Friday, July 9, 2010

Possible reasons for Anne Boleyn’s downfall

Anne Boleyn is one of my favorite personalities in the history of England. Her rise and fall have always been sympathetic to most history passionates and her fate caused many controversial discussions over the last 500 years since her death. So far, I know several alleged reasons for her downfall, though I do not totally agree with them and doubt they are based on real facts.

- The guilt of adultery summoned her as traitor to the Crown. She has been accused of intimate relationships with her brother George and some other men. Who could believe such a non-sense? Anne was too well educated and respectful of her family to be able to commit such an immorality. She cared too much for her position as queen to imperil it as did Catherine Howard. The testimony of Countess of Worcester and the poem of Lancelot de Carles were taken  as only proof, which in our days is not sufficient evidence. Moreover, the investigation lasted only 17 days. The time was too short to clarify things in a proper manner.

- Henry was deceived in Anne due to her frequent miscarriages. This is probably the most powerful argument in his decision to get rid of her. It’s true, she failed to produce a male heir during their three years of marriage but even so, he was too harsh on her. Anne was fully aware of the huge responsibility on her shoulders and thus put under a lot of pressure. I don’t think she had fertility problems but stress might obviously affect the normal development of pregnancies. Henry was too hasty, she was too eager to offer him what he wanted and so her hours were counted. Let’s not forget that the king lived with Catherine of Arragon for 24 years and she only produced a girl, the future Mary I. If Anne had been spared her death I am sure she could have given him many sons.

- Anne dug her own grave by showing too much of her character. Yes, her strong personality charmed Henry VIII before they were married but irritated him after. She was indeed very ambitious, straightforward, sincere, jealous, proud and impulsive which caused her great trouble in the relationship with her husband, Thomas Cromwell and other members of the court who either adored her or hated her deeply. But that could hardly be a reason to imprison or kill someone.

- Thomas Cromwell’s dislike of Anne and the fear for his own position determined his plotting against her, even before Henry had anything to do with it. There was no evidence of her being unfaithful, so he had to find it. Cromwell was more of a pro-Spanish partisan while Anne, due to her education in France, has always shown more interest in a French alliance. There was also another issue between them concerning the dissolution of monasteries, an affair entirely controlled by Cromwell. The two enemies were constantly and visibly competing over Henry’s mind, but unfortunately for Anne, some additional circumstances determined the king to claim her disgrace. The beheading of Cromwell followed soon after, but at that particular moment his position at court was not threatened.

- Some say that the appearance of Jane Seymour in Henry VIII’s life determined his cruel attitude towards Anne and his urgent desire to get rid of her. I do not agree here. Jane was the right girl at the right moment, when the king needed a new hope for his descendancy. And we all know how easily he was sometimes influenced and how changing was his mood. He met Jane, fell for her and saw in her a possible match, especially since she seemed to be everything Anne wasn’t: shy, obedient, submissive.

- According to popular belief of 16th century England, Anne Boleyn was a witch. I am sure Thomas Cromwell and the other members of the court initiated the rumors and you know how superstitious people can be. A terrible story of her miscarrying a deformed fetus was circulating throughout the country but no such evidence ever existed.

- Anne’s Reformist ideas led her into trouble. I do not totally agree with this argument. As part of the Boleyn faction Anne clearly supported new ideas and the transformation of the English church but she never exaggerated her faith nor imposed her opinions on others. Henry’s break with Rome was entirely his own intention but Anne had to bear the consequences.

I sometimes wonder what could have happened to Anne if she succeeded to produce a son during her short reign. Her fate would have certainly been different. Nonetheless, she and Henry were too similar in character to have a long-lasting and peaceful relationship.

Just received from Amazon Eric Ives’ book on “The life and death of Anne Boleyn” and can hardy wait to devour it during my vacation. Perhaps I would find other arguments to delight you with next time!


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