Posts Tagged ‘Anne Boleyn’

Halfway there! On May 30, 1536, Henry VIII married his third wife, Jane Seymour, a mere 13 days after the execution of Anne Boleyn on trumped-up charges of adultery, treason, and incest. Oh, Henry. You were such an asshole.

Jane was no stranger to the court, having served as a maid-of-honour to both Katherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn. Henry began paying her attention when she was serving Anne, which brought the volatile queen’s wrath down on the young woman’s head. Probably why Jane didn’t have any problem marrying Anne’s husband so soon after her death

Henry and Jane were married at the Palace of Whitehall and she was proclaimed queen on the 4 June. She was strict, formal, and adhered to the notions of good housewifery of the day, adopting the motto “Bound to obey and serve.” Jane only attempted to meddle in affairs of state once, when she asked Henry to pardon the leaders of the Pilgrimage of Grace. Henry refused and, classy guy that he was, reminded her of the fate of her two predecessors. Message received; Jane stayed silent and instead applied herself to bringing Henry’s eldest daughter, Princess Mary, back into favor.

Early in 1537, Jane became pregnant and gave birth to the son Henry wanted so badly on 12 October. Sadly, she died 12 days later of a fever brought on by an infection. She was buried in St. George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle, with Mary acting as chief mourner at the funeral. Henry refused to remarry for three years and when he died, he was buried beside her.

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This Week’s Question:

What popular children’s nursery rhyme was first published on this day in 1830?

Last Week’s Question:

Viscount Rochford and four other men were executed on this day in 1536. What was their crime?

Answer: Viscount Rochford, Sir Henry Norris, Sir Francis Weston, Sir William Brereton, and Mark Smeaton were all executed for treason—specifically, for allegedly sleeping with Rochford’s sister, Anne Boleyn. In reality, it’s unlikely Anne was ever unfaithful; the charges were cooked up (possibly by Cromwell, who’d eventually get some serious karmic comeuppance for it) so Henry could remarry and father a son. Anne followed them to the scaffold on May 19, 1536.

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Thomas Wolsey, a cardinal who was named Lord Chancellor under Henry VIII, became the subject of the children’s rhyme Humpty Dumpty when he suffered a “great fall” in 1530. His descent ended on November 29 when he died on his way to prison.

Wolsey is thought to have been a spectacular example of social climbing: he was born around 1473 to Robert Wolsey, who may have been a fairly well off cloth merchant (not a butcher, as later tales would have it). Thomas was educated at Ipswitch School, Magdalen College School, and Magdalen College, Oxford, where he studied theology. He was ordained a priest in March 1498 and served as Master of Magdalen College School before being named dean of divinity.

In 1502, Wolsey became a chaplain to the archbishop of Canterbury, who died shortly after. He then joined the household of Sir Richard Nanfan, and after Sir Richard died, Wolsey entered the service of Henry VII as royal chaplain. Wolsey rose quickly within the royal household, being named Almoner (a post that gave him a seat on the Privy Council) by Henry VIII shortly after he came to the throne in 1509. Wolsey backed the young king in his desire to go to war with France, earning Henry’s gratitude and gaining the post of Lord Chancellor in 1515. As he gained secular power, he also gained prominence in the church, becoming Bishop of Lincoln and then Archbishop of York in 1514, then receiving the cardinal’s hat in 1515.

Wolsey probably would have continued being a friend of the king and would have died a rich and respected old man, but then Henry decided he wanted a divorce, and it was Wolsey’s job to get it for him. Suddenly, Wolsey’s whole life was wrapped up in the “Great Matter”, and it didn’t matter how well he’d served the king in the past. It also didn’t help that he didn’t get along with Anne Boleyn, who blamed him for breaking up her romance with Henry Percy and set out to undermine him with the king.

Wolsey did his best to appeal to the Pope to grant Henry his divorce, or to at least allow the case to be heard in England, where Wolsey, as Papa Legate, could oversee (and influence) the proceedings. The Pope dispatched Cardinal Campeggio to hear the case alongside Wolsey, who got a little overconfident that victory was his. Campeggio took his time arriving in England, however, and infuriated Henry by holding up the proceedings. Henry took out his rage on the nearest target: Wolsey.

With Anne and her family against him, Wolsey didn’t stand a chance, especially once Campeggio weasled out of the hearing and decided the matter could only be settled in Rome. Enraged, Henry stripped Wolsey of his government office and property, which included the recently completed Hampton Court. Soon after, Wolsey was accused of treason and was ordered to go to London. He set out with his personal chaplain, but fell ill and died along the way at the age of 60. “If I had served my God as diligently as I did my king, He would not have given me over in my grey hairs,” he is believed to have said.

Wolsey is now mostly remembered for his role in Henry’s divorce (which led to the subsequent break from Rome), but his legacy included far more than just that. He held more power than any other Crown servant in English history and helped reform the taxation system (taxing on income instead of relying on an unfair flat tax). He also reconstructed the country’s judicial system, re-establishing the courts of the Star Chamber and Chancery to hear simple, inexpensive cases and creating the Court of Requests, where the poor could have their cases heard for free. The result was more equality and fairness in the way justice was handed out in England. So, we have him to thank for that. Although Henry thought Wolsey had failed him, Wolsey was, in fact, a devoted servant to Henry and an able administrator who did a great deal for king and country. Unfortunately, as in many things, Henry was too selfish and short-sighted to see it.

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On June 1, 1533, England got a new queen: Anne Boleyn. Anne was crowned in a spectacular ceremony at Westminster Abbey just four days after the Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Cranmer, declared her marriage to Henry VIII valid.

Anne and Henry were married in secret shortly after returning from a meeting with the King of France in Calais in late 1532. Shortly after, she became pregnant, and she and Henry had a second marriage ceremony in London on January 25, 1533. The problem was, Henry was still legally married to his first wife, Katherine of Aragon, who was fighting tooth and nail to preserve her marriage. On May 23, the recently elevated Cranmer convened a special court at Dunstable Priory to rule on the validity of Henry’s marriage to Katherine. Naturally, they declared the marriage null and void, and on May 28 Cranmer also declared Anne’s and Henry’s marriage to be valid.

Katherine was stripped of her title of queen, and Anne’s coronation went forward. It was not quite the great celebration she was hoping for, however. The people of London, who loved Queen Katherine, gave her a lukewarm response (to say the least). Many in the crowd, catching sight of Henry’s and Anne’s intertwined initials on the decorations, yelled “Ha! Ha!” at her as she passed. Nonetheless, she was crowned (unusually) with St. Edward’s crown, which previously had only been used for a reigning monarch.

After the ceremony, Anne processed through the city on a litter covered with white cloth of gold, carried by two palfreys draped in white damask. The barons of the Cinque Ports held a cloth of gold canopy over her head. The procession was followed by a sumptuous banquet.

As we all know, the marriage didn’t last. The hoped-for heir Anne was carrying at the time of her coronation turned out to be a girl, Elizabeth, and subsequent pregnancies ended in miscarriages and stillbirths. Meanwhile, the pope declared Henry’s marriage to Katherine lawful, and his marriage to Anne invalid, thus throwing her daughter’s legitimacy into question (a situation that would haunt Elizabeth her entire life). Katherine’s death in January 1536 put an end to the question of valid and invalid marriages, but by that time Henry’s and Anne’s relationship was in serious trouble. She miscarried another baby in early 1536, and Henry decided it was time to get rid of her. Anne and several courtiers, including her brother, were arrested and accused of adultery and treason. All but one, the poet Thomas Wyatt, were executed. Anne was the last to go: she was beheaded by a swordsman brought over from France just shy of the three year anniversary of her coronation.


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May 15 was the beginning of the end for a pair of 16th century queens. First, in 1536, Anne Boleyn was brought to trial on (almost certainly) bogus charges of adultery and incest and found guilty. Her brother, George Boleyn, who was accused of having a sexual relationship with her, was tried separately the same day and also found guilty. The trials came a day after Archbishop Cranmer had declared Anne’s marriage to Henry null and void, and three days after the other men accused of adultery with Anne—Henry Norris, William Brereton, Mark Smeaton, and Francis Weston—were tried and found guilty as well. Norris, Brereton, and Weston all maintained their innocence at trial, but Smeaton, who’d been tortured and may have been hoping to save his life, confessed.

George Boleyn and the other accused men were executed on May 17. Anne was forced to wait a little longer, though she was reported to be at peace with her fate. Henry commuted her sentence from burning to beheading and granted her a swordsman instead of an axman for the execution—a move that was considered a mercy, since swordsmen were typically more accurate. Anne was executed on May 19, after swearing on her soul that she’d never been unfaithful to her husband. Unlike the others, she was executed on the north side of the White Tower, instead of on Tower Green. Her body was placed in an empty arrow chest (Henry hadn’t bothered to get a coffin for her), and she was buried in the Chapel of St. Peter ad Vincula, where her grave can still be seen today.

Thirty one years later, another queen with Tudor ties, Mary, Queen of Scots, married her third husband, James Hepburn, Earl of Bothwell. The marriage was not a popular one, and hastened the end of her troubled reign. Bothwell was unpopular with both the nobles and the people of Scotland, and he was widely believed to have had a hand in the murder of Mary’s second husband, Henry, Lord Darnley, in February 1567. In April, Mary was abducted (or she may have gone willingly—nobody really knows) by Bothwell, to force their marriage. The ceremony, conducted according to Protestant rites, was carried out on May 15 at the Palace of Holyroodhouse, only 12 days after Bothwell divorced his first wife.

Bothwell quickly made enemies of his fellow nobles, and they banded together to raise an army against him and the queen. The two sides met at Carberry Hill on June 15, and Mary gave herself into the Lords’ keeping on the understanding that Bothwell would go free. The Lords imprisoned her in Loch Leven Castle, where she was forced to abdicate the throne on July 24. She escaped Loch Leven in May 1568 and raised a small army, which was then defeated at the Battle of Langside on May 13. After that, she fled to England, where her cousin, Elizabeth, had her imprisoned until her execution in 1587. Bothwell, meanwhile, attempted to raise an army in Scandinavia, but he wound up being thrown into prison by the King of Denmark. The appalling conditions he was held in apparently drove him insane. He died in 1578.

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Happy coronation day, Elizabeth! That’s right: on January 15, 1559, Elizabeth I, last monarch of the House of Tudor, was crowned Queen of England in Westminster Abbey, following her accession on November 17, 1558.

After a highly unstable childhood, the daughter of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn somehow managed to weather the reign of her devoutly Catholic half-sister, Mary, who was a little too fond of burning Protestants at the stake. She had Elizabeth imprisoned in the Tower for a while after Wyatt’s Rebellion in 1554, and she was placed under house arrest for nearly a year. Her fortunes improved a bit once it became apparent Mary would never bear an heir (despite being married to King Philip of Spain), and at age 25 Elizabeth finally inherited the throne.

Elizabeth was enormously popular with the people, many of whom were relieved to be rid of Mary. Elizabeth was much more tolerant, religiously, than Mary had been (plus, she and her advisors were eager to avoid offending England’s Catholics, and the many powerful Catholics abroad). Although Elizabeth wouldn’t tolerate the more extreme Protestant sects, like the Puritans, she did establish England as a Protestant country, albeit with many Catholic-style trappings, like fancy priestly garments.

Elizabeth’s reign is now looked back on fondly as a golden age of English history, and in some ways it was. The country became wealthier and more powerful and expanded its borders as explorers ventured overseas to the Americas, and the defeat of the Spanish armada in 1588 was a huge PR boost for England and Protestantism, as it was seen as a sign of God’s favor. However, several wars fought during the last portion of her reign proved a drain on the country’s resources, and religious tolerance fell away as, in the 1590’s, Elizabeth and her government started to actively monitor and persecute Catholics. Part of the reason for this abrupt change in policy may have been a change in Elizabeth’s privy council during this period, as the older councilors who had been with her since the beginning of her reign started to die and be replaced. On the upside, the 1590’s was an excellent period in literary history, with many of the most acclaimed works of the Elizabethan period being published.

Perhaps one of the things Elizabeth is most well known for is her lifelong commitment to bachelorettehood. Although she had no lack of suitors for her hand amongst the crowned heads of Europe and the English aristocracy, Elizabeth preferred to remain unmarried, instead playing the suitors off one another, when necessary. It’s been suggested that the deaths of her mother, Anne Boleyn, her mother’s cousin (and Elizabeth’s stepmother) Catherine Howard, and Elizabeth’s final stepmother, Catherine Parr (to whom Elizabeth was especially close) put Elizabeth off marriage, which in her mind may have inexplicably become linked with death.

Aside from a brush with smallpox in 1564, Elizabeth enjoyed fairly robust health up until almost the end of her life. Then, in 1602, a series of friends’ deaths plunged her into a deep depression. In March 1603 she became ill and she died on the 24. She was buried in the Henry VII Chapel at Westminster Abbey, right next to Mary I, facing her tragic cousin, Mary, Queen of Scots, who’s just on the other side of the chapel. She was succeeded by Mary’s son, James VI of Scotland, who became James I of England, first monarch of a united England and Scotland and starting point of the ill-fated Stuart dynasty.

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Previously on The Tudors: Henry fell for Jane Seymour and decided to jettison Anne. Anne, her brother, and several other men were arrested and charged with treason. All but Wyatt were sentenced to death, and the men all lost their heads.

Someone is polishing a very impressive sword by candlelight. Once the job is done, he blows out the candle, and we learn it’s May 15, 1536.

In England, we get a montage set to some lovely churchy choir music. A rider gallops through a misty field. In the fog-shrouded Tower, Anne prays. Henry lies awake in bed in the palace. At the Brandon house, Charles and Duchess Kate are fast asleep as a little boy squirms up between them. Charles wakes up for a moment, then rolls over and throws his arm over his wife and son. Aww. Back at the palace, Henry stands at the window, looking out at two swans on the lake. Then, he’s in the chapel, kneeling, as a women’s choir carrying candles stands behind him, singing the music we’ve been listening to this whole time. Leave it to Henry to have a women’s choir. And to be an asshole for no reason at all. He suddenly turns, looks at the choir for a moment, turns back to the alter, and then screams for them to be quiet before turning around and hurrying out of the chapel.


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Previously on The Tudors: Henry got all hot for Jane Seymour, which put her social-climbing older brother, Edward, into a sort of Machiavellian overdrive. Henry almost died after falling off his horse during a joust, sending Anne into a panic and allowing her father and brother to dream of being kings in all but name during little Elizabeth’s minority. Henry recovered, Anne miscarried, and Henry decided he’s done with wife #2.

Ok, things start off super creepy—three physicians are presenting Henry with the remains of his and Anne’s miscarried baby. It’s covered up, in a bowl on the table in front of Henry, and the lead physician is telling the king that the fetus appeared to be male, but it was deformed, so the miscarriage was something of a blessing in disguise. Henry lifts the corner of the cloth covering the body and grimaces, then waves the doctors and attendants away. One of his footmen thoughtfully takes the baby in a bowl with him. Ick.


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Previously on The Tudors: Katherine died and Anne got pregnant again, which I’m sure will end quite happily for her, right? Right? Also, Henry met the lovely blonde Jane Seymour and invited her to court and Cromwell started busting up monasteries in a big way.

Jane’s made it to court and is being escorted through that great hall where everyone hangs out by a young man, presumably her brother, Edward. He leads her to the door of Anne’s rooms and she goes in. One of the other ladies looks her up and down and snottily informs her that Anne’s on her way and Jane’s not to say a word until she’s given leave. What a friendly workplace!


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Previously on The Tudors: Anne got more paranoid about Henry having affairs, and became convinced that she can’t give Henry a son as long as Katherine and Mary are alive. Henry started to get tired of Anne’s jealousy. Cromwell started spreading the good word on the Reformation.

We start off with Anne taking a nice ride through the woods, where she comes across Wyatt at the head of a group of strange-looking, cloaked figures. He offers her an apple, which she waves away, smiling pleasantly, and the figures part, bowing to her, revealing another figure at the far end of the path they’ve created. The other figure, which has long, gray hair, stands with its back to Anne. When she reaches it, it turns, and it’s an old woman, in a white gown, with a ruff and a cross around her neck. Anne starts to look around, disconcerted, and finds her father. He takes her hand and leads her a little ways away. She turns again and she’s alone, but then the figures reappear and advance on her and lock her in a sort of iron maiden-looking thing and put it on a raft, which is dragged down the river by early Celts, or something. Definitely not people dressed like Anne’s contemporaries. Mary’s face suddenly fills Anne’s limited field of vision, and then the raft is set on fire as Anne screams.


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