Anne Boleyn – A Role Model? A Heroine?

Mar29,2011 #Anne Boleyn

Anne BoleynIn the Epilogue of his book “Anne Boleyn: Fatal Attractions”, G W Bernard discusses women who see Anne Boleyn as a role model. He quotes a poster on a website as saying “I believe it’s something we girls should learn from; we should not sulk when things don’t go our way, we should change it” and then says:-

“With those admirable sentiments on how to live a life, I have no quarrel at all. But I do question the use of men and women from the past, indeed the present, as role models of that sort. Much better to work out what to do in its own terms; and important to remember that most men and women are mixtures of good qualities and not-so-good qualities. Models are not necessary…. Men and women should not need to study the life of Anne Boleyn, or modern ‘celebrities’, to learn that if you do not like your lot in life, you should do what you can to improve it.”

Now, of course it is better to make our own way in life and to be responsible for our own decisions, BUT, isn’t it human nature to have role models and idols, people we admire and look up to, people whose lives are an inspiration to us? Parenting and education websites are full of articles on making sure that your children have positive role models in their lives because it is a fact that children are influenced by their elders, whether it is people they come into contact with or people they see on TV. This is why many schools have mentoring programmes, matching children with adults who are successful in their field of interest. There are bad role models and good role models and we are urged to ensure that we are positive role models to our children and that we police what they watch on TV, what they read and the people that they come into contact with.

As we grow up, our role models may change but we still have role models to inspire and motivate us. Athletes are inspired by their sporting heroes, they are motivated to try harder to achieve; entrepreneurs are inspired by people who have gone from rags to riches; would-be authors are inspired by the literary giants, by people like J K Rowling whose first Harry Potter manuscript got rejection after rejection from publishers, children love super-heroes… Do you catch my drift? I don’t see having a role model as harmful in any way, not unless we live every second of our lives asking ourselves “What would so-and-so do?” or becoming completely obsessed by a person and having no life outside of our obsession (says the woman who spends countless hours knee deep in Tudor history!).

I obviously spend time reading people’s comments on The Anne Boleyn Files, in the forum, on our Facebook page and surfing the worldwide web, and there are many people who see Anne Boleyn as a role model or who have been inspired by her life and story. Is that dangerous? Are they being ridiculous? No, I don’t believe so. Why is it bad to learn from someone else’s experience? Why is it so wrong to admire a historical character’s achievements? I don’t think it is. I read the accounts of Anne Boleyn’s execution and I cannot help but admire her dignity, her courage and her strong faith in the face of such brutality. To me, she is an example of a woman who was secure in her beliefs and her faith in God and I find that admirable and I find it an inspiration. This does not mean that I cannot see her faults. Aren’t our role models an encouragement because we can relate to them? They are not perfect, they have their flaws but they have done something with their lives. Isn’t that what motivates us and inspires us?

So, I would say that role models are in fact necessary and it is the fact that “most men and women are mixtures of good qualities and not-so-good qualities” that helps us. I believe it is actually perfectly healthy and normal to have positive role models.

G W Bernard rules Anne Boleyn out as a potential role model to people today because “Anne lived too long ago, and her circumstances were so extraordinary, that they can have little bearing on the lives we lead today”, but people are people whatever time they live in.

What do you think? Is Anne Boleyn a role model to you? Has she inspired you or motivated you? Or do you think it is dangerous to have historical characters as role models? I would love to hear your thoughts on this.


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47 thoughts on “Anne Boleyn – A Role Model? A Heroine?”
  1. Our past and past experiences wether it be ours or someone elses helps us to learn and gives us motivation to be whom ever we want to be. Role models do indeed help us become successful and I totally agree with you. She was not afraid to stand up for what she believed. Her story is a sad one, but motivates me today, she stood up for her faith and beliefs and was not afraid, she inspires me as a woman, she did it all in a time were woman meant nothing but to just produce children. With all that said I love Anne for who she was and for who she wasnt able to become. Anne Boleyn was courageous to have held herself the way she did the day of her execution and for all this and more Anne is my role model.

  2. Why is it that people do not see Anne for what she really was? She was a free spirit, she was a forward thinker. Anne was a smart independant driven woman in a time when women were looked at as property. Anne Refused to be used and discarded. She changed the face of england and in a way she changed the world. She had it all and lost it all but while she lived it can be said she truly lived. I am inspired by her everyday. I think of how hard it must have been for her to be hated by the people of her country, how sad it must have been to be labeled the great wh*re. She was a woman who fell in love and that love ,to be achieved, changed the face of the world, she would have been a great queen had Henry given her a son since now we know sperm determines the sex of a child! She did how ever produce the greatest queen and most beloved rulers. She knew what she wanted and she went after and got it! I dont think she posioned katherine or tried to curse mary, she was a normal woman and wanted katherine to understand henry didnt love her anymore but Katerine refused to believe it ( although I can see it from katherines side too). I am ashamed at how most people belittle her and her life to being little more then 3 years of dispair. Let us remember all the time anne spent with henry courting her and all the time she spent waiting for him. Anne lost her true love due to the kings eye falling on her think of how different her life would have been if the king had not wanted her in that way but think of this where would the UK be if not for Elizabeth the first.. with out her couragous mother the face af england and the UK would i say be very different.

  3. I do not think it is wrong at all to have historical figures as people that you look up to. Anne Boleyn is the perfect role model because she was so courageous and strong in everything she did. She was not like most women of her age. She dared to be different; dared to be educated; dared to have an opinion. What woman wouldn’t want to look up to her?? I feel like she is one of my role models because of all that. She has made me feel like even though we do live in an age where women can be strong, educated, outspoken, opinionated–we can be even more so. We can share our beliefs and our feelings and personally because of all that, my confidence level has risen. It may sound weird I suppose, but it’s true. I am definitely not constantly thinking “What would Anne Do?” but I am thinking, if a woman (any woman!) in the 16th century could stand up and be as confident as she was…then why can’t we, in the 21st century, do the same? I guarentee you that in the face of being beheaded, many people (men included!!!) would not be as brave as she was. It’s not just her execution though that stands out to me; it’s her whole life and how she lived it. I actually feel the same way about Lady Jane Grey as well. Throughout her life she was treated poorly by the people who should have been there for her the most and in the end she died because of them. But yet she held onto her religious beliefs and confidence no matter what life handed her and was brave until the end.

  4. I would definitely not say that she was a role model or heroine. I mean, come on, let’s be honest, when it all comes down to it she was a home wrecker and she really didn’t have to keep mother and daughter apart but she did. She showed that you play foul to win and it’s definitely not something I would want my kids to follow….

    1. Melissa Marie
      I can’t say that Anne Boleyn is my role model either, but I don’t think she is as bad as you described her. She didn’t keep Mary and Katherine apart, Henry did. It might have been convenient to her, but is was Henry’s choice and there was very little she could have done about it. I don’t see her as a homewrecker either: Henry wanted to get rid of Katherine anyway, Anne was really just a pretext. He was the king of England and Anne was smart enough to know that if he wanted her, he would get her, no matter what. She just didn’t fight it. I’m not saying that she was a saint, not at all, but I don’t believe she was the villainess you make her out to be either.

      1. I agree, Sara and Jessie. Henry VIII made his own decisions and would not have let a lowly woman, even his wife, tell him what to do. We have to remember how Henry treated those who he felt had crossed him or let him down, e.g. Thomas More.

    2. I agree with Melissa Marie. Anne Boleyn is not my role model, nor would I be happy to see any younger person perceiving Anne Boleyn as a positive influence.

      At the end of the day, Anne was a tool of Henry VIII, of her ambitious male family members, and of the Protestant movement. That’s not to say Anne didn’t entertain her own aspirations and ambitions. She saw opportunities and made the best of them. If nothing else, she was able to provide her daughter with a wild card shot at the English throne.

      But are those really things to which modern individuals should aspire? Bettering oneself a la “Mean Girl” tactics and sensational love life? If so, tons of people like that already exist presently and most folks don’t like them.

  5. I think she should be applauded ,she was ahead of her time , she went after what she wanted ,and didn’t lower her standards in order to obtain them . She was very forward thinker which was unheard of in her time . I have to say Hats Off to Anne Boleynn , it is because of her that England had one the greatest monarchs , ELIZABETH 1 !!!

  6. A little while ago, I was having issues with my significant other – it was a really hard time for me, but I always think back and remember the little things I did, including reading as much as I could about Anne. I so admire her strength, and like G.W said, her circumstances were so extraordinary… how could you not look up to someone who was so strong and amazing in the face of that kind of trial? I thought about her a lot, and I’m not exaggerating when I say that I tried to “channel my inner Anne” in order to strengthen my resolve when I needed it.

    Yes, she lived a long time ago, and her circumstances were almost unbelievable… but isn’t that more of a reason to look up to her? To have been the person she was when faced with that kind of adversity is, to me, what a role model is all about.

  7. Miss Wells Anne did not keep mother and daughter away, Henry did. Anne actually tried to make nice with her stepdaughter. Anne did what she had to do and yes, she lost her temper with her stepdaughter, but don’t we all have those moments. Anne may have had a strong influence on Henry and his actions, but Henry acted on his own will. He did what he wanted when he wanted. Lets not blame Anne for that. I believe he was a much more vindictive and mean person than Anne would ever have been. She and her daughter, Elizabeth, are role models to me. Anne spike her mind and made a stand for what she believed in during a time when a woman’s opinions meant little more than nothing. She made a difference in her life and death. For that I and many others admire her. And her daughter was her legacy. Better than any male Henry could have hoped for. Both women deserve recognition and admiration in my opinion.

  8. I believe we all have role models, those people in our lives who inspire and exhort us to succeed. Both my grandmothers were tremendous influences on my life as well as my own parents. Anne Boleyn also influenced me. I grew up right as the women’t movement was starting up. There were no choices for girls, career-wise, except teacher, secretary, nurse or mother. There were no female preachers or even female deacons in churches. No women in business except single women who were bank tellers. In a time when boys’ sports were encouraged and well-funded, we had a poorly funded basketball team for girls. If you weren’t tall, (and I was not), you were out of luck. When I read about Anne Boleyn and her story, I was most attracted to her power, something I didn’t feel I would have as a woman. She showed me that even back when things were much worse for women, that there is always a choice and if you are smart, you can make things work for you–at least for a while. I think she is a fine role model, even for girls today.

    1. I’m with you, Anne. My mother was my #1 role model. There are a few others who I have mentioned before. One being Helen Keller. I grew up when women did not have the rights they have today. The woman’s movement is the best thing that has happened for women. In order to find our voices, we had to reach into history . We had to find women her said,”no that’s not the way it should be.” Anne had such a voice.

  9. I don’t agree that she didn’t have any part in keeping Mary away from Katherine. I’ve read many accounts where she used her wiles on Henry and played with his head, so that they could be kept apart because she knew that together they were stronger. I mean, she’s used her wiles on many occasions, she could have used them to show some compassion for Katherine and Mary. Katherine died alone. That’s a fact. Anne use to be one of her ladies in waiting and she stole the king from Katherine in the end. There’s nothing that anyone can say to me to convince me that Anne was completely innocent in the whole thing and that she would be a good role model for children, sorry….

    1. I’m not arguing that she is a good role model for children but I don’t believe there is evidence that she used her “wiles” to control Henry.

    2. anne was the other woman it caused terrible hurt to katherine and mary .anne didnt care why would she she knew how to play the game with henry promising him a son but at the same time holding back from him ,henry was used to getting what he wanted so no wonder he was attracted to her .yes he could have had a much easier conquest but he wanted the fun and the chase with anne .henry was an egomaniac and so was anne i believe she was innocent of everything she was charged with but she was not the meek and mild anne that she should have been she was not that clever and i think henry felt he had been made look a total fool im surprised she lasted three years with him .henry is buried beside jane ,he requested it when he was alive that thats what he wished meanwhile no one knows for sure where annes actual grave is in the chapel .granted anne had a terrible horrific death and far too soon and she haunts us all also she had all her titles taken from her at her trial so she sadly did not die whilst a queen

  10. Part of the allure of Anne and the reason I choose to study her, is not that she is role model or even that there are life lessons to be learned from her story, but that she was so human. The dissection of her character was so polarized by the different factions to a degree not often seen with others. She was indeed proud and arrogant, but also brave and intelligent. She had a temper in the worst sort of way, but patient and doting with Elizabeth. She was virtuous but was still seductive and sexy.

    Anne, to me, is not a model on how I want to live my life, but a reminder that we’re all wonderfully messy, wonderfully human, in a society that too often asks us to be perfect.

  11. Are you kidding me? There’s plenty of evidence. If not just for the fact that she had his favorite councilors brought out of favor and the fact that she did not become his mistress and held him at bay, so that she could become his wife and Queen instead. Trust me, there’s plenty of evidence and accounts where she used her wiles to get what she wanted out of Henry.

    I find her fascinating and I enjoy reading about her because she was a woman so ahead of her times but I’m not going to sit here and act like she did no wrong and she was so innocent in the things that took place during her lifetime, no I’m not that blind…

    1. I would say that she held him at bay firstly because she didn’t want to be his mistress, secondly to guard her reputation and thirdly because she wanted to keep her virtue. I would say that only fiction and TV portray her as a seductress who plotted to have the King, but I don’t believe that the evidence supports this.

    2. I find it fascinating how some people opt to rationalize Anne held no influence over the king, yet continue giving Anne snaps for her power and influence within the English Court.

      Either the woman held power and used it or she didn’t.

      I believe everyone in this forum is perfectly aware that personal relationships can influence and impact a politician’s decisions.

      It was certainly within Anne’s power to petition with the king as to favors she desired for herself and/or for her family. It would have been within her power to speak out against people she viewed as enemies. While Anne did not twist Henry’s arm and force him to do anything, who could doubt she hesitated to pressure him for anything she perceived as furthering her own best interests?

      If Anne’s word held no influence over Henry VIII, what on earth is the source of Anne’s alleged power? She certainly received no power from any other source.

      1. I think there is a big difference between believing that Anne did not control the King and believing that she had influence within the English Court, between believing that Anne told Henry what to do regarding Catherine and Mary and her patronage. Control is very different to influence and you seemed to be accusing Anne of being solely responsible for the treatment of Catherine and Mary when, in fact, Mary’s treatment worsened after Anne’s death. As Ives says in his wonderful biography of Anne Boleyn, Anne supported Henry’s harsh treatment of Mary because “her obstinacy was an insult, a denial of Anne’s own identity and integrity” and because Mary in denying Elizabeth’s legitimacy “was in effect asserting her own claim to be heir to the throne”. Ives, though, points out that “on three distinct occasions Anne put out feelers for a better relationship” with Mary and that Mary on all three occasions was rude.
        I’m with Ives on Anne’s role in the treatment of Anne and Catherine. Anne was not guiltless in that she supported her husband and she ranted about the women who she felt were denying her title and stirring up trouble but Henry was the one who meted out the treatment and whose idea it was:-
        “He was determined to break his daughter’s will. It was Anne Boleyn, however, who got the blame. To believe it was her fault made it much easier for Charles V to keep up some civil relationship with Henry, much easier for Mary (and Katherine) to resist pressure. Her father could not really know; he was not to blame; it was the harpy who had her claws in him. When Anne was dead Mary discovered the truth, and the abasement which Henry exacted scarred her for life.”
        So, it was easier for Catherine, Mary and their supporters to blame Anne for everything and then they could not be seen to be complaining about the King.

    3. I am not satisfied with the argument that she held out on Henry to become Queen of England.

      There is no possible way that Anne could have known the lengths that Henry would have gone to in order to have her. Think about it – in order to make her his wife, Henry split from the Catholic church, something that would have been considered unthinkable of the man who had defended his faith with such vigour previously. He went against everything that up until that point he had believed in.

      There was no precedent of a King abandoning his wife, leaving the Catholic church, setting up his own church and declaring himself head of it simply to have a new queen. At best she could have hoped that Katherine (who was not the most healthy of women) would die and she would marry Henry afterwards.

      Even that argument is flawed though. Henry was an abnormality when it came to his choice of wife. Most monarchs chose foreign princesses as their brides, as marriage was considered at the time to be a way of sealing alliances and such. Once again, Henry marrying someone from his own court would have been unthinkable at the time. A girl can always dream, but Anne (being a relatively practical woman) would have know that the chances of that happening were slim to none.

      We have the gift of hindsight, so of course it is easy for us to say that she just wanted to become queen. We know what Henry did in order to marry Anne. To say that Anne knew that Henry would discard his wife, split with his church, and disregard any of the highly eligible foreign princesses of the day is to say that Anne was a woman given to believing in fantasy, which goes completely against everything we know to be true about her.

      The only person that will ever know of Anne’s true intentions died on 19 May 1536, Anne herself. I personally think that it is just sloppy of us to assume that she only wanted to be queen, especially when you consider the thinking of the day.

      And now I think I will end my little rant….

      1. enry was used to getting what he wanted and would have been happy with anne as his mistress and i know that he had to have a legitimate heir and the only way was lawful marriage to someone .an easy conquest would have bored henry and he craved all kinds of excitement and anne was exciting but it was just plain stupidity on her part to think she would get the better of henry also she had a lot of enemies regardind stepmothers mary got on very well with jane seymour and katherine parr so mary was capable of accepting stepmothers no anne was not at all clever she should have been henrys mistress and if she was supposedly worried about her reputation why didnt she take care later on whilst married to henry and become more katherineish she would have kept her hear and seen her daughter grow up

      2. henry would have gone to any lenghts to have a legitimate son and heir even break with rome ,this was the only way for him,

  12. Hello readers,

    For me she is a inspiration and I find it very reasonable to have a historical person as role model. I don’t know really wether she is my role model or not but she certainly has inspired me for many reasons; because she fights for her ideals and want to make the best out of her life. Because she wants to be a good woman, mother, daughter, sister, lover and wife but never places some else above her. (well maybe the king some time) but still…I think, even when it wasn’t possible back then, it is important to be yourself and fight for your rights. She wanted to be a mother to her daugter Elizabeth and couldn’t be because of all the rules. She wanted Henry’s love, she wanted to be more than just another mistress, only that is admirable enough for me. Can you believe a woman back in those days, when we were less than men, should dare argue with him?
    She risked her life so many times, she dare to say what she thinks and how she felt, I wish I was more like that in real life.

    Then I haven’t even started about her honourable dignity when she ended at the scaffold! It is very respectable and admirable of her that she was so calm, I don’t think I could be calm when I would know I was innocent (or if she wasn’t; at least less guilty than they claimed!) and put to death. It was so wrong, so unjusty (is that the word? sorry for me english!)

    I think because of the time she lived in, she has become such a inspirational woman for us now. She dared to argue with the king, 500 years back! I think she had a strong vision, self-confidence and knowledge of human beings’ behaviour. She also was a smart woman who knew her strong points. I admire for all of those things, not only for her behaviour and her fight for her rights, but also for her character. Henry just couldn’t handle his true love, I’m sure of that. And he wanted a boy of course…

    Well, what are your opinions? Thanks for another interesting article. With much pleasure I always read your website.

    I agree with the comment ‘it doesn’t matter which time you’re living in; humans are still the same’.

  13. I think she was rather a smart lady, smart enough to know that once the king would have bedded her for a few months or years, he would have thrown her aside, and she would have been mocked and loathed, like her sister.
    Anne is one of my role models, along with my amazing maternal grandmother and mother, the writers Carla Pinkola Estes and Jennifer Weiner and Elise Gervais, a resistant of my hometown. Anne has a special place for me, since she had looks that didn’t fittes what was seen as beautiful in her time, and made the best of it with her smartness, her wit and her courage. Her maternal instinct in a time it was unknown is wonderful too.

  14. I find Anne Boleyn admirable in many respects … but I feel the same way about the many other Tudor women who have been strong in their religious beliefs, surprisingly well educated, and/or have died bravely. First, Anne did have some options. We don’t know, for example, what might have happened if she “gave in” and became Henry’s mistress in exchange for the Pembroke title. Who knows … without the Divorce ruining her life, Mary may have been one of England’s greatest monarchs. More importantly, with her strong beliefs in charity, I believe she may have been a model for other titled landowners in how to handle the tenantry displaced by the enclosures.

    Second, to the extent that Anne was doing what she thought was right, her actions were still restricted given her times. I believe that any woman today, faced with pursuit by a married employer (since Anne was a lady in waiting to Catherine of Aragon, Henry would have been her employer), would be expected to take appropriate legal action .. and doing what Anne did (holding out for marriage) would not be considered admirable.

  15. A role model is chosen by a person seeking someone to be an example for them; whether the role model is a historical person or someone contemporary, it is for the person seeking something to decide just who portrays the characterics, values, and virtues being sought. I know that in my childhood without the example of three contemporary role models and those of history such as Anne, I would have been a different person. From Anne I learned that a woman can have strength in faith and fight for what she believes in, a woman can stand up and say, “You will not use me. I will not lower myself; it is all or nothing.” And I do believe that is what she told Henry VIII. She did not destroy Henry’s marriage to Katherine; he did that long before Anne was at court as a Lady in waiting. If Henry had truly loved Katherine; nothing, not even the lack of an heir, would have influenced him to divorce her. Further, whether it was Anne’s idea or Henry’s to keep Katherine and Mary apart is redundant. Henry did what he wanted to do and heaven help the person who stood in his way. If Katherine had entered a convent, I am sure Henry would have happily let Mary visit her frequently. But as Katherine was also a strong women who said, “I will fight you over this, Henry.” she had to be punished for acting against him. Anne, Elizabeth I, Lady Jane Grey, and three remarkable contemporary women in my childhood were my role models. Without them I would not be the woman I am today. From them I learned to be strong and fight for myself, to stand up against those that tradition says I should have honored because they were wrong and also how to be loving, compassionate, and fair. Without these women I would have thought it right to keep silent in the face of abject evil, and women are second class to men, children must always honor parents right or wrong, and husbands own their wives and children. Unfortunately, like Jane Grey, I was raised by a mother who expected me to be perfect, to remain silent, and to do as she commanded; a slap in the face was her frequent response to the most innocent of questions or remarks – such as, “I just heard on the TV that President Kennedy was shot.” From my role models I learned a child is to be cherished and because of them I was able to love uncoditionally the children in my life that I have been blessed to help raise, having none of my own. Is Anne a role model? Only to those who need her to be. Should we have role models? Absolutely. Should we be blind to their faults? No. Even faults can teach what not to do.
    I am not an “honorary” grandmother and step-grandmother; I have blessings in my lfie that I would not have without my role models – both contemporary and those who lived long ago.

  16. Great question. I don’t think that role models are really necessary anymore. In fact, with our real problem with celebrity worship and media saturation, I think it’s pretty harmful. Women are (thankfully!) free enough and well educated enough to use their own minds and their own instincts to guide them through life. It’s dangerous to put anyone up on a pedestaI. I love reading about the life of Anne Boleyn but she was acting and reacting within an environment that was very, very different from the one I’m living in. Historically she’s a fascinating figure but as a role model? Not really possible.

  17. I dont’ see anything wrong with having a role model. Actors often talk about an older actor who inspired them; similarly writers have often been inspired to write by the authors they look up to. It’s only natural. I’m sure even GW Bernard must have been inspired by other historians to take that career path.
    Historical figures are more distant but can be admired for qualities that stand out over the centuries. I don’t see this as a harmful act.
    Celebrity worship is quite another thing, when people are admired just for being famous, rather than for any valuable qualities they have. There are far too many people today for whom this borders on obsession and the media plays to it.
    I don’t live my whole life trying to be Anne but I do admire her a great deal and would aspire to some of the qualities I see in her. Of course she was not perfect and of course I’m never likely to find myself married to an irascible despot but that doesn’t mean I can’t distinguish her good features. It’s a personal thing for each of us who admires her.

  18. @Jennifer says:
    “I do not think it is wrong at all to have historical figures as people that you look up to.”

    Quite so. Hillary Rodham Clinton used to talk to Eleanor Roosevelt in her mind as a form of therapy, and the press treated her like a ditz when this came out, as if she had been holding seances in the White House or something. I thought it was cool that a great woman like E.R. was her heroine.

  19. Pardon me for saying so, but Mr. Bernard hardly sounds as if he should be writing about historical figures. Saying that Anne isn’t a good role model because she “lived too long ago” is just laughable! I have always admired her and many other people in history, especially Elizabeth I. At some times in my life, I have even asked myself “what would Elizabeth do?” and made what I felt were some good decisions because of it.

    While some may deny the need for role models, I think that as human beings, we are naturally drawn to them, beginning with our parents when we are very young. As we grow, we sometimes find ourselves in the position of being a role model. The influence of people, whether positive or negative, all goes into the shaping of our characters. One could do a lot worse in choosing a role model than Anne Boleyn, who had many good qualities. Hopefully, those who emulate her are not blind to her faults and may even learn something from her mistakes.]

    Just my $.02!

  20. Jennifer~ I totally agree with your comment! I think the lovely and inspiring thing about Anne is that she was so unusual. She was daring and bold and unapologetic about her opinions. If one takes the Ives stance on her fate then one could even say she lost her head for her opinions and her influence. She was influential and not just because of her marriage or sexuality. She was an advocate of the Reformation and women’s learning. She embodies many 21 century qualities. I think, like many other strong women of history, we are tempted to put her into typically female roles when describing her or her character. She is sometimes the virtuous woman and sometimes the Jezbel or the home wrecker. I think these labels serve not only to incredibly limit our interpretations and understanding of her but also are reflective of our still patriarchal and dualistic society. We haven’t changed as much as we might like to think.

  21. I admire Anne Boleyn and always have done for many years, since childhood. Anne is if not my first favourite of all of King Henry VIII’s wives she is deffinately one of them. Looks like some people here are for her but also it looks like that there are some against her as well. Well we are all entitled to our own opinions and have our own say. Free speech as it is called and known.

    I mean we can all blame Anne for everything that went on as it is so easy to do so, so, so easy blaming an easy target and a minor, that is not to say that she was innocent by any means but I do not believe that she was responsible for everything that went on between the years of 1526-1536. Partially, yes fully responsible, no. Henry had a lot to do with it and everything that went on too, it was Henry who we all know wanted a divorce and it was long even before Anne came on the scene, it had been and was just Anne that gave him that oomph and that zest to do so. Had it not of been her he probably would have replaced Catherine with someone else. They both gained they both lost, they both lost they both gained. That was the chance they took though not just him but her also. Neither of them would of known the outcome of it all many years down the line. It was bad what fate and destiny had in store for both him and her, really.

    1. Certainly Henry was trying to get out of his marriage to KoA before he met Anne. Later Wolsey was trying to match Henry up with a French princess when he realised that Henry wanted to marry Anne.

      One of the things we must remember was Henry was not only an absolute monarch but also God’s appointed and annointed represenitive on Earth.

      His secular power was limitless and he made his religious power almost the same.To go against his wishes was to put your life in danger as Thomas More and Bishop Fisher discovered.

      Both Anne and Katherine were brave enough to defy both the king and convention in order to fight for themselves and thier children.And both paid the price for thier defiance. As did thier daughters in the end.

  22. My, we have gone deep and meaningful just lately haven’t we!
    For what it may be worth, I think how we admire people is largely dependent on how they play the game of life with the cards they’ve been dealt. And there’s no doubt in my mind that Anne played it brilliantly. As for her fall, there was no way she could have anticipated the manor of that fall, but she performed to the last with dignity and courage. To me, even if you don’t hold her out as a role model and/or a heroine, that’s still something to greatly admire.
    There’s been a lot of comment about Anne’s treatment of Catherine and Mary, but I think Claire’s comment above is brilliantly perceptive, particularly for those who try to define Anne’s character solely by her treatment of them. In any event, there was much more to Anne than her treatment of Catherine and Mary, and if you are one of those people who doesn’t accept that, then why are you here?

  23. Anne Boleyn is my role model absolutely. I admire her intelligence,wit, strong will, charm and courage. She was a woman of her times who wasn’t afraid to be herself. Her confidence inspires me to be confident in myself, after all, she was no raving beauty but men were drawn to her because of her qualities.
    But like any other person, she had her faults. I also find these inspiring as i strive to avoid her undesirable faults of jealously, acting in anger, and arrogance.
    I dont think we should, as G W Bernard has, dismiss her as a role model because her circumstances were too extraordinary, she was after all like any of us, an ordinary person only plunged into extraordinary circumstances.

    G W Bernard

  24. Everyone’s welcome, no matter what they think about Anne, but it does seem that we keep going around and around with the same argument! I think by blaming Anne Boleyn for what happened to Catherine and Mary then we are falling into the same trap they did in painting her as the wicked stepmother and seeing Henry as blameless and controlled by her. As I said, Mary had a sharp awakening after Anne’s death when she was threatened with physical violence if she did not do her father’s wishes and sign the oath.
    I agree with Louise, we cannot define Anne’s character by her rantings and ravings concerning Catherine and Mary, just as we cannot define Mary I by the burnings of the Protestants during her reign. I’m not defending Anne’s spiteful comments but I can understand why she said them, although she was unwise to give voice to her feelings.

  25. Anne is definitely one of my inspirations in life and I think one of the great things about her is that everything we read about her (and even things that are attributed to her like the beautiful poem ‘O Death, Rock Me Asleep’) paints a fantastic picture of someone who was a real human being (with good points and bad points like everyone else), she faced challenges in her life but through it all she kept her faith and was very courageous when she faced death. There are other remarkable women from that period, Anne Askew being one of them, and even though our lives will probably never mirror theirs, we can learn from them. Essentially, human nature has remained the same and we all face the same challenges and struggles.

  26. Wow! So much commentary–all very interesting. I would argue that we do have historical figures as role models–people of the CHristian faith certain try to emulate the life and principles expressed by Jesus, ideas that have survived for 2000 years. So that arguement doesn’t work for me. Anne is not someone I want to emulate as our life circumstances are so very different. But she came to me at an important time and I find her endlessly fascinating–seems I’m not alone 🙂

  27. Does anyone remember that Madonna in order to get where she was pulled quite a few stunts that made her moral compass not point due north? Madonna was essentially a huge b*tch. And she makes no apologies for it. Why should we expect differently of Anne? Why do we punish her for being ambitious. People regard Madonna to this day as a positive role model. She changed the face of music and was incredibly advant garde. And that is what Anne Boleyn is: advant garde. Her and her daughter changed a nation. And although everyone would like to say that they wouldnt do the things that Anne did or that they would be better people, Id bet my life that all of us would be lying. In order to affect change sometimes you have to take drastic action.

    Anne wasn’t the nicest of people. I have NO illusions about that. But yet not only do I find huge amounts of stuff to admire her for, and she is someone that if I ever have a daughter she will know all about this marvelous woman. I also feel very keenly that had I met her I would love her dearly. She had powerful feelings and emotions and was not afraid of them. She was smart. Both cunning and wise. dignified and psychotic. she could nurture one moment and then turn into Kali the destroyer the next. She was a WOMAN. A real woman. Passionate and stubborn and spirited and embodying all the good and the bad of us feminie creatures. And she fell in love and really weve all done crazy things for love. when we care for someone we cease being rational beings. her treatment of katherine and mary sucked. but none of us would do any differently. not by much anyway.
    so yeah dont feel that she is not a good role model because of her mistakes. feel she IS a good role model because of her mistakes.

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