Lady Arbella Stuart The Forgotten Uncrowned Queen of England

Lady Arbella Stuart The Forgotten Uncrowned Queen of England

About four centuries ago, a princess lay dying within the walls of London Fortress, yearning for her freedom to be with her husband, reflecting on her life that would have been, if only… Lady Arbella Stuart was an English, born of royal blood who had a better right to be the Queen of England than her Scottish cousin, James VI, succeeding Queen Elizabeth I. Sadly, she became one of the royal prisoners at the Tower of London and over time, forgotten.

The following is what we know of the little known uncrowned queen, Lady Arbella Stuart who would have changed the course of history.

Lady Arbella Stuart
Oil painting on oak panel, Lady Arabella Stuart, Duchess of Somerset (1575 ? 1615), aged 13 1/2, British (English) School, inscribed in cartouche: ARBELLA ? STVARTA ? / COMITISSA ? LEVINI? ? / ?TATIS ? SV? ? 13 ? ET ? 1/2 ? / ANNO ? DNI ? 1589 ? And inscribed between bottom of tablecloth and stretcher of table: CVM, the remaining portion of a word like TECUM (‘with you’) rather than initials of Carel van Mander to whom this portrait was once attributed. A full-length portrait, standing, turned slightly to the left in an apartment, wearing a white dress with spotted puffed sleeves and white brocade, studded with dark jewels, and embroidered cuffs of a darker colour. Her light brown hair, frizzed in front, is allowed to fall, maiden-fashion, on her shoulders and around her neck is a pearl necklace and other ornaments with a fan hanging from her left.
Her right hand is resting on a table covered in a green fringed cloth and a dog is lying in the left foreground and a red draped curtain is on the right. In 1859 a commentator in the Athenaeum wrote: “The pale blue eyes and melancholy features have a decided Stuart character. The face closely resembles that of her father in the Hampton Court picture.” | National Portrait Gallery
Lady Arbella Stuart

Who was Lady Arbella Stuart and her right to the throne?

Lady Arbella Stuart was born in 1575 and was the possible successor to Queen Elizabeth I.

She was the only daughter to Elizabeth Cavendish (only daughter to Bess of Hardwick) and Charles Stuart, 1st Earl of Lennox.

Charles Stuart was the younger son to Matthew Stuart and Lady Margaret Douglas, daughter and heiress of Archibald Douglas, 6th Earl of Angus and of Margaret Tudor, eldest daughter of King Henry VII.

Therefore, Arbella was the great-great-granddaughter of King Henry VII and was in line of succession to the throne.

Charles’ older sibling was Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley who became the second husband of Mary, Queen of Scots and father to James VI of Scotland.

So, in a nutshell, born into the Stuart family, Arbella was niece of Mary Queen of Scots , cousin to James VI of Scotland, and a distant cousin to Queen Elizabeth I of England.

Lady Arbella Stuart’s early years

Lady Arbella Stuart as a child
Lady Arabella Stuart, later Duchess of Somerset, aged 23 months, 1577 / Hardwick Hall NT 1129175 | Hardwick Hall © National Trust

Lady Arbella had many misfortunes in her life from the time she was an infant. Arbella’s father, Charles Stuart died in 1576 when she was barely two years old. Upon the death of her father, Arbella was meant to inherit the title “Countess of Lennox” along with all the Lennox lands in Scotland but she was denied her inheritance. The Scottish government seized the lands on the premise that as King James was still a minor he could not grant the title. Moreover, their reasoning also centred on the fact that Arbella was English by birth and therefore her claim on the title was invalid. 

This unjust reasoning and decision drew the attention of the monarch and Queen Elizabeth herself wrote to the Scottish regency government asking for Arbella to be given her inheritance but nothing came of it. Over the years, Lady Arbella referred to her lost lands on many occassions but she was never formally granted the title of Countess of Lennox. 

In addition, Arbella was due inheritance from her paternal grandmother, Lady Lennox – jewels set with a diamond, a ruby and an emerald with a great pearl.  However, more misfortune was set her way. The entrusted guardian of Lady Lennox who should have handed the jewels over to Arbella failed to do so. Instead, the steward fled to Scotland where the jewels ended up with King James himself!

After the passing of her father, Arbella was raised by her mother, Elizabeth Cavendish, Countess of Lennox. Unfortunately, her mother passed away as well in 1582, leaving Arbella an orphan at the very young age of just seven. She became the ward of her maternal grandmother, Elizabeth Hardwick, better known as the formidable “Bess of Hardwick” and went to live in Hardwick Hall.

Lady Arbella Stuart at Hardwick Hall

Within the protection of Hardwick Hall, Arbella received education fit for a princess. Proving herself as an able pupil, Arbella learnt philosophy, became an accomplished musician, and was fluent in Latin, Greek, French, Italian and Spanish. She visited London and the royal court periodically in the summers of 1587 and 1588. There was one visit that lasted from November 1591 to July 1592.

She impressed Queen Elizabeth on her first visit and the Queen was noted as saying the twelve-year old Arbella may one day be Queen of England. However, with the execution of Arbella’s aunt, Mary, Queen of Scots and the possibility of the Spanish Armada, Arbella returned to the relative safety and protective isolation of Hardwick Hall in Derbyshire.

Bess of Hardwick | Hardwick Hall | Lady Arbella Stuart
Bess of Hardwick | National Trust Images/John Hammond

The ensuing years were frustrating ones for Arbella. As her grandmother spent her time designing and building Hardwick fit for a queen, Arbella felt increasingly isolated. Often talked of as being a suitable bride but she never came close to marriage, thereby prompting her to plot her own marriage. Stories of Arbella and her affairs circulated widely, so much so that in winter 1602-1603 the Queen herself sent her trusted courtier, Sir Henry Brounker to Hardwick to investigate the matter. Bess pleaded with the Queen to let Arbella leave but Elizabeth disagreed. The Queen ordered Arbella to remain at Hardwick and never to marry.

Lady Arbella Stuart – the uncrowned queen

Lady Arbella Stuart
Lady Arbella Stuart

The years preceding 1592, Arbella was considered the natural successor to the throne upon the death of Queen Elizabeth I. She was, after-all born in England and a direct descendant of Henry VII. She was fourth-in-line to the throne and had a better claim to be the crowned queen of the English throne than her cousin, James VI of Scotland. However, this was not to be.

From the end of 1592 and sometime spring of 1593, attention was diverted towards James VI of Scotland as being the preferred heir to the throne. The most influential people, namely the Queen’s Lord Treasurer, Lord Burghley and his son, Secretary of State, Sir Robert Cecil played a key role in this respect.

Soon thereafter, Queen Elizabeth I died. Lady Arbella’s cousin, James VI of Scotland became King James I of England, unifying Scotland, England and Ireland under one monarch, officially known as the Union of the Crowns on March 24 1603.

In May, Arbella was invited to the royal court in London to meet her cousin for the first time.

In November of 1603, there was a Main Plot, conspired by English courtiers and funded by the Spanish government to overthrow King James I and to replace him with Lady Arbella Stuart. The conspirators invited Arbella to participate and obtained her consent in writing to Philip III of Spain. However, Arbella reported the matter to King James I immediately.

Arbella was well received at the royal court of King James I. Arbella became state governess to Princess Elizabeth, eldest daughter of James I and later in 1605, godmother to Princess Mary.

Lady Arbella Stuart and her marriage

Arbella never suppressed her desire to marry. In 1610, she married William Seymour, known as Lord Beauchamp, later Duke of Somerset from the prominent Seymour family, who themselves had a claim to the throne.

William Seymour was sixth-in-line to the throne. He was the grandson of Lady Katherine Grey, granddaughter of Mary Tudor, the younger sister of Henry VIII.

James I had wondered whether the marriage between Arbella and William was a prelude to an attempt to overthrow him as King.

Arbella and William married in secret, on June 22, 1610 at Greenwich Palace, without the permission of the King.

Royal Warrant of Arrest

Arrest warrant of Arbella and William Seymour
Free media Wikimedia Commons

Within days, the secret was out and for marrying without the King’s permission, a royal warrant was issued for the arrest of Arbella, Lady Beauchamp and Lord Beauchamp.

William was arrested and brought to the Tower of London and Arbella placed on house-arrest in Sir Thomas Perry’s house in Lambeth. The couple had some liberty within the buildings and Arbella corresponded with William through letters. When James I learned of the letters, he immediately ordered for Arbella to be transferred to Durham, to the custody of Bishop of Durham far away from her husband, William Lord Beauchamp in the Tower. Arbella claimed to be pregnant (but she was not), so her departure was delayed.

Arbella and William’s plot to escape

The delay in Arbella’s departure to Durham gave the couple time to plot their escape. They agreed to meet at Lee, Kent to sail to France.

 Early in June, dressed as a man, Arbella slipped out of her lodgings and made it to Lee, but William Lord Beauchamp did not meet her there. She boarded the getaway ship to France without her husband.

William did escape from the Tower and made it to Lee but Arbella had already set sail. He caught the next ship to Flanders.

The alarm had now been raised, and the King gave orders to search for and capture Arbella and William. Arbella’s ship was overtaken by the King’s men just before reaching Calais, France. They boarded the ship, arrested Arbella and brought her back to London. She was imprisoned in the Tower. Arbella never saw her husband again.

Lady Arbella Stuart | Lady Beauchamp final days

Arbella only sought freedom to live with her husband but she was kept in closed confinement in the Tower. She was never charged with a crime.

During 1612 and 1613, Arbella’s health deteriorated but she hoped to gain sympathy from her cousin, James I. She wanted to attend the wedding of Princess Elizabeth and went as far as ordering an elaborate dress and matching jewels for the wedding but she was not invited.

It appears that by 1614, Arbella had given up all hope of freedom and by autumn of the same year, she took ill and refused all medical attention. Her health deteriorated, and she died on September 25, 1615 at the young age of 39 in the Tower of London.

Lady Arbella Stuart – her funeral

Lady Arbella Stuart was refused a royal funeral and denied a ceremony by her cousin, King James I. She was placed in the vault of her aunt, Mary Queen of Scots in Westminster Abbey.

A visit to Westminster Abbey, you will find the vault beneath the south aisle of Henry VII’s chapel.  In the 19th century a small grey stone was put in between the tombs of Mary Queen of Scots and Arbella’s grandmother Margaret, Countess of Lennox, recording burials in the vault. This gives her name and year of burial only. She has no other memorial.

Conclusion

…as she lay, yearning for her freedom, reflecting on her life that would have been, if only…

Born of royal blood and in England, with a better claim to the throne than her cousin James VI, Arbella fell foul of the very same cousin whom she helped protect from the conspiracies of the Main Plot and the Spanish government when he became King of England. She ended her days despairing in the Tower of London.

One wonders…if only she had succeeded Elizabeth I and became Queen of England, the course of history might be so very different – would the Union of the Crowns had taken place? The lines of succession of monarchs would also have been different.

The story of Lady Arbella Stuart is a sad one – another royal caught up in the politics and conspiracies of the day, but one deserving to be remembered, not Forgotten as she was the Uncrowned Queen of England.


Over one hundred letters written by Lady Arbella Stuart were found and some of these were published in 1993.

Resources:

National Trust UK

Sarah Gristwood, Arbella: England’s Lost Queen, Bantam 2003

David N. Durant, Arbella Stuart: A Rival to the Queen, 1978

P.M Handover, Arbella Stuart: Royal Lady of Hardwick, 1957


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Tower of London is a fascinating landmark in the heart of the city that attracts millions of visitors a year but we are living in uncertain times these days. As means to keep you informed with inspiring stories of the iconic Tower, “What goes on in the Tower of London” brings together a set of TV series by the Historic Royal Palaces for you to view at your leisure – hear the stories on what goes on in the Tower from the very people who live, manage and are the heartbeat of the traditions at this magnificent Tower of London.

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The Boleyn Family | Who were they and What happened to them after Anne’s death

The Boleyn Family

The Boleyn Family

The Boleyn family was one of the most respected and prominent family in English aristocracy. They reached the peak of their influence during Tudor rule when Anne Boleyn, the daughter to Thomas Boleyn and Elizabeth Howard became the second wife, Queen consort to King Henry VIII in 1533. Then in 1536, an incomprehensible tragedy fell upon them. The Boleyn family were almost destroyed! Two members of the family had their lives put to death and three fundamentally damaged.

This is their story.

This article on the Boleyn Family forms part of a series of articles on the History of Britain as an easy read on Sundays

The Boleyn Family - What happened to them after Anne's death

May 19, 1536

In 1536, on the morning of May 19, a young courageous woman, dressed in a black robe and a white ermine trim was taken to the scaffold in Tower Green that was specially built for her. She was mercilessly executed by a single swipe of a sword by a skilled French swordsman on charges of adultery, incest, treason and witchcraft. She was not even given a coffin. She was wrapped in a white cloth, placed in an old elm chest, and buried at the Tower Chapel Royal of St Peter ad Vincula.

This woman was Anne Boleyn.

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Anne Boleyn | The Boleyn Family

“Anna Bollein Queen” by Hans Holbein

Anne Boleyn was one of the three surviving children of Thomas Boleyn, 1st Earl of Wiltshire, and 1st Earl of Ormonde and Elizabeth Howard, daughter of Thomas Howard, the 2nd Duke of Norfolk. Her siblings were Mary, older to Anne and George, her younger brother. Anne is said to be an intelligent, witty, proud and a principled individual.

Anne Boleyn | Early years and Education

Anne spent her early years at Hever Castle, the Boleyns family home before she went to Netherlands and France. Anne received good education, typical for woman of her status. She spoke French fluently and she dressed well, bringing French fashion to the English court. She also learnt music, dance and singing along with archery, horseback riding and hunting.

Recommended read: The Magnificent Hever Castle | Anne Boleyn’s Childhood Home

Anne Boleyn | Marriage

Anne Boleyn married King Henry VIII officially on June 1 1933 in an elaborate ceremony followed by a banquet and became queen consort. She was pregnant at that time and gave birth to Elizabeth on September 7 1533. Elizabeth would later inherit the throne and become Queen Elizabeth I. However, Henry desperately wanted a male heir, and he soon fell for Jane Seymour, Anne’s cousin.

Anne Boleyn | Charges, Trial and Execution

In May of 1536, Anne was arrested, charged with incest, adultery with four men, treason and witchcraft. She was taken to the Tower of London to await her trial. The charges were instigated by her former friend, Thomas Cromwell. These charges sat well with the King also as he wanted to be rid of Anne as well. Anne was found guilty on all counts at a trial held on May 15 1536.

Read the full story here – Anne Boleyn | The most magnificent of Tudor Queens.

Thomas Boleyn | 1st Earl of Wiltshire, 1st Earl of Ormonde (1477-1539)

Thomas Boleyn | Wikidata

Thomas Boleyn was an English nobleman, a diplomat and a politician. He was made Knight of the Garter in 1523, Viscount Rochford in 1525 and Earl of Wiltshire and Earl of Ormond in 1529. Father to Anne Boleyn (r. 1533-1536) and maternal grandfather to Queen Elizabeth I (r. 1558-1603).

Born in 1477 at Blickling Manor in Norfolk, Thomas Boleyn was the son of Sir William Boleyn (1451-1505) of Blickling and Lady Margaret Butler (1454-1539), daughter of Thomas Butler, 7th Earl of Ormond.

Blickling was owned by Sir William’s father, Sir Geoffrey Boleyn a wealthy London merchant who served as Lord Mayor of London. He purchased the manor of Blickling, Norfolk in 1452 from Sir John Fastolf. He also came to own Hever Castle in Kent in 1462.

Thomas Boleyn | Career and Marriage

Thomas was an ambitious man who was a successful diplomat and courtier. He was active in the court of Henry VII and in 1503, he escorted Princess Margaret Tudor to Scotland to marry King James IV.

He married Lady Elizabeth Howard, eldest daughter of Thomas Howard, 2nd Duke of Norfolk, and they had three surviving children:

Mary Boleyn (c.1499 – July 19 1543)

Anne Boleyn (c.1501 – May 19 1536)

George Boleyn, Viscount Rochford (c.1504 – 17 May 1536).

Thomas Boleyn was said to be a loving father, who had grand ambitions for his children. He ensured each received excellent education, both languages and skills, while he continued to build his reputation at court. While he was an ambassador to the Netherlands, he secured a position for his daughter, Anne at the court of the Archduchess Margaret of Austria.

Later, in 1514, he secured a position for both his daughters to accompany Princess Mary, Henry VIII’s sister to France for her marriage to 52 year old King Louis XII.

Thomas Boleyn | What happened after Anne’s Execution

After the execution of his children, Anne and George in 1536, he was stripped of his titles and removed from royal favour. However, it is said that he was soon back in favour in the royal court. He was active in squashing the rebellion of the Pilgrimage of Grace in 1536. He was invited to Edward VI’s christening in October 1537. By 1538, he was rumoured to marry Margaret Douglas, niece to Henry VIII. When he died, Henry VIII ordered masses to be said for his soul, clear evidence that Thomas Boleyn was back in favour.

Recommended read: Ghosts of Blickling Hall, Norfolk

Thomas Boleyn | Final days

Before his death, Thomas Boleyn appears to have taken steps to reconcile with his only surviving daughter, Mary Boleyn. He allowed Mary and her husband to live in Rochford Hall in Essex, and upon his death, he left the Rochford estate to Mary.

Thomas Boleyn, Earl of Wiltshire died on March 12 1539 at Hever Castle – just under three years after the death of his daughter, Anne and his son, George.

An elaborate memorial brass to Sir Thomas Boleyn at St Peter’s Church, Hever | Photo: Free stock images.

He was laid to rest at St Peter’s Church, Hever. Topped with an elaborate memorial brass depicting Thomas dressed in robe and insignia of a Knight of the Garter, a badge on his left breast and a garter around his left knee. The inscription on his tomb reads:

“Here lieth Sir Thomas Bullen, Knight of the Order of the Garter, Erle of Wilscher and Erle or Ormunde, which deceased the 12th dai of Marche in the iere of our Lorde 1538”

His tomb still survives today.

Note: the date of death is 1538 because the Tudor calendar started on March 25, and not January 1.

St Peter’s Church dates back to 12th century and is open daily throughout the year. Worship has been held here for over 875 years with Sunday services said in Traditional Language.

St Peter’s Church is located next to Hever Castle, in the heart of Hever, Kent.

Elizabeth Howard Boleyn, Countess of Wiltshire (1486-1538)

Believed to be Elizabeth Howard Boleyn

Elizabeth Boleyn, Countess of Wiltshire was an English noblewoman, born in Arundel Castle, Sussex, the eldest daughter to Thomas Howard, 2nd Duke of Norfolk and his first wife, Elizabeth Tilney. She was a direct descendant of King Edward I of England. Mother to Mary, Anne, George and maternal grandmother to Queen Elizabeth I. She is said to be of proud and ambitious in character.

Elizabeth Howard Boleyn | Relationship with her children

Not much is known of Elizabeth Boleyn except that she was a lady-in-waiting to Elizabeth of York, the mother of King Henry VIII. When Henry VIII was crowned King of England, she was again appointed lady-in-waiting to his queen, Catherine of Aragon.

Elizabeth Boleyn’s relationship with her daughter Mary, was a strained one, probably because of Mary’s unchaste behaviour. In contrast, her relationship with daughter Anne, is said to be a positive one. They shared a special bond and Elizabeth took an interest in Anne’s early education when they were at Hever Castle. Anne was taught music, singing, and dancing. Anne also became an expert at embroidery and enjoyed poetry under her mother’s guidance.

Elizabeth was a regular at court and acted as a chaperone to Anne and Henry during their courtship. She was present at her daughter’s coronation ceremony in 1533 and possibly rode in the first carriage with the Dowager Duchess, Anne’s step-grandmother (Ives, p. 177).

When Anne was taken to the Tower of London to await her trial, she was heard to exclaim, “Oh, my mother, thou wilt die with sorrow” (Weir, p. 317-319).

After the execution of her children, Anne and George, on charges of incest and treason, Elizabeth and her husband retired to Hever Castle.

Elizabeth Howard Boleyn | Her final days

Elizabeth died on April 3 1538. She is said to have suffered from a cough and cold, but it is believed she died of a broken heart. After Mary Boleyn’s disgrace and banishment from court, losing her children, Anne and George by execution for treason and incest, her husband striped off of his titles, it is more likely that she may have died of a broken heart. She died in a property near Baynard’s Castle, home to the Abbot of Reading. She was buried in the Howard aisle of St Mary’s Church, Lambeth on April 7 1538.

St Mary’s Church located next to Lambeth Palace, was decommissioned in 1972. It is now called the Garden Museum which re-opened in 2017.

The Garden Museum dates from the medieval era to present day. The Garden Museum was founded by Rosemary and John Nicholson in 1977 in order to rescue the abandoned church of St Mary’s at Lambeth, which was due for demolition. The church is the burial place of John Tradescant (c1570 – 1638), the first great gardener and plant-hunter in British history. His magnificent and enigmatic tomb is the centre-piece of the Sackler Garden, designed to reflect Tradescant’s life and spirit.

Garden Museum

Address: 5 Lambeth Palace Rd, South Bank, London SE1 7LB

Elizabeth’s grave is not visible. It is under the wooden floor of the museum gift shop. The exact location is uncertain also as the memorial brass which marked the spot is now lost.

Mary Boleyn | Lady Mary Boleyn (c.1499-1543)

Mary Boleyn

Mary Boleyn was the older sister to Anne Boleyn, King Henry VIII Queen consort.

Mary Boleyn | Education and Career

She was likely to have been educated alongside her sister, Anne and her brother, George at Hever Castle, Kent and given the education essential for young ladies of her rank and status. She was accomplished in dancing, embroidery, etiquette, household management, music, needlework, and singing along with games of chess, archery, falconry, riding and hunting.

Mary remained in England for most of her childhood. Her first trip abroad was in 1514 when she accompanied Princess Mary to France who was marrying King Louis XII. When King Louis XII died just three days after being married, most of the Queen’s maids were sent away but Mary remained.

Mary is said to have had an affair with King Francis I of France for some period between 1515 and 1519. She returned to England thereafter and was appointed lady-in-waiting to Catherine of Aragon, queen consort to Henry VIII.

She was one of Henry’s mistresses for a period of time before Henry fell in love with her sister, Anne.

Mary Boleyn | Marriage and Children

As a way to concealing Mary’s affair with King Henry VIII, and her shameful banishment from France’s court, she was married off to William Carey, a gentleman of the Privy Chamber. Mary and William had a son, Henry Carey. However, William sadly contracted the ‘sweating disease’ and died, leaving Mary with considerable debt. Henry VIII granted Anne Boleyn ward-ship of her nephew, whom she ensured was educated at a Catholic monastery. Anne also ensured that Mary received an annual pension.

In 1534, Mary secretly married William Stafford, a soldier, a status considered to be far below her own. When her marriage was discovered, her family disowned her and was also banished from the royal court. Her financial circumstances became desperate but is reported she admittedly saying:

“I had rather beg my bread with him than to be the greatest queen in Christendom. And I believe verily…he would not forsake me to be a king”

Anne stepped in to help her with some money but did not reinstate her to the court. This seems to be the closest they came to reconciling after Mary’s exile from the king’s court. There are no records of Mary between 1534 and Anne’s execution in 1536, or any records of visits with her parents or her siblings when they were imprisoned.

Mary and her father, Thomas Boleyn reconciled to some extent before he passed. Mary inherited the Rochford Hall and the Rochford Estate in Essex. .

Mary Boleyn is recorded to have four children, two carrying the name Carey and two by her second marriage, Stafford.

Catherine Carey (1524-1569) was lady-in-waiting to Anne of Cleves and Catherine Howard. Married Sir Francis Knollys, Knight of the Garter in 1540. She became lady of bedchamber to her cousin, Queen Elizabeth I. Her daughter, Lettice Knollys, was second wife to Robert Dudley, 1st Earl of Leicester, a favourite of Queen Elizabeth I.

Henry Carey 1st Baron Hunsdon (1526-1596), Knight of the Garter. Married to Anne Morgan and they had sixteen children. Anne Morgan was appointed to the office of Keeper of Somerset House, by Queen Elizabeth I of England.

Edward Stafford (1535-1545)

Anne Stafford (1536-unknown)

It was rumoured that Catherine Carey and Henry Carey were Henry VIII children, but there is no evidence to suggest that the King was the biological father.

Mary Boleyn Stafford | Final days

Mary Boleyn Stafford died of unknown causes on either on July 19 or July 30 1543 – the exact date is unknown. She is known to have spent her last days at Rochford Hall. However, her final resting place is unknown and remains a mystery.

George Boleyn | 2nd Viscount Rochford (c.1503-May 17 1536)

Possibly George Boleyn | Wikidata

An English nobleman and courtier, he played a prominent role in politics in the early 1530s. He is said to be intelligent, persuasive, proud and arrogant in character. He was accused of incest with his sister, Anne Boleyn, queen consort of Henry VIII. He was beheaded on May 17 1536.

Only son of Thomas Boleyn and his wife, Elizabeth Howard Boleyn, George Boleyn was born in Blickling Hall circa 1503. His first couple of years was spent at Blickling estate, but the Boleyn family moved to Hever Castle, Kent in 1505 when Thomas Boleyn inherited the castle from his father, Sir William Boleyn.

George Boleyn | Education, Career Marriage

George received excellent education. Along with his sisters, he spoke French fluently. He also mastered Italian and Latin. George is thought to have stayed in England for most of his early years.

George’s diplomatic career took off in late 1529 when he was knighted. He undertook the courtesy title of Viscount Rochford. At the young age of 25, he undertook his first ambassadorial mission to France. In total, he undertook six missions, with the final being in May 1935 where he negotiated a marriage contract between the King of France’s third son, Charles II of Orleans and his niece, baby Princess Elizabeth. In addition to his diplomatic skills, George was much admired for his linguistic and poetic talent.

George married Jane Parker in 1524. There are not much information on Jane or if they had any children but it is thought that Jane may have played a role in the judgments against George.

George Boleyn | Charges, Trial and Execution

On May 2 1536, George was arrested on charges of incest and treason and stood trial on May 15 1536. Anne was tried a few hours before George and was found guilty. As Anne was found guilty of incest, amongst other charges, before George, he could hardly be acquitted. According to trial papers, George is said to have put forward an incredible defence and many thought that he would be acquitted. There was no evidence of incest and George was convicted on a presumption.

On the morning of May 17, 1536, George along with the other four who were accused to have adulterous affairs with Anne Boleyn, were led to Tower Hill scaffold to be beheaded. George Boleyn was the first to be beheaded.

George Boleyn | Final speech

On the scaffold, George delivered a lengthy speech. Several versions of this speech exist and the following is appended from Chronicles of Calais, taken from Weir, p243.

Christian men, I am born under the law and judged under the law, and die under the law, and the law has condemned me. Masters all, I am not come hither for to preach, but for to die, for I have deserved to die if I had twenty lives, more shamefully than can be devised, for I am a wretched sinner, and I have sinned shamefully. I have known no man so evil, and to rehearse my sins openly, it were no pleasure to you to hear them, nor yet for me to rehearse them, for God knoweth all. Therefore, masters all, I pray you take heed by me, and especially my lords and gentlemen of the court, the which I have been among, take heed by me and beware of such a fall, and I pray to God the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost, three persons and one God, that my death may be an example unto you all. And beware, trust not in the vanity of the world, and especially in the flattering of the court. And I cry God mercy, and ask all the world forgiveness of God. And if I have offended any man that is not here now, either in thought, word or deed, and if ye hear any such, I pray you heartily in my behalf, pray them to forgive me for God’s sake. And yet, my masters all, I have one thing for to say to you: men do common and say that I have been a setter forth of the Word of God, and one that have favoured the Gospel of Christ; and because I would not that God’s word should be slandered by me, I say unto you all, that if I had followed God’s word in deed as I did read it and set it forth to my power, I had not come to this. If I had, I had been a liv[ing] man among you. Therefore I pray you, masters all, for God’s sake stick to the truth and follow it, for one good follower is worth three readers, as God knoweth.  

Weir, p243

George Boleyn endured three strokes of the axe before his head was completely severed. He is buried in the Tower Chapel Royal of St Peter ad Vincula.

As brave as he might have been on that scaffold, it is difficult to imagine what George would have gone through – a young, successful, happy, proud and arrogant English nobleman reduced a criminal in a matter of days for crimes he did not commit. Much worse were what the other four ordinary men went through watching George being beheaded while awaiting their turn. Their mutilated bodies, striped off their clothes, loaded onto a cart and taken to their graves.

May George Boleyn along with Norris, Weston, Brereton and Smeaton are now rest in peace, far away from the earthly injustice bestowed upon them.

Thoughts…on the Boleyn Family

In less than eight years since Anne Boleyn became Queen of England and Ireland, bringing with it the influence, the success, wealth and the ennoblement that Thomas Boleyn sought and enjoyed, the Boleyn family were virtually destroyed. None of the immediate family exist. The gruesome beheading, the lost of Anne Boleyn and George Boleyn must have broken Elizabeth who died less than two years later. As for Thomas Boleyn, who although returned to court, he too would have been a broken man having lost his entire family except for Mary who was estranged, and herself passed about four years later.

Recommended read: Anne Boleyn – Britain’s most well travelled ghost

Are there any survivors of the Boleyn family around today?

The Boleyn Family
The Boleyn Family | Coats of Arms

The short answer is, YES! The Boleyn lineage continued under a different surname, inherited through marriages etc. Below is what I found out, with a brief look at how it all began with the Boleyns and how they may be around today.

The Boleyns are said to be the direct descendants of Charles the Great (Charles I) who was the King of the Franks in 768 AD and King of the Lombards in 774. He was also King of the Romans in 800.

For the Boleyns, it all began with Sir Geoffrey Boleyn (1406-1453) who was a successful merchant in London. He became the Lord Mayor of London and purchased the Blickling Estate in Norfolk in 1452 and Hever Castle in 1462.

Sir Geoffrey’s son, William Boleyn followed in his father’s footsteps. He was a successful merchant and Lord Mayor of London. Sir William Boleyn (1451-1505) married Lady Margaret Butler and they had three children – Anne, Thomas and James.

Thomas Boleyn, son to Sir William and Lady Margaret, 1st Earl of Wiltshire, 1st Earl of Ormonde married Elizabeth Howard and they had three surviving children, Mary, Anne and George, whose fate, we already know.

George Boleyn married Jane Parker and there are no evidence that they had any children.

Anne Boleyn married King Henry VIII and they had one child, Elizabeth. Elizabeth went on to inherit the throne in 1558 to become Queen Elizabeth I, Queen of England and Ireland. She did not marry and did not have any children. She was queen until her death, on March 24, 1603.

Mary Boleyn married twice, and had two children with each of her marriage.

Mary’s first marriage was to William Carey in 1520 and they had two children, Catherine Carey, Lady Knollys and Henry Carey, 1st Baron of Hunsdon. Mary’s second marriage was to William Stafford in 1534 and they had two children, Anne Stafford and Edward Stafford. Unfortunately, both of the Stafford children passed at a very young age. This means, the only surviving children were the Careys.

Catherine Carey, married Sir Francis Knollys in 1540 and they had fourteen children. Henry Carey married Anne Morgan and they had sixteen children.

The Boleyn lineage – where are the Boleyns now

So, there you have it! It is likely that the Boleyn lineage is still out there through the Careys or some other surnames through marriage. Just so you know, on the anniversary of Anne Boleyn’s death each year, the Chapel of St Peter ad Vincula Royal Chapel in the Tower of London where Anne Boleyn was finally laid to rest receives a bouquet of flowers sent anonymously. This tradition has been carried on for a century. Make of it what you will – is it from a Boleyn out there or could it be just a kind soul paying tribute to a queen who was so wronged by the society she lived in.

Recommended read: The Boleyn Lineage – find out how the present royal family are the direct descendants of the Boleyn.


Reader contribution:

September 8, 2021- A reader, Andrea has kindly contributed the following information. You can find Andrea’s comment and my response to Andrea’s comment by scrolling down to comments.

“Both the Queen and Queen Mother are/were direct descendants of Mary Boleyn through one of the Carey siblings. Have you seen the BBC documentary the Boleyns: a scandalous family?”


August 9, 2021 – A reader has kindly written in with the following comment which I share here:

“The earlier spelling of the surname was Bullen. This is still a surname found in Norfolk and Suffolk.” – Daniel Morgan

You can find this comment and my response to Daniel Morgan if you scroll down to comments.


Read my latest article on the Boleyn lineage

The Boleyn Lineage

History of Britain

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As you may already know, the history of Britain is fascinating, intriguing and there is still so much we would love to know. These historical information adds value to our visits to some of the castles and historic buildings that still stands. As well, there are numerous authors who have written on the many aspects of our history which gives us a number of versions to ponder upon. The dates and some events may lack precise accuracy due to lack of documentary evidence. One such example, as we have seen with Anne Boleyn, where all her portraits and memorabilia were destroyed. It was illegal to own any during the reign of King Henry VIII.

In writing this article on the Boleyn family, as well as all related articles to Anne Boleyn, I have used the resources listed below in my research to ensure the information contained herein is as accurate as it can possibly be. There is a further careful selection of books written on the Boleyn which you may find interesting by navigating here.

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Finally on the Boleyn Family

I sincerely hope that this article has been valuable to you in knowing more on the history of Britain and enhance your visits to Tower of London, Hever Castle, Blickling Estate in Norfolk, Hampton Court Palace and more. Subscribe now, so you are the first to know of the latest on Timeless Travel Steps.

Georgina xx

The Boleyn Family | Coats of Arms
Coats of Arms of the Boleyn Family | Founded 1283 by John Boleyn. Dissolution in 1539 upon death of Thomas Boleyn

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The Boleyn Family - What happened to them after Anne's death
The Boleyn Family

RESOURCES

Bruce, M. L. Anne Boleyn, 1982.

Fraser, A. The Six Wives of Henry VIII, 1992.

Ives, E. The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn, 2004.

Starkey, D. Six Wives: The Queens of Henry VIII, 2003.

Warnicke, R. The Rise and Fall of Anne Boleyn, 1989.

Weir, A. The Six Wives of Henry VIII, 2007.

Wilkinson, J. Mary Boleyn: The True Story of Henry VIII’s Favourite Mistress, 2009.Mary Boleyn: The Mistress of Kings by Alison Weir (2011)

The Mistresses of Henry VIII by Kelly Hart (2009)

Mary Boleyn: The True Story of Henry VIII’s Mistress by Josephine Wilkinson (2010

Wikipedia

annebolyenfiles


The Boleyn Family | Who were they and What happened to them after Anne’s death first published at timelesstravelsteps.com and is regularly updated. Last update: September 21, 2021

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The Boleyn family was one of the most respected and prominent family in English aristocracy. Find out what happened to them via @GGeorgina_timelesstravelsteps/The Boleyn family was one of the most respected and prominent family in English aristocracy. Find out what happened to them via @GGeorgina_timelesstravelsteps/

Anne Boleyn The Most Magnetic and Enduring of Tudor Queens

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 | The most fascinating of Tudor Queens
Portrait of Anne Boleyn (1507-1536), 2nd wife of King Henry VIII/Unknown Artist, England, 16th century/NGI.549

Anne Boleyn’s Early Days

Blickling Hall, Norfolk as it stands today, built on the ruins of the old Blickling Manor, home of the Boleyns | wikimedia.

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.

Hever Castle, Kent

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 | r. 1533-1536 | Hever Castle

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.

Anne Boleyn

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 of Aragon | biography

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.”

Leviticus 20:21

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.

Queen Elizabeth I | Three portrait slant | Royal Museum Greenwich

Anne Boleyn | The most magnetic and enduring of Tudor Queens as Queen of England

Anne Boleyn | Hever Castle
Anne Boleyn | Hever Castle

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

Charges

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” 

Jones, 178

Trial

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.

Jones, 180

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.

Execution

Execution of Anne Boleyn | An artist impression | History

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

Chapel Royal of St Peter ad Vincula, Tower of London
Chapel Royal of St Peter ad Vincula, Tower of London | Georgina_Daniel

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.

Anne Boleyn | The most fascinating of Tudor Queens
“The Moost Happi Medal” of Anne Boleyn at the British Museum

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

Queen Elizabeth I | r. 1558-1603 | royal.uk

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.

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.

Anne Boleyn


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

The Other Boleyn Girl

Anne of the Thousand Days

Henry VIII & Anne Boleyn

Watch ‘The Tudors’ tv series on Amazon Prime. Click here

Alternatively, you may wish to purchase the following books:

Anne Boleyn: 500 years of Lies

The Anne Boleyn Papers

Anne Boleyn: Fatal Attraction


More stories related to the History of Britain

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Resources used in this research

Jones, Nigel. Tower. Griffin, 2013.

Phillips, Charles. The Complete Illustrated Guide to the Kings & Queens of Britain. Lorenz Books, 2006.

Turvey, Roger. The Early Tudors. Hodder Education, 2020.

Cannon, John. The Kings and Queens of Britain. Oxford University Press, 2009.

Ives, Eric; The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn
National Portrait Gallery of Ireland

annboleynfiles

Even after 500 years the name Anne Boleyn commands attention and research making her the most magnetic and enduring of Tudor Queens. Read her story | Anne Boleyn | History of Britain | Tudor Queen | Tower of London | via @GGeorgina_timelesstravelsteps/Even after 500 years the name Anne Boleyn commands attention and research making her the most magnetic and enduring of Tudor Queens. Read her story | Anne Boleyn | History of Britain | Tudor Queen | Tower of London | via @GGeorgina_timelesstravelsteps/

Guy Fawkes and 5th of November

Guy Fawkes and 5th of November

Guy Fawkes and 5th of November is a popular story in the history of England. Known also as Guido Fawkes, he was born and educated in York, England. His father died when he was eight years old and his mother married a devout Catholic.

As an adult, he was a British soldier but during the increased oppression of Catholics in England, Guy joined a group of provincial Catholics in England to protest against the Crown.

Guy Fawkes and 5th of November

Guy Fawkes and 5th of November
Bonfire Night, a popular event in England

The conspiracy to blow-up Parliament became famously known as the Gunpowder Plot. The very night the plot was foiled, on November 5th, 1605, bonfires were set alight to celebrate the safety of the King. Since then, November 5th has become known as Bonfire Night.

To commemorate the failure of Guy Fawkes, Bonfire Night in the UK is celebrated with fireworks and burning effigies of Guy Fawkes on a bonfire. As it is celebrated outdoors, there are soups, sausages, baked potatoes and the traditional Parkin cake available. Parkin Cake, is a sticky cake containing a mix of oatmeal, ginger, treacle and syrup.

Guy Fawkes (April 13 1570 – January 31 1606)

Learn more on the Tower of London and the stories behind the walls of the fortress.

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Guy Fawkes and 5th of November first published at timelesstravelsteps.com and is regularly updated. Last update September 22, 2021

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