Anne Boleyn

Recreated in Wife After Wife as ice queen Ana Lyebon

No character polarises Tudorphiles quite like Henry VIII’s second wife. Watch them spar in Tudor Facebook groups: Conniving seductress! Iconic feminist! She knew exactly what she was doing! She was a victim! Fine sport indeed.

Anne is the most intriguing of Henry’s six wives. My editors also had strong views on my 21st-century version:

“She wouldn’t say that.”
“She’s being too nasty.”

“Why is she behaving like this?”

I particularly enjoyed our debate about whether Ana would encourage or shun a kiss from Harry at the staff Christmas party. I won.

Anne Boleyn, recreated in Wife After Wife as ice queen Ana Lyebon

Anne Boleyn in the Tower, by Edouard Cibot (1799–1877)

A few facts about Anne:


  • She and Henry were married for three years, after a courtship lasting nearly seven years. SEVEN!
  • Henry famously Brexited when the Pope refused to grant him a divorce from Catherine of Aragon.

  • You probably know that Anne was preceded in Henry’s affections (and bed) by the other Boleyn girl, Mary. But did you know he was also suspected of carrying on with their mum? Henry protested his innocence, declaring, “Never with the mother!” I see him saying this with a wicked smile. Tsk, Henry.
  • The characteristics that first attracted Henry to this charismatic woman – her sharp wit, political acumen and intelligence – were less desirable in a wife. Medieval men, eh?

  • Anne had a temper to match her husband’s. Henry gave Jane Seymour a locket containing his portrait, and she would fiddle with it in front of Anne (well, that would drive you mad, wouldn’t it?) Anne ripped the locket from Jane’s neck with such force that her fingers bled. (That story’s lost nothing in the telling …)

  • Anne miscarried a baby on the day that Catherine of Aragon was buried. Spooky.

  • The next bits are sad. Anne of course met a tragic end when Henry grew bored of her and she failed to produce a male heir. She was tried on trumped-up charges of adultery, and found guilty. Henry commuted her sentence from burning to beheading. Good of him.

  • Henry Percy, Anne’s fiancé before Wolsey said “nope!” was summoned to sit on the jury. When the guilty verdict was announced, he collapsed and had to be carried from the courtroom.

Tune in again – Jane Seymour next!

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