On January 25, 1533, King Henry VIII married his adulterous lover Anne Boleyn in a secret ceremony held in London and presided over by very few witnesses. Henry was, by all applicable laws, still married to his first wife Queen Catherine of Aragon. Anne Boleyn was pregnant. She would give birth to her only daughter Elizabeth on September 7 of that same year, approximately seven months after the wedding.
It was the shotgun wedding of a bigamist king and a pregnant lady in waiting. Oh, but what a king, and what a lady! The Pope never approved Henry’s divorce from Catherine of Aragon and Henry was excommunicated from the Catholic Church. This changed the direction of religion not only in England but much of Europe as well, as Protestant Reformations spread across the land.
Although Anne’s daughter Elizabeth would go on to become one of the most powerful monarchs of England, her status as ‘illegitimate bastard’ would always be in question. This led to great paranoia. Elizabeth was constantly in fear for her life and established a network of spies that would put the CIA, the FBI and the Mata Hari to shame.
Conventional wisdom would have surely suggested that this marriage was ill fated. As you know, it ended badly. Just three years later, Henry charged Anne with adultery and treason. She was beheaded. While imprisoned in the Tower of London, Anne famously joked about her ‘little neck’ which would make the executioner’s task easy.
Yet when they first met sparks flew. Henry and Anne were totally infatuated with each other, evident in Henry’s many love letters to her. This awesome scene from ‘The Tudors’ depicts the passion, fascination and lust they must have felt. (Not sure if the ‘masked ball’ is historically correct, but it is a great Romeo and Juliet steal. I think Shakespeare would have approved!)