Sunday, March 1, 2015

The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn

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. 


  1. I just wrote a bunch of stuff that got deleted, ARRGH!
    Let me start over.
    I found this blog by googling "Anne Boleyn was not a victim" and expected nothing, and instead ran into this very intelligent blog. Well done!
    I want to say I am in complete sync with your views of Anne Boleyn and the much wronged Katherine of Aragon and her daughter Mary.
    I have long wondered why in the world anyone would try to portray Anne Boleyn as a heroine or martyr or saint. She was a scheming, manipulative, gold-digging home wrecker, no more and no less, and although the price she paid was high indeed, it was a situation she put herself in, and she understood the risks when she went after the King, a married man.

    I have always been fascinated by the fact that all of the people who LOVE Anne Boleyn and hold her up as their heroine, or say she is a saint, etc... if those people were her contemporaries and knew her, they would hate her too. By the end of her life Anne had very few friends. Anne had a way of alienating everyone from her cause. Sometimes I feel like I must have known her in a past life, because I have always had such a strong feeling of dislike for her and this sainthood image of her has always rankled me.

    anyways, thank you for your informative and intelligent post!
    You made my night!

    1. I hate when that happens, I compulsively save my posts every 10 seconds it seems.

      You have just made my day as well! I am so glad you have found my blog and I appreciate the compliments. I try to to be thorough in my reviews. it doesn't always happen though, I must confess.

      I too can not believe how many have the mindset that Anne is a heroine. Why don't they look at Catherine Howard the same way then? Or is it because the allegations against her were true, they overlook the facts surrounding Anne becoming queen in the first place? Katherine and Mary truly break my heart, and I really believe had Mary not been treated so poorly and treated more lovingly, her reign might have gone very differently. By the time Jane became queen and helped reconcile Mary and Henry, it was too late, the damage had been done.

      It is funny you mention the idea of knowing Anne in a past life - I have had that feeling before too when I am reading about her! I just feel so strongly about her, nearly as strongly as I feel so much sympathy for Katherine. Here I thought I was the only one, perhaps you were Katherine and I was Mary or vice versa :) I read anything and everything about the Tudors I can get my hands on, and retain that information better than anything else I read, sometimes I wonder if the books are just jogging my memory about events I already know of! Sounds a bit funny typing it out for everyone to see, but it is also a funny feeling.

      I am moving more of my reviews over from Goodreads, there are many Tudor-related books that I am slowly but surely working on posting here too. Thank you again for reading!


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