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Anne Boleyn, the second wife of King Henry VIII, served as queen of England in the 1530s. She was executed on charges of incest, witchcraft, adultery and conspiracy against the king.
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Following a six-year debate, during which time Henry and Anne had courted discreetly, Anne discovered that she was pregnant in early 1533. Without the blessing of the pope, on January 25, 1533, Henry and Anne quickly married in a secret ceremony led by Thomas Cranmer, archbishop of Canterbury. The following June, a lavish coronation ceremony was held in honor of the new queen. On August 15, 1533, Queen Anne gave birth to a daughter,
In 1534, Henry VIII decreed his marriage to Catherine Aragon invalid because she was his sister-in-law, and broke from Rome by setting up the Church of England. Catherine would pass away two years later, in 1536.
While Queen Anne's public persona was that of sexually promiscuous status seeker—due in no small part to the public's long-held allegiance to Catherine of Aragon—her efforts to play the traditional role of queen during her reign were both valid and sincere, focusing on improvements for the poor. Anne was also renowned at court for her stylish wardrobe, much of which followed French fashion trends of the time. England would never warm up to Queen Anne, however. She would remain disliked, by and large, for the rest of her short life.
But if Anne was less than prepared for her new role as queen, she was extremely unprepared for her new role as the king's wife. A year into their union, Henry VIII began an extramarital affair with an unnamed lady-in-waiting of the court. Soon after, the king pursued and engaged in sexual relationships with two of Anne's maids-of-honor, Madge Shelton and Jane Seymour. Unlike Queen Catherine before her, who knew of her husband's infidelity but was able to turn the other cheek, Anne was enraged by Henry's promiscuity and became increasingly jealous. As he had with Catherine, Henry blamed his adulterous behavior on his mission to have a son and heir to the throne, and became increasingly frustrated by his wife's questions about his whereabouts and subsequent reactions. Permeated by resentment and hostility, the marriage quickly fell apart at the seams.
After Anne gave birth to a stillborn male child in January 1536, Henry VIII decided that it was time to take hold of his legacy. He quickly settled on taking Jane Seymour as his future wife and sought out the annulment of his marriage to Anne. He then had Anne detained at the Tower of London on several false charges, among them adultery, incest and conspiracy.
Anne Boleyn went to trial on May 15, 1536. In court, she remained levelheaded and articulate, calmly and clearly denying all of the charges against her. Four days later, on May 19, 1536, Anne was unanimously convicted by a court of peers, and Henry's marriage to Anne was annulled and declared invalid.
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