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A photograph of an actor in medieval clothes playing the role ofAnne Boleyn

Anne Boleyn: Biography

Image Credit: | Above: An actor in medieval clothes plays the role of Anne Boleyn

Sexy, intelligent and ambitious. Her insistence on becoming queen played a part in England's break from the Catholic Church but treason charges lost Anne her head.

Anne Boleyn is said to have been born at Blickling Castle in Norfolk in 1501. However, due to a lack of parish records from the period, historians do not agree on this date.

At the age of twelve she was sent to France by her father where she learnt to speak French fluently and developed a taste for French dress, poetry and music.

When she returned, nine years later (1522), she was immediately sent to the Royal Court to attend the Queen - Catherine of Aragon.

Her unusual, sensual appearance caught the attention of all. Contemporary reports all include descriptions of jet black hair, dark eyes, pale skin and a slender neck, as well as conflicting details such as a wart on the chin and mysterious mark on her neck, presumably spurred by jealousy.

While at Court, Anne began a relationship with Henry Percy, after marriage arrangements to the heir of Ormonde fell through.

Henry Percy was the heir to the Earl of Northumberland and by this time Anne is thought to have caught the attentions of King Henry VIII.

The king was so enamoured by Anne's sultry beauty, he ordered Cardinal Wolsey to stop the marriage and began showering Anne with gifts and attention.

It is reported that Anne rejected his physical advances throughout his prolonged divorce with Catherine of Aragon, who had failed to provide the king with a male heir - only a daughter who became Mary I.

Anne still used her position at Court to her personal and familial advantage, such as being awarded her own apartments at Greenwich.

She also introduced the king to new ideas about religion including making the monasteries places for education and giving services in English rather than the traditional Latin.

Henry VIII rejected the Pope's suggestion that Anne leave his Court, and instead declared Anne 'The Marquis of Pembroke' - a title never before bestowed on a woman - and organised a lavish ceremony at Windsor Castle, which was held on 1 September 1532.

On 25 January 1532, Henry and Anne were secretly married before his official split from Catherine of Aragon, which was officially dissolved by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Cranmer on 23 May 1532.

Anne was crowned Queen on 1 June 1533 in a lavish ceremony at the Tower of London.

As Anne had fallen pregnant before her marriage, her daughter, Elizabeth, was born just three months later on 7 September 1533.

In March 1534, Henry passed the Act of Succession, declaring Elizabeth heir to the throne, despite her sex and the fact she had an elder sister born by Catherine.

Henry and Anne continued to try for a boy, but Anne failed to follow through with any future pregnancies, suffering miscarriages in both 1534 and 1535.

This dissatisfied Henry and his ministers, and Anne was soon proved to be as dispensable as her predecessor.

Thomas Cromwell, Anne's former friend, plotted her downfall. Anne was accused of being a witch, apparently having six fingers on one hand, as well as of promiscuity - and an incestuous relationship with her brother George.

Anne was arrested and taken to the Tower of London on 2 May 1536 where she was tried by a board of noblemen and peers, including her own uncle - the Duke of Norfolk - and her former beau Percy.

All involved in the tale were tried, tortured and found guilty. Anne's musician Mark Smeaton and her friends Francis Weston, William Brereton, Henry Norris and her brother George were all executed for committing adultery with the queen.

Two thousand spectators arrived for Anne's trial. When found guilty, Henry allowed her the privilege of being beheaded with a sword from France - and not the unreliable axe. She was executed in private on 19 May on Tower Green.

'Anne of A Thousand Days' was buried three years and thirty-seven days after her coronation, in the Chapel of St Peter.

In 2007, The Tudors, which was a dramatic portrayal of the reign and life of Henry VIII who was played by Jonathan Rhys Meyers, told the story of Anne Boleyn.

Natalie Dormer played the king's second wife in the first two seasons of the US drama.

In 2008, Anne Boleyn was portrayed by Natalie Portman in the Other Boleyn Girl, a film based on the eponymous novel by Philippa Gregory.