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Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Happy Anniversary *cough cough*

In 1533 on January 25th, Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn secretly wed in London. Anne was the daughter of Thomas Boleyn, later Earl of Wiltshire and Earl of Ormond, and his wife, Lady Elizabeth Howard. As was customary for young women of Noble birth, they would attend a foreign court as a Lady-in-Waiting or Maid of Honour to another Noble woman (typically one of a higher station than the young lady) as a sort of finishing school. Anne completed her education in the Netherlands, and then spent some time as a maid of honour to Queen Mary, and then to 15-year-old Queen Claude of France, with whom she stayed nearly seven years. In the Queen's household, she completed her study of French and developed interests in fashion and religious philosophy. She also acquired knowledge of French culture and etiquette.

Anne was recalled to marry her Irish cousin, James Butler, a young man who was several years older than her and who was living at the English court, in an attempt to settle a dispute over the title and estates of the Earldom of Ormond.
Anne's sister, Mary, had formally made a splash at the French and English courts for her numerous affairs with the gentry, including later Henry VIII himself and may have birthed some of his children.

Anne made her d├ębut at the Chateau Vert (Green Castle) pageant in honour of the imperial ambassadors on 4 March 1522, playing "Perseverance." There she took part in an elaborate dance accompanying Henry's younger sister Mary, several other ladies of the court, and her sister. All wore gowns of white satin embroidered with gold thread. She quickly established herself as one of the most stylish and accomplished women at the court, and soon a number of young men were competing for her.

Some say that Anne resisted the King's attempts to seduce her, refusing to become his mistress, often leaving court for the seclusion of Hever Castle. But within a year, he proposed marriage to her, and she accepted. Both assumed an annulment could be obtained within a matter of months. There is no evidence to suggest that they engaged in a sexual relationship until very shortly before their marriage, if at all; in fact, Henry's love letters to Anne seem to suggest that their love affair remained unconsummated for much of their seven year courtship.

Catherine was formally stripped of her title as Queen and Anne was consequently crowned queen consort on 1 June 1533 in a magnificent ceremony at Westminster Abbey with a sumptuous banquet afterwards.After her coronation, Anne settled into a quiet routine at the King's favorite residence, Greenwich Palace, to prepare for the birth of her baby. The child was born slightly premature on 7 September 1533. Between three and four in the afternoon, Anne gave birth to a girl, who was christened Elizabeth, probably in honour of Henry's mother, Elizabeth of York.
Anne had further complications with pregnancy, being unable to bare Henry a son, let alone another healthy child. Henry declared that he had been seduced into the marriage by means of "sortilege"—a French term indicating either "deception" or "spells". His new mistress, Jane Seymour, was quickly moved into royal quarters.


On 2 May 1536, Anne was arrested and taken to the Tower of London. In the Tower, she collapsed, demanding to know the location of her father and "swete broder", as well as the charges against her. She was accused of adultery, incest, and high treason and sent to the Tower of London.Although the evidence against them was unconvincing, the accused were found guilty under the law and condemned to death by a jury of their peers. George Boleyn and the other accused men were executed on 17 May 1536. Anthony Kingston, the keeper of the Tower, reported Anne seemed very happy and ready to be done with life. The King commuted Anne's sentence from burning to beheading and employed a swordsman from St Omer for the execution, rather than having a queen beheaded with the common axe.
On the morning of Friday 19 May, Anne Boleyn was judicially executed, not upon Tower Green, but rather, a scaffold erected on the north side of the White Tower, in front of what is now the Waterloo Barracks. She wore a red petticoat under a loose, dark grey gown of damask trimmed in fur and a mantle of ermine. Accompanied by two female attendants, Anne made her final walk from the Queen's House to the scaffold and she showed a "devilish spirit" and looked "as gay as if she was not going to die". After a short speech she then knelt upright, in the French style of executions. Her final prayer consisted of her repeating continually, "To Jesus Christ I commend my soul; Lord Jesus receive my soul." Her ladies removed her headdress and necklaces, and then tied a blindfold over her eyes. Anne Boleyn was executed by French expert swordsman Jean Rombaud.
Despite the effort put into Anne's execution, Henry failed to have organised any kind of funeral or even provide a proper coffin for her. Her body lay on the scaffold for some time before a man (believed to be working inside the Tower) found an empty arrow chest and placed her head and body inside. She was then buried in an unmarked grave in the Chapel of St Peter ad Vincula. Her skeleton was identified during renovations of the chapel in the reign of Queen Victoria and Anne's resting place is now marked in the marble floor.

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