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Anne Boleyn, Beheaded at The Tower of London in 1536

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Anne Boleyn

Image source: Wellcome Library, London. (Cropped to fit) | License

Anne Boleyn - Queen of England 1533-1536

Most historians agree that Anne Boleyn was born in 1501 but the local parish records are inconclusive. She was the daughter of Thomas Boleyn and his wife Lady Elizabeth Howard and was born in the Norfolk village of Blickling in a house previously on the site of Blickling Hall. Only a few foundations remain of the house said to be her birthplace and they are difficult to locate. Blickling Hall is now managed by the National Trust and many alterations and additions have been made over the years.

Her father, Thomas Boleyn, was a successful diplomat and a great favourite of King Henry VIII at court. As Thomas's career was progressing well the Boleyn's soon moved to Hever Castle in Kent where Anne spent much of her early childhood. In 1513 Anne Boleyn was sent to the Netherlands and France where she was to continue her education with Margaret of Austria and attend Claude of France until 1522.

On her return to England, she secured a post at court as maid of honour to Henry VIII's wife, Catherine of Aragon and in 1526 Henry started to become interested in her. Anne, who had now returned to live at Hever Castle, was considered by many to be a beautiful girl, well educated, intelligent and sophisticated. However, she sometimes found it difficult to manage her temper and control what she was saying.

King Henry VIII was now beginning to tire of his wife and wanted to annul his marriage to Queen Catherine so he would be free to marry Anne. Henry started making frequent visits to Hever Castle to see Anne but she would not let him seduce her. She wanted to become Queen of England, not the king's mistress. In 1533 he won her round and Anne became pregnant. They married at a secret ceremony on 25 January 1533 as Pope Clement VII would not annul the marriage to Catherine. This was the beginning of the split from the Church.

Angered by the Pope's refusal to annul his first marriage Henry broke away from the Catholic church in England and had himself declared head of the English church by Parliament. He then dissolved over 800 monasteries and confiscated their wealth and lands to the crown. Years of bitterness between Catholics and Protestants followed.

Anne Boleyn was crowned Queen of England on 1 June 1533 at Westminster Abbey and Henry and Anne's daughter Elizabeth, who was to become the future Queen Elizabeth I of England, was born in September. In the next two years Anne Boleyn had two more pregnancies and both resulted in miscarriage. By now Henry was desperate for a male heir so he decided look for a way to end his marriage to Anne, and take Anne's lady-in-waiting Jane Seymour as his mistress.

Henry had an investigation set up by the Duke of Norfolk, Thomas Cromwell and her father. In 1536 Anne was arrested on false charges of treason, adultery and witchcraft, and she was imprisoned in the Tower of London. On 19 May 1536 Anne was executed at the Tower having been found guilty of the charges. She was beheaded by an experienced French swordsman who was brought to England specially for the task.

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