Anne Boleyn book, movie and documentary recommendations

Posted By on September 25, 2017

Thank you so much to those of you who participated in the Anne Boleyn Files recent survey on Anne Boleyn books, movies and documentaries, I really appreciate your feedback.

If you don’t know what I’m talking about, let me explain. Just over a month ago, I asked Anne Boleyn Files followers to share their recommendations for books, TV series and movies on Anne Boleyn. It’s always good to hear what others have found useful and enjoyed, especially if you’ve just become interested in Anne Boleyn.

So, without further ado, here’s a list compiled from the answers to the survey. I’ve added in links to Amazon.com (just click on the title), but you can also find these books on the other Amazon sites and through other book retailers.

Anne Boleyn non-fiction book recommendations

Biographies and non-fiction books related to Anne Boleyn:

Anne Boleyn fiction recommendations

Anne Boleyn novels or fiction featuring Anne Boleyn:

Documentaries on Anne Boleyn or Henry VIII’s six wives

Movies and TV series that Anne Boleyn Files followers feel depict Anne Boleyn the best

Have we missed your favourites? Do share your recommendations in the comments below.

30 thoughts on “Anne Boleyn book, movie and documentary recommendations”

  1. CB says:

    Eric Ives’ biography is exhaustively researched and Susan Bordo’s book is very different, it’s a fabulous read. Retha Warnicke’s book is controversial and is dry in places, but it is also fascinating. Many of Warnicke’s theories stand alone and have not been taken up by other historians. Similarly with G. W. Bernard.

    The Lady in the Tower by Jean Plaidy is a beautifully written account. I tend to prefer older novels about Anne as I feel they capture her personality more accurately and portray her in a more complex way than modern bodice rippers do.

  2. How lovely! So excited to see Dear Heart, How Like You This? in the list! That’s one out of two of my Anne Boleyn novels! Hopefully, The Light in the Labyrinth will make the list next time!

    1. Nan says:

      I can’t believe LitL wasn’t on the list! It’s my personal favorite.

      1. Claire says:

        The list was based on the books listed by those participating in the survey and I listed every single one mentioned. But feel free to mention others here in the comments.

        1. Nan says:

          I’m sorry I missed the survey, Wendy, or I would have definitely added it!

  3. Beth says:

    I am surprised The Tudors and The Other Boleyn Girl are on the list, as they depict the Boleyns as ‘pimping out’ Anne and Mary, and Thomas and George only receiving their positions based on that instead of, oh, I don’t know, their proven intelligence and job competence. The portrayals are very inaccurate and completely misunderstand the context.

    1. Claire says:

      I wouldn’t personally put them on my list of recommendations as I completely agree with you, but this was based on the results of the survey and those two were mentioned quite a few times.

  4. Roland H. says:

    It’s good to see Marie Louise Bruce’s ‘Anne Boleyn’ on the list.

    I wish it were still in print so others can discover this excellent biography for themselves.

    1. Claire says:

      I like that one too.

  5. Christine says:

    I would love to read that book iv heard many say it’s their favourite biography.

  6. Banditqueen says:

    Marie Louise Bruce was the first book I read on Anne Boleyn, many years ago and I was hooked ever since. I am glad to see a wide range of video and documentary and literature on Anne Boleyn and the Tudors. It doesn’t matter if some are controversial or inaccurate, they represent the experiences of a wide audience and they show how different interpretations of Anne have been used to explore the questions and ideas authors and historians have asked across the decades. In opera we have the deep anguish Anne feels as she feels betrayed by her friends and her husband neglects her for his favourite mistress. She is tempted to sleep with another to get a son, but we are left wondering if anything happens or not. Anne is in real despair and her trial and pleading with Henry is heart wrenching. The Tudors and Philippa Gregory may have controversial takes on the history but they also interpret how things may have been at the time. For example, Gregory believed Anne and George slept together and that was how things were for them at the time. There is much which is not accurate in either but they do make the point that women, all women, high and low were subject to male rule and strict rules of decency and morality. Anne has flaws in both, especially mean girl Anne, but the Tudors did at least in season two show Anne’s interest in reform and social change, things barely touched on before this. These and the overly ridiculous Private Life of Henry Viii are examples of popular culture and are part of the rich legacy of Anne, Henry and their age and are good drama. I think the biographical list is rich and the fictional list could almost represent the evolutionary way we have come to understand Anne in different and various lights. Unfortunately some later novels are not as rich in their literature as classics from Jean Plaidy and Margaret Campbell Barnes but in Wendy Dunn and Sarah Morris we are on the right track again. I love the rich eclectic mix of choices and there are even a few here I haven’t seen/read so thanks.

    1. Christine says:

      Hi Bqueen, iv read quite a few of Miss.Plaidys books and the first one I read was ‘Murder Most Royal’, about Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard, I read it when I was about fifteen I think, thoroughly enjoyed it and bought more of her novels, her earliest books I found were just as good as she had a passion for her subject, but over the years she wrote so many, and they were all about our monarchs that I felt in the end they all sounded much the same, the passion she injected in her earlier novels I thought were missing from the ones she wrote before she died quite tragically, somewhere at sea, two of my favourite novels are ‘Katherine’ and ‘Avalon’ by Anya Seton, a great historical novelist, ‘Avalon’ is woven around the fictional story of Rumon a French wanderer who arrives at the English court and falls for the lethally seductive Queen Alfrida who allegedly poisoned her stepson so her own hopeless son could take the crown, known to history as ‘Ethelread The Unready’, ‘Katherine’ the love affair between John Of Gaunt and his mistress Katherine Swynford, the ancestors of the Tudors, you possibly have read these books anyway, what I find disappointing is Seton never wrote a novel about Henry V111 and his wives, as I’m sure they would have been highly enjoyable, but she must have had no interest in them, those earlier novels were not full of sex either unlike the ones today, romance yes and a bit of passion but not torrid scenes which I feel are quite unesassary, it’s as if the author has to put them in to make the story more interesting, but we have our imaginations for that!.

      1. Banditqueen says:

        I love Jean Plaidy and I think I began reading her novels about thirteen or fourteen and still have them all. I have read Katherine as well and loved it. The novels of back then were rich and led you into their world, but many today are very shallow. I love fictionalized history but I can read a modern one in an hour, they are so unchallenging.

        1. CB says:

          I think C. J. Sansom’s novels are wonderfully written. At times, they are a bit anachronistic (I don’t think “papist” was an insult in Henry VIII’s England the way it was in Elizabeth’s reign) but they are fast-paced and gripping, while still being largely historically accurate.

        2. Christine says:

          Did you ever read the Lucretia Borgia series, I thought they were wonderful?.

  7. Nan says:

    Has anyone read Tarnish or Brazen by Katherine Longshore? They sound interesting; I’m just wondering if they have any recommenders.

  8. Scarlet says:

    what always bothers me about the various Anne Boleyn portrayals in film and tv is they always have her speaking with a modern english accent she was very frenchified and probably spoke english occasionally but no one wouldve taken her for an english woman and too many of the recent anne’s have had blue eyes love Natalie Dormer but why didnt they have her wear dark contacts ? Anne’s eyes were Dark and beautiful

    1. Christine says:

      Yes we all have in our minds eye our own interpretation of Anne and a blue eyed girl is not one of them, Dormer speaking afterwards said how they wanted her to stay blonde as they wanted a more modern Anne, but she persuaded them she had to be the typical Anne of legend, a sultry brunette, but I thought also that her eyes ruined it, great actress but she could have worn brown contacts to appear more realistic, as for her accent it’s probably quite difficult to find an actress with a French accent to play her but I thought Charlotte Rampling fitted the bill, though English she lives in France and married a French man she has that lilt to the tongue very attractive, there was something exotic about her which I loved.

    2. Claire says:

      Yes, like Michael and Christine it’s why I loved Genevieve Bujold playing her. The Tudors series was also going to have Natalie Dormer play Anne with her natural colour of blonde hair but she dyed her hair brown without telling them, which I think was a good move on her part.
      Anne may well have had a French accent, although we don’t know how she sounded for sure, but I don’t think having actors and actresses playing the parts with accents and words of the time would work for today’s audiences. I’m not sure what a French accent of the time sounded like but English in the Tudor era was very different from today. If you watch the videos by David and Ben Crystal about original pronunciation and how people of the time would have sounded the you realise just how strange it would be for us today – https://youtu.be/gPlpphT7n9s.
      I always find it jarring when a historical novelist tries to have characters ‘talking Tudor’. I think it’s good to avoid modern words, but having them use Tudor phrases all the time gets a little silly.

      1. Christine says:

        Yes one author Emily Purdy wrote ‘The Tudor Wife,’ a novel about Lady Rochford and her relationship with her husband George Boleyn and Anne, it was ridiculous the author kept using the phrases verily and forsooth, it really put me of.

        1. Claire says:

          It just gets too much, doesn’t it?

      2. Christine says:

        Just watched the David and Ben Crystal video, absolutely fascinating, I had no idea English was pronounced differently in those days, the way they pronounced the words made them sound like they had a West Country accent.

        1. CB says:

          That’s why I like Jean Plaidy’s books. I feel she gets the balance right. The Lady in the Tower was one of the first novels I read about Anne and even today, I still rank it as one of my favourites.

        2. Claire says:

          They sound like pirates, don’t they? It makes much more sense of Shakespeare with his puns. I’d love to go and see a production in OP.

      3. Banditqueen says:

        I agree, you need to try to be authentic, but unless you are an expert on Tudor English and use of language, ordinary English is probably best, especially as the majority of readers won’t know what they are on about. Some modern phases are out of place but too much Tudor speak I agree is silly. I know we often criticise American authors for their use of words which Brits call too American but in fact some parts of the American language originated as old English and is closer to how people spoke a few hundred years ago. I agree, also that if possible an actor or actress should look as close to a person as possible. Natalie Dormer wasn’t at all happy about the way Anne was a flirty temptress in Season One and persuaded the production team to make Anne more positive and based on better historical research, including her role in the political and social changes of the period. She did a good job of making Anne more authentic in Season Two.

        1. Christine says:

          It was good the way they showed Anne as being the deeply pious woman she was and how strict she ruled her household, also her very real interest in reform, she was shown with Tyndals book in her apartments and instructing her women and men to read it, that was authentic but what I didn’t like was the way Thomas her father was portrayed as pushing Anne towards the King, he more or less told her to jump into bed with him and she was all to willing, whearas the reality was she did her best to keep out of his way after he showed his interest in her, and Thomas himself was not all that happy about both his girls involvement with the King, I think all the Boleyns except with the exception of Mary were quite prudish, Anne certainly acted prudish with Wyatt and the King, she loved to flirt but it appears she preferred not to go all the way, the excitement lay in the unfulfilled, with Henry Percy we have no idea if she slept with him but I doubt it, there was the danger of falling pregnant which could easily ruin a girls chances in the marriage market, even though the young couple wished to marry I think she was quite content to wait till the wedding night, there was rumours about her mother who in her youth had been a very pretty woman and was said to have initiated the young Prince Henry in the arts of love, yet now many historians believe she has been confused with Elizabeth Blount who was his mistress for some years, Anne was devastated when her and Percy were forced to part and wether she actually had loved him we don’t know, but she was reluctant to engage in an affair with the King, and her enemies forgot that, she was in a sense hounded by him till she, maybe weary by the futility of it all agreed to marry him, and his proposal must have come as a very real shock, she had not sought to take him from his wife she had tried to evade his unwanted attentions whenever possible, yet many people and indeed some writers today think she coerced him into promising marriage to her by dangling her virtue as a bait, yet why should she think he would offer her marriage? In the beginning she hoped he would weary of the chase and leave her alone, maybe finding another woman more willing, she knew he was besotted with her by the passionate letters he wrote her and he pledged himself to her alone, if only she would be his mistress, yet no English King in history had ever deserted his wife to marry his mistress, why should she be any different, yet shockingly Henry decided to do just that, Henry had grown apart from Katherine and was trying to wriggle out of the marriage anyway, all his sons had died and he did not love her anymore though he had deep respect and affection for her, Anne was the catalyst that pushed him into severing himself from her, when he feel so heavily in love for her he was determined to cut the ties from his first wife and Anne promised a bright new future with her young fertile body, her mother had been pregnant every year although some of her babies had died, but her family therefore had proof of fertility, his determination to marry Anne put a slur on her name as a wicked woman who wrecked a happy marriage but the truth was it had been dead for many years.

  9. Michael Wright says:

    That’s what I love about Genevieve Bujold in “Anne of the Thousand Days”. She’s French Canadian and dark eyed. My favorite portayal

  10. Michael Wright says:

    I just watched the video and I find it very interesting. I live in the N.W. United States where we claim to have no accent but we do notice that New England and Southern accents are quite prominent. A Shakespearean accent really does sound quite American. Understandable since many people from England with different accents started settling the Eastern shore of North America centuries ago.

  11. rosalie says:

    1st – Claire, do your audience read all these later posts? have you a system of finding out? because I enjoy browsing them and it would be interesting to know of the interest in them.
    my books not on the list : Graven with Diamonds – a discussion of henry VIII court and the meaning of the thomas wyatt, etc. courtly poems.
    Also – Paul Friedmann 2 part Anne Boleyn (1882).
    finally – old english speech – the Plymouth Plantation in the USA is a recreation of the original, and the “mayflower” is docked at Plymouth harbour. and all the ship board and plantation peole speak the 1620 dialect. it is very different and as your other contributors say – it sounds south west England – Cornwall.

    1. Claire says:

      Yes, they do and I often share posts from the archives too. Yes, I have site statistics. People land on all kinds of different posts because of Google, it’s interesting.
      Thank you for those book recommendations.

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