Anne Boleyn Isn’t the Hero of Your Mommy Story or Your Romance Novel

Give this woman credit where credit is due.


One of the few faithful Anne Boleyn portraits — via Hever Castle

On this day in 1536, shortly before 9 o’clock, a woman in dark garb climbed the steps of a scaffold erected hastily in the middle of the night. A small audience of onlookers watched her, some smiling with glee while others wore stony, unreadable glares. Black-beaked ravens quorked on a distant wall. By the time the executioner took his place at the center of the scaffold, their sounds were the only sounds in the entirety of the Tower of London.

Everyone had gathered to witness the execution of Anne Boleyn. Their silence now, just before the stroke of nine, was a desperate attempt to hear the final words of the disgraced queen. They craned their necks and drew closer to the platform, desperate to hear her over the drums that tried to drown her out.

The story of Anne Boleyn begins much the same way, obscured by time and the ignorance of her contemporaries and historians alike. Somehow, it feels like we never get a full picture of this elusive woman, scrubbed from the history books by a vengeful maniac who couldn’t face the shadow she left behind.

In truth, though, we have done just as much damage to Anne’s story as any of her contemporaries could have done. How? By twisting her story…