Poisoner Anne Boleyn?, by Susan Breen

August 11, 2015 in Guest Writers, Queens of World History by Beth von Staats

By Susan Breen

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Queen Anne Boleyn

Queen Anne Boleyn

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Anne Boleyn had a talent for controversy. (Isn’t that what makes her so fascinating?) She was accused of many things over the course of her lifetime, but one of the accusations that comes up most frequently is that she was a poisoner.

Keep in mind that poisoning in the early 16th century was viewed differently than we view it today. In our time, poisoning is a criminal matter, a type of homicide. But in Anne’s day it was a murkier thing. Poisoning meant sorcery and witchcraft and evil spells. It was a crime associated with outsiders and foreigners and Infidels and witches. A woman such as Anne, who had spent so much time in foreign courts, who had foreign ways, who might have had features, such as moles, that set her apart physically, would be rumored to be a poisoner in almost any circumstances.

So how serious were the charges against Anne Boleyn?

Four specific incidents are at the heart of the controversy:

Saint John Fisher

Saint John Fisher

1. In 1531, Bishop John Fisher, an outspoken supporter of Catherine of Aragon, narrowly avoided being poisoned. He was supposed to sit down to dinner that day, but wasn’t hungry. Instead he invited his servants and guests to dine, and two of them died after eating the soup that had been prepared for him. Richard Roose, a cook, was arrested and confessed to putting a substance in the gruel, but said he hadn’t known it would cause harm. Roose was sentenced to the terrible death of being boiled alive, but there were those who felt that Roose did not act alone. When Sir Thomas More, then chancellor, told Henry that people blamed Anne or her family for the crime, Henry snapped that Anne was blamed for everything, even the weather. Of course Roose, at that point, was in no position to offer a defense.

2. In 1536, Catherine of Aragon died after a long illness. Some believed she worsened after drinking Welsh beer in 1535. In the embalmer’s report that followed her death, he noted her heart “was quite black and hideous to look at.” It is now thought that she died of complications from cancer, but at the time, Anne drew suspicion. She had never hidden her dislike of Catherine, and her reception of the news of her death seemed celebratory.

3. Henry’s daughter with Catherine of Aragon, the Lady Mary, certainly believed her stepmother was trying to kill her. At one point Imperial ambassador Eustace Chapuys wrote to King Charles of Spain that, “A Gentleman told me yesterday that the earl of Northumberland told him that he knew for certain that [Anne] had determined to poison the Princess.”

Henry FitzRoy, Duke of Richmond

Henry FitzRoy, Duke of Richmond

4. Seventeen-year-old Henry FitzRoy, Duke of Richmond, King Henry’s illegitimate son, also believed Anne was trying to poison him. On May 2, 1536, after Anne had been taken to the Tower, FitzRoy went to receive his father’s blessing. The King began to cry, saying that he and his sister [Lady Mary] were “greatly bound to God for having escaped the hands of that accursed whore, who had determined to poison them.” FitzRoy went to Anne’s execution and he and the Duke of Suffolk were among the few people there who didn’t fall to their knees in prayer as she awaited death. Sadly FitzRoy died the following month, of what Alison Weir describes as a “suppurating pulmonary infection.”

In each of these cases, Anne’s name came up because she had motive. But did she do it? Was she a poisoner?

King_Henry_IV_from_NPG_(2)

King Henry IV

It’s worth noting, that whether she poisoned anyone or not, there was a lot of poisoning going on at that time. In his fascinating book, The Crime of Poison in the Middle Ages, Franck Collard estimates that out of the 21 kings who reigned in France from 987 to 1497, three-quarters were thought to be exposed to poison. (Although his book technically cuts off at 1500, he cites examples going into Anne Boleyn’s era.) Among specific cases he mentions are English King Henry IV, who “died suddenly sitting up straight on his saddle, covered with poison.” (That was a fast-acting poison. By contrast, he says it took 23 years for poison to work on Charles V.) The fear of poisoning was so widespread that many wealthy people took precautions at their dinner table. There were knives that sweat in the presence of poison and metal languiers on which people hung snake tongues, believed to be another form of poison detector.

Akonite was one of the Tudor Era's most common poisons.

Akonite was one of the Tudor Era’s most common poisons.

Part of why there was so much poisoning was that there was more of it around. Increasing international trade brought new types of poison into England, as well as new techniques for extracting toxic substances out of minerals. Apothecary shops sold arsenic over the counter. Poisonwas cheap. According to Collard, a small amount of toxic material could cost as little as 4 sous in 1501. He refers to this as the “democratization of poison.” Then there were also traveling sellers of theriaque, who sold special preparations that could be used for medicinal reasons, but, as has always been the case, the difference between medicine and poison is often the dose.

Much of the poison was plant-based, such as the herbs aconite and hellebore. There were also mineral-based poisons that required equipment and special manipulations and these became more popular in the 16th century. There were also poisons that came from animal materials, such as one horrifying recipe that called for a substance from the mouth of a red-haired man killed by a poisonous bite and hanged by his feet. The upshot is that anyone who wanted access to poison could probably have found it. So Anne had access and motive. Does that mean she did it?

Catherine di Medici

Catherine de Medici

As I think about it, I find myself drawn to an event that never happened, but which I find interesting nonetheless. (I’m a novelist and so naturally drawn to making up stories.) In 1533, which was a year after Anne went to Calais with Henry to meet with King Francis, the French King’s second son married Catherine de Medici. She was only 14 at the time and she was related to Pope Clement, also a de Medici. He was the Pope so instrumental in holding off the marriage between Henry and Anne. The de Medici family was infamous for its knowledge of poisons and Catherine went on to become known as “The Sinister Queen” (though her reputation may have owed a lot to the fact that she was a strong woman in a foreign country). Like Anne Boleyn, Catherine de Medici was a woman who did not always do what she was supposed to do, or fit in where she should. What might these two have talked about had Anne’s visit to Calais happened one year later? What advice might each have given the other?

But getting back to what actually happened, there’s still the question about Anne Boleyn.

So I went back to a book I like to use when writing mysteries, titled Criminal Poisoning. The author, forensic expert John Trestrail, makes the point that poisoners have a unique personality. They’re different than regular killers. For one thing, the very act of poisoning implies a unique relationship with the victim. The poisoner has to get close, which suggest that she lives near the victim or is in contact, or prepares meals. (This is why there’s a preconception that most poisoners are women, though Trestrail says that’s wrong.) There’s something stealthy and invisible about poisoning. It allows a killer to attack a physically or mentally stronger person by invading that person’s defense zone.

So, what sort of person becomes a poisoner?

Realgar is a source of arsenic.

Realgar is a source of arsenic.

This is what Trestrail has to say: “Poisoners are for the most part cunning, avaricious, cowardly (physically or mentally nonconfrontational), childlike in their fantasy, and somewhat artistic…” They tend to have a grandiose sense of self-importance, a belief that they are special and unique, a sense of entitlement, feelings of envy, a lack of empathy and a requirement for excessive admiration.

Hmmm.

Something I think we could all agree on is that Anne Boleyn was neither cowardly nor nonconfrontational. She was unafraid to speak up. When she should have been silent, she was incapable of it. She was a woman who confronted her enemies head-on, and on the basis of that, I would vote no. Anne Boleyn was not a poisoner.

What do you think?

Sources:
Bilyeau, Nancy, “The Death of the Bishop’s Poisoner,” English Historical Fiction Authors
Bordo, Susan, The Creation of Anne Boleyn
Collard, Franck, The Crime of Poison in the Middle Ages
Ridgway, Claire, “The Death of Catherine of Aragon,” theanneboleynfiles.com
Ridgway, Claire, The Fall of Anne Boleyn: A Countdown
Somervill, Barbara A., Catherine de Medici, The Power Behind the French Throne
Trestrail, John Harris III, Criminal Poisoning: Investigational Guide for Law Enforcement, Toxicologists, Forensic Scientists, and Attorneys
Weir, Alison, The Lady in the Tower

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Susan Breen

Susan Breen

Susan Breen is the author of the novel, The Fiction Class, which was published by Plume/Penguin. Her stories and articles have appeared in places such as Best American Nonrequired Reading, Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine and www.composejournal.com. She teaches novel writing for Gotham Writers in NYC and lives in Irvington, NY with her husband and two cockapoos (dogs). She has three fabulous children who are all off in the world, doing remarkable things. She’s at work on a mystery in which Anne Boleyn is a character (although not a poisoner).

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The Fiction Class

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The Fiction Class

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ANNE BOLEYN: Beautiful Saint or Scheming Bitch?

July 27, 2015 in News, Queens of World History, The Anne Boleyn Society by James Peacock

by James Peacock

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When promoting her 2011 film W.E., which tells the story of two women — the fictional Wally Winthrop in 1998, and the American divorcée Wallis Simpson in 1938 — co-author and director Madonna recalled from life experience, that whenever she brought up King Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson at a dinner party or social gathering, it was like “throwing a Molotov cocktail into the room.” She went on to describe how everyone would “erupt into an argument about who they were,” admitting that “they were very controversial- and continue to be.”

In many ways it is the same with Anne Boleyn. Nearly 500 years after her death, the second wife to King Henry VIII and mother to Queen Elizabeth I of England, continues to draw strong passion from people – even on many occasions leading to arguments! People are often divided into two camps: “Bitch Anne” vs. “Saint Anne”.

Camp “Bitch Anne” sees her as a cold-hearted, husband-stealing bitch, who, from the moment she arrived at the English court, had her eyes firmly set on the crown, stopping at nothing to get it. Camp “Saint Anne” sees her as an innocent victim, manipulated by her overly ambitious father, Thomas Boleyn, and uncle, Thomas Howard, Duke of Norfolk. This Anne is often seen as being ahead of her time, leading the way for the feminist revolution.

So is the bitch or the saint the real Anne Boleyn? Well, that we will never really know for sure, as she lived over four hundred years ago in a world so alien to our own. We will never know for certain what Anne Boleyn looked like. We can guess what she thought in her mind of certain things, events and people, but we will never be 100% certain. We can, however, take a look at certain traits which give us an inkling into the real Anne Boleyn.

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Ben Miles and Linda Leanard (WOLF HALL/BRING UP THE BODIES, Royal Shakespeare Company) Photo Credit: Donald Cooper

Ben Miles and Linda Leanard (WOLF HALL/BRING UP THE BODIES, Royal Shakespeare Company) Photo Credit: Donald Cooper

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Hot-Tempered and Rash Tongue:

It is reported that on New Years Day 1531, Anne, full of confidence and brave as a lion, declared that she “wished all Spaniards were at the bottom of the sea” and that “she cared not for the Queen (Catherine of Aragon) or her family, and would rather see her hanged than have to confess that she was her queen and mistress.” Some may think this was sheer folly to speak openly in such a way of Catherine, who was well liked by many of her subjects. As we know Anne cared nothing for popularity. After all, she had briefly had “Aisi sera groigne qui groigne”, which translates to “Let them grumble; that is how it is going to be” as her motto in 1530. Anne even boldly commanded the motto be embroidered on the livery coats of her servants. Though removed in time, it was clear sign of her response to the critics of the King’s great matter.

Other reports of Anne’s hot temper and rash tongue stem from her stormy relationship with stepdaughter Mary. Ordering her aunt Lady Shelton to “box” Mary’s ears “as the cursed bastard she was”, further commanding her to take every opportunity to reinforce the girl’s inferiority. When reading this, it is easy to see Anne as some vicious monster. Did her actions stem from insecurity of the position of herself and her daughter Elizabeth? This we can only guess. On yet another occasion of Anne’s loose tongue, she told Sir Henry Norris during a conversation that he “looked for dead men’s shoes” for if anything became of the king, he would look to have her. Such a rash comment would haunt Anne even as she was in the Tower awaiting her execution.

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Natalie Dormer as Anne Boleyn with Jonathan Rhys Meyers as Henry VIII Credit: The Tudors, Showtime

Natalie Dormer as Anne Boleyn with Jonathan Rhys Meyers as Henry VIII
Credit: The Tudors, Showtime

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Charity and Patronage:

We see a very different Anne from the hot-tempered woman when we look at surviving accounts of her charity work and patronage. Although some like Reformer and Matyrologist, John Foxe may exaggerate the amount of her donations to the poor, there are surviving accounts from those that knew Anne personally. William Latymer, her chaplain, writes of her being “generous to the poor”, and “Upon a certain Maundy Thursday”, in which performed the usual ceremonies of washing and kissed the feet of simple poor women, she “commanded to be put pivily into every poor woman’s purse one george noble, the which was 6 shillings 8 pence over and besides the almes that wanted to be given”.

In fact, the amount in the royal Maundy purses increased when Anne was Queen. The court expenses for 1536, show the “cost of the Queen’s Maundy” were 31 pounds, 3 shillings and 9 and a half pence. On royal progresses she would “give in special commandment to her officers to buy a great quantity of canvas to be made into shirts and smocks and sheets to those of the poor.” Anne Boleyn also ordered her ladies to make shirts, smocks and sheets for the poor, ordering “flannell” to be made into “pettycotes for poore men, wemen and children,” which were then distributed “to every of whom was distributed by her graces commaundemente a shurte, smok, or petticote, and 12 pence in money, and to some more, according as her grace understod of their nede and necessitie.”

On one occasion, a ‘Mrs Jaskyne’s’, who attended the queen, husband fell “grevioslye sick” and had called for his wife. Anne “not only graunted her licence to depart…, but also most bountyfullye commaunded to be prepared for her sufficiente furniture of horse and other necessarys for journey, and tenne pounds in monye towarde the charge of her travaill.” One particular story that deserves attention is of a Mr. Ive at Kingston, who lost most of his cattle “almost to his utter undoing”. Anne gave his wife a purse of gold with xxIi in it (£20) and said to tell her if they needed further help.

Anne Boleyn gave aid to refugees and reformers from both home and abroad. Many reformists gained their positions due to his Anne’s help and patronage — men such as Thomas Cranmer, Edward Fox, Hugh Latimer, Matthew Parker, William Barlow, Nicholas Shaxton, Edward Crome, Thomas Garrett and William Betts. People in prison for possessing heretical books often successfully petitioned her for help.

Anne also helped members of her family during difficult times, such as her sister Mary, who following the death of her first husband was serious financial difficulty and was forced to write to the king for help. Henry duly stepped in and secured financial help for her from her father, and granted Anne the wardship of Mary’s son Henry. This has often been twisted into an act of vicious malice, thanks to a certain fiction book. It was in fact an act of kindness. Anne, in an obvious position to help, provided her nephew with a good education. Wardships were not uncommon in the Tudor time s- take for example, Lady Jane Grey being the ward of Thomas Seymour and Catherine Willoughby being the ward of Charles Brandon.

Anne Boleyn also helped members of her family gain positions at court. For example, Anne helped secure her uncle Lord Edmund Howard (father of Catherine Howard) the position of controller of Calais in 1531. Anne further secured her uncle Thomas Howard, Duke of Norfolk, the wardship of the King’s illegitimate son Henry Fitzroy and subsequent marriage of Fitzroy to her cousin Mary Howard. Her aunts Lady Shelton and Anne Clere were secured the positions of running the household of her daughter Princess Elizabeth.

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Merle Oberon as Anne Boleyn

Merle Oberon as Anne Boleyn

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Conclusion:

Anne Boleyn is not someone who followed convention, that much is certain. As historian Eric Ives points out, “she appears inconsistent-religious yet aggressive, calculating yet emotional”. Anne was prone to loosing her temper and speaking rashly, but also of great acts of kindness to those in need. Anne cared nothing for popularity, believing firmly in her cause.

Anne Boleyn was a woman of great wit- even in the face of death- with her comment, “I heard say the executioner is very good, and I have a little neck”, to which she put her hands around her throat and laughed. On another occasion whilst awaiting death she joked with her ladies that the people would soon find a name for her- they would call her “Queen Anne Lackhead”. During her trial Anne “made so wise and discreet aunsweres to all thinges layde against her, excusing herselfe with her wordes so clearlie”, defending herself admirably, addressing the court boldly and fearlessly.

Anne Boleyn never wished to make herself a martyr, nor did she try to gain sympathy during her final days. Instead, what we see is a woman who stood up to her accusers and laughed in the face of death. Anne was far from perfect, but I truly believe that is the reason why so many are drawn to her and admire her. Anne had flaws- like any human being- she was not a 100% saint like some characters from that period appear to be. It is one of the reasons why I myself admire her so much. Anne Boleyn was not 100% “nice as pie”, like some wish to be. She showed her flaws and made herself appear human to us in the 21st century. She took charge of her own destiny, her own style, and was as much as she could be in those days, her own person.

Anne Boleyn was certainly no saint – no person living or dead is – but she was certainly no cold-hearted scheming bitch either.

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Genevieve Bujold as Anne Boleyn  "Anne of the Thousand Days"

Genevieve Bujold as Anne Boleyn
“Anne of the Thousand Days”

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 Sources:

The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn by Eric Ives

The Anne Boleyn Collection Vol II by Claire Ridgway

The Creation of Anne Boleyn by Susan Bordo

Cronickille of Anne Bulleyne by William Latymer

Actes and Monuments by John Foxe

Six Wives, The Queens of Henry VIII by David Starkey

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Anne Boleyn — Our Beloved Anointed Queen of Anglophilia

May 19, 2015 in 2015 Tribute to Queen Anne Boelyn, News, Queens of World History, The Tudor Thomases by Beth von Staats

By Beth von Staats

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Anglophiles currently delight at Lydia Leonard's Tony Award niminated performance as Queen Anne Boleyn at the Winter Garden Theater on Broadway. Picture Credit: The Royal Shakespeare Company

Anglophiles currently delight at Lydia Leonard’s Tony Award nominated performance as Anne Boleyn, in WOLF HALL, Parts One & Two at the Winter Garden Theater on Broadway, New York City.
Picture Credit: The Royal Shakespeare Company

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May 19th, the date that marks the anniversary of Queen Anne Boleyn’s tragic execution, is a national holiday. From Miami to California, from Boston to Anchorage, from Puerto Rico to Guam, Tudorphiles and Anglophiles all over the United States – and there are literally millions of us – stop everything we are doing and pay humble and prayerful homage.

When you think about American History, our love of Queen Anne Boleyn and all things British doesn’t seem all that logical. After all, long before we had the Tea Party Movement, we rioted against our British oppressors. Yes, we now look to those rascals in Boston as revolutionaries, but back in 1773, Samuel Adams and the “Sons of Liberty” were a bunch of hooligans, tossing an entire state’s supply of Indian Gold into the harbor. From there all hell broke loose, two wars with the British in less than 40 years. So why now do we love all things British? And of all things British, why is Anne Boleyn, who reigned a mere 1000 days – and as a queen consort at that – our beloved anointed Queen of Anglophilia?

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Elizabeth Taylor, Eddie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds

Elizabeth Taylor, Eddie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds

1. Americans adore love triangles, the “juicier” the better.

Before the Lady Anne Boleyn became King Henry VIII’s wife and queen consort, she was the “other woman”. True or no, Queen Catalina de Aragon pegged her, “the scandal of Christendom”. Although most historians suggest Anne Boleyn was initially pursued by the king to become like her sister Mary a mere “friend with benefits”, there is no denying this simple fact. The woman had panache!

Let’s face it. Henry had a major problem. Married nearly 18 years by 1527, there was no male heir to the throne. Now what? Annul the marriage to the Spanish queen, of course! That was a given, Anne Boleyn or no. What happened next, however, is a true “American love story” and epic Anglophilia. Anne Boleyn, like Beyoncé, set one simple rule. “If you like it, you shoulda put a ring on it.” Then, she played “hard to get”. Through intelligence, charm and charisma, Anne Boleyn, in an age before reliable birth control, held her man — the Queen of England sitting in the opposing corner stitching the king’s shirts — for seven long years.

Although we Anglophiles will never admit it, we do love gossip. “Who is sleeping with who” is important business to us, especially the rich and famous. As much as we love to hate the usurpers, being Elizabeth Taylor, Angelina Jolie or Anne Boleyn is a secret fantasy. After all, they had chutzpah! Who wouldn’t want to be the consort and randy romance partner of Eddie Fisher, Brad Pitt — or better yet, the King of England?

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Grace, Princess of Monaco

Grace, Princess of Monaco

2. Americans, especially Tudorphiles and Anglophiles, love royalty — especially young princesses and queens! 

King George III may have gone mad in his final years, but he was a visionary in truth. When the king conceded American independence before Parliament in 1782, he observed quite astutely, “I pray that the United States will not suffer unduly from its want of a monarchy.” Oh heavens, do we!

Since we live in a republic, Anglophiles need to create our own royal family. We do this is several ingenious ways. If our Presidential family is attractive enough, we borrow them — along with British mythology to plant into their life stories. Thus, not only did Caroline Kennedy ride her pony Macaroni, but she also lived in Camelot — her father King Arthur, her mother, Guinevere.

Not all of our Presidential families meet the “attractive royal criteria”, however. This poses no problem for us Anglophiles! Like Anne Boleyn before them, we will send our most charismatic, charming, intelligent and engaging women to marry into a royal family. So far, this has been a remarkably successful endeavor. Not only did Grace Kelly catch a prince and Lisa Najeeb Halaby catch a king, but Wallace Simpson pulled off the golden ring at the carousel. The King of England renounced his throne for her. How deliciously naughty and Anglophilian is that?

When all else fails, we Anglophiles simply borrow “all things British”. In America the tragic Diana, Princess of Wales is a sainted Madonna — and with no 16th century history of our own, so is Queen Anne Boleyn. It’s really that simple.

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Wooden-Cross

3. Though freedom of religion is a hallmark of American values, the United States is still primarily a Protestant nation — and down right evangelical, too! 

For Americans, including Anglophiles, religion is still serious business. After all, the Unites States is “one nation, under God”. As every Tudorphile knows, Queen Anne Boleyn was a devout reformist evangelical. In fact, she is credited for introducing King Henry VIII to the notion that he needed no pope to rule over his clergy. Just how did Anne Boleyn pull this off? She handed him the “banned” heretical notions of the priest in exile, William Tyndale.

Poof! Henry had an epiphany! With the help of Thomas Cranmer, his Boleyn cherry-picked Archbishop of Canterbury and Thomas Cromwell, his ambitious and politically driven privy councilor from Putney, the King of England not only was “defender of the faith”, but Emperor, his crown Imperial. Queen Anne Boleyn was in — and the papacy was out, done deal.

Interesting enough, like any good Anglophile, I recently ventured to New York with friends to enjoy Wolf Hall, Plays One & Two. While there, we were delighted to meet and speak with Lydia Leonard, currently Anne Boleyn, Queen of England — and Queen of Broadway. Lydia shared that she was not surprised by the intelligence of her American audiences, but instead how astutely Americans caught religious humor as opposed to their British counterparts.

Shakespearean actor Giles Taylor, Thomas Cranmer in the plays, echoed these sentiments in a recent QAB interview. He observed, “I knew the books were popular in the States, and that the Americans seem to have an insatiable appetite for English History and period drama generally. The pleasant surprise has been our American audiences’ religious knowledge. We are so secular now in the UK that the religious references and jokes went for very little, but here in NYC they go down like a storm!”

Read, mark, learn and inwardly digest. His Grace has spoken.

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The Anne Boleyn Files, founded by Claire Ridgway, is an outstanding online resource focusing on the life an influence of Queen Anne Boleyn and the Tudor Era of English of Tudor History in general.  Illustration Credit: Time Ridgway, MadeGlobal Publishing

The Anne Boleyn Files, founded by Claire Ridgway, is an outstanding online resource focusing on the life and influence of Queen Anne Boleyn and the Tudor Era of English History in general.
Illustration Credit: Tim Ridgway, MadeGlobal Publishing

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4. Americans are obsessed with the internet — and the internet is obsessed with Queen Anne Boleyn.

The hallmark historical resource for American Anglophilia is the world wide web. Yes, we Anglophiles are obsessed with Queen Anne Boleyn, but not as much as we are obsessed with our smartphones, iphones, tablets and laptops. Match Anne Boleyn with an ipad and a glass of wine, and any Anglophile is in nirvana. To illustrate the point, google “Anne Boleyn” and see what happens. Boom! She reigns — for pages, and pages, and pages — in every language save Wampanoag worldwide. Let’s just say this. The domain name for this website is not for sale for any price. It’s that precious.

Follow us at @QueenAnneBoleyn on twitter! Her Majesty is always in character.

Follow us at @QueenAnneBoleyn on twitter! Her Majesty is always in character.

Do you enjoy tweeting on your smart phone? Join the over 9000 court followers, mostly American Anglophiles, of Queen Anne Boleyn (@QueenAnneBoleyn). Do you prefer facebook on your tablet? Take a peek at the facebook page for The Anne Boleyn Files. As of this writing, over 138,000 people “liked” the page, and justifiable so. It not only highlights the blog posts of The Anne Boleyn Files website and The Tudor Society, also founded by the delightful Claire Ridgway, it shares content from a variety of outside sources, as well. Do you want to know what happened on any given day in Tudor history? Claire will tell you. How deliciously Anglophilian!

For Anglophiles and Anne Boleyn lovers, the internet holds infinite possibilities. I will post some of my favorite websites and blogs at the end of this article, I promise!

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Queen Anne Boleyn in the Tower of London (Artist: Edouard Cibot)

Queen Anne Boleyn in the Tower of London
(Artist: Edouard Cibot)

5. Americans love drama, especially tragic love stories or thrillers that end with good overcoming evil.

Although this article is intentionally light-spirited, today is a day in remembrance of a tragedy of historic proportions. Anglophiles all over the United States will take pause, nearly 500 years later, still in disbelief that an anointed queen could be literally cut down — her “little neck” split straight through, her head rolling to the scaffold. Punctuating the tragedy, five men fell along with her. With a horror such as this, why do Americans keep flocking to Anne Boleyn?

Quite simply, we Anglophiles like bittersweet tragedies — especially if a gross miscarriage of justice has a vindicating twist. Yes, Anne’s nemesis Thomas Cromwell rose to the ultimate heights of power, but he would fall to the axe in 1540. Yes, King Henry VIII finally was gifted with a male heir, but the child’s reign was short, his death premature. And yes, Anne Boleyn’s beloved daughter grew to womanhood without a mother, but in the end, she reigned Queen of England.

The ascension of Elizabeth, Regina, combined with her magnificent reign, is the “happy ending” American Anglophiles are always seeking. God saved the queen. Long did she reign.

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Anne Boleyn, Queen of Anglophilia (and the internet)

The following are just a few additional delightful websites and blogs that highlight Queen Anne Boleyn and Tudor History in general: Anne Boleyn: From Queen to History (Sarah Bryson);  Confessions of a Ci-Devant (Gareth Russell); Conor Byrne (Blog);  English Historical Fiction Authors (Debbie Brown); La Temps Viendra (Sarah Morris);  Luminarium: Anthology of English Literature;  Nancy Bilyeau (Blog);  Nerdalicious (Olga Hughes);  On the Tudor Trail – Retracing the Steps of Anne Boleyn, an Immortal Queen (Natalie Grueninger);  The Creation of Anne Boleyn (Susan Bordo);  TudorHistory.org (Lara Eakins);  The Tudor Tutor; and Wendy J. Dunn.

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Beth von Staats

Beth von Staats

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Beth von Staats a history writer of both fiction and non-fiction short works. A life-long history enthusiast, Beth  is the owner and administrator of Queen Anne Boleyn Historical Writers website, QueenAnneBoleyn.com.

Beth’s interest in British History grew through the profound influence of her Welsh grandparents, both of whom desired she learn of her family cultural heritage. Her most pronounced interest lies with the men and women who drove the course of events and/or who were most poignantly impacted by the English Henrician and Protestant Reformations, as well as the Tudor Dynasty of English and Welsh History in general.

Beth’s short biography, Thomas Cranmer In a Nutshell, was recently released by MadeGlobal Publishing. A second biography, Thomas More In a Nutshell, and a full length book focusing on Henrican martyrdom are current works in process.

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Thomas Cranmer by Beth von Staats

To Purchase Thomas Cranmer “In a Nutshell”.

Click the link below!

Thomas Cranmer “In a Nutshell”

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“Farewell Life”, Deep POV Introspective Fiction, by Mercy Alicea Rivera

May 18, 2015 in 2015 Tribute to Queen Anne Boelyn, Hall of Crowns (Mercy Rivera), Historical Fiction, Queens of World History, The Final Days of Queen Anne Boleyn by Mercy Rivera

By Mercy Alicea Rivera

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Here I am, in the silence of this quiet night, the last night of my life. And is so beautiful. Even when I can not see the full sky, it is beautiful. Tomorrow, by this same hour, I will be there, close to the stars, close to those I miss now, those I lost in my name and in the name of cruelty. By dawn, I will slowly become a memory…fading in my last steps. Will he be thinking about me? Will he regret my death? I guess I will never get an answer. He hates me now with the same strength that he once loved me. I know that but part of me dreams with the hope that he stops my execution tomorrow, and take me in his arms and give me another chance. This fate would be easier if I did not to love him. My mistake was that, to change a game of wealth, for a love story, the best story of my existence, the one who make me a mother, a Queen.

Life, life is a circle of ironies. This place, this tower, a few years ago I was here, shining like those stars up there. These walls, covered with silver and the finest tapestries, with our names entwined as symbol of eternal love. Now, the walls are empty, cold, the color of the stones covered the golden splendor of my days of glory — when I thought the world was mine… when I felt that I was… the most happy. It is over, everything is. This is my last chance to say goodbye to all that I lost and I can not recover. I must free my soul tonight, so tomorrow I can walk towards my death with only the comfort of my faith.

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First, I must say goodbye to this land, to England. I was born here, my first light of happiness was lit here — a wonderful childhood, when I was loved for who I was, when I was still.. just a daughter, a child meant to be loved and protected. Farewell to that, to my beloved Hever, to my mother and… yes, to my father. He once loved me and treasured me, back when power was not important to him, when he was still… young and… human.

Goodbye Mary… my sweet sister. Please forgive me for all the harm I caused you. May God protect you and keep you safe. Live your life, because if you do, half of me will still live. Thank you for being always my companion, especially in our days in France. I always thought that I did good when I learned to be the opposite of you. Perhaps if… I would had imitate you, I would not be here like this. Being his mistress at least could save my life. You won Mary. You have a peaceful life with your children. You do not care of what people say. I envy you now so much dear Mary. You are free and I am dying. Be blessed, be happy, for both of us.

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Farewell to my youth here…farewell to my first love… At least the first one that made know what love was. Forgive me, for leaving you, for change in your sweet promises for the game of a crown. Goodbye to the days when all the eyes of the court were upon me, when he noticed me and my game started. And there is a ghost marked in this era of my life — the Queen I helped to destroy, a woman I never cared to know — a woman who never caused me harm — a Queen I swore to honor and obey. I ended up speeding her death. I took by force and humiliation what was hers… and here I am now, slowly waiting for the dawn of my execution. Soon we will share the dust of England’s Crown. We will be under the same land, yes, under, because our King will pass the crown to a new one, she that will shine just after my blood soaks the scaffold. Forgive me Katherine. What I did to you was done to me, we are even but…  I am still guilty of my actions against you. First I was moved my greed, and I regret what I did during that time. Love took over… I was fighting for happiness, for him, and for that I can not feel regret nor guilt.

I am sorry! I am! I can not scream it to the world but… I am sorry. Because I can not change what I did and at the same time… I regret less when it should be more. Forgive me. And I pray God… that someday your daughter Mary will forgive me, too. She is innocent. She always was, and now my daughter will live the same life. Both sisters will now be neglected by their father, suffering because of their mothers — two Queens, with the same failure.

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Farewell again, to the land where I gave birth to my precious Elizabeth, the only pure thing in my life, the best I ever did on this earth. The only proof of my love, my feelings, my hope and my joy as a woman, and my only valuable jewel as Queen. This land, this realm, will watch you grow, become a woman and yes.. Queen, because I know you will be Queen my dearest girl, my beloved child. I will not be here to guide you in the path of life, but I promise, that my love will always follow you. It will keep you warmth when the sadness of my absence became cold in your heart, because I have faith that you will remember me with kindness, with tenderness and sweetness.

You are part of me, the clean essence of my soul, and there is no hate in the entire world that can destroy that. God Bless my princess, my love, my everything. Shine brighter than me. Rule England with the heart, with the true of your soul and the wisdom of your forefathers. And think of me in silence. Never dare to mention me. It is better for you to keep the love of your father the King. Praise his name and keep me locked in your heart, that will keep you safe, and protected. Please learn all you can from the darkness of this realm before you get trapped in the light of it. God forbid you get blind by the beauty and temptations of this Kingdom. Be strong first, then be the rest you must be.  You are my precious jewel, my sweet Elizabeth.

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Pretty stars, my dead ones are above, walking around them, waiting for me. Play sweet music for me Mark, when you see me. I want to be received by the gentle notes of your violin. My darling Mark, my friend, my confident, I am so sorry for all the pain you suffered on my behalf. I never wished that upon you. Forgive me, our friendship led you to your death, and I am sorry. Please, play the violin when you see me Mark.

I know I will see you, Sir Henry Norris. Your admiration for me was the key to your downfall. My charms condemned you. I ask your forgiveness and please, smile to me when you see me tomorrow. Please, show me that chivalry that I always liked from you.

You will also be there, Master Bereton. I never knew why you… always looked at me with such coldness. The strictness of your behavior towards me was more a hint of your disgust about me than respect for my rank. What I did to cause that to thee? Will you tell me when I get there? Or you will look at me with the same despise, with the cold disguise of respect?

And there it is, the brightest star, the one that comes when dawn is near. There you are my sweet George, my darling brother. Oh the pain of seeing you die! It burns my heart! I felt your agony deep in my bones. I have that image carved in my soul. My dearest brother, you are the only one who really knew me from the start — the one who never dared to betray me. You were my comfort and I was your courage. Since we were children it was always like that. George, my gentle George, do not despair. Soon we will be together again, open your arms for me when I get there, and hug me with all your strength. Give me the pureness of our brotherly love, that sincere and innocent love that was cause of our doom.

How can they twist something so clean, immaculate and transparent like the love between brother and sister?! They are the impure ones, not us, never us! Wait a little longer my brother… Soon I will be back to you. Soon.

And there, a little far from the brightest star, two small ones, with a tiny spark, I am sure those are my two dead sons, my princes that I never had the chance to hold, soon my little angels, soon we will be together. I will hold both of you, and this time, we will share eternal life, in peace.

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Farewell to the souls of those I helped to crush and destroy… Cardinal Wolsey, the one who used to call me “The Black Crow” and the “Silly Girl”… the man I thought that had a pride higher than mine. Sometimes I thought I was wrong even when I never liked him. He was loyal, like a father to the King. He was a man whose birth was low… and worked hard to climb to the top of this realm. Where was the wrong in that? Now I wonder.

Sir Thomas More… he hated me and I him. He was so stubborn, just like and me and my kin. He died for his faith, for his beliefs. He was a great man, beloved friend of the King. I feel his death marked the start of my downfall. Farewell to poor Bishop Fisher…another man who died for his faith. Why did we turn our wish for the Truth and staine it with blood? That was my first criminal sin, to help in the production of a bloodbath in the name of Reformation and Power. This is how I see it now.

Farewell to my still living enemies. Mary, Lady Mary. Your hate towards me is justified in all the senses. To remember the reasons will not change anything nor make you forgive me. All I hope is that you become in time a protector of your poor little sister, who now will share your fate. May God help you to love her and cherished her. May the force of blood be stronger than the force of your hate for me. Forgive me Mary, even when what I did to you is unforgivable.

Cromwell… someone I helped to rise and now I am a victim of the power that he won towards me and my family. I underestimated you, and now I am here. I won your hate and that was my greatest mistake. All I can say to you is… enjoy the power while you can. I am sure that… being as proud and ambitious as you are, it will not be long when your head falls from the scaffold.

And you, Chapuys, you who represent all the faction here in England and Spain that hate me as much as you do, be in peace… the witch will be dead tomorrow. Spain can rejoice. All my enemies will rejoice, but do not smile too much. My death will not bring the glory and peace to England… it will be just a pause until the next horror comes by the hand of the tyrant King Henry.

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My last goodbye is for you Henry. I wanted to hate you when you changed me for Jane, when you forgot all we were for her, when you ordered my arrest, imprisonment and execution under those corrupted and false charges. I can not hate you. My love for you is stronger than my desire to despise you. And it is strange because… I remember I fought so hard to avoid loving you when all started. I failed… I loved you when we met, when we danced for the first time, when I was Perseverance and you were Honesty. I was yours since that day…I refused to admit it but… you captured me, totally. I learned what passion was in your arms. I learned that lust was far from sinful in the power of your kisses, and I loved the sweetness of every caress you gave me.

You can tell the whole world that I am a whore, but you know I became a woman in your bed. You can whisper on Jane’s ear that you love her, but you know that you will never feel with her what you felt with me. I know this sounds…vain but I know that… you will always remember me, even if you hate me now, you will never be able to erase me from your heart. Forgive me my King. I know I broke a promise. Believe me it was painful… I wanted to give you a son with all my heart, with every part of me and I am sorry. I am so sorry for my failure.

In the end, I can see your love was not unconditional like you once whispered to me. I was the fool because I believed it. I disrobed my pride, my will and my strength before your words, your touch and your charm. I die as an innocent, and my blood will always stained your actions from now towards the end of your days, that is my silent prophecy for you my love. Joy will not find your place again, you will never be the same after tomorrow, is painful for me to feel this, but it is what it is… You do not deserve happiness after what you have done.

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Farewell my love, my King. I never knew you and I loved you like no other woman will, not even the fair and innocent Jane. I am sure that if she does not please you like you expect, you will drag her down and replace her. You are loveless man now, a King and not a man. Power overcame you. I take with me the satisfaction that I enjoyed your human part, the one that will totally die with me tomorrow. Part of you will die with me, the best part of you, and to that part with myself, I say farewell.

And here comes the dawn… Farewell to the stars, I will join you tonight and I will come down just to watch the dreams of my darling girl. Farewell to the last night I live here on earth. Hello to my last dawn. Farewell to the rage, the scorn, the malice, the regrets, the pain and the intrigues. Farewell to the joy, the illusions, the dreams, the hopes and the love. Farewell to everything I knew and never will. Farewell to the words I said, the things I did and the love I gave. May all that I destroyed be fixed, and all that I created remain. Farewell Life.

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Queen “Anne Boleyn — Preparations & Postponements”, Short Story by Gayle McMartin Hulme

May 18, 2015 in 2015 Tribute to Queen Anne Boelyn, Anne Boleyn -- Reflections, Guest Writers, Historical Fiction, Queens of World History, The Final Days of Queen Anne Boleyn by ADMIN: Royal Squire

by Gayle McMartin Hulme

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Queen Anne Boleyn – Preparation & Postponements

Introduction

In April 1536, a noble woman was admonished by her brother for loose moral behavior. The words that passed between brother and sister that day started a chain reaction that would leave an innocent woman’s body broken on the scaffold and the future Elizabeth I a motherless child of not even three years of age.

Please bear in mind that what you are about to read is my personal take on the facts and events on 18 May 1536. — GAYLE

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Thomas Cranmer with Anne Boleyn

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TOWER OF LONDON
18 MAY 1536

It’s the early hours of the morning, and I cannot sleep. The banging and crashing outside is deafening, and try as I might, I am unable to hide from the thought that the carpenters are constructing one of the necessary instruments of my doom. I pray the scaffold will not be needed, but I know deep inside that my body will soon be broken and my soul released to heaven.

As I lay in my bed racked with agitation and sleeplessness, my thoughts turn back to my meeting with Archbishop Cranmer two days before…

After the anxiety of listening to the door of my apartment being unlocked and opened, my heart leapt in hope as my good and faithful servant, Archbishop Thomas Cranmer entered my chamber.

I worried at his appearance, as his usual open and friendly expression looked harrowed, and he bore lines on his face in keeping with a man twice his age. His words to me were strained and awkward, and the presence of Sir William Kingston, the Constable of the Tower of London was increasing his unease.

‘Your Majesty, how fair you after the events of your trial yesterday?’ he began.

‘Your Grace is most kind to inquiry after the health of a convicted traitor,’ I said with a wry smile, which did not serve to make him any more comfortable.

Sweeping my remark aside my dearest Archbishop and servant to my family continued. ‘Your Majesty I have come offering pastoral comfort to you and to hear your last confession as you requested. However, before I proceed to your confession, I must address another crucial matter’.

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‘Oh yes, well pray continue as I am certain Master Kingston has no pressing plans for me at present,’ I replied glancing Master Kingston an inquiring look.

Cranmer once again ignored my attempt at humour and carried on. ‘The King, my sovereign and yours, has instructed me to annul your marriage on the grounds that despite the dispensation granted by the Bishop of Rome, his carnal knowledge of your sister Mary precluded your legal marriage to him.’

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This latest piece of treachery had me swooning and in my shock I blurted out, ‘And what of my child, the Princess Elizabeth, what is to become of her? Will her fate be that of Lady Mary’s, a bastard starved of her father’s affection? Is it not enough that my infant daughter will be become motherless? Must my infamy be inflicted on her too?’

The Archbishop attempted to quell my fears. ‘Please quiet yourself. I owe much to you and your family’s patronage, and I will do all I can to look after and protect the Princess, and perhaps given time I can appeal to the King to show you mercy, but I cannot do any of these things unless you agree to the annulment of your marriage on the grounds I have just explained.’

‘You think that there may still be hope of clemency for me? That I may go free to a nunnery?’ I said still in shock.

His Grace continued ‘Yes…perhaps, there is such little time to affect these things, but for the love I owe you above all other women, I will pray unceasingly and entreat the King on your behalf if I can.’

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With a glimmer of hope in my heart, I swore before and after Archbishop Cranmer administered the Sacrament in front of Master, Lady Kingston and my aunt, Lady Boleyn that I had never sinned against the King with my body and that I had been a good true and faithful wife. Surely Christendom will not think me reckless enough to risk death with a lie on my lips and jepardise my eternal soul.

After thanking his Grace for his visit and ministrations, I bid him goodbye with at least a small flicker of hope that my life might yet be spared.

I bring my mind back to the present and remind myself that my conversation with Archbishop Cranmer was 2 days ago, and surely if his mission had been a success, he would have written to advise me.

My darkest thoughts have been confirmed. Master Kingston has informed me that the deed will be done in private within the Tower and that the King has arranged a fine swordsman from Calais to perform my dispatch. Dare I entertain the notion that if the King, my husband is granting me this mercy that some trace of our love remains and that he may still allow me to live out my years in a religious house abroad? I pray God that I will pass the King’s test and it will be so.

As my thoughts waver and terror threatens to take grip of my senses, I am gladden for the announcement at around 2:00 am that my Almoner, John Skip has arrived. Perhaps as we pray together, I shall be touched by the Lord’s grace and I will recover my strength. The Lord’s presence I fear is the cloak between the dignity I know I must find and lingering thoughts of my final chilling ordeal in a few short hours.

With my soul prepared, there is nothing left but to wait, and so I closet myself with my almoner, fall to my knees and pray. It is a comfort to know that not only will I soon be in the presence of my Saviour, Jesus Christ, but that I will also be reunited with my dearest brother and the innocent gentlemen who suffered so cruelly by the axe yesterday.

As my mind hesitantly touches the events of yesterday, I recall the information from one of my women that brave Norris said before he met his end ‘he thought the Queen innocent of these things laid to her charge’, which I heartily give thanks for. However Mark did not clear me of the public infamy to which his alleged confession has brought me. Alas, I fear his soul suffers for it, and that he is now punished for his false accusations.

Kneeling at the altar in my chambers, I see Lady Kingston and Lady Boleyn out of the corner of my eye. How great an unkindness it is of the King to set about me such that I never loved. On my arrival here at The Tower and during my imprisonment, they and those other two poisonous vipers, Lady Stonor and Mrs Coffin reveled in my distress, scurrying back and forward to Master Secretary Cromwell, their tongues wagging all the while with any tip bit I blurted out in my blind panic. How I would have preferred to have those from my own chamber who I favor most.

At least now, after my trial, I am spared the misery of Lady Stonor and Mrs Coffin’s attendance.

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I owe praise indeed to God that my two dearest companions Meg Wyatt, Lady Lee and my cousin, Lady Madge Shelton have now arrived and are to wait on me in my darkest hours.

When the time came for them to join me and when I had dismissed the others I was able to forget my dignity as Queen of England, and ran to Meg as a frightened child runs towards it’s mother. Even though Meg is 5 years my junior, I flung my arms around her neck and wept with joy at the sight of a familiar and sympathetic face.

I spoke to Meg through my sobs. ‘Oh Meg, Madge, I am so relieved to see you both. I cannot tell you the strain it has been these last weeks with no one who cares for me here and only spies to record my every word and deed.’

With kindness in her voice, Meg tells me, ‘I am pleased to come and serve you. The only news we have had of you is that of the false accusations made against you and of course the fate of your brother and the other gentlemen. The King has all but disappeared and…’ She hesitates.

‘Come on, Meg tell me the rest,’ I encourage her.

Meg stares at the floor like a misbehaving child. ‘The rumor is that your Maid of Honor Jane Seymour has been given lodgings in Chelsea and that the King is often there with her and her family until very late in the evening,’ she reluctantly continues.

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Heaven help me, it is true. I have been right all along, and even when I was abed and miscarrying my son, my husband was wenching with Mistress Seymour. Jane Seymour, huh pretending piety and virtue, while happily standing by in order to be the benefactor of my misery.

I am so wrapped up in my own emotions, it had completely slipped my reeling mind that Meg’s own kin is also embroiled in this tragedy. Thomas Wyatt, Meg’s brother and one of His Majesty The King’s Privy Counselors, has been imprisoned here in the Tower with me since 5 May. I do not know where he is lodged, but my spirit sinks when I consider what might await him.

I cannot hide my agitation as I contemplate what Thomas’ friendship with me has brought him to. ‘Darling Meg, I am so sorry that poor Thomas has been dragged into my mess. Have you any news of the circumstances of his arrest or if he has been charged and condemned like the others?” I notice my shortness of breath and anxiety as I speak of Thomas’ predicament.

Meg put both her hands in mine and reassured me. ‘No, Anne do not vex yourself, my father received a comfortable letter from Master Secretary Cromwell advising him that he would continue to be as good a friend to Thomas as he ever was. My father replied on 11 May pleading that although Thomas is not free from vice, he hath offended more to God than to the King.’

The relief I feel in my breast for Meg and her family is profound. I know that Master Secretary is no friend to me, but I do beseech God that he will remain a true and good friend to the Wyatts.

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The hours are slowly passing. I have broken my fast, silently dressed with the help of Meg and Madge, but still no word from Master Kingston on when or how I should acquit myself for the dreaded proceedings. I find my ears are constantly on alert for the crowds of spectators that will surely flock to the Tower this day, but no throng of people can be heard. I look for shadows under the door and listen for the sound of footsteps on the other side of the door. This delay must be some new cruel torture to which Cromwell and his henchmen have devised for me.

I summon Meg. Master Kingston has not arrived and there’s not a sound outside…’

Meg stops me half way, anticipating my train of thought ‘Madam, do not do this to yourself.”

I continue regardless of her pleas ‘Could it be that the King has remembered himself and relented, or perhaps Archbishop Cranmer has persuaded the King to spare me? Maybe at this moment Master Secretary Cromwell is issuing Master Kingston the order for my release?’

Madge has become aware of our conversation and is scurrying over to the table a look of contained but still obvious excitement on her face.

‘Have you news Madam? Has the King in his mercy pardoned you?’ she gabbles out.

I see Meg shoot Madge a look that would have killed the bravest stag in the forest stone dead. With an authority she seldom exercises, Meg barks at Madge. ‘God’s blood! Please Lady Shelton content yourself with your duties and do not eavesdrop on what is not after all your affair’.

Duly scolded and obviously hurt by Meg’s words, Madge goes back to the mending she has been occupying herself with.

Meg beckons me to a window embrasure, smooths down her dress, recovers her composure and addresses me with soothing tones. ‘Madam, no one wants what you are thinking to be true more than me. If it is the King’s pleasure that you should go free from this place, then you will know soon enough. I beg of you, until such times please do not torment yourself with the thought of it.’

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I cannot contain myself and hastily blurt out, “But Meg, maybe, maybe the King has uncovered these wicked lies Cromwell has fabricated. Perhaps by some chance my Bishops have spoken for me and put records straight. I know the people will be praying for me in remembrance of my many good deeds over the years. What if the King fears to carry out the sentence lest the people take against the King for my sake? Through your own eyes you have witnessed the love the King bore me, the way he set the country in a roar to have me – a love that burnt so brightly could certainly never be completely extinguished. How could such a prince as His Majesty, sign my death warrant?’

Even though Meg sees me begin to weep, she takes me strongly by the shoulders. ‘Anne! Anne! Gather yourself, this is too much’ I recognise the timber of her voice and know what she is about to say. ‘You have prepared yourself with such grace and dignity, please trust in God and hold your nerve a little longer.’

I fall back into the seat by the window, clutching my chest as I resign my hopeful thoughts and once again contemplate the reality of my situation. No reprieve is being issued, no merciful pardon and justice will take its violent course. Meg and I have known each other for so long, since before the King turned his attention to Sir Thomas and Lady Boleyn’s other attractive and eligible daughter. We understand each other so well that no further words are necessary. Meg sits with me and we weep our silent, bitter tears together.

Meg is a good woman, and she knows her duty here is to see me supported and comforted through my final journey. She will ensure I make a dignified and Christian death. To that end, she wipes her eyes with her sleeves, does the same for me and bustles off to get me a cup of ale. As I watch her go, the thought occurs that up until this moment I have had no inclination of the emotional price she is paying to accompany and assist her Mistress and friend in this task.

When Meg returns with the ale, I tell her that I am continuing with my devotions in the hope that it will help me to recover my weakening resolve. I instruct Meg that I will suffer no interruptions while I wait for Master Kingston’s summons. Not that I desire death, but as we talk briefly I console her ‘all good Christian people have no cause to regret death, as it permits us to leave our earthly unhappiness and find peace with the Lord our creator.’

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The hour being past 9 o’clock, I send for Master Kingston as I have overhead mention that my time will not come before noon. Master Kingston confirmed my suspicions. ‘ I am sorry Madam, but I have received instructions and yes what you say is true.’

I try to take in the information and reply.‘I am very sorry to hear it. I thought the deed would be accomplished by midday, and I would be past my pain.’

The Constable, kind Knight that he is went on to reassure me. ‘No Madam, there will be no pain the blow is so very subtle.’ Reassurance indeed, and I begin to laugh and say, ‘I am sure that the talented Executioner of Calais will have no trouble as I have such a little neck.’ Reflecting on this statement makes me laugh more heartily, which I fear totally bewilders Master Kingston.

I return to my prayers and once again ask God to fortify me through this latest tribulation. However it seems God for his own purpose has more to ask of me. Master Kingston is announced before noon in a great state of sorrow. He comes to inform me that once again my execution has been postponed. This time ’till the next day. Feeling my blood begin to pound in my head and my dark eyes flashing with fury, I speak sharply. ‘Thank you Master Kingston. You are excused.’

Only when the door is closed and with only Meg and Madge in attendance does the wall of my outer clam break and the tension of the preparation and postponement burst forth.

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“I knew it, this is that devil Cromwell’s doing! I scream. ‘How he hates me and wants me to suffer more than I already am. How could I suffer more? I am utterly abandoned. My marriage to the King has been annulled by my own admission. My darling daughter Elizabeth has been deemed a bastard. My dearest brother’s butchered body lies cold in the ground, and my mother will surely die for the shame of it all.’

I am pacing like a baited bear and my words I know are incoherent. Although I’m exhausted, rage is exploding from every inch of me. ’The only comfort left to me are the gospels my faith and that I will be released from this miserable life to Christ’s salvation. For all my accusers’ talk of a quick and merciful death by the sword, Cromwell’s scheming has still found a way to prolong my agony. I doubt there is a weapon within the Tower walls he could use so nimbly to intensify my pain’.

Meg and Madge are well used to my storms of temper, and so they wait it out until the tide eventually turns and the inevitable weeping begins. In a heartbeat, they are both by my side to catch me before I collapse. I notice the looks passing between them, and we all know the unspoken truth. This storm is unlike any of the storms we have weathered before.

Although I give thanks for the love that both these remarkable women bear me, I dismiss them both and take up a place by the window again.

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With my bible in my hands, I turn to the pages on our Savior’s crucifixion. I can think of no better example of how to bear my trial. I cherish the words as I could never cherish any earthly crown or chattel. Even as Jesus’ accusers pinned him to the cross, he still urged his Father to forgive them. It mattered not to him that he was put to death with criminals who harangued him, as he suffered. In his mercy and humility he still offered them a place in his Father’s house.

I must take my lead from these words. It is of no account whether you are King, Queen, Prince or peasant on earth. The Kingdom of Heaven is where we shall find our greatest reward and happiness. The passages bring an inexplicable calm to me. I know now that each step I take on the morrow will bring me one step closer to the peace that my soul is so sorely craving. Surely Jesus will take every pace with me and receive my soul.

In truth we are all sinners and owe thanks that Jesus in his goodness intercedes for us. I have no doubt sinned in my life, especially against my former Mistress Queen Katherine and her daughter Lady Mary. I have been haughty, proud, vindictive and spiteful, in particular to the girl. I even encouraged others to humiliate and degrade her in my absence.

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As I consider my own child Elizabeth’s status now as the base born daughter of a convicted traitor and adulteress, I cannot avoid the thought of the desolation the girl must have felt for the loss of her mother, her father, the King and her status in the world. Surely by now she would have made a glittering marriage and had many children, which are a woman’s greatest consolation in this world. If it is God’s divine judgment that I am punished now for the malice I inflicted on her, then I am ready to accept his will.

With a sense of quiet that I have not felt for many months, I recall Meg back to my side. She hurries with a look of concern on her face. ‘Fear not Darling Meg, everything is well. I am sorry our friendship has placed you here with me instead of with your husband. Your ordeal will soon be over. Let us sit a while and talk of happier times….’

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About the Author

Gayle McMartin Hulme

Gayle McMartin Hulme

Gayle lives in Glasgow in the UK with her husband Paul and son Jamie.

While not indulging her passion for all things 16th century and Queen Anne Boleyn in particular, she is busy running her group fitness business, or following her favorite football (soccer) team. Go Rangers FC!

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“Thoughts of Anne Boleyn and Her Ultimate Fate”, by Phillipa Vincent-Connolly

May 1, 2015 in 2015 Tribute to Queen Anne Boelyn, Guest Writers, Queens of World History by Beth von Staats

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Queen Anne Boleyn

Queen Anne Boleyn

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On the up and coming anniversary of Anne Boleyn’s death, the internet is flooded with tributes to Queen Anne; bouquets sent to St. Peter ad Vincula, where Boleyn lovers often flock on the 19th May to stand over her grave, sometimes in floods of tears to mourn her betrayal and execution. In my opinion, the fascination with Anne and remembering her demise each year, stems from the fact that Anne was not of royal blood and neither a princess, before becoming Queen of England. We all admire the fact that Anne was a diplomat’s daughter and rose through the ranks of the Tudor court to become the most important female in the mid sixteenth century. No other woman had ever done what Anne had accomplished — usurping a real queen of royal blood, removing her out of the way, to sit on Katherine’s throne and take her place beside the King of England.

Whilst I admire Anne Boleyn for her charitable works, her support of religious reform and her critical stance when saying ‘no’ to Henry as none of his other wives’ ever did, I am alarmed at the adoration and equally the maligning of her name, nearly five hundred years after her death. There are few historians, let alone history enthusiasts of the period, who view Anne through an objective lens, to keep a balanced argument of who they believe Anne to have been. I remember speaking to a warder at the Tower, and he said that often visitors to Anne’s grave become very emotional, and some have made claims that they are a reincarnation of Anne herself, which the warden said he found very disturbing.

With the recent re-interment of Richard III, admirers and campaigners were whipped up into an emotional frenzy by their own research and work to do with his bones, found in a Leicestershire carpark; some researchers, historians and novelists all joined in the debates about Richard on television. The rediscovery of Richard’s bones and the re-interment was an incredible scientific and historical act of great significance. I salute all those involved, but at times, the coverage wanted to almost suggest a re-writing of history, when further evidence of Richard’s life and character have yet to be added to what we already know of him.

And so, it is the same with Queen Anne; the historians opinions swing back and forth about Anne like a pendulum between usurper, whore and home-wrecker to reformer, saint and feminist. Anne was not a feminist, but a product of her time. Anne chose to make the best of the situation and times she was born in to. She made a valid decision that she would not be a mistress of a King, but his wife only. This decision sparked the break with Rome, the setting up of Henry VIII as the Head of the Church in England and the debate of her character in her lifetime, as well as after her death. Credit should be given to Anne, for standing by her man, for so many years against so much opposition, including the opposition of her family. Her Uncle Norfolk and her father Thomas Boleyn were actually against the match with their relative and the king.

We must remember that without Anne, England would never have had one of its greatest ever monarchs on the throne, her daughter Elizabeth I. If Elizabeth had been of the male gender then Anne’s position as queen would have been unassailable, and her influence on her daughter would have probably had an even deeper impact upon her. Anne’s inability to carry a male heir to term may well have been passed on from Henry through illness and the fact that so little was known about how to deal with complications of pregnancy and early births, was not Anne’s fault and not the beginning of the end for Anne.

Anne was in the way of diplomatic relations between Spain and England in the way of Mary being restored to the succession. Anne was a strong woman, with forthright opinions; opinions not expected of the wife of a king. Henry did not want a royal advisor in his bed. Anne wanted to be the only advisor to her husband and more important in court than her nemesis, Cromwell. Cromwell realised Anne’s star was still firmly ascending, despite her miscarriages; Henry always championed his wife, almost to the end. Cromwell knew it was either his head or Anne’s. So he initiated a plan to get Anne out of the way, once Sir Antony Browne and Lady Worcester came to him with the first allegations against Anne. With Anne’s quick wit, flirtatious manner and sharp-tongue, it was easy for Cromwell to devise such venomous and shocking allegations, that Henry would not be able to ignore them. We all know the rest.

We all draw our own conclusions, but we need to do this by reviewing the evidence, deciding why such evidence exists, who it is written by and for whom and what bias could the author have of such evidence. It is not until we weigh the evidence up like true historians, that we will ever get to any truth of whom Anne was. For myself, I like to think that Anne was a strong woman, who had an incredible faith, who wanted the best for Henry the whole time she knew him. In her eyes, that meant being close to the king, advising him and questioning him, not to be ill-tempered against him, but in order to support him. Henry’s close advisors could not understand this in an age when women were meant to be mere decorations and baby making machines. Anne was human; she did things wrong; she said things wrong. People read her wrong during her lifetime and still continue to do so, hundreds of years after her death.

Like Richard III, I hope new evidence comes-to-light in relation to Anne Boleyn, and that some old trunk in an attic will give up its secrets and shed some light on this much maligned queen, so that we can reassess her character and life with new sources. This will enable historians and enthusiasts of Tudor history to have a more balanced view of her so that we can remember Anne on the anniversary of her execution with dignity and respect.

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Phillipa Vincent-Connelly

Phillipa Vincent-Connelly

Phillipa Vincent-Connolly, an independent author and historian, graduated from The Open University with a BA and is now a qualified teacher of history and fashion. She is a single mum of two, living on the south coast in Broadstone, near Wimborne Dorset. In a previous life, Phillipa was a nail technician with her own nail salon & educator for Entity Beauty. Phillipa, well known fondly to many in the “Tudor Community” is currently writing a novel about Anne Boleyn entitled Timeless Falcon. Her debut novel, Miracle, tells the heroic story of  Orianna Stewart, a talented teenager coping with unique challenges. 

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Miracle

TO PURCHASE MIRACLE, CLICK THE LINK BELOW!

Miracle

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La Jeune Anne Boleyn – Her Early Life in The Netherlands and France

April 28, 2015 in 2015 Tribute to Queen Anne Boelyn, Queens of World History by Beth von Staats

By Mercy Alicea Rivera

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1anne

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Anne Boleyn, a woman ahead of her time, was wise, charming, determined, pious and brave. She was a woman who suffered a tragic end, but left an enormous legacy. Little is known about her childhood, but it seems that her time in the Netherlands and France was of huge influence in her formation. While I was searching about that time in her life, I felt that the Netherlands and France were a key in the development of Anne. She learned what she needed to climb to the top, to conquer a king and become a legend. Let’s take a look at those years when Anne Boleyn was the star of foreign lands.

Thomas Boleyn, Earl of Wiltshire and Ormond

Thomas Boleyn, Earl of Wiltshire and Ormond

Thomas Boleyn, Anne’s father, was a man of incredible charm and talent to win people’s trust, especially of those with a pure amount of royal blood. He was a very good diplomat and thanks to these great skills, he became one of the best in the court of King Henry VIII. By winter 1512, Thomas Boleyn arrived to The Netherlands, to the court of Archduchess Margaret of Austria, daughter of Maximilian I, Holy Roman Emperor. She ruled the Netherlands on behalf of her nephew. Thomas Boleyn managed not only to earn the trust of the Archduchess, he won also her affection, she was so impressed with Thomas’s charms, talent and skills as a diplomat, that she immediately showed interest in giving a place in her household to his younger daughter… Anne.

Margaret of Austria

Margaret of Austria

Anne was just a child, between 10-12 years old, and was under the care of her Mother, Lady Elizabeth Howard at Hever Castle. By the summer of 1513, the young Anne Boleyn arrived to the Palace of the Archduchess’s in Mechelen. The meeting between Anne and Margaret for sure was a happy one. It is clear that the girl impressed the Archducheess positively, proof of this is placed in a letter that Margaret of Austria sent to Anne’s father, Thomas Boleyn:

“I have received your letter by the Esquire [Claude] Bouton who has presented your daughter to me, who is very welcome, and I am confident of being able to deal with her in a way which will give you satisfaction, so that on your return the two of us will need no intermediary other than she. I find her so bright and pleasant for her young age that I am more beholden to you for sending her to me than you are to me.”

Anne Boleyn not only arrived to a magnificent palace ruled by a gentle lady who showed her affection from the start, she arrived to a “Princely School and a place of high culture and advanced civilization”, as it was described by the Belgian Historian Ghislain De Boom. Indeed, this was true. The Palace of Mechelen was visited often by Erasmus and other well known humanists. The Archduchess owned a superb library, full of poetry, missals, and historical work. This library also owned a lot of writings from Christine de Pizan, who was known for challenging misogyny and the stereotypical views of women by men. The works of Boccaccio, Aesop, Ovid, Boethius and Aristotle were also part of this incredible library.

Margaret of Austria

Margaret of Austria

Margaret of Austria was a patron of the arts and her court was also known for her great collections of paintings by masters such as Jan van Eyck, illuminated manuscripts and music books. She surrounded herself with men of letters, poets and painters. The Archduchess also enjoyed the tradition of courtly love, which according to her, it was “an integral element in chivalry”. Without doubts, the young Anne arrived to a place full of wisdom, with enough power to show her a different world and infinite possibilities. She continued to grow under a roof of not only knowledge, but also of more open ideas. The strict codes of conduct, behavior and limited freedom of thinking ordered to women specifically, was far, far away, and Anne had all she needed to be different, to be better and successful in her future life.

Even when we do no have records that can tell us how Anne Boleyn was in her childhood, we can tell, by how the Archduchess doted on her that for sure she was a sweet and well behaved little girl, charming like her father and with a great potential. Since the beginning, the Archduchess refer to her as “La Petit Boulin” in a very affectionate tone. The Archduchess assigned Anne a tutor, name Symmonet, to help her improve her French. With him she also learned the art of deportment conversation, art and dance. In the Archduchess’s household, Anne received constant examples of the great taste in all related with art and music, and soon, the young Anne along with the other ladies under the Archduchess’s care started to show what they were learning, winning the approval and cheers of not only their mistress, but from everyone at court. This fact is validated by Jane De Loghn, Author of Margaret of Austria, Ruler of the Netherlands, who quoted: “The Nobles and Ladies of her court reflected the influence of the taste and preferences of their mistress”.

Anne_Boleyn_B_Necklace_by_darena13In time, Anne’s development in the Archduchess’s household was so impressive, that she was made “demoiselle d’honneur” or “fille d’honneur” . She continued to grow beautifully under the wings of the Archduchess, who was filling her mind with everything she needed to be a future jewel of a royal court. Art, music and poetry were her favorites. Anne learned the ways of a Renaissance Court, the arts of a good conversation and courtly “discreet” flirting. She developed a special love for tapestries and paintings, while starting to understand music. Anne improved her singing skills and wrote pieces of her own. Her dancing skills were delicate and gracious, pleasing the Archduchess very much. Anne Boleyn also showed a great interest in architecture. She openly spoke about her love for Michelen Palace and often compared it with Hampton Court when she returned to England, because both palaces were constructed with patterned bricks.

Historian Eric Ives wrote that Margaret of Austria marked Anne Boleyn’s life deeply in all related to fine art. Proof of it is that while Anne was Queen of England, she was patron of many artists, Holbein among them. Many musicians also received patronage from her. Hugh Paget wrote about how Margaret of Austria influenced Anne Boleyn in a way that made her a Lady that would be the envy of any other noble woman:

*Her time in the Netherlands with the Archduchess marked the foundation of her French knowledge and love for it. With Margaret of Austria Anne also learned “Other Courtly Accomplishments” that made Mary to pick her as one of her ladies in waiting in France. Anne’s time in Mechelen was productive, since increased immeasurably her love for music and talent for it, also her interest in arts and poetry”.

With Margaret of Austria Anne learned to have a mind of her own. She took the privilege of learn from humanists, writers, artists to the highest expectations. Anne also started to develop a style of her own, far from the English codes and more and more connected to the French manners. She also learned that appearances matter and are taken seriously in every Royal court. But not only that, thanks to what she lived and learned in the court of the Archduchess, the young Anne discovered something that indeed would mark her life forever. She found out that a woman was capable to have her own opinions, ideas and beliefs and surely, could be independent owners of their lives.

Mary Tudor, Queen of France

Mary Tudor, Queen of France

Anne Boleyn spent only a year in the wise guidance of the Archduchess Margaret of Austria, but in that year, Anne learned valuable things that for sure made her greater and brighter than before. At that time it was impossible for the entire Boleyn family to imagine that someday the young girl would become Queen of England, since King Henry the VIII at that time was happily married to Catherine of Aragon, Still, with this new air of wisdom in this young child, Thomas Boleyn for sure knew that his daughter would bring good fortune to the family. With this in mind, Thomas Boleyn started to work hard in England to find a place for Anne in the household of the future Queen of France and he succeeded. Sadly for the Archduchess, Thomas Boleyn sent her a letter, asking her to release Anne to a chaperone sent by him. The Archduchess had no choice, and she replied on a note that “I could not, nor did I know how to refuse”. The Chaperone arrived to take Anne to France and serve Mary Tudor, sister of King Henry the VIII as lady in waiting in 1514. During her travel to France, the young Anne wrote her first letter in French to her father:

-Anne-Boleyn-natalie-dormer-as-anne-boleyn-27820344-519-555Sir, – I understand by your letter that you desire that I shall be a worthy woman when I come to the Court and you inform me that the Queen will take the trouble to converse with me, which rejoices me much to think of talking with a person so wise and worthy. This will make me have greater desire to continue speaking French well and also spell, especially because you have enjoined it on me, and with my own hand I inform you that I will observe it the best I can. Sir, I beg you to excuse me if my letter is badly written, for I assure you that the orthography is from my own understanding alone, while the others were only written by my hand, and Semmonet tells me the letter but waits so that I may do it myself…Written at Veure by Your very humble and very obedient daughter, Anna de Boullan.

There is a detail that creates confusion, and it is about which of the Boleyn sisters was taken first to the French Court. In his writings, Eric Ives points that the records are not clear about this, but one mentions only “Marie Boulone” among the list of ladies in the company of Mary Tudor in her travel to France. Anne is not mentioned. So, it is probably that Mary was with the Queen in her crossing to France for her wedding in October 9 1514, and then Anne caught up in Paris for her coronation in November 9 1514. The marriage of Mary Tudor was the event that reunited the Boleyn sisters after a year of distance between them. There are not much records about how the sisters used to get along but, so far it seems they were loving to each other, even when there were huge differences between them. Mary Boleyn was a well educated girl, but she did not have the major advantages that her younger sister had. Both had different visions of life and behavior, something that would later come to light.

King Francis I

King Francis I

On January 1st 1515, only three months after their marriage, the 52 year old King Louis XII died, leaving his 18 year Queen a widow. The King had no male heirs and the Salic Law prevented his daughter Claude to become Queen. It is was also clear that Queen Mary was not pregnant either, so, Claude’s husband, who was also a cousin of the late King, became King Francis I of France. The old King’s death was indeed a relief for Mary Tudor, who already gave her heart to Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk before her marriage. She never wanted to be the Queen consort of an old and ill King, so as soon as the young and virile Duke of Suffolk went to France by order of King Henry the VIII to bring back his sister, Mary took the chance to make her dreams come true, and both got married in secret in France. This was an act of treason against King Henry VIII. He banished both from court but, in time he found the kindness to forgive them, and both got an official wedding in Greenwich Palace later in the same year.

claudeAnne was lady in waiting to Mary, but she did not returned to England with her. She stayed in France at the service of Queen Claude. The reason is unknown, but it is believed that Queen Claude chose to keep her for her fluent French and the fact that she was a valuable translator for her when English ambassadors visited France. Besides, the Queen and Anne were of similar age, and Anne’s talents, personality and demeanor seemed to please Her Majesty. Anne in her part, was also content with her place at court. Her mistress was an example of what a Queen is in all the senses. Queen Claude was gentle, proper, elegant and virtuous, and Anne was copying that behavior perfectly. France was placing a mark on Anne very deeply, she forgot her English fashion roots and adapted in the style of the French court. Not only that, even from the beginning of her time in France, Anne was already inspired by the strong tempers of the noble ladies around her besides the queen.

Louise of Savoy

Louise of Savoy

Anne had the chance to meet Louise of Savoy, mother of Francis I and Marguerite of Angouleme (later Marguerite of Navarre). Louise was a wise and astute woman. She had no problems with expressing her ideas and feelings openly. Anne witnessed that, so she started to see that it was possible for a woman to show what she was capable to do and think. Louise also served as Queen Regent on behalf of her son whenever he was away, and with the assistance of her daughter, Princess Marguerite, they ruled France in his absence. That made them the most powerful woman at court. This was the first example in Anne’s early years in France of how powerful a woman could be. This fact opened her eyes to new ideas and feelings of how she herself could be in the future. The wisdom and character of Louise at court inspired Anne to learn and increase her skills. Perhaps that way, she could be at least somehow closer to those great women.

Princess Marguerite

Princess Marguerite

Young Anne Boleyn also had the opportunity to spend time with Princess Marguerite, who was described by many as a woman of incredible beauty and rare charms. Marguerite was also very eloquent and overshadowed her brother in the area of language. She spoke Latin, Hebrew, Greek among others. It was not only her beauty and intelligence what made Princess Marguerite so advanced, however. It was her religious fervor and spiritual ideas, something that immediately captured Anne’s attention. It is seriously believed that Anne in no way, not in any moment was at the service of Princess Marguerite but, being the sister of Queen Claude, it is almost impossible to denied the constant and close contact between them at court.

Even though Anne never served Marguerite directly, it is documented that their relationship was a very good one. Anne Boleyn herself in 1535, wrote to her declaring: “My greatest wish, next to have a son, is to see you again”. With this, it is clear that both had a close and friendly relationship. Marguerite was also very close to Claude and her younger sister Renee, so is undoubtedly that Anne and Princess Marguerite indeed had a special relationship. Thanks to this, the young Anne had the chance to capture many aspects of Marguerite’s religious beliefs. The Princess was a famous Renaissance figure, and she was known for her patronage of the arts, her strong religious views and her religious poem “Le Miroir l’âme pécheresse” (The Mirror of the Sinful Soul), the same poem which Anne Boleyn’s daughter, Elizabeth, translated as a gift for her stepmother, Catherine Parr. This poem is a mystical poem that combines evangelical Protestant ideas with Marguerite’s idea of her relationship with God in her symbolic view of Him as family.

anne boleyn miniature

Anne was like a sponge, absorbing all these new ideas and loving every element of them. She loved the French fashion, court freedoms that even when they were controlled by the strict codes of conduct and morals of Queen Claude, it was a brighter way compared with English court at that time. To add more advantage to Anne’s increasing knowledge in France, she ended up taking her lessons with Princess Renee of France. They were placed under the tutelage of the Countess of Tonverre, Francoise De Rohan. Lancelot de Carles wrote a poem where he confirms the close contact of Anne with the French queen and her sister Renee.

Lancelot De Carles also commented on how Anne “zealously watched and imitated Claude’s maids of honor in order to learn how to conduct herself properly at court.” In The pilgrim: a dialogue on the life and actions of King Henry the Eighth, William Thomas stated ,“She was indeed with as many outward good qualities in playing on instruments, singing, and such courtly graces, as few women were of her time; with such a certain outward profession of gravity as was to be marveled at.” With the help and watchful eye of the Countess of Tonverre, Anne and Renee were taught how to play the lute as well as other instruments. They also learned how to improve in dance, converse elegantly and fluently in French, and do needlework.

GW194H243Anne continued to grow in knowledge and age, her charms admired, her skills praised and recognized. In time, Anne proved to everyone that she was of great value. That fact helped her to increase her mind in knowledge and her soul. In a most stable phase, she was more clear on how she would manage herself in the future. Thanks to her amazing development at court, Anne was present in every single event with Their Majesties. This gave her the privilege to meet many important figures like prominent scholars such as Guillaume Bude, poets such as Clement Marot, and artists like Jean Clouet of Flanders.

Clement Marot perhaps was the one who played a special role in Anne’s views about religion, because he was under the patronage of the Duchess of Alencon and had a strong support on Protestantism. To add more interest in Anne’s spiritual formation, the Duchess of Alencon strongly supported religious reform. She wrote religious and secular literature that contained “mystical and Neo-Platonic theme”. Through her French education, Anne developed a taste for Franco-Flemish music, and her French sense of fashion was now as impeccable and magnificent as the queen herself. Anne was also under the guardianship of very strong female role models, “ladies with drive and ambition but they also served as regents, wielding considerable political power adroitly.” – Rise to The Power (Life Of Anne Boleyn)

This portrait is thought to be Mary Boleyn Stafford Artist: Unknown

This portrait is thought to be Mary Boleyn Stafford

Around the beginning of 1516, Mary Boleyn returned to France by order of her father and joined her younger sister Anne in the Court of Queen Claude. After a time, Mary started to show her true colors. She was well educated, fluent in French, a splendid dancer, but she had a problem. Mary was unable to control her extreme flirtation skills. Mary became very popular at court, but not in the most elegant terms. Rumors of escapades from her chambers to have romantic encounters and worst, through all this, intense speculations that she was mistress of King Francis himself started to boil, causing serious damage to Mary’s reputation.

Anne however, kept herself away from her sister’s matters. She never rejected her, but she managed to stay unstained by her sister’s actions. Anne already knew how important it was for a woman to keep her status and morals high at all cost. She learned how to impress men without going too far. She kept herself untouchable to their eyes. She won respect and admiration, while her sister was sadly winning a label of whore that was spreading already to the ears of the English Court.

imagesCAEBBXS6While Mary worked on her own way to climb in life, Anne continued her nourishment in how to be the “perfect lady”. She became an accomplished musician and dancer and was constantly present in the visits of ambassadors and prominent figures. On the other side, the rumors of Mary’s escapades and naughty behavior reached the ears of her father, Thomas Boleyn, who immediately took matters on hand. Almost in total moral disgrace, Mary returned to England and took a place as lady in waiting in Queen Catherine of Aragon’s household. Following her own guidelines of how a woman could be the brighter and more desirable star in a court’s constellation, Mary became King Henry VIII’s mistress. This totally erased her father’s disgust towards her, since while the king was happy with Mary, his fortunes increased. But after some time, and as it was almost a routine, King Henry lost his interest in Mary, and stopped calling her at night. When Thomas Boleyn knew about this, he immediately went for a solution. He was not ready to loose his place and new ranks at court. He was not on the top or side by side with his brother in law, the proud and vain Duke of Norfolk, but at least he had a very respectable status thanks to Mary. And his solution was only one… Anne.

Catalina de Aragon Artist: Lucas Horenbout

Catalina de Aragon
Artist: Lucas Horenbout

In 1522, Anne Boleyn finally returned to her birth land, with no idea of what will be her fate since her father said nothing about why she was ordered to return. But once she returned and was reunited with her family again, she knew the purpose. The king grew tired of Mary and for sure she will be used as a replacement. For a little while Anne managed to avoid court, at least in full terms, but she was there enough to capture the attention of ladies, courtiers and prominent men. She especially captured the attention of a young courtier, named Henry Percy. They started a relationship, part hidden and part public, always taking care of appearances considering the difficulties of a relationship in the grounds of the court. After a time, Thomas Boleyn managed to find a place for Anne as a lady in waiting to Queen Catherine of Aragon. This of course presented more difficulties for her sweet relationship with Percy. And more, when King Henry the VIII placed his eyes on the young and striking Anne…all would change drastically.

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To please the king was the major goal for Cardinal Wolsey, and since he felt the love vibe of the king towards Anne Boleyn, he immediately dissolved the proposed engagement of Percy and Anne, leaving her free for the king. This action showed Anne that her family had a huge plan to not only denounce and drag Cardinal Wolsey down. They wanted more than that. Anne was at first disgusted with the whole idea, but she had no way to escape or run against the tide. She took the task seriously, even when her heart was not involved at first. She played as Perseverance in a masquerade where the king was also part of, using the flirtation skills she learned in France to enchant the King smoothly… tempting yet decent; tools that she knew would turn him mad in love for her. Anne worked hard to impress everyone at court, because she knew that all concerned to her would reach the king’s ears. She walked the path, fulfilled the task, gave her heart, body, soul and in the end… well, we all know the tragedy that erased such wonderful life.

Anne Boleyn was raised without intentions to act like a Queen someday, she learned all she needed to climb high, to be admired, respected and remembered. She used everything, all the resources that were given to her and she succeeded in many ways. Sadly she was a victim of the greed, ambition and betrayals of the English Court; her King was a selfish and ill minded man, who wanted his welfare and desires fulfilled and protected above the lives of those he supposed to love and care about. But in the end, I can say, that Anne Boleyn was a woman beyond her era, she was brilliant, elegant and dedicated. She was raised to be Queen without even know it, she became one wanting it, and died like one, under charges and shame that she never deserved.

Sources:

BBC History: Anne Boleyn

Anne Boleyn, Margaret of Austria and Queen Claude: The Anne Boleyn Files

Harlets, Harpies and Harridans: Infamous Women in History

On The Tudor Trail: Retracing the Steps of Anne Boleyn — an Immortal Queen, Palace of Mechelen

Under These Restless Skies: Anne Boleyn’s Role Models

The Early Life of Anne Boleyn Part Two — The Court of Margaret of Austria

Picture: Anne Boleyn Necklace by: daren

Tudor Life Magazine Excerpt!!! “She is My Death and I Am Hers,” by Kyra Cornelius Kramer

April 26, 2015 in 2015 Tribute to Queen Anne Boelyn, Guest Writers, Queens of World History by Beth von Staats

By Kyra Cornelius Kramer

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Our delightful friends at The Tudor Society  have graciously shared with QueenAnneBoleyn.com an example article from their June edition of Tudor Life Magazine. This magazine has a huge 106 pages with 57 pages dedicated to Anne Boleyn. Many QAB members absolutely LOVE our active members of the Tudor Society, so once you’ve enjoyed the magazine sample, why not head over to see what bonuses you’ll get when you join? Click here –> Tudor Society Membership Priviledges and Pricing

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Lady Mary Tudor, age 28 Artist: John of Samakov

Lady Mary Tudor, age 28
Artist: John of Samakov

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The true nature of Anne Boleyn is reflected in her relationship with one of her greatest enemies, her erstwhile step-daughter Mary. Like in many other facets of history, Anne is remembered as a great sinner against Mary when in reality she was more sinned against.

Mary hated Anne with a white-hot intensity. Anne was the woman who had (from Mary’s point of view) broken up her happy family and caused her beloved mother to be driven away. Anne was a threat not only to Mary’s family, but to Mary herself. If Anne were truly married to the king it would mean that Mary was actually a bastard, the result of an incestuous relationship, and cut out of the line of succession. Anne, with her Protestant leanings, was also a heretic in Mary’s eyes and a source of evil that could undo Christianity itself.

Queen Anne Boleyn Artist: Kirsten Marie Christensen

Queen Anne Boleyn
Artist: Kirsten Marie Christensen

While it is easy for a modern reader to sympathize with Mary’s dislike of the woman supplanting her mother in her father’s affections, it was less understandable in the Tudor Era. A child, especially a female child, was to obey her parents – period. Disobedient children weren’t seen as a rebellious teens; they were seen as ungodly sinners flaunting the will of heaven by not honoring their mother and father. In the patriarchal society of the time, the father’s authority was paramount to the mothers so one’s father had the last say. It didn’t matter what Mary felt or her justifications. She was socioculturally and religiously duty bound to do Henry VIII’s bidding and accept his authority, both as father and as king.

This put Mary in a terrible bind. To be a good Catholic and daughter she needed to obey Henry, but to be a good Catholic and daughter she needed to defend and affirm the legality of her parent’s marriage. She couldn’t openly defy her father without being a traitor to her country and the Ten Commandments, yet neither could she accept his dictates without being a traitor to her mother, the Ten Commandments, and the Church.

Mary and her supporters excused her nearly open rebellion against her father by putting all the blame for Henry’s behavior on Anne Boleyn. Mary could hate and defy Anne with no black marks on her conscience. The worse her father’s behavior, the more Mary blamed Anne. For Mary, her father had not turned into a despot and become cruel toward his daughter; he was ensnared by a blasphemous witch. In Mary’s mind she was not transgressing against parental authority; she was battling that evil Nan Bullen for her father’s soul!

Queen Mary (1516-58) from 'Illustrations of English and Scottish History'

Queen Mary (1516-58) from ‘Illustrations of English and Scottish History’

Anne famously said of Mary that, “She is my death and I am hers”. That seems quite harsh, particularly since Mary was only eleven or so when the wider world became aware of Henry’s infatuation with Anne. However, by the time Anne was reported to have said this Mary was seventeen and thought of as a young adult. The Catholic Church considered the age of reason to be seven and the nobility often began assuming the mantle of adult responsibility at age twelve. Anne was, in essence, fighting an adult nemesis rather than a recalcitrant stepchild.

Nonetheless, Anne was (in spite of rumor and legend) not cruel to Mary. In fact, several times Anne tried to give Mary an opening to mend fences with her father. Mary was unrelentingly rude and disrespectful to Anne, which inspired Anne to rant about Mary but not to go out of her way to make Mary’s life harder. Things that Mary detested – such as her mother’s banishment and being forced to serve in baby Elizabeth’s household as a lady in waiting and being separated from her godmother Margaret Pole – were Henry’s decisions. Like so many of Henry’s vicious actions, these have been historically laid on Anne’s doorstep without cause.

When Katherina of Argon passed away in January 1536, Anne made yet another attempt to bring Mary into the family fold. Anne was, of course, heartily rebuffed. Even then Anne tried one more time to get through to the king’s eldest daughter. In a letter that was conveniently left for Mary to find, Anne wrote to Lady Shelton:

Katherina of Aragon Artist Unknown

Katherina of Aragon
Artist Unknown

“My pleasure is that you seek to go no further to move the Lady Mary towards the King’s grace, other than as he himself directed in his own words to her. What I have done myself has been more for charity than because the king or I care what course she takes, or whether she will change or not change her purpose. When I shall have a son, as soon I look to have, I know what then will come to her. Remembering the word of God, that we should do good to our enemies, I have wished to give her notice before the time, because by my daily experience I know the wisdom of the king to be such that he will not value her repentance or the cessation of her madness and unnatural obstinacy when she has no longer power to choose. She would acknowledge her errors and evil conscience by the law of God and the king if blind affection had not so sealed her eyes that she will not see but what she pleases. Mrs. Shelton, I beseech you, trouble not yourself to turn her from any of her wilful ways, for to me she can do neither good nor ill. Do your own duty towards her, following the King’s commandment, as I am assured that you do and will do, and you shall find me your good lady, whatever comes.”

Shortly afterwards, Anne miscarried a male fetus. Nevertheless, her marriage to Henry by all accounts remained solid. As late as March 30, 1536 Thomas Cromwell was confiding to Ambassador Chapuys that the king was still committed to his marriage to Anne, even though he was prone to flirtations and mistresses. Even in April the king was still referring to Anne as his dear and entirely beloved wife. It was only after Anne accused Henry Norris of looking for ‘dead men’s shoes’ did the king turn on her and become serious about Jane Seymour.

Execution of Anne Boleyn Victorian Era Engraving

Execution of Anne Boleyn
Victorian Era Engraving

Mary was jubilant about Anne’s death on May 19, 1536. Anne’s happiness when Katherina of Aragon died pales in comparison. Anne, in reflection, is reported to have grieved and even wept for the former queen. Mary was never anything but exultant about Anne’s execution. In jaunty spirits over her stepmothers beheading, Mary wrote an affectionate letter to her father under the assumption that all snakes had been driven from her personal garden. She was badly mistaken, as she would find out. It was always Henry, not Anne, who was determined to break Mary’s resistance and spirit. This is yet another case where the atrocities of Henry VIII have been scapegoated onto Anne Boleyn. Ultimately it was Henry, not Anne, who was willing to crush Mary in order to force her to acknowledge the nullity of the relationship that produced her.

What Anne’s relationship with Mary shows us is that Anne seems to have been a woman of sharp retort but soft deeds. She may have had spiteful things to say about Mary when she was vexed, but Anne’s actions were kinder than Mary’s behavior warranted. Anne was far more aware than Mary as to how far Henry was willing to push his daughter. Anne, regardless of Mary’s insults and flagrant disrespect, tried to warn the teenager about her peril from her father’s wrath. Anne, in direct contrast to her reputation as a scheming and vengeful harpy, tried repeatedly to make peace with Mary and never took drastic measures against her or egged the king on in his ire.
As in many things, Anne Boleyn’s relationship with Mary demonstrates that she was much kinder and more forgiving than she is ever given credit for.

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Kyra Cornelius Kramer

Kyra Cornelius Kramer

Editor’s note: Kyra’s biography is provided by her website, Krya Cornelius Kramer and is provided to us in her own words.

Kyra Cornelius Kramer is an author and freelance medical anthropologist. She holds BS degrees in both biology and anthropology from the University of Kentucky, as well as a MA in medical anthropology from Southern Methodist University. She  and her beloved husband live in Bloomington, Indiana, USA with their three young daughters.

Kyra is diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome. Kyra is high-functioning, meaning that most of the time Kyra can pass for “quirky” with a dash of “gauche”. As a function of being an “Aspy”, she has a deep and abiding love for facts, which she stuffs into her writings like chestnuts in a Christmas goose. Seriously, you will knee-deep in facts by the time you are three paragraphs into her work. Moreover, she has a sardonic sense of humor that flavors her writings, no matter how academic they are in nature. Her editors appreciate this, but the review board usually makes her take any humor out before publishing in a peer reviewed journal. Kyra hopes that the academic reviewers were at least amused before they crossed the sentence out with heavy red pencil marks. She suspects not.

Editor’s note: For more information about the remarkable accomplishments of Kyra Cornelius Kramer, do visit her website linked above. Queenanneboleyn.com will be publishing a review of Kyra’s newly released book The Jezebel Effect: Why Slut Shaming of Famous Queens Still Matters in the coming days.

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The Jezebel Effect

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Author’s Notes for “Timeless Falcon”, by Phillipa Vincent-Connolly

March 9, 2015 in Guest Writers, Queens of World History by Beth von Staats

by Phillipa Vincent-Connolly

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Anne Boleyn, attributed to John Hoskins

Anne Boleyn, attributed to John Hoskins

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In search of Anne Boleyn for my book Timeless Falcon, I have been fortunate enough to visit the Historic Royal Palace sites on several occasions, as well as visiting Hever Castle in Kent, Anne’s childhood home and Sudeley Castle in Gloustershire. With thanks to the HRP members’ team I have been welcomed to The Tower of London in the evening to wander around and soak up the atmosphere of this historic sight, when access to the public has not been allowed. Visiting sites related to Anne has helped me write on such a significant and fascinating character as Anne, albeit fiction. I had to visit and see for myself where so many iconic moments took place at historical sites such as Hever Castle, Hampton Court Palace and The Tower of London and it is hard not to step on a flagstone or floorboard that does not have a tale to tell. As well as making for fascinating days’ out with my two boys, this has also proved a real inspiration for my other career as a teacher and historian.

Hampton Court Palace

Hampton Court Palace

In researching Anne’s life, it became apparent to me just how important two of the HRP palaces were to her life. Hampton Court, built by the King’s disgraced first advisor, Cardinal Wolsey, was the site of numerous council meetings Henry had about his ‘Great Matter’ and private audiences between Anne and Henry VIII, as well as the intertwining of her initials with his which can still be seen in The Great Hall today. It was also here that the intrigues surrounding the King’s marriages, in which Wolsey and Cromwell were intricately involved, were spun.

Anne was very familiar with the Tower of London, particularly after she stayed there during the preparations prior to her coronation and then eventually her imprisonment in her royal apartments, prior to her execution. There are little traces of Anne, (Anne Boleyn’s gateway) initials in the ceiling at Hampton Court Palace and her falcon crest etched into the wall of the Beauchamp Tower in the Tower of London by one of her supporters and of course, her book of hours at Hever Castle. Being able to look at the same pages she did, tread the same paths, look out of the same windows and see (almost) unaltered views and above all to get a sense of the atmosphere of the Tudor court, has been invaluable to my research.

Chapel of St Peter ad Vincula

Chapel of St Peter ad Vincula

The most moving visit was of one to the altar, where if you walk up the aisle of the Chapel of St Peter ad Vincula in the Tower of London, you will be standing over the bones of the woman herself where you can pay your respects by leaving a rose upon the marble slab, which covers her resting place. In the pages of my story, I hope I have managed to capture the essence of some of these historic sites and given you a taster of Tudor and court life.

Another close glimpse of court life comes, when you can peek into Anne and Henry’s relationship from the ability to read his seventeen love letters he sent to Anne. Unfortunately, I was unable to go and see them first-hand at the Vatican, so I bought a German book containing life-size prints of each one, which give, very fleetly, a window into Henry’s soul and heart, as far as Anne was concerned. The problem is that none of Anne’s letters back to Henry have survived, which gives the impression that Anne was being coy, when her replies may have been just as impassioned. What we do have is a Book of Hours, Henry’s illuminated prayer book, which is in the British Library, for all to see. The extraordinary thing about this book is that Henry and Anne appear to have used it to pass promises and notes to one another. I have tried to weave the undated letters into the story as well as the couplets written by both Henry and Anne.

As Depicted on THE TUDORS Showtime

As Depicted on THE TUDORS
Showtime

I have in fact, based on new arguments, changed when Anne and Henry ‘get serious’ as Dr Starkey has managed an extra-ordinary breakthrough of dating one of Henry’s letters to Anne to an exact date. A breakthrough, which Dr Starkey has unfortunately been unable to debate with Eric Ives, due to Eric’s premature death. The letter in question, is the one where Henry thanks Anne for the gift of jewel, which depicts a maiden in a storm tossed ship. The gift was a jewel made of gold with three diamonds and four rubies. Before Anne received this letter from Henry, she sent the said jewel, with a note, that she, like the lady in the ship agrees to submit herself to a safe haven in a storm; the safe haven is Henry and the gift is showing Henry, that she is agreeing to marry him. Therefore, Henry, as the winner, takes all. It is marriage or nothing and Anne has the letter she wants.

Most of the letters were in French, some in English, and as the letters were mainly written in French, it was all to do with Anne learning to get her man. At a talk of Dr David Starkey’s that I attended in 2014, he argued that he could date one of Henry’s letter’s to Anne, based on one word in the letter and that word is, ‘l’estrene’, meaning a gift, quote from the letter in French, ‘De l’estrene si bel que rien plus notant le toute je vous en mercy tres cordiallement’, translates to ‘the gift so beautiful that nothing noting the whole…’, and a gift as expensive as this, would only have ever been given in Tudor times, on New Year’s Day. Therefore, David Starkey argues, this dates the letter to the 1st January 1527. Based on this evidence and theory, it meant that Henry’s infatuation with Anne started months earlier than is normally suggested by the majority of historians and novelists, so therefore, my re-telling of Anne’s story, with my main character as observer, takes these dates into account, making January 1st 1527, a pivotal point in Anne and Henry’s relationship.

Of course, I cannot get everything correct, as most of the evidence about Anne is very sparse and it is the job of a novelist to weave the silken thread of the story and their imagination around the primary sources. As after all, the contents of todays’ waste paper basket are the primary sources of tomorrow. I have been transparent in my writing of this book and that I do not bring anything we do not already know about Anne, to the table. I have just delivered the information in a different way. I hope the reader will consider the historical events behind Anne’s story and consider the view of Anne Boleyn, and the period, through the eyes of the character of a modern day history student, rather than me writing from Anne’s point of view and portraying her as a Disney princess or at the other end of the scale, like a bitch. There has to be some balance to her character and nature otherwise Henry would have never fallen for her in the first place.

David Starkey

David Starkey

The fascination with Anne Boleyn continues unabated, nearly five hundred years after her death. Anne is always remembered for her untimely demise and the allegations made against her, which are unjust, as Anne was a factor and not a footnote to some of the most fundamental changes in England during the Tudor period. I am not the only historian to believe this of Anne, as David Starkey once said to me that Anne “is a fascinating subject to write about”. The love affair between Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn is shrouded in historical myth, romantic legend, half-truths and fabrication. Much of their story remains fiercely debated by historians – everything from why Henry fell for Anne, to why he destroyed her in the end.

Anne Boleyn, the witch, the whore, the martyr, the saint, the victim, the Jezebel, the Queen. So many titles are attached to Anne, a young woman from Kent, educated in France, who dared to rise above her station, as a knight’s daughter and compete in the most dangerous game in Europe. The mind of a scholar, a politician and the graces of a noblewoman, Anne did not compete to be a man in a man’s world but won her place at court though being an outspoken woman, which was unheard of in Tudor times, apart from one or two exceptions like the Duchess Elizabeth Howard of Norfolk. Anne believed in her heart that she was the best, by virtue of her elegance, intellect, and accomplishments therefore, she believed she deserved the best, namely the king of England.

She saw herself and Henry Tudor as equals. She wanted to be his chief advisor and was ambitious as most women were, in the Tudor court. Moreover, she was a patron of the Gospels, champion of the poor and a woman with a mission. It was about the promotion of God and of faith and not at its heart, self-promotion. It is the faithful and religious side, that is neglected by writers and historians and I wanted to portray this side of Anne in my writing, as I belief Anne was passionate about her faith and her God.

William Tyndale

William Tyndale

Anne Boleyn enraptured the king with use of her steely nerve, vivid personality, and infectious spirit. Anne devoted years of her life waiting to marry the king and she did this so that her child would be heir to the throne and because she was anxious to promote the Protestant Reformation. Anne enjoyed the trappings of court life, wearing elaborate gowns and revelling in courtly entertainments. Anne was religious, though not so vocal about it as her brother or Katherine Parr. Like Katherine Parr, Anne read many books by Protestant authors, the most famous being Obedience of a Christian Man by William Tyndale. She also patronized various Protestant churches, poets, singers, painters and the translators of the Bible in English. Anne kept a copy of Tyndale’s Bible in her chambers, an act which would have meant being burnt at the stake, under the supremacy of Thomas More. Anne was generous to the poor and had the love, despite common misconception, of the common and merchant class in society London, in an increasingly Protestant city.

Anne’s personality is weighed either by her being a saint or a sinner. In writing this book, and in detailing actual events and her conversations reported on and recorded in primary sources, it is difficult to say who Anne really was. However, much I wanted to portray her as a Disney princess, her character just would not allow for it. I tried to look kindly upon her case, but Anne was, at times, capable of genuine cruelty, as with the teenage Lady Mary Tudor, and her indifference to Katherine of Aragon’s plight. While her dislike of Queen Katherine is understandable, considering their difference in religion, something that meant the difference between life and death in Tudor times, it would have been kinder of Anne to have exerted mercy to her enemies, especially once she knew she had beaten them.

Anne was a bit of a shrew with inferior people at court, as was reflected in a conversation with Mark Smeaton and she would lash out at others if she felt threatened by them. Anne dined with merchants, having real compassion for the poor, and bestowed generous sums of money to schools, hospitals, the arts and universities. She is often maligned as a bad sister, when she was very kind to Mary. Mary Boleyn’s stint as mistress to the King was not popular among her family, but Anne kept her close, as a lady in waiting. By Tudor standards, Mary would have been outcast as the unchaste, debauched sister, but Anne restored Mary to her place, and even after Mary’s secret marriage, sent her gifts to help support her.

Claire Foy portrays Queen Anne Boleyn in BBC's WOLF HALL. (Photo Credit: British Broadcasting Company)

Claire Foy portrays Anne Boleyn in BBC’s WOLF HALL.
(Photo Credit: British Broadcasting Company)

While Anne was not perfect by any means, she was neither witch nor whore but a politician and a hunter, determined to catch her prey, and to achieve her ambition. However, Anne’s political and religious stance is so often over shadowed, by the drama in her life and it is this aspect of her life, which is highlighted in programmes, dramas and mini-series; which is why historians never appear to take her seriously. During my portrayal of Anne in this book, I hope I have presented her in a well-balanced way, showing the many sides to her character, as Anne Boleyn is still misunderstood. My interpretation is that she loved God and believed in a personal relationship with God through grace and faith… if it was not for her great influence on the King, we would all be listening to mass in Latin and be dogged by catholic doctrine and would be paying for our places in heaven through the practice of indulgences.

As historians, studying Anne we can never be wrong, so long as we have the sources and the academic argument to back up our theories. Professor Simon Schama in his popular ‘A History of Britain’, series, nailed the problem of Anne on the head when he said: ‘So much saccharin drivel has been written on the subject of Anne Boleyn, so many Hollywood movies made, so many bodice-buster romances produced, that we serious historians are supposed to avert our gaze from the tragic soap opera of her life and concentrate on the meaty stuff – like the social and political origins of the Reformation or the Tudor revolution in government. But, try as we might, we keep coming back – time and again – to the subject of Anne, because it turns out that she was, after all, historical prime cause number one.’

Delving into historical fiction, especially when writing about people who lived centuries ago, as the historical writer, Alison Weir has said, ‘it is about the piecing together of fragments of information and trying to make sense of them. In addition, of course, as a historian, one must be objective – you can engage with the book and the research, but not – emotionally – with the subject.’

Norah Lofts

Norah Lofts

Nevertheless, people do engage with Anne emotionally and many say they ‘love’ Anne Boleyn. However, although we can be interested, even fascinated, how can we love someone – be it Anne Boleyn or anyone else – who was alive five hundred years ago? We cannot know historical personages as we know those of our own time. We can only infer so much about them from the sources of the period and memorials they left behind. Norah Lofts, a novelist of Anne Boleyn put it succinctly when she wrote, in The Brittle Glass (1942): ‘And so out of the bits and pieces I could gather, out of my own imaginings and speculations, I built up a picture and a story… After all, how much nearer, even with much documentary evidence, can we come to understanding any one of the myriad dead who have gone to their graves, carrying their real secrets, of motive and essence and personality, into the silence with them?’

My response on this very subject is, most of the people that profess to “love” Anne, I think are fascinated by her life story and her ability to stand up to a despot King. Most are not academics or historians; they just have a love of that period in history, as it is a fascinating window in a period in English history. Anne would have not known what being a “feminist” was. Too many people view Anne through 21st century glasses – that is the problem. We can admire her for her strength of character, her determination to aid the reformation cause, her charitable works and of course giving us one of England’s greatest monarchs but that is it. Everything else is conjecture unless based on historical sources.

Even historians disagree on her downfall, who was responsible for it, and that is when looking at the sources! It is frustrating for us as so few primary sources survive on Anne and therefore the only information that’s “new” on Anne is the opinion of historians, how they analyse sources and interpret them. The internet also makes information and misinformation widely available as well as giving so many the ability to contribute to the myths surrounding Anne. If writers write fantasy fiction on Anne, they should say so and why…then things are not blurred. I am sure Anne would laugh at the “idolization” around her and would find it amusing that her story still stirs up the emotions, arguments and conjecture it did during her existence. The same could be said of Elvis, Marilyn or Jimmy Dean.

If Anne had been a well-behaved women and not quite so fascinating, I’m sure she wouldn’t feature so much in our history books, as well-behaved women seldom make history. You only need to study Marie Antoinette or Diana, Princess of Wales; they did not conform to the time they lived in and made waves in the established courts into which they had become engrained. Anne’s reputation whilst she was alive in the sixteenth century made certain she made history, whether you believe rumour and conjecture from the period or not. Her peers might agree, if we had the opportunity to question them now, that Anne was forthright, before her time, headstrong and a politically intelligent woman.

Thomas Cromwell (Artist: Hans Holbein the Younger)

Thomas Cromwell
(Artist: Hans Holbein the Younger)

Anne is the Tudor Queen who spoke plainly to her husband’s face, trying to be an advisor to her husband and to steer him in a different religious direction to what his catholic conscience had intended. Anne wanted to be Henry’s frontline advisor; she did not want to play a secondary role to Cromwell. For her defiance to Cromwell, God’s executioner, Anne’s star disintegrated into a maelstrom of conspiracy, being accused of multiple acts of sexual perversion and incest. Ultimately, after only one thousand days of marriage, Henry would order Anne’s execution on charges of adultery, incest and conspiring the king’s death.

The Roman Catholic propagandist, Nicolas Sander’s late sixteenth century slander of Anne created the popular belief that Anne was a witch, linking her to occult practises, and this notion of Anne eventually gave rise to the Anne we all learned about in school, and which Susan Bordo discusses in her book, ‘The Creation of Anne Boleyn.’ I believe, from the writings of Thomas Wyatt’s grandson, Anne had a small growth of an extra nail on one of her little fingers, as this would not have meant she had an extra finger as suggested in catholic propaganda, but a very mild deformity, which would have led to this being blown out of proportion by her enemies.

Despite Anne taking the sacrament and swearing her innocence upon it, when in Royal Apartments of The Tower, most believed she was guilty as charged. Chapuys later refused to believe that the King would have moved against his wife unless she had been guilty of some of the charges of adultery for which she was beheaded.

As a historian, based on the evidence and in my opinion, Anne’s demise and death was indeed down to Cromwell, being ‘judicial murder’, and Lady Worcester and Antony Browne were the first to accuse Anne, whilst Thomas Cromwell acted on these allegations for his own devices. I am certainly not telling you what to think or whom you should ‘blame’ for Anne Boleyn’s fall and execution. As Suzannah Lipscomb said in “The Last Days of Anne Boleyn” TV programme, “there’s just enough evidence to keep historians guessing but just enough gaps to make sure they can never finally get to the solution”, and she’s right. I cannot tell you exactly what happened, I could only offer my interpretation. Yes, my interpretation of Anne’s story is very loose, but I have been very transparent in relaying that this book is a fictional one and purely for entertainment purposes. My cameos in the book of Dr David Starkey and of Dr Suzannah Lipscomb, are for the purposes of moving the story along and getting the reader to consider what they already know about Tudor history.

Suzannah Lipscomb

Suzannah Lipscomb

How would we as history lovers relate to being able to travel back in time, meeting the personages from the past and what would we say if we had the opportunity to ask questions? I did ask Dr Starkey what he would ask Henry, if he had the ability to travel back in time and have an audience with him in his privy closet and David chuckled, thought about it for a split second, then said, “I’d ask him nothing; I’d be afraid my head would be cut off!” That made me laugh, because I was expecting some profound answer from him and I did not get one. I hope my little homage to Suzannah and David amuses them, as these scenes are there to entertain and inform; most of all, in my small way, I hope I have captured an ‘essence’ of them in the scenes, and that the historical titbits in my writing, will urge readers to delve into the real history and to study the primary sources, visit Hever, Hampton Court Palace and other sites of historical interest, bringing alive the Tudor period for them. It has been a scary experience, writing a novel of Anne Boleyn, as she still attracts so much attention and debate. Most of all, I hope that I have captured an interesting Anne, having portrayed her with kindness and generosity.

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Phillipa Vincent-Connelly

Phillipa Vincent-Connelly

Phillipa Vincent-Connolly, an independent author and historian, graduated from The Open University with a BA and is now a qualified teacher of history and fashion. She is a single mum of two, living on the south coast in Broadstone, near Wimborne Dorset. In a previous life, Phillipa was a nail technician with her own nail salon & educator for Entity Beauty. Phillipa, well known fondly to many in the “Tudor Community” is currently writing a novel about Anne Boleyn entitled Timeless Falcon. Her debut novel, Miracle, tells the heroic story of  Orianna Stewart, a talented teenager coping with unique challenges. 

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Miracle

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Miracle

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Behind the Black and Beautiful Eyes: Why is Anne Boleyn Fascinating?

March 7, 2015 in News, Queens of World History, The Anne Boleyn Society by James Peacock

By James Peacock

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Queen Anne Boleyn

Queen Anne Boleyn

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It has been more than 478 years since the Calais swordsman severed Anne Boleyn’s head from her body on that morning of 19th May 1536. Already carpenters, stone-masons and seamstresses had descended on the royal palaces to remove any trace of the fallen queen — her “H and A” symbols, her falcon emblem, and her mottoes. In fact, they had begun this work before the swordsman completed his task! Once the executioner’s job was done, Anne’s husband King Henry VIII married his new wife Jane Seymour just a few days later!

For the rest of his life, King Henry VIII never openly mentioned Anne Boleyn’s name in public (though he did make one brief reference to her). The woman he moved heaven and earth to marry and torn his country away from the Church of Rome was to be eliminated from history like she had never existed. Anne Boleyn’s portraits were destroyed so even today we do not know exactly what she looked like. He most likely even destroyed her letters that she had written to him, for they have never been discovered since. But Henry would never get his wish, for Anne Boleyn would not go away easily. In fact, nearly four hundred and seventy nine years later, Anne’s memory is still very much alive.

Queen Anne Boleyn Artist: Kirsten Marie Christensen

Queen Anne Boleyn
Artist: Kirsten Marie Christensen

These days endless visitors stroll through the gates of Hampton Court Palace, the Tower of London and Hever Castle fascinated by Anne Boleyn – wanting to walk in her footsteps, hoping to see the rooms where she slept. (In the case of Hampton Court Palace and the Tower, they are sometimes devastated to discover they no longer exist). People are in awe of the execution site- some even being moved to tears, also keen to see the “H and A” entwined symbol and the falcon emblem in the Great Hall at Hampton Court, often hoping to get a bit closer to the woman who lived over four hundred years ago.

Even people with very little knowledge or interest in history know of Anne Boleyn. She has become an enigma, someone who endless historians, authors and TV/film producers can’t leave alone. There are dozens of biographies, novelisations and studies in just the last few years — and that’s without considering electronic editions, reprints of Henry’s love letters, and Tudor books where Anne is a central, though not a main focus. Several Internet sites are devoted to her.

In the gift shops of the various sites associated with Henry’s reign, there are countless thimbles, chocolates, soaps, tea towels, mugs, etc. commemorating all of Henry’s wives in order, giving them equal billing. Yet ask any general member of the public to name one of his wives, and the answer is  Anne Boleyn. Why? Why does this woman who lived over four hundred years ago inspire such passion and devotion? Why is she more well remembered than about 90% of all monarchs, not just in the UK, but elsewhere?

The question, I feel, is not an easy one to answer. Perhaps it is mostly due to Anne’s life story- the girl of noble birth, sent to be educated at the “premier finishing school of Europe” (as one renowned historian puts it), then onto serving as lady-in-waiting to the Queen of France before returning to England, where she captures the eye of the king. Henry VIII, rather than simply desiring her as a mistress, decided to take her as his wife. He ventured on a seven year-long battle to divorce Katherine of Aragon, which eventually caused a split with the Church of Rome. Establishing himself as Supreme Head of the Church of England, he married the woman he had long desired and crowned her Queen of England.

Queen Anne Boleyn Artist: Arafel3873 (Tumblr)

Queen Anne Boleyn
Artist: Arafel3873 (Tumblr)

Within three years, Anne Boleyn was not just discarded, but executed. Perhaps it is the story of her downfall that intrigues us. Whether Henry VIII was desperate for a male heir or perhaps it was politics – the story of Anne Boleyn’s swift fall itself has left historians and people alike scratching their heads ever since. Perhaps the story lies in her character, which in itself, has been created by those historians, novelists and film/TV producers for many years. After all, there is often more than one Anne – the evil and the good.

The Two Annes

Anne Boleyn has often been portrayed in two different ways. We have the “evil” Anne, portrayed by Catholic propagandists such as Nicholas Sander, who described her as “jaundiced looking, with a projecting upper tooth, with six fingers on one hand”. He further proclaims she slept with her father’s butler, this being the apparent reason why she was sent to France. Sander further claims Anne Boleyn slept with her Chaplains, her own brother and half the French court. Then we have “good” Anne. Protestant propagandists describe her as the unsung heroine of the English Reformation. Yet can either be the real Anne? Was she either a saint or sinner?

The Real Anne Boleyn

Anne was certainly no saint, but she was also no sinner. One of the reasons I personally admire Anne so much is that I feel she appears quite human at times – prone to rash outbursts of temper. In one incident, during the long difficult process of Henry securing the divorce, she famously declared angrily in a moment of frustration,“I wish Spaniards where at the bottom of the sea”. Another angry outburst happened after her marriage to Henry and the birth of their daughter Elizabeth. After Henry’s eldest daughter Mary was declared illegitimate, the Lady Mary refused to accept it or accept Anne as her father’s rightful wife and true queen. Anne would rant about threatening to “curb her proud Spanish blood”, one time allegedly ordering Lady Shelton to box Mary’s ears for the “accursed bastard she was”. That is, of course, if we are to believe Eustace Chapuys’ version.

Anne Boleyn  Doll Craftsman: Gill Leaf

Anne Boleyn
Doll Craftsman: Gill Leaf

We also have accounts of Anne’s kindness. For example, she took on her nephew Henry Carey as her ward, making sure he received an excellent education, after her sister Mary was left penniless and widowed. Her chaplain William Latymer wrote of how on one Maundy service, “she commanded to be put pivily into every poor woman’s purse one george noble, the which was 6 shillings 8 pence over and besides the alms that wanted to be given.” In fact, the amount in the royal Maundy purses increased when Anne was queen. Whilst on royal progress, Anne would also “give in special commandment to her offices to her officers to buy a great quantity of canvas to be made into shirts and smocks and sheets to those of the poor”.

Another time, when a Mrs. Jaskyne’s (who attended Anne) husband was “greviouslye sick” Anne “not only granted her leave, but commanded sufficiente furniture of horse and other necessary’s for her journey, and tenne pounds towards her travel”. When Mr. Ive at Kingston lost most of his cattle, Anne gave his wife a purse of gold, asking her to let her know if they needed further help.

Humanist scholars, who believed society could be rescued by education and scholarship, dedicated their work to Anne. Men like Edward Fox, Hugh Latimer, Matthew Parker, William Barlow, Nicholas Shaxton, Edward Crome, Thomas Garrett and William Betts were just some of the reformers who gained positions due to Anne’s help and patronage. People in prison for possessing heretical books petitioned her for help, and she was the prime mover in rescuing Nicholas Bourbon from trouble in France and employing him as tutor to her ward and nephew, Henry Carey.

Anne Boleyn was an affectionate mother, who lavished love and affection upon her daughter Elizabeth. Courtiers looked on in astonishment and embarrassment as Anne carefully set Elizabeth down on a velvet cushion next to her throne under the canopy of state. She often ordered countless amounts of fine clothes for her daughter, furniture for her bedding and satin caps. In addition, Elizabeth’s household consisted of many of her mother’s relatives, Anne writing regularly to her daughter’s governess Lady Bryan for updates as to her well being.

Anne Boleyn Pendant Craftsman: Ilana Leah

Anne Boleyn Pendant
Craftsman: Ilana Leah

Anne was also known for her great wit and humour, even when facing death. When her execution was postponed she told Master Kingston, the constable of the Tower, “Mr. Kingston, I hear I shall not die afore noon, and I am very sorry therefore, for I thought to be dead by this time and past my pain “. When Master Kingston said there would be no pain, it was so little, Anne replied, “I heard say the executioner was very good”, then famously adding, “and I have a little neck”. She then put her hands about her neck and laughed. She also joked with her ladies that she would go down in history as “la Royne Anne Sans Tete” or “Queen Anne Lackhead.”

Anne did not care for those that did not like her. She was not interested in gaining popularity and sympathy. As far as she was concerned, she was the rightful Queen of England, and the King was only answerable to God and not the Pope. “Ainsi sera, groigne qui groinge”, in English “Let them grumble, that is how it is going to be..” was her motto.

Summary

Anne was her own person with her own beliefs — and she stood by them. She fought for her daughter’s rights, believing her the true heir of Henry VIII, just like Catherine of Aragon did with her daughter Mary. Anne was not an evil scheming women, just as she wasn’t a saint either. Who is a saint I ask? Instead, Anne Boleyn was a sixteenth century lady surviving in a sixteenth century court in a sixteenth century world.

Anne Boleyn, like many human beings, could be rash, hot tempered and volatile. Complex, she was also kind, compassionate and loving. It is for these reasons why I myself admire Anne so greatly. I can be rash and hot tempered, just like Anne, but I like to think I can also be kind and compassionate just as Anne was.

Of course, I can not speak for all the Anne admirers around the world as to why they admire her, and no doubt some will disagree with why I admire her so much. Her life story is remarkable: a King besotted with her, then sending her to her death, trying to obliterate all traces of her. Perhaps he would have succeeded if his son by Anne’s successor Jane had lived into adulthood. But of course, it did not turn out the way Henry wished. Instead his most successful heir was his and Anne’s daughter Elizabeth, who in her remarkable reign gave Anne something of a posthumous triumph, a sort of resurrection as it were.  It has been that way ever since, for no doubt to Henry’s great chargrin. Anne in the end had the last laugh.

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Eric Ives, eminent historian of Queen Anne Boleyn

Eric Ives, eminent historian of Queen Anne Boleyn

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I would like to end this article with a quote from “The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn” by historian Eric Ives, which I feel sums up Anne perfectly.

“She was a remarkable women. She would remain a remarkable woman even in a century which produced many of great note. There were few others who rose from such beginnings to a crown, and none contributed to a revolution as far-reaching as the English Reformation. To use a description no longer in fashion, Anne Boleyn was one of the ‘makers of history’. Yet historians see through a glass darkly; they know for part and they pronounce in part. What Anne really was, as distinct from what Anne did, comes over very much less clearly. To us she appears inconsistent- religous yet aggressive, calculating yet emotional, with the light touch of the courtier yet the strong grip of the politician- but is this what she was, or merely what we strain to see through the opacity of the evidence? As for her inner life, short of a miraculous cache of new material, we shall never really know. Yet what does come to us across the centuries is the impression of a person who is strangely appealing to the early twenty-first century. A women in her own right- taken on her own terms in a man’s world; a women who mobilized her education, her style and her presence to outweigh the disadvantages of her sex; of only moderate good looks, but taking a court and a king by storm. Perhaps, in the end, it is Thomas Cromwell’s assessment that comes nearest; intelligence, spirit and courage”.

RESOURCES:

The following books were most helpful and are sources for this article:

*’The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn’ by Eric Ives
* ‘The Creation of Anne Boleyn’ by Susan Bordo

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