Today, May 19th, 2023 marks the 487th anniversary of the death of Anne Boleyn, the tragic and indecipherable female figure who provoked England’s break with the Catholic Church, accelerated religious polarization, spawned one of the most acclaimed queens of all time (Elizabeth I ) and yet ended up being executed for “treason” by order of her husband, King Henry VIII. Known as Anne of a Thousand Days (the time she was Queen of England), Anne Boleyn is a woman who was called a witch, prostitute, opportunist, passionate and innocent, without any historian concluding with her profile closer to the truth. Unsurprisingly her ghost is one of the best-known in the Tower of London.
The love story between the married king and the noblewoman who refused to be his lover is the material of poems, films, books, operas, ballets, and series in these almost 500 years, however, the most recent revision of his trajectory was overshadowed by the controversy of they chose actress Jodie Turner-Smith in the role, but, in general, it is common to emphasize her strong personality, her almost petulance to speak her mind and her despair in the final hours. Attributes considered negative for many centuries and have not yet exempted her from the current narrative. Anne proved that Henry VIII would never take no for an answer, but that he equally handled the lives of his friends and women like nothing else, quickly gaining a reputation as a tyrant. The problem is that as a young man, he was popular, Ana is always the reference to the “change of the king”, reinforcing the myth of being manipulative and calculating. I suspect it might be unfair.
In current times Anne would be an admired woman, not necessarily popular, but firm. She was used by her father and uncle in order for them to ascend politically, she witnessed how the king treated her sister (badly) when he discarded her from the role of lover, and could not make herself a union with the man she wanted. At some point during the king’s courtship, she fell in love (many insist she didn’t), but she dared not give in to “being one more”.
Did she just want to escape the fate of women “chosen” by Henry VIII? And the plan backfired when he picked the fight to have her as his wife? Documents and historians differ on how much Anne planned what came to pass, but she was never accepted as a true sovereign in life or death. Perhaps her youthful resentment towards the older woman exchanged for her, Catherine of Aragon, contributed to the historical antipathy. What nobody disputes today is that she was the victim of a plot and paid with her life when Henry VIII wanted to marry again, less than two years after being her husband.
Officially, Anne Boleyn was accused of adultery, incest, and high treason. Five men, including her brother, were also arrested and interrogated under torture. She died maintaining her innocence of all charges. Her body was dumped in an unmarked mass grave. Henry VIII married Jane Seymour less than two weeks later.
On this May 19th, social networks remember the Queen and the Woman, whose mystery will never be deciphered, but neither forgotten.