Anne Boleyn, Second Wife of King Henry VIII
Written and researched by Margaret Odrowaz-Sypniewska


Left: The Bollen Coat of Arms of the Boleyn family. This arms originated in Brabant, a Province in central Belgium. On a argent (silver/white) background, a Chevron Gules (red) between three bull's heads couped Sable (black).

Anne's family had humble beginnings. After the Royal Wedding, Anne had to abandon her father's arms in favor of a complex shield which included the arms of Lancaster, Angouleme, Guinne, Butler, Rochfort, Brothertown and Warrene.

The Boleyne Family:

Queen Anne Boleyn was the great-grandaughter of Sir Geoffrey Boleyn, Lord Mayor of London in the time of Henry VI. Anne's paternal grandmother, Margaret Butler, was the daughter and co-heir of Thomas Butler (1425-1515), 7th Earl of Ormande and Anne Hankford (1435-1485). The Boleyn family accumulated a vast fortune. Before their reign of luck they had not been noticed. Sir Thomas Boleyn of Blickling, Norfolk, grandfather of Sir Geoffrey Boleyn, lived circa 1400, and was lineally descended from John de Boleyne of Salle, who was found living in 1283. John de Boleyne's father was named Simon. Simon purchased land in Norfolk sometime before 1252. Simon Boleyne married the sister and heir of Robert Malet (Blomefield), and possessed estates at Walpole.

In 1165 Herebert de Bukium held half of a knight's fee from Roger Bigod, Earl of Norfolk (Lib. Niger). At the same time William de Bolein held 1 fee in York and 1 in Lincoln; which shows that there were two branches, of the Boleyn family, in England.

Eustace and Simon de Bologne were brothers of Pharamus de Boleyne. Pharamus was thought to be the son of William de Bolonia, who was the son of another Eustace, Count of Bologne. Pharamus had estates in England, from the Count of Bologne, his kinsman. The Count had 112 knight's fees.

***Notice that the spelling of names was not that consistent in Medieval times.

The Counts of Bologna descended from Angibert, a Frankish noble, who married Bertha, the daughter of Charlemagne. Before the year 790, Angibert was a Duke of a maritime territory later known as Ponthieu.

A Count Nithard, son of Angibert, gave service to his uncles, Lewis and Charles the Bald. Seventh in descent from Nithard was William I, who succeeded before 957. William I's great grandparents were Eustace I, whose son Eustace II; Goisfrid, Bishop of Paris; Lambert, and Godfrid or Geoffry were the ancestors of the Boleyns.

The name Bollen is armorically identified with the name Boleyn. See the "Boleyn Family Tree" HERE.


Ann Boleyn was the daughter of Thomas Boleyn (1487-1538/9), Earl of Wiltshire and Ormond, and Elizabeth Howard, daughter of Thomas Howard (1443-1524), the second Duke of Norfolks and the Earl of Surrey). Anne was also lady-in-waiting to Catherine, Henry's Queen. Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard were both nieces of the Duke of Norfolk. Henry's eye wandered from Mary Boleyn, his mistress, to her younger sister, Anne.

Anne Boleyn was born in 1503/1507 at Blicking Hall, Aylsham, Norfolk, England. Her ancestral home had been in the family since 1400 when it was owned by Sir Thomas Boleyn. Anne and was beheaded, by a French swordsman, by order of King Henry VIII on Friday, May 19, 1536, and buried in the choir of the Chapel in the Tower of London (Weir, 335) . Anne caught Henry's eye, at the suggestion of her father, Thomas Boleyn. Thomas was ambitious and knew that Henry was tired of his daughter, Mary. Mary was Anne's older sister, had earned the Boleyn family many favors. Thomas Boleyn, Sr. wanted to keep a good thing going, and sacrificed his second daughter, Anne. Anne had a flirtation with poet Sir Thomas Wyatt and Sir Henry Percy. She was engaged to Lord Henry Percy, heir to the earldom of Northumberland. However, this marriage never took place because Henry married Henry Percy off to an older woman. He wanted him out of the picture to leave Anne free for himself.

Henry had a bout with malaria, in 1521, at the age of thirty (30). This was the beginning of Henry's health maladies. Henry later would suffer from ulcers on both legs, a painful fistula from 1537, a lung blockage in 1542, dropsy, and syphilis. He also would get tertian fever in 1541. This ailment resulted in severe attacks and increase in violent behavior, which would occur every other day. Tertian fever or ague was a malarial fever that made its host have hot and cold flashes and sweaty fits.

Anne rejected Henry for ten years, until 1532. Anne was angry at her father for using her as a pawn, and at Henry for stopping her marriage to Henry Percy. She did not wish to be the mistress of a fickle king. Anne wanted to marry a man of her own choosing. After ten years, she most likely saw that the matter would not end until King Henry wanted it to end. Many writers try to make Anne out to be a villian, but Henry was spoiled and wanted his way no matter how many lives were ruined along the way. Henry had Anne Boleyn made Lady Marquess of Pembroke on September 1, 1532. This title is from her maternal family tree. Gilbert de Clare was the first Earl of Pembroke. He was a sibling of Anne's relative, Hervey Walter de Clare, from the Butler lineage. Pembroke was a borough in Dyfed, Wales, which was the birthplace of Henry's father, Henry VII.

Henry and Anne were married, in secret, on January 25, 1533, at York Place, renamed Whitehall Palace. This marriage could not be legal because Henry VIII's divorce from Catherine of Aragon was not yet final. By mid-January 1533, Anne was pregnant. Henry's divorce from Catherine of Aragon was on May 23, 1533, and was made by a special act of Parliament. At Whitsun, Anne was legally crowned "Queen" on June 1, 1533, in the fifth month of her pregnancy. Apparently Henry did this to legitimized his heir to be? Anne gave birth on September 7, 1533 (at age 31), to her daughter the future Queen Elizabeth I. A first birth at age 31 would have been regarded as "troublesome" even today. Elizabeth should have been a source of pride to both father and mother.

***Anne Boleyn was the only one of Henry's "Queens" who was crowned, other than Catarina of Aragon.

Anne was said to be Henry's most beloved wife. However, it is not known if she felt the same way as he did. Rumor has it that she complained to her sister-in-law, Lady Rochford, that Henry possessed neither skill nor virility. "Henry was neither ribald nor bawdy nor particularly lusty" (Longford, 216). She most likely would have preferred to marry one of her earlier, younger suitors. Anne miscarried three times in a row. Her first miscarriage was in July 1534. She also had a miscarriage in June 1535 (at age 33?). This child was named Henry Tudor, the Duke of Cornwall. Another stillborn son was born in January 29, 1536.

Henry had a jousting accident and he lay in seemingly a coma for more than two hours. Anxious Anne had premature labor and delivered a dead son. I think that Anne was accepting the marriage after the birth of her daughter, Elizabeth, and was trying to make a normal life for her daughter and her child to be. After a few miscarriages her son's death was a giant disappointment. Many think that Anne was in heavy depression after his death.

Anne knew that Henry had already begun a liaison with Jane Seymour before Anne's last pregnancy. Many think that her son would have been born healthy had Henry been more supportive and less interested in his extra-martial affairs, which seemingly fed his tremendous ego. This was NOT a match made in heaven. Henry enjoyed the chase more than the capture. Anne was to bear the brunt of his sexual shortcomings. Henry was said to have had bouts of impotence at 41 years of age. Being the King he could not admit his part in this, such was his failing health. Henry would rather think it was Anne's lack of skills as his lover.

On January 7, 1536, Catharine of Aragon died. It is probable that Henry would have married again after Catherine's death with or without Anne Boleyn. Henry had done the same thing to Catherine of Aragon, who also had many miscarriages. Catherine was thought to have had female problems and died of a related cancer. This was also the reason her daughter Mary I died.

Another disturbance in the Tudor household was Henry's jousting accident, in 1536. He was much too old to pursue this sport. However, he was trying to impress a young woman named Jane Seymour, her lady-in-waiting. He had to prove to both himself and to her that he was younger than his years. Henry lay unconcious for more than two hours. His wife Anne Boleyn was greatly concerned that he might die. Only six years after this event, Henry was deathly ill with a number of diseases.

It was only seven months since her last miscarriage in June 1935, and most likely about the same time, Henry's thoughts turned to wife number three. Anne was alone and was in recovery. Her health was not as good as it should have been. No one knows how far along she was in her last pregnancy. Anne went into premature labor and delivered a dead son on January 29, 1536. Henry had offered no shoulder for her to cry on. All Henry offered was anger. To his mind she was Catherine of Aragon all over again.

Anne sought the company of her male and female courtiers for sympathy and help to get her through one of her darkest hours. Many of her courtiers had been friends long before she became queen and one was her own sister-in-law. This was in an advisory role, not a sexual one. Henry's own jealousy was the ruin of their marriage. For four months Anne Boleyn suffered Henry's dismissal of her. In his mind he was through with her, and was again trying to rid his life of what he saw as a useless wife. Like Catherine of Aragon, all she could produce was one daughter.

Henry was now planning how to rid himself of Anne. Anne's only crime was not giving Henry a male heir. He could not use the church this time, there was no proof that she had slept with her fiancee, Lord Henry Percy, and Henry himself had seen to it that he was sent away to marry an older women. So he thought to discredit Anne in another way. All her courtiers were victims of this scheme. On May 2, 1536, Anne was arrested for adultery and taken to the Tower of London.

Seventeen days later, Anne Boleyn was executed ("murdered") on what many historians think was her own birthday (at age 34). Henry's birthday present to Anne was the act of a mentally sick man. Anne's death followed Catherine's death by four months. Henry had rid himself of wife one and wife two. There were rumors. at the time, of the poisoning of Catherine of Aragon.

What was unusual is that Henry VIII has been considering charging Anne Boleyn with witchcraft, since she was said to have had an extra finger, and a third rudimentary breast (a supposed sign of witchcraft). However, witchcraft was not a viable excuse. A birth defect did not neccesarily equate "evil." Instead he thought to use adultery as his means. A charge of adultery was rather hypocritical since he had not been loyal to any of his wives. Of course, the "double standard" was in effect. Henry was King, Anne was his wife. Had she been of Royal blood, of another country, this act could have potentially started a war. Henry had Anne's and his marriage anulled on May 17, 1536. Why? She was already going to be killed.

Anne's named lovers were: Sir Henry Norris, Sir Francis Weston, William Brereton, and Mark Smeaton. When Henry Norris refused to give evidence against Anne Boleyn, and said he "would rather die a thousand deaths than accuse the Queen of that which I believe her, in my conscience, innocent."

King Henry then shouted: "Hang him up then! Hang him up!"

They were all hanged at Tyburn. Her own brother, George Boleyn, was accused of incest, and Lord Rochford was beheaded on Tower Hill. Lady Rochford was responsible for this. She testified that her husband spent much too much time in his sister's chambers. Lady Rochford, her brother's wife, was one of Anne's most callused enemies.

Henry last act of "kindness(?)" was to call in a professional and skilled French swordsman to make Anne Boleyn's beheading as painless as possible. The executioner was paid 23 pounds to reduce her suffering to the minimum. He took her head in one try. Perhaps Henry did this to ease his own conscience? Anne made it clear that she was extremely worried that form of execution could be botched as she had seen people live, in brief agony, when the executioner's aim was not good, and they would strike again and again until the head was severed completely. Another victim of Henry's plot was his second child. Anne's daughter, Elizabeth, was just over two years and a half years old, so her and her mother barely had time to develop a mother-daughter bond. Their daughter Elizabeth I vowed never to marry, because to her mind, marriage meant death. Her father had beheaded both her mother and her mother's cousin, Catharine Howard. Both events occured when Elizabeth was an impressionable child. She turned into one of Great Britain's most remembered monarchs. Anne Boleyn's bloodlines go back to Edward I and William the Conquerer.

Anne Boleyn is thought to haunt a number of English castles because of her unjust death. Her soul will never be at rest, until her name is cleared. Henry cast her aside only 3 years and 4 months after their marriage. A marriage she never wanted. Henry had pursued Anne for ten years before she saw that he would not let her be. Henry and Jane Seymour were secretly married at Chelsea, Middlesex, England on May 20, 1536, only one day after Anne Boleyn's execution. Jane was daughter to Sir John Seymour, Knight of Wiltshire.

Sightings of the Ghost of Anne Boleyn

Many researchers think that Anne Boleyn would have been happily married to her cousin Lord Henry Percy. At least he was her own age and she would have been 20 years old and would have had a better chance to produce heirs without problems.

Fate and Henry VIII had other plans.

Facts About Anne Boleyn and her Family:

Anne Boleyn Links: Ewelme Manor... On the Tudor trail

As you can see by this listing Sir Thomas Boleyn used his daughter's to obtain "perks" from Henry VIII. Thomas Wyatt was in good favor with the King, until Henry VIII wanted to rid himself of his second wife, Anne Boleyn. Then he was a pawn. Wyatt never admitted to any sexual relationship with his Queen, even after he was tortured. Only one courtier confessed after being tortured, thus condemning them all.

Enemies of the Boleyns were Cardinal Wolsey and the supporters of Catherine of Aragon (the Poles and Courtenays). This was more a religious matter because the Boleyns were Protestants.


Brown, Craig & Leslie Cunliffe. The Book of Royal Lists. New York: Summit Books, 1982.

Compilation of records (no author given). The Norman People and Their existing Descendants in the British Dominians and the United States of America. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., Inc., 1999, 164.

Foster, Joseph. The Dictionary of Heraldry: Feudal Coats of Arms and Pedigrees. London: Studio Editions, Ltd., 1994.(previously printed in 1902 in black and white by James Parker and Company).

Loades (editor), David. Chronicles of the Tudor Kings Wayne, N.J.: CLB International, 1970.

Longford, Elizabeth. The Oxford Book of Royal Anecdotes. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1989.

Routh, C.R.N. Who's Who in British History: Tudor England 1485-1603 (first edition). Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 1990.

Weir, Alison. The Six Wives of Henry VIII. London: Grove Books, 1991.

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