Frith discusses the picture at some length in his autobiography:
'No sooner are the year's pictures launched before the public than I find myself hard at work in 'fresh woods and pastures new'. I found a good subject in Froude, who relates - on the authority of a French chronicler, I think - an incident in the career of that man of many wives, Henry VIII. - a trifling matter, but well adapted to pictorial representation. The chronicler says that Queen Anne Boleyn often accompanied her gentle husband on his deer-shooting expeditions in Windsor Forest. It occurred to me to place the royal couple, crossbow in hand, in a kind of leafy shelter, half-hidden by branches and bracken, waiting for the deer to be driven past them. I made Anne Boleyn stooping forward, her crossbow ready, whilst the King behind her is putting back an intruding branch, as he lovingly looks down at the head that soon after followed suit amongst the falling heads of that fearful time. The figures were dressed in green, entailing much difficulty, as in the landscape - though touched by 'Autumn's fiery finger' - much green predominated; and if I did not succeed in producing what in the slang of today is called a 'harmony in green', I made a nearer approach to an agreeable arrangement than many of the inexplicable nocturnes and symphonies that are too often presented to us now. Authorities for the likeness of Henry and his hapless Queen are plentiful. Lord Denbigh possesses a lovely portrait of Anne Boleyn by Holbein, and from a photograph of that picture, together with a well-selected model, I made a tolerable likeness.
My friend Sir William Hardman played the part of the King, for that occasion only. The learned Chairman of the Court of Quarter Sessions wore a beard at the time I speak of, which disfigured him into a strong resemblance to Henry VIII. I took advantage of the beard, and then endeavoured to induce the wearer to remove it; and though I have not seen Sir William lately, I am told the hirsute deformity has disappeared. Lady Hardman's head is still in its natural place, and her husband is very amiable in private life, so the resemblance to the bloodthirsty King ceases with the beard.'