England · Executions · Political

The execution of Henry VIII’s second wife, Anne Boleyn

May 19, 1536
London, England
Anne Boleyn, second wife of Henry VIII, is executed for treason, incest, and adultery

Henry secretly married Anne before his annulment to his first wife, Catherine, was official. Anne bore Henry a daughter, future queen Elizabeth I, though Henry was hoping for a male heir. Anne became pregnant three more times, but all pregnancies ended in miscarriages. Her third miscarriage, which was carried for about three and a half months, seemed to be male according to imperial ambassador Eustace Chapuys, who later said “She has miscarried her saviour.”

Just before this final disappointment, Henry had already begun courting Jane Seymour, even brazenly displaying his affections for Jane in front of his wife. He also began thinking of ways to dissolve his marriage to Anne; he had his marriage to Catherine annulled because divorce was a high sin within the Church, but one annulment was difficult enough. Two in a row would be nearly impossible. So Anne was accused of adultery with several men including her brother and high treason (the Treason Act of Edward III stated adultery by the Queen was a form of treason, and the punishment was death).

Anne was convicted, her marriage was considered null and void because of Anne’s supposed actions, and Henry was free to marry his lover Jane Seymour. Her “lovers” were also convicted despite no credible evidence against them and were executed May 17. Anne met her end almost giddily. She smiled as she approached the scaffold, spoke well of the King, and was beheaded swiftly with a single swing of a sword.

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