Fact of the day: 15th May

On this day in 1536 Anne Boleyn, Queen of England, stood trial in London on charges of treason, adultery and incest. She was condemned to death by a specially-selected jury.

Henry and Anne married on 25 January 1533. On 23 May 1533, Thomas Cranmer declared Henry and Catherine’s marriage null and void; five days later, he declared Henry and Anne’s marriage to be good and valid.

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Shortly afterwards, the Pope decreed sentences of excommunication against Henry and Cranmer. As a result of this marriage and these excommunications, the first break between the Church of England and Rome took place and the Church of England was brought under the King’s control.

Anne was crowned Queen of England on 1 June 1533. On 7 September, she gave birth to the future Queen Elizabeth I, whose gender disappointed Henry. He was not entirely discouraged, for he said that a son would surely follow and professed to love Elizabeth. Three miscarriages followed, and by March 1536, Henry was courting Jane Seymour.

Henry had Anne investigated for high treason in April 1536. On 2 May she was arrested and sent to the Tower of London, where she was tried before a jury of peers – which included Henry Percy, her former betrothed, and her own uncle, Thomas Howard – and found guilty on 15 May.

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She was beheaded four days later. Modern historians view the charges against her, which included adultery, incest, and witchcraft, as unconvincing.

Following the coronation of her daughter, Elizabeth, as queen, Anne was venerated as a martyr and heroine of the English Reformation, particularly through the works of John Foxe.

Over the centuries, she has inspired or been mentioned in numerous artistic and cultural works. As a result, she has retained her hold on the popular imagination. Anne has been called “the most influential and important queen consort England has ever had”,  since she provided the occasion for Henry VIII to annul his marriage to Catherine of Aragon, and declare his independence from Rome.

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