Soon after Anne’s return to England she was seen in Court. Anne Boleyn was placed in the household of Queen Catherine as a maid of honour and on the 1st March 1522 she took part in a masque. Anne played the part of Perseverance.
In the spring of 1526, the King fell in love. Anne was probably twenty-five in 1526, when her dark eyes and lustrous hair caught the eye of the thirty-six-year-old King. Her years at court prior to this moment are obscure, although it’s known that she was an accomplished young woman who had two very distinguished suitors: Henry Lord Percy, the heir to the earldom of Northumberland and the courtier poet Sir Thomas Wyatt.
These men now found themselves with a very dangerous rival: the King of England. Henry’s passion for Anne is evident in the sequence of love letters he wrote to her. All 17 letters are handwritten and this in itself is proof of his love, as the King greatly detested writing letters. The letters mysteriously ended up in the Vatican Library in Rome but unfortunately Anne Boleyn’s responses disappeared.
This secret love did not remain so for much longer. By around May 1527, the King had decided that his marriage to his first wife, Catherine of Aragon, was not a true marriage at all and that he should be free to take a new wife.
By August 1527 the King had approached the Pope about a divorce, although in modern terms what he sought was an annulment, as he believed that the marriage was invalid. It is likely that by 1527 King Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn were informally betrothed. The secret was out and he soon began to show his affections publicly by showering her with extravagant gifts.
It would be six years before a formal marriage could take place. In the meantime, the Boleyn’s gained from their close connection to the King. In 1529, Anne’s father was granted the earldom of Ormonde and also the earldom of Wiltshire. Her brother, George Boleyn, succeeded as Viscount Rochford and gained a place in the King’s Privy Chamber. Anne’s success was their triumph but her downfall would also prove to be their demise.