On this date in 1536, Anne Boleyn, the second wife of England’s King Henry VIII, was arrested for high treason, adultery, and incest. She was intelligent and outspoken, and had educated opinions about politics and religious reform and came to the court of Henry VIII when she was 20 years old, to serve as lady-in-waiting to Queen Catherine of Aragon. She soon caught the eye of the king. For seven years he wooed her, and for seven years she put him off. He managed to get his first marriage annulled by breaking with the pope and declaring himself head of the Church of England and then Anne Boleyn consented to marry him.
Their early months of marriage were happy ones, and their first child, Elizabeth, was born in 1533. Anne had several miscarriages after that, and she never gave Henry the son he so desperately wanted, so he accused her of every capital offense he could think of: numerous affairs, incest with her brother, plotting his murder, and witchcraft. She was convicted, and sentenced to death. The only mercy he showed her was in ordering that she be beheaded by a sword, rather than a common axe.
In her last letter to the King on May 6, 1536, Anne Boleyn wrote: “Your Grace’s displeasure, and my Imprisonment are Things so strange unto me, as what to Write, or what to Excuse, I am altogether ignorant […]never a Prince had a Wife more Loyal in all Duty, and in all true Affection, than you have found in Anne Boleyn […] But if you have already determined of me, and that not only my Death, but an Infamous Slander must bring you the enjoying of your desired Happiness; then I desire of God, that he will pardon your great Sin therein, and likewise mine Enemies, the Instruments thereof; that he will not call you to a strict Account for your unprincely and cruel usage of me, at his General Judgment-Seat, where both you and my self must shortly appear, and in whose Judgment, I doubt not, (whatsover the World may think of me) mine Innocence shall be openly known, and sufficiently cleared.”