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Six Wives of Henry VIII 02 - Anne Boleyn

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Six Wives of Henry VIII


David Starkey


Episode Two

Anne Boleyn

Anne Boleyn 
1501 or 1507 – 19 May 1536
was Queen of England from 1533 to 1536 as the second wife of King Henry VIII and Marquess of Pembroke in her own right. Henry's marriage to Anne, and her subsequent execution, made her a key figure in the political and religious upheaval that was the start of the English Reformation. The daughter of Sir Thomas Boleyn and his wife, Lady Elizabeth Howard, Anne was of more noble birth than Catherine Parr, Henry VIII's later wife, but much less than her predecessor, Catherine of Aragon. She was educated in Europe, largely as a lady-in-waiting to Queen Claude of France. She returned to England in 1522.

In 1525, Henry VIII became enamoured of Anne and began his pursuit of her. Anne resisted the King's attempts to seduce her and refused to become his mistress, as her sister, Mary Boleyn, had done. It soon became the one absorbing object of the King's desires to secure an annulment from his wife, Catherine of Aragon, so he could marry Anne. When it became clear that Pope Clement VII was unlikely to give Henry an annulment, the breaking of the power of the Catholic Church in England began.

Archbishop of York and Cardinal, Thomas Wolsey, was dismissed from his archbishopric, allegedly at Anne Boleyn's instigation, and later the Boleyn family's chaplain, Thomas Cranmer, was appointed as Archbishop of Canterbury. The wedding between Henry and Anne took place on 25 January 1533. On 23 May 1533, Cranmer declared the marriage of Henry and Catherine null and void. Five days later Cranmer declared the marriage of Henry and Anne to be good and valid. Soon after, the Pope launched sentences of excommunication against Henry and the Archbishop. As a result of this marriage and these excommunications, the first break between the Church of England and Rome took place and the Church of England was brought under the King's sole control.

Anne was crowned Queen of England on 1 June 1533. Later that year, on 7 September, she gave birth to the future Elizabeth I of England. To Henry's displeasure, however, she failed to produce a male heir. Henry was not totally discouraged for he said he loved Elizabeth and that a son would surely follow. After 3 more miscarriages Henry was considerably more discouraged. By March 1536, he was paying court to Jane Seymour. In April and May 1536, Henry had Anne investigated for high treason: tried and found guilty, she was beheaded on 19 May. Historians view the charges against her, which included adultery and incest, as unconvincing. Following the coronation of her daughter, Elizabeth, as queen, Anne was venerated as a martyr and heroine of the English Reformation, particularly through the works of John Foxe. Over the centuries, she has inspired or been mentioned in numerous artistic and cultural works. As a result, she has retained her hold on the popular imagination. Anne has been called "the most influential and important queen consort England has ever had," since she provided the occasion for Henry VIII to divorce Catherine of Aragon, and declare his independence from Rome.

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