Anne Boleyn, the youngest daughter of Sir Thomas Boleyn and Lady Elizabeth Howard, was educated in France in the household care, or what has been described as an exclusive finishing school, of Queen Claude.
It's possible that Henry VIII first saw the Boleyn sisters during the events of the Field of the Cloth of Gold. Anne would have been thirteen years old at that time.
Despite her almond shaped eyes and her jet black hair, she hadn't the feminine charm and know-how of a Bessie Blount. Yet gradually it was apparent that Henry was becoming curiously enchanted by her.
She was vivacious, she carried herself well, and she knew how to dress in the best French fashions of the day. So much so that in comparison, Catherine of Aragon looked plain and dull.
As soon as Cardinal Wolsey was aware of the king's interest in Anne Boleyn, he asked the Earl of Northumberland to advise his son, Sir Henry Percy, then a serious suitor to Anne, to abandon all his affective pursuits forthwith.
Sensual letters written by Henry to Anne in 1527 have survived the rigours of time.
By these Anne is assured of his patient devotion. No doubt his growing passion was simply due to Anne's refusing to be his mistress. This in turn produced the effect of Henry posing as the chivalrous knight guarantying their mutual virtue : 'I would you were in mine arms or I in yours, for I think it is a long time since we kissed'...
Anne Boleyn knew what she wanted, and seemed to be able to manage Henry with her little finger, perhaps even her rudimentary sixth finger, on her left hand. Marriage was obligatory. Wolsey soon found himself in the throes of negotiating to try to obtain a papal grant for divorce. In fact Henry was already confident enough to tell Anne in February, 1528, 'shortly you and I shall have our desired end'.
But then neither Henry nor Wolsey anticipated the difficulties that lay ahead in trying to attain this goal. The five years of problems however, increased Henry's frustration and ardour all the more.
The sack of Rome in 1527 carried out by mutinous imperial troops of Charles V of Spain, may have caused him some embarrassment, but it gave him an obvious advantage over all the other Holy Roman Emperor contenders, including Henry's Chancellor. Pope Clement VII thus conceded much of his authority by proclaiming Charles V as Holy Roman Emperor. He was crowned in Bologna by the Pope in 1530. As Charles V was the nephew of Catherine of Aragon, he would never approve of her being callously cast aside. In spite of Wolsey's considerable efforts, nothing of any consequence was obtained. There was a commission issued by Pope Clement VII to Cardinals Campeggio and Wolsey to take the question to court in London, to allow the hearings of views of all parties concerned, but without the power of ruling any judgement.
The queen refused to acknowledge the legitimacy of even this limited arrangement. She made a moving appeal to Henry: 'This twenty years I have been your true wife (...) And when ye had me at the first I take God to be my judge, I was a true maid without taint of man'. And whether this be true or not, I put it to your conscience'.
Her appeal continued, during which time Henry said nothing. She then simply curtseyed and left the Hall.
Finally the question was returned to Rome, which meant that Wolsey had failed.
Henry then heeded the advice of Thomas Cromwell. No other choice remained but to renounce papal allegiance.
Wolsey was allowed to keep his archbishopric. He was in fact to be enthroned in York Minster in November, 1539. The evening before this however, he was arrested for treason, but he didn't live long enough to face the charge. 'Curiously' he died during his voyage south to be tried.
With Wolsey conveniently out of the way, the coast was clear to reform Parliament under the intelligent manoeuvring and guidance of Cromwell. Thus Henry also became 'Pope' of his realm. His title was established as 'Supreme Head of the Church of England'.
Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn were married secretly in January of 1533. Archbishop Cranmer had judged null and void the king's marriage to Catherine. At Whitsun Anne was crowned Queen in Westminster Abbey, her first pregnancy discretely hidden under her splendid gown,
She flaunted her position in such a way that she soon became unpopular. There was also great public sympathy for Catherine of Aragon.
The former queen was reduced to her previous title of Princess of Wales. She had to make do with a small household and insufficient means at Ampthill and Kimbolton manors. Heart broken, she lived out the brief remainder of her life, resolutely faithful to her Catholic religion.
When she died in January, three years following the King's marriage to Anne Boleyn, Henry VIII thought it fitting to celebrate the event by dressing from head to foot in bright yellow.
Henry VIII . part IV
Henry VIII . part II