"Anne Boleyn there, declaring herself no witch"

Anne Boleyn (c. 1501/09-1536) was the second wife of King Henry VIII and Queen of England from 1533 until her death. Born to a nobleman’s family, she spent much of her childhood at the court in France, before returning to England in 1521. After affairs with Henry Percy and Sir Thomas Wyatt, the bewitching and ambitious Anne was noticed by Henry VIII who had already had her sister Mary as a mistress. Anne refused to take this position, saying that she would either marry Henry or nothing at all. Around 1527 he began to seek grounds for a divorce from his first wife, Catherine of Aragon, who had borne him a daughter but could have no more children. In one of the greatest cataclysms of British history, Henry broke from the church in Rome and formed the Church of England of which he was head, allowing him to divorce Catherine in 1533.

Anne was not much admired by the people of England, having caused such great turmoil, but she was adored by Henry VIII. They were married in 1533 by which time she was already pregnant. Her daughter, Elizabeth, was born in September of that year. It was incredibly important to her future survival that Anne produce a son for Henry, who wanted nothing more than a male heir, but it was not to be – over the next two years she miscarried several times. In 1536 her enemies began to plot to bring her down: she was accused of adultery, incest and planning to murder Henry. Accusations of witchcraft were more a public sensation: the population felt she must have bewitched the King to get him to marry her. Her friends and brother, George, were also accused of similar crimes, and all were tried and sentenced to death.

Anne spent her final days in the Tower of London and was executed there on 19th May 1536 by a swordsman brought specially from France.

The Other Boleyn Girl, a novel by Philippa Gregory and 2008 film, is based on the lives of Mary and Anne Boleyn.