Part 7: Anne Boleyn

In 1521 the Lady Anne Boleyn returned to England after spending seven years at the French court in the household of Claude, queen of Francis I. She would have been about twenty-one years old at the time, the year of her birth is not certain, but it was probably 1501.

She was soon admitted to the household of Catherine as a maid-of-honour to the queen. The education that Anne had received at the French court gave her a superiority over her companions.

She could play, dance, and sing with more grace than any young woman in the English court. The Venetian ambassador described her as "not one of the handsomest women in the world", but noted that her eyes were "black and beautiful". Anne's portrait in the National Gallery shows that she was no great beauty. Despite this her vivacious personality and lively conversation attracted many admirers, including the king himself. Her sister Mary had been Henry's mistress only to be cast aside, as her predecessors had been.

Henry made it clear that he would like ANNE BOLEYN SMALLAnne to occupy this position, but the maid-of-honour, who was ten years younger than the king, insisted that if she could not be his wife she would not be his mistress.  She consistently refused to succumb to his advances unless they were accompanied by a definite promise of marriage, and this unexpected resistance merely increased her attraction for him.

Father G. Constant noted the calculating manner in which she ensnared the king:

She played her game very skilfully----a crown was at stake----not only for a few months, but for nearly seven years. She yielded only when Henry was slipping downhill into schism with no hope of climbing back again, and only in order to hasten the conclusion of a scheme she had perseveringly worked out. 35

35. Constant, op. cit., p. 51.

The portrait to the right is a more accurate likeness.


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