The Tudor Witch

Rumors, Lies, and Facts About Queen Anne Boleyn

"This is How it's Going to Be"

Ha! Gotcha with that "Witch" tagline didn't I? Just kidding! There is no Tudor witch (that we know of, at least.) However, the English court of Henry VIII may have felt differently in regards to Anne...She was quite a woman ahead of her time. Managing to seduce a king without becoming his official mistress--and instead became his Queen. 

Other than Queen Elizabeth I and II, the infamous Queen Anne Boleyn, second wife of King Henry VIII; is probably the most famous of the English monarchs in history. She is, without a doubt, the most famous of Henry's wives. Like many legendary figures of history, several myths have cropped up around her name. So, let's start by weeding them out, shall we?

History as Written by the Victor! Rumors & Lies:

1.) Mark of the Witch! Anne's Third Breast, Neck Mole, and Sixth Finger

These were hideous rumors penned by Anne's enemies after her death. Nicholas Sander, who wanted to restore Catholicism to the throne, published in 1585 De Origine ac Progressu schismatis Anglicani (The Rise and Growth of the Anglican Schism) wherein he claimed that Anne had six fingers on her hand and a hideous cyst beneath her chin.

Here's the problem: He never even saw Anne Boleyn in person. Sander was attempting to paint her daughter, Elizabeth, in a negative light so she would not be popular among the people--and possibly overthrown. The trick didn't work, but the rumors of her mothers "deformities" stuck.

Given the time period, having a sixth finger, third breast, and, more importantly, a noticeable mole would have been tell-tale signs of black magic and servitude to the devil. Not to mention, considered completely unattractive and undesirable. Judging by Henry VIII's character, it's very unlikely that he would have looked twice in Anne's direction had these physical attributes turned out to be true. Of course, to illicit a divorce, the King claimed he had been "bewitched" by Anne. (Sure dude, maybe because you...can't keep it in your pants.)

Anne's body was exhumed in 1876, and no abnormalities with her skeleton were found. In fact she was reported to have small, perfect "tapering" fingers.

2) Anne was Henry's Mistress

This isn't accurate in the true sense of what being a mistress means. In reality, Anne refused the Kings advances and would leave court for her home, Hever Castle, to avoid him. Anne was probably still broken over her lost love Henry Percy, a man she had been engaged to in secret. Both the Boleyn's and Percy's father opposed the match, and the couple were forced to break it off. It is also said to have been Henry himself who ordered the match to end, so that he could pursue Anne (Which, honestly would not surprise me.)

Henry probably saw Anne's avoidance as a courtly love challenge, and when Anne refused to be his mistress, going so far to say that she wished to be married, and he, the king, was already married. Shocked at this, Henry eventually proposed. Anne accepted, of course. Henry's love letters to Anne suggest very clearly that their relationship was unconsummated for at least seven years, until just before they married.

This is an example of Anne's wit and intelligence. Her sister, Mary, had been the mistress of the King briefly. Mary had hurriedly been cast aside after (rumor has it) giving birth to his illegitimate son. However, this child was never recognized nor proven to be Henry's. Anne wasn't going to put herself in a position of being displaced and shamed. Mary had been "used goods" so to speak, and when Mary wed a soldier with little prospects, she was officially banished from court. It's possible that the real reason for her exile was the fact that Mary's presence would be an embarrassment to both Anne and Henry.

3) Anne's Many Lovers, Including Her Brother

When the time came that Henry did tire of Anne, due to the lack of a male heir, he began hunting for reasons to displace her and marry his new mistress, Jane Seymour. The enemies of Anne and her family were just as willing to bring them down. A list of Anne's fictional lovers was created, and none of them but one (under torture, of course) confessed. These men were said to be Henry Norris, a poet and childhood friend of Anne's Thomas Wyatt, Francis Weston, William Brereton, Richard Page, and Anne's own brother, George. All of these men swore they were innocent, and claimed Anne to be as well.

However, thanks to Anne's sister-in-law, Lady Rochford AKA Jane Parker-Boleyn's shady testimony; Anne, her brother George, Henry Norris, Francis Weston, and William Brereton were all imprisoned and then executed. Despite their pleas of innocence and extreme lack of evidence.

There is evidence that George Boleyn and Jane Parker did not have a happy marriage, and George was said to have been a serial womanizer. He also may have been bisexual. Leaving his wife on many occasions for the company of others...To get back at him, Jane may have been angry enough to falsely claim that George and Anne were involved in an incestuous relationship. Even if it resulted in death. Jane Parker was also rumored to be jealous of Anne's social graces (she knew the Boleyn siblings since they were teenagers) and the attention Anne often procured at court even before capturing the King's eye. However, it's been heavily debated that Jane did not testify against her husband or Anne out of spite, so much as pressure from Thomas Cromwell.

Other than Jane Parker's testimony, the only damning evidence there appeared to be was a supposed "overheard" conversation between Anne and Henry Norris. Apparently, Anne joked with Henry Norris that he did not come to her rooms to see one of her ladies, Madge Shelton, but Anne herself.

It must be understood that Anne was a woman ahead of her time. She was said to be flirtatious in nature and something of a tom-boy. She could easily "hang with the boys," which would have been considered highly improper for a lady to do. She might have been thought of as a "harlot," or "wanton" for such behavior. A joke in this manner could be taken out of context and displayed as "evidence."

4) She Encouraged the Estrangement Between Henry and His Daughter, Princess Mary

Anne might be the reason Princess Mary, Henry's only child with his previous wife, Catherine of Aragon; hated her so much. However, Anne was not whispering in the King's ear for him to begrudge to his daughter. Rather, it was Henry himself who repeatedly told Mary that she was risking her position...as well as her relationship with him by refusing to be kind or acknowledge Anne. Anne attempted to befriend Mary on two occasions, but the princess refused and Anne finally gave up.

Henry, himself, proved to be the only reason for his estrangement to his daughter. Later on, Even after Anne's death, Henry refused to acknowledge both Princess Mary and Princess Elizabeth as his legitimate heirs. It would be many years before either of them gained his favor, thanks to the influence of his wife Catherine Parr.

5) Anne and Henry Poisoned Catherine of Aragon

The main reason Princess Mary hated Anne so much is because of the rumor that her new step-mother had conspired with her father to murder Catherine of Aragon. Henry's first wife, the former queen and Princess Mary's mother. When Catherine died in 1536, her heart was found to be black. At the time, this was thought to be a sure sign of poison. In fact, modern medicine states this is a rare form of heart cancer. Catherine of Aragon had a history of poor health even before Anne entered the picture. This, and her failure to conceive an heir, were some of the factors that inspired King Henry to seek a new wife.

The fact that Henry and Anne may have "celebrated" Catherine's death didn't help their case. They dressed fully in yellow the following day, a color of joy in England. It should be noted, however, that yellow is the color of mourning in Spain. Being that Catherine was a Spaniard, this decorating of yellow may have been their way of showing their respect. It's hard to believe that Henry and his new queen would publicly celebrate when the whole of England still loved Catherine. Anne, herself, was not a popular queen only because she was viewed as the king's harlot who bumped Catherine off. It wouldn't have been a wise move to be so disrespectful if Anne wished to win the hearts of the public.

The Catch of the Courts! Facts:

6.) A Talented, Fiery Lady

Anne was an accomplished singer, huntress, dancer, musician, and spoke French with ease. She was witty, intelligent, and knew how to play the game of love like a pro. She's also reported to have quite the sense of humor.

*Elizabeth I, her daughter, is recorded to have inherited this same wit and humor.

When Anne was crowned Queen, her temporary motto became: Ainsi sera, groigne qui groigne, Which translates in English: "Grumble All You Like, This is How it's Going to Be." Historians have stated this to be arrogant, personally it seems to be a combination of her humor coupled with her "Screw you" attitude. Sometime later, she changed her motto to "Most Happy."

Anne and Henry's arguments are recorded as being stormy. Anne would publicly argue with her husband and contradict his motives, something said to be attractive in a mans mistress but his wife. A Scottish theologian witnessed the couple in a heated altercation. He had no idea what the argument was about, but described their interaction as, "storm followed sunshine, sunshine followed storm."

7.) Queen Anne, The Brawler

Unlike Catherine, Anne wasn't going to look the other way as her husband indulged with other women. She was completely aware that two of her ladies-in-waiting were sexually involved with Henry. One of them, Jane Seymour, was her second cousin. Anne noticed Jane toying with a locket the king had given to her...with his portrait in it. Anne flew into a frenzy, and snatched it so hard off Jane's neck that Anne hurt her own hand, causing her fingers to bleed. Jane Dormer, another lady in Anne's service, confirmed this account. As well as stating that there was often physical altercations between the two cousins. In modern terms: Anne beat the shit out of Jane constantly.

Another confirmed account is that Anne walked into a room where Jane Seymour was sitting in the Kings lap. Anne was sent into a blind rage, which may have caused her miscarriage.

8) Unpopular, Yet Still Chartiable

Despite Anne's unpopularity with the public, Anne was a relatively charitable Queen. It is believed that she donated between 14,000-15,000 pounds a year, though the official numbers are debated. Anne even had officers create canvas sheets and smocks for the poor.

9.) Queen of the Reformation

Before Anne and Henry could publicly marry, the King would need to seek an annulment from Catherine granted by the Pope. However, the Catholic church found his marriage to Catherine to be solid, and would grant him neither a divorce, nor an annulment. Finally, Henry broke with the Catholic church and declared himself head of the Church of England. As a result, he could grant himself an annulment and/or a divorce if needed.

Some say that Anne Boleyn was a stiff supporter of the Reformation and the Protestant faith. However, there is no conclusive evidence. We can only assume she would have been, since the Reformation gave Anne the chance to marry the King...it would also be the reason for her downfall.

10) Fashionably French

Anne had quite the education in France when she served as part of Princess Mary Tudor's household. Princess Mary Tudor was King Henry's favorite sister, who he arranged to marry the King of France, Louis XII. When Anne returned to England, she was more French than English in character and style, making her stand out among the blonde, pale-skinned ladies in court. She brought the French hoods into fashion, and did away with the Spanish hoods that were in style with Catherine of Aragon's reign. Anne was also darker in complexion, with solid black eyes and black hair. While many of her contemporaries were the English roses with light eyes, pale skin and blonde. Anne was also smaller in form, not one of the "buxom" types that danced around her.

11) Anne, The Musically Inclined

Anne was a woman of many gifts, among them singing and poetry. In her last days before her execution, she is believed to have written the poem, "Oh Death, Rock Me Asleep," in 1536 shortly before her execution. However, it could have also been written by her brother, George. Within the Royal College of Music, a songbook is held that is believed to have belonged to Anne Boleyn.

12.) The First

Anne was the first Queen of England to be publicly executed. Originally, she was to be burned, but Henry changed her punishment to beheading. There are two versions of who and for what reason(s) the Swordsman from Calais was requested instead of an ax. One theory says that the King ordered a swordsman for Anne, because he recalled her fear of the ax. Others suggest Henry still respected Anne and requested a sword because it was "more humane," and "quick." Others speculate that Anne herself requested the beheading by sword because it was the French form of execution. 

13) Sainthood

With the coronation of her daughter Elizabeth I in 1559, Anne Boleyn went from hated Queen consort and Tudor witch, to martyr and saint. Elizabeth's ascendance to the throne proved Anne's innocence, and Elizabeth's success as a monarch further supported this theory in the eyes of the public.

Where ever Anne rests now, you can bet she's had the last laugh for quite some time. After her death, Henry VIII went on to marry four more times. Within only twenty four hours of Anne's execution, Henry married Jane Seymour. Jane would finally give him a son, but would die shortly after from complications. Despite finally having a son, the boy was sickly and would remain so throughout his short life.

All of Henry's marriages hereafter were disastrous: Anne of Cleves he divorced because he found her "unattractive," Catherine Howard had an ACTUAL affair, and Catherine Parr never truly wished to marry him. More importantly, none of these marriages resulted in a true heir for Henry VIII.

...It was Anne Boleyn who gave him, not a princess, but a true prince in their daughter Elizabeth. While her sister, Mary ruled aggressively and sickly (like her mother), known in history as "Bloody Mary;" and her brother is a figment of memory as a monarch, it is Elizabeth I whose rule is remembered.

References

"Anne Boleyn" www.biography.com/anne-boleyn

"30 Head Rolling Facts About Anne Boleyn" www.factinate.com

"The Execution of Anne Boleyn" www.freelancehistorywriter.com

Painting: "Anne de Boleyn à la Tour de Londres" or "Anne Boleyn in the Tower" by Edouard Cibot

Photo source: Musee Rolin, Autun France, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Anne_Boleyn_London_Tower.jpg

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