Anne Boleyn

Anne Boleyn

Anne Boleyn et son frère, Lord Rochford, sont déclarés coupables d'adultère et d'inceste par la Haute Cour d'Angleterre

Anne Boleyn et son frère, Lord Rochford, sont déclarés coupables d’adultère et d’inceste par la Haute Cour d’Angleterre


Anne Boleyn
Later copy of an original portrait, which was painted c.1534.
Queen consort of England
Tenure 28 May 1533 – 17 May 1536
Coronation 1 June 1533
Spouse Henry VIII of England


Elizabeth I of England
House House of Tudor (by marriage)
Father Thomas Boleyn, 1st Earl of Wiltshire
Mother Lady Elizabeth Howard
Born c. 1501/07[1]
Blickling Hall/Hever Castle, England
Died 19 May 1536 (aged 28-35)
Tower of London
Religion Anglican, formerly Roman Catholic[2]

Anne Boleyn (/ˈbʊlɪn/, /bəˈlɪn/ or /bʊˈlɪn/);[3][4] (c. 1501[1] – 19 May 1536) was Queen of England from 1533 to 1536 as the second wife of King Henry VIII and Marquess of Pembroke in her own right.[5] Henry’s marriage to Anne, and her subsequent execution, made her a key figure in the political and religious upheaval that was the start of the English Reformation. Anne was the daughter of Thomas Boleyn, 1st Earl of Wiltshire, and his wife, Lady Elizabeth Howard, and was educated in the Netherlands and France, largely as a maid of honour to Claude of France. She returned to England in early 1522, in order to marry her Irish cousin James Butler, 9th Earl of Ormond; however, the marriage plans ended in failure and she secured a post at court as maid of honour to Henry VIII’s wife, Catherine of Aragon.

Early in 1523 there was a secret betrothal between Anne and Henry Percy, son of the 5th Earl of Northumberland. However, in January of 1524, Cardinal Thomas Wolsey broke the betrothal, Anne was sent back home to Hever Castle, and Percy was married to Lady Mary Talbot, to whom he had been betrothed since adolescence. In February/March 1526, Henry VIII began his pursuit of Anne. She resisted his attempts to seduce her, refusing to become his mistress as her sister Mary had. It soon became the one absorbing object of Henry’s desires to annul his marriage to Queen Catherine so he would be free to marry Anne. When it became clear that Pope Clement VII would not annul the marriage, the breaking of the power of the Catholic Church in England began. In 1532, Henry granted her the Marquesate of Pembroke.

Henry and Anne married on 25 January 1533. On 23 May 1533, Thomas Cranmer declared Henry and Catherine’s marriage null and void; five days later, he declared Henry and Anne’s marriage to be good and valid. Shortly afterwards, the Pope decreed sentences of excommunication against Henry and Cranmer. As a result of this marriage and these excommunications, the first break between the Church of England and Rome took place and the Church of England was brought under the King’s control. Anne was crowned Queen of England on 1 June 1533. On 7 September, she gave birth to the future Queen Elizabeth I, whose gender disappointed Henry. However, he was not entirely discouraged, for he said that a son would surely follow and professed to love Elizabeth. Three miscarriages followed, however, and by March 1536, Henry was courting Jane Seymour.

Henry had Anne investigated for high treason in April 1536. On 2 May she was arrested and sent to the Tower of London, where she was tried before a jury of peers – which included Henry Percy, her former betrothed, and her own uncle, Thomas Howard – and found guilty on 15 May. She was beheaded four days later. Modern historians view the charges against her, which included adultery, incest, and witchcraft, as unconvincing. Following the coronation of her daughter, Elizabeth, as queen, Anne was venerated as a martyr and heroine of the English Reformation, particularly through the works of John Foxe.[6] Over the centuries, she has inspired or been mentioned in numerous artistic and cultural works. As a result, she has retained her hold on the popular imagination. Anne has been called “the most influential and important queen consort England has ever had”,[7] since she provided the occasion for Henry VIII to annul his marriage to Catherine of Aragon, and declare his independence from Rome.


Early years

Anne was the daughter of Thomas Boleyn, later Earl of Wiltshire and Earl of Ormond, and his wife, Lady Elizabeth Howard, daughter of Thomas Howard, 2nd Duke of Norfolk. Thomas Boleyn was a well respected diplomat with a gift for languages; he was also a favourite of Henry VII of England, who sent him on many diplomatic missions abroad. Anne and her siblings grew up at Hever Castle in Kent. A lack of parish records from the period has made it impossible to establish Anne’s date of birth. Contemporary evidence is contradictory, with several dates having been put forward by various historians. An Italian, writing in 1600, suggested that she had been born in 1499, while Sir Thomas More‘s son-in-law, William Roper, indicated a much later date of 1512. However her birth was most likely sometime between 1501 and 1507. As with Anne herself, it is uncertain when her two siblings were born, but it seems clear that her sister Mary was older than Anne. Mary’s children clearly believed their mother had been the elder sister.[8] Most historians now agree that Mary was born in 1499. Mary’s grandson claimed the Ormonde title in 1596 on the basis she was the elder daughter, which Elizabeth I accepted.[9][10] Their brother George was born around 1504.[11][12]

Anne’s sister Mary Boleyn

The academic debate about Anne’s birth date focuses on two key dates: 1501 and 1507. Eric Ives, a British historian and legal expert, advocates the 1501 date, while Retha Warnicke, an American scholar who has also written a biography of Anne, prefers 1507. The key piece of surviving written evidence is a letter Anne wrote sometime in 1514.[13] She wrote it in French to her father, who was still living in England while Anne was completing her education at Mechelen, in the contemporary Netherlands, now Belgium. Ives argues that the style of the letter and its mature handwriting prove that Anne must have been about thirteen at the time of its composition, while Warnicke argues that the numerous misspellings and grammar errors show that the letter was written by a child. In Ives’s view this would also be around the minimum age that a girl could be a Maid of Honour, as Anne was to the regent[citation needed], Margaret of Austria, Duchess of Savoy. This is supported by claims by a chronicler from the late 16th century, who wrote that Anne was twenty when she returned from France.[14] These findings are contested by Warnicke in several books and articles, and the evidence does not conclusively support either date.[15]

There are two independent contemporary sources for the 1507 date. Author Gareth Russell wrote a summary of the evidence and relates that Jane Dormer, Duchess of Feria, wrote her memoirs shortly before her death in 1612; in it the former lady-in-waiting and confidante to Queen Mary I of England wrote of Anne Boleyn “She was convicted and condemned and was not yet twenty-nine years of age.” William Camden wrote a history of the reign of Queen Elizabeth I of England and was granted access to the private papers of Lord Burghley and to the state archives. In that history, in the chapter dealing with Elizabeth’s early life, he records in the margin that Anne was born in MDVII.[16]

Anne’s great great -grandparents included a Lord Mayor of London, a duke, an earl, two aristocratic ladies, and a knight. One of them, Geoffrey Boleyn, had been a mercer and wool merchant before becoming Lord Mayor.[17][18] The Boleyn family originally came from Blickling in Norfolk, fifteen miles north of Norwich.[17] At the time of Anne’s birth, the Boleyn family was considered one of the most respected in the English aristocracy. Among her relatives, she numbered the Howards, one of the pre-eminent families in the land; and one of her ancestors included King Edward I of England. According to Eric Ives, she was certainly of more noble birth than Jane Seymour, Catherine Howard, and Catherine Parr, Henry VIII’s three other English wives.[19] The spelling of the Boleyn name was variable, as common at the time. Sometimes it was written as Bullen, hence the bull heads which formed part of her family arms.[20] At the court of Margaret of Austria in the Netherlands, Anne is listed as Boullan.[10] From there she signed the letter to her father as Anna de Boullan.[21] She is also referred to as “Anna Bolina” (which is Latin); that name is in most portraits of her.[21]

Anne’s early education was typical for women of her class. Her academic education was limited to arithmetic, her family genealogy, grammar, history, reading, spelling, and writing. She developed domestic skills such as dancing, embroidery, good manners, household management, music, needlework, and singing. Anne learned to play games, such as cards, chess, and dice. She was also taught archery, falconry, horseback riding, and hunting.

Netherlands and France

Claude of France, queen consort of Francis I. Anne served as her maid of honour for nearly seven years

Anne’s father continued his diplomatic career under Henry VIII. In Europe, Thomas Boleyn’s charm won many admirers, including Archduchess Margaret of Austria, daughter of Maximilian I, Holy Roman Emperor. During this period, she ruled the Netherlands on her father’s behalf and was so impressed with Boleyn that she offered his daughter Anne a place in her household. Ordinarily, a girl had to be twelve years old to have such an honour, but Anne may have been younger, as the Archduchess affectionately referred to her as “la petite Boulin [sic]”.[22] Anne made a good impression in the Netherlands with her manners and studiousness, Margaret reported that she was well spoken and pleasant for her young age (“son josne eaige”).[23] and told Sir Thomas Boleyn that his daughter was “so presentable and so pleasant, considering her youthful age, that I am more beholden to you for sending her to me, than you to me” (E.W. Ives, op.cit.). Anne stayed with Margaret from spring 1513 until her father arranged for her to attend Henry VIII’s sister, Mary Tudor, Queen of France, for Mary’s marriage to Louis XII of France in October 1514.

In France, Anne was a maid of honour to Queen Mary, and then to 15-year-old Queen Claude of France, with whom she stayed nearly seven years.[24][25] In the Queen’s household, she completed her study of French and developed interests in fashion and religious philosophy. She also acquired knowledge of French culture and etiquette.[26] Though all knowledge about Anne’s experiences in the French court are conjecture, even Eric Ives, in his latest edition of the biography, conjectures that she was likely to have made the acquaintance of King Francis I‘s sister, Marguerite de Navarre, a patron of humanists and reformers. Marguerite de Navarre was also an author in her own right, and her works include elements of Christian mysticism and reform that verged on heresy, though she was protected by her status of the French king’s beloved sister. She or her circle may have encouraged Anne’s interest in reform, as well as in poetry and literature.[25] Anne’s education in France proved itself in later years, inspiring many new trends among the ladies and courtiers of England, and it may have been instrumental in pressing their King toward the culture-shattering contretemps with the Papacy itself. Eric Ives’s latest version of his biography hypothesizes that Anne may have had evangelist conviction and a strong spiritual inner life. William Forrest, author of a contemporary poem about Catherine of Aragon, complimented Anne’s “passing excellent” skill as a dancer. “Here”, he wrote, “was [a] fresh young damsel, that could trip and go.”[27]

Anne exerted a powerful charm on those who met her, though opinions differed on her attractiveness. The Venetian diarist Marino Sanuto, who saw Anne when Henry VIII met Francis I at Calais in October 1532, described her as “not one of the handsomest women in the world; she is of middling stature, swarthy complexion, long neck, wide mouth, bosom not much raised… eyes, which are black and beautiful”.[28] Simon Grynée wrote to Martin Bucer in September 1531 that Anne was “young, good-looking, of a rather dark complexion”. Lancelot de Carles called her “beautiful with an elegant figure”, and a Venetian in Paris in 1528 also reported that she was said to be beautiful.[29] The most influential description of Anne,[30] but also the least reliable, was written by the Catholic propagandist and polemicist Nicholas Sanders in 1586, half a century after Anne’s death: “Anne Boleyn was rather tall of stature, with black hair, and an oval face of a sallow complexion, as if troubled with jaundice. It is said she had a projecting tooth under the upper lip, and on her right hand six fingers. There was a large wen under her chin, and therefore to hide its ugliness she wore a high dress covering her throat… She was handsome to look at, with a pretty mouth”.[31] Sanders held Anne responsible for Henry VIII’s rejection of the Catholic church, and writing fifty years after her death, was keen to demonize her. Sanders’s description contributed to what biographer Eric Ives calls the “monster legend” of Anne Boleyn.[32] Though his details were fictitious, they have formed the basis for references to Anne’s appearance even in some modern textbooks.[33]

Anne’s experience in France made her a devout Christian in the new tradition of Renaissance humanism. Anne knew little Latin but, trained at a French court, she was influenced by an “evangelical variety of French humanism” which led her to champion the vernacular Bible.[34] While she would later hold the reformist position that the papacy was a corrupting influence on Christianity, her conservative tendencies could be seen in her devotion to the Virgin Mary.[35] Anne’s European education ended in 1521, when her father summoned her back to England. She sailed from Calais in January 1522.[36]

An early 20th-century painting of Anne Boleyn, depicting her deer hunting with the King

At the court of Henry VIII: 1522–1533

Anne was recalled to marry her Irish cousin, James Butler, a young man who was several years older than she and who was living at the English court,[37] in an attempt to settle a dispute over the title and estates of the Earldom of Ormond. The 7th Earl of Ormond died in 1515, leaving his daughters, Margaret Boleyn and Anne St Leger, as co-heiresses. In Ireland, the great-great-grandson of the 3rd earl, Sir Piers Butler, contested the will and claimed the Earldom himself. He was already in possession of Kilkenny Castle – the ancestral seat of the earls. Sir Thomas Boleyn, being the son of the eldest daughter, felt the title belonged to him and protested to his brother-in-law, the Duke of Norfolk, who spoke to King Henry about the matter. Henry, fearful the dispute could be the spark to ignite civil war in Ireland, sought to resolve the matter by arranging an alliance between Piers’s son, James, and Anne Boleyn. She would bring her Ormond inheritance as dowry and thus end the dispute. The plan ended in failure, perhaps because Sir Thomas hoped for a grander marriage for his daughter or because he himself coveted the titles. Whatever the reason, the marriage negotiations came to a complete halt.[38] James Butler later married Lady Joan Fitzgerald, daughter and heiress of James FitzGerald, 10th Earl of Desmond and Amy O’Brien.

Mary Boleyn, Anne Boleyn’s older sister, had earlier been recalled from France in late 1519, ostensibly for her affairs with the French king and his courtiers. She married William Carey, a minor noble, in February 1520, at Greenwich, with Henry VIII in attendance; soon after, Mary Boleyn became the English King’s mistress. Historians dispute King Henry VIII’s paternity of one or both of Mary Boleyn’s children born during this marriage. Henry VIII: The King and His Court, by Alison Weir, questions the paternity of Henry Carey;[39] Dr. G.W. Bernard (The King’s Reformation) and Joanna Denny (Anne Boleyn: A New Life of England’s Tragic Queen) argue that Henry VIII was their father. Henry did not acknowledge either child, as he did his son Henry Fitzroy, his illegitimate son by Elizabeth Blount, Lady Talboys.

Anne made her début at the Chateau Vert (Green Castle) pageant in honour of the imperial ambassadors on 4 March 1522, playing “Perseverance.” There she took part in an elaborate dance accompanying Henry’s younger sister Mary, several other ladies of the court, and her sister. All wore gowns of white satin embroidered with gold thread.[40] She quickly established herself as one of the most stylish and accomplished women at the court, and soon a number of young men were competing for her.[41]

The Six Wives of
Henry VIII
Catherine aragon.jpg Catherine of Aragon
Anneboleyn2.jpg Anne Boleyn
Hans Holbein d. J. 032b.jpg Jane Seymour
AnneCleves.jpg Anne of Cleves
HowardCatherine02.jpeg Catherine Howard
Catherine Parr from NPG.jpg Catherine Parr

The American historian Retha M. Warnicke writes that Anne was “the perfect woman courtier… her carriage was graceful and her French clothes were pleasing and stylish; she danced with ease, had a pleasant singing voice, played the lute and several other musical instruments well, and spoke French fluently… A remarkable, intelligent, quick-witted young noblewoman… that first drew people into conversation with her and then amused and entertained them. In short, her energy and vitality made her the center of attention in any social gathering.” Henry VIII’s biographer J. J. Scarisbrick adds that Anne “revelled in” the attention she received from her admirers.[42]

During this time, Anne was courted by Henry Percy, son of the Earl of Northumberland, and entered into a secret betrothal with the young man. Thomas Wolsey’s gentleman usher, George Cavendish, maintained the two had not been lovers. If Cavendish is to be believed, their relationship was celibate.[43] The romance was broken off when Percy’s father refused to support their engagement. Cardinal Wolsey refused the match for several conjectured reasons. According to Cavendish, Anne was sent from court to her family’s countryside estates, but it is not known for how long. Upon her return to court, she again entered the service of Catherine of Aragon.

Prior to her marriage to King Henry VIII, Anne had befriended Sir Thomas Wyatt, who was one of the greatest poets of the Tudor reign. In 1520, Wyatt married Elizabeth Cobham, who told by many accounts, was not a wife of his choosing.[44] Thus, in 1525, Wyatt charged his wife with adultery and separated from her; coincidentally, historians believe that it was also the year where his interest in Anne intensified. Following that from 1528 to 1532, He was given the titles of ‘High Marshal of Calais’ as well as ‘Commissioner of the Peace of Essex’. While Anne Boleyn was still King Henry’s mistress in 1532, Wyatt accompanied the royal couple to Calais in France.[45] A year later, Anne Boleyn and the King were secretly married, and Wyatt served in Anne’s coronation in June of 1533.

Some say that Anne resisted the King’s attempts to seduce her, refusing to become his mistress, often leaving court for the seclusion of Hever Castle. But within a year, he proposed marriage to her, and she accepted. Both assumed an annulment could be obtained within a matter of months. There is no evidence to suggest that they engaged in a sexual relationship until very shortly before their marriage; Henry’s love letters to Anne seem to suggest that their love affair remained unconsummated for much of their seven-year courtship. However, Anne was pregnant by the time of her marriage.

Henry’s annulment

Late Elizabethan portrait of Anne Boleyn, possibly derived from a lost original of 1533–36.[46]

It is probable that the idea of annulment (not divorce as commonly assumed) had suggested itself to Henry much earlier than this and was motivated by his desire for an heir to secure the legitimacy of the Tudor claim to the crown. Before Henry’s father Henry VII ascended the throne, England was beset by civil warfare over rival claims to the crown and Henry wanted to avoid a similar uncertainty over the succession. He and Catherine had no living sons: all Catherine’s children except Mary died in infancy.[47] Catherine of Aragon had first come to England to be bride to Henry’s brother Arthur who died soon after their marriage. Since Spain and England still wanted an alliance, a dispensation was granted by Pope Julius II on the grounds that Catherine was still a virgin. The marriage of Catherine and Henry took place in 1509, but eventually he became dubious about its validity, due to Catherine’s inability to provide an heir being seen as a sign of God’s displeasure. His feelings for Anne, and her refusals to become his mistress, probably contributed to Henry’s decision that no Pope had a right to overrule the Bible. This meant that he had been living in sin with Catherine of Aragon all these years, though Catherine hotly contested this and refused to concede that her marriage to Arthur had been consummated. It also meant that his daughter Mary was a bastard, and that the new Pope (Clement VII) would have to admit the previous Pope’s mistake and annul the marriage. Henry’s quest for an annulment became euphemistically known as the “King’s Great Matter.”[48]

Anne saw an opportunity in Henry’s infatuation and the convenient moral quandary. She determined that she would yield to his embraces only as his acknowledged queen. She began to take her place at his side in policy and in state, but not yet in his bed.[49] Confusing the issue of whether or not Anne and Henry had a sexual relationship is the fact that there is no doubt that Anne was pregnant with Elizabeth (born on 7 September 1533) when she and Henry hastily and secretly wed in order to be married when Anne was crowned queen in June, 1533, since any child born before she was queen would not be able to succeed to the throne.

Various are the opinions of scholars and historians as to how deep Anne’s commitment to the Reformation was, how much was she perhaps only personally ambitious, and how much she had to do with Henry’s defiance of Papal power. There is anecdotal evidence, related to biographer George Wyatt by her former lady-in-waiting Anne Gainsford,[50] that Anne brought to Henry’s attention a heretical pamphlet, perhaps Tyndale‘s “The Obedience of a Christian Man” or one by Simon Fish called “Supplication for Beggars,” which cried out to monarchs to rein in the evil excesses of the Catholic Church. She was sympathetic to those seeking further reformation of the Church, and actively protected scholars working on English translations of the scriptures. According to Marie Dowling, “Anne tried to educate her waiting-women in scriptural piety” and is believed to have reproved her cousin, Mary Shelton, for “having ‘idle poesies’ written in her prayer book.”[51] If Cavendish is to be believed, Anne’s outrage at Wolsey may have personalized whatever philosophical defiance she brought with her from France. Further, the most recent edition of Ives‘s biography admits that Anne may very well have had a personal spiritual awakening in her youth which spurred her on, not just as catalyst but expediter for Henry’s Reformation, though the process took a number of years.

In 1528, sweating sickness broke out with great severity. In London, the mortality rate was great and the court was dispersed. Henry left London, frequently changing his residence; Anne Boleyn retreated to the Boleyn residence at Hever Castle, but contracted the illness; her brother-in-law, William Carey, died. Henry sent his own physician to Hever Castle to care for Anne,[52] and shortly afterwards, she recovered. It soon became the one absorbing object of Henry’s desires to secure an annulment from Catherine.[53] Henry had set his hopes upon a direct appeal to the Holy See, acting independently of Cardinal Wolsey, to whom he at first communicated nothing of his plans related to Anne. In 1527 William Knight, the King’s secretary, was sent to Pope Clement VII to sue for the annulment of his marriage to Catherine, on the grounds that the dispensing bull of Pope Julius II permitting him to marry his brother’s widow, Catherine, had been obtained under false pretences. Henry also petitioned, in the event of his becoming free, a dispensation to contract a new marriage with any woman even in the first degree of affinity, whether the affinity was contracted by lawful or unlawful connection. This clearly referred to Anne.[54]

Catherine of Aragon, Henry’s first wife and queen

As the Pope was, at that time, prisoner of Charles V, the Holy Roman Emperor, as a result of the Sack of Rome in May 1527, Knight had some difficulty obtaining access. In the end he had to return with a conditional dispensation, which Wolsey insisted was technically insufficient.[55] Henry now had no choice but to put his great matter into Wolsey’s hands, who did all he could to secure a decision in Henry’s favor,[56] even going so far as to convene an ecclesiastical court in England, with a special emissary, Lorenzo Campeggio from the Pope himself to decide the matter. But the Pope never had empowered his deputy to make any decision. The Pope was still a veritable hostage of Charles V, and Charles V was the loyal nephew of Henry’s queen, Catherine.[57] The Pope forbade Henry to contract a new marriage until a decision was reached in Rome, not in England. Convinced that Wolsey’s loyalties lay with the Pope, not England, Anne, as well as Wolsey’s many enemies, ensured his dismissal from public office in 1529. George Cavendish, Wolsey’s chamberlain, records that the servants who waited on the king and Anne at dinner in 1529 in Grafton heard her say that the dishonour that Wolsey had brought upon the realm would have cost any other Englishman his head. Henry replied, “Why then I perceive…you are not the Cardinal’s friend.” Henry finally agreed to Wolsey’s arrest on grounds of praemunire.[58] Had it not been for his death from illness in 1530, he might have been executed for treason.[59] A year later in 1531 (fully two years before Henry’s marriage to Anne), Queen Catherine was banished from court and her rooms were given to Anne.

Public support, however, remained with Queen Catherine. One evening in the autumn of 1531, Anne was dining at a manor house on the river Thames and was almost seized by a crowd of angry women. Anne just managed to escape by boat.[60]

When Archbishop of Canterbury William Warham died in 1532, the Boleyn family chaplain, Thomas Cranmer, was appointed, with papal approval.[61]

In 1532, Thomas Cromwell brought before Parliament a number of acts including the Supplication against the Ordinaries and Submission of the Clergy, which recognised royal supremacy over the church, thus finalizing the break with Rome. Following these acts, Thomas More resigned as Chancellor, leaving Cromwell as Henry’s chief minister.[62]


Anne Boleyn was able to grant petitions, receive diplomats, give patronage and had enormous influence over her future husband to plead the cause of foreign diplomats. The ambassador from Milan wrote in 1531 that it was essential to have her approval if one wanted to influence the English government, a view corroborated by an earlier French ambassador in 1529.

During this period, Anne Boleyn did indeed play an important role in England’s international position by solidifying an alliance with France. She established an excellent rapport with the French ambassador, Gilles de la Pommeraie. Anne and Henry attended a meeting with the French king at Calais in winter 1532, in which Henry hoped to enlist the support of Francis I of France for his intended marriage. On 1 September 1532, Henry granted her suo jure the Marquessate of Pembroke, an appropriate peerage for a future Queen;[63] as such she became a rich and important woman: the three Dukes and two Marquesses who existed in 1532 were the King’s brother-in-law, the King’s illegitimate son, and other descendants of royalty; she ranked above all other peeresses. The Pembroke lands and the title of Earl of Pembroke had been held by Henry’s great-uncle,[64] and Henry performed the investiture himself.[65]

Henry VIII, by Hans Holbein the Younger, around 1537

Anne’s family also profited from the relationship. Her father, already Viscount Rochford, was created Earl of Wiltshire. Henry also came to an arrangement with Anne’s Irish cousin and created him Earl of Ormond. At the magnificent banquet to celebrate her father’s elevation, Anne took precedence over the Duchesses of Suffolk and Norfolk, seated in the place of honour beside the King which was usually occupied by the Queen.[66] Thanks to Anne’s intervention, her widowed sister Mary received an annual pension of £100, and Mary’s son, Henry Carey, was educated at a prestigious Cistercian monastery.

The conference at Calais was something of a political triumph, but even though the French government gave implicit support for Henry’s re-marriage and Francis I himself held private conference with Anne, the French King maintained alliances with the Pope which he could not explicitly defy.[67]

Soon after returning to Dover, Henry and Anne married in a secret ceremony.[68] She soon became pregnant and, to legalise the first wedding considered to be unlawful at the time, there was a second wedding service, also private in accordance with The Royal Book,[69] which took place in London on 25 January 1533. Events now began to move at a quick pace. On 23 May 1533, Cranmer (who had been hastened, with the Pope’s assent, into the position of Archbishop of Canterbury recently vacated by the convenient death of Warham) sat in judgment at a special court convened at Dunstable Priory to rule on the validity of the King’s marriage to Catherine of Aragon. He thereupon declared the marriage of Henry and Catherine null and void. Five days later, on 28 May 1533, Cranmer declared the marriage of Henry and Anne to be good and valid.[70]

Queen of England: 1533–1536

Anne Boleyn’s arms as queen consort[71]

Bishop John Fisher, by Hans Holbein the Younger. Fisher refused to recognise Henry VIII’s marriage to Anne Boleyn

Catherine was formally stripped of her title as queen and Anne was consequently crowned queen consort on 1 June 1533 in a magnificent ceremony at Westminster Abbey with a banquet afterwards.[72] She was the last queen consort of England to be crowned separately from her husband. Unlike any other queen consort, Anne was crowned with St Edward’s crown, which had previously been used to crown only a monarch.[73] Historian Alice Hunt suggests that this was done because Anne’s pregnancy was visible by then and she was carrying the heir who was presumed to be male.[74] On the previous day, Anne had taken part in an elaborate procession through the streets of London seated in a litter of “white cloth of gold” that rested on two palfreys clothed to the ground in white damask, while the barons of the Cinque Ports held a canopy of cloth of gold over her head. In accordance with tradition she wore white, and on her head a gold coronet beneath which her long dark hair hung down freely.[75] The public’s response to her appearance was lukewarm.[76]

Meanwhile, the House of Commons had forbidden all appeals to Rome and exacted the penalties of praemunire against all who introduced papal bulls into England. It was only then that Pope Clement at last took the step of announcing a provisional sentence of excommunication against the King and Cranmer. He condemned the marriage to Anne, and in March 1534, he declared the marriage to Catherine legal and again ordered Henry to return to her.[77] Henry now required his subjects to swear the oath attached to the First Succession Act, which effectively rejected papal authority in legal matters and recognised Anne Boleyn as queen. Those who refused, such as Sir Thomas More, who had resigned as Lord Chancellor, and John Fisher, Bishop of Rochester, were then placed in the Tower of London. In late 1534 parliament declared Henry “the only supreme head on earth of the Church of England”.[78] The Church in England was now under Henry’s control, not Rome’s. On 14 May 1534, in one of the realm’s first official acts protecting Protestant Reformers, Anne wrote a letter to Thomas Cromwell seeking his aid in ensuring that English merchant Richard Herman be reinstated a member of the merchant adventurers in Antwerp and no longer persecuted simply because he had helped in “setting forth of the New testament in English.”[79] Before and after her coronation, Anne protected and promoted evangelicals and those wishing to study the scriptures of William Tyndale.[80] She had a decisive role in influencing the Protestant reformer Matthew Parker to attend court as her chaplain, and prior to her death entrusted her daughter to Parker’s care.[81]

Struggle for a son

After her coronation, Anne settled into a quiet routine at the King’s favourite residence, Greenwich Palace, to prepare for the birth of her baby. The child was born slightly premature on 7 September 1533. Between three and four in the afternoon, Anne gave birth to a girl, who was christened Elizabeth, probably in honour of either or both Anne’s mother Elizabeth Howard and Henry’s mother, Elizabeth of York.[82] But the birth of a girl was a heavy blow to her parents, since they had confidently expected a boy. All but one of the royal physicians and astrologers had predicted a son for them and the French king had already been asked to stand as his godfather. Now the pre-prepared letters announcing the birth of a prince had an s hastily added to them to read princes[s] and the traditional tournament for the birth of an heir was cancelled.[83][84]

Greenwich Palace, after a 17th-century drawing

Nevertheless the infant princess was given a splendid christening, but Anne feared that Catherine’s daughter, Mary, now stripped of her title of princess and labelled a bastard, posed a threat to Elizabeth’s position. Henry soothed his wife’s fears by separating Mary from her many servants and sending her to Hatfield House, where Princess Elizabeth would be living with her own sizeable staff of servants, and where the country air was thought better for the baby’s health.[85] Anne frequently visited her daughter at Hatfield and other residences.[86]

The new queen had a larger staff of servants than Catherine’s. There were over 250 servants to tend to her personal needs, everyone from priests to stable-boys. There were over 60 maids-of-honour who served her and accompanied her to social events. She also employed several priests who acted as her confessors, chaplains, and religious advisers. One of these was Matthew Parker, who would become one of the chief architects of Anglican thought during the reign of Anne’s daughter Elizabeth I.[87]

Strife with the king

Henry’s reconciliation with Anne Boleyn, by George Cruikshank, 19th century.

The king and his new queen enjoyed a reasonably happy accord with periods of calm and affection. Anne Boleyn’s sharp intelligence, political acumen and forward manners, although desirable in a mistress, were, at the time, unacceptable in a wife. She was once reported to have spoken to her uncle in words that “shouldn’t be used to a dog”.[88] After a stillbirth or miscarriage as early as Christmas 1534, Henry was discussing with Cranmer and Cromwell the possibility of divorcing her without having to return to Catherine.[89] Nothing came of the issue as the royal couple reconciled and spent summer 1535 on progress. By October, she was again pregnant.

Anne Boleyn presided over a magnificent court. She spent lavish amounts of money on gowns, jewels, head-dresses, ostrich-feather fans, riding equipment, furniture and upholstery, maintaining the ostentatious display required by her status. Numerous palaces were renovated to suit her and Henry’s extravagant tastes.[90] Her motto was “The most happy”, and she had chosen a white falcon as her personal device.

Anne was blamed for the tyranny of her husband’s government and was referred to by some of her subjects as “The king’s whore” or a “naughty paike [prostitute]”.[91] Public opinion turned further against her following her failure to produce a son. It sank even lower after the executions of her enemies Sir Thomas More and Bishop John Fisher.[92]

Downfall and execution: 1536

Jane Seymour became Henry’s third wife shortly after Anne’s execution

On 8 January 1536, news of Catherine of Aragon’s death reached the King and Anne, who were overjoyed. The following day, Henry and Anne wore yellow, the symbol of joy and celebration in England, from head to toe, and celebrated Catherine’s death with festivities.[93] In Spain, the home country of Catherine of Aragon, yellow was the colour of mourning, in addition to black.[94] For this reason, the wearing of yellow by Henry and Anne may have been a symbol of mourning. With Mary’s mother dead, Anne, for her part, attempted to make peace with her.[95]

The Queen, pregnant again, was aware of the dangers if she failed to give birth to a son. With Catherine dead, Henry would be free to marry without any taint of illegality. At this time Henry began paying court to Jane Seymour. He gave her a locket with a miniature portrait of himself inside and Jane, in the presence of Anne, began opening and shutting it. Anne responded by ripping off the locket with such force her fingers bled.[96] Mary rebuffed Anne’s overtures, perhaps because of rumours circulating that Catherine had been poisoned by Anne and/or Henry. These began after the discovery during her embalming that her heart was blackened. Modern medical experts are in agreement that this was not the result of poisoning, but of cancer of the heart, something which was not understood at the time.[88]

Later that month, the King was unhorsed in a tournament and knocked unconscious for two hours, a worrying incident that Anne believed led to her miscarriage five days later.[97] Another possibility for the miscarriage was an incident in which upon entering a room, Anne saw Jane Seymour sitting on the lap of Henry. After flying into a rage, Henry soothed her, saying “peace be sweetheart, and all will be well.” But the damage was done after she miscarried a fetus with all the appearances of being male. Eustace Chapuys commented “She has miscarried of her savior.[98] On the day that Catherine of Aragon was buried at Peterborough Abbey, Anne miscarried a baby which, according to the imperial ambassador Chapuys, she had borne for about three and a half months, and which “seemed to be a male child”.[99] For Chapuys, this personal loss was the beginning of the end of the royal marriage.[100]

Given Henry’s desperate desire for a son, the sequence of Anne’s pregnancies has attracted much interest. Author Mike Ashley speculated that Anne had two stillborn children after Elizabeth’s birth and before the male child she miscarried in 1536.[101] Most sources attest only to the birth of Elizabeth in September 1533, a possible miscarriage in the summer of 1534, and the miscarriage of a male child, of almost four months gestation, in January 1536.[102] As Anne recovered from her miscarriage, Henry declared that he had been seduced into the marriage by means of “sortilege”—a French term indicating either “deception” or “spells”. His new mistress, Jane Seymour, was quickly moved into royal quarters. This was followed by Anne’s brother George being refused a prestigious court honour, the Order of the Garter, given instead to Sir Nicholas Carew.[103]

Charges of adultery, incest and treason

Thomas Cromwell, Anne’s one-time strong ally, with whom she clashed over foreign policy and the redistribution of church wealth. Portrait by Hans Holbein the Younger, c. 1532.

According to author and Tudor historian Alison Weir, Thomas Cromwell plotted Anne’s downfall while feigning illness and detailing the plot 20–21 April 1536. Anne’s biographer Eric Ives, among others, believes that her fall and execution were engineered by Thomas Cromwell.[104] The conversations between Chapuys and Cromwell thereafter indicate Cromwell as the instigator of the plot to remove Anne; evidence of this is seen in the Spanish Chronicle and through letters written from Chapuys to Charles V. Anne argued with Cromwell over the redistribution of Church revenues and over foreign policy. She advocated that revenues be distributed to charitable and educational institutions; and she favoured a French alliance. Cromwell insisted on filling the King’s depleted coffers, while taking a cut for himself, and preferred an imperial alliance.[105] For these reasons, Ives suggests, “Anne Boleyn had become a major threat to Thomas Cromwell.”[106] Cromwell’s biographer John Schofield, on the other hand, contends that no power struggle existed between Anne and Cromwell and that “not a trace can be found of a Cromwellian conspiracy against Anne… Cromwell became involved in the royal marital drama only when Henry ordered him onto the case.”[107] Cromwell did not manufacture the accusations of adultery, though he and other officials used them to bolster Henry’s case against Anne.[108] Historian Retha Warnicke questions whether Cromwell could have manipulated the king in such a matter.[109] Henry himself issued the crucial instructions: his officials, including Cromwell, carried them out.[110] The result, historians agree, was a legal travesty.[111] In order to do so, the Master Secretary Cromwell would need sufficient evidence that would be convincing enough for her conviction or risk his own offices and perhaps life.

Towards the end of April a Flemish musician in Anne’s service named Mark Smeaton was arrested. He initially denied being the Queen’s lover but later confessed, perhaps tortured or promised freedom. Another courtier, Sir Henry Norris, was arrested on May Day, but being an aristocrat, could not be tortured. Prior to his arrest, Norris was treated kindly by the King, who offered him his own horse to use on the May Day festivities. It seems likely that during the festivities, the King was notified of Smeaton’s confession and it was shortly thereafter the alleged conspirators were arrested upon his orders. Norris denied his guilt and swore that Queen Anne was innocent; one of the most damaging pieces of evidence against Norris was an overheard conversation with Anne at the end of April, where she accused him of coming often to her chambers not to pay court to her lady-in-waiting Madge Shelton but to herself. Sir Francis Weston was arrested two days later on the same charge, as was Sir William Brereton, a Groom of the King’s Privy Chamber. Sir Thomas Wyatt, a poet and friend of the Boleyns who was allegedly infatuated with her before her marriage to the king, was also imprisoned for the same charge but later released, most likely due to his or his family’s friendship with Cromwell. Sir Richard Page was also accused of having a sexual relationship with the Queen, but he was acquitted of all charges after further investigation could not implicate him with Anne.[citation needed] The final accused was Queen Anne’s own brother, George Boleyn, arrested on charges of incest and treason.[112] He was accused of two incidents of incest: November, 1535 at Whitehall and the following month at Eltham.[113]

On 2 May 1536, Anne was arrested and taken to the Tower of London by barge. It is likely that Anne may have entered through The Court Gate in The Byward Tower rather than The Traitor’s Gate, according to historian and author of The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn, Eric Ives. In the Tower, she collapsed, demanding to know the location of her father and “swete broder”, as well as the charges against her.

In what is reputed to be her last letter to King Henry, dated 6 May, she wrote:

“Sir,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. Whereas you send unto me (willing me to confess a truth, and so obtain your favour) by such an one, whom you know to be my ancient professed enemy. I no sooner received this message by him, than I rightly conceived your meaning; and if, as you say, confessing a truth indeed may procure my safety, I shall with all willingness and duty perform your demand.

But let not your Grace ever imagine, that your poor wife will ever be brought to acknowledge a fault, where not so much as a thought thereof preceded. And to speak a truth, never prince had wife more loyal in all duty, and in all true affection, than you have ever found in Anne Boleyn: with which name and place I could willingly have contented myself, if God and your Grace’s pleasure had been so pleased. Neither did I at any time so far forget myself in my exaltation or received Queenship, but that I always looked for such an alteration as I now find; for the ground of my preferment being on no surer foundation than your Grace’s fancy, the least alteration I knew was fit and sufficient to draw that fancy to some other object. You have chosen me, from a low estate, to be your Queen and companion, far beyond my desert or desire. If then you found me worthy of such honour, good your Grace let not any light fancy, or bad council of mine enemies, withdraw your princely favour from me; neither let that stain, that unworthy stain, of a disloyal heart toward your good grace, ever cast so foul a blot on your most dutiful wife, and the infant-princess your daughter. Try me, good king, but let me have a lawful trial, and let not my sworn enemies sit as my accusers and judges; yea let me receive an open trial, for my truth shall fear no open flame; then shall you see either my innocence cleared, your suspicion and conscience satisfied, the ignominy and slander of the world stopped, or my guilt openly declared. So that whatsoever God or you may determine of me, your grace may be freed of an open censure, and mine offense being so lawfully proved, your grace is at liberty, both before God and man, not only to execute worthy punishment on me as an unlawful wife, but to follow your affection, already settled on that party, for whose sake I am now as I am, whose name I could some good while since have pointed unto, your Grace being not ignorant of my suspicion therein. 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, and that he will not call you to a strict account of your unprincely and cruel usage of me, at his general judgment-seat, where both you and myself must shortly appear, and in whose judgment I doubt not (whatsoever the world may think of me) mine innocence shall be openly known, and sufficiently cleared. My last and only request shall be, that myself may only bear the burden of your Grace’s displeasure, and that it may not touch the innocent souls of those poor gentlemen, who (as I understand) are likewise in strait imprisonment for my sake. If ever I found favour in your sight, if ever the name of Anne Boleyn hath been pleasing in your ears, then let me obtain this request, and I will so leave to trouble your Grace any further, with mine earnest prayers to the Trinity to have your Grace in his good keeping, and to direct you in all your actions. From my doleful prison in the Tower, this sixth of May;

Your most loyal and ever faithful wife,

Anne Boleyn”

Four of the accused men were tried in Westminster on 12 May 1536. Weston, Brereton, and Norris publicly maintained their innocence and only the tortured Smeaton supported the Crown by pleading guilty. Three days later, Anne and George Boleyn were tried separately in the Tower of London. She was accused of adultery, incest, and high treason.[114] By the Treason Act of Edward III, adultery on the part of a queen was a form of treason (presumably because of the implications for the succession to the throne) for which the penalty was hanging, drawing and quartering for a man and burning alive for a woman, but the accusations, and especially that of incestuous adultery, were also designed to impugn her moral character. The other form of treason alleged against her was that of plotting the king’s death, with her “lovers”, so that she might later marry Henry Norris.[113] Henry Percy, 6th Earl of Northumberland sat on the jury that found Anne guilty. When the verdict was announced, he collapsed and had to be carried from the courtroom. He died eight months later, leaving no heirs and therefore was succeeded by his nephew.

On 14 May, Cranmer declared Anne’s marriage to Henry dissolved.[115]

Final hours

Anne Boleyn in the Tower by Edouard Cibot (1799 – 1877)

Although the evidence against them was unconvincing, the accused were found guilty and condemned to death. George Boleyn and the other accused men were executed on 17 May 1536. William Kingston, the Constable of the Tower, reported Anne seemed very happy and ready to be done with life. Henry commuted Anne’s sentence from burning to beheading, and rather than have a queen beheaded with the common axe, he brought Jean Rombaud, an expert swordsman from Saint-Omer in France, to perform the execution. On the morning of 19 May, Kingston wrote:

This morning she sent for me, that I might be with her at such time as she received the good Lord, to the intent I should hear her speak as touching her innocency alway to be clear. And in the writing of this she sent for me, and at my coming she said, ‘Mr. Kingston, I hear I shall not die afore noon, and I am very sorry therefore, for I thought to be dead by this time and past my pain.’ I told her it should be no pain, it was so little. And then she said, ‘I heard say the executioner was very good, and I have a little neck,’ and then put her hands about it, laughing heartily. I have seen many men and also women executed, and that they have been in great sorrow, and to my knowledge this lady has much joy in death. Sir, her almoner is continually with her, and had been since two o’clock after midnight.[116]

However, her impending death may have caused her great sorrow for some time during her imprisonment. The poem “Oh Death Rock Me Asleep” is generally believed to have been authored by Anne and reveals that she may have hoped death would end her suffering.[117]

Shortly before dawn, she called Kingston to hear mass with her, and swore in his presence, on the eternal salvation of her soul, upon the Holy Sacraments, that she had never been unfaithful to the king. She ritually repeated this oath both immediately before and after receiving the sacrament of the Eucharist.[118]

On the morning of Friday 19 May, Anne Boleyn was judicially executed, not upon Tower Green despite that fact it is the site of the execution memorial, but rather, according to historian Eric Ives, on a scaffold erected on the north side of the White Tower, in front of what is now the Waterloo Barracks.[119] She wore a red petticoat under a loose, dark grey gown of damask trimmed in fur and a mantle of ermine.[120] Accompanied by two female attendants, Anne made her final walk from the Queen’s House to the scaffold and she showed a “devilish spirit”[121] and looked “as gay as if she was not going to die”.[122] Anne climbed the scaffold and made a short speech to the crowd:

Good Christian people, I am come hither to die, for according to the law, and by the law I am judged to die, and therefore I will speak nothing against it. I am come hither to accuse no man, nor to speak anything of that, whereof I am accused and condemned to die, but I pray God save the king and send him long to reign over you, for a gentler nor a more merciful prince was there never: and to me he was ever a good, a gentle and sovereign lord. And if any person will meddle of my cause, I require them to judge the best. And thus I take my leave of the world and of you all, and I heartily desire you all to pray for me. O Lord have mercy on me, to God I commend my soul.[116]

This is one version of her speech, written by Lancelot de Carles in Paris, a few weeks following her death; he had been in London, but did not witness either trial or execution. All the accounts are similar, and undoubtedly correct to varying degrees. It is thought that she avoided criticizing Henry to save Elizabeth and her family from further consequences, but even under such extreme pressure Anne did not confess guilt, in fact subtly implying her innocence, in her appeal to historians who “will meddle of my cause”.[citation needed]

Death and burial

Thomas Cranmer, who was the sole supporter of Anne in the council.

She knelt upright, in the French style of executions. Her final prayer consisted of her repeating continually, “To Jesus Christ I commend my soul; Lord Jesus receive my soul.” Her ladies removed her headdress and necklaces, and then tied a blindfold over her eyes. According to Eric W. Ives, the executioner Rombaud was so taken by Anne that he was shaken. Rombaud found it so difficult to proceed that to distract her and for her to position her head correctly, he is said to have shouted, “Where is my sword?” just before killing her.[123][124]

The execution consisted of a single stroke.[125] It was witnessed by Thomas Cromwell, Charles Brandon, 1st Duke of Suffolk, the King’s illegitimate son, Henry Fitzroy, the Lord Mayor of London, as well as aldermen, sheriffs, and representatives of the various craft guilds. Most of the King’s Council were also present.[126] Cranmer, who was at Lambeth Palace, was reported to have broken down in tears after telling Alexander Ales: “She who has been the Queen of England on earth will today become a Queen in heaven.”[127] When the charges were first brought against Anne, Cranmer had expressed his astonishment to Henry and his belief that “she should not be culpable.” Still, Cranmer felt vulnerable because of his closeness to the queen, and so on the night before the execution, he declared Henry’s marriage to Anne to have been void, like Catherine’s before her. He made no serious attempt to save Anne’s life, although some sources record that he had prepared her for death by hearing her last private confession of sins, in which she had stated her innocence before God.[128] However, on the day of her death a Scottish friend found Cranmer weeping uncontrollably in his London gardens, saying that he was sure that Anne had now gone to Heaven.[129]

She was then buried in an unmarked grave in the Chapel of St Peter ad Vincula. Her skeleton was identified during renovations of the chapel in 1876, in the reign of Queen Victoria, and Anne’s resting place is now marked in the marble floor.

Recognition and legacy

Nicholas Sander, a Roman Catholic recusant born c. 1530, was committed to deposing Elizabeth I and re-establishing Roman Catholicism in England. In his De Origine ac Progressu schismatis Anglicani (The Rise and Growth of the Anglican Schism), published in 1585, he was the first to write that Anne had six fingers on her right hand.[130] Since physical deformities were generally interpreted as a sign of evil, it is unlikely that Anne Boleyn would have gained Henry’s romantic attention had she had any.[131] Upon exhumation in 1876, no abnormalities were discovered. Her frame was described as delicate, approximately 5’3″, with finely formed, tapering fingers.[132]

Anne Boleyn was described by contemporaries as intelligent and gifted in musical arts and scholarly pursuits. She was also strong-willed and proud, and often quarrelled with Henry.[133] Biographer Eric Ives evaluates the apparent contradictions in Anne’s persona:

To us she appears inconsistent—religious yet aggressive, calculating yet emotional, with the light touch of the courtier yet the strong grip of the politician—but is this what she was, or merely what we strain to see through the opacity of the evidence? As for her inner life, short of a miraculous cache of new material, we shall never really know. Yet what does come to us across the centuries is the impression of a person who is strangely appealing to the early 21st century: A woman in her own right—taken on her own terms in a man’s world; a woman who mobilised her education, her style and her presence to outweigh the disadvantages of her sex; of only moderate good looks, but taking a court and a king by storm. Perhaps, in the end, it is Thomas Cromwell’s assessment that comes nearest: intelligence, spirit and courage.[134]

No contemporary portraits of Anne Boleyn survive. A bust of her was cast on a commemorative medallion in 1534, believed to have been struck to celebrate her second pregnancy.[135]

Following the coronation of her daughter as queen, Anne was venerated as a martyr and heroine of the English Reformation, particularly through the works of John Foxe, who argued that Anne had saved England from the evils of Roman Catholicism and that God had provided proof of her innocence and virtue by making sure her daughter Elizabeth I ascended the throne. An example of Anne’s direct influence in the reformed church is what Alexander Ales described to Queen Elizabeth as the “evangelical bishops whom your holy mother appointed from among those scholars who favoured the purer doctrine”.[136] Over the centuries, Anne has inspired or been mentioned in numerous artistic and cultural works. As a result, she has remained in the popular memory and has been called “the most influential and important queen consort England has ever had.”[7]

St Mary’s Church, Erwarton, Suffolk, where Boleyn’s heart was allegedly buried


Many legends and fantastic stories about Anne Boleyn have survived over the centuries. One is that she was secretly buried in Salle Church in Norfolk under a black slab near the tombs of her Boleyn ancestors.[137] Her body was said to have rested in an Essex church on its journey to Norfolk. Another is that her heart, at her request,[138] was buried in Erwarton (Arwarton) Church, Suffolk by her uncle Sir Philip Parker.[139]

In 18th century Sicily the peasants of Nicolosi believed that Anne Boleyn, for having made Henry VIII a heretic, was condemned to burn for eternity inside Mount Etna. This legend was often told for the benefit of foreign travellers.[140]

A number of people have claimed to have seen Anne’s ghost at Hever Castle, Blickling Hall, Salle Church, Tower of London, and Marwell Hall.[141][142][143] The most famous account of her reputed sighting has been described by paranormal researcher Hans Holzer. In 1864, Major General J.D. Dundas of the 60th Rifles regiment was quartered in the Tower of London. As he was looking out the window of his quarters, he noticed a guard below in the courtyard, in front of the lodgings where Anne had been imprisoned, behaving strangely. He appeared to challenge something, which to the General “looked like a whitish, female figure sliding towards the soldier”. The guard charged through the form with his bayonet, then fainted.[144] Only the General’s testimony and corroboration at the court-martial saved the guard from a lengthy prison sentence for having fainted while on duty. In 1960, Canon W. S. Pakenham-Walsh, vicar of Sulgrave, Northamptonshire, reported having conversations with Anne.[145]



Natura Naturans vs Natura Naturata

Natura naturans is a Latin tag coined during the Middle Ages, meaning “Nature naturing”, or more loosely, “nature doing what nature does”. The Latin, naturans, is the present active participle of naturo, indicated by the suffix “-ans” which is akin to the English suffix “-ing.” naturata, is the perfect passive participle. These terms are most commonly associated with the philosophy of Baruch Spinoza. For Spinoza, natura naturans refers to the self-causing activity of nature, while natura naturata, meaning “nature natured”, refers to nature considered as a passive product of an infinite causal chain. Samuel Taylor Coleridge defined it as “Nature in the active sense” as opposed to natura naturata

Spinoza's house in Rijnsburg from 1661-3, now ...

Spinoza’s house in Rijnsburg from 1661-3, now a museum (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Natura naturata is a Latin term coined in the Middle Ages, mainly used by Baruch Spinoza meaning “Nature natured”, or “Nature already created”. The term adds the suffix for the Latin feminine past participle (-ata) to the verb naturo, to create “natured“. The term describes a passive God, or more specifically, the passivity of God (Substance) when it is predicated into modes, and is contrasted with the second part of Spinoza’s dichotomy, Natura naturans, meaning “nature naturing, or “nature in the active sense”. To Spinoza, Nature and God were the same. (See: Spinoza’s God and Nature.)

Cu Chulainn and Emer

Celtic Irish Cuchulainn

Celtic Irish Cuchulainn

Cú Chulainn

Cú Chulainn, also spelt Cú Chulaind or Cúchulainn ([kuːˈxʊlˠɪnʲ] ( listen); Irish for “Culann‘s Hound”) and sometimes known in English as Cuhullin (pron.: /kəˈhʊlɨn/),[1] is an Irish mythological hero who appears in the stories of the Ulster Cycle, as well as in Scottish and Manx folklore.[2] The son of the god Lugh and Deichtine (sister of Conchobar mac Nessa), his childhood name was Sétanta.

He gained his better-known name as a child after he killed Culann’s fierce guard-dog in self-defence, and offered to take its place until a replacement could be reared. At the age of seventeen he defended Ulster single-handedly against the armies of queen Medb of Connacht in the epic Táin Bó Cúailnge (“Cattle Raid of Cooley“). It was prophesied that his great deeds would give him everlasting fame, but that his life would be a short one. This is the reason why he is compared to the Greek hero Achilles. He is known for his terrifying battle frenzy or ríastrad,[3] (translated by Thomas Kinsella as “warp spasm”[4] and by Ciaran Carson as “torque”)[5] in which he becomes an unrecognisable monster who knows neither friend nor foe. He fights from his chariot, driven by his loyal charioteer Láeg, and drawn by his horses, Liath Macha and Dub Sainglend. In more modern times, Cú Chulainn is often referred to as the “Hound of Ulster”.[6]




Main article: Compert Con Culainn

There are a number of versions of the story of Cú Chulainn’s birth. In the earliest version of Compert C(h)on Culainn (“The Conception of Cú Chulainn”), his mother Deichtine is the daughter and charioteer of Conchobar mac Nessa, king of Ulster, and accompanies him as he and the nobles of Ulster hunt a flock of magical birds. Snow falls, and the Ulstermen seek shelter, finding a house where they are made welcome. Their host’s wife goes into labour, and Deichtine assists at the birth of a baby boy. A mare gives birth to two colts at the same time. The next morning, the Ulstermen find themselves at the Brug na Bóinde (the Neolithic mound at Newgrange)—the house and its occupants have disappeared, but the child and the colts remain. Deichtine takes the boy home and raises him to early childhood, but he falls sick and dies. The god Lug appears to her and tells her he was their host that night, and that he has put his child in her womb, who is to be called Sétanta. Her pregnancy is a scandal as she is betrothed to Sualtam mac Róich, and the Ulstermen suspect Conchobar of being the father, so she aborts the child and goes to her husband’s bed “virgin-whole”. She then conceives a son whom she names Sétanta.[7]

In the later, and better-known, version of Compert Con Culainn, Deichtine is Conchobar’s sister, and disappears from Emain Macha, the Ulster capital. As in the previous version, the Ulstermen go hunting a flock of magical birds, are overtaken by a snowstorm and seek shelter in a nearby house. Their host is Lug, but this time his wife, who gives birth to a son that night, is Deichtine herself. The child is named Sétanta.[8]

The nobles of Ulster argue over which of them is to be his foster-father, until the wise Morann decides he should be fostered by several of them: Conchobar himself; Sencha mac Ailella, who will teach him judgement and eloquent speech; the wealthy Blaí Briugu, who will protect and provide for him; the noble warrior Fergus mac Róich, who will care for him and teach him to protect the weak; the poet Amergin, who will educate him, and his wife Findchóem, who will nurse him. He is brought up in the house of Amergin and Findchóem on Muirthemne Plain in modern County Louth (at the time part of Ulster), alongside their son Conall Cernach.[9]


The stories of Cú Chulainn’s childhood are told in a flashback sequence in Táin Bó Cúailnge. As a small child, living in his parents’ house on Muirthemne Plain, he begs to be allowed to join the boy-troop at Emain Macha. However, he sets off on his own, and when he arrives at Emain he runs onto the playing field without first asking for the boys’ protection, being unaware of the custom. The boys take this as a challenge and attack him, but he has a ríastrad and beats them single-handed. Conchobar puts a stop to the fight and clears up the misunderstanding, but no sooner has Sétanta put himself under the boys’ protection than he chases after them, demanding they put themselves under his protection.[10]

Culann the smith invites Conchobar to a feast at his house. Before going, Conchobar goes to the playing field to watch the boys play hurling. He is so impressed by Sétanta’s performance that he asks him to join him at the feast. Sétanta has a game to finish, but promises to follow the king later. But Conchobar forgets, and Culann lets loose his ferocious hound to protect his house. When Sétanta arrives, the enormous hound attacks him, but he kills it in self-defence, in one version by smashing it against a standing stone, in another by driving a sliotar (hurling ball) down its throat with his hurley. Culann is devastated by the loss of his hound, so Sétanta promises he will rear him a replacement, and until it is old enough to do the job, he himself will guard Culann’s house. The druid Cathbad announces that his name henceforth will be Cú Chulainn—”Culann’s Hound”.[11]

One day at Emain Macha, Cú Chulainn overhears Cathbad teaching his pupils. One asks him what that day is auspicious for, and Cathbad replies that any warrior who takes arms that day will have everlasting fame. Cú Chulainn, though only seven years old, goes to Conchobar and asks for arms. None of the weapons given to him withstand his strength, until Conchobar gives him his own weapons. But when Cathbad sees this he grieves, because he had not finished his prophecy—the warrior who took arms that day would be famous, but his life would be short. Soon afterwards, in response to a similar prophecy by Cathbad, Cú Chulainn demands a chariot from Conchobar, and only the king’s own chariot withstands him. He sets off on a foray and kills the three sons of Nechtan Scéne, who had boasted they had killed more Ulstermen than there were Ulstermen still living. He returns to Emain Macha in his battle frenzy, and the Ulstermen are afraid he will slaughter them all. Conchobar’s wife Mugain leads out the women of Emain, and they bare their breasts to him. He averts his eyes, and the Ulstermen wrestle him into a barrel of cold water, which explodes from the heat of his body. They put him in a second barrel, which boils, and a third, which warms to a pleasant temperature.[12]

Emer and Cú Chulainn’s training

Main article: Tochmarc Emire

In Cú Chulainn’s youth he is so beautiful the Ulstermen worry that, without a wife of his own, he will steal their wives and ruin their daughters. They search all over Ireland for a suitable wife for him, but he will have none but Emer, daughter of Forgall Monach. However, Forgall is opposed to the match. He suggests that Cú Chulainn should train in arms with the renowned warrior-woman Scáthach in the land of Alba (Scotland), hoping the ordeal will be too much for him and he will be killed. Cú Chulainn takes up the challenge. In the meantime, Forgall offers Emer to Lugaid mac Nóis, a king of Munster, but when he hears that Emer loves Cú Chulainn, Lugaid refuses her hand.

Scáthach teaches Cú Chulainn all the arts of war, including the use of the Gáe Bulg, a terrible barbed spear, thrown with the foot, that has to be cut out of its victim. His fellow trainees include Ferdiad, who becomes Cú Chulainn’s best friend and foster-brother. During his time there, Scáthach faces a battle against Aífe, her rival and in some versions her twin sister. Scáthach, knowing Aífe’s prowess, fears for Cú Chulainn’s life and gives him a powerful sleeping potion to keep him from the battle. However, because of Cú Chulainn’s great strength, it only puts him to sleep for an hour, and he soon joins the fray. He fights Aífe in single combat, and the two are evenly matched, but Cú Chulainn distracts her by calling out that Aífe’s horses and chariot, the things she values most in the world, have fallen off a cliff, and seizes her. He spares her life on the condition that she call off her enmity with Scáthach, and bear him a son.

Leaving Aífe pregnant, Cú Chulainn returns from Scotland fully trained, but Forgall still refuses to let him marry Emer. Cú Chulainn storms Forgall’s fortress, killing twenty-four of Forgall’s men, abducts Emer and steals Forgall’s treasure. Forgall himself falls from the ramparts to his death. Conchobar has the “right of the first night” over all marriages of his subjects. He is afraid of Cú Chulainn’s reaction if he exercises it in this case, but is equally afraid of losing his authority if he does not. Cathbad suggests a solution: Conchobar sleeps with Emer on the night of the wedding, but Cathbad sleeps between them.[13]

Cú Chulainn kills his son

Eight years later, Connla, Cú Chulainn’s son by Aífe, comes to Ireland in search of his father, but Cú Chulainn takes him as an intruder and kills him when he refuses to identify himself. Connla’s last words to his father as he dies are that they would have “carried the flag of Ulster to the gates of Rome and beyond”, leaving Cú Chulainn grief-stricken.[14] The story of Cú Chulainn and Connla shows a striking similarity to the legend of Persian hero Rostam who also kills his son Sohrab. Rostam and Cú Chulainn share several other characteristics, including killing a ferocious beast at a very young age, their near invincibility in battle, and the manner of their deaths.[15]

Lugaid and Derbforgaill

During his time abroad, Cú Chulainn had rescued Derbforgaill, a Scandinavian princess, from being sacrificed to the Fomorians. She falls in love with him, and she and her handmaid come to Ireland in search of him in the form of a pair of swans. Cú Chulainn, not realising who she is, shoots her down with his sling, and then saves her life by sucking the stone from her side. Having tasted her blood, he cannot marry her, and gives her to his foster-son Lugaid Riab nDerg. Lugaid goes on to become High King of Ireland, but the Lia Fáil (stone of destiny), fails to cry out when he stands on it, so Cú Chulainn splits it in two with his sword.[16] When Derbforgaill is mutilated by the women of Ulster out of jealousy for her sexual desirability and dies of her wounds, Lugaid dies of grief, and Cú Chulainn avenges them by demolishing the house the women are inside, killing 150 of them.[17]

The Cattle Raid of Cooley

Main article: Táin Bó Cúailnge

Cú Chulainn in Battle

At the age of seventeen, Cú Chulainn single-handedly defends Ulster from the army of Connacht in the Táin Bó Cúailnge. Medb, queen of Connacht, has mounted the invasion to steal the stud bull Donn Cúailnge, and Cú Chulainn allows her to take Ulster by surprise because he is with a woman when he should be watching the border. The men of Ulster are disabled by a curse, so Cú Chulainn prevents Medb‘s army from advancing further by invoking the right of single combat at fords. He defeats champion after champion in a stand-off lasting months.

Before one combat a beautiful young woman comes to him, claiming to be the daughter of a king, and offers him her love, but he refuses her. The woman reveals herself as the Morrígan, and in revenge for this slight she attacks him in various animal forms while he is engaged in combat against Lóch mac Mofemis. As an eel, she trips him in the ford, but he breaks her ribs. As a wolf, she stampedes cattle across the ford, but he puts out her eye with a sling-stone. Finally she appears as a heifer at the head of the stampede, but he breaks her leg with another slingstone. After Cú Chulainn finally defeats Lóch, the Morrígan appears to him as an old woman milking a cow, with the same injuries he had given her in her animal forms. She gives him three drinks of milk, and with each drink he blesses her, healing her wounds.

After one particularly arduous combat Cú Chulainn lies severely wounded, but is visited by Lug, who tells him he is his father and heals his wounds. When Cú Chulainn wakes up and sees that the boy-troop of Emain Macha have attacked the Connacht army and been slaughtered, he has his most spectacular ríastrad yet:

The first warp-spasm seized Cúchulainn, and made him into a monstrous thing, hideous and shapeless, unheard of. His shanks and his joints, every knuckle and angle and organ from head to foot, shook like a tree in the flood or a reed in the stream. His body made a furious twist inside his skin, so that his feet and shins switched to the rear and his heels and calves switched to the front… On his head the temple-sinews stretched to the nape of his neck, each mighty, immense, measureless knob as big as the head of a month-old child… he sucked one eye so deep into his head that a wild crane couldn’t probe it onto his cheek out of the depths of his skull; the other eye fell out along his cheek. His mouth weirdly distorted: his cheek peeled back from his jaws until the gullet appeared, his lungs and his liver flapped in his mouth and throat, his lower jaw struck the upper a lion-killing blow, and fiery flakes large as a ram’s fleece reached his mouth from his throat… The hair of his head twisted like the tange of a red thornbush stuck in a gap; if a royal apple tree with all its kingly fruit were shaken above him, scarce an apple would reach the ground but each would be spiked on a bristle of his hair as it stood up on his scalp with rage.
Thomas Kinsella (translator), The Táin, Oxford University Press, 1969, pp. 150–153

He attacks the army and kills hundreds, building walls of corpses.

Cú Chulainn carries his foster brother Ferdiad across the river

When his foster-father Fergus mac Róich, now in exile in Medb’s court, is sent to face him Cú Chulainn agrees to yield, so long as Fergus agrees to return the favour the next time they meet. Finally, he fights a gruelling three-day duel with his best friend and foster-brother, Ferdiad, at a ford that was named Áth Fhir Diadh (Ardee, County Louth) after him.

The Ulstermen eventually rouse, one by one at first, and finally en masse. The final battle begins. Cú Chulainn stays on the sidelines, recuperating from his wounds, until he sees Fergus advancing. He enters the fray and confronts Fergus, who keeps his side of the bargain and yields to him, pulling his forces off the field. Connacht’s other allies panic and Medb is forced to retreat. At this inopportune moment she gets her period, and although Fergus forms a guard around her, Cú Chulainn breaks through as she is dealing with it and has her at his mercy. However, he spares her because he does not think it right to kill women, and guards her retreat back to Connacht as far as Athlone.[18][19][20]

Bricriu’s Feast

Main article: Fled Bricrenn

The troublemaker Bricriu once incites three heroes, Cú Chulainn, Conall Cernach and Lóegaire Búadach, to compete for the champion’s portion at his feast. In every test that is set Cú Chulainn comes out top, but neither Conall nor Lóegaire will accept the result. Cú Roí mac Dáire of Munster settles it by visiting each in the guise of a hideous churl and challenging them to behead him, then allow him to return and behead them in return. Conall and Lóegaire both behead Cú Roí, who picks up his head and leaves, but when the time comes for him to return they flee. Only Cú Chulainn is brave and honourable enough to submit himself to Cú Roí’s axe; Cú Roí spares him and he is declared champion.[21] This beheading challenge appears in later literature, most notably in the Middle English poem Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Other examples include the 13th century French Life of Caradoc and the English romances The Turke and Gowin, and Sir Gawain and the Carle of Carlisle.

The Death of Cú Roí

Cú Roí, again in disguise, joins the Ulstermen on a raid on Inis Fer Falga (probably the Isle of Man), in return for his choice of the spoils. They steal treasure, and abduct Blathnát, daughter of the island’s king, who loves Cú Chulainn. But when Cú Roí is asked to choose his share, he chooses Blathnát. Cú Chulainn tries to stop him taking her, but Cú Roí cuts his hair and drives him into the ground up to his armpits before escaping, taking Blathnát with him. Like other heroes such as the Biblical Samson, Duryodhana in the Mahabharata and the Welsh Llew Llaw Gyffes, Cú Roí can only be killed in certain contrived circumstances, which vary in different versions of the story. Blathnat discovers how to kill him and betrays him to Cú Chulainn, who does the deed. However, Ferchertne, Cú Roí’s poet, enraged at the betrayal of his lord, grabs Blathnát and leaps off a cliff, killing her and himself.[22]

Emer’s only jealousy

Cúchulainn rebuked by Emer (1905 illustration by H. R. Millar)

Main article: Serglige Con Culainn

Cú Chulainn has many lovers, but Emer’s only jealousy comes when he falls in love with Fand, wife of Manannán mac Lir. Manannán has left her and she has been attacked by three Fomorians who want to control the Irish Sea. Cú Chulainn agrees to help defend her as long as she marries him. She agrees reluctantly, but they fall in love when they meet. Manannán knows their relationship is doomed because Cú Chulainn is mortal and Fand is a fairy; Cú Chulainn’s presence would destroy the fairies. Emer, meanwhile, tries to kill her rival, but when she sees the strength of Fand’s love for Cú Chulainn she decides to give him up to her. Fand, touched by Emer’s magnanimity, decides to return to her own husband. Manannan shakes his cloak between Cú Chulainn and Fand, ensuring the two will never meet again, and Cú Chulainn and Emer drink a potion to wipe the whole affair from their memories.[23]

Cú Chulainn’s death

The figure of Cú Chulainn was used to commemorate the Easter Rising on the ten shilling coin

(Irish: Aided con Culainn) Medb conspires with Lugaid, son of Cú Roí, Erc, son of Cairbre Nia Fer, and the sons of others Cú Chulainn had killed, to draw him out to his death. His fate is sealed by his breaking of the geasa (taboos) upon him. Cú Chulainn’s geasa included a ban against eating dog meat, but in early Ireland there was a powerful general taboo against refusing hospitality, so when an old crone offers him a meal of dog meat, he has no choice to break his geis. In this way he is spiritually weakened for the fight ahead of him.

Lugaid has three magical spears made, and it is prophesied that a king will fall by each of them. With the first he kills Cú Chulainn’s charioteer Láeg, king of chariot drivers. With the second he kills Cú Chulainn’s horse, Liath Macha, king of horses. With the third he hits Cú Chulainn, mortally wounding him. Cú Chulainn ties himself to a standing stone in order to die on his feet. This stone is traditionally identified as one still standing at Knockbridge, County Louth.[24] Due to his ferocity even when so near death, it is only when a raven lands on his shoulder that his enemies believe he is dead. Lugaid approaches and cuts off his head, but as he does so the “hero-light” burns around Cú Chulainn and his sword falls from his hand and cuts Lugaid’s hand off. The light disappears only after his right hand, his sword arm, is cut from his body.

Conall Cernach had sworn that if Cú Chulainn died before him he would avenge him before sunset, and when he hears Cú Chulainn is dead he pursues Lugaid. As Lugaid has lost a hand, Conall fights him with one hand tucked into his belt, but he only beats him after his horse takes a bite out of Lugaid’s side. He also kills Erc, and takes his head back to Tara, where Erc’s sister Achall dies of grief for her brother.[25]

Later stories

The story is told that when Saint Patrick was trying to convert king Lóegaire to Christianity, the ghost of Cú Chulainn appeared in his chariot, warning him of the torments of hell.[26]

In Irish folklore, Cú Chulainn (usually spelled Cuhullin) was later reimagined as an evil giant at odds with Fionn mac Cumhaill (or Finn McCool). According to the most famous folk tale, Cuhullin’s power was contained in his middle finger. Wishing to defeat Finn, he came to Finn’s house, but Finn disguised himself as a baby while his wife Oona baked cakes, some with griddle irons inside, some without. When Cuhullin could not bite through his cake (which had an iron in it) but the baby could (Finn’s cake had no iron), in amazement Cuhullin felt to see how sharp the baby’s teeth were, allowing Finn to bite his middle finger off and deprive Cuhullin of both his strength and size.[27]


Cú Chulainn’s appearance is occasionally remarked on in the texts. He is usually described as small, youthful and beardless. He is often described as dark: in The Wooing of Emer and Bricriu’s Feast he is “a dark, sad man, comeliest of the men of Erin”,[28] in The Intoxication of the Ulstermen he is a “little, black-browed man”,[29] and in The Phantom Chariot of Cú Chulainn “[h]is hair was thick and black, and smooth as though a cow had licked it… in his head his eyes gleamed swift and grey”;[30] yet the prophetess Fedelm in the Táin Bó Cúailnge describes him as blond.[31] The most elaborate description of his appearance comes later in the Táin:

And certainly the youth Cúchulainn mac Sualdaim was handsome as he came to show his form to the armies. You would think he had three distinct heads of hair—brown at the base, blood-red in the middle, and a crown of golden yellow. This hair was settled strikingly into three coils on the cleft at the back of his head. Each long loose-flowing strand hung down in shining splendour over his shoulders, deep-gold and beautiful and fine as a thread of gold. A hundred neat red-gold curls shone darkly on his neck, and his head was covered with a hundred crimson threads matted with gems. He had four dimples in each cheek—yellow, green, crimson and blue—and seven bright pupils, eye-jewels, in each kingly eye. Each foot had seven toes and each hand seven fingers, the nails with the grip of a hawk’s claw or a gryphon’s clench.
—Thomas Kinsella (translator), The Táin, Oxford University Press, 1969, pp. 156–158

Cultural depictions of Cú Chulainn


Statue of “The Dying Cuchulain” by Oliver Sheppard (1911), now at the GPO, Dublin

The image of Cú Chulainn is invoked by both Irish nationalists and Ulster unionists. Irish nationalists see him as the most important Celtic Irish hero, and thus he is important to their whole culture. A bronze sculpture of the dead Cú Chulainn by Oliver Sheppard stands in the Dublin General Post Office (GPO) in commemoration of the Easter Rising of 1916. By contrast, unionists see him as an Ulsterman defending the province from enemies to the south: in Belfast, for example, he is depicted in a mural on Highfield Drive, and was formerly depicted in a mural on the Newtownards Road, as a “defender of Ulster from Irish attacks”, both murals ironically based on the Sheppard sculpture.[32] He is also depicted in murals in nationalist parts of the city and many nationalist areas of Northern Ireland.[33] The statue’s image was also used on the ten shilling coin produced for 1966. The 1916 Medal the 1916-1966 Surviviors Medal and the Military Star for the Irish Defence Forces all have the image of Cú Chulainn on their Obverse.

A statue of Cú Chulainn carrying the body of Fer Diad stands in Ardee, County Louth, traditionally the site of their combat in the Táin Bó Cúailnge.[34] A sculpture by Martin Heron, entitled “For the Love of Emer”, depicting Cú Chulainn balancing on a tilting 20-foot pole, representing the feat of balancing on the butt of a spear he learned from Scáthach, was installed in Armagh in 2010.[35]


Augusta, Lady Gregory retold many of the legends of Cú Chulainn in her 1902 book Cuchulain of Muirthemne, which closely paraphrased the originals but glossed over some of the more extreme content. This first translation was a great success, supported by the Celtic Revival movement. It featured an introduction by her friend William Butler Yeats, who wrote several pieces based on the legend, including the plays On Baile’s Strand (1904), The Green Helmet (1910), At the Hawk’s Well (1917), The Only Jealousy of Emer (1919) and The Death of Cuchulain (1939), and a poem, Cuchulain’s Fight with the Sea (1892).[24] Modern novels which retell Cú Chulainn’s story include Rosemary Sutcliff‘s 1963 children’s novel The Hound of Ulster and Morgan Llywelyn‘s 1989 historical novel Red Branch, The legends of Cú Chulainn also appear occasionally in Frank McCourt‘s bestselling 1996 memoir Angela’s Ashes. Cú Chulainn is also mentioned in Michael Scott‘s bestselling series The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel and as the “Lancer” class Servant in Fate/Stay Night.

Above: Logo of Cuchulainn

Accompanied by Meadhbh and her daughter Fionnabhair, they proceeded by Athlone to Kells.    The Gaileoin of Leinster by their expeditious marching aroused the suspicions and the fears of the western queen.    Regarding them as a possible menace to her own authority, she had them so distributed among the men of Ireland that not more than five of them remained  anywhere   together.    Thus   they  proceeded  until brought to a halt by Cuchulainn on the Ulster border.    Single-handed the Hound of the North held these mighty hosts at bay,  slaying  their picked men  singly,  or in  hosts  to  the number of  a hundred,   according  to  the manner  of  their attack.    At length he found himself opposed in single combat by Ferdiaidh in the historic   ” Fight  at  the  Ford.”    This tragic combat at Ardee between two sworn comrades, who had fought together against German Garbhglas ” above the borders of the Tyrrhene Sea,” is the most graphic episode in the heroic literature of the Gael.

Cuchulainn, and Ferdiaidh “after the prolonged and desperate struggle of the first day, went . . . each of them towards the other, and each put his arm around the neck of the other and embraced him three times. Their horses were in the same enclosure that night ; their charioteers sat at the same fire, prepared beds of green rushes for the heroes and supplied them with the pillows of wounded men. Then came professors of healing and curing to heal and cure them, and they applied healing and salving herbs and plants to their sores and their scars and their many wounds. Of every herb and every salve applied to the sores and scars and the many wounds of Cuchulainn, he sent a share over the ford westward to Ferdiaidh in order that the men of Erin should not be able to say, if F~erdiaidh fell by him, that it was the consequence of an inequality of healing.”

Early next morning they repaired again to the ford of combat, and at the close of a ferocious day’s struggle the amenities of the previous night were repeated.

The third day the fierce fight was renewed. The third night, however, their steeds were not in the same field, nor were their charioteers at the same fire.

Finally, on the fourth day, Cuchulainn after a terrific conflict drove the gae bolga into the body of his foe ” so that every part of him was filled with its inverted points. ‘ Enough ! ‘ gasped Ferdiaidh, and he fell in the ford dead.” Then Ferdiaidh‘s grave was dug by the men of Erin, and all the rest of his funeral ceremony duly carried out.

_ Cuchulainn was borne away by willing hands to have his wounds bathed and dressed. Meanwhile, tidings of his condition reached the ears of his father, Sualtach. ” Is it heaven that bursts, or the sea that runs away, or the earth that gapes, or is it that 1 hear the groaning of my son overmatched ? ” So he hastened to visit him and, finding him covered with blood and wounds, proceeded to lament and bemoan him.

‘ Have done moaning  and sorrowing for me,”  objected Cuchulainn. ” Get thee away to Emania ;   tell Ulster that in future they must themselves come and follow up the Tain,

I am no longer able to defend and rescue them. Because from the Monday before Samhain I have stood in the gaps and passes of Conaille Muirtheimhne against the four great provinces of Erin, daily slaying a man at a ford and nightly a hundred warriors, while for thirty whole nights I had not manful fair play of single combat.    None comes to succour, none to comfort me ; yet my wounds are such that I may not endure to have my fighting vesture touch my skin.    They are   ‘ felter-hooks’   that   maintain   my   mantle   overhead ; dried sops of grass they are that stuff my wounds ;   from crown to sole of me, there is not a spot on which a needle’s point might rest but has some hurt;   in all my body not a single hair cloth grow but a dew of red blood garnishes it, only excepting my left arm that holds my shield, and even that bears three times fifty wounds.”

Sualtach set out at once on the Liath Macha to bear the bitter news to Ulster. Some accounts say that Curoi mac Daire meanwhile advanced from Munster intent on attacking Cuchulainn ; but, seeing him riddled with wounds after the combat with Ferdiaidh, he refrained.


La mort d’Attila

La mort d'Attila (J. Villeclère, 19e siècle, Musée des Beaux-Arts

La mort d’Attila (J. Villeclère, 19e siècle, Musée des Beaux-Arts, Nice)

Son empire ne survit pas à sa disparition. Les Huns se replient alors vers la mer Noire. Ils laissent derrière eux une réputation durable de terreur.
Pourtant, ils ont été les premiers Barbares à être arrêtés dans leur marche vers l’ouest. Une coalition de Romains et de Germains, réunis pour la première fois en une force commune « européenne », a repoussé l’envahisseur asiatique.


The death of Attila (J. Villeclere, 19th century, Museum of fine arts, Nice)
His empire did not survive his death. The Huns then retreated towards the Black Sea. They leave behind a lasting reputation for terror.
Yet, they were the first barbarians to be arrested in their market to the West. A coalition of Romans and Germanic tribes, together for the first time into a common ‘European’ force, pushed the Asian invaders.

The Execution of Lady Jane Grey

Artist Paul Delaroche Year 	1833 Type 	Oil on canvas Location 	National Gallery, London

Artist Paul Delaroche
Year 1833
Type Oil on canvas
Location National Gallery, London

The Execution of Lady Jane Grey is an oil painting by Paul Delaroche completed in 1833. It is currently housed in the National Gallery in London. The painting portrays, erroneously in some regards, the moments preceding the death of Lady Jane Grey, who, on July 10, 1553 was proclaimed Queen of England, only to be deposed 9 days later and executed in 1554. Jane is sometimes known as the “Nine Days’ Queen” due to the brevity of her reign.[1]



Main article: Lady Jane Grey

Lady Jane Grey was the grand-niece of Henry VIII of England and cousin to his son, the short-lived Edward VI. After the latter’s death she was proclaimed queen, being given precedence over Henry’s daughters, Mary Tudor and Elizabeth. Two weeks after the death of her brother, Mary, who had the support of the English people, claimed the throne, which Jane relinquished, having reigned for only nine days. Jane, her husband Lord Guilford Dudley, and her father, were imprisoned in the Tower of London on charges of high treason. Jane’s trial was conducted in November, but the death penalty handed to her was temporarily suspended. In February 1554, Jane’s father, who had been released, was one of the rebel leaders in Wyatt’s rebellion, and on February 12, Mary had Jane, then aged 16, and her husband beheaded. Her father followed two days later.[2]


Delaroche painted the subject of Lady Jane’s execution in 1833, nearly 300 years after the event, drawing upon contemporary historical sources to help him portray it accurately. Delaroche had built his reputation in the Paris salon with large, realistic portrayals of famous events from the previous few centuries.[3] Despite the artist’s familiarity with the painting of historical narratives, there are aspects of the painting which are inaccurate.

The painting depicts the moment that Jane, blindfolded, is being assisted to lay her head upon the block for the executioner. She is being assisted by a man who is identified as John Brydges, 1st Baron Chandos. Chandos was a Lieutenant of the Tower at the time of Jane’s execution.[4] While imprisoned in the Tower, Jane was attended by ladies in waiting, one of whom was the nursemaid of her infancy. Two ladies in waiting are depicted in the painting, showing their grief at the event which is about to take place.

The execution actually was conducted in the open air, in a part of the grounds of the Tower of London that is known as Tower Green, and where Henry VIII’s wives Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard had been executed. The painting indicates either that Delaroche was not familiar with this aspect of the event and has constructed the location according to his historical knowledge of other such events, or that he chose to take a great deal of artistic license. In the picture, the execution is taking place upon a raised wooden platform similar to those on which executions of royalty and nobility had taken place in the French Revolution. The edge of this platform can be seen, draped with a black cloth, across the foreground of the picture. At the rear of the pictorial space the handrail of stairs descends, and the tops of two weapons indicate the presence of guards. Delaroche was presumably aware that the Tower of London was founded by William of Normandy. In the painting, two stout Norman columns with cushion capitals, a blind arcade, and a large chevroned arch create a backdrop indicative of the antiquity of the site. However, the buildings within the Tower of London span the reigns of many monarchs. In fact, the execution took place outside the Chapel of St Peter ad Vincula, which was constructed not at the time of William the Conqueror but by order of Henry VIII, and therefore in a style postdating that of the architecture in the painting by nearly 500 years.

It is difficult to ascertain by the setting and the lighting whether it was the artist’s intention to create the impression that the scene was taking place outside a building or in an interior. The architectural features shown can occur on both interiors and exteriors of Norman buildings. The darkness of the upper part of the painting is suggestive of an interior, while the light that bathes the central figure is daylight. Ghislaine Kenyon, Head of Education at the National Gallery, commented on the sense of foreboding that the darkness was intended to create.[3]

The intensely dark areas that occupy a large proportion of the painting’s surface play a big part in the drama. Not only is the shadow of the upper section of the painting black, so also is the cloth that covers the platform, the dress of one of the ladies, the cloak of Baron Chandos and the sleeves of the executioner. Three garments form accents of warm colour, the brown dress of one of the ladies, the orange fur of the Lieutenant’s collar and the blood-red hose of the executioner. The colour of Lady Jane’s red-gold hair is picked up in the straw beneath the block. Against the darkness, Lady Jane, with her pallid flesh, her white bodice and satin petticoat, makes a splash of light. The artist seizes the eye of the viewer by placing the most intense patches of white on Jane’s blindfold and the area of her skirt just between her outstretched hand and the sharply defined edge of the block.

Delaroche has used many small details in telling the story and increasing the dramatic and emotive quality of the painting. The figures play their parts like actors through the expressions and gestures of grief and despair of the two women, the almost fatherly tenderness with which the Lieutenant of the Tower assists the blindfolded girl to take up the required position and the displeasure in the face of the executioner at the task that confronts him. Other narrative details include the loopholes on the block and the ropes with which Lady Jane will be bound to it and well-honed but well-worn edge to the axe. Kenyon points out that the clean straw, commonly placed near the site of an execution to soak up blood,[4] and the white dress were devices used by the artist to make the observer suppose what would happen to them next.[3]


The painting was made after the July Revolution of 1830 which deposed Charles X of France, the last of the French Bourbon monarchs. Charles X’s brother was Louis XVI of France whose throne was “usurped” and who was executed during the French Revolution. It is also redolent of the execution of Marie-Antoinette. Unsurprisingly, the emotive painting caused something of a sensation.[4] The painting was highly popular in the Paris salon, where it was first showcased in 1834.[3]

It was originally bought by Anatole Demidov, 1st Prince of San Donato as part of the Demidov collection.[citation needed] It later came into the possession of Lord Cheylesmore, who bequeathed it to the Tate Gallery in 1902.[4]

The painting was thought to have been destroyed in the disastrous Tate Gallery flood of 1928 during the 1928 Thames flood, and was only rediscovered in 1973 by Tate Gallery curator Christopher Johnstone. He was writing a book on the British painter John Martin and going through the damaged canvases remaining from the flood in search of a missing painting by the artist. He found the Martin (albeit in very poor condition) rolled inside the Delaroche painting which was in perfect condition and transferred to the National Gallery where it should have gone when the national art collections were rationalized following the establishment of the Tate Gallery.

We want the spring to come….

We want the spring to come and the winter to pass. We want
whoever to call or not call, a letter, a kiss – we want more and more and then more of it.

But there are moments, walking, when I catch a glimpse of myself in the window glass,
say, the window of the corner video store, and I’m gripped by a cherishing so deep

for my own blowing hair, chapped face, and unbuttoned coat that I’m speechless:
I am living…
–Marie Howe

Eva Hesse

Eva Hesse

Eva Hesse

Eva Hesse, Untitled, 1966 2


Eva Hesse, Untitled, 1966

Eva Hesse, Untitled, 1966

Hesse is one of a few artists who led the move from Minimalism to Postminimalism. Danto distinguishes it from minimalism by its “mirth and jokiness” and “unmistakable whiff of eroticism”, its “nonmechanical repetition”.[11] She was influenced by, and in turn influenced, many famous artists of the 1960s through today. For many artists and friends who knew her, Eva Hesse was so charismatic that her spirit remains simply unforgettable to this day.