Anne Boleyn didn’t exactly get a ‘happily ever after’, but neither did the men who so ruthlessly brought her down:
- Cromwell would be executed around four years after Anne, incurring Henry’s deadly disfavor, particularly, for arranging his marriage to Anne of Cleves. It would take the inexperienced executioner several strokes to behead him.
- Nicholas Carew would be executed three years after Anne, who he had worked very closely with Cromwell to bring down. He had benefited greatly from the Seymour marriage, but with Queen Jane gone, his luck was out.
- Thomas Howard, Duke of Norfolk jumped his own niece’s sinking ship and publicly jeered her ‘incest’ with her brother. A bit more than ten years later, he would have to watch his own son executed for treason. He would be imprisoned in the Tower of London for treason, himself, spared only by Henry VIII’s 1547 death.
- Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury had tremendous respect for Anne Boleyn, but annulled her marriage to Henry and agreed reluctantly to her sentence. Under the reign of ‘Bloody’ Mary I, he would be one of her first Protestant martyrs.
- Jane Seymour can’t exactly be blamed for Anne’s death; upon becoming Henry VIII’s next obsession she had no choice. Perhaps as more of a punishment to her very guilty husband, she would die less than two years after Anne Boleyn, in the process of giving Henry the son he had gone to such wicked lengths to have.
- Henry VIII would make his transformation into an obese, sickly old man beginning in the summer of Anne’s death. He would have but one very weak son and a broken heart from a, perhaps this time, legitimately unfaithful wife; he would be a laughingstock across Europe for his six marriages and remembered as a wife-murderer; and he would die in pain from his ailing, ulcerous leg, fat and defeated.
- On the other hand, Elizabeth I, the ‘Whore”s daughter, would shock the world upon becoming Queen of England in 1558, 22 years after her mother’s execution and, even more shockingly, being pretty damn good at it. She would lead a golden age, both feared and revered unlike her father, who had mostly just been feared. Under Elizabeth’s reign, the Protestants who had so admired her mother could now do so, openly, and Anne was hailed by John Foxe as a martyr.
Today, with the exception of some absurdly ignorant who continue to slut-shame Anne Boleyn 477 years later, she is respected and hailed as a feminist icon, and a woman great in her own right who mothered one of Europe’s all-time most brilliant monarchs. Perhaps her legacy is her ‘happily ever after’?