On May 19, 1536, Henry VIII’s second wife, Anne Boleyn, was executed after what can only be described as one of the most corrupt trials in history. But to understand why, you have to go back to Henry VIII’s first marriage.
Henry VIII was originally married to Catherine of Aragon. But when she didn’t produce a male heir, he decided that he wanted to try producing one with one of her ladies-in-waiting, Anne Boleyn. But to do that, he would have to either get a divorce or an annulment first, and neither was easy to obtain back then, even if you were a king.
For several years, the king and his advisors worked on ways to legally end his marriage. During that time, Henry began openly courting Anne, angering Catherine and her allies. In the end, he couldn’t get permission from the Church to end his marriage, so he split with it, declared himself head of the new Church of England, and had a lot of people executed in the process. Then he granted himself an annulment and married Anne.
Things didn’t work out any better with Anne. She, too, did not bear him a son. So he became enamored of one of her ladies in waiting, Jane Seymour. However, he did not find it so easy to annul his second marriage. If he had, it would have raised the possibility that he was still married to Catherine, and that would have complicated things with her allies. And he didn’t want to go through the kind of difficulty he went through ending his first marriage. So he accused Anne of seducing him by witchcraft, adultery, and plotting against him with her allies. The trial was a mockery of justice. No real evidence was presented that Anne was guilty of any of those things, but she was swiftly found guilty and sentenced to death. On May 19, she was beheaded on Tower Green. Jane Seymour and the king were married 19 days later.