c. 1501 or 1507 â€“ 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 mainland Europe, largely as a maid of honour to Queen Claude of France. She returned to England in 1522.
In 1525, Henry VIII became enamoured of Anne and began pursuing her. She resisted all his attempts to seduce her, refusing to become his mistress as her sister, Mary Boleyn, had. It soon became the one absorbing object of Henry's desires to annul his marriage to Catherine of Aragon, so he would be free to marry Anne. When it became clear that Pope Clement VII would not annul the marriage, the breaking of the power of the Roman Catholic Church in England began.
The Cardinal Archbishop of York, 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. Henry and Anne married on 25 January 1533. On 23 May 1533, Cranmer declared Henry and Catherine's marriage null and void; five days later, he declared Henry and Anne's marriage to be good and valid. Shortly afterwards, the Pope decreed sentences of excommunication against Henry and Cranmer. 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 control.
Anne was crowned Queen of England on 1 June 1533. 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 that he loved Elizabeth and that a son would surely follow. Three miscarriages followed, however, and by March 1536, Henry was courting Jane Seymour. In April-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.