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The film begins in 1527 when Henry VIII (Richard Burton) reveals his dissatisfaction with his wife, Catherine of Aragon (Irene Papas). He is currently enjoying a discreet affair with Mary Boleyn, a daughter of Sir Thomas Boleyn who is one of his courtiers; but the King is bored with her too. At a court ball, he notices Mary's 18-year-old sister Anne (Genevieve Bujold), who has just returned from her education in France. She is engaged to Henry Percy, 6th Earl of Northumberland and they have achieved their parents' permission to marry. The King, however, is enraptured with Anne's beauty and orders his Lord Chancellor, Cardinal Wolsey, to break up the engagement.

When news of this decision is carried to Anne, she reacts furiously. She blames the Cardinal and the King for ruining her happiness. When Henry makes a rather clumsy attempt to seduce her, Anne bluntly informs him that she finds him "spoiled, vengeful and bloody. You make love as you eat — with a great deal of noise and no subtlety."

Henry brings her back to Court with him, whilst she continues to resist his advances out of a mixture of repugnance for Henry and her lingering anger over her broken engagement. However, she becomes intoxicated with the power that the King's love gives her. "Power is as exciting as love," she tells her brother George Boleyn, "and who has more of it than the king?" Using this power, she continually undermines Cardinal Wolsey (Anthony Quayle), who at first sees Anne as just a passing love interest for the King.

When Henry again presses Anne to become his mistress, she repeats that she will never give birth to a child who is illegitimate. Desperate to have a son, Henry suddenly comes up with the idea of marrying Anne in Catherine's place. Anne is stunned, but she agrees. Wolsey begs the King to abandon the idea because of the political consequences of divorcing Catherine. Henry refuses to listen. When Wolsey fails to persuade the Pope to give Henry his divorce, Anne points out this failing to an enraged Henry. Wolsey is dismissed from office and his magnificent palace in London is given as a present to Anne. In this splendor, Anne realizes that she has finally fallen in love with Henry. They sleep together and, after discovering that she is pregnant, they are secretly married. Anne is given a splendid coronation, but the people jeer at her in disgust as "the king's whore". Months later, Anne gives birth to a daughter: Princess Elizabeth. Henry is displeased since he was hoping for a boy, and their marital relationship begins to cool. His attentions are soon diverted to Lady Jane Seymour, one of Anne's maids. Once she discovers this liaison, Anne banishes Jane from court. "She has the face of a simpering sheep," she informs Henry, "and the manners, but not the morals. I don't want her near me."

During a row over Sir Thomas More's opposition to Anne's queenship, Anne refuses to sleep with her husband unless More is put to death. "It's his blood, or else it's my blood and Elizabeth's!" she cries hysterically. More is put to death, but Anne's subsequent pregnancy ends as a result of a stillborn boy.

Henry demands that his new minister, Thomas Cromwell, find a way to get rid of Anne. Cromwell tortures a servant in her household into confessing to adultery with the Queen; he then arrests four other courtiers who are also accused of being Anne's lovers. Anne is taken to the Tower and placed under arrest. When she is told that she has been accused of adultery, she laughs. "I thought you were serious!" she says, before being informed that it is deadly serious. When she sees her brother being brought into the Tower, Anne asks why he has been arrested. "He too is accused of being your lover," mutters her embarrassed uncle. Anne's face shudders with horror before she whispers, "Incest?... Oh God help me, the King is mad. I am doomed."

At Anne's trial, she manages to cross-question Mark Smeaton, the tortured servant who finally admits that the charges against Anne are lies. Henry makes an appearance, before visiting Anne in her chambers that night. He offers her freedom if she will agree to annul their marriage and make their daughter illegitimate. Anne refuses, saying that she would rather die than betray their daughter. Henry slaps her before telling her that her disobedience will mean her death.

A few days later, Anne is taken to the scaffold and beheaded by a French swordsman. Henry rides off to marry Jane Seymour and the film's final shot is of their young daughter, Elizabeth (Amanda Jane Smythe), toddling alone in the garden as she hears the cannon firing to announce her mother's death.

Film Info

(2013)
1 min 30 sec Duration
12,887 views
  • Posted: July 08, 2010
  • Director: Charles Jarrott
  • Writer: Bridget Boland
  • Studio: Universal Pictures
  • Release: December 18, 1969
  • Cast: Richard Burton, Geneviève Bujold, Anthony Quayle

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