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Anne Boleyn

1501 - 1536

King Henry VIII’s marriage to Anne Boleyn was a political catalyst for the English Reformation. His first wife, Catherine of Aragon, had given him no surviving male heirs, and he was disinterested in their marriage. He sought an annulment from Pope Clement VII on the grounds that his deceased brother Arthur had been married to Catherine before him, but the Pope refused. Henry’s attraction to Anne Boleyn, a lady at his court, fuelled his desire for a divorce, not only from Catherine, but the Catholic Church that would not approve his divorce from Catherine. England’s break with the Catholic Church in 1533 was quickly followed by Archbishop Thomas Cranmer’s declaration of Henry’s marriage to Catherine null and void, and in June 1533 Anne was declared Queen of England, having secretly married Henry the previous November. She gave birth in September to Elizabeth I, and subsequently had three miscarriages. By 1536, Henry’s interest had moved from Anne to another lady at court, Jane Seymour, and he had his second wife investigated for high treason and imprisoned in the Tower of London. She was spuriously charged with treason, adultery, and incest, and condemned to death by beheading, which occurred on 19 May 1536.