Thursday, August 28, 2008

Question from Faith - Why did Anne Boleyn have to be die?

I have read a great deal about Henry VIII, Anne Boleyn, and the ins and outs of Henry's court, but I just do not understand why Anne had to die. Why couldn't Henry have allowed her to enter a convent or find some other,less harsh way to be rid of her?


Foose said...

This suggestion will be unpopular with many readers of this blog, but she may have been guilty -- and in that case she would have merited death. The spectacular nature of her crimes would have made it impossible for Henry and his officials to engineer a lesser penalty. It would have made Henry look weak.

G.W. Bernard, a well-respected British historian, currently represents the "Anne was guilty" viewpoint. He wrote a key article in the English Historical Review in 1991, a kind of rebuttal to Ives' "Anne was innocent" argument. You can read it at:
(click on manual download)

(Ives wrote a rebuttal to this, then Bernard responded, and then Retha Warnicke responded to them both, but these latter three English Historical Review articles are not available online without a subscription).

Bernard's University of Southampton Webpage announces the tantalizing information:

"I have just completed, thanks to an award from the Arts and Humanities Research Council, a study of Anne Boleyn. My aim is to shed fresh light on the life, and especially the circumstances of the fall, of Anne Boleyn, Henry VIII's queen, and through a book-length political biography to offer a striking reinterpretation of the political and religious history of a crucially formative period in English history."

I'm very excited about this book. It could have some new information about Anne's fall and the behavior of the key players involved. No word on when it might be published, though.

Anonymous said...

I have to admit, when I first got into Tudor history, I loved Anne Boleyn and was a huge fan. I think this love mostly stemmed from fiction novels that protrayed her as some sort of helpless victim or some sort of feminist rebel. (Why a woman that convices a man to break up with wife and disown his daughter so she can bear him a son is thought to be feminst I have no idea....)
In a sense, she was victim, but having read more about her, she was't a very nice person at all. She turned a father against his own daughter. (In the begining of the "Great Divorce" Henry VIII was still on friendly terms with Mary but Anne complained whenever he visted her.) And whatever your feeling the woman Mary became, the fact was she was just a lonley teen at the time, and who knows? Maybe if Anne had been friendly in the first place, Mary would of been convinced to sign the Act of Supremacy sooner.

Also, I am not a Catholic or nor do I have any religious affliations, but the fact is that Anne had split up a marriage of eighteen years. Anne was married to Henry for around three. If you had to determine who Henry's "real" wife was, I would have to side with Katherine.

At the end of Anne's reign, almost everyone had turned against her. Why? Well of course a lot has to do with her not bearing a son, but I think the lack of the support stemmed mostly from a cruel, petty and vain personlity. I think what really turned me against Anne was Alison Weir's Six Wives of Henry VIII. David Starkey's book on the same topic lead me to the same concluison.

However, if you are pro-Anne, I have noting against you and would point you to the Eric Ives work, which is very favorbale to Anne (I think that guy really had a major crush!)

In the end, we never really know what these people were like or what happened, but I even though I don't like her, I never heard the argument that she was guilty before, this is really intriguing...

Anonymous said...

I don't think the point of this question was whether Anne was innocent of the charges against her or not -- interesting as that topic may be.

She was accused, tried, and found guilty of charges that amounted to treason. Henry could, of course, not executed her, but he chose to do so. I've always thought that didn't want to go through another row like he had with Katherine of Aragon. If Anne was dead, that wouldn't happen. He would be completely free to marry Jane Seymour.

Also, Anne had made numerous enemies, so there was unlikely to have been much sentiment for keeping her alive.

Foose said...

According to a letter by Sir William Kingston, her jailer, to Cromwell, Anne said at dinner while in the Tower that she would go to Antwerp ("the Quene sayd at she shuld go to Anvures & ys in hope of lyf" - Anvures is "Anvers," the French name for Antwerp). This is usually rendered in later accounts and biographies as Anne believing that she would go into a convent at Antwerp (her remark was subsequent to a visit by Archbishop Cranmer, the usual interpretation being that he bribed or cozened her to get her cooperation in the annulment of her marriage), but I'm not sure where the reference to the "convent" crept in along the way.

No one ever comments on what a bizarre suggestion it is in terms of location. Antwerp was the Emperor's territory, where William Tyndale, translator of the Bible, had been burned alive the year before Anne's fall. Why would anyone suggest Antwerp as a destination to her and why would she be comforted by it? Perhaps she was thinking of its active Protestant underground, but how could she believe that Henry would let her move beyond his control to a busy commercial town like Antwerp, with its printing presses and opportunities for Boleyn propaganda? Internal exile, isolated in the English hinterlands, would have been Henry's plan if he decided to spare her. She saw what happened to Catherine.

And what convent there could be persuaded to shelter her? As a heretic and destroyer of their aunt's marriage, Anne would not be welcomed by the Emperor and his sister, who would probably light the bonfire themselves.

On the other hand, if a convent was proffered to her by Cranmer, perhaps he had to come up with some plausible alternative to an English convent, because he and Anne may have been well aware that Henry and Cromwell were planning the Dissolution and that shortly there wouldn't be any convents in England.

Perhaps it was a convent in France that he promised and that she was talking about, but Kingston was unfamiliar with her authentic French accent and wrote down a phonetic approximation that he knew, "Anvures." Or maybe, knowing that he was informing Cromwell and the king of everything she said, "Anvures" was a coded signal or threat that they would have understood.

Foose said...

Looks like the link in my first post to Bernard's article did not come up fully.

Try tacking on 584.pdf to the very end:

But I can't vouch for how long it will stay up ...

kb said...

I think we sometimes underestimate the general unrest and feeling of uncertainty of the times. Structures which had seemed so permanent and steadfast were suddenly gone or changed. The discarding of papal authority was a major issue at the elite level while the dissolution of the monasteries disrupted the social fabric of the middling and lower sorts. In such unsettled times, dramatic action sometimes gives a sense of direction and false certainty.

I suspect Henry, amongst numerous other reasons, also felt this. Felt that definite action would give him a sense of stability when he felt anything but. For him to move forward, he pretty much had to have Anne dead. She personified the changes that had ripped the social fabric apart. In times like that, diplomacy is very rare and it would have taken a person of much different character to exercise diplomacy when disposing of Anne.

Anonymous said...

I think that one of the main reasons that Anne was put to death had nothing to do with the question of whether she was guilty or not. I believe it had more to do with the fact that Henry VIII knew that she was a persistent woman and would not back down with out a fight. She wouldn't have simply gone into a convent(especially since she was interested in the reformed faith). Anne had her own interests in well of those of her family's and it using the example of the years and years she spent trying to become queen...would not just step down from a position that would have taken her so long to achieve.

Elizabeth M. said...

The main priority of why Anne had to die is that King Henry wanted no smear of illegitimacy for the hoped for sons he would have by Jane Seymour. Even though he had both marriages to Katherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn pronounced null by Archbishop Cranmer, the fact remained that if Anne would be allowed to live, any subsequent marriage would still be a question mark. With both wives dead, he was absolutely free to remarry.
As fro Anne being guilty, I do not believe it. She was a remarkably intelligent woman and very proud. She held out and risked a lot to get to be Henry's consort. I do not believe she would have been foolish enough to jeopardize that position with a passionate fling with one man, let alone five or six. We must remember that there were two factions at court--those supportive to Queen Katherine and those who supported Anne and the changes she represented. She was an early advocate of printing the Bible in English for the masses to understand--something that was anathema to the staunch conservative Catholic church, which believed only churchmen had the right to understand the word of God and that they were the instruments to pass it along to the masses. She was a supporter of William Tyndale and his efforts to publish the Bible in English. His book "The Obedience of a Christian Man" was in Anne's library and she persuaded henry to read it. One of it's precepts was that rulers had only to answer to God and not the Pope. This nugget helped plant the seed for Henry to break with Rome and make himself head of the Church of England.
The Catholic faction at court, partisans of Queen Katherine, were naturally horrified at this prospect. Even though Henry eventually got his way and discarded Katherine and married Anne, the new queen was never secure from the intrigues of the Catholic faction and their hopes which centered around Princess Mary. Though Anne may not have been a warm and cuddly person, she was nevertheless a fighter. She had to be. Her position was not secure until she bore a son. She fought for the rights of her child Elizabeth and for her own security. If henry could discard a wife of nearly 20 years who had so much support at home and abroad, what chance would she have if he wanted to be rid of her, with as many enemies as she had from a purely ideological standpoint? That was why she was so relieved when Katherine of Aragon finally died. But by then, it was too late, as she had failed to bear a live son and suffered another loss of a male child at the time of Katherine's death. I do not believe she was stupid enough to impugn her tenuous position by getting pregnant and bearing a child that was a bastard.
The men who were executed with her were members of her faction. Get rid of them, and a large number of influential members of her faction were no longer a problem for the faction which had popped up around Jane Seymour, men such as Jane's nakedly ambitious brothers and Nicholas Carew.
Then there was politics. At the time of her arrest, Henry was hoping to rebuild friendly relations with the Holy Roman Empire, something that would be difficult with the pro-French Anne Boleyn on the throne with him. Removing her and key members of her faction enabled Henry to proceed, especially since Jane Seymour was loyal to the memory of Queen Katherine and advocated for the rehabilitation of her daughter, the Princess Mary.
I strongly believe that Anne's death was a case of judicial murder, pure and simple. She was an obstacle to Henry's plans. He needed a son, she had failed, and thus was expendable. She did not fit in with the political climate of the immediate time at the time of her arrest, and Henry was besotted with another woman. And let us not forget that Jane Seymour was not the paragon of virtue history has painted her to be. She was just as scheming in her own way as Anne had been. She helped put poison in Henry's ears about Anne at the coaching of her brothers, as Anne herself had done about Katherine years before. Jane knew full well that Anne would die when she was arrested and tried, but was perfectly content to let events take their course, knowing she would wind up as queen. The Tower guns booming out the news of Anne's death did not prevent Jane from accepting Henry's marriage proposal only the day after her predecessor's death.

Anonymous said...

from what i have read of the tudor books and so much more.ann turned the kings head and that was really her down fall.but we cant forget that she was pushed into the position by her uncle and father.and not one of them steped up to help her when she was found guilty.i think on my point the fact is that she was a stuborn woman and wanted things her way.and if thay didant she wald argue.but it all so tells us in some books that she wasa never truly marrid to the king at how did she get found of all them things she was acused of.but as well some times history is not right all the time.

Foose said...

Just a brief note - Letters and Papers says that Anne said not "Anvers" but actually "anonre" (a nunnery). Kingston's spelling (he wrote the letter to the king about Anne's behavior in the Tower) was very bad and evidently an earlier scholar misinterpreted "anonre" as "Anvers."

So perhaps Anne Boleyn did think she would go to an English nunnery. It was a customary place for unwanted English queens (Elizabeth Woodville wound up in Bermondsey, and I think Catherine de Valois did time there too). Still, it seems like a long shot given Henry's mood and Catherine of Aragon's fate. Maybe she was trying to cheer herself up.

shanny said...

i respect Queen Anne. she loved the king & he only wanted a son. i hop he burns in hell. she should have lived. it is ironic since the same woman he beheaded gave birth to a girl who would later become the greatest monarch England had ever seen. much better than her bloody mary half sister and the king himself.

Anonymous said...

I love the Tudor period of England and I've done a lot of research and reading. I love Anne Boleyn, She's my favorite of the wives. I don't believe she was guilty. If you look at it all as a whole Henry turned the world upside down to marry her. After just three years of marriage it would have looked really bad on him if he had just went and divorced her. He had to make it look like it was more than just trying to remarry someone else. Thats where Cromwell came in and he came up with those charges from simple displays of courtly love. Anne proved her innocence before she died. She took the sacraments which meant if she died and was lying then she was damning her soul. She shouldn't have had to die.

Alia said...

Anne Boleyn was not forced to die, actually. Henry "mercifully" (he liked to be perceived as a good, holy Christian) told her that if she signed a paper, she could live out her days in a remote convent. This paper wasn't so easy to sign, however. While many begged her to, to save her life, Anne was adamant. Why? Because signing would mean agreeing that he daughter Elizabeth (later Elizabeth I) was born out of wedlock and therefore not able to take the throne. By being courageous and not signing, she gave Elizabeth a chance at the throne. This chance led to the greatest female monarch ever on England's throne. If brave Anne had signed, the throne would have passed either to Catholic relations from Margaret Tudor's side such as Queen Mary of Scotland, or one of the Greys, and there would be civil war. Perhaps someone would even conquer.
Anne Boleyn died because, really, Henry VIII was sick of her and wanted a younger, sprier wife and robust sons.
Foose, I believe you are confusing Anne Boleyn with Kathryn Howard. For centuries Anne has been thought of as innocent. Most historians think she was, as all evidence points to the charges being trumped up.
Hope this helps :)

Anonymous said...

henry had meet his match in Anne. And as time went on he began to realize how shrew she really was. He had effectively beeen isolated from people who had formerly been his friends like Sir Thomas Moore and Woolsey. in his buring desire to have Anne he had separated from the Catholic church and been ex-communicated. Could Henry have felt that Anne had manipulated him? This would have been a big blow to his ego. And just like his codpiece his ego was big. His passion for Anne was fading just like her looks with each pregnancy that failed to deliver a male heir. Henry loved her, hated her and found her intelligence a threat. Her adoration had worn thin and he wanted a new wife on who did not meddle in state affairs a wife who knew her place.Someone suitable sounds like a pre-Prince Charles. the jury was selected each with an axe to grind or should i say sword. Anne didn't have a chance she appealed to him at the execution block to safeguard Elizabeth's place as his daughter. She like the rest of his children had their legitmacy up in the air upon his death so that other princes had a hard time wanting a princess who didn't have a shadow on her background. Henry did as he wanted. and because it was profitable to be on the king's good side you let him have his way and ifother people got hurt that was just too bad.

Ameetha said...

The articles mentioned by Foose are now available in their entirety for those wishing to follow the course of the debate themselves.

rameychisum said...

I haven't read as much about Anne and Henry as I would like but hopefully soon. But I think Henry wanted to marry Anne Boleyn and that's why he changed the world to be with her. I don't think Henry wanted to marry Jane Seymour but people wanted to get rid of Anne so they made it happen. And

Anonymous said...

Amne was beheaded because King Henry was cruel, even for his time. Years later he beheaded his teenage wife! That beheading was not done out of any concern about succession or threat to his life.
We are talking about the 16th century, not the 6th. Henry was a monster to cut the heads off two of his wives, period.