A (Very Short) History Of Anne Boleyn

Julie Ballantyne Brown
9 min readNov 22, 2020

The commoner who changed the history of England

Copy of a painting displayed at Hever Castle, Kent, Anne’s childhood home. This image was found at https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Anneboleyn2.jpg and is in the public domain.

Born circa 1501, Anne Boleyn is probably one of the most famous, and most maligned, historical figures in English history. As the second wife of the infamous King Henry VIII and mother of the illustrious Queen Elizabeth I, much of her own fame lies in the fact that her own husband had her sentenced to death and beheaded on what we know today were false charges.

Anne’s marriage to Henry was highly controversial at the time. Henry had already been married to his first wife, Katherine of Aragon, for almost twenty years when he fell in love with Anne.

Katherine, the youngest daughter of the famed monarchs, King Ferdinand of Aragon and Queen Isabella of Castile, had first been married to Henry’s older brother, Arthur, Prince of Wales, heir to the throne of England. Arthur died only a few months into their marriage and Katherine was forced to stay in England, in poverty, for more than seven long years afterward.

Henry married her when he became king in 1509, with the dying blessing of his father, Henry VII. It was, by all accounts, a happy marriage at first. But as the years passed and Katherine only produced one living child, the future Mary I (aka Bloody Mary), after perhaps ten pregnancies, Henry began to tire of her. His eye landed on one of her maids of honor, Anne Boleyn.

Anne was the second of three living children born to George and Elizabeth Boleyn sometime around 1501, although some historians estimate the year to be as late as 1507. She was highly intelligent and not afraid to speak her mind, something that would get her into trouble later. While not conventionally beautiful for the time with her ‘sallow’ complexion, non-blonde hair and eyes , she was nevertheless charming and an excellent conversationalist. Her sparkling eyes were considered her best feature. She was also an accomplished dancer and musician. Her few documented portraits show a lovely, slender, woman with thick, dark auburn hair.

This wasn’t the first time that Henry strayed during his marriage to Katherine. His first official mistress, Elizabeth (Bessie) Blount had given birth to a son, Henry Fitzroy, in 1519. It’s important to note that this was the only illegitimate child that Henry claimed, and he claimed him…



Julie Ballantyne Brown

Future London resident. Follow Julie on Twitter: @BrownBallantyne or on FB and Instagram: @JulieBallantyneBrown