Monday, 19 May 2014

"She who has been the Queen of England on earth will today become a Queen in Heaven"

At eight o'clock in the morning on the 19th May, 1536, Anne Boleyn ascended the scaffold at Tower Green.

"Good Christian people, I am come hither to die, for according to the law, and by the law I am judged to die, and therefore I will speak nothing against it. I am come hither to accuse no man, nor to speak anything of that, whereof I am accused and condemned to die, but I pray God save the king and send him long to reign over you, for a gentler nor a more merciful prince was there never: and to me he was ever a good, a gentle and sovereign lord. And if any person will meddle of my cause, I require them to judge the best. And thus I take my leave of the world and of you all, and I heartily desire you all to pray for me. O Lord have mercy on me, to God I commend my soul."

Her final words spoken, she knelt upon the scaffold and her ladies tied a blindfold over her eyes. Her executioner struck off her head with a single blow of his sword.

Anne was charged with adultery, incest, and plotting the death of the King, Henry VIII. Her real 'crime', however, was ambition.

In reality Anne was doomed the moment Henry took an interest in her. Henry VIII was a man used to getting his own way, and when this intelligent, charismatic, sexy woman refused his advances he wanted her even more.

Henry's pursuit of Anne would be seen as nothing short of sexual harassment if the two of them were around today. No matter how much she told him 'no', all Henry heard was 'yes'. To make matters worse Henry's wife at the time, Katherine of Aragon, was hugely popular, so much so that when Henry discarded her with the intention of making Anne his new Queen, Anne had no hope of being as beloved as her predecessor.

But Anne should never be villainized for the part she played in Katherine's downfall. Henry is the real villain of this tale, and he treated all six of his wives appallingly. In reality Anne had little choice; she could become the King's mistress until he tired of her and married her off to one of his courtiers, or she could use Henry's desire to put herself in a position of influence.

I don't believe Anne desired to become Henry's wife, nor do I believe she desired to see Katherine ruined. She was pressured, to an extent, into seducing the King for her family's benefit. I think she saw the chance to be Queen as a chance to spread the Reformation throughout England; a cause which Anne was incredibly passionate about.

I also think she saw the chance to rise above the usual restrictions of her sex, and become the most powerful woman in the country. This must have been some consolation for all the greedy men in her life who helped her get there.

Today marks 478 years since Anne's execution, and yet she is still being talked about, written about and read about all over the world, and will continue to be so for years to come. Why? Because the world hates injustice, and for many years Anne has been misunderstood as a gold-digging home-wrecker, when in reality she was a young woman who was harassed into becoming the wife of a tyrant, and then executed when that same man grew bored of her.

It's a tragic story, and one that should always be remembered.

Anne was survived by her daughter, Elizabeth Tudor, who became Queen Elizabeth I in 1558. Elizabeth ruled England for 44 years; her reign became known as "The Golden Age".

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