On this day in 1536 Queen Anne Boleyn was beheaded at the Tower of London. Two days earlier on 17 May 1536 the marriage of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn had been annulled …another innocent Irish girl who lost her head with a man!
The Boleyn family were related to the Butlers, Earls of Ormond. Anne originally returned from France early in 1522 to marry her cousin, James Butler. Both her father, Sir Thomas Boleyn, and James’s father, Piers, claimed the Earldom of Ormond, which had belonged to her great-grandfather.
Anne’s uncle, the Earl of Surrey, suggested to the king that the dispute be settled by a marriage between Anne and James. The Boleyns were unenthusiastic, however, and the proposal was eventually dropped. Thanks to Anne’s relationship with the king, an agreement was finally reached in 1528 with Thomas Boleyn becoming Earl of Ormond and Piers Butler Earl of Ossory.
Anne’s grandmother Margaret Butler, wife to Sir William Boleyn, was an Irish noblewoman. Margaret was born in Ireland circa 1460 to Thomas Butler the 7th Earl of Ormond and his wife Anne. Thomas Butler was a friend and supporter of Henry VII and had dual seats in the English and Irish governments. He passed away in 1515 and left his estate to his daughters, Anne and Margaret. Sometime in the interim, Margaret had married William Boleyn, the fabulously wealthy son of Geoffrey Boleyn, Lord Mayor of London. Thomas’ death gave the Boleyns a claim to the earldom of Ormond, one of the most powerful and wealthy aristocracies in Ireland (located in the productive region of Leinster) Ownership of this hereditary title had been in dispute for quite some time but matrilineal claims to property were not honoured in early modern England. In order to solidify their claim, the Boleyns had attempted to marry Anne to Jamie, the Butler heir apparent, in the early 1520s but those negotiations fell through. Uncertainty about the earldom continued until December 8, 1529 when Henry VIII pressured Piers Butler (a distant cousin to the 7th Earl of Ormond) to renounce his claims to the earldom. Henry then recognized the Boleyn family’s claim and styled Thomas Boleyn, Anne’s father, Earl of Ormond and Wiltshire. The Boleyns would hold an estate in Ireland for nine years; in 1538 Henry revoked Thomas’ title and recognized Piers Butler, an Irish lord and relative of the Boleyns, as the Earl of Ormond and the title once again reverted to the Irish aristocracy.
There is relatively little confirmed about Anne; her reputation as a patron of religious reformers as well as her honour were tarnished by Henry’s deep hatred for many years.
Birthdate: Circa 1501
Birthplace: Probably Blickling Hall in Norfolk
Parents: Thomas Boleyn, Earl of Ormond, and Lady Elizabeth Boleyn (nee Howard)
Siblings: Mary Stafford and George Boleyn, Viscount Rochford
Marriage: November 1532 (or January 1533) to Henry VIII
Issue: Elizabeth I, Queen of England
Death: May 19, 1536, The Tower of London
Burial Site: St. Peter ad Vincula
Religious Faith: Progressive Reformer
On the morning of 19 May 1536, Anne Boleyn climbed the scaffold erected on Tower Green, within the walls of the Tower of London. She gave a speech praising the goodness and mercy of the king, and asked those gathered to pray for her. Then she removed her fine, ermine-trimmed gown, and knelt down – and the expensive French executioner that Henry VIII had ordered swung his sword and “divided her neck at a blow”.
Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury and author of The Book of Common Prayer, who signed the deeds of annulment of the marriages of Catherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn to Henry VIII was burnt at the stake in Oxford in March 1556 in the reign of Catherine of Aragon’s daughter, Mary Tudor. When Mary died in 1558 Anne Boleyn’s daughter Elizabeth reigned as Queen Regnant for 44 years. In Ireland Queen’s County (Laois) and its county seat Maryborough (Portlaoise) were named after Mary Tudor and King’s County (Offaly) and its county seat Philipstown (Daingean) were named after her husband, Philip II of Spain who would later launch the Armada against Mary’s half sister Elizabeth.
“No English queen has made more impact on the history of the nation than Anne Boleyn, and few have been so persistently maligned.” —Joanna Denny, Tudor Historian
Anne Boleyn (c. 1501 – 19 May 1536) Queen of England from 1533 to 1536 as the second wife of King Henry VIII, and Marquess of Pembroke in her own right.
Today, powered by its readers and contributors, from its cyber eyries in Ireland and the centres of the Irish Diaspora The Eagle casts its Cold Eye on Life and Death and much in between.