Anne Boleyn and the Charge of Witchcraft: A Guest Post by Claire Ridgway

As I mentioned a couple of days ago, I’m delighted to welcome Claire Ridgway to my blog! Claire’s new nonfiction book, The Fall of Anne Boleyn: A Countdown is a concise day-by-day look at the events leading up to the execution of Henry VIII’s most famous queen.

Claire is also offering a surprise to one lucky person who comments here before before midnight on May 30, US  Eastern Standard time: an Anne Boleyn wine stopper! And as a bonus, I’ll throw in a copy of Her Highness, the Traitor (in which Anne Boleyn makes a cameo appearance to give some helpful advice to one of the heroines).

So without further ado, here’s Ms. Ridgway to point out that sometimes, a hare is just a hare.

 

In the lead-up to the anniversary of Anne Boleyn’s execution on the 19th May, I noticed lots of Tweets and Facebook comments referring to Anne Boleyn being charged with witchcraft, in addition to treason, adultery and incest. I bit my tongue and sat on my hands, resisting the urge to point out the glaring error in these posts. Then, as I was sitting there itching to reply, I saw Hilary Mantel’s article in The Guardian newspaper. Its title: “Anne Boleyn: witch, bitch, temptress, feminist” – face palm!

Now, Mantel was not actually suggesting that Anne was a witch or that she had been charged with witchcraft. In fact, Mantel writes, “Anne was not charged with witchcraft, as some people believe. She was charged with treasonable conspiracy to procure the king’s death, a charge supported by details of adultery”, and she is correct, Anne was not charged with witchcraft. But, Anne Boleyn’s name is too often linked with witchcraft and many people, even Tudor history buffs, assume that she was charged with it. It’s no wonder that people make that assumption when Anne’s portrait is on the wall at Hogwarts (not to be taken seriously though), the 2009 Hampton Court Palace Flower Show had a Witch’s Garden to represent Anne Boleyn and The Other Boleyn Girl depicted Anne Boleyn dabbling in witchcraft, taking a potion to bring on the miscarriage of a baby (which turns out to be monstrously deformed) and having a “witch taker” help to bring her down. You only have to google “Anne Boleyn witchcraft” to find sites claiming that Anne was charged with witchcraft and executed for witchcraft, or mentions of her having an extra finger and moles all over her body, which could have been seen as “witch’s teats” and the marks of a witch. Even an article on the BBC site refers to her being accused of being “a disciple of witchcraft”.

Some non-fiction authors and historians give credence to the witchcraft theory. In her biography of Anne Boleyn, Norah Lofts writes of Anne bearing a mole known as the ‘Devil’s Pawmark” and making a “typical witch’s threat” when she was in the Tower, claiming that there would be no rain in England for seven years. Lofts explains that seven was the magic number and that witch’s were thought to control the weather. What’s more, Anne had a dog named Urian, one of Satan’s names, and she managed to cast a spell on Henry which eventually ran out in 1536, hence his violent reaction, “the passing from adoration to hatred”. Lofts goes even further when she writes about the story of Anne haunting Salle Church in Norfolk, where, according to legend, Anne’s body was really buried. Loft writes of meeting the sexton of the church who told her of how he kept vigil one year on 19th May to see if Anne’s ghost appeared. He didn’t see a ghost, but he did see a huge hare “which seemed to come from nowhere”. It jumped around the church before vanishing into thin air. According to Lofts “a hare was one of the shapes that a witch was supposed to be able to take at will” and she pondered if it was indeed Anne Boleyn.

That all sounds rather far-fetched, but reputable historian Retha Warnicke also mentions witchcraft in her book on Anne, writing that sodomy and incest were associated with witchcraft. Warnicke believes that the men executed for adultery with Anne were “libertines” who practised buggery and, of course, Anne and George were charged with incest. Warnicke also thinks that the rather lurid mentions in the indictments of Anne procuring the men and inciting them to have sexual relations with her was “consistent with the need to prove that she was a witch”. She continues, saying that “the licentious charges against the queen, even if the rumours of her attempted poisonings and of her causing her husband’s impotence were never introduced into any of the trials, indicate that Henry believed that she was a witch.” Now, Henry VIII may well have said “ that he had been seduced and forced into this second marriage by means of sortileges and charms”, but I don’t for one second believe that Henry was convinced that Anne was a witch. If he had believed it, then surely Cromwell would have used it to get Henry’s marriage to Anne annulled. If Anne was a witch then it could be said that Henry had been bewitched and tricked into the marriage, that the marriage was, therefore, invalid. Anne Boleyn was charged with adultery, plotting the King’s death and committing incest with her brother, George Boleyn, Lord Rochford. There was no mention or suggestion of witchcraft or sorcery in the Middlesex or Kent indictments and at her trial, Anne was found guilty of committing treason against the King – again, no mention of witchcraft. Although witchcraft was not a felony or a crime punishable by death until the act of 1542, a suggestion of witchcraft could still have helped the Crown’s case and served as propaganda. I believe that the details of the indictments were simply there for shock value, rather than to prove that Anne was a witch.

So, where does the whole witchcraft charge come from if it was not mentioned in 1536? Well, I think we can put some of the blame on the Catholic recusant Nicholas Sander, who wrote “Rise and Growth of the Anglican Schism” in 1585, while in exile during the reign of Elizabeth I, Anne Boleyn’s daughter. In his book, Sander describes Anne Boleyn as having “a projecting tooth”, six fingers on her right hand and “a large wen under her chin” – very witch-like! He also writes that Anne miscarried “a shapeless mass of flesh” in January 1536. This “shapeless mass” was turned into “a monster”, “a baby horridly malformed, with a spine flayed open and a huge head, twice as large as the spindly little body”, by historical fiction writer Philippa Gregory and was used to back up the idea that Anne had committed incest and dabbled in witchcraft. However, Sander’s words have to be judged as Catholic propaganda, as an attempt to denigrate Elizabeth I by blackening the name of her mother. Sander was only about six years of age when Anne died, so he could hardly have known her, and he was a priest, not a courtier, so would not have heard court gossip about Anne. None of Anne’s contemporaries mention an extra finger, projecting tooth or wen, and even Anne’s enemy, Eustace Chapuys, describes her miscarriage as the loss of “a male child which she had not borne 3½ months”. He would surely have mentioned it being deformed, if it was, and I’m sure that Chapuys would also have mentioned any physical deformities that Anne possessed. He nicknamed her “the concubine” and “the putain”, or whore, so he wasn’t afraid of saying what he thought!

While I cannot prove that Anne Boleyn was a witch, I can cast doubt on this belief. Norah Lofts’ claims can easily be refuted. Anne’s mole was simply a mole, her dog was named after Urian Brereton (brother of William Brereton, who gave the dog to Anne), Anne’s mention of the weather in the Tower was simply the ramblings of a terrified and hysterical woman, and the hare was simply a hare! As for Retha Warnicke’s views, I have found no evidence to prove that the men executed in May 1536 were homosexual and the only evidence for the deformed foetus is Nicholas Sander. Also Henry’s words concerning “sortileges and charm” were more likely to have been bluster, rather than a serious accusation. He also said that Anne had had over 100 lovers and that she had tried to poison his son, Fitzroy, and his daughter, Mary. The bluster of an angry and defensive man, I believe, and not something to take seriously.

In conclusion, witchcraft was not something that was linked to Anne Boleyn in the sixteenth century, so I feel that it is about time that people stopped talking about Anne and witchcraft in the same breath. Let’s get the facts straight.

Sources:

Richard Bevan, Anne Boleyn and the Downfall of her Family, BBC History website – http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/british/tudors/anne_boleyn_01.shtml

Calendar of State Papers, Spain, Volume 5, Part 2: 1536-1538, note 59

Philippa Gregory, The Other Boleyn Girl, Harper, 2007

Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, Volume 10: January-June 1536, note 284

Norah Lofts, Anne Boleyn, Orbis Publishing, 1979

Hilary Mantel,  Anne Boleyn: witch, bitch, temptress, feminist, The Guardian, 11 May 2012

Nicholas Sander,  Rise and Growth of the Anglican Schism, 1585

Retha Warnicke, The Rise and Fall of Anne Boleyn, Cambridge University Press, 1989

 

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77 Responses to Anne Boleyn and the Charge of Witchcraft: A Guest Post by Claire Ridgway

  1. Adrienne Dillard says:

    As always Claire, I love your writing. I wholeheartedly agree, Anne was nothing of the sort. The opposition had absolutely no qualms of accusing Jacquetta Wydeville of witchcraft in regards to the marriage of her daughter to Edward IV, so I think we could probably agree that if Cromwell had gotten it into his head at the time, he would have been more than willing to use that as an example during the annulity suit of Anne and Henry.

  2. Eliza says:

    Interesting article! I am convinced that by “bewitching” Henry meant seduced by her charms, not witchcraft. We still make this connection centuries later! As for the deformed baby, I think it’s rubbish, this certainly would have surfaced during Anne’s trial.
    Thank you for the article!

  3. janet fauble says:

    For a moment I was beginning to think that moles or witches “teats” were positive proofs of true witch status. Happily, this notion has been dispelled. Great article.

  4. Thanks for that excellent article.
    It is dreadful to see historical persons maligned and defamed over and over again – so this was rather soothing.

  5. Esther says:

    Thank you so much for the very interesting post.

  6. Lori says:

    I never believed that Anne was a witch. That was just a nasty rumour started to blacken her name. Anne may have been shrewish but that was no reason to kill her. I wonder how Henry could so callously have left her to her fate when he loved her so much. I don’t believe that he loved Jane Seynore either he just used her to get a son.

  7. Susan says:

    So interesting – makes me feel real pity for Anne, especially if she were aware of much of this nasty gossip about her. My biggest royal interest, Ludwig II of Bavaria, suffered from gossip as well — in his case, that he was insane. Much of the “evidence” of that was quite sketchy as well.

  8. Julie Conlan says:

    Thanks for a great article! As a practicing wiccan and druid as well as being an Anne Boleyn fanatic!!, I can say I would love to be able to change in to a hare and disapear at will!! But unfortunately I can’t and I don’t know of any witches who can!! If Anne Boleyn had all the witch marks and the prodruding tooth as is written about her then I think Henry would have found her repulsive and not married her. She was a christian interested in the new faith, and while she carried favour with Henry, was safe. The minute their relationship began to decline her enemies slandered her good name by making up all sorts of stories about her. Her only crime and I should not really call it a crime, was not producing the longed for prince. That did not carry the death penalty, so a treasonable offence had to be found and it was. Poor Mark Smeaton under exteme torture confessed to having relations with the Queen, I think I would confess to anything under those conditions. If Anne had been a witch she would have known how to protect herself and would not have ended up on the scaffold.

    • Andrea says:

      I agree totally with Ms. Conlon. I too am a practicing Wiccan and just utterly quiver at the pointing of the finger to being Witchcraft. I sincerely believe that Henry would not have showered her with such affection and grace. He was equally enraptured with her mind as he was with her body and knowing how Henry was with the ladies this never would have passed hIs “majesty’s stamp of approval! I sincerely enjoyed this article and all articles posted about The Tudor’s! However, this especially gained my attention. Blessings to all

  9. Kirsten McElroy says:

    THANK YOU, Claire, for finally dispelling the many rumors regarding Anne Boleyn. I won’t address the many claims, but my favorite is one charge made by Henry VIII. He supposedly claims that Anne had over a 100 lovers. If that were the case, I’d love to know how she managed to “sneak” all of these men into her chambers. How absurd! The other claims of her witchcraft, sixth finger, horribly deformed fetus, etc. would have been reported by Chapuys in a heartbeat. I look forward to reading Claire’s book!

    • Kristen,I so agree with the lovers and all things said,if she had 100 lovers,which is a good round number.I wonderd how Anne would have time for her high maitenance King??Its hard enough to have one husband,I can’t fathom the thought of a 100,LOVERS.Kristen read CLAIRES BOOK it very well done and is fac not fic.THX Baroness

  10. Elaine says:

    Agreed, Claire. Anne was no more a witch than she was a so-called ‘adulteress’. I also know rumors still go on about Anne being Henry VIIIth’s ‘illegitimate daughter’, supposedly as a result of one of Henry’s paramour’s with a lady-in-waiting.
    Love your article! :)
    Elaine

  11. Deborah Eddy says:

    I firmly believe that although some of Anne’s own behaviour may have contributed to her downfall – losing her temper when Henry was chasing her ladies-in-waiting, making unwise remarks to some of the courtiers – she was, like so many members of the Tudor Court, one of Henry’s victims. I’ve never believed she was guilty of anything more than being a fascinating, clever and passionate woman who stood out in her time.

    Had she had any of these deformities that she is supposed to have had, I’m sure the chroniclers of the time would have commented – along with the various ambassadors!

    • Deborah,Yes Anne was hot headed at first,as she was orderd to court by the King,and Henry was in the chase for Jane Seymour,so I would have been pretty angerd.Also the whore, witch were started by the by the common people,in witch gave Cromwell amo,lets not forget poisening scades of people.I wonder how many moles Henry had on his person,100 lovers????You must be jokeing me ,six finergers another myth,Cromwell was going to make sure he did have enough AMO,so if one did not work the witch story was very handy,I have moles if anyone does not have moles please raise your hands!!In The Arcives the whole trail was based on presumption, there for know real evidence,Claire correct me if I’m wrong Henry did not burn Anne because witces don’t die, when you burn them,that is why Henry had Queen Anne beheaded,just to be on the safe side??Also when Queen Annes body was exzumed they found nothing of a sixth finger. THX Baroness

      • BanditQueen says:

        In England it was for murder of treason that women were burned and not for witchcraft. The penalty for witchcraft was hanging. In Scotland and Europe it was burning. Hanging in Medieval times and I assume still in the Early and mid Tudor period meant being hung naked. That was believed unseemly for a woman so they burnt them for capital crimes of treason and murder. In the case of Anne Boleyn, as the Kings wife and a woman of gentle birth, it was decided that giving the King a choice of a quicker death because of her status was right. Henry did not burn the Queen because of her status, because she was his wife and because it was a last piece of mercy towards the woman he had loved for so long. Few female traitors were actually burnt; there are a couple of famous ones who were: the cousin of the Duke of Norfolk, Margaret, during the Pilgrimage of Grace, she and her husband were executed. Margaret was killed by burning for treason. Anne was beheaded as her status demanded this quicker form of execution and Henry gave in to her request to have the Sword of Calais, or as may be decided out of his former love for the woman he had been intimate with for so many years. In any event Anne was not charged with being a witch and the theory that Henry even believed she was a witch is very debatable.

        Henry was said by Chapyus to have declared that he believed himself to be beguiled by Anne into marrying him after her miscarriage in January 1536. Some debate exists amongst historians as to what he actually believed or meant by this. Henry was upset and grieving for the loss of his unborn son, was angry with the Queen, and his words could have been misconstrued. But he is reported to have made them so ideas that Anne was a witch have persisted.

        Henry could have meant that he believed she had used her attraction to keep him under her allure or that he was so taken with her that he would do anything that she wanted. This may be a modern take but even men today talk about being bewitched by women that they are passionately in love with, and Henry certainly was taken with Anne Boleyn. It is not evidence that he actually thought she had cast a spell on him or that she was ever accused of this. Had Henry truly believed he was bewitched by Anne there is no reason why he did not act against her straight away but he waited almost five more months and that does not make sense. Witchcraft was the most terrifying crime that someone could be accused of. So much so that the first real laws to make it punishable by death if it was used to harm someone were under Henry VIII and each law that was passed after that whether in the reign of Elizabeth I or the parnoid James I became clearer and more draconian. This may be before the witch trials and crazes but it was still feared enough to make people take extraordinary measures against it. Ordinary people were terrified of its harmful effects and even educated people like Henry were weary of it.

        Henry did not move against Anne until he was confronted with allegations, a confession and so called evidence that she had been unfaithful with up to five men. He was still making much of his wife in February and March 1536 and he seems to have been reconciled to Anne by this time. But there are varied theories about his role in her fall and some point to the start being her miscarriage, others to a plot either by Cromwell et al, or Cromwell whom she had publically argued with and humiliated through the sermon by her almoner John Skip on Palm Sunday, and still others look at whether or not Anne contributed to her own downfall by her foolish behaviour. There was enough secrecy around the events leading up to her fall and arrest, with some sources indicating that it was all planned in advance for there to be speculation of a plot to bring down not just Anne but her family. Historian Zupanic even suggests that Henry wanted out of the marriage long before when it became clear that internationally it was never going to be recognised but had locked himself into the marriage lawfully. He could not act while Katherine was still alive and he did so once she was dead. He wanted a wife that was lawful, and neither Anne or Katherine fitted that bill as far as the King was concerned, so Henry, using the miscarriage of a male child was the prime mover in her downfall. Although why he did nothing for five months is still something that does not quite make sense.

        When Chapyus suggested to Cromwell that his master may favour an alliance Cromwell arranged for Henry and the ambassador to meet in April 1536. The meeting went badly and Henry would not listen to demands that Mary be reinstated as a condition for this alliance. I think that when Cromwell saw this he decided to get rid of Anne but did not know where to start. The rumours about the Queen gave him the starting point and the rest just fell into his lap. Smeaton confessed, others were questioned, others were implicated and the world around Anne crashed came tumbling down, her enemies circling like vulchers waiting to finish her off.

        Whatever the truth about her fall, there is no evidence that she was charged with witchcraft and the miscarriage was not used against her either. Henry believed the evidence to be genuine, and having fallen out of love with he was finally able to get rid of Anne without going through a messy divorce a second time. The sad thing was, had Anne’s son lived she would have been safe, but there is no guarantee that Henry would have continued to love her. Anne had become a liability and Cromwell found a weapon and used it. She was tried as a female traitor and could have burnt, but Henry gave one last concession to kill her quickly and with as little pain as possible. Even now may-be some spark of mercy was still left in him.

  12. Diane Wilshere says:

    Anne Rice also had Anne Boleyn as a witch in her book Lasher. She used the 1536 miscarriage as an actual birth of the supernaturalcreature Lasher, central in her Lives of the Mayfair Witches trilogy

    • Jen W says:

      I don’t remember that at all but then it’s been almost 20 years since I read that trilogy. I will have to take another look!

    • Ashley says:

      Deborah,
      I was going to mention this as well! I am an Anne fanatic, and have read Eric Ives’ book on her, and how he mentions that while Anne was queen, the reformation received 1000 days of support directly from the throne, so I don’t see how anyone could have accused her of witchcraft to begin with. But I do love how Anne Rice incorporated Anne Boleyn and the “monster” she miscarried into her story!

  13. Bobbi says:

    How scary to think your life could depend on such gossip.and how sad that there are no unbiased recollections of Anne.Such an amazing person that we will never truly know.She would be someone. I would love to sit down and talk to.

  14. I am so pleased that Ms Ridgway has chosen to pursue the truth about Anne Boleyn. Too many historians have been happy to accept malicious rumor as fact. How can any thinking person believe that Henry the Eighth would chose a deformed woman to be the mother of his heir? A man who was so concerned with his own health would never have married a marred woman. Thank you Claire for setting the record straight. If you haven’t already read her new book: The Fall of Anne Boleyn: A Countdown, I recommend you do so at the soonest opportunity!

  15. Rebecca banks says:

    Hi, just to say really enjoyed the article. I am currently reading your new book and finding it a good read, also looking forward to our night at the ceremony of the keys at the tower of London in June.
    Regards
    Becky

  16. Debi Plair says:

    Thank you for helping set the record straight! If only more people found the truth rather than malicous lies!!

  17. niki says:

    Great article as always Claire. What an interesting topic to focus on. Wonderful work!

  18. Emy says:

    Very interesting… :) Although this is a bit later than I normally work with, it’s always good to see new views and points on old subjects. I sometimes think that it is most fun researching into what actually happened when there are centuries of old wives tales and misinformation to debunk. In fact, no sometimes about it!

  19. Jen W says:

    Thank you Claire for another great article. I am really looking forward to following another virtual tour. Such fun! It always amazes me how many times over the course of history that an accusation of witchcraft is used to blacken someone’s name. It seems to be the easiest method of ruining someone as they don’t really need proof – the superstitious lot! Besides, moles? I have so many moles all over my body…. how did I not know I had this power?? lol

  20. MMawn says:

    WOW! What a great read! It’s good to see that not everyone is willing to accept for fact anything that is put out there. Please keep up the good work and great writing.

  21. Rio says:

    Thank you Susan for hosting Claire! I loved The Anne Boleyn Collection and am currently reading The Fall of Anne Boleyn. I am so appreciative of your work and how you are getting the truth out there. Thank you!

  22. Pamela says:

    I ,as well,don’t believe that Anne was charged with witchcraft. As far as Henry’s statement that she “bewitched” him, I’m sure he felt that he was! As does any other person so blindly struck by love(lust), that they ignore everything/everyone else and pursue that person relentlessly! He removed any impediment that got in his way! Whether it was his wife,child,religious beliefs or the Pope…it didn’t matter! He wanted Anne! As for the “monster fetus”; maybe it was Spina Bifida with Hydrocephalus! If that description is accurate,it’s a perfect explanation!
    They had very little medical knowledge back then,so any deformity or other thing they couldn’t explain, was explained away by witchcraft.

    • Pamela,My son was born with spina bifida in his lower spine its caused by ,lack of folic acid,and my friend ,her son was born with the same he didnot survive he was 3month old ,he also had mylomyligesil. Has you say they did have the knowledge with a simple vitamen very sad!! Queen Anne had 17 counts against her,witch was one.My son is fine and in the Marine Crop. Such a sad tragic love for Queen Anne ,witch NO. THX Baroness

      • LadyBeaufort says:

        Finally, thank you! I was truly wondering when someone would respond that just because you have a child that has some physical deformities, or miscarry such a baby, does not mean that you are a witch. It doesn’t mean that today, and it shouldn’t have meant that in the 1500′s, although as someone said, they would use anything as an excuse because they have such limited medical knowledge about what caused miscarriages. So even if Anne did miscarry a deformed fetus, it was no proof of anything! And certainly no proof that she was a witch, which, I might add, is difficult to believe even in more modern times. Does anyone remember the hysteria of the Salem “Witch” Trials?

        • Lady Beaufrot,Yes I do well remember ,what the people didnt’ know is that they used rye in the bread ,the rye was molded and what poeple start hullcinating,so there you have it.They were burned or drownd if yo did not die you were not a witch,well they died. How very sad for all Queen Anne and all the people of Salem. Thank you Baroness x.

          • WilesWales says:

            I do remember way back, and it struck me this morning that in 1995, Robin Cook, wrote “Acceptable Risk” abou thisvery thing, and it stuck in my mind as I was in in my post gradutate studies I still remembered it. It’s sources in the back were read, and citations given and wrote a paper when I was a student and not yet. A.B.D, or candidcate in my post graduate studies and the first bit of the synopis is:

            “The book begins with the Salem Witch Trials of 1692 where Elizabeth Stewart is prosecuted on suspicions of being a witch. This occurs on the insistence of witnesses who see children acting strangely after eating rye bread. Despite the pleas of her husband who happens to be a wealthy ship-builder, she is executed at the insistance of Reverend Increase Mather, who convinces her husband with a mysterious evidence.
            Three hundred years later, the Stewart family fortune is inherited by Kimberly Stewart(a nurse). Kim is introduced to the brilliant scientist Edward Armstrong by their mutual friend Stanton Lewis…Thank you! WilesWales

            I will defend Anne Boleyn as long as I’m around! Queen Anne also gave Englad a very great gift, Queen Elizabeth I, the greatest absolute monarch that country ever had!

            “This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvelous in eyes:” ~ Pslams 118:23

  23. Emily says:

    As always, Claire, a very well-written article! I just love your website and books, and am so grateful to you for being such a passionate defender of this truly remarkable woman.

  24. Pamela Kapustka says:

    I seem to have forgotten to submit my full name; “sorry”…Pamela !

  25. Esther says:

    Great article. Question, though — if Anne had been charged with witchcraft, would that have provided a defense to the men, who could plead that they, too, had been bewitched? Witchcraft was often used to explain the otherwise inexplicable … so many people may have used it to explain to themselves Henry’s behavior in making her queen.

    • Ester,The witchcraft was hear say just like everything,the men were toursherd,so horribly they just agreed with adultery.They already were doomed and nothing was going to save them. It was all presumption/no proof,just lies,I don’t even know why they had a trial Thx Baroness

  26. Kim Cree says:

    Thanks Claire for another great article!

  27. Camille says:

    I always enjoy reading what you have to say about Anne.

  28. Magdalena says:

    Wonderfull article. I think that people hated Anne and said that she is with. I don’t understand why people believe in that?

  29. Lauren says:

    Great article! I think it is true that Henry VIII was looking to a new bride and Anne had to go, with the assistance of Cromwell. All myths and untruths created since then. I just saw a movie wherein they found that Elizabeth 1 had a picture of her mother inside her ring – found after Elizabeth died. I wonder if this is true – nice story if it was. Thank you for your article! LS

  30. Bridgett Trejo says:

    I think that the whole fantasy of witches if funny to read about. I can’t believe that people would believe in such things to be honest. Yes, there are people who call themselves witches, and believe in certain wiccan ways, but to fly on broom sticks, and change into rabbits, come on! That part is all Hollywood and Fictional. They are people just like we are, they just believe differently! As for Anne being a witch — not a chance. I personaly think she was more a follower of Christ than most people in our society today… and I have no doubt she will meet other followers in heaven one day.

  31. Nicole says:

    It’s so sad how people in history get maligned by nothing but hearsay, and then centuries later, people are still believing those lies. Thank you for doing your part to clear Anne’s name! :)

  32. Barbara says:

    I always heard these charges presented as fact — so glad that they are baseless! I have also often read that Anne had a “third breast” (which, although absurd, I imagine Henry would have enjoyed!), but I have assumed that is ridiculous enough it doesn’t need to be debunked. It always pays to look at primary sources — look what they tell us about Richard III’s supposed deformities! Now, if you’ll excuse me, I must cleanse the mole on the back of my neck (well hidden by my hair); the devil’s coming by at 3:00.

  33. keeley L says:

    Great Article. I think we honestly will never know the 100 percent truth about what happened in 1536. I think in a fit of rage, anger, frustration is the only reason why Henry would say the things he did. We all know he had a bit of an anger issue. I do believe 100 percent Anne was innocent, just a woman in the wrong era; if she just kept her mouth quiet she would have lived longer. It will always be a fascinating subject as well always play the guessing game with the documents we do have of that time.

  34. Julie Conlan says:

    Hi Lauren, Yes the ring is true, there is a picture of Anne and one of Elizabeth in side it. I think but am not sure that it might be kept at Chequers, the weekend house of the prime minister. If you look up portraits of Anne boyleyn and Elizabeth on the internet there is a picture of it. Julie

  35. WilesWales says:

    Thank you so very much for this most interesting post.

    I will defend Anne Boleyn as long as I’m around! Queen Anne also gave Englad a very great gift, Queen Elizabeth I, the greatest absolute monarch that country ever had!

    “This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvelous in eyes: ~ Pslams 118:23

  36. Dawn 1st says:

    To ‘Bewitch’ someone is too completely captivate them, which she did to Henry…was that her fault, of course not. It was Henry’s ‘weaknesses’ that led to the situation between them, his weaknesses that he blamed on her. To say she was a witch in the pure sense is fanciful, bordering on ridiculous, would she sit in her prison awaiting her execution if she could perform witchcraft and change shape into the likes of a Hare, I think if she had these sorts of powers she would have ‘Magicked’ herself away long before she mounted the scaffold. :) But sad to say there will be those who will always believe the witchcraft charges, no matter what is given as proof to the contrary. Enjoyed the post Claire.

  37. Thank you for a terrific, informative article! I’m a great fan of this era of history, and love being set straight about rumors and innuendos! All best, sdh

  38. Thank you Claire for addressing the misrepresentation of Anne Boleyn as a witch. I was very dismayed a few years back when gardens (sorry, I can’t find the you-tube clip) were designed and dedicated to the wives of Henry VIII. The gardener who designed Anne Boleyn’s garden, of course, had to fill the garden with witchcraft symbolism. ( I have to admit I only liked one of the six gardens) Excellent article Claire, thank you for making history, not propaganda, more accessible for all of us!

  39. Deborah Braden says:

    This is what I love about your writing Claire. Evidence based information found through in depth research. Another great article.

  40. Kathy says:

    Thank you for a wonderful article Claire! I agree wholeheartedly that had Anne practiced witchcraft, she surely would have been charged with it to drive home the point that Henry needed to be rid of her.

  41. Libby says:

    Great article, Claire, as always. The portrait of Anne in Hogwarts makes me smile, but certainly isn’t helping ‘dispel’ the association of witchcraft with her name.

  42. Trish Wilson says:

    Mind-boggling isn’t it? Not surprising given how other powerful women found themselves accused of witchcraft including Joan of Navarre second wife of Henry IV and Eleanor Cobham second wife of Humphrey of Gloucester Protector- Protector not Regent – during the minority of Henry VI.

    Whether Eleanor was actually guilty of witchcraft the jury is still out on that one. Was she really a witch or merely indiscreet?

    Whatever I’m sure you’ll agree with me that Jacquette, given what had happened to her sister-in-law, was hardly likely to run the same risk herself.

    BTW
    Have you picked up yet why Edward IV might have had reason to be grateful to her? The clue is in those somewhat blistering comments I posted on Kathryn’s blog last week.

  43. Melissa says:

    Well-done as always, Claire! Thanks for writing about this topic, the claims that Anne was charged with being a witch are among those things that cause me to shake my fist angrily in the direction of my screen, page, or misinformed friend most violently. Thanks for addressing this so well!

  44. Nicole F. says:

    Every time I read about all these trumped up charges, I can’t help but think – what sick person could ruin someone to the point where they would be murdered? It’s horrible that Henry let Anne – someone he longed for, loved and moved the world in order to marry – be killed. It seems so different and a complete change from the way he was feeling when they first married. I hate that he got away with what he did, and that she’s now demonized instead of being the rightful innocent that we all know she is.

  45. sea_shell says:

    Excellent article as always Claire, personally I think it was inevitable that at some point someone would connect her with witchcraft purely to try and explain why she would sleep with 5 men including her brother, hopefully one day people will no longer just assume the worst of her!

  46. Ann says:

    Great article Claire.

  47. Maddie says:

    Thank you Claire, I always appreciate your articles. It drives me crazy how so many people pass on the misinformation that Anne was charged with witchcraft. I was watching videos the other day made by The Historic Royal Palaces and one of the curators said Anne was charged with witchcraft. Shouldn’t they of all people know better? Susan, I’m eagerly awaiting your book release this week!

  48. Debra says:

    Another excellent article Claire. The subject put in my mind of books I read MANY years ago about Anne. I remember reading about the sixth finger, the moles as marks of the devil, but I also remember there was a claim that she had a 3rd breast. But, with all the reading I have done on your site and books plus the books by authors you recomend, I see that Anne was a human being thrust into a place and time that could not handle a woman being who she was, strong. Thank you for your thoughts. I have learned a lot.

  49. Alan Wybrow says:

    Hi Claire,

    It has always been my contention that anything and everything was used to convict Anne and to ensure her guilt. The “powers-to-be” ensured that by using the “shotgun” approach to her supposed crimes that they would ensure success in getting convictions on her and her family/friends. Her supposed crimes, convictions and execution was a royal “sham” of the worse political maneuvering.

    • Louise Advoca says:

      But the relevant question is what would you have done if you lived during that time? Would you have done the ‘right thing’ and spoken up in defense of this person whose only crime was loving the wrong man (albeit, maybe for the wrong reasons). Even though this may have constituted treason, or worse? Or would you simply sit back silently, watching it all unfold, feeling somewhat guilty… maybe chat about it quietly with your trusted inner circle…but, in the end, unable to stand up for the innocent and speak up against these political maneuverings? My money is on the second option, because that is what past practice dictates. Words are meaningless unless actions back them up. This is why these “shams” continue to this day, in many forms and applications in everyday life. While it may be riveting to ‘safely’ debate about them centuries later and rail on about the injustice of it all, I’m willing to bet that every single one of us can think of a comparable example in their very own lives at this moment. Shameful, really.

  50. Anne was innocent of all charges. She was only guilty of ambition, falling in love with her own press and failing to understand that Henry could hurt her too.

    What happen to Anne is very simple, Henry tore up his world to have Anne and the promise of a male heir. She was the one thing he could not have for seven years. Once Henry got Anne, married her and she failed to produce a son, he did not want her anymore. Henry was never going to blame himself so someone else had to take the hit for what happened to England and that person was Anne Boleyn.

  51. Thank you everyone for your comments on my article and thank you to Susan for inviting me to write this article. I’m so glad that you all enjoyed it.
    Tudor England was a very superstitious place so blemishes and deformities could be taken as the marks of the Devil or of witchcraft. However, Anne was never accused of witchcraft.

  52. Linda Hall says:

    Fascinating reading. I’ve only really ever read fiction about Anne. It’s articles like this that make me want to find out more. Keep them coming.

  53. Julie Conlan says:

    Hi Claire, Yes you are right, Anne was not accused of witchraft. But wasn’t it common in those days to burn women rather than hang or behead them? I remember reading somewhere that women were burned as it was considered more decent than hanging or being hung drawn and quartered, as you saw less of their bodies! Anne was sentanced to be burned or beheaded at the kings pleasure, and as we know he showed great mercy and ordered the french executioner to come and carry out the deed!! She hadn’t even been tried at that point!! Maybe as women were burned later in history for witchcraft thats why some historians assumed she was a witch, I suppose we will never know for sure. But a witch she wasn’t.

  54. WilesWales says:

    Thank you so very much, Claire for such an interesting account of witchcraft and how Anne was not guilty of it, but how it playes part in her downfall. I tried yesterday to write this, but I am so glad this is refreshed as you said, I believe on another one a second good thing that Chapuys said. I was blown away, as two good thing now. The first one was on another article and other comments.

    I will defend Anne Boleyn as long as I’m around! Queen Anne also gave Englad a very great gift, Queen Elizabeth I, the greatest absolute monarch that country ever had!

    “This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvelous in eyes:” ~ Pslams 118:23

  55. WilesWales says:

    This is the quote from you that I mean! Your are amazing!

    “None of Anne’s contemporaries mention an extra finger, projecting tooth or wen, and even Anne’s enemy, Eustace Chapuys, describes her miscarriage as the loss of “a male child which she had not borne 3½ months”. He would surely have mentioned it being deformed, if it was, and I’m sure that Chapuys would also have mentioned any physical deformities that Anne possessed. He nicknamed her “the concubine” and “the putain”, or whore, so he wasn’t afraid of saying what he thought!”

    Boy, do you find the best things, but I suppose after reading so many prirmary documents, etc. that you still catch the most most interstesting, and important things to defend Queen Anne! Hat’s off to you!

    I will defend Anne Boleyn as long as I’m around! Queen Anne also gave Englad a very great gift, Queen Elizabeth I, the greatest absolute monarch that country ever had! ”

    “This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvelous in eyes:” ~ Pslams 118:23

  56. These are my thoughts of what happen;The wind tells the trees, the trees tell the birds and the bees and then everybody knows,gossip. Baroness

  57. Anne Barnhill says:

    Thanks, Claire,
    Another great post! I think maligning Anne was the popular sport of the day among Catholics in particular. Glad to see her defended so ably!

  58. Pingback: » 2 Week Virtual Book Tour » The Fall of Anne Boleyn: A Countdown

  59. bluffkinghal says:

    The Other Boleyn Girl and The Tudors have a lot to answer for. I am amazed that someone today would actually try to make out a case for Anne actually being a witch. I should have thought we had moved past believing in nonsense like that!

  60. Sonetka says:

    Really good article — thank you very much. I knew the witchcraft charge was nonexistent at the time but it’s interesting to see its evolution in such detail. And if it had happened at the time, it’s hard to imagine it not being mentioned even if it wasn’t officially a crime yet; after all, there didn’t seem to be a problem with legalizing the execution of insane people *after* Lady Rochford had been jailed. (I have to say that I love Norah Lofts’ novel, though).

  61. Ana Ciochetti says:

    Ive enjoyed reading this article, plus the Feedback.
    Poor Ana was a victim of the tyrannical an promiscuos Henry..

  62. For those who are interested in Anne, and Henry for that matter, they might like to know that there is a project in the works to do a play that involves two people who believe they are the modern day versions of the queen and king. Harry Houdini also makes an appearance. The play is in the form of a mystery – who was it done to as much as who done it. When its ready, I’ll people know.

    Roy Schreiber

  63. Pingback: | The Daring Truth About Anne Boleyn

  64. BanditQueen says:

    Is Philippa Gregory obsessed with witchcraft? Anne she has linked to it and in her books on the White Queen and Lady of the Rivers she has the whole Woodville female line linked to it. Jaquetta Woodville was charged and cleared but the theme still continued in the book afterwards, she has Elizabeth Woodville and her daughter Elizabeth of York, the future Queen of Henry Tudor not only dabbling in spells and curses but put one accidently on their own sons when at the end they curse whoever killed the Princes and their sons and grandsons. The entire theme of her books seems to blame withcraft on all the ills of history.

    Anne may have known spells and charms: a lot of women used them in healing and in childbed. She captivated Henry with her dark eyes and I am sure he was bewitched in the meaning that he fell under her spell and deep into love with her in a joking sort of way, not that he was literally put a spell on or that she was a witch. Henry was angry and upset after Anne had yet another miscarriage and he was hitting out at anyone; poor Anne included who certainly was not to blame for this misfortune. But the woman always got the blame in such matters: what a woman had to eat was also believed to have some say on the sex of the child. I can well imagine him saying to Cromwell in private that he felt he was bewitched and that he wanted out of the marriage. I can even imagine Cromwell taking him seriously. This is all guesswork of course but it is possible.

    But Anne was not charged with anything for another five months! So did Henry take his careless words back; was Cromwell or others waiting for the right time to plot Anne’s downfall? All part of the conjecture by historians and we can only put the pieces together very gingerly as many of the claims around Anne’s fall from grace do not add up. One thing I am convinced off is that she was not accused of witchery. In those days it was cool to believe in such things and that magic could be used to harm as well as for good; natural magic was not condemned. But why would she be charged with witchcraft; is not treason and adultery enough or do you just add this for good measure? The indicments do not mention this as a charge although it is possible that in a fit of rage Henry could have accused her of bewitching him yet again for good measure. As to the claim that she said it would not rain until she was freed in the Tower; well she was not in her right mind then and that statement cannot be taken seriously. It would add to the juice had she been charged with witchcraft; but there was enough of that already with Henry claiming she may have had 100 lovers; something else she was not actually charged with.

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