In The Other Boleyn Girl, the King married Anne Boleyn, Mary Boleyn's Sister.

The King was hoping the second birth would be a boy, but it was miscarried. So Anne tries to seduce her own brother George to conceive a baby boy, but he refused. Gen Parker witnessed the scene.

The King took Anne the court. The Jury gave a guilty verdict. So they imprisoned Anne for adultery and beheaded her later. However they immediately beheaded George for adultery.

Why did they behead Anne later for adultery?

1 Answer 1


Because it was easier than divorce.

In the times of King Henry VIII (And actually till quite recently), it was a common conception that if a woman couldn't produce a (preferably male) offspring, it was her fault. So, the logic for King is simple - if Anne didn't give birth to a boy, she was somehow faulty, the miscarriage confirmed his suspicion. So what was the logical solution? Finding another mother.

However, the king of England cannot just produce the future ruler with a maid - the child must be from a legitimate relationship with his wife AND there cannot be any doubt who is the father. So, in short - he has to get rid of his wife.

Now, King Henry is a Catholic and in Catholicism, there is no such thing as a divorce, since the marriage is considered sacred. Marriage can be annulled (made invalid) if (since we are talking about King here!) the Pope himself will agree to do so. In the case of his first wife, Catherine of Aragon, he tried to convince the Holy See that this marriage was invalid, for example by citing Levictus 20:21 ("If a man marries his brother's wife, it is an act of impurity; he has dishonoured his brother. They will be childless."). This was a long, thankless and EXPENSIVE work...

In the case of Anne, he couldn't count on another annulment and with young Jane Seymour on the horizon, he had to act quickly. So he charged his (current) wife with "treasonable adultery" and executed her (since banished/imprisoned Anne would still be his wife), making way for a new one.

It is worth pointing out that the issues with getting divorced by King Henry VIII were one of the main reasons for the English Reformation, which put the King of England at the head of the Church.

Update: As tbrookside pointed out, Henry already was the head of the Church of England during the marriage to Anne, so he could dissolute his own marriage. However, by doing so he would alienate the still big Catholic part of the country. Since his first wife had died by the time of Anne's fall from grace, by killing her he would achieve a "clean slate" and his next marriage would be legitimate even in the eyes of Catholics, reducing the discontent in the country and increasing his support. So he had accepted Cromwell's proofs of Anne's treason.

  • 3
    That's a pretty darn good potted history of the Tudors in a short space. Nice one. I'd recommend at least en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henry_VIII_of_England for a little extra light reading… it's complicated ;)
    – Tetsujin
    Jun 3, 2020 at 8:34
  • Henry had left the Catholic Church and was the head of the Church of England by the time of Anne's execution. He could have divorced her at will, and was completely in charge of all applicable religious law related to that action. He accused her of infidelity because Thomas Cromwell convinced him she was guilty of adultery; Cromwell was able to produce witnesses who claimed to have had adulterous relations with her.
    – tbrookside
    Jun 3, 2020 at 18:15
  • @tbrookside that is in fact true - he could divorce her. But since his first wife has died by then, by killing Anne he could appease Catholics and Protestants, since his new wife would be legitimate for both and grant him more support. Realpolitik at its finest.
    – Yasskier
    Jun 3, 2020 at 22:09
  • 2
    A note on your update: Henry VIII was never Protestant. The Church of England, as he started it, was still essentially Catholic ("Catholic and Reformed") - just not Roman Catholic (see also, Orthodox Catholic, Greek Catholic, et cetera), and he continued to persecute Protestants (e.g. William Tyndale, executed in 1536). It was his son, Edward VI, who made the Anglican church Protestant. Henry had annulments, not divorces. Jun 4, 2020 at 12:25

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