Did Henry VIII really believe Anne Boleyn was guilty as charged?


I’ve always been keen to meet other super-cool Royal history geeks.  That’s one of the reasons I started this blog.  I’m pleased to say that my desires are already being achieved.  Within two days of go-live, I found myself in an interesting Twitter conversation with ‏@HistoryGal_ and @charlotteshist on whether Henry VIII believed that Anne Boleyn was guilty of the crimes – adultery, incest and treason – for which she was ultimately put to death.

It’s a subject I want to explore in much greater depth.  Indeed, I intend to write an extensive series on Anne’s ‘guilt’ when time allows.  But for now, I wanted to take the moment to put down some #QuickFireThoughts.  I write largely in ignorance but, perhaps this will provoke conversations that will in turn educate me.

For what it’s worth, I think in his heart of hearts, Henry knew Anne was innocent.  Here’s why:

  • I do not currently subscribe to the theory that a) Anne was actually guilty as charged or that, b) her downfall was primarily a sabotage initiated by Cromwell. I believe that Henry was actually the main orchestrator of it, even if only tacitly.
  • Henry wanted rid of Anne. True it had only been a few years since he had risked everything to marry her, but we all know that highs can descend to lows very quickly.  Not only was she massively getting on his wick but, she had of course failed to bear him a son which had been one of the main attractions to him seeking a second marriage.
  • The execution of Anne Boleyn was a political possibility. Unlike Catherine of Aragon, she was not protected by a mighty Emperor beyond the seas.  All he needed was a valid legal pretence.
  • Such an act was in keeping with Henry’s character. He had convinced himself that he was sinning against God by being married to Catherine, something that plainly hadn’t bothered him for the early part of his marriage.  He was a man who was very easily able to persuade himself of his own lies.  That’s how he could justify some of his heinous actions!

Like I say, far more research needs to be done, and I would very much like to hear other people’s thoughts…

4 thoughts on “Did Henry VIII really believe Anne Boleyn was guilty as charged?

  1. Last week I was at the Tower of London and we visited the Chapel Royal where Anne Boleyn is buried alongside Catherine Howard. My sister and I were both of the opinion that she was much maligned and probably innocent of the adultery charges. Not a word of that from the Yeoman Warders though who paint her as a scarlet woman and adultress. We also stood on Tower Green where she was executed – apparently they didn’t even have a coffin ready for her as they were so confident she would get a last minute reprieve. It was a fascinating day. Off to Hampton Court later in the summer to soak up some more Tudor history. Great blog. I love history too.

    1. Hi Gail – thank you so much for engaging with the blog.

      I think that’s pretty bad of the yeoman. Most historians believe Anne was innocent. Have you read Alison Weir’s book on it?

      Thanks again for commenting. Stay tuned for more content.

  2. I believe Henry was tired of her, she hadn’t provided the promised son, and he told Cromwell to “find a way to get rid of her.” He may have been thinking annulment and putting her in a convent. But Cromwell, with all his spies, had heard “rumors” which could provide the King an out that would make the country sympathetic toward the King. And Mark Seaton… Poor Mark, who probably had a serious crush on Anne, had fantasized about a relationship with her. I imagine Henry was shocked at the evidence brought forward. But being a walking ego, he probably started wondering….was it true after all? I personally hope she haunted him for the rest of his life. He murdered his innocent wife, just as surely as if he held the sword himself.

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