Anne Boleyn was Queen of England from 1533 to 1536 and the second of six wives of King Henry VIII. She is famous for being a key figure in the English Reformation and her public execution is also well known. Here are 10 interesting facts about the life of Anne Boleyn.
#1 Anne Boleyn’s year of birth is not known
Historians have contradictory views on the year when Anne was born; it is most likely between 1501 and 1507. Her father was Thomas Boleyn, who went on become Earl of Wiltshire and Earl of Ormond; and her mother was Lady Elizabeth Howard. In 1514, Anne’s father arranged for her to be a lady-in-waiting at the French court to Queen Mary, King Henry VIII’s younger sister. She later served Queen Claude of France for almost seven years. Here she learned French and developed interests in art, fashion, illuminated manuscripts, literature, music, poetry and religious philosophy. Her stay here would later prove beneficial in England developing good relations with France.
#2 Henry VIII had an affair with her sister
On her return to England in 1522, Anne was appointed as lady-in-waiting to Henry VIII’s wife Catherine of Aragon. Henry VIII had already had an affair with Anne’s sister, Mary and now he started to madly pursue Anne. Anne refused to have sexually intimate relationship with the king lest he married her. The Pope refused to annul Henry’s marriage with Catherine because her nephew Charles V was The Holy Roman Emperor.
#3 It was rumored that Anne was Henry’s daughter
When King Henry VIII was pursuing Anne Boleyn, there was considerable talk that he had had an affair with both Anne’s sister Mary and her mother Elizabeth. Some even suggested that Anne was Henry VIII’s daughter. To this the king replied, ‘never with the mother’. Most historians believe that people started the rumor of Henry’s affair with Anne’s mother to prevent Anne Boleyn from becoming the Queen.
#4 Anne Boleyn was indirectly behind the historic Act of Supremacy
Although Anne resisted the king’s advances, she was pregnant with his child by 1533 and in January 1533, King Henry VIII married Anne Boleyn in a secret ceremony. Henry broke with the Roman Catholic Church and passed the historic Act of Supremacy which declared him as the head of the English church. Historians hold different views on Anne’s part in the Reformation but it is generally agreed that she was against the excesses of the Catholic Church and at the very least played the role of a catalyst. In June 1533, Anne Boleyn was crowned Queen of England but she was to stay queen only for a 1000 days.
#5 She is the mother of Queen Elizabeth I
On September 7, 1533 Anne gave birth to a girl who was christened Elizabeth. Henry VIII was disappointed as he wanted to have a son so he could have a male heir. Ironically, the girl went on to become Queen Elizabeth I, who reigned over England and Ireland for 44 stable and prosperous years.
#6 Henry VIII lost interest in her because she couldn’t give him a son
Anne Boleyn had a miscarriage in 1534. With time King Henry VIII became desperate for a male heir. Anne became pregnant again but she suffered from another miscarriage, this time of a fetus that had the appearance of being a male. This drove Henry VIII further away from Anne and while she was recovering from her miscarriage, his new mistress Jane Seymour was moved into the royal quarters. Henry also accused Boleyn of seducing him to marry her with the help of witchcraft.
#7 She was accused of committing adultery with her brother
On 2 May 1536, about half a year after her miscarriage, Anne Boleyn was arrested on charges of treason, incest and adultery with five men: Sir Francis Weston, William Brereton, Mark Smeaton, Sir Henry Norris and her own brother Lord George Rochford. Adultery on part of the Queen was considered treason. The other treason she was accused of was plotting to murder the king along with her lovers so that she could marry Sir Henry Norris. Modern historians believe that the charges against her were fabricated and/or unconvincing.
#8 She was the first Queen of England who was publically executed
Anne was imprisoned at the Tower of London. She was tried and convicted there on 15 May by a jury which included her former betrothed, Henry Percy and her own uncle, Thomas Howard. Her brother and the other accused were executed on May 17. Henry VIII changed Anne’s sentence from burning to beheading and instead of using the axe; he called an expert swordsman from France to perform the execution. On May 19, 1536 Anne Boleyn was executed. She was the first English Queen to be publicly executed.
#9 Anne Boleyn didn’t have six fingers (in all probability)
Nicholas Sander, who wanted to remove Elizabeth I from the throne and re-establish Catholicism in England, was the first to mention that Anne Boleyn had six fingers on her right hand. This is highly unlikely as physical deformities were considered evil in those times and if such was the case the king would never be attracted to her. Also upon exhumation in 1876, no abnormalities were discovered. Her frame was described as delicate, approximately 5’3″, with finely formed, tapering fingers.
#10 Her portrait is hung along the staircases at Hogwarts
Anne Boleyn is considered one of the most ambitious, intelligent and important queens in European history. Various historians have studied her life and she has been mentioned numerous times in popular culture. Anne Boleyn has been portrayed in several films with the most notable being Anne of the Thousand Days, which was nominated for 10 Academy Awards including best actress in a leading role. Anne’s portrait can be seen hanging along the staircases at Hogwarts in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, presumably on the claim that she was a witch.