Anne Boleyn
The romantic story of Anne Boleyn, the unfortunate second wife of Henry VIII and mother of Queen Elizabeth, is inseparably associated with this district, because of Rochford Hall, the family mansion, was often the meeting place of the royal lover and his lady. Anne’s father, Thomas Boleyn, Earl of Wiltshire and Ormond, was a man of much distinction in his day, and owned estates in Norfolk, Kent and Essex. It is not known with certainty where Anne, one of a numerous family, was born, but it was probably at Hever Castle, in Kent. The Boleyn’s resided at Rochford Hall at various periods, and it was there that Henry first carried on the clandestine intimacy which was destined to sow the first seeds of dissension between this country and the Pope. Adjacent to Rochford was Rayleigh Park. A royal hunting forest, in which Henry frequently followed the chase, and that he knew of Anne’s connection with Rochford Hall is disclosed by an item of £74 12s. 4d. In his privy expenses for presents to “my Lady Anne of Rochford.” After six years of passionate wooing, Henry married her in 1533, subsequently obtaining from Archbishop Cranmer a judgement nullifying his previous marriage and declaring lawful his union with Anne. The new queen was only destined to three years of married life, for in 1536 she was sent to the Tower upon charges of incest with her brother, Lord Rochford, and intercourse with four others. She was tried by a panel of peers, condemned to death and executed. She met her death bravely, declaring her innocence. When she heard that the executioner had been brought over from St Omer she laughed heartily, and, putting her arms round her small neck, observed how easy the executioner’s task would be. On the day of execution Anne gave Margaret Lee, Sir Thomas Wyatt’s sister, a book of devotions, bound in gold, as a farewell gift, and so overcome were her attendants that they could not remove her neck attire and she had to perform the task herself. Hadleigh Castle formed part of the dower of others of Henry’s wives Anne of Cleeves and Katherine Howard.
Southend-on-Sea
c1900 Rochford Hall
Anne Boleyn

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