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Answer 123. Anne Boleyn, the second of Henry VIII’s six wives


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The King’s first wife, Katharine of Aragon, was still alive when he married Anne. Many people disapproved of his behaviour in divorcing Katharine and having Anne crowned Queen. Sir Thomas More was one of several notables who pointedly boycotted the ceremony.

Henry was annoyed by their absence, but he didn’t allow it to spoil the day. Anne sat on a dais for the coronation feast in Westminster Hall. Accompanied by several ambassadors, Henry watched the proceedings from a latticed window in the cloisters of St Stephen’s chapel.

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Alas, it couldn’t last. Henry was deeply disappointed when Anne gave birth to a girl. He already had one of those. What he really wanted was a boy, a son to succeed him in the deeply macho world of Tudor politics.

Anne soon fell out of favour. Henry couldn’t get divorced for a second time, so he had to find another way of getting rid of her. On 2 May 1536, less than three years after her coronation, he had Anne arrested on trumped-up charges of incest, adultery and treason.

She was taken straight to the Tower of London. Stunned at the suddenness of her fall, outraged at the injustice of the charges against her, she was in a terrible state as she came in through the gate.

PosternSir William Kingston, the Constable of the Tower, was there to greet her. He was a decent man, but Anne went to pieces when she caught sight of him:

‘Master Kingston, shall I go in to a dungeon?’

‘No, Madam, you shall go into your lodging that you lay in at your coronation.’

‘It is too good for me. Jesu, have mercy on me!’ and she kneeled down weeping a great pace, and in the same sorrow fell into a great laughing, and she hath done so many times since.

HISTORIC LONDON: X MARKS THE SPOT. Question 124. Anne was falsely accused of incest with her brother. The punishment for incest in those days was enough to make anyone lose their mind. What was it?

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Five Days That Shocked the World

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