Meet the Wives Handbook: Anne Boleyn


At the time of Anne's marriage to King Henry, she was already three months pregnant. Although the king married Anne for love, the new queen knew that her status was contingent on her ability to bear the king a son -- the deed at which Catherine of Aragon had failed. When Anne gave birth in 1533, the king was disappointed but still had hopes that Anne would bear him a son. Letters announcing the birth of a prince, prepared before hand had to be altered with an additional "s" before being sent abroad. Ironically, the baby Princess Elizabeth would go on to become one of England's greatest monarchs as Elizabeth I. Although Anne would conceive twice more, both her pregnancies ended in stillbirth -- in 1534 and 1536.

The baby stillborn in January 1536 was a boy and it was then the dismayed king cried, "I see God will not give me male children." The king now doubted Anne's ability to bear him sons. It was time to look elsewhere for his heir and the prospect of Anne's maid-of-honor Jane Seymour beckoned.

ELIZABETH I (1533 - 1603)

After Anne and Henry's marriage was ruled invalid, Elizabeth, like her older half-sister Mary, was declared a bastard. Stripped of her title, she was called, simply, Lady Elizabeth. Although Elizabeth was only two years old at the time, she noted the difference and asked Sir John Shelton, who was in charge of her household, "how hath it, yesterday Lady Princess, and today but Lady Elizabeth?" From then on and especially after the birth of Edward VI, Elizabeth was increasingly neglected.

When Elizabeth's half-brother, Edward VI, died in 1553 and named Lady Jane Grey as his successor, Elizabeth supported her older half-sister, Mary, in her fight to become queen. But during Mary's reign, Elizabeth was imprisoned for two months and only saved herself by outwardly conforming to the Catholic faith. At Mary's death in 1558, Elizabeth, at the age of 24, became queen of England. She inherited a bankrupt country, torn by religious strife and weakened by war with France. But by the time Elizabeth died at the age of 70 England was a united nation and a major European power with an impressive navy. During Elizabeth's 45-year reign literature flourished with the works of Shakespeare and Marlowe and exploration progressed with Francis Drake and Walter Raleigh. Elizabeth's death in 1603 marked the end of the Tudor dynasty.

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