Author: Eric Ives
Rating: 4 Stars
I am certainly no admirer of Anne Boleyn, in fact I hold more than a bit of disdain for her. She is a least favorite of mine among Henry's wives. However, I continue to read about her because she is a somewhat unfortunate piece of the Tudor puzzle that I have begun putting together. She was no victim, she played the game, gambled, and lost. She could hardly have been surprised that scheming brought her to Henry's side and it would just as easily remove her.
I think it's quite obvious even without Ives' book that she was innocent of the charges against her; there's simply no way the queen could have carried on these affairs. But neither should we be surprised that this is what it took to be rid of her.
Some credit I am willing to give her though is that both based on this account and other texts I've read, she was a good mother who loved Elizabeth dearly. You can't help but feel sadness for this young child, to lose her mother in such a terrible way. But by the same token, my sympathy for Mary runs even deeper. Being separated from Catherine those long years was unjust and cruel - Henry's doing of course, but no doubt Anne had a hand in that as well, even if she was simply in the king's ear about it.
That being said, this is a fairly well-written account of Anne's life and ultimately her death, though it is a bit dry. I have read several books dedicated to Henry's wives, as well as about Anne or her sister, and one thing I have grown so weary of is this debate over their ages! Clearly Anne simply could not have been born in 1507, and how this date came to be accepted so widely baffles me. And to ever suggest Henry was actually Anne's father - rubbish!
One thing to note, the author takes sly shots at Jane Seymour for doing to Anne exactly what Anne did to Catherine. I find that to be hypocritical. The true victims in this story will always be the men falsely accused with Anne (though I find little sympathy for her brother George), and above all Catherine and Mary. Anne Boleyn was not a victim and should not be thought of as such
Sometimes I find my dislike for the subject matter kind of takes over my review, which clearly happened here. Ives book is certainly the best and most well-researched that I have read about Anne Boleyn, and I have read more than a few. Some enjoy his writing style, but as mentioned above, sometimes it becomes dry. I find the extra details added in the updated version fascinating, though not everyone might be interested in wardrobe updates. This truly is the definitive book on Anne, as best we can have with what information is left at least. It is a shame that only Henry's letters to Anne survive, but hers to him did not. It would have been interesting to read and help further pieces together their "courtship". Highly recommended for Tudorphiles first and foremost. Casual readers might also be interested, though it might be a bit overwhelming if you don't have a bit of background knowledge in this dynasty.