Alison Weir is a great historian and a great writer. She has written a biography called The Lady in the Tower: The Fall of Anne Boleyn. Find it in the biography section of the Pine Bush Area Public Library. It is heavy going, and it will tell you more than you wanted to know about a woman who people either hated or loved during her lifetime. There was no middle ground. You were either for or against her. She had a great many enemies in Europe.
The book looks in great detail at the last four months of Anne Boleyn’s life. She was the second wife of England’s King Henry VIII. He is known, mainly, for having been married six times. This was considered excessive, even in an age in which successful men would run through two or maybe three wives in a long life. He and Queen Anne produced the Princess Elizabeth, who survived her mother’s disgrace, her half-sister’s enmity, and various dangers including imprisonment in the Tower of London. Princess Elizabeth went on to become England’s greatest monarch, the renowned Elizabeth I. She became Queen at age 25 and lived to be 69 years old.
Her mother was not so lucky. Anne became Queen Consort at about age 33. Three years later, Henry was tired of her and wanted another wife, so he had Anne beheaded in the Tower of London on May 19, 1536. He and his creature, Thomas Cromwell, manufactured a lot of ridiculous charges against her, and had Anne and five men beheaded. Henry said they were her lovers.
I have never liked Anne Boleyn. She behaved hatefully towards Princess Mary Tudor, the one surviving child from Henry’s first marriage. I always figured that Henry and Anne were well-matched and they deserved each other. I was surprised to find that this book was written in her favor. I was further surprised to find that I was starting to feel sorry for Anne Boleyn. This is a big concession on my part. I tend to take a more cynical view of both Anne and Henry. I remember that quip that Christina of Denmark made, when Henry tried to court her. See page 298 of this book for “when Henry VIII later sued for her hand, (Christina) was pertly to reply that if she had two heads, one would be at His Majesty’s disposal.” Obviously, Christina of Denmark never became Queen of England.
The Lady in the Tower is a heavy book. It covers everything. It looks back at Anne Boleyn’s life and forward to Elizabeth’s. It examines how different historians in different eras have viewed her. In a lighter vein, there is an appendix called “Legends.” Alison Weir writes, “Legends about Anne abound. Her ghost has long been reported in at least a dozen places. In Blickling Hall in Norfolk, the house in which she was probably born around 1501….” She goes on, saying, “Anne’s ghost has also reportedly been seen on Christmas Eve, crossing a bridge over the River Eden on her way to Hever Castle, her family home in Kent.”
Apart from the ghosts, this book is dense, and difficult and detailed. This is not a fluffy novel about a queen’s indiscretions. This is not a romp through the palace gardens. This is a powerhouse of a book by a serious historian, looking at a woman who has been much wronged, down the long, slow centuries. Read it, and find a new sympathy for The Lady in the Tower.