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Anne Boleyn

It is said that the Queen of England laughed in the face of death. But was she guilty of the crimes for which she was condemned? Alison Weir investigates


CHANGE OF HEART Henry VIII’s a air with Anne Boleyn transformed the face of Europe, but why did she fall so dramatically out of the King’s favour?


In 1532, a Venetian ambassador described Anne as “not one of the handsomest women in the world. She is of middling stature, with a swarthy complexion, long neck, wide mouth, bosom not much raised, and in fact has nothing but the King’s great appetite, and her eyes, which are black and beautiful – and take great effect on those who served the Queen when she was on the throne.”

Henry fell in love with Anne when she was serving as a maid-of-honour to Katherine of Aragon

“Her reputation in the country at large, and Catholic Europe, was notorious”

On 2 May 1536, Anne Boleyn was arrested at Greenwich Palace and conveyed by barge to the Tower of London. Arriving at the Court Gate in the Byward Tower – not Traitors' Gate – she was in a fragile state. Falling to her knees, she beseeched God to help her, protesting that she was not guilty of the crimes for which she had been convicted. She would have been aware that it was rare for anyone accused of treason to escape condemnation and death.

The lords who had brought her committed her to the custody of Sir William Kingston, the Constable of the Tower, who conducted her to her lodging. “I was received with greater ceremony the last time I entered here,” she observed, recalling how she had come to the Tower in triumph before her crowning in 1533. “Mr Kingston, do I go into a dungeon?”

“No, Madam, you shall go into your lodging that you lay in at your coronation,” the Constable told her. He was referring to the Queen’s apartments in the royal palace.

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About BBC History Revealed Magazine

Inside, Tudor historian Alison Weir uncovers one of the most "grievous miscarriages of justice" in English history, we find out why the Vietnam War was doomed from the start, and explore the secret life of Albert Einstein, from his rebellious childhood to his scandalous affair.