Meet the Wives Handbook: Anne Boleyn

Role as Queen

Anne was crowned on June 1, 1533 at Westminster Abbey. But it was not entirely a day of triumph. On the eve of her coronation, Henry VIII's second wife had ridden in a magnificent procession from the Tower of London to Westminister, while Londoners, who still favored Catherine of Aragon, cried "HA! HA!" in parody of the king and queen's initials.

Though commonly seen as a parvenue who had stolen Catherine of Aragon's rightful place, Queen Anne made every effort to play the traditional role of queen. She gave alms to the poor, provided for widows, and even sewed shirts and smocks for the needy. She was also a patron of the arts and scholars. Erasmus, the theologian and humanist scholar, would dedicate books to her. At court, Anne was a trendsetter -- her French-inspired clothes and headdresses would be eagerly copied.

The public hated Anne not just because they viewed her as an adulteress, but because they thought she was a heretic, influenced by Martin Luther's teachings. Even though she had pushed for the break with Rome in order for Henry to obtain a divorce and marry her, Anne was genuinely interested in church reform. She obtained translations of anti-clerical works such as "Supplication of the Beggars" by Simon Fish, printed in Antwerp in 1524, but smuggled into England. She shared this book along with William Tyndale's "The Obedience of a Christian Man" with Henry. In his book, Tyndale advocated secular rule over papal power. The king was impressed and deemed it "a book for me and all kings to read." Anne's influence over the king would lead Henry to declare himself the Supreme Head of the Church of England as well as dissolve monasteries. Anne also helped promote the pro-reform churchmen Thomas Cranmer and Hugh Latimer to bishops.

Even before she became queen, Anne had exercised influence over the king. The queen had never forgotten Cardinal Wolsey's role in ending her chances for marriage with Lord Henry Percy. She also doubted Wolsey's ability and sincerity in attempting to get the Pope to deem the king's marriage to Catherine of Aragon invalid. Anne's campaign against Wolsey, once Henry's most trusted servant, would lead to his execution. Other longtime advisors who refused to take the oath of the Act of Succession that recognized the king's second marriage met the same fate. John Fisher, Bishop of Rochester, and Sir Thomas More, the king's former friend and adviser, were both also executed at Anne's urging.

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