Weird History
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18 Facts About The Dramatic Life Of Anne Boleyn

Updated May 21, 2021 2.1m views18 items

You've likely heard tales of Anne Boleyn, the alluring woman who convinced King Henry VIII of England to give up his wife and child, break from the Catholic Church, and marry her. And she was the mother of one of the most renowned monarchs in British history, Elizabeth I. But there's a lot more to Anne than just her personal affairs, many of which were magnified or inaccurately portrayed by those with a political agenda after her death. So, who was Anne Boleyn really?

The life of Anne Boleyn was anything but boring. Anne was a brilliant, engaging young woman with the best education her family's position at court could provide. She served under many of the royal women in Europe, was known for her wit, and loved all things French. And once she married King Henry VIII, Anne did anything - absolutely anything - to keep her marriage intact. An Anne Boleyn biography might also mention her family's affairs with her husband, her religious fervor, and rumors that her ghost still haunts people. All in all, there are some weird Anne Boleyn facts.

  • She Was Crowned Using A King's Crown

    Surprisingly for a consort, when Anne was made Queen in 1533, she wore St. Edward's crown. One of England's most ancient diadems, it was usually reserved for monarchs. When Catherine and Henry were crowned together years before, Henry got to wear St. Edward's crown, but Catherine only wore one that had belonged to the royal's wife. 

    This crown emphasized that Anne and the child she was carrying at the time of her coronation were the real royal family (further excluding Catherine and her daughter, Mary). Regardless, Anne later wore a crown made especially for her. 

  • Henry Gave Anne A Man's Title

    Photo: Orchids love rainwater / flickr / CC-BY 2.0

    Before their marriage, Henry made Anne a peer (noble) in her own right in 1532, more than just a "lady" by virtue of her father's title as an earl. He appointed her Marquess of Pembroke, a title meant for a man: The wife of a marquess would be a marchioness. Unlike the majority of female nobles, who attained their titles by virtue of their fathers or husbands, Anne would hold a title in her own right, just like a male lord.

    It was also important to make Anne a noble because Henry was taking her on an official visit to his rival, Francis I of France. So Anne needed to be of sufficient rank to merit meeting a foreign king and being a consort of the English monarch. She was thus on par with - and outranked - many of the male nobles in the kingdom. Henry gave her the most gorgeous jewels in town, even asking his first wife to send back the royal gems, which she refused.

  • Henry Ordered A Special Swordsman For Anne's Execution

    Photo: David Holt London / flickr / CC-BY 2.0

    Once Henry deemed that his second wife should be executed, he hired an expert swordsman from the French territory of Calais to make Anne's death quick and (relatively) painless. Anne was both happy and dazed before she was killed. One can imagine facing death in such a manner would wreak havoc on anyone's emotions. 

    Apparently, Anne even joked that she might be remembered as "Queen Anne Lack-Head" after her death. The cheery demeanor served as the only way for Anne to exact a modicum of revenge on her husband.

  • She Probably Didn't Have An Extra Finger And Lots Of Moles

    Photo: Wellcome Images / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY 4.0

    Anne was cast in a witchy role late in life to justify her execution, and reports have lingered that she had a sixth finger on one hand and moles all over her body, both sorcerous features. Almost a century after Anne's death, a manuscript supposedly written by Anne's teenage admirer, the poet Thomas Wyatt, appeared.

    Wyatt's nephew circulated the information published therein, which claimed Anne had the beginnings of a fingernail on one hand, and she had a few moles, a far cry from the more exaggerated features the rumors suggested