Anne Boleyn Totally Changed The Course Of British History—Here's How

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Anne Boleyn: Her Life, Kids, Death, And LoversRobert Alexander - Getty Images

Netflix’s new mini series, Blood Sex & Royalty, explores the fascinating and dramatically short life of Anne Boleyn, a woman who rose to power as the mistress-turned-wife of King Henry VIII in Tudor England.

Anne has captured the public's fascination for centuries now. She was the only one of Henry's six wives, aside from his first wife, a Spanish princess, to actually be crowned Queen of England. And now, a new limited series is telling her fascinating story from a modern perspective, with the fictionalized Anne giving short asides to the camera, saying things like, "everywhere I looked, women were getting screwed."

Of course, the trailer also shows some real aspects in Anne's life, like her courtship with Henry, his desire for an heir, and the threats she faced because of her relationship with him.

But who was Anne Boleyn and what happened to her? Here’s everything you need to know.

Who was Anne Boleyn?

Anne was the second wife of King Henry VIII of England, according to Brittanica. She spent part of her childhood in France and returned to England in 1522, where she joined the king’s court. She initially planned to marry Lord Henry Percy, a nobleman and military officer, but the king fell in love with Anne, and those plans were soon left behind.

Anne was supposedly very beautiful, smart, fashionable, and talented, bringing haute French culture to the English court, according to Historic Royal Palaces. She could also sing, dance, and play musical instruments. Of course, Henry fell madly in love.

Fun fact: Her older sister was actually Henry's mistress before Anne caught his eye. At the time, she was working as a lady in waiting for Queen Catherine of Aragon, Henry's wife.

Why is Anne Boleyn famous?

Not to be dramatic or anything, but Anne completely changed the course of English (and world) history.

For one, she's the reason Elizabeth I and all the wonders of the Elizabethan Age exist, and for another, she is the reason Anglicanism exists.

When Anne first met Henry VIII, he was still married to his first wife, Catherine of Aragon, who was a devout Catholic and mother to his only heir, Mary, Brittanica explains. But Catherine had struggled to produce a male heir after two decades of marriage, and Henry was getting impatient.

Henry decided he wanted to try to annul his marriage with Catherine, claiming that God was punishing him for marrying his dead brother's wife, in the hopes he could marry Anne instead. Obviously, this didn't fly with the Roman Catholic Church, and they wouldn't grant him an annulment or a divorce. So, Henry took matters into his own hands, breaking from the church and founding the Church of England and proclaiming himself the head of the new church, all so that he could divorce his wife and marry Anne, per

Anne and Henry did get married, but she wasn't super popular at court (probably because of the whole home-wrecking thing) and she reportedly lost Henry’s interest after she struggled to produce children, Brittanica says.

Anne was eventually accused of witchcraft and adultery and sentenced to death.

How many kids did she have?

Anne had one living child—who went on to become the legendary Queen Elizabeth I. But historians also note that she also had a miscarriage in 1534 and gave birth to a stillborn boy in January 1536, per Brittanica.

Why was Anne put to death?

Well, that decision was pretty controversial. In May 1536, Henry accused her of adultery with various men, and even incest with her brother, per Brittanica. She was tried in court, unanimously convicted, and beheaded within days. Elizabeth was just three years old at the time.

Henry married his third wife, Jane Seymour, 11 days after Anne's execution.

How old was Anne at the time of her death?

She was just 29 years old when she was beheaded.

Who were her alleged lovers?

Accused Anne of cheating and adultery was a pretty convenient excuse for Henry to get rid of her and marry Jane Seymour in hopes she would give him his long awaited male heir. So…take this list of alleged "lovers" with a grain of salt. The list of men she was accused of having inappropriate relationships with included:

  • Musician Mark Smeaton

  • Chief gentleman of the privy chamber, Henry Norris

  • Her own brother George, Viscount Rochford

George Bernard, professor of early modern history at Southampton University and editor of the English Historical Review, told The Guardian that it’s possible the claims are true. He added that Anne was ultimately accused of having five lovers.

What were her last words?

Anne maintained her innocence until she was killed. These were her last words before she was executed, per Historic Royal Palaces:

“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 pray God save the King … for a gentler nor a more merciful prince was there never.”

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