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Anne Boleyn (1504–1536)

Daughter of Sir Thomas Boleyn and Elizabeth Howard, Anne Boleyn secretly married Henry VIII in January 1533 before his divorce from Catherine of Aragon had become official. In May of the same year, Archbishop Cranmer approved Anne as Henry’s legal spouse, and she was crowned queen of England. In September she gave birth to England’s future queen, ELIZABETH I. Boleyn’s only male child was stillborn in January 1536. On May 2 of that year, Henry had her arrested on charges of incest with her brother, Lord Rochford, and adultery with four commoners. After a secret commission investigated the charges, she and all the men were tried and convicted of high treason and condemned to death. Anne Boleyn’s uncle, the third duke of Norfolk, Thomas Howard, pronounced her verdict. She was beheaded in the Tower of London on May 19, 1536.On May 30 Henry took Jane Seymour as his third wife. In addition to being considered by many the proximate cause of the establishment of the Anglican Church with England’s ruler at its head rather than the pope, Anne Boleyn also inspired SIR THOMASWYATT’s famous ENGLISH SONNET “Whoso list [wishes] to hunt, I know where is an hind [a deer] . . .”—an imitation and partial translation of a sonnet by PETRARCH. In his version Wyatt, who was himself one of Anne Boleyn’s admirers, complains that the deer (which stands for Anne) wears a necklace of diamonds that spells out, first, the Latin phrase, “noli me tangere” (let no one touch me), followed by “for Caesar’s [Henry’s] I am.” Anne Boleyn’s tragic story has many times been recounted in history, fiction, opera, and folk song. Her ghost is said to stalk the Tower of London at midnight “with her head tucked underneath her arm.” 


 

 

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