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Henry VIII's first interview with Anne Boleyn. (Public Domain)

Unlawful Love - Queen Anne Boleyn – Witch or Not?

Queen Anne Boleyn, King Henry VIII’s second wife, was executed on 19 May 1536 on charges of adultery with five men, including her own brother, and plotting the King’s death. She was believed to have practiced “unlawful love” or witchcraft upon the King.

“Unlawful Love”

In 1538 the so called Exeter Conspiracy was detected and members of the Pole-Courtenay circle were arrested, examined and executed. Over the course of his interrogation, Geoffrey Pole, brother of Cardinal Reginald Pole, said that before divorcing his wife, the King was “caught in the snare of unlawful love with the lady Anne.”  In other words, Pole insinuated that he and his circle believed that the King decided to divorce Katherine of Aragon because he was bewitched by Anne. The comment about the “unlawful love” carried witchcraft connotations. Provoking someone to “unlawful love” was among the tricks imputed to women using witchcraft to entice their lovers into a romantic relationship. It was not punishable by death during Anne’s lifetime in Tudor England, but it would become a felony under the 1542 Witchcraft Act.

Initially King Henry VIII was ‘bewitched’ with Anne Boleyn by William Powell Frith (1903) (Public Domain)

Initially King Henry VIII was ‘bewitched’ with Anne Boleyn by William Powell Frith (1903) (Public Domain)


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