Saturday, November 29, 2008

Question from Catherine - Anne Boleyn's virginity

Hi there, as you probably know i am fascinated by anne boleyn and wanted to know that when she first had sex with henry the eighth she didnt bleed, but she said she was a virgin and when you are you usally bleed but she didnt so does this mean she had been seeing other men?

[Ed note: I thought we had covered this, but I couldn't find it in the archives, so I guess not!]


Anonymous said...

I'm not sure what source you're referring to, since I am pretty sure I have never read an account of the "morning after" with Anne Boleyn and Henry VIII (since the actual time and place of the event is open to speculation among historians). But even if Anne did not bleed after sexual intercourse, it does not necessarily mean she was active with men before Henry VIII. There are several activities that can damage a female's hymen, including horseback riding and certain hygiene practices. Anne was already an adult woman when she and Henry consummated their marriage. It's possible she ruptured her hymen when she was younger, if she even did. There's no primary source I can recall that mentions any sort of examination of the King's sheets once he was with Anne Boleyn.

Anonymous said...

I have yet to come across any account that noted the details of Anne and Henry’s first time. In fact at best historians can guess when the pair finally did the deed and even then there is a lack of consensus. Most affirm that the couple first slept together around late 1532 and Anne fell quickly pregnant with Elizabeth. G.W. Bernard however thinks the couple had sexual relations early on in their relationship (roughly in 1526 and then they decided to stop until Henry was granted his annulment by the papacy and they could marry. Admittedly this take on the matter is not popular).

So with a lack of knowledge concerning when the couple first slept together there will not be sufficient evidence to describe aspects of their first time including such an intimate detail concerning Anne’s virginity.

In regards to the question of Anne Boleyn’s virginity and when she first had sex – this is again not something we can exactly pinpoint. I remain unconvinced by the notion that Anne was not a virgin by the time of her relationship with Henry VIII. I think her relationship with Henry Percy (the heir to the earldom of Northumberland) was not so serious that the couple actually slept together. Such actions would have had direct negative repercussions for them both, particularly as Percy was betrothed to another (and the pair would have been aware about this long standing agreement between Percy and Mary Talbot). Furthermore they would have run the risk of Anne becoming pregnant which would have resulted in social disgrace, predominately for Anne. A pregnancy would not have guaranteed a speedy marriage between the two as others, notably Wolsey, were advancing a marriage between Percy and Mary and a marriage between Percy and Anne would have interrupted the plans to ally these two traditional northern families. Importantly there is a lack of accusations at the time that Anne and Percy slept together. George Cavendish, by whom we have an account of Percy and Anne’s relationship, does not argue that the pair had slept together but instead that they had designs to marry and were broken up by Wolsey (and he argues that this was instigated by the king). Later when Henry VIII wanted to annul his marriage to Anne the issue of her relationship with Percy was raised. But even then the accusations were not centred on the idea that the couple had slept together thus invalidating her union with Henry VIII. Instead focus was placed on whether the pair had become betrothed, and a betrothal did not automatically mean they had consummated their relationship. Personally I think the pair may have become betrothed (or may have just rather liked one another) but their relationship was not so serious that they would have risked disgrace by having premarital sex.

So it is impossible to determine whether Anne was a virgin or not by the time she was with Henry and I have not come across the accusation that Anne did not bled upon having sex with Henry thus indicating that she was not a virgin. Such details, if true, were exceptionally private and details regarding Henry and Anne’s first time are so obscure that historians cannot decide when they first slept together. However admittedly I do think it is very likely that Henry VIII was Anne’s first (and only) sexual partner.

Foose said...

I think it likely that Henry at least sincerely believed Anne a virgin when he first slept with her. It was not until the aftermath of Kathryn Howard -- when numerous witnesses had testified to her misconduct before her marriage -- that a law was promulgated, presumably at the king's behest, "that an unchaste woman marrying the King shall be guilty of high treason." (Interesting question: Would the law apply if the woman had been rendered unchaste by the king himself before marriage?) This suggests that if Henry had known Anne to not be a virgin when their affair was first consummated, the fact might have been brought up in her later indictment (there seemed to be a general pile-on of defamation) and the law would probably have been brought forward at that point. As it was, Anne's marriage may have been rendered canonically invalid because of an alleged precontract with Northumberland, but not necessarily a precontract accompanied by consummation.

The Kathryn Howard episode and the subsequent law also suggests that Henry would not have been able to tell if a woman was a virgin, which weakens his argument against Catherine of Aragon.

Bearded Lady said...

As Ashley already stated, bleeding is not a sign of virginity. But there were some 16th century recipes to fake it. Here are some of the ones that I have found in my medical research: One recipe was to take nutmeg, grind it into a powder and apply. Another recipe was to take myrtle leaves, boil them in water into a third remains and apply. Sometimes animal blood was used instead.

Anonymous said...

I for one do not believe that Anne was a traditional virgin. I also do not believe that a lusty king such as Henry VIII was known to be would wait 7 years to consummate his relationship with Anne without receiving any sexual favors.

Anonymous said...

I think she was too cunning to be a virgin.