Anne Boleyn: A King's Obsession by Alison Weir

  “How did Mrs. Amadas know about Mary?”

  “I have no idea.” George shrugged. “What I can’t forgive is the slur on our lady mother. Of course, she did have a bit of a reputation in her youth.”

  “What do you mean?”

  “She took lovers. Father told me. That’s why they don’t get on.”

  “But to accuse her of sleeping with the King! Are they implying that I’m the fruit of their adultery? How could that be? He was ten when I was born! It’s a vile slur on him. But he did have Mary, and if there is talk at court about his affair with her, everyone will soon know about it. George, this is serious. It could upset everything, because the world does not know that we had a dispensation.”

  “From the Pope, whose authority is no longer recognized here. It might be of no more worth than the dispensation granted to Katherine.”

  “I must speak to the King!” Anne cried. “Never fear, I’ll say I made you repeat all this.”

  She flew through her apartments to her bedchamber, where a door led into Henry’s lodging. Mercifully he was there, reading.

  “Darling? What’s wrong?” he asked, springing to his feet.

  She burst into tears and repeated what George had told her. “And now people will know that there is an impediment to our marriage!” she cried.

  “I’m aware of that already,” he said, holding her to him as gently as if she were glass and might break. “I’ve consulted Cranmer, who tells me that the granting of that dispensation could fatally undermine my cause against Katherine, and make me look a hypocrite. I said it was essential that the legality of our marriage be beyond dispute, and he recommended that the matter be dealt with by Parliament. As for these protests, they will be silenced. My subjects will accept you as queen. Now be at peace, sweetheart, and rest. You must think of our son.”

  The passing of a new Act permitting marriage with the sister of a discarded mistress did not come a moment too soon for Anne. But it did not put a stop to the spreading gossip about Mary, which only served to exacerbate public disapproval of Anne’s marriage. And after Parliament enacted that Katherine should be called Queen no more, but Princess Dowager, there were even more strident protests.


  Henry appointed Whitsunday, the first day of June, for Anne’s coronation. He himself wrote to the City of London commanding the Mayor and his brethren to prepare pageants for it, and summoned his nobility and clergy to attend.

  Anne went about with a smile on her face. The sickness had eased, the child stirred lustily under her stomacher, and she had never felt better. Happily she selected the materials for the gowns and robes she would need for the river pageant that would conduct her from Greenwich to the Tower, her state entry into London, and her crowning itself. She could not wait. Being crowned would invest her with a regal sanctity and set her apart from ordinary mortals—and might silence her enemies.

  Meanwhile, Cranmer had been summoning various divines and canon lawyers to a special ecclesiastical court in Dunstable Priory, just four miles from Ampthill. Katherine had been cited to appear before this court.

  Henry was convinced that Chapuys was doing his utmost to incite the Emperor to war and persuade Katherine that it was the best way to get her husband back.

  “Cranmer pronouncing judgment against her might give Charles the pretext he needs,” he said anxiously.

  “He never calls me queen,” Anne seethed.

  “He will!” Henry blustered. “I can’t lock Chapuys up, but I can muzzle him!”

  Chapuys was summoned before the Privy Council and warned not to meddle further in Katherine’s affairs. Anne doubted it would have any effect, although it might keep him quiet for a while. But Henry could not silence the outcry in Europe at the news of their marriage. Throughout Christendom voices were raised, protesting that Katherine was the rightful Queen of England, and Anne an upstart adulteress.

  Dining with her and Henry one day, Cromwell showed his exasperation. “Everywhere there is derision. One of my correspondents in Antwerp has informed me that—saving your Graces’ presence—a painting of Her Grace was pinned inappropriately to one of you, sir. In the Netherlands and Spain they take great pleasure in jesting about your Grace and the Queen. In Louvain, lewd and malicious students have scratched scurrilous verses on doors and street corners. I will spare you the details.”

  Henry threw down his napkin. “Have my ambassadors abroad briefed as to how to counter such calumnies. Tell them they must insist that Anne is the true Queen, and refuse to speak to anyone who gives Katherine that title.”

  “You think that will silence the protests?” Anne asked.

  “Maybe not, but Cranmer’s judgment assuredly will.”

  It could not come soon enough. It was now May, and her condition was evident to all.

  “Soon I will look like an elephant,” she grumbled to her father. “I’ve had to add a panel to my skirts. All my gowns are too tight.”

  “You should stop complaining and thank God to find yourself in such a condition,” he retorted.

  Her temper flared. “I’m in a better state than you wanted last year! You were wondering if it was all worth it.”

  “I spoke out of weariness with the situation and concern for you,” Father placated her. “God be praised, you did not heed me. I am glad to see you looking so well.”

  “I will be better still when this court has declared my marriage valid,” she told him.

  “You know that Katherine has utterly refused to obey Cranmer’s summons and says she will have no other judge but the Pope? Cranmer has declared her contumacious, and is proceeding without her, thank God!”

  “Amen to that,” Anne said.

  On the twenty-third day of May, Cranmer pronounced Henry’s union with Katherine absolutely null and void and contrary to divine law.

  “Free at last!” Henry shouted, tossing his bonnet in the air and kissing Anne heartily. “Thank God! Thank God!” Immediately he ordered the distribution of a tract he had written himself to inform his loving subjects of the truth about his marriages. “I’ll make sure Katherine gets one,” he added wickedly.

  A deputation of the Privy Council was sent to inform the Princess Mary of Cranmer’s judgment.

  “Well?” Anne demanded of Henry when he came to her that evening. She had seen, from her window, the councillors returning.

  “She defied them,” he admitted, looking crestfallen. “She said she would accept no one for queen except her mother, upon which, on my orders, they forbade her to communicate in any way with Katherine until she had come to her senses.”

  Rage welled up. “How very dutiful of her! You have nurtured a viper in your bosom.”

  “Let us hope that being cut off from her mother brings her to her senses,” Henry muttered, his mouth set in a grim line.


  Five days after he had judged Katherine’s marriage invalid, Cranmer announced that the King’s marriage to the Lady Anne was good and lawful.

  “Six years it has taken!” Henry exclaimed. “Six long years! But darling, finally, we have what we have most desired. You are now lawfully mine, and our son will be born in undisputed wedlock.”

  Anne surrendered joyfully to his embrace. The ruling had been timely, for on the morrow she was to make her progress by river to London for her coronation. The hour she had dreamed of was almost upon her.

  Uncle Norfolk, as Earl Marshal of England, had been put in charge of the arrangements, but he and she were now barely on speaking terms after she had heard him praising Katherine’s courage to Chapuys. His ingratitude stung, because she had just persuaded Henry to agree to the marriages of Norfolk’s daughter to the Duke of Richmond and his son to Frances de Vere—and she had gotten Henry to waive a dowry in Mary Howard’s case. But, for all her uncle’s animosity and constant tut-tutting, he did plan everything with superb efficiency.

  The Lord Mayor of London and the aldermen and sheriffs were coming to Greenwich to escort Anne by barge to
the Tower, where she would spend the night before her state entry into London.

  “You look gorgeous,” Henry told her, when she appeared before him in her cloth-of-gold finery; but as they waited for the city fathers to arrive, he was fretting about Thomas More.

  “I sent him an invitation to the coronation, and money for a new gown,” he brooded. “I hope he will come. I’ve dispatched three bishops to Chelsea this morning to persuade him. If he recognizes our marriage by attending, it will go a long way toward quelling the opposition.”

  For Henry’s sake, Anne prayed that More would say yes. But when she saw the glum faces of the bishops on their return, she knew their mission had been hopeless.

  “What did Sir Thomas say?” Henry asked anxiously.

  “He will not come, sir. He said there are those who are desirous to deflower us, and when they have deflowered us, they will not fail soon after to devour us. But he would provide that they shall never deflower him.”

  Henry bristled. “So this is how he repays me for my friendship! Well, no matter, we will not spoil your day, darling, for an ungrateful knave!”

  It was three o’clock. The Lord Mayor was here. There was no more time for talk. Henry kissed her farewell. He would travel to the Tower by covered barge.

  She stepped into the barge she had appropriated from Katherine, followed by Mary and her other ladies, her father, and a group of privileged nobles. Out on the Thames bobbed the gaily decorated crafts of the London guilds, many of them filled with minstrels playing sweet music. Anne was gratified to see huge crowds lining the banks as her barge began making its stately way along the river, its cloth-of-gold heraldic banners fluttering in the breeze. On a boat to her left a water pageant was being staged, with terrible monsters and wild men casting fire, which made her maidens squeal. But there was little cheering from the eerily silent crowd, apart from when the monsters ended up in the water, and she was relieved to catch sight of the Tower of London ahead.

  As she alighted at the Queen’s Stairs, the Lord Chamberlain greeted her and escorted her to the King, who was waiting just inside the postern gate in the Byward Tower.

  “Darling!” he cried, and kissed her lovingly, as trumpets and shawms sounded her arrival and the cannons on Tower Wharf fired a resounding salute.

  Anne thanked the waiting Mayor and citizens for their kindness in arranging such a wondrous pageant, and then Henry led her to the old royal apartments.

  “I’ve had Cromwell refurbish them in your honor,” he told her. “He’s spent over three thousand pounds on repairs and improvements so that you can be accommodated in suitable splendor.” They entered the Queen’s lodgings and she looked around, impressed. The walls and ceilings had been decorated in the antique style, with plaster friezes of gamboling cherubs, all gilded, and costly new tapestries portraying the story of Queen Esther, which Henry had commissioned in acknowledgment of her zeal for reform.

  “This is your great chamber,” he told her, “and that closet over there will serve as a private oratory.” He ushered her into a dining chamber embellished with a great fireplace and fine wainscoting. Beyond it was a bedchamber with a royal bed hung with red velvet, and a privy set into the wall.

  “These were my dear mother’s lodgings,” Henry told her, looking around wistfully. “She died here. Of course, they look very different now. I do hope you are pleased with them.”

  Anne took his hands. “They are superb, and I will thank Master Cromwell for the good work he has done.”

  They spent the next day resting in the Tower, and in the evening Henry dubbed eighteen Knights of the Bath, explaining to Anne that this ancient ritual was normally performed only at the coronations of reigning monarchs, but that a special exception was being made for her. Francis Weston was one of those he honored.

  In the morning, Anne rose early to be made ready for her ceremonial entry into London. For this she had chosen a traditional surcoat and matching mantle of shimmering white cloth of tissue furred with ermine. On her head she wore a coif surmounted by a circlet studded with rich stones. Her hair was loose, in token of her symbolic virginity as a queen, but beneath the white gown the mound of her belly swelled.

  Her ladies assisted her into a horse litter of white cloth of gold, to which were harnessed two palfreys caparisoned in white damask. Sixteen knights of the Cinque Ports took up their positions around it, bearing a canopy of cloth of gold on gilded staves, attached to which were silver bells that tinkled above Anne’s head. Already the great procession of lords, clergy, officers, and courtiers was leaving the Tower, bound for the City of London. As her litter was borne up Tower Hill behind it, a great train of ladies followed in chariots and on horseback. Crowds were gathering, but they mostly just stood there watching, some of them palpably hostile.

  The City of London had spared no expense in honoring her. She passed along newly graveled streets, beneath triumphal arches, past buildings hung with scarlet and crimson cloth. Every window was crammed with ladies and gentlewomen, eager to catch a glimpse of her. Music played, children made speeches, and free wine splashed in the conduits and fountains, that all might celebrate this day. Choirs raised their voices in sweet harmony in her honor:

  Anna comes, the most famous woman in all the world,

  Anna comes, the shining incarnation of chastity,

  In snow-white litter, just like the goddesses,

  Anna the Queen is here, the preservation of your future.

  “Honor and grace be to our Queen Anne!” the singers chorused. “For whose cause an angel celestial descends, to crown the falcon with a diadem imperial.”

  In Cornhill, the Three Graces wished Anne hearty gladness, continual success, and long fruition. “Queen Anne, prosper, go forward, and reign!” they cried.

  In a pageant in Cheapside, an actor playing Paris, asked to choose the most beautiful of the three goddesses, Juno, Pallas, and Venus, took one look at Anne and declared that, having seen her, he could not call any of them fair. In St. Paul’s Churchyard, the choristers sang an anthem that recalled the coronation of the Virgin: “Come, my love, thou shalt be crowned!”

  Verses recited by a little child reminded Anne of the fruitfulness of her saintly namesake, St. Anne, mother of the Virgin Mary. One banner bore the legend, in Latin: Queen Anne, when thou shalt bear a new son of the King’s blood, there shall be a golden world unto thy people.

  “Amen!” Anne said loudly, smiling.

  Within the city walls, the crowds had turned out in their thousands, but as before they were largely silent and their welcome was cold. As Anne passed by, turning her face from side to side to greet the people, she saw few caps removed and hardly ten people who cried, “God save your Grace!” She heard her fool, capering along a little way ahead, cry angrily, “Ye all have scurvy heads and dare not uncover!” Worst of all, wherever the intertwined initials of their King and Queen appeared in the decorations, the mob jeered, “HA! HA!” Remembering what had happened at Durham House, Anne prayed fervently that the citizens would confine their hatred to verbal abuse. She felt horribly exposed in her open litter, a sitting target for anyone who might make an attempt on her life.

  She began to relax only when her procession left the City by Temple Bar, wending its way toward Westminster. When her litter drew up inside Westminster Hall, she alighted and ascended the great staircase to the high dais, where she seated herself beneath a cloth of estate and was served a banquet of subtleties, wines, and hippocras, which she waved away and sent down to her ladies.

  She should have been enjoying her moment of triumph, but she felt so strung up and nauseous that she could barely touch the food, and by the time the banquet ended, and she was thanking the Lord Mayor and all the lords and ladies, she was utterly exhausted. It was a huge relief to withdraw with her ladies to the White Hall in the Palace of Westminster, where Mary and Jane Rochford relieved her of the heavy mantle before she was escorted out of the palace to a waiting barge, which took her swiftly to York Place.
  Here Henry was waiting for her, eager to hear how the day had gone.

  “How liked you the look of the City, sweetheart?”

  “Sir, the City itself was well enough,” she replied, sinking into a chair, “but I saw many caps on heads and heard but few tongues.”

  Henry swore under his breath.

  “You can’t make them love me,” she said. “If you could stop them hating me I’d be happy, but you can’t tell people what to feel.” She did not tell him that she had felt frightened. “Henry, I must go to bed. I’m worn out and your son is very active. I have a big day ahead tomorrow.”

  He was all anxious solicitude. “Of course, darling. I’ll send for your women. You must take care of yourself.”


  Anne stood at the great west door of Westminster Abbey, her ladies fluttering around her, checking that her ermine-trimmed surcoat and her robe of purple velvet were arranged perfectly over the kirtle of crimson velvet. Mary adjusted the rich coronet with its caul of pearls and stones, while Madge Shelton gave one final sweep of the comb to Anne’s long hair.

  She was ready, and Archbishop Cranmer and the assisting bishops and abbots, richly coped and mitered, moved forward to receive her and support her in procession along a carpet of cloth of ray that stretched to the high altar. She walked beneath a glittering canopy of cloth of gold, with Suffolk going before her carrying the precious glittering crown of St. Edward the Confessor, and the Dowager Duchess of Norfolk bearing her train, which was so long that Anne’s chamberlain had to support it in the middle. Following behind were her ladies-in-waiting, all attired in scarlet, after whom came a great entourage of lords and ladies, the Yeomen of the King’s Guard, the monks of Westminster, and the children of the Chapel Royal, who were to sing during the ceremony.

  A platform had been erected between the high altar and the choir, and at its center stood a rich chair, in which Anne seated herself. Around her stood the nobility of the realm, and she caught sight of her parents, watching her with undisguised pride, and George, smiling encouragement. As she rose to go to the altar, she looked around for Henry, and espied a movement behind a lattice set into a pew at the side of the sanctuary. It was comforting to know that he was nearby.

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