Why were women hostile to Henry VIII's marriage to Anne Boleyn? (Commentary)

This commentary is based on the classroom activity: Why were women hostile to Henry VIII's marriage to Anne Boleyn?

Q1: Read the introduction and study sources 2, 3 and 4. How did the people living in England discover that Henry VIII wanted to divorce Catherine of Aragon and marry Anne Boleyn?

A1: According to the sources that have survived it would seem that most people discovered about the proposed divorce and his second marriage by rumours spread in "taverns, alehouses, barbers' shops... and in pulpits." (source 4)

Q2: Describe the different ways that women made it clear that they did not want Anne Boleyn as their queen.

A2: According to Lodovico Falier "a mob of from seven to eight thousand women" tried to kill Anne Boleyn (source 5). In another account, Eustace Chapuys reported that while on a royal tour "people on the road so earnestly requested him to recall the queen, his wife, and the women especially so insulted the royal mistress, hooting and hissing on her passage, that he was actually obliged to retrace his steps" (source 6).

Q3: What measures did Henry VIII take in an attempt to make his subjects accept his decision to marry Anne Boleyn? What evidence is that this was not successful and further action had to be taken in 1534?

A3: Source 7 reveals that on 23rd August 1532 two women were beaten "naked from the waist upwards with rods and their ears nailed to the standard for because they said Queen Catherine was the true queen of England and not Queen Anne". Women continued to complain about the way Henry VIII had treated Catherine of Aragon and in 1534 the Treason Act was passed by Parliament. People could now be executed for criticising Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn.

Q4: Why does Retha M. Warnicke believe that women were so hostile to Henry's marriage to Anne Boleyn (source 8)?

A4: Warnicke suggests that women "felt personally threatened by her marriage to Henry because it was perceived as an assault on traditional family values". She points out that the public seemed to be more willing to accept Anne Boleyn as his mistress than as his wife.