The Rise and Fall of Anne Boleyn
In October of 1532, Anne accompanied Henry on a trip to Calais to meet with the French King Francis I. There are a variety of theories surrounding this trip, for which Anne was accompanied by a large retinue, which suggests either Francis or his ladies of Court were unwilling to meet her based on their views of the delicate situation regarding her relationship with the King. This supposed bad feeling resulted in Henry’s reluctance to take her with him to meet the French King. One such theory has Anne disguising herself as a courtier before attending Court and dancing with the King at a ball, before revealing herself to be the Lady Anne, Marquis of Pembroke. Of course the French King was instantly smitten, his doubts melting away immediately.
Whatever the truth surrounding the meeting, when Anne and Henry returned from their trip, it was quite obvious that their relationship was now intimate. Shortly afterwards, Henry married Anne in secret, in January 1533. Anne’s coronation took place on 1st June of that year, a few weeks after Archbishop Cranmer had declared Henry’s previous marriage invalid. At her coronation, Anne was visibly pregnant, and Elizabeth was born in September. Although disappointed that his child was not the son and heir he had hoped for, Henry apparently welcomed his new daughter with all the love and affection of an overjoyed father, and proclaimed that Anne would give him his son the next time.
The next pregnancy appears to have a shroud of mystery surrounding it. Anne was again obviously pregnant through the summer of 1534, meaning she had fallen pregnant quite soon after Elizabeth’s birth. Eustace Chapuys and other visitors to court have revealed Anne’s growing mid-riff and proclaimed the King waited anxiously as his wife’s second pregnancy progressed. Then suddenly, nothing. Whether or not Anne had been pregnant, suffered a late miscarriage or stillbirth, or simply a phantom pregnancy is unknown. One surviving source makes direct reference to the missing child. Henry never spoke of it again.
It was around this time that the Tudor-Boleyn love affair began to show cracks. Henry was apparently growing tired of his strong-willed wife, quite different from the soothing, patient Katharine and made a number of references, quite vocally and publicly as to the differences in the two. Anne was greatly converted to the new Protestant faith, and had previously joined forces with Thomas Cromwell to bring down the powerful Cardinal Wolsey and pressure the King into continuing his reformation.
Cromwell, however had schemes of his own. Determined to be the voice in the ear of his master, he began to secretly undermine Queen Anne. A third pregnancy was announced at the end of 1535, and across the land, the people, Henry particularly waited with bated breath to see if this would finally bring him his long awaited heir. Sadly, following the announcement of the death of his once beloved Katharine, on the day of her funeral in January 1536, Anne miscarried the child.
Popular legend has it that this child was a male and was hideously deformed, adding to Henry’s fears that he was cursed. In all truth, medical belief in 16th Century Europe was that men ejaculated minute fully formed babies within their sperm, which entered the female and grew. If we presented a three month foetus to Tudor midwives, who lacked any proven medical skills or qualifications, they would obviously declare it to be deformed. Discerning the sex of the baby depended entirely on how far into the pregnancy Anne was when she miscarried. Whatever the case, after a courtship of 7 years, followed by only three years of marriage, Anne’s fate seemed sealed.