The Downfall of Anne Boleyn

Anne Boleyn by Hans Holbein the Younger, c. 1533-1536.
Anne Boleyn by Hans Holbein the Younger, c. 1533-1536.

Anne Boleyn is remembered as Henry VIII’s second wife after his infamous annulment from his first, Katherine of Aragon. In addition, she is known for her shocking and grisly execution. Some believe that the main factor for this was her failure to produce a male heir. Yet evidence suggests that Henry was not intent on eliminating her even after her miscarriage in 1536. A few years prior to this, Henry famously rejected papal authority and split from the Catholic Church in Rome. This was a result of the pope’s refusal to annul Henry’s marriage to Katherine of Aragon. By 1527, Katherine was too old to bear a child, and Henry had become enamored with Anne, who was one of Katherine’s ladies-in-waiting. Historians describe Anne as being confident, sophisticated, and charming.[1] Henry was clearly attracted to her, as he sent her numerous love letters throughout 1527 and 1528, despite his dislike of writing. However, Henry did not immediately see Anne as a prospective wife and instead wanted her as his mistress.[2] Yet Anne aspired to become queen, and rejected Henry’s advances until he proposed marriage. Thus, as Peter Marshall writes, “her determination not to become a royal mistress and to hold out for the prize of being queen was an important element in pushing forward the divorce campaign”.[3] Anne remained emboldened during time as queen consort. She had a crucial role in the Henrician Reformation, and was to prove a powerful patron of English reformers.[4] Her involvement in one particular reform, the dissolution of monasteries, would contribute to her downfall. Anne Boleyn was executed because she participated too much in state matters. In Tudor society, this was not the role of a queen consort. Anne wanted to be more than a wife to Henry; she wanted to be his advisor. For Henry and his chancellors, this was too much. Continue reading

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More than Financial Gains? The Religious Reasons behind the Dissolution of Monasteries

Like most English monarchs, King Henry VIII held a great interest in his finances: more money meant more power. In comparison to his father who made £133,000 annually, Henry VIII received a rather low annual income of £80-90,000.[1] With a need for more money, Henry VIII’s chief minister, Thomas Cromwell, sought out a viable plan: to shut down all of the monasteries of England and Wales. With the establishment of the Court of Augmentations in 1536, all monastic properties including the money earned were transferred to it.[2] In total, the amount collected was reported to have been more than £130,000 a year.[3] The dissolution of the monasteries made Henry, as well as select members of the Privy Chamber, richer than ever, and Henry’s newfound wealth in theory gained for him more financial security for a war with France. Judging from the immense monetary gain, one would assume that the principal reason for the dissolution of the monasteries was financial, but some historians believe otherwise. Henry VIII may not have been the most devout leader, but a deeper look at the conditions of the monasteries could have provided enough religious reasons for their dissolution. Continue reading