Friday, December 6, 2013

The Paternity of Anne Boleyn

Every few years I come across the rumor that Henry VIII as a teenager had an affair with Elizabeth Howard Boleyn, eleven years his senior, and in doing so fathered Anne Boleyn. Anne, of course, would later become his second wife and the mother of Elizabeth I. Claire of the Anne Boleyn Files analyzes the rumor in her own expert way. I was surprised, however, when reading the article that there are so many sources which appear to support the story. While Claire dismisses the sources as being "Catholic and anti-Boleyn," I do question the implication that being a Catholic and an enemy of the Boleyns automatically makes one a liar. While I doubt Anne was Henry’s daughter, it is not beyond the realm of possibility that Henry had an affair with her mother. If she was a beautiful woman, her age would not have deterred the young Henry. After all, Catherine of Aragon, whom he adored when he first married her, was seven years older than Henry. The fact that we do not even know the exact year of Anne’s birth adds fuel to the fire. She might indeed have been young enough to be his daughter. I am not saying she was. Still, there is something bizarre about Henry’s obsession with Anne and his determination to completely destroy her after such a short period of marriage. Part of that hatred was her knowledge of his sexual inadequacy. And yes, Elizabeth was healthy and lived to a ripe old age, which appears to be evidence in itself against what is generally regarded as a "Catholic" myth. However, health and long life were also experienced by some of the pharaohs who were the products of inbreeding.  I personally think Henry was a twisted and narcissistic man who could find a justification for anything he wanted to do. To quote from the Anne Boleyn Files:
I found another source for the myth: “The Life and Death of the Renowned John Fisher, Bishop of Rochester” by Thomas Bailey (1655)24, although the real author is said to be Dr Richard Hall, writing in the reign of Elizabeth I. In this book, Bailey writes of Cardinal Wolsey investigating a possible pre-contract between Henry Percy and Anne Boleyn and calling for the Countess of Wiltshire, Elizabeth Boleyn, to see what she had to say about it. Elizabeth Boleyn, according to Bailey, “better liked of the marriage of her daughter with the said Lord Percy, than if the King should marry her” and Wolsey, guessing the reason for this, sent her to the King. Elizabeth Boleyn then, according to Bailey, said to the King:-
“Sir, for the reverence of God, take heed what you do in marrying my daughter; for if you record your conscience well, she is your own daughter as well as mine.”
The King didn’t care and told Elizabeth that he would marry her regardless of who her father was. (Read more.)

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