Sunday, 6 March 2011

Anne Boleyn

NAME Anne Boleyn

WHAT FAMOUS FOR Second wife of King Henry VIII.

BIRTH born sometime between 1501 - 1507 at Blicking Hall, Norfolk. I cannot be more accurate as a lack of parish records from the period has made it impossible to establish Anne's date of birth.

FAMILY BACKGROUND Her father, Sir Thomas Boleyn, Earl of Wiltshire (1477-1539), was a wealthy diplomat whose offices included ambassador to France and Envoy to Holy Roman Emperor. Anne's mum, Elizabeth Howard was the daughter of the 2nd Duke of Norfolk. Later tradition would claim that the Boleyns were practically middle-class, but recent research has proven that Anne Boleyn was born a "great lady". Her great-grandparents included a Lord Mayor of London, a duke, an earl, two aristocratic ladies and a knight
Anne's older sister, Mary was a mistress to Henry VIII for four years, before Anne and Henry were an item. Her brother George was born some time around 1504.

CHILDHOOD Anne and her siblings grew up at Hever Castle in Kent and she later accompanied her father to France when he was posted there as an ambassador.

EDUCATION Anne's father secured a place for her with Margaret, Archduchess of Austria and daughter of Maximilian I, Holy Roman Emperor, for Anne to be educated in the Netherlands where it is believed she lived from the spring of 1513 to the autumn of 1514. This was followed by some years in France, until 1521, where she was lady-in waiting to Queen Claude of France. In the Queen's household, she completed her study of French as well as acquiring a thorough knowledge of French culture and etiquette. For all practical purposes, she was a Frenchwoman.
Anne's European education ended in the winter of 1521, when she was summoned back to England on her father's orders, sailing from Calais around January 1522.

CAREER RECORD Before she'd reached her teens, Anne's father arranged for her to attend Henry VIII's sister, Mary Tudor, Queen of France, for Mary's marriage to Louis XII of France. She went on to be a maid of honour to Queen Claude of France, with whom she stayed nearly seven years. Anne was later promoted by Henry VIII from a maid to marchioness then to Queen in 1533. She was Queen for a thousand days but failed in her prime duty of royal breeding machine.

APPEARANCE Reputedly, Anne has six fingers on one hand despite the popular prejudice falling in favour of five and a strawberry birth mark on her throat. In fact she had two finger tips on the end of one finger. Anne wasn't all fingers and thumbs, having beautiful coal black eyes with long dark hair, long neck,swarthy complexion, middling to pert stature. Anne wasn't a physical beauty but had the ability to exploit her vivaciousness.
Her enemies exaggerated her defects, claiming she was a witch with three nipples and six fingers.

FASHION Anne wore special gloves to hide her extra finger.

CHARACTER Indiscreet, tempestuous, ambitious, bossy. Possessed a quick temper and savage tongue. On the other hand, enchanting, flirty and bold and resolute.
Anne's personality was complex, and it has been greatly distorted by those opposed to her marriage and religious views. She was also a very loyal woman who gave generously to charity and, contrary to popular myth, was extremely emotional. In her youth she was "sweet and cheerful," enjoyed gambling, drinking wine and gossiping. She was also brave and charismatic and her personal motto loosely translated as "This will be, no matter who grumbles!" She was also well-educated, bold, resolute and charming. Yet Anne could also be extravagant, neurotic, indiscreet, bossy and possessed a quick temper and savage tongue.

SENSE OF HUMOUR Prone to bouts of hysterical laughter.

RELATIONSHIPS Anne was taken to court in early life, and was courted first around 1522 by Lord Henry Percy, the son of the Earl of Northumberland. Some say that they became lovers, while others maintain that it was just a simple courtship. The latter was probably true, for Anne was far too intelligent to waste what value she had on a few nights' passion that were to avail her nothing. Her elder sister, Mary Boleyn had been sexually 'adventurous' in France, and Anne had been deeply humiliated as a result.
Around the spring of 1523, Anne and Percy were secretly betrothed. Lord Henry's father refused to sanction the marriage when he heard of it from Cardinal Wolsey, who was possibly acting upon the King's instructions to leave Anne free for him. Anne was sent from court to Hever Castle in Kent. It is not known how long she remained away from court, although she was certainly back by mid-1525.
Henry, who for four years had dated Anne's big sis was attracted to her and at Shrovetide 1526 he began the serious pursuit. Anne refused to become the King's mistress, but began a correspondence with him, (The Vatican library preserves 12 love letters he wrote to her) and Henry proposed marriage to her sometime in 1527 (probably around New Year), while he sought a divorce from Katherine of Aragon. After some hesitation, she agreed. Anne and Henry finally slept together for the first time in late 1532 at Calais, and her reasons for submitting at this point are difficult to fathom. They married in secret on January 25, 1533 and Archbishop Cranmer blessed the marriage a few months later. The couple had fingers crossed for a male heir but there were only several miscarriages, a still birth and the illegitimate Elizabeth, who was conceived before they married. Anne and Henry were soon heading for splitsville, the result being she became the new kid on the block.
Anne was obviously very alluring. The French ambassador, de la Pommeraye, was completely captivated by her and paid tribute to her formidable intellect and influence over English foreign policy. The diplomat John Barlow was devoted to her, and spied for her in Rome. Later in life this ability to attract fanatical male devotion back-fired spectacularly when she found herself the object of feverish unrequited love from a Dutch musician in her household called Marc Smeaton.

MONEY AND FAME Once she became the king's mistress, Anne became the victim of a public hate campaign, mobilised by Katherine of Aragon's supporters, and in 1531 a crowd of 8,000 women marched through the streets of London in an attempt to lynch her.
Anne's coronation in 1533 was marked by the people's hostility, and the crowds refused to remove their hats as a sign of respect for their new queen. When asked what she had made of London at her coronation, Anne replied, "I liked the City well-enough, but I saw few caps in the air and heard few tongues."

FOOD AND DRINK Anne had a rather off-putting habit, first observed during her coronation banquet, of vomiting during meals. So one of her ladies in waiting had to hold up a sheet to shield her from other diners at appropriate moments.
In her younger days Anne created a recipe for a small tart with an almond, curd cheese and lemon filling. Henry was so enchanted he named the creator of the cake maid of honour.

MUSIC AND ARTS Anne was gifted musically - her extra finger must have made her a mean harpsichord player. Ole dark eye's ballads included "O Deathe oche me on Sepe" which is said to have moved her husband.
William Forrest, author of a contemporary poem about Catherine of Aragon, complimented Anne's "passing excellent" skill as a dancer. "Here", he wrote, "was [a] fresh young damsel, that could trip and go."

LITERATURE Fluent in French, some of Anne's love letters between her and Henry were in French.
Final words from Anne Boleyn's Book of Hours "Remember me when you do pray. That hope doth lead from day to day."

NATURE Anne had a wolfhound called Vrian who was allegedly beheaded along with her.

HOBBIES AND SPORTS Quite sporty, Anne went riding and hunting with Henry. However during a deer shoot with the king, she ruined her chances of winning Sports Personality of the Year when she shot a cow.
Anne also played indoor bowls with the king. Presumably her extra finger came in handy for imparting extra spin.
Anne was a great card player and she won loads of dosh and other things when she played Henry for money.
Legend has it that a 19th-century painting based on a disputed sketch by Hans Holbein the Younger of Anne is the basis for the queens in a deck of cards. However, the actual inspiration was Anne's mother-in-law Elizabeth of York.
The queen was watching some real tennis when she was arrested and taken off to the Tower before she had a chance to collect her winnings.

SCIENCE AND MATHS Anne could count on her fingers to 11.

PHILOSOPHY & THEOLOGY Despite being a Catholic herself, Anne was sympathetic towards the new Bible based Protestantism and Martin Luther viewed her rise to the throne as a positive sign.
When Anne was executed in 1536 for alleged adultery and incest, her last words being “Christ have mercy on my soul.”

SCANDAL Henry VIII was passionately in love with Anne and despite being already married to Catherine of Aragon he was concerned about letting her slip through his fingers. When the king appointed as archbishop of Canterbury Thomas Cranmer as archbishop of Canterbury, one of the first things he did was declare the former marriage void and gave his blessing to the proposed marriage thus incurring the wrath of the pope. Henry and Anne were excommunicated and in the next year Parliament passed an Act of Supremacy which made the king head of the Church of England and severe penalties for anyone who opposed Henry's marriage to Anne. However, Anne's lack of success on the child bearing front was causing concern and when she miscarried, Henry thought the marriage was damned.
That esteemed historian Jane Austen wrote in her History of England "It is however but justice and my duty to declare that this amiable woman was entirely innocent of the crimes with which she was accused and of which her beauty, her elegance and her sprightliness were sufficient proofs, not to mention her solemn protestations of innocence, the weakness of the charges against her and the king's character;"

HOMES Anne was brought up at Hever Castle in Kent, her family having purchased it in 1462.

DEATH Anne died 19 May 1536(aged 29-35 depending on when she was actually born... I must sort out those darn parish records) The queen was fingered for incest with her half brother and infidelity with four others. When told of the charge he said "Oh, Lord help me as I am guiltless of that where I am charged." She continued to protest her innocence, but Henry didn't lift a finger, in fact he was probably behind the trumped up charges as by this time the cad was in love with Jane Seymour. Anne was sentenced to be beheaded at Tower Green, London. She requested to be executed by sword and the service of a skilled executioner of Calais was engaged, who used a sword for the beheading according to French practice instead of the axe used by English executioners. Anne rehearsed the beheading the night before and the execution itself had to be delayed so she had to walk around the block weeping and laughing in turns. Her last words were probably sarcastic about her husband, "A gentler or more merciful prince was there never. To me he was ever a good, gentle and sovereign lord. Christ have mercy on my soul." Anne refused to be blindfolded and the executioner found her so disarming he persuaded someone to attract her attention so he could steal up silently behind her to carry out the death penalty.
Meanwhile Henry was in Epping forest taking part in a hunt waiting for a signal to proclaim the news that "it" had been done.
Anne was buried in the chapel of St Peter at the Tower of London in a box that had contained arrows. Henry wore white to her funeral. A day later he was betrothed to Jane Seymour.
When the chapel was restored in 1876, Queen Victoria had the 1,500 bodies buried there exhumed and properly reburied including Anne.

APPEARANCES IN MEDIA 1. Three big film appearances
1936 Played by Merle Oberon in The Private Life of Henry 8th .
1971 Played by Genevieve Bujold in Anne of a Thousand Days.
2008 Played by Natalie Portman in The Other Boleyn Girl (Incidentally, one of uncredited lawyers in the court scene was yours truly)
2. Dorothy Tutin was nominated for a BAFTA TV Award for her role as Anne in the 1970 mini-series Henry 8th and his Six Wives and Natalie Dormer portrayed Anne in the Showtime series The Tudors (2007-10)
3. Donizetti wrote an opera Anne Bolena (1830).
4. You may not be aware of the 1936 novelty song "With Her Head Tucked Underneath Her Arm" but its worth checking out. Click here to listen to the ditty and read its songfacts.

ACHIEVEMENTS 1. Giving birth to Queen Elizabeth
2. It was in order to marry Anne that Henry divorced his first wife, Catherine of Aragon and thus initiated the quarrel with the pope that led to the English reformation. In other words if Anne had been born with a double chin and cauliflower ears maybe the Church of England would never have been born. On the other hand she did have six fingers.
3. The first babe.
4. Anne played an enormous role in England's international position, by solidifying the French alliance in 1531. She established an excellent rapport with the French ambassador, de la Pommeraye, who was captivated by her.
5. When, in 1532, Henry gave her the title Marchioness of Pembroke, it was the first time a woman had ever been created a peer in her own right.


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