Sunday, January 31, 2016

Late January, 1533: Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn Get Hitched - Let Us Know How This All Turns Out, Dear
Best. Anne Boleyn. EVER. Henry VIII? Not so much. . .


Private chamber, sixteenth century.
Overdressed monarch and trophy-fiance who looks green around the gills (preggers, natch) face one another - HENRY VIII and ANNE BOLEYN.
Between them stands HENRY VIII's chaplain.
Off to one side is HENRY NORRIS - who is examining his fingernails.

I now pronounce you man and wife. You may execute kiss the bride.

They kiss.

Say, Father, you don't happen to have a nail brush handy, do you?
"Not sure WHAT I've got under my nails," said the Groom of the Stool.

On 25 January, Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn tied the knot in a secret ceremony in an inner chamber of Whitehall Palace.
Her time as Henry VIII's wife suffered from a steep and fatal learning curve.

Little did she know once she'd married the very traditional Henry VIII, he expected her to zip her shit and get on with bearing him some sons.

Anne Boleyn didn't get that message; she carried on as she had as a single ingenue with that 'special something' she'd brought back with her from her time in France.
Saucy, flirty, liking it best when the court's attention was on her, her, her.
When she didn't produce heirs for the King, yet continued running her mouth to the point of upbraiding him in public, she was performing a death dance in front of everyone at court. 
"Dance macabre? FUN! And a one and a two . . . "
Those with more experience surely saw the signs; a wife who behaved in a most un-wifely manner, a wife who stuck her nose in the business of politics and religion, a wife who, while often pregnant, managed only to bear one healthy daughter for the King, a wife balancing on the edge of a very deep precipice. 

And then along came Thomas Cromwell to give her the tiniest of shoves.
"Cromwell? Is that YOU?"

To the surprise of very few, Anne Boleyn tumbled spectacularly.
There she goes. . .

All of her worst habits helped her seal her own fate; that was Cromwell's stock-in-trade: being on the scene to scoop up all the tiny (and not so tiny) errors committed by his enemies.
With the shock of her detainment deadening her common sense, Anne gave voice to what should have remained her inner dialogue.
"Blah blah blah Smeaton blah blah Norris blah blah dead men's shoes blah blah. . . "
She realised the women sent to attend to her during her Tower time were no friends of hers; yet she could not staunch the flow of self-incriminating blah blah blah pouring out of her mouth.
Keep calm and shut your pie hole, Anne.

She did, after a time, realize her predicament;
Hella real.
at that point she shut up, but too late - the evidence had been reported to those bringing her down and the damage had been done.The only thing left to her was her dignity, so she fetched it up in droves and walked across the scaffold as though she'd faced imminent death by swordsman every day of her life.
"Last word? I'll tell you who gets the last word - MY DAUGHTER. Suck it, losers!"

The woman who humbled herself on the scaffold in order to protect the life of her daughter, the future (and awesome) Elizabeth I got rough treatment from her contemporaries who'd sided against her when recording the facts of that blood-soaked London week in mid-May, 1536.

  Does Anne Boleyn deserve her reputation as a nouveau riche, sexed-up, home-wrecking, wasp-tongued, six-fingered mean girl?
That's a trick question.
Who doesn't love a good Freudian slip?
The facts would say yes, but as our former President, Ronald Reagan famously blurted, "Facts are stupid things."

Anne Boleyn was born to the class of people favored for access by both Henry VII and Henry VIII.
Henry VII had little trust for courtiers whose family wealth and status gave them shoulder-rubbing privilege with the monarch.
Rightfully so; he claimed the crown 'by right of conquest' and courtiers whose loyalty had been to Richard III were not F.O.H. (Friends of Henry.)
Henry VII promoted the ambitious, the social-climbing, the would-be courtiers whose loyalty was to him and him alone.

Courtiers whose money and family connections went back for generations were likely to have the shit taxed out of them by Henry VII, just to keep them so busy raising money to pay the taxman that they had no time to *think* about overthrowing the upstart new king. 
Henry VII knew a thing or two about risk management.
Ah! The missing piece to the puzzle.

The Boleyn family fit in nicely with Henry VII's court.
Boleyn family members knew enough to not pick their teeth at mealtime, but were still fresh enough to their money that they might have had to wait and see which trencher was used by the others at the dinner table
"Mental or physical?" AWK.

Thomas Boleyn hit the ground running when the Tudors were still unpacking the Bekins boxes in their new digs.
He was from Kent (yes, good, can be counted on in case of attempted invasion from France,)  he was ambitious and, like Henry VII, could squeeze those shekels and ducats until they screamed, and while his family's fortunes were on the rise, and the Howard (Dukes of Norfolk FOREVER and still are) family had experienced a brief reversal of financial fortune, Boleyn married Elizabeth Howard for that added dash of old-money respectability.
So far, so good.
"It's the ONLY way. . . "

But wait! 
The Howard family women (Catherine Howard - Henry VIII's fifth wife, Elizabeth Howard - mother to Mary, Anne and George Boleyn) had a reputation for being the girls who shared their charms indiscriminately. 

Anne Boleyn herself spent her early days as a representative of her family at the French court, which had its own reputation as the place to learn first-hand all about sex.
Anne's sister, Mary famously was called 'the English mare' by French courtiers who'd had the pleasure of her company; 'the English mare' as in the one who was ridden often and put up wet. 
Mary was recalled from France and sent to serve Henry VIII's wife, Catherine of Aragon.
Mary Boleyn was diddling the king in no time at all.
My goodness, Mary.
whore weeds elizabeth perkins celia hodes

And even though Anne kept Henry VIII dangling for allllll of those years before their marriage, it's a pretty good bet that something went on between the two of them that was a little more earthy than a kiss on the back of the hand.
After building Henry VIII up for the grand finale of doing the actual deed, it appears Henry VIII was a little disappointed with the anticlimactic and empty feelings he experienced once the deed was done.
'Fraid so.

As a home wrecker, Anne Boleyn may or may not have expected Henry VIII to *actually* get rid of Wife #1; she may have been playing for time in hopes that Henry would lose interest in her and move on.
Anne knew if the King had her, her prospects for marrying up were not as great as if she remained virgin.
It's clear she bolted from court every now and then; her detractors say it's because she was playing him - but it is also possible she was in an untenable position and simply wanted Henry to leave her the fuck alone so she could get on with the business of finding a husband who wore no crown.   
In other words, her 'game playing' may have been a delaying tactic - a ploy used by her daughter, Elizabeth I, many times.
Maybe it was an inherited family trait. 

Unfortunately, Anne Boleyn's waspish tongue was legend.
Her words could soothe, entice, defuse a tense conversation with a quick turn of a phrase.
Her words could also sting, scorn and mock.
It was the mocking part that led, in part, to her date with the Swordsman of Calais. 
She and her brother George giggled at the king's ham-handed attempts to write love poems and letters to Anne.
Silly, silly siblings.
That, like no other charge, must have cut Henry VIII right down to the very quick of his soul; he put his heart out in his best efforts to describe his love for her, and Anne pretty much threw it on the floor and wiped her muddy feet on it.  
Then she went on to tell her brother the king was a lousy lay.

Ultimately, the words out of her mouth were the one true treasonable offense she committed.
Take it back, Anne, take it back! Ooops. Too late.
When she told Henry Norris, a widower and the courtier closest to the king, that he looked for 'dead men's shoes; for if aught but good came to the king, you would look to have me,'  
both she and Norris, who went white immediately, knew the seriousness of her flippant, bitchy-rather-than-flirty remarks.

Big mistake, Anne.
Imagining the death of the monarch was against the law.
It was treason.
Women who committed treason got the 'burnt at the stake' treatment.
To make matters worse, a woman working nearby and in close proximity to Norris and Anne Boleyn overheard it all.
"Holy crap!" went the thought bubble over Anne Boleyn's head, "I should NOT have said that!" - and she freaked, gushing like a cut artery to Norris that she was a good woman, and using her iphone to tranfer funds to the woman's bank account  telling Norris to give the woman hush money to forget she'd heard that juicy piece of treasonous gossip.

As if.

Days later, under questioning, the woman forgot about the hush money and spilled - as did everyone questioned by the king's jack-booted thug interrogators when the fit hit the shan. 
Okay, that charge sticks.                       
Yes. Six.

In a time when people believed deformities were a sign of sin/the devil/witchcraft, it's not likely that Henry VIII would have kept company with someone who had a deformity.
Unless it was a teeny-tiny little 'some small show of nail' that was easily hidden, the six fingered charge is easily tossed out of court. 

Mean girl?
Um, duh.

Anne Boleyn would be, above all else, alpha.

It did not make her especially well-liked; not by the English people who were scratching their heads and wondering why their religion was under attack and not liked at court by those who were stung by the fallout of Catherine of Aragon's sidelining by the king.
Those loyal to Anne: the Boleyn family was solidly behind her.
Her mother's family, the Howard relatives, less so.  
(And they were her blood relatives.)
So, pretty much her father, her (heartbroken) mother, her brother. 
Sister Mary and Anne got sideways with one another and weren't close.  

Like  mean girls everywhere, Anne Boleyn likely mistook surface smiles for agreement and fondness; for appreciation for her amazing, amusing Self.
Still - can it have escaped her that when she appeared in public, there were outright 'boos!' and hisses; at least once she had to outrun a crowd (aka 'lynch mob') with the exact opposite of "Long Live the Queen!" on their minds. 

England's people knew a hatchet job had been done on the queen who'd sat on the throne for twenty-odd years.
She was their queen, the queen who, acting as regent while Henry VIII rode away to play "War Against France" went ham against the Scottish who picked that time to scarper over the border into northern England
Catherine of Aragon and the English army under her command not only routed the Scottish but killed their king in the battle as well. 
Catherine of Aragon is the kind of queen a country can get behind.
Not a French-speaking, ambitious, homewrecker like that Boleyn bitch.
Face it, if Anne Boleyn hadn't been executed and had instead popped out boys for Henry VIII, she'd likely have been remembered as Anne the Scold.
"And another thing . . . "