Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Question from Taryn - Inevitability of Anne Boleyn's execution

Hi, I'm a long-time lurker first-time questioner. I love the Tudor period of history but I'm very much an amateur, and my question is more opinion than anything else.
Knowing what we know of Henry VIII's personality and behavior (through letters and first-hand accounts and whatnot), can anyone speculate whether there was anything that Anne Boleyn could have done differently during and after the divorce process to save her head (short of having a son)? Or was her beheading inevitable?


Kathy said...

When you say "during and after the divorce process", do you mean the process involving Katherine of Aragon? If so, I think she would have had to know what was going to be her fate and try to avoid it. And I don't think that's possible.

If you look at the process itself, the main instigator of it all seems to have been Cromwell. So she could have aligned herself with him more closely so he wouldn't have wanted her downfall.

Or perhaps she could have changed her personality (not so easy!) to make any accusation of treason unbelievable.

Or, like Jane Seymour, she could have died....

All in all though, given the personalities of the people involved, her failure to have a son, Cromwell's enmity, and Henry's unwillingness to go through another extended fight as he had with Katherine, then I think her death was pretty much inevitable.

Anonymous said...

I've also wondered about this. Why couldn't she simply go to a nunnery, even one outside the country if Henry wanted her far away. Or just lived quietly abroad somewhere with the understanding that she would never return to England?

Laura said...

I don't think there's anything she could have done differently once the plot against her was underway would have changed the outcome. Her death was a foregone conclusion, because as long as she was alive, it would cast doubt on the legitimacy of his subsequent marriage to Jane and any heirs she would produce, just as a living Katherine had cast doubt upon the marriage of Henry and Anne and the legitimacy of Elizabeth.

Luv said...

Let's face it Anne Boleyn was never going to be a beloved queen in that ERA, because of the way she obtain her queenship. However, there were a lot of things she could have done that might have change her fate.

When Anne was Henry VIII mistress, she should have "TRIED"(I know , it was almost impossible) to stay in the backround more,and be more discreet, and not allowed Henry VIII to flaunt her in front of Queen Katherine until the divorce was actual achieve, or until he actual married her.

When Henry VIII decided to have Cardinal Wolsey charge with treason (most historian credit Anne with causing Wolsey downfall) Anne could have tried to intervene on Wolsey behalf. If it work , she would might have gain a ally .

Anne should have never allow Henry to pass "The Act of Supremacy 1534 ,or the Act of Succession 1533. The act of Supremacy gave Henry absolute power, and prevent people from seeking outside help from the Pope. Which I felt was one of Anne's biggest mistakes. She like it because it prevent Katherine and Mary from seeking outside help, yet it also prevent Pope/Rome from intervening on Anne 's behalf. (although the break with Rome was a good thing, it also gave Henry VIII absolute power. Men already had power over their wives,and king s had enough power as it was. So Henry VIII having that much power might have change him.

The Act of Succession 1533 , which declare princess Mary illegitimate,which just made people hate Anne,and put more pressure on Anne to produce the all important male heir.

Anne could have protested Thomas More or bishop Fisher 's beheading, and requested that the king banish him/them instead. After all ,Anne was the still the King's darling. He might have listen to her. But even if the king had chosen to ignore her request , it would have made her look good in the eyes of the people .Plus it would let the people of england know she wasn't involved,and were she stood. Henry would probably not have blamed her for Thomas More's death ( which he did), and likely would have given Henry VIII an out, if he had chosen not to send More to the scaffold. Henry VIII would have been reducing More's sentencing because his sweetheart ask him to, not because he was weak. Plus it might have made Henry and Anne's relationship more enduring to Henry VIII.

Anne should never had allow Henry to proclaim a oath that made it a treasonable offense to talk about Anne, or oppose their marriage , to refer to Queen Katherine as queen. while the oath was originally made to insure that people recognize Henry as the head of the church, Anne should have made sure that any reference to her, her queen ship, her children ,or her marriage be stricken from the oath, as so not to taint her image, or her relationship with the people. A good politician would have known that. By allowing herself to be mention in the oath, it allowed people to associate her with all the beheading, and trouble that happen in england, therefore people blame her for all the beheading.

Anne could have encourage Henry VIII to treat Queen Katherine and Mary better,and show them more kindness ( Although Anne encourage Henry VIII to put pressure on Katherine and Mary to sign the oath recognizing herself as queen). Even if Henry VIII didn't go along with her request, it would have gain her favors with the people. Plus, he might have showed more mercy towards her when he was trying to get rid of her.


Luv said...


Anne should "NOT" have been so vocal about her hatred for Queen Katherine and Mary. Than the people might not have believe she tried to poison them.

Anne should had at least tried to stop Henry VIII from mistreating Mary (although some historian report that Anne encourage the mistreatment of the Princess Mary. Re: Friedmann, and Bruce. I agree with them ) and intervene on princess Mary's behalf. without requesting that Mary recognize herself as Queen,or sign the oath. Even if Henry VIII didn't agree, or go along, the people would know she tried,(like Jane Seymour) Mary might have warm up to her. She might have been seen in a whole new light. She might have been seen as a mother, with empathy for a young lady, instead of as the king's selfish mistress. In that Era women was responsible for the children and the household. So Henry VIII locking Mary away, and mistreating her in the manner in which he did, reflected badly on Anne as a wife and a mother , considering the time in which they lived in. by doing so she would have in a manner beaten Jane at her own game.

When it became apparent to Anne that she might not have that all important male heir, she could have encourage Henry VIII to name Mary as his heir until she have a son, or at least encourage Henry VIII to put Mary back in the line of succession. By doing so,it would have provided Henry VIII with a out, without having him look weak,or like he's afraid of Charles V. It would have taken the pressure off Anne to have a male heir (she would have been able to relax a little), Anne would have gain the support of Charles V (who was willing to accept Anne and Elizabeth if Henry VIII put Mary back in line of succession) and the people.

Anne should never had kept encourage Henry VIII to send Queen Katherine and princess Mary to the scaffold. By doing so (regardless of her reason/or fear for doing so. It was wrong,and reflected badly on her) she showed herself to be heartless,and to lack empathy. I mean How can you even ask someone you love to send their once loved wife and child to the scaffold? by requesting that Henry VIII send his wife and child to the scaffold, it made people think she was capable of anything, and it likely had Henry VIII believing that she "WAS" capable of trying to kill him, Henry Fitzroy, princess Mary and had poison Katherine. So when Cromwell presented his case, Henry VIII likely believe him. ( Both Weir and Ives believe that Henry VIII might had believe the charges against Anne)

Anne should not have had so many male admires around her,and she should have extended her friendship to their wives. If Anne had extended her friendship to their wives,and not been such a flirt , people might have had a different view of her.

- Anne should not have had so many guys around her, than no one would have been able to accuse her of having and affair .

-Anne should have never banish her sister Mary from court, that way she would have been sure to have at least one female friend who might have spoken up for her.

There was so much Anne could have done that might have change the course of her fate (in my opinion only), if she only wasn't so selfish. She did some Good thing , like helping the poor, appointed bishops, the Reformation ,help her family &friend,and her causes . But even that was a little too late, and had selfish overtones. Helping the poor is a queen's duty to her people, as well as a political move to help a already tarnish image. It consider good PR. However, that's just my own personal opinion.

Aly said...

Luv, you say that Anne shouldn't have allowed Henry to do certain things. Anne didn't have that kind of power. Anne couldn't "allow" Henry to do anything. He did it on his own. He was the king AND her husband, so he had complete power.

I honestly think that Cromwell was the instigator. Anne was a threat to what he was trying to accomplish. He saw that Henry and Anne were having marriage problems. He went behind both of their backs to create an (at the time) air tight case against Anne. It took him several months to compile this information. He needed it to be as persuasive as possible, because even though Henry and Anne raged at each other, they somehow always seemed to make up. He didn't need Henry believing there might be a chance that his information was false. He found the worse possible things that she could have done and made them seem real. i don't believe that her execution was inevitable until she made an enemy of Thomas Cromwell.

Luv said...


If we admit Anne had any influence at all, we should also admit that how she chose to use it (or not) does reflect on her. Anne held a lot of power while she was in favor with the king, and I believe if she had did half of the things on my list, she likely would not have wound up in the tower because she would not have had so many enemies.

Anonymous said...

I believe that Henry was really horrified with his own behavior and used Anne as a scapegoat to qwell his own conscience. Blaming his attraction to her on witchcraft, saying he was "seduced" by her spells, etc. He never accepted accountability for any of his behavior - the way he treated KOA, murdering one of his closest friends (T. Moore), and much more. Henry was a victim of his own ego, and a lot of innocent people payed the price.

Ali said...

I believe that Anne's execution was inevitable. Henry wanted a clear path for Jane to become Queen and for their son to be unchallenged for the throne. Henry had Anne and his marriage ANULLED before she was executed so there was really no need to execute her except to keep her quiet, Anne was outspoken and would never have let her Elizabeth become a bastard.

Nikki said...

There was nothing she could do after the chose to marry Henry. I wish going to a nunnery was an option, and maybe if she spoke to Cromwell about it, it might have worked(since Cromwell seems to be the mastermind behind the farce of a trial and resulting execution)....but like a previous poster said, it was out there that she had to absolutely get out of the way of Henry and Jane's marriage and heir-making....

Luv said...


I agree. However Anne could have done exactly what she EXPECTED Katherine of Argon to do,bowed out gracefully,and agreed that her daughter was a bastard. Katherine of Aragon fought for her daughter rights as well, the only different was the outcome. Maybe if Anne didn't push so hard for princess Mary to be bastardize ,and her own daughter recognize as replacing her in the line of succession,Henry VIII would not have saw a need to send her to the scaffold.


I agree with you. If Anne had talk to Cromwell when she notice things were not going right,and she notice the king had a new love. Maybe Cromwell could have spoken up for her,and she might have been sent to a nunnery . After all, Anne knew Henry VIII had married her in order to have sons,and she saw how KOA was treated, so she should have spoken to Cromwell,or Henry VIII right after she had her last miscarriage.

Alia said...

Henry VIII, it is speculated on and believed widely, seemed to think he had a conscience (though I doubt it.) Due to this, he told Anne that if she signed papers saying that her daughter Elizabeth (later Elizabeth I) was born out of wedlock and therefor ineligible for the throne, she could live out her days quietly in a nunnery.
So yes, she could have signed away her daughter's chances and saved her life. Personally, I am an Anne Boleyn fan, and I think what she did was incredibly brave. Still, to answer your question: Yes, she could have saved her life.