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I have always been fascinated by history and people's stories but I have a special passion for the story of Anne Boleyn. To some she was the most infamous adulterous in British history but to me she was a woman in the wrong time. She was smart, ambitious and she stood up for the right to be respected as a woman and not some King's side piece. In my London adventures, I have had the chance to visit two historic destinations where the life of Anne Boleyn played out.
My obsession with Anne Boleyn and Henry VIII began when I was in grade school after reading a book called The Other Boleyn Girl. Through the years I would learn how inaccurate this story was but it sparked in me a desire to learn everything I could about this infamous woman and the man who changed the history of an entire nation just to make her his wife. My love for this story pushed me to see England and most importantly two locations that had an impact on this historic love story.
One of my favorite places to visit when I am in London is the Tower. The Tower of London is filled with an abundance of history, the crown jewels and amazing tours led by the Yeoman Warders. These men (historically referred to as Beefeaters) are required to have served in the armed forces with an honorable record for at least 22 years. They create an unforgettable experience within the tower and I personally think it is the only way to see the Tower and learn the story of Anne Boleyn properly.
Henry VIII chased Anne Boleyn for years. She refused to be his mistress and stated the only man that would know her in the biblical sense would be her husband. The king chased her for years, not letting anything stand in his pursuit; not his wife or the Roman Catholic church. His passion for Anne divided England from the church and would result in the birth of one of the nations most famous rulers, Elizabeth 1. Unfortunately for Anne, she could not give Henry a son and the intelligence and willpower that attracted him to her in the beginning of their relationship, could not save her from his anger and lust for a woman to give him a son. She was beheaded in 1536.
The Tower is sad place for a fan of Anne Boleyn. The Tower was where Anne spent the night before her coronation, her biggest triumph. It was here, pregnant with the King's child that she waited for the moment when she would be queen. The moment when she could breathe, be happy and be thankful that she had finally established herself as the kings wife, and queen.
The tower is also the place where she spent the days after her trial waiting for her death sentence to be carried out. She waited in vain hoping that the King would change his mind and reduce her sentence. It is here that she lost her life and was taken away from her young daughter and the man she had finally grown to love. It is the place she is was unceremoniously buried and forgotten only to reviled by historians. Thankfully there is another destination in London where one can experience a happier time in the relationship between Anne Boleyn and Henry VIII.
Under an hour outside of London sits Hampton Court, a true Tudor palace. The palace once belonged to Henry VIII's most trusted advisor, up until Cardinal Wolsey couldn't push through the King's divorce. When Wolsey fell from favor, Henry took the over the palace and it was a place where Henry VIII and Anne were happy for a brief period. I love this palace because you can fully immerse yourself in the day to day workings of the Tudor court . There are even actors who walk the grounds reenacting famous moments of Henry VIII's life at Hampton Court!
At this palace, you can sit in on a council meeting with the King and his most trusted advisers as they discussed the King's "Great Matter." You hear the actual dialogue spoken and how vehemently the King fought for his desire to marry Anne Boleyn. You might even be lucky enough to catch a glimpse of "Anne" as she wanders through the halls portraying the early days of her relationship with the king when he was absolutely besotted.
Some historians disagree on the importance of Anne Boleyn's story. The more I read about her the more fascinated I am by her. She was well educated, passionate, funny and strong willed. She raised herself up to the highest level in British society, not by using her looks or her body but by using her mind. In a world where so often we judge women by their appearances, it is refreshing to read about a woman who knew it was more important to respect herself as an intelligent being rather than be a powerful man's play thing. If you are ever in London, take the time to visit the Tower or Hampton Court and when you do, go in with an open mind regarding the tainted past of Anne Boleyn. I hope you see her as more than a small mark in the sorted story of King Henry VIII.