but also avoided attacking the king. Anne Boleyn was executed kneeling, blindfolded and head held high. Just eleven days after Anne's death, on May 30, 1536, Heinrich married his third wife, Jane Seymour .

Memorial at the execution site on Tower Green

There is a plaque on the execution site in the Tower of London . Her body was buried without a memorial plaque under the nave of the chapel of the St. Peter ad Vincula tower . In 1876 the remains of the people lying there were transferred to the crypt of the chapel.

Relationship to Elisabeth

Badge (= image motto) Elizabeth I of England; Anne Boleyn used the version without flowers

It is said of Elisabeth that she practically never spoke of her mother in her later life. She will hardly have had any memories of her mother either, as she was only two years and eight months old when Anne Boleyn died and had been living in her own household since she was three months old. Although Elisabeth always identified with her father in public and often stressed that she was the daughter of Henry VIII, she also seems to have kept her mother's memory alive in private. She also took on her mother's chaplain, Bishop Matthew Parker . In addition, Elisabeth protected her mother's relatives and took over Anne Boleyn's badge (a heraldic-looking pictorial motto, but not to be confused with a coat of arms ). The only change in her mother's badge was that Elisabeth's flowers sprout from the tree stump.


Children with Henry VIII

Marriage on January 25, 1533; the marriage was annulled in 1536

  • Elisabeth I (7 September 1533 - 24 March 1603)
  • Henry (* / † 1534); Historians are unsure whether this child was stillborn or died shortly after birth. The birth itself and the sex of the child are not proven with certainty.
  • Edward (* / † January 29, 1536)


Voices of contemporaries: legend and myth

According to legend, Anne Boleyn is said to have given a ring showing the portrait of her and Elisabeth to Elisabeth as a souvenir shortly before her death. The ring was removed from her finger after Elizabeth's death in 1603 and Jacob VI. given by Scotland to prove to him the death of Elizabeth. The ring is now in the Museum by The Checkers Trust, along with many other exhibits .

After 1558, Anne's fate was taken up by John Foxe - a very conservative Protestant - who made her the patron saint of English Protestantism. He claimed that God had proven their innocence and virtue since Elizabeth I later inherited the English throne.

The procatholic work "De origine ac progressu schismatis Anglicani", published in Cologne in 1585, by the Jesuit priest Nicholas Sanders , who fled from England, brings various accusations against Anne Boleyn. So he claimed that Anne was an illegitimate daughter of Henry VII. When describing her appearance, he states that she had six fingers ( polydactyly ) on her right hand .

Modern reception

Theater and opera


In 1830 Gaetano Donizetti composed a bel canto opera under the title Anna Bolena , which is based on Anne Boleyn's biography. Together with Maria Stuarda (1834) and Roberto Devereux (1837) she is included in Donizetti's so-called Tudor trilogy . The two-act libretto by Felice Romani focuses on the last phase of Anne Boleyn's life. At Windsor Castle, she warns her rival Giovanna Seymour not to succumb to the lure of glamor and power. At the same time, she confesses to her former lover, who is called Lord Riccardo Percy here , that she has given up the connection with him only out of glory. When King Enrico VIII finds a medallion of Anna in the possession of her page Smeton, he interprets this as evidence of her infidelity. Smeton confirms in a false testimony that he was Anna's lover. Shortly before her execution in the Tower of London - the bells on the occasion of Enrico's marriage to Giovanna can already be heard - Anna goes mad; The other two Tudor operas also contain comparable final arias by the respective royal protagonist.

Anna Bolena was premiered on December 26, 1830 at the Teatro Carcano in Milan . The title part has since been interpreted by Elena Souliotis , Maria Callas , Joan Sutherland , Beverly Sills , Edita Gruberová , Elena Moșuc and Anna Netrebko , among others .

Another opera about Anne Boleyn and Henry VIII was composed by Camille Saint-Saëns . His Henry VIII , premiered in 1883, deals with the relationship between the two and the church schism with artistic freedom.


As early as 1884, the "historical tragedy" Anna Boleyn by Carmen Sylva and Mite Kremnitz appeared .

In 1947 Maxwell Anderson published the play Anne of the Thousand Days . It was made into a film by Charles Jarrott in 1969 under the title Queen for a Thousand Days . In the historical drama about the marriage between Anne Boleyn and King Henry VIII, the French-Canadian actress Geneviève Bujold acted as the title character, while the renowned British theater and film actor Richard Burton played King Henry. The film won four Golden Globe Awards in 1970 and was nominated for ten Academy Awards.


Franz Königshofer was inspired by her in 1955 to write a work for wind orchestra , Anna Boleyn Symphonic Music .

In his 1973 album The Six Wives of Henry VIII , the fifth piece entitled Anne Boleyn / The Day Thou Gavest Lord Hath Ended , the British rock musician Rick Wakeman paints a musical picture of the wives of the king.

With the song O Death, the German folk-rock band Ougenweide quoted texts by Anne Boleyn from her imprisonment before her execution. The song was released in 1996 on the album "Sol". These lyrics were also used by Camerata Sforzesca on the album "Live" (2002), Lucy Ward on the album Adelphi Has To Fly (2011) and Rosemary Standley & Helstroffer's Band on the album Love I Obey (2015)

The British pop band McFly dealt with the subject of "Anne Boleyn" in a humorous way in 2006 in their song Transylvania from the album Motion in the Ocean . The single, released in 2007, reached number 1 on the UK charts.

Narrative literature

In Hilary Mantel's novels Wolf Hall (German title: Wölfe , 2010) and Bring up the Bodies (German title: Falken , 2012), the time between Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn's marriage and the execution of Anne is viewed from the perspective of Chancellor Thomas Cromwell tells.


In 2003, Helena Bonham Carter played Anne Boleyn in the film Henry VIII .

With The Queen's Sister , Philippa Gregory wrote a bestseller about the Boleyn sisters in 2002. The novel was filmed in 2003 with Natascha McElhone (English title: The Other Boleyn Girl ). The second film adaptation of The Queen's Sister with Natalie Portman , Scarlett Johansson and Eric Bana was shown on February 15, 2008 at the Berlinale 2008 .

watch TV

  • 2007–2010: The Tudors - This series comprises four seasons (Seasons 1, 2 and 4 of ten episodes, Season 3 of 8 episodes). Anne Boleyn is played here by Natalie Dormer .
  • 2015: Wolf Hall - Claire Foy plays Anne Boleyn in the BBC miniseries based on Hilary Mantel's novels .


Web links

Commons : Anne Boleyn  - album with pictures, videos and audio files


  1. The name Boleyn is also spelled "bull" in medieval English documents. This spelling also corresponds to the sound of the name. An ancestor of the Boleyn family was Geoffrey Bullen , who was Lord Mayor of London and knighted in 1457. He bought Blickling Hall in Norfolk and Hever Castle in Kent, which were inherited by Anne's father, Thomas Boleyn . Anne always called herself Boleyn, probably because this spelling had been in use in the family for a long time and was closest to the French sound of the family name.
  2. The biographers Alison Weir (The Six Wives of Henry VIII.) And Eric W. Ives (The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn) suggest that 1501 is the most likely year of birth of Anne Boleyn.
  3. See also RM Warnicke: The Rise and Fall of Anne Boleyn.
  4. When under Henry VIII disputes arose between the English throne and the Pope in Rome over the legality of royal marriages, the bishops of England declared that they saw in Henry, and not in the Pope, the head of the English Church, with which the English Church Church of Rome renounced. Because of Henry's search for a woman to give him a male heir to the throne, he broke with the Roman Catholic Church, separated the Church of England from Rome and set himself up as head of the English Church.
  5. Through her stay in the Netherlands and Austria, Anne came into contact with Reformation ideas; her brother George Boleyn was an avowed Protestant .
  6. Other Tudor Facts ( Memento from June 9, 2002 in the Internet Archive )
  7. Even at the time of Henry VIII, the French court was setting the tone in fashion, dance, music and etiquette. Through her stay in France, Anne was, so to speak, “setting the tone” at the English court.
  8. Anne Boleyn Facts & Biography Of - Information article on the website (English). Retrieved May 19, 2021.
  9. The relationship between Henry Percy & Anne Boleyn 1523 article on the website (English). Retrieved May 19, 2021.
  10. Sir Thomas Wyatt's Poetry About Anne Boleyn article on . Retrieved May 19, 2021.
  11. Sir Thomas Wyatt's poem in the original, German translation from: Marita A. Panzer: Englands Königinnen .
  12. ^ Compare also Alison Weir: The Six Wives of Henry VIII. Pp. 133-134.
  13. ^ Alison Weit: Henry VIII: The King and His Court. Ballantine Books, 2002, ISBN 0-345-43708-X , p. 131.
  14. a b Letters from Heinrich to Anne, in English, German translation from: Helga Thoma, Ungeliebte Königinnen .
  15. cf. i.a. E. Benger: Memoirs of the life of Anne Boleyn, Queen of Henry VIII. 1885.
  16. Compare also Alison Weir, The Six Wives of Henry VIII. And Eric W. Ives, The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn .
  17. After the Wars of the Roses , Henry VIII was aware that claims to the throne through secondary lines could endanger him and his children. Through the claims of relatives to the throne, Jane Gray became Queen of England for nine days.
  18. The behavior of Anne's father and her uncle during their trial is also an example of the personal priorities at the time. Neither helped or supported Anne or her brother George, who was also accused, in any way. For both of them, loyalty to their king and his jurisdiction was above all feelings and family relationships, because the king owed them their rapid rise in English aristocratic society and their high income.
  19. Katharina had previously been married to Heinrich's older brother Arthur, who died shortly after the wedding. According to Henry VII's will, the twelve-year-old new heir to the throne, the future Henry VIII, should marry Catherine of Aragón as soon as he was 14 years old. Leviticus (3rd book of Moses in the Bible) forbids marrying his brother's widow. However, after the ladies-in-waiting testified that the marriage to Arthur had not been consummated because of the couple's youth, Pope Julius II granted a dispensation and the marriage to Arthur Tudor was declared invalid. Without this dispensation, Henry VIII would have been able to get the Pope to annul his marriage to Catherine very quickly. With the dispensation and the desire to annul his marriage with Catherine, Henry VIII demanded a divorce against papal authority.
  20. Spain and France fought for supremacy in Italy. Pope Clement VII from the Medici family had tried unsuccessfully to play the two off against each other. Therefore, he ended the alliance with the German Emperor and Spanish King Charles V in 1526 and joined the Pro-French League of Cognac on May 22nd. In addition to Pope Clement VII, the Holy League of Cognac also included the French King Francis I, the Duke of Milan Francesco II Sforza, the Republic of Venice and some smaller northern Italian rulers. Emperor Charles V had captured the French King Franz I in the battle of Pavia and demanded that he renounce Northern Italy. Concerned about his release, Franz I accepted the demands, but withdrew the promise immediately after his release. The imperial troops who fought in northern Italy had not received any pay for a long time. Since the Pope was working against the emperor with his alliance policy, the mercenaries moved to Rome and sacked the city.
  21. ^ Henry VIII, angry about the setback (negotiation of the cancellation in Rome, setting up a commission), confiscated Wolsey's goods and riches. Heinrich wanted a divorce in order to reunite with Anna Boleyn, his lover. When the Pope opposed difficulties to the divorce, the King and Anna believed they had to find the reason for this in Wolsey's intrigues. This was overthrown in October 1529, had to leave his magnificent palace in London - Palace of Whitehall - and retire to the country house in Esher, Surrey. Although the king left him in the possession of the dioceses of York and Winchester, Parliament accused him of abusing his ecclesiastical power and sentenced him to the loss of his property and to perpetual imprisonment. Henry VIII pardoned him, but referred him to the Archdiocese of York, where he set up his residence at Caywood. In November 1530 he was again accused of high treason if he was to be brought to London, but died en route on November 28 in Leicester Abbey.
  22. Archived copy ( Memento of March 28, 2015 in the Internet Archive ) Descriptions of Anne's personality, in English.
  23. The Coronation / Crowning Of Anne Boleyn, 1533 article on the website (English). Retrieved May 19, 2021.
  24. a b c d Anne Boleyn Facts & Biography Of - Information article on the website (English). Retrieved May 19, 2021.
  25. Letter of Princess Mary to King Henry VIII, 1536 - Primary Sources Article on the website (English). Retrieved May 19, 2021.
  26. As was the custom at the time, Elisabeth was provided with a small household of her own and raised separately from her parents.
  27. Compare also Marita A. Panzer, England's Queens . The name of the ambassador cannot be ascertained from primary sources.
  28. Lucy Wooding: Henry VIII. Routledge Historical Biographies, London / New York 2009, p. 266. EW Ives: Henry VIII (1491–1547). In: Henry Colin Gray Matthew, Brian Harrison (Eds.): Oxford Dictionary of National Biography , from the earliest times to the year 2000 (ODNB). Volume 26: Haycock – Hichens. Oxford University Press, Oxford 2004, ISBN 0-19-861376-8 , p. 27, ( license required ), as of 2004, accessed September 3, 2019.
  29. Original text English, German translation of the letter from the book by Helga Thoma: Ungeliebte Königinnen
  30. Eric Ives: The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn. 'The Most Happy'. Blackwell, Malden 2004, p. 327.
  31. Helga Thoma: Unloved queens.
  32. ( Memento of March 20, 2013 in the Internet Archive ) Jane Boleyn, the Tudor Scapegoat
  33. Sabine Schwabenthan: Beheading in French , PM History # 2/2015, p. 31.
  34. The Execution & Death of Anne Boleyn, 1536 - Primary Sources Anne Boleyn's Last Words after the Annals of John Stow, on the website (English). Retrieved May 19, 2021.
  35. Anne Boleyn's address on the day of her execution, May 19, 1536.
  36. As was the custom at the time, Elisabeth was provided with a small household of her own and raised separately from her parents.
  37. An example of this is the ring with the capsule, in which there is a double portrait of her and her mother.
  38. Nicholas Sande, Edward Rishton (ed.): De origine ac progressu schismatis Anglicani. Cologne 1585, fol. 16; Ingolstadt 1587, p. 16.
  39. Ougenweide - Sol. In: discogs. Retrieved March 11, 2017 .
predecessor Office Successor
Catherine of Aragon Queen Consort of England
Jane Seymour
This version was added to the list of articles worth reading on January 26, 2007 .