Anne Boleyn’s children: From childbirth tragedy to raising the future queen of England

2 June 2021, 10:56 | Updated: 4 June 2021, 16:18

Anne Boleyn children: From pregnancy tragedy to raising the Queen of England
Anne Boleyn children: From pregnancy tragedy to raising the Queen of England. Picture: PA/Channel 5

By Emma Clarke

The phenomenal Jodie Turner-Smith depicts Henry VIII’s wife in a brand new TV series on Channel 5.

Between the years 1533-1536, Anne Boleyn ruled as Queen of England alongside her husband, Henry VIII.

The daughter of Thomas Boleyn and Lady Elizabeth Howard, Anne grew up at Hever Castle in Kent, before spending a large portion of her upbringing in continental Europe from the age of 12.

Her father served as a diplomat to both Henry VII and Anne's future husband.

When she returned nine years later, she was sent to the Royal Court to attend to Catherine of Aragon, who was, at the time, married to the King of England.

Read more: Who was Greensleeves – and did Henry VIII really write the song?

According to contemporary sources, Anne's raven hair, pale skin and dark eyes wooed the King and his courtiers.

At first, Anne was set to marry her Irish cousin James Butler, in order to settle a dispute over the Ormond estates, but the arrangement fell through and she began a relationship with Henry Percy, who was heir to the Earl of Northumberland.

In addition to introducing the king to new ideas about religion and teaching English over Latin, Anne had enamoured Henry VIII.

Despite Pope Clement VII's refusal to annul the king's marriage to Catherine, Henry secretly Anne married on January 25, 1532 - before breaking ties with the Catholic church in Rome and forming the Church of England.

It wasn't until May that year that Henry VIII's first marriage was dissolved by the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Anne was then crowned Queen on June 1, 1533 at the Tower of London.

When was Queen Elizabeth I born?

Anne Boleyn had already fallen pregnant with Elizabeth before her marriage to Henry VIII.

Elizabeth arrived on September 7, 1533 – just three months after the couple wed.

The following March, Henry passed the Act of Succession in order to secure his daughter's right to the throne.

Henry already had a daughter – later referred to as Bloody Mary – with Catherine. Further down the line, both Mary and Elizabeth would contest their right to rule England, with the former seeking to undo her father's Reformation and revert England back to Catholicism.

Queen Elizabeth I was the first and only surviving child of Anne Boleyn and King Henry VIII
Queen Elizabeth I was the first and only surviving child of Anne Boleyn and King Henry VIII. Picture: PA

Anne Boleyn’s pregnancies

Despite the seemingly progressive legislation passed by the British monarch, Henry desired a male heir, and so he and Anne continued to try for a boy.

However, Anne suffered several miscarriages and never produced a male heir.

Trial for treason

It has been argued by some historians and contemporaries that Thomas Cromwell led a conspiracy to get rid of Anne Boleyn.

Claims that she was a witch and that she had incestuous relations with her brother George were spreading in the Royal Court – with some even claiming the queen had six fingers on one hand.

Anne was then arrested and taken to the Tower of London on 2 May 1536, where she was tried for treason, accused of sexual affairs with male courtiers and of using sorcery to bewitch the king. Over two thousand spectators attended.

Boleyn's friends Mark Smeaton, Francis Weston, William Brereton, Henry Norris and her brother George were all executed for committing adultery with the queen.

Anne herself was then beheaded in private with a sword from France on Tower Green on 19 May.

How many children did King Henry VIII have in total?

There has been some debate over the number of children the King of England had, as he fathered several illegitimate children with various mistresses.

That said, here are the known, legitimate children of the British ruler:

Catherine of Aragon

  • Daughter - Stillborn - 31 January 1510
  • Henry, Duke of Cornwall - 1 January - 22 February 1511
  • Son - Stillborn/Died after childbirth - 17 September 1513
  • Son - Stillborn - 8 January 1515
  • Queen Mary I - 18 February 1516 - 17 November 1558
  • Daughter - Stillborn - 10 November 1518

Anne Boleyn

  • Queen Elizabeth I - 7 September 1533 - 24 March 1603
  • Son - Miscarriage/False pregnancy - 25 December 1534
  • Son - Miscarriage - 29 January 1536

Jane Seymour

  • King Edward VI - 12 October 1537 - 6 July 1553

Anne Boleyn continues tonight at 9pm on Channel 5 - or you can catch up on My5.