Anne of the Thousand Days (1969) (145 min.)
Anne of the Thousand Days is an Academy Award-winning 1969 costume drama directed by Charles Jarrott,
produced by Hal B. Wallis, distributed by Universal Pictures. The film tells the story of King Henry VIII of
England and Anne Boleyn. The screenplay by Bridget Boland, John Hale, and Richard Sokolove is an
adaptation of the 1948 play by Maxwell Anderson. Anderson’s blank verse format was retained for only
portions of the screenplay, such as Anne’s soliloquy in the Tower of London. The film stars Richard Burton as
King Henry VIII and Geneviève Bujold as Anne Boleyn; Co-stars include Irene Papas as Catherine of Aragon
and Anthony Quayle as Cardinal Wolsey. Elizabeth Taylor (at the time married to Richard Burton for the first
of two marriages) makes a brief, uncredited appearance as a courtesan. The film was nominated for nine
Academy Awards and won for Best Costumes. Running time: 145 min. The play Anne of the Thousand Days on
which the film is based had its first Broadway performance at the Shubert Theatre on December 8, 1948, and
starred Rex Harrison and Joyce Redman and ran for 288 performances. It had to wait for over 20 years to be
filmed because the themes of adultery, illegitimacy, and incest would not have been acceptable to the
1. The film is a frame story. In 1536 England’s King Henry VIII is trying to decide whether to sign the
paper before him to authorize the execution of his wife Queen Anne. He hesitates, thinks back to how
this all began. Until we return to this moment at the end, the rest of the story is a series of flashbacks
about Henry’s relationship with Anne beginning when they meet in 1527. When we first see Henry in
the flashback nine years earlier, he reveals his feelings toward his wife, Catherine (“Cate”) of Aragon,
who, at 42 is 6 years old than he. What are those feelings? Why?
2. Henry is currently enjoying a discreet affair with Mary Boleyn, age 28, a daughter of one of his
courtiers. She is pregnant with his child, and he has become bored with her. At a court ball, he notices
Mary’s 18-year-old sister Anne, who has just returned from her education in France. How does he
regard Anne? Why? How can you tell? How does she act toward him?
3. Anne is engaged to Lord Harry Percy, the son of the Earl of Northumberland, and they have achieved
their parents’ permission to marry. Why is Anne attracted to Harry?
4. What does Henry inform his Lord Chancellor, Cardinal Wolsey, to do regarding Anne and Percy? Why?
5. When the news of this decision is carried to Anne, how does she react? Why?
6. When Henry makes a rather clumsy attempt to seduce Anne, what does she reply?
7. If anyone else called Henry “spoiled, vengeful and bloody” and added, “You make love as you eat—
with a great deal of noise and no subtlety,” what would he likely do? Why is he willing to allow this
8. Henry brings Anne back to Court with him. For what two reasons does she continue to resist his
9. However, she soon tells her brother, “Power is as exciting as love, and who has more of it than the
King?” What does this statement reveal about how she is changing her attitude toward her relationship
10. Using her power from her relationship with Henry, Anne continually undermines Cardinal Wolsey. How
does Wolsey at first regard Anne? Why?
11. When Henry again presses Anne to become his mistress, she repeats that she will never give birth to a
child who is illegitimate (born outside of marriage). Why is she so against this?
12. Henry already has a daughter, Mary, from his wife Catherine; why is he so desperate to have a son?
Henry suddenly comes up the idea of marrying Anne in Catherine’s place. What is Anne’s reaction?
Why? Does she agree? Why?
13. Wolsey begs the King to abandon the idea of marrying Anne because of the political consequences of
divorcing Catherine. What are these political consequences? Does Henry agree with Wolsey to abandon
the idea of marrying Anne? Why?
14. For what reasons does Henry feel justified in seeking an annulment from his marriage to Catherine?
What becomes of Catherine?
15. When Wolsey fails to persuade the Pope to give Henry his divorce, what does Anne say to Henry about
Wolsey? What does Henry do to Wolsey as a result?
16. What does Cromwell tell Henry are good reasons for him to break with the Catholic Church and form
his own Church of England?
17. What, ironically, becomes of Wolsey’s magnificent palace in London?
18. In her new splendor, what does Anne realize about her feelings toward Henry? As a result, what do
Anne and Henry finally do for the first time?
19. Anne soon discovers that she is pregnant, and she and Henry are secretly married in 1533. Why is the
marriage at first kept secret?
20. Anne is given a splendid coronation, but many in England are not pleased with her. Why? What are
some names they call her?
21. Months later, Anne give birth to a daughter—Princess Elizabeth. What is Henry’s reaction? Why? When
Anne asks Henry, “Won’t you kiss your daughter?” what does he reply?
22. During an argument over Sir Thomas More’s opposition to Anne’s queenship, Anne refues 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. What happens to More?
23. What is the result of Anne’s subsequent pregnancy? What is Henry’s reaction?
24. “She has the face of a simpering sheep and the manners but not the morals. I don’t want her near me.”
Whom is Anne referring to in this exchange with Henry? Why does she have these feelings?
25. In 1536 Henry demands that his new minister, Thomas Cromwell, find a way to get rid of Anne. Why?
26. Cromwell says to Henry, “We used the incest excuse last time. We can’t make a habit of it.” Explain
what he means by that statement. `
27. What does Cromwell do to Anne’s household servant Mark Smeaton? What does he finally get Smeaton
28. Cromwell arrests four other courtiers including Anne’s brother George. What crime are they charged
29. Anne is taken to the Tower and placed under arrest. When she is told that she has been accused of
adultery, what is her initial response? Why?
30. Why is it ironic that it is the Duke of Norfolk who arrests Anne and presides over her trial?
31. At Anne’s trial, she manages to cross-examine Smeaton, the tortured servant. Henry makes an
appearance. What does Smeaton finally admit?
32. Anne is arrested and found guilty of charges of using witchcraft to trap Henry into marrying her, of
having adulterous relationships with five other men, of incest with her brother George Boleyn, of
injuring the King and of conspiring to kill him, which amounts to treason. Do you believe she is guilty
of any of these charges? Explain.
33. Henry visits Anne in her chambers in the Tower that night. He offers her a deal: her freedom if she will
agree to do what? What is her reply? Why? What is Henry’s reaction?
34. When Henry demands that Anne tell him whether she was every unfaithful to him or not, what does she
35. What do the “Thousand Days” of the movie’s title refer to, according to Anne?
36. We return to the movie’s opening scene, Henry trying to decide whether to sign Anne’s execution order
or not. What does he finally do? What is the result? Explain the relevance of the following line by Anne:
“I have a little neck.”
37. At the end of the movie, where is Henry headed? Why?
38. The film’s final shot is of Henry and Anne’s young daughter, Elizabeth, toddling alone in the garden as
she hears the cannon firing to announce her mother’s death. Anne had said the following to Henry:
But Elizabeth is yours. Watch her as she grows; she’s yours. She’s a Tudor! Get yourself a son
off of that sweet, pale girl if you can—and hope that he will live! But Elizabeth shall reign after
you! Yes, Elizabeth—child of Anne the Whore and Henry the Blood-Stained Lecher—shall be
Queen! And remember this: Elizabeth shall be a greater queen than any king of yours! She shall
rule a greater England than you could ever have built! Yes—MY Elizabeth SHALL BE
QUEEN! And my blood will have been well spent!
Explain how Anne’s words are indeed prophetic.
39. Historical plays and movies are not always historically accurate in every detail. Consider, for example,
the following list of historical inaccuracies contained in the movie Anne of the Thousand Days:
Henry's infatuation with Anne did not cause the end of his marriage to Catherine. He had been
considering a divorce for some years.
Mary Boleyn's children probably weren't fathered by King Henry, despite the rumors.
Anne Boleyn wasn't 18 in 1527. Her birth was not recorded, so her exact age at any point in her life is
unknown, but she was probably a few years older.
Henry's interest in Anne began after he had ended his affair with her sister.
The film suggests that Anne may not have been a virgin when she met Henry, but this is unlikely.
Sources revealed in France and the research of historians like Eric W. Ives and Retha Warnicke suggest
that Anne remained a virgin until her secret marriage in 1532/1533.
Anne did not set out to destroy Cardinal Wolsey. She turned against him in 1529, but only after she felt
he had betrayed her cause.
There is no evidence to suggest that Henry and Anne's marriage fell apart after Elizabeth's birth in 1533.
The decay of their royal marriage began much later.
Anne did not beg Henry to execute Thomas Moore. This black legend about Anne was concocted a
generation after her death. More had never refused to acknowledge Anne as queen; in fact he had sent a
letter to Henry in 1533, praying that Anne would have royal children and pledging loyalty to his new
queen. He died because he would not accept Henry as Head of the Church, instead of the Pope.
Anne's marriage was annulled and she was never offered her life in return for agreeing to it. The wisest
course for Elizabeth's safety was to accept Henry's demands, although it is not known if Anne co-
operated fully or if her enemies simply said she did.
Henry never intervened in Anne's trial and she was never given the opportunity to question any
witnesses. Henry and Anne met for the last time at a joust, the day before she was arrested.
The film stated that Anne was innocent of all charges and this is considered historically correct. Recent
biographies of her by Eric W. Ives, Retha Warnicke and Joanna Denny; as well as the work of Tudor
specialist, David Starkey, suggest that Anne was innocent on all charges — adultery, incest and
Do these historical inaccuracies affect your appreciation of the film? Explain. Why do you suppose a film
such as this contains such historical inaccuracies? Explain.
40. What is the most important thing you gained, learned, or appreciated about this film? Why?