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Secret entries discovered in the prayer book of Bluebeard's wife sent to the scaffold: Anne Boleyn
Secret entries discovered in the prayer book of Bluebeard's wife sent to the scaffold: Anne Boleyn

On May 19, 1536, Anne Boleyn climbed the scaffold. The second wife of Henry VIII, who was later nicknamed "the blue beard", was accused of treason. In honor of the anniversary of her death, on the same day in 2021, the manager of Hever Castle was announced that secret records were found in one of Anna's prayer books. They were made with "invisible" ink. What the scientists discovered earlier hidden lines, written before the death of the disgraced queen, further in the review.

The woman who turned the whole kingdom

Anne Boleyn was born in 1501 to Thomas Boleyn, first Earl of Wiltshire and his wife Lady Elizabeth Howard. Prior to her marriage, she held the title of Marquise of Pembroke. Anna was educated in the Netherlands and France. She was the maid of honor of the French queen. In 1522 she returned to her homeland and began to serve at the court of Catherine of Aragon, wife of the King of England, Henry VIII.

When Henry first saw Anna among his wife's maids, he immediately laid his eyes on her. It is still unknown if she was so honest, or so calculating, but she rejected all the obscene proposals of the king. The woman flatly refused to become a mistress. The result was a real revolution. Henry broke off all relations with the Catholic Church in order to divorce his wife Catherine and marry Anne Boleyn.

An image of Emanuel Gottlieb Leutse's courtship of Anne Boleyn

The couple married in secret on November 14, 1532. Officially, they became husband and wife only on January 25, 1533. At the beginning of the summer, Anna was crowned. In due time, she gave birth to her first child. Heinrich raved about the heir, but a girl appeared. The king was disappointed, but ironically, it was this child who later became one of the most powerful and influential monarchs in history - Elizabeth I.

Vanessa Redgrave as Anne Boleyn in Man for All Seasons

Fall of the queen

Many believe that Catherine of Aragon was rejected by the king mainly due to the fact that she could not give him a longed-for son. Henry dreamed of a male heir, remembering the Civil War in England.

After the birth of Elizabeth, Anna had three miscarriages. The king's dream grew more and more ghostly. By 1536, he realized that his queen could no longer give birth. It was decided to get rid of her. In addition, the king has a new passion - Jane Seymour. Henry believed that she would definitely provide him with an heir to the throne.

Ann Bolein

Catherine of Aragon was once saved by the fact that she was not just a special royal blood, but a Spanish princess. She had powerful allies. Anne Boleyn was just the daughter of an English aristocrat, and everyone who could defend her were the king's supporters. Thus, nothing prevented Henry from getting rid of his annoying wife in a cardinal way.

Anne Boleyn and Henry VIII

Slandered and executed

Anne Boleyn was accused of treason and incest. Not embarrassed by anything, the woman was blackened in the most disgusting way. It was said that she was so greedy for carnal pleasures and insatiable that at the same time she was in an indecent relationship with five men. Among whom was even her half-brother, George Boleyn, Lord Rochford. The accusers did not think this was enough, and Anna and her lovers were also credited with a conspiracy against King Henry. The Queen was found guilty of high treason and incest.

An early portrait of the only daughter of Anne Boleyn and Henry VIII, who became Queen Elizabeth I

Many historians believe that this whole case against Anna was concocted by Thomas Cromwell. Once he was her supporter, but then their political paths diverged. The reason for this, as is often the case, was money. Anna wanted church funds to go to charity. Thomas wanted them to go into the king's pocket (and his own, of course).

Researchers subsequently proved that all charges against Anna were completely unfounded. The dates and places of stay of Anna and her "lovers" did not coincide. The disgraced queen was executed just four days after the trial. According to the law, she was to be beheaded or burned. The king "took pity" on his wife and it was decided to cut off her head. For this, a famous swordsman was discharged from France. Since the executioner was in place so quickly, this indicates that everything was planned in advance. The trial was just a farce, Anna's fate was decided long ago.

Anne Boleyn raises her hands in despair after being sentenced to death for treason in the Tower of London

The missing diary

Before her death, Anna handed over all her things to the women who were with her in the last minutes of her short and not very happy life. Among other things, there was her book of hours. After Anna's death, almost everything that belonged to her was destroyed. Several books and this prayer book have been preserved.

Three of them have survived to this day. They are signed by the Queen's hand. Two of them are kept in her ancestral castle Hever. Anna spent her childhood in this house. The third book is at the British Library. In the book, which Boleyn took with her to her execution, there is a touching note: "Remember me when you pray, this hope leads from day to day." Now her prayer books are on display in the castle of Hever, in her former room.

Anna's Prayer Book

Anna's Secret

Keith McCaffrey is the former steward of Hever Castle. She spent nearly a year studying the prayer books on display as part of her master's program in Medieval and Early Modern Studies at the University of Kent. The researcher used ultraviolet light and photo editing software. With their help, she discovered three names in the smaller of the two books: Gage, West, and Shirley. They were all centered around a fourth name, the Guildford family of Cranbuck in Kent. They were the female relatives of Anne Boleyn's friend, Elizabeth Hill.

It is quite obvious that this book was passed on within the family from daughter to mother, from sister to niece. This was done in the strictest secrecy, because the thing of the disgraced queen could cause the unheard-of anger of Henry VIII. He wanted to erase even the shadow of the memory of his executed wife. In a world where women were so limited in their freedom, it was a real act of defiance. An opportunity to express women's solidarity.

Kate McCaffrey poses with a prayer book

Keith says there are several entries in the book of hours. They are all half-erased or smeared. But even with what we managed to read, you can identify Anna's connections. The expert said that in this way the circle was closed. When Anna's daughter, Elizabeth I, ascended the throne, she wanted the memory of her mother to be restored. Mary Hill (there are many surprising coincidences in life) was a very close friend of Elizabeth I. Most likely it was she who showed the Queen her mother's notes.

Historians have found that the handwritten lines in the book were erased much later. The reasons why this was done are still unknown. Of course, researchers are primarily interested in the inscriptions made by the hand of Anne Boleyn, and not other, little-known women. Experts believe they were cleaned up before selling. Kate McCaffrey intends to completely restore the text written by the executed queen. Anna was devout and her last words were addressed to God.

Ultraviolet light reveals hidden inscriptions in the book

Hever Castle

The castle is very proud of his connection with the wonderful Anne Boleyn. The latest discovery will undoubtedly attract a large flow of visitors and historians to the castle. Everyone will want to see the prayer books on display.

Anne Boleyn's handwriting and signature

Even for those with little interest in Anne Boleyn's personality, the Hever Castle team is hard at work.Experts do their best to bring the story to life for their visitors. The castle hosts real knightly tournaments and festive events for children.

Hever Castle

Despite the fact that almost five centuries have passed since the Tudor dynasty, the lives and exploits of key figures of that time continue to delight both historians and the general public. This new discovery is bound to spark further exploration of how the religious and political upheavals of that turbulent time helped shape the world in which humankind lives today.

Read more about the daughter of Anne Boleyn, who became a great queen, read our article secrets of the biography of the virgin queen who refused Ivan the Terrible: Elizabeth I.

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