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Everyone who knows anything about royalty in the UK, knows about Henry the 8th. Maybe it’s the controversy, the scandal or his brooding portrait, but there is no denying his longevity in the history books. But those six sorry wives? They were simply pawns in the game of the Tudor dynasty and written off faster than you can utter a breath. But Anne Boleyn, arguably the true love of Henry’s life, met her end in a way which is captivating as it is brutal. Their affair started as Anne became a lady in waiting to Henry’s then wife, Katherine of Aragon.
Anne grew up formally in Europe, surrounded by women in power, and the large question as to whether women should be given equal status to their male counterparts. As a teenager, Anne served in the court of Margaret of Austria. She was raised at a time of renaissance feminism, where most male figures would allow their daughters the opportunities to be literate and educated. Anne was not seen as a conventional beauty, but her whit, her educated tongue and how well-travelled she was entranced the king. Henry bombarded Anne with countless letters, and the two even used a Book of Hours to pass between each other, to send love notes. Anne swore she would not be a mistress, however. For their love to work, Henry would have to leave his wife. Henry broke from the Church of Rome, divorced his wife, and changed the faith of England to be with her. He really set the tone of religious divide for the next 500 years for one woman.
Anne soon found she was jealous of Henry’s wandering eye. As he expected her to sit quietly and play dumb to his marital affairs, it made him angry that she wasn’t complacent to his needs. She suffered from multiple miscarriages, many of which were sons. Their marriage lasted 1000 days before Henry ordered Anne’s execution for adultery, incest and conspiring for the king’s death. The charges brought against her were to paint her as a sexual deviant that no man would be able to contain, let alone a king, to protect his honour.
The only crime Anne committed was her failure to produce a male heir to the throne. The pressure on the king to have a male and continue the Tudor bloodline was immense, especially after he had sacrificed his kingdom for this woman. Her final words, that she perhaps didn’t show him the ‘humility and reverence’ that he deserved, ultimately meant she herself agreed that her whit, sharp tongue and cleverness, all what attracted the king, led to her ultimate destiny of being the first executed. And the irony? Their daughter, Elizabeth, was one of the best remembered Queens of all time. Sucks for you Henry.