FILMS… Anne of the Thousand Days (1969)


For England’s King Henry VIII’s love of Anne (Boleyn)…


Henry VIII hopes for love, marriage and ultimately a son in a golden carriage with Anne Boleyn. This no matter what the cost.


Anne of the Thousand Days (1969), Movieclips Classic Trailers and photos © The Rank Organisation


Richard Burton, Keith Michell, Robert Shaw, Charlton Heston, Eric Bana, Damian Lewis and Sid James. All these differently remembered actors with a joint claim to fame of playing one of England’s most notorious kings, King Henry VIII.

Henry VIII was English Tudor King also remembered for his turbulent love life with him being the husband to six different women. The wives are remembered as the poem goes… divorced, married, died, divorced, married, survived.

Anne of the Thousand Days (1969) is about the rise and fall of Henry’s second wife, Anne Boleyn. It’s easily one of the best of Burton’s performances. This film showing this regal role combined with my favourite period in English history, it was kind of inevitable that this film, heralds the start of the Richard Burton blogathon.

This film was nominated for a massive ten Oscars including one for Burton and one for the actress playing Anne Boleyn, Genevieve Bujold. The film however only bringing back just the one win from the 1970 Oscar Ceremony.

In this film adaptation of true events, Anne Boleyn (Bujold), Thomas Boleyn’s (Michael Hordern) youngest daughter returns from the French court. Anne is engaged to Henry Percy, the pair are in love. Both hoping this love match will be approved by the King, Henry VIII (Burton).

However, the King is unhappily married to Catharine of Aragon (Irene Papas) with a young daughter, Mary. Henry is discouraged as he is without an heir, as he sees a son as fitting his crown better than a daughter. On meeting Anne he falls in love and feels he must have her.

Cardinal Wolsey (Anthony Quayle) doing Henry’s bidding denies Anne’s hopes for marriage with Percy. In doing so, Wolsey makes an enemy in Anne. She turns down Henry’s offer of her being his mistress. Her pregnant sister Mary was in this role until he met Anne. Mary now dismissed from this royal duty and one which brought titles and fortune to the Boleyn family.

In time, Henry woos Anne and asks Anne to be his Queen. But he must seek a divorce from Catharine through the Pope. Breaking away from the church, and plundering the monasteries gives Henry new powers and wealth.

However, after Anne and Henry marry and three years of marriage, the pair have a young daughter Elizabeth. After a later pregnancy is followed by a still-born son, Henry seeks evidence to end his marriage with Anne. His promised hopes of a son unfulfilled by Anne.

With Henry now having romantic feelings towards Anne’s Lady in Waiting, Jane Seymour also contributing to this decision. “Evidence” is found incriminating Anne of adultery and this “adultery” with a number of his noblemen. This including incest with her brother, George.

As adultery with the Queen is high treason, Anne and these noblemen are to be executed. Following Anne’s execution (by sword).  Henry rides off to Northumberland, and to his soon to be wife number three, Jane Seymour. The rest you could say is history…

English castles, – including Hever Castle (where the real Anne Boleyn was brought up) – magnificent costumes, meticulously detailed sets and the Tudor inspired music to add up to the sumptuous lavish period piece. It all makes you feel you’ve returned back in time to this Tudor King’s court.

These combined with the presence of great actors including Anthony Quayle, Michael Hordern and John Colicos and actresses including Burton’s then-wife, Elizabeth Taylor in a wee cameo make it a lavish affair. It’s a film to be treasured.

Richard Burton, as Henry VIII has the gravitas, charisma and presence for this regal role. He offers so much, much more so than others who played him. Burton giving an emotionally charged performance, showing not just the king in a regal sense, but here showing his complex character as the man behind the crown. Burton rightly receiving his sixth out of his seven Oscar nominations (but surprisingly never winning) for this strong and moving portrayal.

This Burton role is arguably one where he is at his blustering best. Be it his initial jovial, upbeat scenes with his noblemen in how he hopes to get this girl. His CONVINCING scenes with this girl in Bujold’s strong yet vulnerable Boleyn. Burton conveying Henry’s weaknesses as a man are seen in full force.

Be it Henry feeling lust, love, hurt and pain all his emotions are exhibited so emphatically and credibly by Burton. You can feel this man’s torment as he falls for Anne. Then you feel Henry’s anguish again in such a short time when he finds he must condemn her. This as he signs her death warrant.

His first scenes with Bujold showing him fall for her when unhappily married to Catharine of Aragon. Henry becomes obsessed with having Anne Boleyn whatever the cost to others even if it means hurting her, the church and his noblemen.

Henry hurts Anne by denying her proposed love match and engagement to Henry Percy. This so he can have her, you understand this King’s torment when he can’t have her with Henry almost behaving like a spoilt child. This is conveyed so well in those eloquently acted scenes with Burton’s eyes, voice and facial expressions showing this so credibly.

As Anne Boleyn holds out against him, she is seen to hate Henry when she hears of her denied engagement. She is like a lioness protecting her young in her new role to do her daughterly duty for her family. This particularly understandable as her sister, Mary, the King’s former mistress is pregnant to the King. Mary was callously discarded in her sister  Anne’s favour.

In his scenes with Irene Papas’ Catherine of Aragon, Burton is cold and unfeeling in comparison to his initial scenes with others. These scenes are chillingly recreated as Anne loses favour, after her child born as a still-born boy. Anne watches on as that familiar lust, and desire is seen once more. These warm feelings now aimed towards her Lady in Waiting, Jane Seymour.

These in contrast to those as Anne promised the Crown and she becomes his lover. Henry is seen as content, loving and hopeful for an heir. In scenes showing the break up of his marriage to Catherine, Henry appears his most unfeeling. He does not care for the repercussions for the church, the Vatican and the threat from Spain. Burton’s part in the script conveyed in the way it should.

More of the man behind a crown is seen as he wrestles with his conscience constantly in his strong beliefs that Anne will give him the son. Burton helps you comprehend his inner pain when Elizabeth is born, with his veiled performance to wife and daughter masking his disappointment. These are in contrast to her later scene, where you witness his cold-hearted manner where Anne delivers a still-born boy. You immediately feel for Anne, with her and you understanding this her last chance to prove herself as a suitable wife to him.

Bujold as Anne Boleyn also giving her all and in this Bujold’s first English-speaking role she excels. She makes Anne, a willful strong character towards Henry from the start. Anne in time relishing her power as she becomes the King’s muse then Queen in getting her revenge on Wolsey, the King’s Cardinal. She still blames him for his breaking up of her engagement with her true love. She also holds him responsible for Percy’s marriage to someone else soon after their break up.

However, through Bujold’s performance, you are constantly aware of how precarious Anne’s position is in Henry’s life. The King’s affections towards her and her ambitious family both apparently controlling her actions. You understand through Bujold’s strong performance how Anne realises that she can only succeed where her sister failed.

This with the promise of being his Queen, and their descendants’ heirs and heiresses to the Crown. Her scenes at the birth of her children showing her disappointment and fear are easily felt in a vulnerable performance from Bujold. Anne’s pride as a mother to Elizabeth shown, as she fiercely protects her daughter’s best interests are seen until Anne dies at the scaffold.

Richard Burton, Keith Michell, Robert Shaw, Charlton Heston, Eric Bana, Damian Lewis and Sid James. These actors appear to have only their role as Henry VIII in common. The bawdy British comic actor, Sid James parodied two of Burton’s roles in Carry on Henry and Carry on Cleo in this film.  In both of these films, these actors even sharing the same historical wardrobe which won best Costume Design at the Oscars.

Henry VIII actors, Burton and Heston both had a joint on-screen romance with Bujold. However, in Earthquake (1974), Bujold lost her lover  – played by Heston – who returned to his wife.  But to me, she’ll always be remembered here in this role where as, wife number two, Anne Boleyn she was one of a couple queens who lost their head to Henry VIII.

Weeper Rating: 😦  😦  😦 😦  😦  😦  😦 /10

Handsqueeze Rating: 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂  /10

Hulk Ratingmrgreen‎/10


My Regaling About Richard Burton Blogathon, 2018

This film review was added to my Richard Burton blogathon. Other reviews with the cast include Anthony Quayle in The Eagle Has Landed and Murder by Decree. Michael Hordern in Yellowbeard and The Slipper and The Rose. Genevieve Bujold in Murder by Decree and Earthquake.  John Colicos starred in The Postman Always Rings Twice.

15 thoughts on “FILMS… Anne of the Thousand Days (1969)

  1. Anne of a Thousand Days truly is an impeccably produced and acted historical drama. Time only adds to its lustre.

    PS: My first thought when it comes to actors portraying Henry VIII always goes to Charles Laughton. They gave him an Oscar. Burton just seemed to have bad timing when it came to the award.

    • Not seen this one, was a wee bit obsessed with Henry VIII and his 6 wives as a kid, but have avoided the Tudors – but did love the Other Boleyn Girl with Natalie Portman and Scarlett Johansson. And the Keith Michell one from way back then..

  2. Beautifully done essay! I too love this film very much, and rank it among both Burton and Bujold’s best performances. It’s also tops for me among historical dramas like Becket (with Burton!) and Man for All Seasons, just below the amazing Lion in Winter.
    Need to pull out my dvd of this and watch again.
    So looking forward to exploring your marvelous Burton Blogathon!

  3. I AM DYING TO SEE THIS ONE- my Aunt has been wanting me to watch it for years but I can’t find it- a searching on streaming I will go!!! Jonathan Rhys Meyers is my definitive and favorite Henry VIII but I can make room for R.B!! He is too cool not be be good in this role!

  4. Great review only watched this recently for the first time and thought it was excellent. I loved Richard Burton’s portrayal of Henry VIII showing his passion/obsession for Anne and his disdain for Catherine.

Love your thoughts... but only if they are spoiler free!

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