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Anne Boleyn

Anne Boleyn


Anne BoleynAnn Boleyn whose name is pronounced and sometimes spelled Bullen was born in the year 1507. She was the daughter of Sir Thomas Bunell, afterwards created Viscount Rockford and Earl of Wiltshire. Anne's mother was Lady Elizabeth Howard, daughter of the Duke of Norfolk. In her childhood Anne accompanied Mary" the sister of Henry VIII., to France, where she remained at the court of that Queen and her Successor, the wife of Francis I., for many years. She returned to England about 1527, and became a maid of honor to Queen Katharine, the wife of Henry VIII.


The pleasure-l0ving king, already tired of his rather austere wife, six: years older than himself, soon gave marks of his favor to the young and beautiful maid of honor, and openly paid addresses to her before he sought a divorce from Katharine. Anne had been engaged to Lord Percy, the eldest Son of the Duke of Northumberland; but this match was broken off on her receiving, in 1528, a letter from the king, wherein he alludes to his having been one whole year struck with the dart of love. Anne retired to the country during the early part of Henry's process for the divorce; but they kept up correspondence by letters. In 1529 she returned to court, and was known to be intended by Henry for his future queen. In January, 1533, Anne was secretly married to Henry in the presence of her uncle, the Duke of Norfolk, and of her father and mother. Dr. Rowland Lee, afterwards Bishop of Litchfield, perfonned the ceremony, though it was not until the 23d of May following that the nullity of the King's previous marriage was declared by Cranmer. On the 1st of June Anne was crowned queen with great pomp. On the 3th of the following September she presented her husband with a daughter, afterwards Queen Elizabeth.


Of the events of Queen Anne's life during the two subsequent years little is known; hut she favored the Reformation and promoted the translation of the Bible. In January, 1536, she was delivered of a still-born child, and it was soon evident that her fickle and lustful husband was alienated from her, and had transferred his affections to Jane Seymour, daughter of Sir John Seymour, and one of her maids of honor. Whether Henry VIII. believed the reports which Lady Rochfort spread concerning Anne it is needless to inquire. The Queen was accused of infidelity and infamous crimes with several persons. She was speedily tried and condemned by the unanimous verdict of a large council, including twenty-seven peers. The sentence pronounced against her was that she should be burned or beheaded at the king's pleasure.


On hearing this dreadful sentence Anne exclaimed: "O Father" O Creator! Thou who art the way, the truth, and the life! Thou knowest that I have not deserved this fate." To her aunt, the Lady Boleyn, she confessed that she had allowed somewhat too familiar approaches by her courtiers, but she never varied in her denial of any criminal act. A letter, addressed by her to the King, is written in such a strain of conscious innocence and of indignant reproof, that it sets her immeasurably above the oppressor. She tells him: Neither did I at any time so forget myself in my exaltation, or received queen ship, but that I always looked for such an alteration as I now .find; for the ground of my preferment being all no surer foundation than your Graces fancy, the least alteration was fit and sufficient I know to draw that fancy to some other subject. Try me, good king, but let me have a lawful trial; and let not my sworn enemies sit as my accusers and judges; yea, let me receive all open trial, for my truth shall fear no open shame.


On the 19th of May she was executed on the green before the Tower by the executioner of Calais, who was considered more expert than any in England. To the last she denied her guilt, speaking charitably of the King, probably with a view to protect her daughter from his vengeance.


Anne Boleyn was the victim of the lust, the caprice, and the heartless selfishness of Henry VIII. Her name is made remarkable by her connection with the Reformation and the rejection of papal supremacy in England, of which she was a prominent factor, if not the prime cause. The poet Gray has expressed this thought in a witty couplet: "When love could teach a monarch to be wise, And Gospel-light first dawned from Bullen's eyes."




No bridal ceremonial had been possible; the marriage had been huddled over like a stolen love-match, and the marriage feast had been eaten in vexation and disappointment. These past mortification were to be atoned for by a coronation pageant which the art and the wealth of the richest city in Europe should be poured out in the most lavish profusion to adorn.


On the morning of the 31st of May, the families of the London citizens were stirring in all houses. From Temple Bar to the Tower, the streets were fresh strewed with gravel, the footpaths were railed off' along the whole distance, and occupied on one side by the guilds, their workmen, and apprentices, On the other by the city constables and officials in their gaudy uniforms, "with their slaves in hand for to cause the people to keep good room and order." Cornhill and Grace-church street had dressed their fronts in scarlet and crimson, in arras and tapestry, and the rich carpet-work from Persia and the East. Cheapside, to outshine her rivals, was draped even more splendidly in cloth of gold, and tissue, and velvet.


The sheriffs were pacing up and down on their great Flemish horses hung with liveries, and all the windows were thronged with ladies crowding to see the procession pass. At length the tower guns opened, the grim gates rolled back, and under the archway, in the bright May sunshine, the long column began slowly to defile. Two states only permitted their representatives to grace the scene with their present Venice and France. It was, perhaps, to make the most of this isolated countenance that the French ambassador's train formed the van of the cavalcade. Twelve French knights came riding foremost in surcoats of blue velvet with sleeves of yellow silk, their horses trapped in blue, with white crosses powdered an their hangings,


After them followed a troop of English gentlemen, two and two, and then the Knights of the Bath, "in gowns of violet, with hoods purled with miniver, like doctors." Next, perhaps at a little interval, the abbots passed on, mitred in their robes; the barons followed in crimson velvet, the bishops then, and then the earls and marquises, the dresses of each order increasing in elaborate gorgeousness. All these rode on in pairs. Then came alone, Audeley, lord-chacellor, and behind him the Venetian ambassador and the Archbishop of York; the Archbishop of Canterbury, and Du Bellay, Bishop of Bayonne and of Paris, not now with bugle and hunting frock, but solemn, with stole and crozier. Next, the lord mayor, with the city mace in hand, and Garter in his coat of arms ; and then Lord William Howard-Belted Will Howard of the Scottish Border, Marshal of England. The officers of the Queen's household succeeded the marshal, in scarlet and gold, and the van of the procession was closed by the Duke of Suffolk, as high constable, with his silver wand.


It is no easy matter to picture to ourselves the blazing trail of splendor which in such a pageant must have drawn along the London streel.. -these streets which now we know so black and grimed, themselves then radiant with masses of color gold, and crimson, and violet. Yet there it was, and there the Still could shine upon it, and tens of thousands of eyes were gazing on the scene out of the crowded lattices. Glorious as the spectacle was, perhaps, however, it passed unheeded. 'those eyes were watching for another object, which now drew near. In an open space behind the constable there was seen approaching "a white chariot," drawn by two palfreys in white damask, which swept the ground, a golden canopy borne above it making music with silver bells and in the chariot sat the observed of all observers, the beautiful occasion of all this glittering homage fortune's plaything of an hour, the Queen of England---Queen at last-borne along upon the waves of this sea of glory, breathing the perfumed incense of greatness which she had risked her fair name, her delicacy, her honor, her self-respect, to win; and she had won it. There she sat, dressed in while tissue robes, her fair hair flowing loose over her shoulders, and her temples circled with a light coronet of gold and diamonds-most beautiful-loveliest- most favored, perhaps, as she seemed at that hour, of all England's daughters. Alas I "within the hollow round " of that coronet- "


Kept death his court, find there the antick sate, Scoffing her state and grinning at her pomp. Allowing her n little breath, a little scene To monarchize, be feared. and kill with looks; Infusing her with self and vain conceit, As if the flesh which wall'd about her life Were brass impregnable; and humored thus, Bond through her castle walls; and farewell, Queen.


Fatal gift of greatness! so dangerouns ever I so more than dangerous in those tremendous times when the fountains are broken loose of the great deeps of thought; and nations are in the throes of revolution-when ancient order and law and tradition are splitting in the social earthquake; and as the opposing forces wrestle to and fro, those unhappy ones who stand above the crowd become the symbols of the struggle, and fall the victims of its alternating fortunes. And what if into an unsteady heart and brain, intoxicated with splendor, the outward chaos should find its way, converting the poor, silly soul into an image of the same confusion-if conscience should be deposed from her high place, and the Pandora box be broken loose of passions a and sensualists and follies; and at length there be nothing left of all which man or woman ought to value, save hope of God's forgiveness.


Three short years have yet to pass, and again on a summer morning, Queen Anne Boleyn will leave the Tower of London- not radiant then with beauty on a gay errand of corona tion, but a poor, wandering ghost, on a sad, tragic errand, from which she will never more return, passing away out or earth where she may stay no longer, into a presence where, nevertheless, we know that all is well, for all of us, and therefore for her.


But let us not cloud her short-lived sunshine with the shadow of the future. She went on in her loveliness, the peeresses following in their carriages, with the royal guard in their rear. In Frenchurch Street she was met by the children of the city schools; and at the corner of Grace church Street a masterpiece had been prepared of the pseudo-classic art, then so fashionable, by the merchants of the Styll Yard. A Mount Parnassus had been constructed, and a Helicon fountain upon it playing into a basin with four jets of Rhenish wine. On the top of the mountain sat Apollo with Calliope at his feet, and on either side the remaining Muses, holding lutes or harps, and singing each of them some" posy" or epigram in praise of the queen, which was presented, after it had been sung, written in letters of gold.


From Gracechurch Street the procession passed to Leadenhall, where there was a spectacle in better taste, of the old English Catholic kind, quaint perhaps and forced, but truly and even beautifully emblematic. There was again a "little mountain, which was hung with red and white roses a gold ring was placed on the summit, on which, as the queen appeared, a white falcon was made to "descend as out of the sky "-"and then incontinent came down an angel with great melody, and set a close crown of gold on the falcon's head and in the same pageant sat Saint Anne with alt her issue beneath her i and Mary Cleophas with her four children, of the which children aile made a goodly oration to the queen, of the fruitfulness of Saint Anne, trusting that like fruit should come of her.


With such "pretty conceits," at that time the honest tokens of an English welcome, the new queen was received by the citizens of London. These scenes must be multiplied by the number of the streets, where some fresh fancy meets her at every tum. To preserve the festivities from flagging every fountain and conduit within the walls ran the bells of every steeple were ringing; children lay in wait with songs, and ladies with posies, in which all the resources of fantastic extravagance were exhausted and thus in an unbroken triumph-and to outward appearance received with the wannest affection-she passed under Temple Bar, down the Strand, by Charing Cross, to Westminster Hall. The king was not with her throughout the day liar did he intend to be with her in any part of the ceremony. She was to reign without a rival, the undisputed sovereign of the hour.


Saturday being passed in showing herself to the people, she retired for the night to the n king's manor house at Westminster," where she slept. On the following morning, between eight and nine o'clock, she returned to the hall, where the lord-mayor, the city council, and the peers were again assembled, and took her place on the high dais at the top of the stairs under the cloth of state; while the bishops, the abbots, and the monks of the abbey formed in the area. A railed way had been laid with carpets across.Palace Yard and the Sanctuary to the Abbey gates and when all was ready preceded by the peers in their robes of Parliament, the Knights of the Garter in the dress of the order, she swept out under her canopy, the bishops and the monks solemnly singing." The train was borne by the old Duchess of Norfolk, her aunt, the Bishops of London and Winchester on either side" bearing up the lappets of her robe." The Earl of Oxford carried the crown on its cushion immediately before her. She was dressed in purple velvet furred with ermine. her hair escaping' loose, as she usually wore it, under a wreath of diamonds. Off entering the abbey, she was led to the coronation chair, where she sat while the train fell in to their places, and the preliminaries of the ceremonial were dispatched. Then she was conducted up to the high altar, and anointed Queen of England and she received from the hands of Cranmer. fresh come in haste from Dunstable, with the last words of his sentence upon Katharine scarcely silent upon bis lips, the golden scepter and Saint Edward's crown.


Did any tinge of remorse, any pang of painful recollection, pierce at that moment the incense of glory which she was inhaling? Did any vision flit across her of a sad mourning figure which once had stood where she was standing, now desolate, neglected, sinking into the darkening twilight of a life cut short by sorrow? Who can tell? At such a time, that figure would have weighed heavily upon a noble mind, and a wise mind would have been taught by the thought of it, that, although life be fleeting as a dream, it is long enough to experience strange vicissitudes of fortune. But Anne Boleyn was not noble and was not wise-too probably she felt nothing but the delicious, all-absorbing, all intoxicating present; and if that plain, suffering face presented itself to her memory at all, we fear that it was rather as a foil to her own surpassing loveliness. Two years later, she was able to exult over Kath. urine's death; she was not likely to have thought of her with gentler feelings in the first glow and flush of triumph.


These scenes concluded, in the usual English style, with a banquet in the great hall, and with all outward signs of enjoyment and pleasure. There must have been but few persons persent, however, who did not feel that the sunshine of such a day might not last forever, and that over so dubious a marriage no Englishman could exult with more than half a heart. It is foolish to blame lightly actions which arise in the midst of circumstances which are and can be but imperfectly known and there may have been political reasons which made so much pomp desirable. Anne Boleyn had been the subject of public conversation for seven years, and Henry, no doubt, desired to present his jewel to the people of England in the rarest and choicest setting.-J. A. FROUDE.


Anne Boleyn

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