Anne of a Thousand Days 34

Anne of 1000 Days (Universal Pictures)

Anne of the Thousand Days was a 1969 film about Henry VIII’s 2nd wife Anne Boleyn. The film, adapted from the 1948 Broadway play, starred Richard Burton and Geneviève Bujold in the leading roles. It explores Anne’s rise to become Henry’s wife, her marriage and execution, which according to the film, lasted a 1,000 days in all.

Anne Boleyn (National Gallery)

The British have always had a bit of a love-hate relationship with Anne Boleyn. On one hand, she was revered as an intelligent, intellectual, strong woman who championed Protestantism resulting in England being the first European State to break with the Papacy. She was also the mother of England’s first independent sovereign queen, Elizabeth I. On the other hand, our misogynistic past denigrated Anne as an intelligent, intellectual, strong woman who should have had the sense to keep her gob shut and know her place!

Honestly, you just can’t win sometimes, can you?

Young Henry VIII (Joos Van Cleve -National Gallery)

Young Henry VIII married his older brother’s widow, Catherine of Aragon, when he became King at the age of 18 and she was 24. Had Henry’s older brother not died, we would have had a King Arthur. Yes, Henry and Arthur’s dad knew exactly what he was doing. And you thought spin doctors were a modern invention! Let me tell you, there is nothing new in this wicked old world!

A pious Catherine of Aragon painted in her late teens as Mary Magdalene (Detroit Institute of Arts)

Henry married Catherine to keep the peace with powerful Spain. They were married for 24 years and had one daughter Mary: known to history as Bloody Mary… because she liked to kill Protestants, not because she liked a drink. To be fair the Protestants were just as keen on killing Catholics. So that sort of evens things up.

During their marriage, Henry always had a roving codpiece… think roving eye but somewhat further down his anatomy.

And what’s wrong with that?

From what I heard, when Prince Charles were a lad, he was banging the ‘Sloane Rangers’ (the posh debutantes from the Royal Boroughs of Chelsea and Kensington) harder than a privy door in a hurricane, and just as often. And then there’s Prince Harry… Talk about a chip off the old block, it’s not for nothing he looked like a young Henry VIII as a lad. He’s even got the same name.

Henry’s roving eye fell on Anne Boleyn…

Talking of misogynistic, no one is really too sure of the year of Anne’s birth… it might have been 1501 or 1507. Funny they knew when the boys were born.

Anne’s older sister, Mary had already been the King’s mistress, having two children by him. According to gossip (and who can say no to gossip?) Mary was brought home from the French court, where both girls were educated, because of her scandalous behaviour: dangerous liaisons with the French King and his nobility.  Not done! If a woman wanted affairs in those days, she had to wait until after she was married.

So back to Henry’s roving eye…

In 1526 it fell on the 25 year old, or conversely 19 year old, Anne. (Hell, why should I care, no one else did!) Obviously her parents naturally wanted to do the right thing: pimp her out to the king for their own political benefit.

But Anne was having none of it. As Beyonce once said, ‘If you like it then you better put a ring on it!’  Perhaps it was the challenge that appealed to Henry. He was more used to the song… ‘I’m just a gal who can’t say no!’

The more Henry wanted her. The more Ann dug her heels in. And let me tell you she was playing one hell of a risky game. But one that paid off. Within a year she landed him hook, line and sinker. He proposed. There was only one slight problem. The wife.

Henry sent his best churchmen to the Pope to annul his marriage to Catherine of Aragon. Not a Divorce! Jesus Christ they were Catholic!  Having read his bible where it said thou shalt not marry thy brother’s wife, Henry, who was no dunce himself in the old theology department, pointed out the marriage was cursed by God. That was why he had no male heir.

As luck would have it, the Pope at that time was the prisoner of Catherine’s nephew the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V. Now let’s face it, if it comes to pissing off someone a thousand miles away or someone holding you prisoner… what are you going to do?

By this time Anne was already taking the queen’s place at Henry’s side, politically if not in his bed, even though the people remained loyal to Catherine. It is claimed by some, mostly those with a vested interested, Anne was devoutly religious and pointed out to Henry the many abuses of the Catholic Church.

To cut a long story short:

Henry wed Anne bigamously; then executed Archbishop Wolsey, who failed to get the annulment. Got the new archbishop to declare his marriage to Catherine annulled. Meaning as he’d never been married, he wasn’t a bigamist. Hurrah! Champagne all round!

So the Pope promptly excommunicated Henry and the new Archbishop. Forcing Henry to make himself the Head of the Church in England, close all the monasteries and take all their wealth for himself and his mates. More hurrahs and double Champagne all round! Except, champagne wasn’t invented then!

What could possibly go wrong?

Well for a start, Anne and Henry’s first child was a girl.

A girl!

The King weren’t pleased.

He didn’t go through all that for a girl.

Then came Anne’s miscarriages.

Talk about cursed by God!

And the people hated Anne. They called her a whore; more or less to her face whenever she appeared in public.

Honest to goodness, the woman was looking like more trouble than she was worth!

Poor Henry, with no one to turn to!

Well, there was Jane Seymour!

Jane was one of Anne’s ladies in waiting. Just as Anne had been one of Catherine’s ladies in waiting. She had a politically ambitious family, just as Anne…

Talk about déjà vu.

Except now, being Head of the Church in England, Henry had no Pope to complain to he was cursed by God. What could he do?

Well your Majesty, there is always torture.

Anne was charged with adultery with her musician (who confessed) and incest with her brother (who confessed). Incest was not as uncommon as you might think in those days. Anne, on the other hand, who wasn’t tortured, maintained her innocence even though they must have tried to threaten her with torture. These days, historians think Anne innocent of all charges.

The film has it Anne, knowing she was on a loser, cut a deal with Henry for the sake of her daughter, and for a swordsman from France. This is probably a bit of romantic fiction. Regardless, Elizabeth was declared legitimate and Henry sent to France for a swordsman to behead Anne with one blow.

Believe me Anne got off easy, when Henry’s advisor Thomas Cromwell pissed off Henry, the axe was so blunt it took a full fifteen minutes to cut his head off. Pity the poor bugger who had to stick that lot back together with elastic bands and cellotape so it could be stuck on a spike over Traitor’s Gate!

It is often claimed Henry VIII died of tertiary syphilis. No matter how satisfying it sounds, it’s not true. Syphilis leaves you deranged. Henry was compus mentus to the last. On his deathbed, he signed the Act of Succession leaving the throne to each of his 3 children in turn: first his son, the sickly under-aged Edward VI; then his eldest daughter the fanatically religious Bloody Mary and finally Anne’s daughter, Elizabeth.

And the rest, as they say, is history.

Elizabeth I (The Armada Portrait by George Gower- National Portrait Gallery)

34 thoughts on “Anne of a Thousand Days

  1. Reply Teagan Geneviene Feb 8,2018 6:45 pm

    We already know the ending… yet the story is so fascinating, the characters so compelling that we want to see/read it again. Well done, Paul. Hugs.

    • Reply Paul Feb 9,2018 7:34 pm

      Thank you Teagan. I am so glad you enjoyed it. it is a fantastic period of history and as you say full of huge characters. Px

  2. Reply Olga Núñez Miret Jan 28,2018 7:07 pm

    Great post, Paul. I’ve read (and watched) quite a few versions of the story and it seems the Tudors are neverendingly fascinating (although as many have commented, it was not a safe time to live in court, not that roving eyes were limited to the upper echelons…).

    • Reply Paul Jan 29,2018 6:07 pm

      Thank you Olga that is a lovely thing to say. You are right the Tudors are fascinating, as are most of the other royal houses. It is probably because they were so famous they attracted many scurrilous tales and we as a species (no matter how hard we protest the fact) are prurient by nature. Hell I know I am.. but please don’t anyone! Px

  3. Reply K. D. Dowdall Jan 27,2018 2:37 am

    Well, dating a married man is always dangerous, and breaking up a marriage, so Anne knew the risk she was taking, but she wasn’t about to let someone else snag him, some other lady-n-waiting certainly would have. I loved you take on it, Paul.

    • Reply Paul Jan 29,2018 6:04 pm

      Thanks for the lovely comment Karen and you are absolutely right adultery is still a dangerous game (hmmm… perhaps that part of the attraction!) and Anne was playing for incredibly high stakes. One son and it would have been winner take all! Paul

  4. Reply Judy Jan 26,2018 8:15 pm

    Poor old Anne. I read about her incest with her brother and other ‘affairs’ that the supposed suitor confessed to, but I just think a bit of torture encouraged them to drop Anne in it. I believe Anne had 6 fingers on one hand which fostered the belief that she was a witch in some way too. She really didn’t stand much of a chance once Henry had got fed up with her not giving him his son and heir he so desperately craved.
    No woman in their right mind would want to become Henry’s mistress, even though apparently it was a great privilege, lecherous old sod!
    It seems the modern monarchy are not much better behaved in the bedroom department but at least their cast-offs get to keep their heads!

    • Reply Paul Jan 29,2018 6:01 pm

      Dear Judy, you are absolutely right About Anne having 6 fingers on one hand.
      I think a lot of women were pushed into being the King’s mistress by their family and even their own husbands. Plus upper class women then were both intelligent and educated, but with very limited career opportunities. I suppose Anne was just so bored with court life she might have jumped at being a central player in this grand game and to be honest winning it so gloriously…. until it all went pear-shaped.
      As you say modern royalty are no better behaved, but then neither are pop stars, film stars, politicians, business magnates, footballers…
      You know what I’m getting bored now… just keep adding to the list yourself… but remember to eat and sleep as you could be adding to that list for a very long time! Px

  5. Reply D. Wallace Peach Jan 26,2018 4:58 pm

    I love all the asides, Paul. You make history so fun and interesting. I suppose I’m just used to the modern version of corruption and manipulation, but what a bloodthirsty group back then. I think I would have rather been a goatherd than part of all that intrigue. 😀

    • Reply Paul Jan 26,2018 5:33 pm

      Thanks Diana. To be honest I am just glad I wasn’t around then. My head would have been right up there next to Thomas Cromwell’s! I think you might want to rethink the goatherd. If it was crap at the top of the pile, which it was, it was certainly much crapper at the bottom! PXX

  6. Reply Mary Smith Jan 26,2018 1:15 pm

    Great post, Paul. Anne has always been a figure of fascination and argument amongst historians and no doubt it will go on for years to come. Wasn’t there also talk of Henry trying to have her proved a witch? Something to do with a miscarriage?

    • Reply Paul Jan 26,2018 5:30 pm

      Hi Mary… I THINK… The witchcraft thing is certainly part of the legend but either it is not in the transcripts or it was thrown out early on, so I DON’T THINK, it was ever part of the formal charges. Sorry if I am wrong, but it was on those grounds I left it out. Plus the girl was getting enough bad press! Honesty carnal relations with your own brother! Did they have no decency…. they could have made it a first cousin! Know she had miscarriages but do not know anything related to them. However Shey seems to think there was more to the whole story…. so perhaps Pxx

  7. Reply anita Jan 26,2018 9:46 am

    I have never enjoyed a history lesson more!
    Reading about Anne, I can see who her daughter inherited all her smarts from!

    • Reply Paul Jan 26,2018 5:39 pm

      Thanks Anita. I have always loved Elizabeth. Did you see Glenda in Elizabeth R and Helen Mirren in Elizabeth I? Different portrayals but really caught the woman and the times too. It must have been so hard for to live her life always one step removed worried that for the slip of falling in love she would be reduced from a Ruler to a wife… no man had to go through that… Except perhaps Edward II but that a different story! PX

  8. Reply prairie796.wordpress.com Jan 26,2018 7:11 am

    Hi Paul – this was a good read. History is always intriguing.I liked your take on Henry and Co. Thanks for the potted lesson.

    • Reply Paul Jan 26,2018 5:41 pm

      Thanks Lyn I am so glad you enjoyed it. Honestly, it would be a miserable old world if you couldn’t laugh at other people’s misfortunes! (Ooooppps.. did I say that out Loud!) Px

  9. Reply dgkaye Jan 26,2018 12:38 am

    Loved the modern day spin on the old tale of Henry VIII. What a tyrant! So much incest! Don’t even get me started about the controversy of the church and religion – tailor made to suit the occasion LOL 🙂 xx

    • Reply Paul Jan 26,2018 5:42 pm

      Thanks Debby, so pleased you liked it. Henry was a right old piece of work but I think they all were back then. So different from our politicians now! Such lovely people!!!Pxx

  10. Pingback: Smorgasbord Reblog – Writer in Residence – Anne of a Thousand Days by Paul Andruss | Smorgasbord – Variety is the spice of life

  11. Reply Robbie Cheadle Jan 24,2018 6:08 pm

    I love the stories of King Henry VIII and his six wives. A great post on Anne Boleyn, Paul. We visited Hampton Castle when we were in the UK in August last year.

    • Reply Paul Jan 25,2018 12:25 am

      Really glad you enjoyed this Robbie, Hampton is a beautiful place I visited it when I was younger. from what I remember a lot of Henry and Anne’s story took place there.

  12. Reply John Fioravanti Jan 24,2018 3:41 pm

    Very instructive and delightfully penned, Paul! I thoroughly enjoyed this post!

  13. Reply Shehanne Moore Jan 23,2018 2:17 pm

    Paul, as ever you kept it nicely and amusingly running along. Always a fascinating tale this one for many reasons.

    • Reply Paul Jan 24,2018 12:49 am

      Dear Shey thank you, so pleased with your reaction. I know you have mentioned there might be something more to the Henry and Anne story.. some dark undercurrents. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if someone could throw some light on the dynamics of this fascinating and complex couple. Love PXX

  14. Reply Norah Colvin Jan 23,2018 11:57 am

    Wow! What a fascinating and entertaining history. Thanks for sharing such interesting, and amusing, detail, Paul.I learned much I didn’t know.

  15. Reply Brigid Gallagher Jan 23,2018 10:12 am

    I really enjoyed this post Paul as I had a historical DVD blitz over Christmas. I watched the White Queen series on the War of the Roses, The Tudors series 1-3, plus The Other Boleyn Girl! I am waiting on The Tudors part 4 from out local library.
    I would not have wanted to visit the Royal Court back then as a man or a woman. You never knew who your friends or your enemies were…

    • Reply Paul Jan 24,2018 12:45 am

      Brigid, So glad you enjoyed it. You are right it is such a fascinating era, but not one I would want to willingly live in either! A bit brutal for me! Px

  16. Reply sally cronin Jan 22,2018 10:33 pm

    You see Paul you should write the scripts for the films and the television mini-series they would be so much more interesting. I do feel sorry for all of his wives as after Anne in particular they must have been on a knife (or sword) edge the whole time. Brilliant of course.. will reblog Friday… xxxx

    • Reply Paul Jan 22,2018 11:54 pm

      Thanks Sally I am really glad you like this one…I was trying to explain how Charles II came to the throne for the lady Castlemaine post and this grew out of it. You are definitely right about his wives being on a Knife edge all the time… I think every one was. The only two who got the better of him was Anne of Cleves – who Henry referred to the Flanders Mare Because he said she was so ugly. What Anne thought of Henry she wisely kept to herself. However she did get a damn good pension out of him on annulment for non-consummation and had a pretty good life, well liked by everyone including Henry who referred to her as a beloved sister. The other wife who did ok was Catherine Parr his last, who was more of a nursemaid. She went on to marry Thomas Seymour, brother of Jane. Catherine raised Elizabeth. While she was pregnant Thomas tried to seduce Elizabeth (She was about 14). He obviously had an eye on the throne and a coup d’etat. Catherine died After childbirth at 36. Thomas made serious moves on Elizabeth but was arrested for Treason against Elizabeth’s brother. It took all of Elizabeth’s wit to distance herself from the plot (of which she was innocent). This is what may have made her very suspicious of putting herself in the hands of men…. as she would be giving up all her power to her husband. And thank you for the Friday reblog PXXXX

  17. Reply Denzil Jan 22,2018 7:45 pm

    Gee Paul, they shouldn’t have made a film, they should have made a soap. Maybe it’s not late! What are you like at writing TV soaps? This could be your next big break.

    I have to say I feel desperately sorry for both Ms Aragon and Ms Boleyn. Married for 25 years and then the marriage is (kinda) annulled. Head-offed for not birthing a boy.

    • Reply Paul Jan 22,2018 11:42 pm

      Actually Denzil there was a couple of things I did not include in the post because it would have thrown the post off… Starts turning it into more of a history book by the time everything is explained. Henry was desperate for a boy because his dad was the one who won the War of the Roses against Richard III. There had been 50 years of Civil war and the Tudors had no right to the throne other than right of conquest. He thought only a son could secure peace for the country. The other thing is that Henry was quite a sportsman and sustained a massive head trauma while jousting around the time he met Anne. Some historians believe it changed his personality making him psychotic… unable to feel sympathy or restraint. Contemporaries say his personality changed after the accident. Anne certainly would not have accepted annulment as it would have made Elizabeth illegitimate.

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