For this week’s Femme Fatale Friday I have chosen the topic of Anne Boleyn as a King’s Concubine. This is the negative view of her taken by many, but in particular Eustice Chapyus, who was the the Imperial Ambassador and an ardent supporter of Katherine of Aragon and Mary. This is also a view that has trickled down through the ages, and many still view her as the King’s whore!
In his many letters we get the whole of the negative view of Anne. He never called her a wife or a Queen, instead calling her many a disrespectful name, but his favorite was concubine! In this view of Anne we see a woman who used her sexuality and wiles to ensnare the love of a King. She is only ruled by ambition and the desire to become something she was never meant to be, a Queen.
It is an unfair portrait, however given it is one that stuck for centuries, I feel it should be explored. In this view she was the one who plotted to steal the husband of her kindly employer. She knowingly pursued and pressured this King to leave his long suffering and truly beloved wife. She promised him things that she knew Katherine would never be able to provide, namely a son.
She spent her time in France learning the art of love, and of chivalric codes. Her knowledge of courtly love and the manner in which to behave within a royal court would prove invaluable, and even to become her undoing! Many of her detractors believed that she had been sexually active during her time in the French court. She is sometimes accused of bedding the French King, although most will attest only her sister did this.
Anne would become an obsession with not only the King, but also with many of the other male courtiers. The poet Thomas Wyatt was known to have been very much in love with her. Henry Percy, heir to the Earl of Northumberland, would at one time pay court to her. It is believed that they wanted to marry and even petitioned to be able to wed, yet this was not to be as Percy was already promised to another. It is the situation with Henry Percy that would cause Anne’s hatred of Cardinal Wolsey, as he was the one to end the relationship. In some accounts this was at Henry VIII’s behest, as he had already fallen under Anne’s spell.
Anne was incredibly charismatic, and it was not uncommon for her to have men wanting to bed her. Wyatt would even gain the King’s displeasure when he used a token he had taken from Anne to measure distance during a lawn game. Anne then needed to smooth things over, telling Henry that Wyatt had taken the token without her consent as a jest!
During the time leading up to her fall she was still gaining much male attention. In fact an ill conceived joke made to Henry Norris is one of the things that would damn her. She had began telling Norris that he should get on with marrying her cousin, as they had been betrothed quite a while at that point. Norris said he “would tarry a bit” meaning he still had his wild oats to sow before getting hitched. Anne then jokingly said “you look for dead men’s shoes” which meant that she was accusing him of waiting and hoping the King would die so that he would be able to marry Anne instead of her cousin. She immediately regretted this and sent for her Chaplain and they both swore on a Bible to secrecy, since imagining the King’s death, even in jest, was illegal! He very likely did want Anne more than her cousin, but he was not as loose lipped as the Queen to actually speak it! This is one of the things that would damn her to being executed.
That is also why Norris was one of the five men accused of bedding her, and along with her own brother, was someone implicated by Mark Smeaton when he confessed under torture! The whole of this tragic tale began with a flirtatious Queen, who had a hard time turning a blind eye to her husband’s philandering. She spoke her mind unlike what a Queen was expected to do so, and had a huge personality, and temper. All of these things are reasons she was disliked by courtiers who opposed her (along with the fact that they blamed her for the displacement of Katherine of Aragon). In contrast these are also the things that drew men to her like moths to a flame!
I hope you have enjoyed this brief analysis of Anne Boleyn as a concubine. Thank you for joining me for Femme Fatale Friday here at White Rose of Avalon. I hope you will also join me next week. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!
Note on Image: The image at the top of the post is Anne and Henry. I found the image on https://www.historyextra.com/period/tudor/henry-viii-marriages-royal-wedding-six-wives-marriages-katherine-catherine-aragon-anne-boleyn/.
- The Anne Boleyn Papers by Elizabeth Norton
- The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn by Eric Ives
- The Lady in the Tower by Alison Weir