King Henry VIII Marries Anne Boleyn During A Secret Ceremony

Daniel Maclise 1806-1870, National Portrait Gallery, London

Today on January 25, 1533, King Henry VIII of England secretly marries Anne Boleyn at a private ceremony in London.

King Henry VIII had a total of six wives during his 38-year reign. His family, the House of Tudor, ascended to the English crown after his father’s victory at the Battle of Bosworth. On April 22, 1509, he succeeded Henry VII to become the next King of England. Henry VIII is now remembered as one of England’s most notorious and scandalous monarchs. After an initial affair with Anne Boleyn’s sister, his eyes eventually gazed towards his future second wife. While Anne initially tried to resist his sexual advances, she could no longer avoid him. These affairs transpired while Henry was still married to his first wife, Catherine of Aragon. By early 1533, it became clear that Anne was pregnant with her first child; thereby forcing the king into taking immediate action.

On January 25, 1533, King Henry VIII married Anne during a private ceremony in London. The wedding took place in Henry’s private chapel at Whitehall Palace. Only a handful of the king’s closest friends stood in as witnesses. Everyone was sworn to strict secrecy. The new royal couple went months before Henry’s court was even informed of the marriage. The king’s divorce with Catherine and marriage to Anne sparked religious tensions with the Pope. Henry ultimately decided to break ties with the Roman Catholic Church, leading to the creation of the Anglican Church. Anne was subsequently crowned as Queen consort of England. The lavish ceremony held at Westminster Abbey took place five months after their secret wedding. In many ways, this likely substituted for the grand marriage ceremony that she was denied. In September 1533, she gave birth to their one and only child, Elizabeth Tudor.

The daughter of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn eventually ascended to the throne as Queen Elizabeth I; serving as one of the country's longest-reigning monarchs. As time went on, Henry became increasingly obsessed with having a son and male heir. Over the next two years, Anne had two miscarriages. From Henry’s perspective, it was clear she would not fulfill his needs and blamed her for this misfortune. In 1536, Anne was suddenly arrested on charges of adultery and witchcraft. A secret commission that included her father and uncle investigated the charges. The adultery charges claimed she slept with five men including her own brother, Lord George Rochford. Following a swift conviction, she was imprisoned in the Tower of London. On May 16, 1536, Anne Boleyn met her evitable fate and was beheaded. Here is an easy way to remember the sequential fate of Henry's six wives: divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, survived.

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