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This Other Eden Book Tour – Who was Anne Boleyn?

Posted By on December 13, 2015

This Other Eden I’m delighted to welcome Margaret M. Williams, author of the historical novel This Other Eden which has just been published by Spartan Publishing, to The Anne Boleyn Files today. Over to Margaret…

Anne Boleyn. Who was she? Ask any schoolchild with even the most mediocre grasp of the Tudor period of history, and the immediate answer is likely to be, “she had her head chopped off”. And so she did.

But the woman herself? How to define her? Surely she was an enigma? She has not lost her fascination for historians, scholars and ordinary people alike for almost five centuries since that gruesome event. Interest in her is as strong today, perhaps even stronger than it ever was. And perhaps it is in that key word – fascination – that part of the answer might lie.

Of course, it is easy enough historically to trace the amazing events that led up to Anne’s three-year tenure of the position of queen consort of King Henry the Eighth. Mistress Anne Boleyn was not a noblewoman herself, but through her mother she was the niece of Thomas Howard, the third Duke of Norfolk. Like her sister, Mary Boleyn, Anne spent her early girlhood at the French court, where she acquired the polish comparable to that obtained in those “finishing schools” where later generations of young ladies were sent to acquire those social and personal skills considered necessary to enhance their marriage prospects. The stakes were high, much to gain, even more to lose! Mary Boleyn herself had already attracted the roving eye of King Henry. She had become his mistress, and then been discarded. This was not a career move for the ambitious Anne, or equally ambitious family.

Upon Anne’s return to the English court, she formed a misalliance with young Henry Percy, the son and heir of the Earl of Northumberland. The affair was promptly broken up by the powerful Cardinal Wolsey, in whose service the young man then was. Young Percy was hauled off home to Northumberland by his irate father, and Anne too was despatched home in disgrace, to Hever Castle in Kent. In her fury, Anne is reported to have vowed to do the Cardinal a disservice, if ever it was in her power to do so. Was it then, at that time of youthful heartbreak, that Anne Boleyn learned to be a good hater?

She was not a great beauty, by all accounts. So where did her magnetism lie? It seems she had something else, and that something was compelling…. powerful! She was a stylish, witty, intelligent, more French, it was said, than English, and intriguingly possessed of an indefinable allure. That something compelled King Henry, a man not used to being thwarted, nor blessed with infinite patience, to wait so many frustrating years for her.

What did the strain of those years of waiting do to her? When she first came back to the court from France, she was described as “a fresh young damsel”. At the time of her decline, in the uncomplimentary words of Eustace Chapuys, the Imperial Ambassador, “that thin, old woman”.

Anne was volatile, highly strung, strident, quarrelsome, neurotic and spiteful. But she was the only one of Henry’s wives who dared to indulge in full-blown rows with him and get away with it! This was certainly so at the beginning of their relationship, and with seemingly harmonious makings-up. But when, after their marriage, and Anne’s failure to deliver him the promised male heir, she found herself in the same invidious position that her predecessor, Queen Katherine of Aragon had been – replaced in the King’s affections by one of her own ladies in waiting. What goes around, comes around! As her hitherto incredible power to influence the King ebbed away, in her insecurity, Anne was to find she could expect little support from her own family. She was expendable. At her subsequent trial, even her own uncle, the Duke of Norfolk, joined in pronouncing her guilty of the charges of which she was accused.

I find it endlessly intriguing too, to speculate as to how events might have developed if the disappointing daughter that Anne gave birth to, had been the eagerly awaited and expected male heir – not, as the variously described “high and mighty princess of England” at her christening, or in the disparaging tones of again, Eustace Chapuys, “the little bastard”. Just think, if Elizabeth had been a prince, what might the course of this country’s history have been like? That surely is one of those tantalising imponderables of history!

If that imaginary prince had lived to reign, as Elizabeth did for over forty years, and had produced healthy sons of his own, for how long, I wonder, might the Tudor period have continued? There would have been no need, as at the end of Elizabeth’s barren life, for a messenger to gallop some four hundred, mud-splattered miles to Scotland to inform the Stuart king, James the Sixth, that the queen of England was dead, and that he now inherited her crown.

In that hypothetical event, there would have been no Stuart era, and after that time, when England was in dire need of direct heirs, would it, one might ask, have been necessary to import a series of European royalty to occupy the English throne – those German princes from the house of Hanover, and of Saxe-Coburg Goth, whose line descends even now to the house of Windsor. Might there then have been no “Cousins’ War” in 1914, involving the German Kaiser, the Tsar of Russia, and the British King? Would that bloody conflict that blighted Europe have never been? We cannot know.

If I am asked what it is that fascinates me about Anne Boleyn, I would have to say that in researching the cataclysmic events leading up to Henry the Eighth’s famous break with Rome in order to make her his wife, the life and death of Anne Boleyn play such a crucial part. I did not chose to research her, I could not avoid her. Though the years of her brief life seem just a passing phase in the wide expanse of history, this woman made her own indelible mark there. I have read widely on whatever aspects of her life I could discover, and I too continue to find her fascinating.

Brief though Anne’s life was, I believe that for a significant moment of time, she played a life-changing role in the history of England. She could not have known it, but the death she faced with such undoubted courage, was not an end to her influence, as she herself must surely have believed. Rather, was it not a beginning? For I maintain that Anne Boleyn left a splendid legacy to England – her daughter – that unwanted, small princess, who, when she outgrew her childish clothes, the lady mistress appointed to care for her, had almost to plead for new ones to fit the growing child.

What then of Elizabeth Tudor? Before her accession, she must have pondered on the career patterns of each of her father’s six wives, i.e. to quote the now familiar “aide-memoire” of children’s lessons – “divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, survived”. Even Queen Katherine Parr, Elizabeth’s kindly, last stepmother, like Jane Seymour, Henry’s third wife, she too was to die in childbirth after her swift re-marriage following King Henry’ s death.

It was not necessarily an enviable thing to be a queen consort. But to be a queen regnant and rule in her own right? That had been her sister Mary’s destiny. But from the moment of Mary’s accession, she was expected to marry, in the hope of producing an heir, preferably male. But a married queen regnant was then subject to the authority of a husband. Even the reformed faith Elizabeth herself professed, requires this. Is it any wonder that Elizabeth shied away from the marriage trap?

So what was the alternative? Elizabeth had declared, early in life, that she had no wish to marry, that the single life contented her most. It was a bold, unprecedented step she took, to reign alone, an unmarried, virgin queen. It was an unknown phenomena.

In her famous speech at Tilbury, when England was threatened by invasion by the Spanish armada, I believe Elizabeth proved she was not only a great queen, but worthy of the title of king as well. “Though I have the body of a weak and feeble woman, I have the heart and stomach of a king…” she said.

What splendid genes Anne Boleyn passed on to her daughter!

Margaret Williams is no stranger to adventure. She has been married for thirty three years to her Welsh husband, whom she met as result of a coach crash in Bulgaria, while they were travelling across Europe on the old Crusader route to Palestine.

Margaret has always been passionate about her family history and Tudor history, and it was through her research that she realised her Bowerbank line must have lived through and witnessed the events leading up to the Pilgrimage of Grace as it affected Cumberland. She used the actual names of family members as characters, and researched how certain trades would have dominated their imagined lives. Margaret visited the Eden Valley on several occasions and was struck by the beauty of the landscape and the river there, and walked along that narrow foothold above the water leading into the gorge described in the book. Margaret has published several short stories, and “This Other Eden” is her debut novel.

Spartan Publishing is offering one lucky Anne Boleyn Files follower a copy of This Other Eden. Simply leave a comment below saying what you’d write about if you were writing a Tudor-themed historical novel. The closing date for comments is midnight 20th December 2015. The winning commenter will be picked at random and contacted via email.

This Other Eden is available now in paperback from Amazon.com, Amazon UK and other book retailers.
Paperback: 594 pages
Publisher: Spartan Publishing (October 14, 2015)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0987384171
ISBN-13: 978-0987384171

14 thoughts on “This Other Eden Book Tour – Who was Anne Boleyn?”

  1. Renae Johnson says:

    I would compare Queen Elizabeth I with her Tudor grandfather Henry VII and her grandmother Elizabeth of York her namesake. The qualities which they shared and helped them survive and their reigns to prosper. Both fascinating people in their own right.

  2. Denise Duvall says:

    I would write about the relationship between Henry and his sister Margaret. How did their relationship changed after the death of her Scottish husband, James and what was her marriage like. I don’t think, that there are many books on her and her life in Scotland.

  3. Molly says:

    Claire, I was wondering if you could do some research into the portrait of a teenager at Blickling Castle with the name: Anne Bullen and the date1514. It has been hypothesised that the 13-14 year old Anne could have arrived back in England in 1514 to join the Princess Mary’s household and her family might have commissioned the portrait to celebrate her new position. She certainly has the “goggle” eyes that are very dark and enigmatic and she is wearing a French hood and a black dress and she has quite sallow skin. She also has an oval face. It was mentioned on the Forum on September 22 of this year and there is an article about it at reddotgallery.com. There is a real possibility that we have at last found a portrait of Anne Boleyn. One thing that is convincing is the spelling of Boleyn. Surely before Anne adopted the ‘French’ version of her family name the Boleyns would have used the English version ‘Bullen’. It’s all very exciting!!!!

  4. Hanna says:

    I would write from the point of view of Anne’s ghost. There are so many ghost stories about Anne Boleyn (I guess that’s what happens when you’re accused of being a witch) that I think it could be fun and interesting to take one as fact and play it out – not just Anne’s story, but her opinion on later events such as the WWII executions in the Tower.

  5. Gail Marie says:

    As much as I don’t care for Jane Seymour, I think I would write a novel about the Seymour family and take the perspective of Jane trying to escape the fate of being Henry’s wife because she is in love with someone else.

  6. Kim Barca says:

    I would write about what caused The Problems with both Henrys Wives Katharine of Aragonand Anne Boleyn Why they had miscarriages and why only Both did? Then I would write about this problem during Tudor Times among none Royals. Was it their diets or could it be their Blood was not compatiable for the Women to misscarrie.

  7. Linda Hart says:

    I would write about the relationship and similarities between Anne Boleyn and Thomas Cromwell. Both had relatively obscure beginnings: Anne was in France, Cromwell a secretary for Wolsey.

    I would show that Anne & Cromwell had a fierce interest in The Reformation and were “partners” in getting Henry interested as well, although Anne and Cromwell had different reasons.

    Anne and Cromwell reached the highest pinnacle of power in the Tudor court and both fell to the bottom as well. They were executed: Anne by sword and Cromwell via axe, tragic endings for two people who began in accord and ended as bitter enemies.

  8. cryssT says:

    Very little is written about Edward VI. I’d like to write about him and in it, his Uncle Thomas Seymour had become his Master of the Horse, so Edward was healthy. It would also be about who would be Edward’s first love.

  9. Anyanka says:

    In that hypothetical event, there would have been no Stuart era, and after that time, when England was in dire need of direct heirs, would it, one might ask, have been necessary to import a series of European royalty to occupy the English throne – those German princes from the house of Hanover, and of Saxe-Coburg Goth, whose line descends even now to the house of Windsor.

    The only reason that the House of Hanover was chosen was due to the fact there were a number of Catholics above them in the direct line of succession.

    Elizabeth Stuart may still have married Frederick V and become Electress Palatine and her children a right to the Scottish throne. Many of their children had issue but the throne of the united England and Scotland was granted by parliament to their 12th child , a daughter and her heirs…

  10. Sonetka says:

    That one’s easy — George and Jane Boleyn! Julia Fox’s book made it pretty clear that Jane wasn’t the crazy treacherous harridan who has inhabited Boleyn fiction (and histories) for so long, but she’s still a very intriguing blank. I think it would be interesting to explore some possibilities for their marriage — not making it a horror story about a crazy shrew and a henpecked husband, but not making it ideal and (for fictional purposes) boring either. Perhaps their conflict could center around the changing religious landscape — Jane might enjoy the benefits Anne’s rise brings her while being uneasy about her and George’s envelope-pushing ideas. Their childlessness couldn’t have been easy either, especially since George was the only surviving Boleyn son and the only hope for continuing the Wiltshire earldom.

  11. Anne G says:

    I would write about Prince Arthur and Katherine of Aragon and their relationship and what happened after Arthur died.
    History could have been so different if Arthur had lived.

  12. Christine says:

    I would write about Anne’s parents, we know of Thomas Boleyn and his ambitions, also that he was a highly talented multi lingual courtier but not about his wife or what she thought of her famous offspring, little did she know that when her second daughter was born she would split the country apart and make her mark in history as one of England’s most infamous Queen consorts, I would write about her marriage with Thomas, was it happy? Was she a meek subservient wife which iwas what Tudor marriages of the nobility demanded, or was she as headstrong as Anne, what did she look like, and what impact did she make on her contemporaries.

  13. Jenny says:

    I would write a novel that revolved around Anne Boleyn and Jane Seymour’s intertwining lives. I think it would be fun to show how different their upbringing, education and love lives were as youths despite the fact they were second cousins, and how they probably would have somewhat known each other and could have possibly been friends before Anne caught Henry’s eyes. Then contrast their happy childhood friendship with adult rivalry until the events of 1536 occurred, and note how each woman felt about being the rival of their kinwomen and childhood friend.

  14. Melita says:

    I would write about Elizabeth of York. A lot is known about her husband and little about her…what was her days as queen consort like, what she tought about her husband and his formidable mother…and most of all what she felt about her uncle, Richard III…
    She must have been a fascinating woman!

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