Understanding Anne Boleyn



I’ve read several books on the subject of Anne Boleyn – each are very similar with slightly varying take of her, and each I have read with an open mind. It is important for me to understand who she was as a person, whether or not she loved Henry or power, and what is her legacy.

Understanding Anne Boleyn

Anne Boleyn was the daughter of Thomas Boleyn and Elizabeth Howard – the fact that her mother came from the very noble Howard family was impressive, but the fact that it was her mother and not her father diminished her total nobility slightly since the Boleyn name did not carry as much clout.

As a teenager, Anne was sent to the household of Margaret of Austria where she was educated. Not only was she taught French while in the regent’s household but she became familiar with the power that a woman could yield near the throne. Margaret was very open-minded when it came to women’s rights which must have been refreshing for Anne since early 16th century England was not friendly to women yielding power.

When Henry VIII’s sister Mary Tudor was sent to France to marry King Louis XII, both Anne and her sister were to serve the new French queen. At both courts Anne would learn the importance of her behavior with others and interactions, or flirtations with men. She became aware of how to get what she wanted in a discreet way. This would become useful to her in the future.

My instinct tells me that Anne was like any other girl, or woman of her time – she understood her duty as a daughter but she also wished to find love, marry and have children. Her early years, those before Mechelen, would not have had her wishing to be queen of England. The Anne I have discovered is one who wanted a “normal” life, at an early age. It was after she was sent to Mechelen and France that her ideal future began to change.

Upon her homecoming to English court around 1522, Anne returned to a country that she had left nearly a decade earlier. She was in her early twenties and ripe for marriage to a family who would increase the standing of the Boleyn family.

While serving Katherine of Aragon she met Henry Percy, who was a servant of Cardinal Wolsey. It was common practice that Percy would visit the queen’s chambers and visit with her ladies, just as other young men would. This was normal for the time. Court was a great place to make a noble marriage. Over time, Anne and Henry Percy grew affection for one another. It is said that they fell in love and formally, in front of witnesses, became betrothed. Anne Boleyn had found true love and would get the happy ending she had wished for as a young girl.

All of Anne and Percy’s joy came to an end when Wolsey discovered the betrothal – he was quick to tear the couple apart. Wolsey declared that Percy was already betrothed to Mary Talbot and had been for years, but some believe there was never a proposal and Wolsey fabricated the entire thing just to tear the couple apart. Was it Henry VIII that pushed Wolsey to tear apart the couple? It’s possible. It was in 1522 that Henry first had first set his eyes on Anne when she played Perseverance at Chateau de Vert.

Regardless of who was responsible for breaking apart the couple, it happened, and Anne must have been crushed. Anne would have been left heart-broken and filled with angst against the man, or men responsible for her misery. We don’t know for certain whether it was solely Wolsey or if the king who had ordered it so he could have Anne to himself. What I feel confident in is that Anne definitely blamed Wolsey and that she would make sure that he eventually paid for destroying her great love with Henry Percy.

When Henry VIII eventually began to pursue Anne she had no choice but to let it happen, but did she do it willingly? After everything that I’ve read I believe that she decided to use any power that would be gained from Henry and use it to her advantage. If she was unable to have the glorious love story that she had wished for then she would make sure that she got something out of her new arrangement.



Anne did not love Henry. That is my opinion. Anne got what she wanted by making promises to a man who was unhappy in his marriage and looking for a way out. She was willing to make her bed and lie in it. When she gave birth to a daughter she was devastated – this jeopardized her whole operation. Anne knew that if she fell out of favor with the king that she would end up in the same situation as her predecessor. Like Katherine of Aragon, she held a power over Henry that he was unaware of – a power of manipulation with words and actions. At the beginning of their courtship, Henry was infatuated with Anne and would do anything to have her – she learned how to play on his emotions to get exactly what she wanted, and it worked. It worked for nearly a decade.

Thomas Cromwell was the was the man who changed everything for Anne. His new-found favor with the king was thanks to Anne and her family, unfortunately, that influence would eventually grow greater than that of Anne’s with the king. And that, my friends, is when Anne fell from Henry’s good graces.

Anne wasn’t a bad person. She was a woman who cared about her country and the subjects of her king. She wanted the best for them all. That is the truth. Anne was smart. Anne was brave. Anne was the mother of the greatest monarch in English history – Gloriana.

References:

Ives, Eric; The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn
Weir, Alison; Anne Boleyn – A King’s Obsession
Dunn, Wendy J.; The Light in the Labyrinth
Richards, Natalia; Falcon’s Rise – The Early Years of Anne Boleyn
Gristwood, Sarah; Game of Queens -The Women Who Made Sixteenth-Century Europe

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Book Review: “Falcon’s Rise” by Natalia Richards

Jane Seymour (20)

Lately I’ve been binge reading?books and articles about both Anne Boleyn and her daughter Elizabeth. With Anne Boleyn it can be easy to burn out on her, especially during the month of May. Everywhere you look there is another post or image of her and discussion of her unjust execution.

In the past, a majority of the stuff I read about Anne had to do with her time at Tudor court, so I was excited to have the opportunity to read about time in Mechelen.

Here is a snippet of what the book is about:

The day before her death, Anne Boleyn remembers a journey that changed her life. She recalls how, as a young girl, she used her wits to secure a place at the prestigious Court of Margaret of Austria, where she soon realised that a woman had to be strong to survive the treachery of Court politics. And she came to understand that she must shape her own destiny if she was to be happy. It is here that she met the young man who would one day make her his Queen. However, loathing his hateful boasting, this girl had plans of her own, and she was determined to impress her ambitious family.

My Review

Anne Boleyn’s life was one that ended tragically. It refreshing to read about her “living”.

One thing I’ve often wondered is why, at 13, was Anne sent to Mechelen and the court of the Regent, Margaret of Austria and not her older sister, Mary? Mary should have been sent well before Anne.

In the research I’ve done I have often come across the thought that Anne was a better student than her sister and her knowledge of the French language is the reason she was sent in Mary’s place. But, in this book, we see that being used as the excuse only to cover up what really happened. I don’t want to spoil it for those who have not read the book.

Once in Mechelen, the Anne Boleyn we know today began to form. We read of a girl, who looks young for her age, who gradually grows into a young lady. Anne is eventually shipped off, by her father, to France and the court of Mary Rose Tudor who had recently wed King Louis. There she would serve with her sister Mary Boleyn.

It was interesting to read about Anne’s constant curiosity and gossiping that would get her into trouble; Yet she still became a favorite of Margaret of Austria who over time would request Anne to read to her or play the lute for her.

In this story Richards also introduces Henry VIII into Margaret of Austria’s court and his relationship with her and her father, Maximilian I, Holy Roman Emperor. Also included is Charles Brandon’s flirtatious nature with Margaret and how Anne and others perceived it.

The story ends with Anne bidding farewell to her friends and her lady in Mechelen, riding away holding onto her dear memories of her time at the court of Margaret of Austria.

The author did a marvelous job researching the life of Anne. Throughout it I recognized pieces of historical fact intertwined with the marvelous story telling of Richards. It was refreshing to see a part of Anne’s life that we don’t often explore.

I would rate this book 5 out of 5 stars!

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A Prince is Born: Henry, Duke of Cornwall (1 January 1511)

 

On the New Year’s Day 1511, Queen Katherine gave birth to a son – he would be called Henry, Duke of Cornwall. His birth was greatly celebrated by his parents and the kingdom for England and Henry had an heir. Unfortunately, the Prince would only live for 52 short days. In this article we see quotes from Hall’s Chronicles and Letters and Papers that both refer to the birth, and the death, of the sweet young prince, “little Prince Hal.”

Birth of a Prince

This blurb from Hall’s Chronicles discusses the Queen (Katherine of Aragon) taking to her birthing chamber and that is why the King spent Christmas at Richmond Palace. It says that upon the new year the Queen gave birth to a Prince which caused great celebrations in the realm. It goes on to discuss the preparation for the christening as well. It mentions the godfathers as the Archbishop of Canterbury (William Warham) and the Earl of Surrey (Thomas Howard, 2nd Duke of Norfolk). As far as godmother it lists Katherine of York, Countess of Devon who was the daughter of Edward IV and wife of William Courteney, 1st Earl of Devon.

It is to be noted that at this tyme the Quene was great with childe, and shortly after this pastyme, she toke her chamber at Richemond, for the whiche cause the kynge kept his Christmas there. And on Newyeres day, the first day of January, the Quene was delivered of a Prince to the great gladess of the realme, for the honour of whom, fyers were made, and divers vessels with wyne, set for such as woulde take thereof in certayne streates in London, and generall processions thereupon to laude God. As touchynge the preparacion of the Prince’s christening. I overpasse, whiche was honorablie done, whose godfathers at the font were the Archbishop of Centerbury, and the erle of Surrey. Godmother the lady Katheryne Countesse of Devonsire, daughter of kynge Edward the foarth. (Hall’s Chronicle; pg 515)

cathofaragonasmarywithbabybysittow
Catherine of Aragon as the Madonna, early 1500s by Michel Sittow

Little Prince Hal’s christening was four days after his birth – why, I’m not sure. I’m assuming it took time to put together such a grand ceremony and they felt he was a healthy child so it would be okay to have a delay in the christening. This blurb was taken from Letters and Papers and in it they state King Louis XII as a godfather along with William Warham, Archbishop of Canterbury. Instead of Katherine of York, Countess of Devon it lists the godmother as Margaret of Austria, Duchess of Savoy. Historian David Starkey only lists King Louis XII of France and Margaret of Austria, Duchess of Savoy as the young prince’s godparents. So, I wonder why Hall lists names incorrectly, as well as in Letters in Papers?

“The christening of Prince Henry, first son of our sovereign lord King Henry the VIIIth.”

On New Year’s Day, Wednesday, Dominical letter E., 1 Jan., about _(blank) a.m., 1510, 2 Hen. VIII., at Richmond in Sowthrey, was born Prince Henry, whose christening was deferred till Sunday 5 Jan., when from the Hall to the Friars was made, with barriers and rails, a way 24 ft. wide strewn with rushes, after being new-gravelled. All the south side of the way was “hangen” with cloth of arras, and near the Friars both sides were so hung, as was the body of the church. Godfathers were the French King Loys de Valoys and the Abp. of Canterbury, Warham. Godmother Margaret duchess of Savoy. “At the conformacion the Earl of Arrundell.” My lord of Winchester was deputy for the French King and the Countess of Surrey for the Duchess. The French King gave a salt, 51 oz., and a cup 48 oz., of fine gold; and to the Lady Mistress a chain worth 30l. and to the midwife 10l.

(‘Henry VIII: January 1511’, in Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, Volume 1, 1509-1514, ed. J S Brewer (London, 1920), pp. 369-377.)


Death of a Prince

…After this great joy came sorowfull chaunce, for the young Prince, which was borne upon Neweyeres daye last past, upon the xxii daye of February, being then the eve of sainet Mathy, departed this world at Rychemonde, and from thense was caryed to Westmynster, and buried. (Hall’s Chronicle; pg 519)

The kyng lyke a wyse prynce, toke this dolorous chaunce wonderous wysely, and the more to comfort the Quene, he dissimuled the matter, and made no great mourning outwardely: but the Quene lyke a natural woman, made much lamentation, how be it, by the kynges good persuasion and behaviour, her sorrow was mytigated, but not shortlye. (Hall’s Chronicle; pg 519)