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10 Noteworthy Facts About Anne Boleyn

  1. Her grandfather was a London hatter

Anne Boleyn’s family originally settled in the village of Salle, in Norfolk. Her ancestors were peasants, but not of the very poor kind. On the contrary, they had enough money set aside. Anne’s great-great-grandfather, Geoffrey Boleyn, was in fact so sure of himself that he was accused of trespassing the royal property a multitude of times, taking grain and water supplies from their lord’s manor, without paying for them. He was also clever enough to set his younger son, also by the name of Geoffrey as a hatter in the 1430s London. It turned out the younger Boleyn was quite skillful at making hats, as his shop soon became afilliated with the prestigious Mercer’s Company and business continued to thrive.

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  1. Anne was a relative of Sir Thomas a Becket

We are talking about Thomas a Becket, the 12th century Archbishop of Canterbury, who played a somewhat crucial role in the secession of the English church from Rome. Anne’s great-grandfacther was Thomas Butler, the seventh Earl Of Ormond. The Butler family claimed to have descended from one of Becket’s sisters, who got married to an Iris gentleman. To prove their heritage, the Earl often presented his family heirloom, a white ivory horn cup, from which apparently Sir Thomas a Becket had once drunk himself. The heirloom was passed on to Sir Thomas Boleyn, Anne’s father.

  1. She nearly became an Irish countess instead of a Queen

It was originally arranged for Anne Boleyn to marry her cousin. In 1522 she was to tie the knot with James Butler. The reasons for this marriage were purely political: Anne’s father, Sir Thomas Boleyn and James’s father, Piers Butler both had a claim to the same title: they wanted to be Earl of Ormond. Anne’s uncle, the Earl of Surrey, found a resolution to the dispute, stating that the marriage would end the feud once and for all. But, the plan was somehow dropped, partly due to the lack of enthusiasm on the side of the Boleyns. As by that time, Anne Boleyn was already in Henry VIII’s good graces, an agreement was made for Sir Piers Butler to claim Earldom of Ossory instead.

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  1. She could have become an English countess, too

When Anne Boleyn returned to England in 1522, she became a member of the Queen’s household. At around the same time, Henry Percy became keenly interested in her and never missed out on an opportunity to have a chat with Anne, whenever she was around. It was not such a bad party to marry, as Henry Percy was an heir to the title of Earl of Northumberland. According to William Cavendish, Percy’s peer in court, the interest was mutual. However, when the relationship was uncovered by Cardinal Wolsey, whom both of the gentlemen served, he scolded Percy for the idea of „marrying beneath him” and poor Anne had to leave the court for some time, but as we know she came back.

  1. Anne’s mother might have been Henry VIII’s mistress

And she was not the only one. Anne’s sister, Mary, was also the King’s mistress at one point. But, it is not quite as shocking as finding out about your husband’s affair with your mother. As many historians claim, however, Anne Boleyn unfortunately did find out that Elizabeth Howard was sharing the King’s bed. One brave woman, a wife of a goldsmith by the name of Elizabeth Amadas, made an even more drastic public statement, saying that: Thomas Boleyn „was bawd both to his wife and his two daughters”. That sure didn’t make things easier, and rumors were flooding the country. But, both of the men in question vehemently denied the allegations, so the case remains unresolved.

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6. She nearly died from a disease called „sweating sickness”

In contemporary times we have bird flu, or pig flu, in those times the Tudor England had the sweating sickness. We cannot be sure wether it was a type of a severe influenza, but its symptoms vaguely resemble one. It was a deadly disease, which could kill its victimgs in a number of days. Cardinal du Bellay spoke of it as: „the easiest in the world to die of”. When in June 1528, Henry VIII heard that one of Anne Boleyn’s ladies came down with the disease, he immediately sent his spouse home, to Kent. Nevertheless, Anne was already sick, and so was her father. Henry VIII sent his best doctors to treat them, and luckily enough, they both survived. However, the court was quite decimated by the illness, mentioned today surprisingly rarely in comparison to other epidemies.

  1. There was more than one Anne Boleyn at court.

Anne was a very popular name in the Boleyn family. Anne’s great-grandmother was one of the first Annes, although her surname was Hoo. Anne Boleyn had also an aunt, sharing both her name and surname, married to Sir John Shelton. Lady Shelton was in charge of Anne’s stepdaugher, Mary, who refused to come to terms with the royal marriage. Truth be told, Anne Boleyn was very harsh towards Mary, calling her „a cursed bastard” in one of her letters and denying her the Princess title. Lady Shelton was not too happy about it, and soon she and Anne Boleyn fell out for good. She did not even care much when the Queen was arrested in May 1536. We cannot blame her. Anne Boleyn had shown her ugly side there.

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  1. Anne Boleyn was Jane Seymour’s second cousin

Elizabeth Howard, Anne’s mother, was the first cousin of Margery Wentworth, Jane’s mother. Both Anne and Jane spent their childhood together at Sheriff Hutton Castle in the picturesque Yorkshire, while Elizabeth Tylney, Anne’s grandma, the Countess of Surrey, kept an eye on them. While at court, both of the their mothers attracted the attention of John Skelton, a poet, who wrote about their juxtaposed qualities, calling Elizabeth: “lusty to look on, pleasant, demure and sage”and Margery “benign, courteous, and meek”. Another thing that Anne and Jane had in common, was being on good terms with their cousin Sir Francis Bryan, who managed to secure a court post for Jane Seymour.

  1. They were no longer BFFs with Jane after 1536

Jane Semour, while in court, became Anne Boleyn’s maid. And it seemed that things would be going well for the two, until Anne painfully discovered, that her husband Henry VIII was having an affair with Jane. Sources talk about Anne noticing a picture of Henry, which Jane wore around her neck, and which was a gift from the King himself. As soon as she noticed the jewelry, she snatched it from Jane’s hand so quickly, that she hurt her hand. The two ladies also allegedly got into some other fights, as was witnessed by Jane Dormer, another of Anne’s servants. She even talked about scratching and blows happening between the rivaling cousins.

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  1. Anne’s beheading followed several other trials.

For one, Mark Smeaton, a royal musician was arrested on 30 April 1536, then other arrests happened, also Anne Boleyn’s one. She was taken to the Tower on 2 May, charged with adultery and incest. Apparently, Anne did not want to go, or well, be executed quietly, because she also dragged Sir Francis Weston along. Sir Weston was a popular young man, and when Anne Boleyn claimed that he had once professed his love to her, his fate was sealed as well. In total, there were four men executed on 17 May 1536, whose arrests were related to Anne’s cause. And Anne Boleyn was beheaded two days later, on 19 May.

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