Anne Boleyn Britain’s most well travelled ghost was strong willed, intelligent and charming Tudor Queen who stole the King’s heart, successfully kept him waiting for seven years until he divorced his queen and reformed the church. She tragically lost her life in 1536. Those who read her story cannot but fall in love with her courage and the eloquence with which she conducted herself on the day she was executed. She is a queen that lives on in many ways.
Reports of sightings of Anne Boleyn Britain’s most well travelles ghost
It had been reported that she is often seen as how she was in life, young, beautiful and happy. There are also reports of her as after her execution, headless, clutching her head and blood dripping from her severed head. There is no doubt that Anne Boleyn, Britain’s most well travelled ghost was unique and the impact she left us all with is a significant one. Perhaps, by taking a look at what happened to her may explain to some extent why she makes her “presence” so frequently.
History of Anne Boleyn – In a nutshell
Anne was born to Thomas Boleyn, later 1st Earl of Wiltshire and to Elizabeth Howard, daughter to Thomas Howard, 2nd Duke of Norfolk and Elizabeth Tilney, around 1501 in Blickling Manor, Norfolk. She, along with her two other siblings received good education suited to their status. Her youth was spent in Netherlands and in France, She returned to England when she was twenty-two, and immediately secured herself a position as the Lady-in-waiting for Catherine of Aragon, Queen consort to King Henry VIII.
Anne is described as intelligent, headstrong, principled and the only person who could go head to head with the King. She dazzled the royal court with her charming French flair and stole the King’s heart.
Henry VIII fell in love with Anne and desperately wanted to be with her, believing also that Anne would give him a son that he so longed to have as heir to the throne. He was still married to Catherine of Aragon, and as Catholics, the Pope refused his request for a divorce. Henry took drastic actions, completely reforming the church, breaking away from Rome, creating a new branch of Christianity and making himself the head of church. Thereafter, his marriage to Catherine of Aragon was annulled. However, before the annulment was through, Anne discovered that she was pregnant. Henry and Anne married in secret first, then officially in July 1533. Anne gave birth to Elizabeth in September.
As Henry was desperate for male heir, he was disappointed when Anne gave birth to baby girl. Anne went on to have two further pregnancies but both failed. The relationship between Anne and Henry broke down and Henry began his courtship with Jane Seymour, wife number three. Henry wanted to get on with his life with Jane Seymour and wanted to be rid of Anne.
Henry, together with Thomas Cromwell, his chief minister, trumped up charges of incest, adultery, treason and witchcraft against Anne Boleyn. Anne was charged, tried and found guilty on all counts. She was beheaded by a highly skilled French swordsman at Tower Green on May 19 1536, just three years since becoming queen consort to Henry VIII.
Accounts of sightings – Britain’s most well travelled ghost
The following are some fascinating accounts relating to the legends of hauntings of Anne Boleyn. As with many stories passed down in folk tales, they can be elaborated and embellished with the telling. I have not personally experienced a sighting of Anne, and I shall leave it to you, the reader to make of it what you will.
Blickling Hall | Norfolk
Blickling Hall in Norfolk, England is a quintessentially English stately home with magnificent dusty pink brick walls and topiary garden surrounded by vast woodlands for pure enjoyment.
The current hall was built upon the ruins of Blickling Manor, which was former home to the Boleyns until 1505. Anne, along with her siblings Mary Boleyn and George Boleyn were born here.
Anne – Britain’s most well travelled ghost at Blickling Hall
At Blickling Hall, the tale has Anne as the occupant of a carriage, dressed in pure white with her blood drenched head resting on her lap. The carriage is drawn by a headless horseman and four headless horses. Once Anne arrives at the Hall, she is said to roam the corridors from sundown to sunrise. This manifestation takes place each year on the anniversary of her death, May 19th.
Anne was also sighted by the lake at Blickling. Sometime during World War II, the butler at Blickling witnessed a mysterious lady by the lake. She was dressed in grey, a white lace collar and a mob-cap. He asked her what she was looking for to which she replied:
“That for which I search has long since gone”
Although it has been said that this may not be Anne because the costume described appeared more seventeenth century – lace was extremely rare in 1530s. However, supporters of Anne point out that she was beheaded wearing something similar.
The mysterious chamber
Blickling Hall is also said to have a lost chamber! It was a study called the ‘Old Bullen’ associated with Anne Bullen. The room was said to have such an evil atmosphere. It was walled up and its whereabouts is now lost. As an aside, it is hard to imagine Anne, who was elegant and sophisticated would be an evil atmosphere, perhaps intense, but not evil.
The magnificent Hever Castle, the family seat of the Boleyns has strong connections with Anne. Hever Castle was where Anne grew up and her ghost is said to appear around Christmas time. Christmas was Anne’s favourite time of the year.
Anne is said to appear crossing River Eden, close to Hever Castle, heading home. Anne has also been seen walking around the grounds of the castle. There is an old oak tree, where Henry VIII and Anne spent many hours during their courtship. Anne has often been seen underneath the tree.
Tower of London | London and sightings of Britain’s most well travelled ghost
It is no surprise that Anne Boleyn has been seen many times at the Tower of London, a place where she spent her last days. One of the famous sighting of Anne was in 1864 by a guardsman on duty, attested to by one General Dundas.
The guardsman saw a woman clad in white emerging from the Queen’s house across the lawn. The guard, thinking that she was real, charged at her in an attempt to ward her off, and ended up charging through her ghost! Realising he had just encountered a ghost, the guardsman fainted. The military court wanted to court-martial the guardsman for fainting on duty and abandoning his post – the ghost of a Tudor queen is hardly a defence! The charges were dropped when General Dundas testified as a witness.
Another sighting of Anne at the Tower was at the Chapel Royal of St Peter ad Vincula. Late one night, the Captain of the Guard, saw a light flickering inside the chapel. In an attempt to find the source of the light, he took a ladder, and climbed up to view. He saw ladies and knights dressed in century old clothes in a precession led by Anne Boleyn.
The ghost of Anne Boleyn is frequently seen walking throughout the church at the Tower towards her grave.
There has been further sightings of Anne as a ‘bluish figure’ floating across the green to the Queen’s house. On one occasion, there was a strange glow coming from one of the windows at the House, moving between rooms, believed to be Anne. Though many wardens and guardsman had witnessed it, few spoke of it.
There had been numerous sightings of Anne at the Tower of London and it appears she is very drawn to the last place she was alive, or perhaps because it was the place she felt most betrayed.
One legend has it that Anne strolls the grounds of Yewtree Walk at Marwell Hall, Hampshire.
Marwell Hall was home to the Seymours and Jane Seymour and Henry VIII spent many hours together here while Anne was a prisoner at the Tower. There are suggestions that Jane and Henry were secretly married here, prior to their official wedding in May 1536.
It is little surprise that Anne’s ghost is sighted at Marwell Hall, after all this is the place where she was betrayed by her husband.
Salle, St Peter & St Paul Church | Norfolk
There are stories that Anne is sometimes seen at Salle, St Peter & St Paul Church on the anniversary of her execution.
There is an unsubstantiated legend that Anne Boleyn is buried in the church cemetery which is why she is seen here. According to the legend, friends of Anne removed her body from the Chapel Royal at the Tower on the night of her execution and brought it to Salle to be buried there. She was buried at midnight, and a black slab placed over her grave.
The church was built in part by Anne’s paternal great grandfather, Geoffrey Boleyn. Earliest mention of the story is recorded by witnesses at two weeks after Anne’s execution. It has also been related by Charles Dickens, a novelist in his article in Bentley’s Miscellany, 1848 Vol 23 p.233
The mystery and truth of Anne’s final resting place will probably never be resolved. However, a permanent memorial for Anne Boleyn is erected in Tower Green, Tower of London.
Windsor Castle | Berkshire
Windsor Castle, home to the Queen and the oldest occupied castle in the land as well as the world has also been visited by the ghost of Anne Boleyn. Legend says, Anne has been wandering the halls on numerous occasions. Dean’s Cloister was home to Anne on a few occasions and story tells of her standing at one of the windows there.
Anne Boleyn’s ghost sightings are somewhat unique as she is seen in so many places, Britain’s most well travelled ghost. These places have verified connections to Anne’s life. She makes her “presence” probably because her last days were fraught with so much trauma that some of her energy are imprinted in each of the locations that had been important to her, either by way of happy memories or betrayal. Anne’s story is a sad one and her restless soul travels.
While some may be sceptical as to the ‘existence’ of ghosts and paranormal activities, others stand by their bona-fide sightings. Whatever the truth might be of these tales, the continued popularity of Anne Boleyn, demonstrates she still has the power to fascinate and captivate us as she continues to travel across Britain.
More on history of Britain
Learn more on the History of Britain for added value to your visits to historical sites:
The MagnificentHever Castle | Anne Boleyn’s Childhood Home
A short journey from the heart of London towards the south-east is the quintessential English village of Hever, home to the magnificent Hever Castle. A romantic double-moated castle from the thirteenth century, Hever Castle was the childhood home ofAnne Boleyn, the second queen consort to King Henry VIII. With history spanning over seven hundred years, the castle formed a backdrop to many key events that changed the course of British history.
The architecture is mind-blowing to say the least, with some original timbers dating back to c1506 and the oldest working portcullis in the country! The Castle is a huge attraction for history buffs and architectural fans.
In 2019, the magnificent Hever Castle attracted over 415,000 visitors, a six percent increase to the previous year, denoting just how important an attraction this castle is among tourists, visitors and locals.
As Hever village along with Hever Castle is located so close to London (about 48 km/30 miles), it makes a perfect destination for a day trip, weekend getaway or even a longer stay.
Planning a visit to the Magnificent Hever Castle | Anne Boleyn’s Childhood Home
Planning a visit to Hever Castle could not be easier – in this article you will find all the information you need. To add value to your visit, there is a quick guide to the castle’s seven-hundred-year history, a brief look at it’s famous resident Anne Boleyn (you can read all about Anne Boleyn in a much detail post here), the exhibitions and practical information on how to get to Hever Castle. As well, a little guide to places to eat and where to stay, should you decide to make a weekend trip instead of a day trip. First, let us start with a little introduction to Hever, a historic English village.
About Hever Village
The historic Hever village is quite a small village near Edenbridge, in the District of Kent, England. Nestled in a serene and beautiful unspoilt countryside, surrounded with farmland and woodlands, Hever offers quiet country walks along its River Eden and pleasant days out, away from the bustle of city life. This little village has a public house and a church but dominated by Hever Castle, thus making Hever a prominent destination on anyone’s checklist of things to see and do in wider Kent.
A quick guide to the history of the magnificent Hever Castle
The history of Hever Castle spans over 700 years, beginning from the 13th century. The original structure was a medieval defensive castle with a gatehouse and walled bailey constructed in 1270. The castle was in need of repairs and was sold to Geoffrey Boleyn in 1462. Geoffrey Boleyn converted it into a mansion, and added a Tudor dwelling within its walls. From 1462 to 1539 the castle was under the ownership of the Boleyn family.
The Boleyn Family
In 1505, Thomas Boleyn, Geoffrey Boleyn’s grandson inherited Hever Castle. He lived there with his family, wife – Lady Elizabeth Howard, and their children – Mary, Anne and George.
Hever Castle was Anne Boleyn’s childhood home. She lived there until 1513 when she was sent to the continent for education. Her father, Thomas Boleyn secured her a position at the court of Margaret of Austria, where a tutor was appointed for her academic education. After about a year, Anne may have gone to Paris to join her sister, Mary at the French court, before returning to England to be lady-in-waiting to Catherine of Aragon, queen consort to King Henry VIII. Anne may have been in her early twenties at that time.
Henry fell in love with Anne Boleyn who refused to be his mistress, instead insisted to becoming his wife. They courted for seven years while Henry tried to annul his marriage with Catherine of Aragon. It finally led to the Reformation with King Henry renouncing Catholicism, creating Church of England and becoming the head of the church.
King Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn
Following the Reformation, Henry and Anne were married in 1533. Anne gave birth to Elizabeth, who later became the renowned Queen Elizabeth I. However, Henry was disappointed because he wanted a male heir who would inherit the throne from him. With Anne having a male stillborn in 1536, Henry decided his marriage to Anne was over and he wanted to marry the younger Jane Seymour, lady-in-waiting and cousin to Anne, in the hope that she would give him a son.
Shrouded in conspiracy and scandal, charges were brought against Anne for incest, adultery, and treason amongst others, resulting in the incomprehensible tragedy – Anne was beheaded on May 19 1536 at Tower Green, Tower of London. She was Queen of England between 1533 and 1536, just a little over a thousand days.
Traces of Anne Boleyn…
After her execution, King Henry ordered for all things “Anne Boleyn” to be destroyed. As a result, documentary evidence of Anne Boleyn’s life is missing from British history and not much is known of Anne’s life and her thoughts. What is known of her today is information that had been passed down from her friends and very few belongings of her that escaped destruction. There are no portraits of her existing from during her reign or when she was alive. The portraits of her that are around were commissioned during the reign of her daughter, Queen Elizabeth I. As well, information that is known of her today were unearthed through much research by historians and writers.
After the passing of Thomas Boleyn, Anne Boleyn’s father in 1539, Hever Castle came into Henry VIII’s possession. The castle was then bestowed to Anne of Cleves in 1540, Henry’s fourth wife as part of their annulment of marriage.
Hever Castle passed through many subsequent owners and came to rest with the American millionaire, William WaldorfAstor in 1903 who used it as a family residence. He spent his time and money in restoring the castle and inventing new developments. He created ‘Tudor Village‘ which is called the ‘Astor Wing‘ these days. He also invested in the construction and elaborate extension of the garden and lake. The property was subsequently sold to Broadland Properties Limited in 1983 who manages Hever Castle as an attraction.
Anne Boleyn is a figure that continues to intrigue historians and haunts British culture. There have been numerous sightings of Anne across England – Tower of London, Blickling Hall, Marwell Hall, Hever Castle and Hampton Court Palace.
Anne is said to appear each Christmas at Hever Castle, often happy as she used to be in her childhood. It has also been said that she appears around an old oak tree where she and Henry spent time together when they courted. She has also been seen walking across the bridge in the castle grounds which crosses River Eden.
What to Expect when visiting the magnificent Hever Castle
Give plenty of time when visiting Hever Castle. The castle appears deceptively small but there are much to experience, both indoors and outdoors. For an immersive experience, give yourself at least four to five hours.
The magnificent Hever Castle Gardens and Grounds
The magnificent Hever Castle is set in one hundred and twenty five acres of splendid glorious grounds! Nature and wildlife is abundant here and features of new habitations and eco systems have also been established.
The Lake is a thirty-eight acre lake constructed between 1904 and 1906. It is remarkably serene, peaceful and tranquil offering incredible vistas, nature trails, fun and great nature photography opportunity.
A walk around the lake and you may see robins, and woodpeckers as well as swans and herons. According to the castle’s website, one may be lucky enough to hear the glorious sound of the nightingale on very quiet evenings around the lake and the river.
The Loggia overlooks the lake and is a perfect spot to relax before embarking on a stroll through the Tudor Garden, Blue Corner and Anne Boleyn Walk. Anne Boleyn’s Orchard features old English varieties of apples and pears while Chestnut Avenue features chestnut trees planted in 1904-1908. From the Loggia, you could catch a view of the Japanese Tea House folly on the edge of the lake or you could access it by either taking the Lake Walk or hire a boat to row across the lake. Once at the Tea House, you could walk around it but there is no access to its interior.
Allow time to stay still and enjoy the tranquility and vistas afforded around the lake by hiring and rowing one of the boats, canoes or pedalos.
The Italian Garden is highly recommended. It is one of the popular places on the magnificent Hever Castle grounds that is uplifting and a wonderful area to sit and relax.
The gardens feature a breathtaking display of 4000 rose bushes and more than 20000 spring bulbs along with 15000 bedding plants throughout the year. In Spring, the delightful 90000 snowdrops carpet the grounds, the uplifting crocuses and the colourful daffodils are in bloom while in Summer, the Rose Garden draws visitors to its kaleidoscope of colours and wonderful aroma. Autumn brings the trees to fore especially at Anne Boleyn’s orchard and as one may imagine, Winter sees the trees glow against the winter sky.
With so much to see, the outdoors to Hever Castle offer spectacular experiences no matter the season.
Lake and lock gates at Hever Castle
Hever Castle is only a hundred and twenty feet above sea level. It’s site on such low ground and close to River Eden together with a moat surrounding the castle which joined the river caused flooding of the castle courtyard. This led to the creation of a lake to the east of the castle with lock gates. These lock gates would control the level of the water upstream from the castle.
Inside the magnificent Hever Castle
Inside the thirteenth century castle features grand panelled rooms decorated with antique furnishings, beautiful, dazzling tapestries and an incredible collection of Tudor portraits, only second to the National Portrait Gallery. The following are some of the highlights to experience when you walk across the inner moat via a working drawbridge, which was reinstated by William Astor in early 20th century.
The oldest part of the castle is the medieval chamber in the Gatehouse and this dates back to the thirteenth century.
The Entrance Hall
The Entrance Hall was added c1506 by Thomas Boleyn. Some timber framed additions were installed by the Boleyns in the fifteenth and sixteenth century which are still visible today.
The Dining Hall
The present Dining Hall was the Great Hall in the fifteenth century and features a grand fireplace surmounted by the Boleyn coat of arms. When visiting the dining hall, look out for the Boleyns original feature on the right hand side under the window.
As well, look out for an intricate lock thought to be owned by King Henry VIII. Henry had a lock to his bedchamber wherever he went as a measure of security.
The impressive library was created in 1905 from what used to be administrative offices during the Tudor period. Above its fireplace is the portrait of Johann Jakob Astor, founder of the Astor fortune.
Morning Room at the magnificent Hever Castle
The Morning Room is a room where you can admire the great architecture of the seventeenth century. The panelling and fireplace dates back to this era. A closer look at the stone surrounding the fireplace reveal initials H.W. carved into it. This represent the Waldegrave family who owned Hever Castle between 1557 and 1715.
Anne Boleyn’s Bedroom
The Anne Boleyn’s Bedroom feature a half-domed ceiling and is said to be an original fifteenth-century design to give the room greater space and light. By far the most touching of exhibitions relating to Anne Boleyn is the Book of Hours Room. On display are the treasured two prayer books belonging to Anne. She wrote in them and it has her signature. Personal prayer books were popular in England before the Reformation. The prayer books are called ‘Book of Hours’ representing the short services dedicated to the Virgin Mary on the eight fixed hours of the day.
Other highlights of the interior of the magnificent Hever Castle include:
The Staircase Gallery built over the entrance hall around 1506 by Thomas Boleyn. This gallery is home to the unusual find of Mary, Queen of Scot in Mourning portrait.
The King Henry VIII’s bedroom dates to the sixteenth century and houses the oldest ceiling in the castle from c.1462. Henry is said to have stayed in this room during his courtship with Anne.
The Waldegrave Room has a hidden Oratory behind wood panelling which was built in 1584 so the Waldegraves could practice their Catholic faith in secret.
The Long Gallery really is an impressive construction. It extends the entire width of the castle with panelling dating back to the sixteenth century. An incredible collection of eighteen original portraits tells the story of the Tudors from Henry VI through to Henry VIII.
The tour of the interior of the castle ends at the Gatehouse which now houses a collection of historic swords, armour, instruments of torture and execution.
The remarkable difference between the original thirteenth century structure and the later additions in the sixteenth century cannot be more obvious than at the castle Courtyard. The front portcullis is a working mechanism and is said to be the oldest in the country, dating back to the thirteenth century.
On a final note about Hever Castle
Hever Castle is a remarkable structure and offers a wealth of information about the Boleyns and the Tudors. The intricate architecture speaks volume of painstaking craftmanship with some of the castle’s original features still existing. The best of these architectural marvel are above you-don’t forget to look up at the high ceilings in the Inner Hall and be amazed at the Tudor Roses dedicated to the Tudor reign and the two queen consorts who lived at Hever Castle.
Practical information on Opening Hours and How to get to Hever Castle
Hever Castle is located in the rural countryside on the border of Kent/Surrey/Sussex with convenient UK motorway and rail links. Gatwick Airport is 30 minutes away from the Castle.
Address: Hever Castle & Gardens Hever Edenbridge Kent TN8 7NG
Spring: til 28 Mar Last entry: 3 p.m. Final Exit: 4:30 p.m.
29 Mar – 30 Oct Last entry: 4:30 pm Final exit: 6 p.m.
1 Nov – 26 Nov (Wed through to Sun) Last entry: 15:00 Final exit: 4:30 p.m.
How to get to Hever Castle by road:
Hever Castle is located at about 48 km (30 miles) from central London and about 5 km (3 miles) southeast of Edenbridge, off the B2026 between Sevenoaks and East Grinstead in the village of Hever.
The Castle can also be reached via junction 10 of the M23, and is signposted from junctions 5 and 6 of the M25 and the Hildenborough exit of the A21.
There is more than one car park. Parking is free and accessible parking is available. Staff are available to guide you to a car park that is available to use.
Note: Car park closes 15 minutes after last exit from the grounds.
Trains run from London Victoria Station and London Bridge Station either via Oxted or East Croydon to:
Edenbridge Town Station:
Edenbridge Station is located about 5 km (3 miles) from Hever Castle. Take a taxi from the station to the Castle. You could book a taxi before hand with Relyon Taxis who operate from close the station. Relyon can be reached on 01732 863800.
Hever Station is unmanned and there are no taxis nearby. It is located about 1.6 km (1 mile) from the Castle and involves a rural walk to the Castle.
Ashford is 1.5 hours drive to the Castle
Ebbsfleet International is 1 hour drive to the Castle
Gatwick Airport is 30 minutes away and Heathrow Airport is 1 hour away, and then follow directions either by road or rail as above.
Places to Eat
A visit to Hever Castle is best enjoyed over a picnic in their beautiful grounds. As well, Hever Castle offer catering facilities and you can enjoy tea, coffee, cakes, light refreshments at its cafe or lunch at its restaurants.
Afternoon Tea served in the Tudor Suite Dining Room and Sitting Room
On weekends only – available on one weekend per month only excluding Nov/Dec. Sittings are at 1 pm and 3:30 pm. Vegan and vegetarian menu available.
Moat Restaurant is a great place for coffee or a meal suitable for all the family. Enjoy a variety of freshly made sandwiches and freshly baked cakes.
Guthrie Pavilion Cafe
Offers a range of snacks including sandwiches, hot and cold drinks and freshly baked cakes
There are also Pizza Van | Ice Cream Kiosks | The Loggia Bar | Tudor Towers Kiosk | The Waterside Bar, Restaurant & Terrace
Now, its your turn – what do you think? Is this article valuable to you in planning your visit to Hever Castle? Please let me know in comments below or Contact us at Timeless Travel Steps. Share your views and/or ask any questions you may have, we look forward to responding to all of your questions.
For now, have a wonderful time discovering and exploring Hever and the Kent countryside.
Anne Boleyn The Most Magnetic and Enduring of Tudor Queens
Some say she was a predator, a sinner while others that she was so sadly wronged and the most courageous queen ever lived. She was the first English monarch to be executed publicly. After five hundred years, the name ‘Anne Boleyn’ and her tragic death still commands attention and further research. She haunts us and we don’t seem to have enough of her! We just do not know what to think of a girl who stole her King’s heart, did not sleep with him for almost seven years and was sent to the block, with no traces of her ever existing. However one thinks of her, I sum her up as Anne Boleyn The Most Magnetic and Enduring of Tudor Queens.
An intriguing figure in British history, and also known as Queen for Thousand Days, Anne Boleyn’s personality and her story draws you in. She did so back then, had done so for five hundred years and continues to do so now. She continues to inspire historians, writers, filmmakers and ordinary citizens. This, by far, makes Anne Boleyn the most magnetic and enduring of Tudor queens.
This is her story.
Anne Boleyn: Biography
Born: c1501 | Blickling Castle, Norfolk
Died: May 19 1536, Tower Green, Tower of London | Executed
Reigned: June 1533 – May 1536
Coronation: June 1 1533
Parents: Sir Thomas Boleyn and his wife, Elizabeth Howard, daughter of Duke of Norfolk
Spouse: Henry VIII
Children: Elizabeth I
Succeeded by: Jane Seymour, Henry VIII’s third wife
Anne Boleyn | The most magnetic and enduring of Tudor Queens
Anne Boleyn, was the second wife of Henry VIII of England and mother of Queen Elizabeth I of England. Shrouded in scandal. Henry VIII was denied a divorce from his first wife, Catherine of Aragon by the Roman Catholic church. The subsequent events surrounding the divorce led Henry VIII to break from the Roman Catholic church to marry Anne, eventually bringing about the Reformation of England.
Anne Boleyn’s Early Days
Anne Boleyn, the most magnetic and enduring of Tudor queens was born at Blickling Manor, Norfolk, c1501 to Sir Thomas Boleyn (later Earl of Wiltshire) and his wife, Lady Elizabeth Howard, daughter of Thomas Howard, 2nd Duke of Norfolk. Anne also had a royal connection. Her aunt was the youngest daughter of King Edward IV of England.
Anne’s exact date of birth is unknown because records are lacking in this respect.
Anne spent her childhood in her family home, Hever Castle in Kent. She was educated in Netherlands and at the age of twelve, she went to France. She learnt to speak French fluently, acquired a taste for French fashion, poetry and music. Anne returned to England in 1522. Soon afterwards, she established herself as a maid of honour to Catherine of Aragon, King Henry VIII queen consort.
About Anne Boleyn and her courtship with King Henry VIII
Anne Boleyn was dark-haired, slim, sophisticated and well educated. She captivated those around her and became one of the most admired ladies of the court. Women at court copied her sartorial style. She attracted much attention from men as well, including Henry VIII and Henry Percy, 6th Earl of Northumberland. She dazzled the court with her wit and her French flair. When the King heard of Henry Percy’s desire to marry Anne, he ordered against it. At some point Henry himself fell in love with Anne, who was introduced to him by Anne’s sister, Mary, one of Henry’s mistresses.
Around 1525, Henry VIII wrote love letters to Anne. In one of them, he wrote:
If you…give yourself up, heart, body and soul to me…I will take you for my only mistress, rejecting from thought and affection all others save yourself, to serve only you
King Henry VIII, 1525
Anne, did not want to become a pawn in a game of thrones, and she rejected King Henry’s proposition. However, she carefully explained her rejection, saying that she intends to be married and not be a mistress. She replied:
Your wife I cannot be, both in respect of mine own unworthiness, and also because you have a queen already. Your mistress I will not be.
Henry VIII desperately wanted to be with Anne and he found a way to annul his marriage with Catherine of Aragon.
Catherine of Aragon
Catherine was a Spanish princess whom Henry married in June 1509 when he was eighteen years old. Catherine had married his older brother, Arthur in 1501 but he had died the following year. Henry and Catherine were happy in the early years of their marriage. The queen had six children but only one survived infancy, a girl, Mary. Mary was born in February 1516.
Henry blamed Catherine for not having a healthy male heir to the throne. Catherine was also six years older than Henry and the age difference began to show by the mid 1520s. The King wanted to be with a younger person who could bear him a son, heir to the throne.
King Henry VIII set about annulling his marriage with Catherine of Aragon, which he called “a grave matter” one that proved to be difficult and had far reaching consequences.
In his petition for an annulment, Henry relied on an excerpt from the Book of Leviticus:
“If a man shall take his brother’s wife, it is an unclean thing…they shall be childless.”
After many years of debate, the Pope Clement VII refused to annul the marriage. Finally, the marriage was decreed as invalid on May 23 1534 by Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury. Thereafter, King Henry VIII broke away from Catholicism and Rome to set up Church of England.
While the debate on annulment was going on, Henry and Anne continued to meet discreetly. In early 1533, Anne discovered that she was pregnant. In January 25 1533, they were married in a secret ceremony, without the blessings of the Pope, by Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury.
In June 1533, a lavish coronation ceremony was held for Queen Anne. She stayed at her Queen’s lodgings during the days before her coronation. She rode in a golden carriage, and wore a scarlet robe heavy in jewels.
On September 7 1533, Queen Anne gave birth to Elizabeth, at Greenwich Palace. Elizabeth later became the renowned Queen Elizabeth I. Elizabeth would be the only child of Henry and Anne. (Anne would go on to have two more pregnancies, in 1534 and 1536, but each was unsuccessful)
Anne Boleyn | The most magnetic and enduring of Tudor Queens as Queen of England
In short, the public did not take to Anne due to their allegiance to Catherine of Aragon. The public saw Anne as a status seeker and sexually promiscuous. For her own part, Anne was not a passive element of the royal court. She was well-educated and supported church reform. She helped with the distribution of Bibles, translated to English. She played the traditional role of Queen and was sincere in her efforts to help the poor and social reforms. She was renowned for her stylish wardrobe which followed the French fashion trends of that time. Even so, England never warmed up to their queen and Anne remained disliked until her death. Her strong mindedness did not help her either, as she alienated a lot of powerful men, one being Thomas Cromwell.
As wife to Henry VIII, their marriage was a happy one for the first year or so. Henry pursued other women and was sexually involved with two of her maids-of-honour, Madge Shelton and Jane Seymour. Anne was enraged by her husband’s behaviour and promiscuity. In return, Henry blamed Anne for his adulterous behaviour in not bearing a son as heir to the throne. He did not like to be questioned of his whereabouts which resulted in resentment, eventually leading to the marriage falling apart.
Anne gave birth to a stillborn, a boy in January 1536 which finally led Henry to decide it was time for wife number three! He quickly set about to annulling his marriage with Anne and settled to taking Jane Seymour as his third wife.
Charges, Trial and Execution of Anne Boleyn | The most magnetic and enduring of Tudor Queens
The case against the Queen was trumped up by Thomas Cromwell, Chief Minister to the King and who was also one of Anne’s former friend.
Anne was accused of incest with her own brother, George also known as Lord Rochford, four adulterous liaisons, conspiracy to poison her husband and witchcraft. Confessions and implications were extracted under torture from all those named in the tale. All maintained their innocence and denied the charges brought against them except for Mark Smeaton, who confessed under torture.
Despite her innocence, Henry ordered Anne to be confined in her lodgings at the Tower of London on May 2 1536. Ironically, these were the same lodgings Anne stayed in before her coronation ceremony three years earlier.
While in prison, the saddened Queen wrote an impassioned letter to the King, pleading not to allow:
“that unworthy stain of a disloyal heart towards your good Grace ever cast so foul a blot on me, or on the infant Princess, your daughter”
Events moved very quickly and Anne hardly had time to protest. She was tried on May 15 1536. All charges were denied by Anne, as did all her ‘lovers’. Despite her plea and all the unsubstantiated evidence against her, she was found guilty by a court of noblemen and peers, headed by her uncle, Duke of Norfolk. It has been said that her father, Thomas Boleyn watched Anne being sentenced and did nothing to stop it. The Queen was sentenced to execution.
Anne was allowed to respond and voice her thoughts on her sentence and she responded with the following:
I think you know well the reason why you have condemned me to be other than that which led you to this judgement. My only sin against the King has been my jealousy and lack of humility. But I am prepared to die. What I regret most deeply is that men who were innocent and loyal to the king must lose their lives because of me.
Anne offered to retire to the nunnery if the King would show mercy, but he did not. The only ‘mercy’ Henry showed was for the queen to be beheaded by a sword instead of being burnt on a stake like witches were at that time. Anne was to have a skilled executioner from France who would behead her with a sword instead of an axe.
Her marriage to King Henry VIII was annulled on May 17 1536. Henry declared his daughter, Elizabeth as illegitimate.
Henry wanted a new scaffold built specifically for Anne’s execution. On May 18 1536, work began on the building of a new scaffold “before the House of Ordnance” which is believed to be between the White Tower and what is now the Waterloo Block, home to the Jewel House.
Anne’s execution was initially scheduled for May 18 but was postponed to the next day, awaiting for the skilled swordsman to arrive.
At 8 o’clock in the morning of May 19 1536, Anne Boleyn, was taken to Tower Green scaffold to be executed by a skilled French swordsman. Anne took care of her appearance. She dressed in a robe of black damask, an ermine trim on her robe to confirm her status, and wore a traditional English gable hood.
When on the scaffold, Anne made a simple speech:
Good Christian people, I have not come here to preach a sermon; I have come here to die. For according to the law and by the law I am judged to die, and therefore I will speak nothing against it. I am come hither to accuse no man, nor to speak of that whereof I am accused and condemned to die, but I pray God save the King and send him long to reign over you, for a gentler nor a more merciful prince was there never, and to me he was ever a good, a gentle, and sovereign lord. And if any person will meddle of my cause, I require them to judge the best. And thus I take my leave of the world and of you all, and I heartily desire you all to pray for me.
Before the blade fell, Anne said the following:
The king has been good to me. He promoted me from a simple maid to a marchioness. Then he raised me to be a queen. Now he will raise me to be a martyr
With a single stroke, the executioner beheaded the queen.
Anne Boleyn | Burial
Anne was not provided a coffin. Her body was wrapped up in white cloth, and placed in an old elm chest fetched by a Yeoman warder from the Tower armoury.
Queen Anne Boleyn was queen for three years and thirty seven days since her coronation and was buried in the chancel, near to her brother, Lord Rochford at the Tower Chapel of St Peter ad Vincula,
All involved in the tale were tortured, tried and found guilty. Anne Boleyn’s brother and her four ‘lovers’, musician Mark Smeaton, Francis Weston, William Brereton, and Henry Norris were all executed for committing adultery with the queen, two days prior to her own.
Henry VIII married Jane Seymour just eleven days after Anne’s execution.
No trace of Anne Boleyn | The most magnetic and enduring of Tudor Queens
Much has been written about Anne Boleyn, the most magnetic and enduring of Tudor Queens since her execution but very few indisputable facts remain. Her date of birth and her appearance remains a fascinating subject. Though there are portraits of Anne that exists today, these were commissioned during the reign of Elizabeth I of her mother. These cannot be relied upon as her true image. No one really knows what and how she looked like.
After Anne’s execution, Henry VIII ordered everything that reminded him and the people of England of Anne to be destroyed. They are no mementos or contemporary portraits of Anne when she was alive that exist today. Henry made it illegal for anyone to be in possession of anything ‘Anne’.
A few may have missed the path of destruction and exist here and there.
One such example and the only undisputed image of Anne Boleyn is on a 38mm lead disc in storage at the British Museum. The disc is known as “The Moost Happi Medal” which was created in 1534 as a prototype when Anne was pregnant, in anticipation of a male heir to the throne. However, the commission was abandoned when her pregnancy was unsuccessful.
As well, there are very little documentary traces of Anne Boleyn existing. What is known of her is mainly accounts of others which are mostly marred by prejudices.
Only a few letters written in her own handwriting were found. A letter written to her father in 1514 and one written to Wolsey, along with letters written to her husband, King Henry VIII while she was in prison.
In her day, Anne Boleyn was known as a ‘witch’, an evil scheming woman, a woman, whose name not to be spoken of.
Anne Boleyn – The Forgotten Queen Resurfaced | The most magnetic and enduring of Tudor Queens
This forgotten queen resurfaced when her daughter, Elizabeth, inherited the throne from Mary I in November 1558, to become Elizabeth I, Queen of England and Ireland. Questions were asked then, about the validity of the lurid charges of adultery, and about Anne’s support for Protestantism which has become the State’s religion.
Over the years, plays written by Shakespeare after Anne’s death and Francis Bacon in 1580s seems to portray Anne as having been misunderstood. It was not until three hundred years later, in 1830 Donizetti opera, Anne was portrayed as a victim and tragically wronged heroin. In 1893, Agnes Strickland wrote Lives of the Queens of England, which denounced Henry as being selfish and sadistic. However, there were many historians in the nineteenth century who felt that there must have been some truth to the fornication charges laid against Anne, and they continued to write her off as a predator.
The twentieth and twenty-first century saw historians giving voice to Anne’s independence of mind, her interest in sex and a young woman whose desire was to do as well as she could. Her assertiveness was admirable, seen as modern and non threatening. Described as “brutal and effective politician” by historian, David Starkey, “intelligent” by Alison Weir and “clever, articulate, principled and highly educated” by Hilary Mantel, Anne certainly had numerous qualities admired today. She keeps us drawn to her fascinating story.
There has been so much written about Anne Boleyn and her relatively short life as Queen of England but it is hard to know exactly what she was like.
The other side to Anne Boleyn | The most fascinating of Tudor Queens
Apparently, there is a ‘other side’ to Anne Boleyn. She is said to be vindictive, bad tempered, and failed to conform to the expectations that of a Queen.
Anne persuaded Henry to summon the arrest of Cardinal Wolsey, her nemesis. As well, not only did she manage to unseat Catherine, Queen of Aragon but she bullied Mary, Catherine’s daughter mercilessly, to the extent that Lady Mary became convinced that Anne was trying to poison her. Lady Mary never saw her mother again.
Anne’s headstrong personality and quick temper won her few friends. She did not make alliances to encircle her, instead she quarrelled and distanced herself from almost every important person at court. Anne alienated her uncle, the powerful Duke of Norfolk. She also threatened the Chancellor, Thomas Cromwell.
By the time Cromwell retaliated and persuaded King Henry to commit Anne to trial, she was surrounded by enemies who were very happy to see her go.
Seeing all the support failing around her, Anne did not reinvent herself to bring long term success. She stood her ground and to her principles, which some historians say may have led to her own condemnation.
The theories behind the Execution | Why Anne Boleyn, the most magnetic and enduring of Tudor Queens was executed
Modern historians believe that Anne Boleyn did not have any affairs which led her to be executed by King Henry VIII. She may have been a notorious flirt but it did not go beyond that. There is absolutely no reliable proof that Anne was unfaithful to her husband, King Henry VIII.
It appears that Anne was an innocent victim framed by her husband, King Henry VIII who wanted to move on with his life with his mistress, Jane Seymour with whom he hoped to have a male heir, or Thomas Cromwell, the Kings loyal servant who felt Anne stood in his way of his plans for the monasteries.
Henry painted a picture of his wife being a reckless cheat and that he was a wronged husband so that Anne’s image, reputation and legacy was forever tarnished in his kingdom. However, historian Tracy Borman argues that research shows Henry VIII was a villain. His cold and calculated manner, to oversee every detail of Anne’s execution, giving precise orders to the Constable of the Tower of London exposed his real personality.
Cromwell wanted an alliance with the Holy Roman Empire but Anne disagreed with his plans. Her pro French stance on diplomacy was also a problem for Cromwell.
Whatever the theories are and which of these one may wish to believe, the underlying question appears to be:
Was she wrong in failing to produce a male heir and refusing to rein in her headstrong personality?
The fascination with the life and death of Anne Boleyn lives on, it is enduring. I cannot for a moment imagine what she would have gone through psychologically and emotionally while in prison awaiting her execution. Her glittering life, her fall from grace, her tragic end. She may have vanished from history for a while as the discarded wife of a heartless king but her enduring glamour lives on. What touches many, I am sure, is the grace with which she faced her tragic end. Her careful dressing to meet the end of her life, and her collected little speech on the scaffold speaks no less of her dignity, eloquence and bravery. She has the power to draw us in, to fascinate and captivate us.
Much is still not known…
Their marriage ensued a political and religious upheaval which led to the English Reformation, changing the course of British history, and Anne’s execution for adultery and treason made her a popular figure since. Yet, there is much that is not known of her, as a person, as a queen and as a mother. Photos and records of her are scarce. All of her portraits were cautiously created during the reign of her daughter, Elizabeth I.
Perhaps, out of all of Henry VIII six wives, Anne Boleyn is the most fascinating, intriguing and famous queen associated with the Tudor King – one that continues to have a magnetic pull by drawing us to her story, her life as she continues to be an enduring queen.
The following poem is attributed to Anne Boleyn, one that she wrote in the days before her execution. I shall leave her words to speak to you:
O Death, O Death, rock me asleepe, Bring me to quiet rest; Let pass my weary guiltless ghost Out of my careful breast. Toll on, thou passing bell;
Ring out my doleful knell; Thy sound my death abroad will tell, For I must die, There is no remedy.
My pains, my pains, who can express? Alas, they are so strong! My dolours will not suffer strength My life for to prolong. Toll on, thou passing bell; Ring out my doleful knell; Thy sound my death abroad will tell, For I must die, There is no remedy.
Alone, alone in prison strong I wail my destiny: Woe worth this cruel hap that I Must taste this misery! Toll on, thou passing bell; Ring out my doleful knell; Thy sound my death abroad will tell, For I must die, There is no remedy.
Farewell, farewell, my pleasures past! Welcome, my present pain! I feel my torment so increase That life cannot remain. Cease now, thou passing bell, Ring out my doleful knoll, For thou my death dost tell: Lord, pity thou my soul! Death doth draw nigh, Sound dolefully: For now I die, I die, I die.
How to learn more about Anne Boleyn the most magnetic and enduring of Tudor Queens
If you are as fascinated as I am regarding Anne Boleyn and the Tudors, there are plenty of resources for you to explore. I recommend the following:
Watch the following on Amazon Instant Video | Click on the images to Buy