Anne Boleyn books – My top picks

Posted By on March 29, 2021

Last week, on the Elizabeth Files, I shared my top picks for Elizabeth I books, fiction and non-fiction, so I thought I’d do the same here for Anne Boleyn books.

The non-fiction books are books that I’ve found useful and accurate, and the novels are ones that I’ve simply enjoyed as escapism, and are not necessarily accurate retellings of Anne’s story. The list isn’t exhaustive and my bookcases (or rather bookcases!) are full of books on Anne Boleyn.

Do you have favourite Anne Boleyn books? If so, please do share them in the comments section.

Anne Boleyn non-fiction

The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn

I call this the ‘Anne Boleyn Bible’ as it is so comprehensive. It covers every aspect of Anne’s life and is excellent. If you only buy one book on Anne Boleyn, buy this. It is quite heavy, but you can just dip into different sections, rather than read it cover to cover.

I disagree with Eric Ives’ view on Jane Boleyn, but his book was written before Julia Fox’s research on Jane was published, so something to bear in mind.

Blurb:
This definitive biography of Anne Boleyn establishes her as a figure of considerable importance and influence in her own right.

A full biography of Anne Boleyn, based on the latest scholarly research.
Focusses on Anne’s life and legacy and establishes Anne as a figure of considerable importance and influence in her own right.
Adulteress or innocent victim? Looks afresh at the issues at the heart of Anne’s downfall.
Pays attention to her importance as a patron of the arts, particularly in relation to Hans Holbein.
Presents evidence about Anne’s spirituality and her interest in the intellectual debates of the period.
Takes account of significant advances in knowledge in recent years.

Amazon.com link – https://amzn.to/3foeJ6k

The Fall of Anne Boleyn: A Countdown by Claire Ridgway

Yes, I know, I’m recommending my own book, but then I wouldn’t write a book I couldn’t recommend! In this book, I focus on Anne Boleyn’s final days and present the events leading up to her execution on 19th May 1536 in a day-by-day format. Writing this book really brought home to me just how fast everything happened in 1536.

Blurb:
During the spring of 1536 in Tudor England, events conspire to bring down Anne Boleyn, the Queen of England. The coup against the Queen results in the brutal executions of six innocent people – Anne Boleyn herself, her brother, and four courtiers – and the rise of a new Queen.

Drawing on sixteenth century letters, eye witness accounts and chronicles, Claire Ridgway leads the reader through the sequence of chilling events one day at a time, telling the true story of Anne Boleyn’s fall. The Fall of Anne Boleyn: A Countdown is presented in a diary format, allowing readers to dip in, look up a particular date, or read from start to finish. Special features include mini biographies of those involved, a timeline of events and full referencing.

Amazon.com link – https://amzn.to/3sDPxN2

In the Footsteps of Anne Boleyn by Sarah Morris and Natalie Grueninger

This is the perfect book for either making an itinerary of Anne Boleyn places to visit when you’re next in the UK (post-Covid!) or visiting them vicariously from the comfort of your favourite armchair.

Blurb:
Follow in the footsteps of Anne Boleyn from Hever Castle, to Richmond Palace and ultimately to the Tower of London. On the morning of 19 May 1536, a French blade stilled the heart of an English queen. Her name was Anne Boleyn and her story has made an indelible mark on history. This book will take you through stately homes, castles, chapels and artefacts with a connection to Anne. Explore Hever Castle, Anne’s childhood home where two breathtaking Books of Hours both signed and inscribed by Anne Boleyn herself are housed; visit Thornbury Castle where Henry VIII and Anne stayed during their 1535 royal progress and see the octagonal bedchamber where they slept; stand in the very room in Windsor Castle where Anne was made Marquis of Pembroke. Each location is covered by an accessible and informative narrative, which unearths the untold stories and documents the artefacts.

Accompanied by an extensive range of images, including photographs, floor plans and sketches, this book brings the sixteenth century vividly to life – and takes you on your own personal and compelling journey in the footsteps of Anne Boleyn.

Amazon.com link: https://amzn.to/3m2VFLW

The Anne Boleyn Papers by Elizabeth Norton

(Previously published as Anne Boleyn: In Her Own Words & the Words of Those Who Knew Her)
This is a very useful resource on Anne Boleyn because it contains lots of excerpts from primary sources – very useful if you don’t know where to find the sources or don’t have access to them.

Blurb:
Anne Boleyn, the second wife of Henry VIII, caused comment wherever she went. Through the chronicles, letters and dispatches written by both Anne and her contemporaries, it is possible to see her life and thoughts as she struggled to become queen of England, ultimately ending her life on the scaffold. Only through the original sources is it truly possible to evaluate the real Anne. George Wyatt’s Life of Queen Anne provided the first detailed account of the queen, based on the testimony of those that knew her. The poems of Anne’s supposed lover, Thomas Wyatt, as well as accounts such as Cavendish’s Life of Wolsey also give details of her life, as do the hostile dispatches of the Imperial Ambassador, Eustace Chapuys and the later works of the slanderous Nicholas Slander and Nicholas Harpsfield. Henry VIII’s love letters and many of Anne’s own letters survive, providing an insight into the love affair that changed England forever. The reports on Anne’s conduct in the Tower of London show the queen’s shock and despair when she realised that she was to die. Collected together for the first time, these and other sources make it possible to view the real Anne Boleyn through her own words and those of her contemporaries.

Amazon.com link – https://amzn.to/3m2J23J

Anne Boleyn Fiction

The Falcon’s Rise by Natalia Richards

What I love about this novel is that it covers Anne Boleyn’s early life. I also love its sequel The Falcon’s Flight.

Blurb:
The day before her execution, Anne Boleyn’s mind wanders back to the journey that changed her life…

Born into the Boleyn family in rural Norfolk, obscurity looms, but when Anne’s father, Thomas, moves the family to Hever Castle, in Kent, to further his own interests, the family’s fortunes take a turn for the better. Thomas secures a place for Anne’s sister, Mary, at the prestigious court of Margaret of Austria, but fate has other plans, and Anne ends up taking her place.

At thirteen, Anne yearns for adventure. However, unused to curbing her outspoken tongue and youthful curiosity, she discovers that life at Margaret’s court is not quite how she’d imagined. Experiencing love, loss, jealousy and fear, she soon realises that her future happiness lies in her own hands – and that she must shape her own destiny…

Amazon.com link – https://amzn.to/2Pfz3Ms

The Secret Diary of Anne Boleyn by Robin Maxwell

This is one of the very first Anne Boleyn novels I read, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I loved the idea of Elizabeth I learning her mother’s story from her own words, her diary. It works really well. Maxwell’s Mademoiselle Boleyn is also very good. By the way, I really don’t like the new cover!

Blurb:
One was queen for a thousand days; one for over forty years. Both were passionate, headstrong women, loved and hated by Henry VIII. Yet until the discovery of the secret diary, Anne Boleyn and her daughter, Elizabeth I, had never really met.

Anne was the second of Henry’s six wives, doomed to be beloved, betrayed, and beheaded. When Henry fell madly in love with her upon her return from an education at the lascivious French court, he was already a married man. While his passion for Anne was great enough to rock the foundation of England and of all Christendom, in the end he forsook her for another love, schemed against her, and ultimately had her sentenced to death. But unbeknownst to the king, Anne had kept a diary.

At the beginning of Elizabeth ‘s reign, it is pressed into her hands. In reading it, the young queen discovers a great deal about her much-maligned mother: Anne’s fierce determination, her hard-won knowledge about being a woman in a world ruled by despotic men, and her deep-seated love for the infant daughter taken from her shortly after her birth.

In the journal’s pages, Elizabeth finds an echo of her own dramatic life as a passionate young woman at the center of England’s powerful male establishment, and with the knowledge gained from them, makes a resolution that will change the course of history.

Amazon.com link – https://amzn.to/3ssCBJD

Murder Most Royal by Jean Plaidy

I have a collection of Jean Plaidy novels and I have to confess to loving them. They are page turners, real rip-roaring reads, and this one focuses on the two executed queens, Anne Boleyn and her cousin, Catherine Howard.

Blurb:
One powerful king. Two tragic queens.

In the court of Henry VIII, it was dangerous for a woman to catch the king’s eye. Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard were cousins. Both were beautiful women, though very different in temperament. They each learned that Henry’s passion was all-consuming–and fickle.

Sophisticated Anne Boleyn, raised in the decadent court of France, was in love with another man when King Henry claimed her as his own. Being his mistress gave her a position of power; being his queen put her life in jeopardy. Her younger cousin, Catherine Howard, was only fifteen when she was swept into the circle of King Henry. Her innocence attracted him, but a past mistake was destined to haunt her.

Painted in the rich colors of Tudor England, Murder Most Royal is a page-turning journey into the lives of two of the wives of the tempestuous Henry VIII.

Amazon.com link – https://amzn.to/39GmlNZ

Struck with the Dart of Love by Sandra Vasoli

This is book 1 in Sandra Vasoli’s “Je Anne Boleyn” series, with the sequel being Truth Endures. The attraction for me in Sandi’s work is the fact that it is meticulously researched and she strives to be as accurate as the records allow. What’s wonderful is that it’s not at the expense of the story or style. Two great novels.

Blurb:
In a love letter to Anne Boleyn, Henry VIII wrote: “It is absolutely necessary for me to obtain this answer, having been for above a whole year stricken with the dart of love, and not yet sure whether I shall fail of finding a place in your heart and affection…”, but did Anne ever feel that way about the King?
Tradition tells us that Henry pursued Anne for his mistress and that she resisted, scheming to get the crown and bewitching him with her unattainable allure. Nothing could be further from the truth.
One cold, misty grey day while hunting, Henry and Anne come face to face. It is an encounter that changes everything as Anne, too, is struck by the dart of love. He is powerful and graceful, elegant and witty, and in the King, she finds a passionate consort. But he is married – and the path to their union is fraught with hazard. Only the greatest of commitments will allow them to persevere until they might hope to be together.

The first novel from Sandra Vasoli’s Je Anne Boleyn series is a compelling memoir, narrated in a richly detailed, authentic voice, which depicts one of the most exceptional women in the history of England: Anne Boleyn. It is at once romantic, eloquent, and insightful. In Book One of this two-part series, the reader will come to know Anne as an intimate friend.

Amazon.com link – https://amzn.to/3rsI4Pr, or https://amzn.to/3u2US0r for the series.

28 thoughts on “Anne Boleyn books – My top picks”

  1. Roland H. says:

    ‘Anne Boleyn’ by Marie Louise Bruce (1972).

    Very well written, and well researched based on primary sources.

    Bruce’s view on Anne Boleyn as a person was not always complimentary, but then again, Anne was a multi-faceted individual.

  2. Christine says:

    I agree with Claire about the Eric Ives book, it’s very informative as he did carry out a lot of extensive research, so that is the book you want to dive into if you want to know anything about Anne, I love Norah Lofts biography on Anne and her historical fiction novel ‘The Concubine’, Lofts did transgress from several facts in her novel but after all, she was using authors licence to do so, in her novel Anne’s mother was dead and she had a stepmother who she affectionately called ‘Lady Bo’, and after her death she had Anne’s ladies and her old servant, who by the way was fictional, making arrangements to take her body to Aylsham in Norfolk where her Boleyn ancestors were buried, there was a myth for some years that she was taken there in the dead of night and Lofts uses this in her book, I like also Marie Louise Bruce’s book on Anne which was published in the early seventies, and recently, Amy Licence has written a brilliant biography on Anne, the other fiction novel I like is ‘Murder Most Royal’ by Jean Plaidy, which is very old, written in 1949 and that was the first book on Anne I had ever read, I did not know she had a sister who had been King Henry’s mistress, neither that she had a slight deformity on her hand, and was engaged before she became involved with Henry V111, all I had ever known about Anne up till then was she had been Henry V111’s second wife and had lost her head, Plaidy did romanticise her heroine quite a lot though, and as for Catherine Howard, Francis Dereham and Culpeper were made to look like brave dashing gallants where in reality, they were both feckless and irresponsible and Culpeper especially, showed no remorse in betraying the king about his trysts with the queen, he actually said he intended to consummate their relationship, for all we know Catherine and Culpeper could have already, and Dereham was just a braggart who acted like a lout, Lady Rochford to was cast as her husbands jealous wife and both her and Catherine’s execution speeches were embellished with Jane admitting she had falsely accused her husband of incest, and Catherine declaring she would rather die a queen, however it was still an enjoyable book and was my first foray into the glittering and dangerous court of King Henry V111, after that I read ‘Gay Lord Robert’ about the strange love affair between Elizabeth 1st and Leicester, ‘The Murder In The Tower’ i thoroughly enjoyed although these books were not about Anne, my favourite Jean Plaidy book though is ‘The Goldsmiths Wife’, although again not about Anne Boleyn i just have to mention it, it centres around the love affair between Jane Shore and Edward 1V, Jane’s real name was said to have been Elizabeth, and she became the kings lover whilst having to fend of the amorous advances of his friend Lord Hastings, the story told the sad tale of the little princes, Jane doing penance through the London streets on the orders of Richard 111, it went right up to the Battle of Bosworth and the end of the Plantagenet dynasty, finally we saw Jane’s sad death as a beggar woman on the streets of London, unrelated to Anne Boleyn I know but I just love this book and both my mum and sister loved it to, and they were not much interested in history, also I thought Weirs book ‘The Lady In The Tower’ which centres around Anne’s final weeks, from her arrest to her death was brilliant, I have not read Claire’s books on Anne but I intend to read her book on George however..

    1. Christine says:

      Oops made an error regarding Catherine Howard’s execution, Plaidy has her saying she would rather die the wife of Culpeper instead of a queen, as we know that is a myth.

    2. Kathryn Matlack says:

      I’m so thankful that, thanks to Claire, I made sure to get a copy of Eric Ives book. It really is the “Boleyn Bible” and I love it. I have four of the Claire Ridgeway Anne Boleyn books and can’t begin to recommend them enough. Elizabeth Norton’s “Anne Boleyn, Henry VIII’s Obsession” is awfully good also. Not a hagiography nor a slam but a very nice and fairly complete view of Anne’s personality and character. Norton’s book about Anna of Cleves is very good also, As far as fiction is concerned I have read “The Concubine” but it’s been so long ago that I can’t remember it at all. If Norah Lofts or Jean Plaidy wrote a historical novel I’ve probably read it. Remembering it is something else though! However, thanks to Ebay, I’ve been able to obtain a copy of “Concubine” and “Brief Gaudy Hour” by Margaret Campbell Barnes that was published in 1949 and that I hadn’t heard of. A lot of good Anneabelia out there but it does require a little digging!

      1. Christine says:

        Jean Plaidy wrote literally hundreds of books some in different pseudonyms to, her stories on Victorian England are thrilling reading, though fictional one was actually based on an real life crime, ‘It Began In Vauxhall Gardens’, fabulous book, Norah Lofts to wrote hundreds of novels historical like ‘The Concubine’ and fiction also, what I liked about them was, they did not always have a happy ending it sounds gloomy I know, but they were more life like because of that, what I like about ‘The Concubine’ is at the top of each chapter, Lofts has printed an excerpt from the records taken at the time, I still have my old copy so I think il read it again.

    3. Banditqueen says:

      Yes, Jane’s real name was Elizabeth Lambert and she was Edward iv’s mistress for a number of years. Her first husband, the Goldsmith Shore was not to benefit from her relationship with the King as their marriage was annulled in 1476. She was also the mistress of Lord Hastings and possibly Thomas Grey. She was locked up for a period of time by Richard as Protector and did penance in public. She may also have acted as a go between for Margaret Beaufort and Elizabeth Woodville although this is uncertain. She was released from prison and returned to her father’s home as she wanted to remarry Thomas Lyndom, a wealthy man who was an officer under Richard iii. He refused the marriage at first but said it could go ahead on his return to London. It did and she lived the rest of her life in comfort. Even though her second husband lost his public position under Henry vii in 1494, he was very wealthy and he left Jane a lot of money. She died in 1527, not as a begger in the street, but as a burgers wife and widow, living in wealth and comfort. The play from the 17th century jas a lot to answer for.

      1. Banditqueen says:

        Sorry that should be Thomas Lynom, the Kings Solicitor General. After he lost his post under Henry Vii he served on two Commissions of the Welsh Marches and was Clerke to Prince Arthur. When he wrote to Richard saying he wished to marry Elizabeth Shore he was dissuaded but the King had her released to her father and permitted the marriage on his return to London, despite her alleged part in the conspiracy against him. No charges of witchcraft were actually brought altogether More believed that she was suspected of this. His account is rather flowery and he couldn’t even get her name correct calling her by the imaginary name of Elizabeth Lucy.

      2. Christine says:

        Ah thanks for that bit of information regarding Jane/Elizabeth Shore, Plaidy did not always stick to the truth she tended to err somewhat, but again using authors license to do so, but she did do a lot of research into her subjects and she also used to add a note at the front of her book saying she tried to stick to the truth as much as possible, she also wrote under the pseudonym Kathleen Kellow whose books are sadly out of print, I searched on Abebooks without success, one of her books I’d love to read is ‘Rochester The Mad Earl’, I have only seen two copies available on eBay first edition about £400, the other copy is several hundred, I do not intend to pay that much and I am just hoping that it’s published again, Robert Hale used to print her hardback copies and they may still do, when I was a teenager I went to Foyles in Charing Cross and bought about four of her books I treasure them still, but I wish they would print her Kathleen Kellow books, my sister bought me one called ‘Milady Charlotte’ a story about the French Revolution, which is also published under Jean Plaidy, on eBay it’s about £350 so I’m keeping that for a little nest egg, it’s lovely to have a good book to escape into.

  3. Christine says:

    Must add I don’t t like the picture of Anne with her head falling of on the front of Robin Maxwells book – yuk!

  4. Esther says:

    Both biographies (by Eric Ives and by Marie Louise Bruce) are excellent … although I think that both Ives and Weir are dead wrong in their attempts at blaming Cromwell for Anne’s fall. After all, according to both Schofield and MacCulloch, Thomas Cromwell was extremely interested in and actively tried to provide assistance to the poor, both by his private charities and by laws that he tried to get through Parliament … so Ives’s idea that his motive for murdering Anne was due to her desire to use the proceeds from dissolved monasteries for charitable purposes makes no sense. The one person who wanted the money … and didn’t care about poor relief … was Henry, not Cromwell. IMO, both Ives and Weir fell into the same trap … letting someone else take the blame for Henry’s wrongdoing. It is understandable that the people who lived under Henry would do this (he would retaliate if they blamed him), but it is not understandable for a modern historian to do the same thing.

    1. Christine says:

      Eric Ives has researched Anne’s story for many years however, but there we go, we all have different opinions, what we do know of Thomas Cromwells character was that he was adept at getting his master out of tight spots, but he did get his nemesis in the shape of Anna from Cleves, sweet justice I call it.

      1. Esther says:

        I don’t think it is ever “sweet justice” to kill people for crimes they didn’t commit.

        Also, that Ives researched Anne’s life doesn’t mean he researched Cromwell’s — and it is Cromwell’s life that dictates what would give him a motive for murdering six innocent people. Eric Ives’s wrote an article on Anne and the Early Reformation where he discusses Skip’s sermon in great detail, pointing out that the sermon was opposing further dissolution of more monasteries — not saying that the money from the dissolutions should be used for charitable purposes..

        1. Christine says:

          Cromwell engineered the fall of a queen and five other people, they were all innocent, he therefore had the blood of six people on his hands, so I stand by what I say, I consider it sweet justice that he himself died over the disastrous marriage between the king and Anna from Cleves, he probably was innocent of the charge of treason, but because of him, six innocent people died, and their families wrecked, I make no comment regarding his policy on the money from the monasteries, I know he did do work on poor relief however , being born poor himself he no doubt wished to help his own kind when he was able to, but there was a clash of views with Anne on not only the monasteries but other things to, he was by now supporting the Seymour faction which angered her as well and when King Henry told him he wanted rid of his queen, he executed the most dastardly plot in history, he was a snake, albeit a clever snake, but a snake nonetheless.

  5. Banditqueen says:

    MaCulloch also stated that Cromwell was behind the arrest of Anne Boleyn and I quote *He was out to get the Queen. That’s in his biography of Cromwell.

    Opinion is of course divided on whether Thomas Cromwell was the instigator of the plot which brought down Anne Boleyn or whether it was Henry, both or another faction or something else and the evidence for many scholars does point to Cromwell. Even his biographer Tracy Borman thinks he was the one who was behind the fall of Anne Boleyn all the way.

    Anne and Cromwell had some things in common but their relationship changed during a very short period because of a number of differences which they had. Anne disagreed with him over the way the way money from the monasteries was used. Yes, Cromwell wanted a Bill to help the unemployed but Henry made certain it was watered down and Cromwell did a lot for hungry people in his own parish but that doesn’t mean he wouldn’t put Henry’s policies first.

    Henry’s policy was to take the land and profits of the religious houses and a big cut went into his empty treasury. However, he also allowed his courtiers to take land and to use it as they pleased. Cromwell charged them fees for this and he kept part of it. Cromwell was getting as rich as the King from the sale of monastic land and Anne wasn’t happy but he wasn’t going to reverse it as it was also the King’s policy. If Anne couldn’t shake Cromwell she later tried showing that she still had influence over the King. That was the idea of many future arguments between them. Cromwell was confident of his place with the King, until something happened which shook it and Anne had nothing to do with it.

    The 18th April 1536 was the date which ended the reign of Anne Boleyn and it was on that date that the evidence pointed to Cromwell seeing her as his enemy. Oh and it had nothing to do with an argument over finances. It was to co with his foreign policy and his new alliance with the Seymour faction and support for Princess Mary. After a disastrous interview with Henry and Chapuys during which Henry had a tantrum over the Emperor, Henry gave Cromwell a dressing down which frightened him. The next day he left Court and planned Anne’s downfall. At least that’s the theory but there’s no evidence that is what happened, except for circumstantial evidence. We have no idea what he did between 18th April and 24th April but that’s the date that the Commissions of Oyer and Terminer were set up by Lord Chancellor Thomas Audley, a close associate of Cromwell. Some historians believe Cromwell went home and put into action his plans to bring charges against the Queen, but the question is why and did Henry tell him to investigate Anne? If Cromwell now imagined Anne would stand in his way on foreign policy as she had sought to do with the religious policy, because Henry wasn’t committed to it, she might succeed and if Anne really did still hold sway, then she may turn him against his minister. Now this theory may not actually fan out but what does make sense is that at some point during those six missing days Henry became fed up with Anne and wanted a more long term way out of his marriage. Henry in fact had been doing this for months and he wanted a new wife. Something pushed him over the edge that Easter weekend and he heard rumours about Anne which worried him. Benry asked Cromwell to get rid of Anne and Cromwell went away to work out the details. Given his allegiance was now with the Seymour and Mary party for want of a name, his willingness to do Henry’s will, Cromwell saw his own chance to be rid of a very dangerous woman. Cromwell did come up with everything, although he also got Smeaton to confess and the words Anne exchanged with Henry Norris helped. He made up most of the rest. Cromwell may have been acting on the King’s initiative but he didn’t take much persuasion to go to town on this terrible deed. The buck lies with Henry but the man behind it all was Cromwell. His own letter admitted it.

  6. Banditqueen says:

    Anne Boleyn books are ten a dozen and there are a number of good ones and some I wouldn’t touch with a barge pole. To be honest Ives isn’t the best for me because its actually disorganised. However for historical evidence of course its the benchmark. Eric Ives was responsible for much myth busting and for showing why the Indictments are rubbish. He also deals with aspects of Anne’s life and reign which others don’t such as her religion and influence on arts and patronage. His close look at her Queenship in his much updated book reveals how Anne did help ordinary people and that they appreciated it. Its still one of the most scholarly studies, even if it leaves much to be desired for readability.

    Then we have more modern studies and the sources book by Elizabeth Norton and the biography by Amy Linence. Both are much more accessible and the collection of sources by Elizabeth Norton, papers, letters, histories, poetry, contemporary writing, just about everything, is a valuable asset.

    When it comes to fiction, I have probably read the lot. I am not going to argue the merits but gor me Jean Plaidy, Natalie Richards and Sarah Vasoli have done Anne the biggest service. Now a number of people will still be shouting Philippa Gregory but her books can only be taken with a huge pinch of salt and she actually does believe that Anne slept with her brother. Anne has been the fascination of the masses for decades, maybe even centuries and one of my favourite books is well over 100 years old.

    Put Anne Boleyn into any search engine and I really don’t know anyone, saving Henry Viii, who has so many blogs and websites or articles about her. Maybe its what she did, taking the place of a well established, long married, extremely popular, Queen who the King had been totally devoted to for years, that people think makes her fascinating. Maybe it was because nobody else had done this, maybe it was that she was Queen and executed, maybe it was the terrible crimes with which Anne was charged, maybe it was the number of lovers she was alleged to have or maybe it was Anne herself and her education as well as her life and achievements. Whatever draws people to her, Anne has become one of the best known and fascinating women in history. Her story has been told and retold many, many times and I never hear anyone who’s interested say they are sick of hearing about her. Occasionally someone might but they probably don’t care about history anyway. Now a new series is about to tell Anne’s story in a new and controversial story and radical depiction of her by a Black Actress. Anne, it may surprise you, has been played by a mix raced actress before in her brief appearance in Private Life of Henry Viii. However, never before has she been played by an obviously none white woman and this has caused much comment and outrage. I think that yes its controversial but its fine because the drama is not factual and race isn’t part of Anne story. Yes, ideally Anne to be correct should be played by a white woman but I understand in this day and age the need to explore history through different cultural lenses and so I have no problem with this. I admit I did at first because it was a bit of a shock but with careful consideration, I think its something worth doing and if the actress is as good as I have seen, it should be a good drama. The premise is to explore the last days of Anne Boleyn through the lens of a psychological drama. I have heard recently someone speaking about Anne and the trauma she must have experienced psychologically and to be honest this sounds very different. I will be watching it and hope its successful and well done.

    We also have the lives of the Wives explored through plays like Wolfe Hall and the Rock Opera Six. I have not seen Six thanks to Covid as we were meant to go when our tickets got cancelled but from what I know its extremely well done and you can’t get a more radical and multi cultural show than this. The beauty of such expressions of history in different ways is to make it more accessible to a generation who are often denied it at school. History is not taught in school. FACTS are taught in school, cold hard facts with very little analysis. These more diverse and radical depictions give kids access to history in a way which is fun and makes them ask questions. Even poor depictions are better than nothing because they can be challenged and a discussion opened up which might prompt people to delve deeper into the real history. So lets enjoy our historical novels for what they are and explore the history in the sources and through the many options now available.

  7. Christine says:

    I agree schools only tell you the basic facts about history, my history teacher (and she used to call me her favourite ), only told us briefly about Henry V111 and his six wives, we were told nothing about the real passion and drama of their stories, I learnt that myself by watching the BBC drama which I recently purchased, and also from reading ‘Murder Most Royal’, by now fixated I bought Norah Lofts biography of Anne, I was a member of the WH Smith book club and bought some lovely books from them, two other novels I’d highly recommend by Plaidy is her Lucretia Borgia series, ‘Madonna Of The Seven Hills’and ‘Light On Lucretia’, in these books she really did excel herself, Plaidy questioned whether Lucretia really was as evil as legend had painted her, believing that she was caught up in her suffocating controlling family, and she sought in vain to be free, yet at the same time she adored her father and brother, some say her adoration was unnatural, she fell in love and married I think it was her second husband, but her brother Caesar had him murdured out of jealousy, whether that is true I am not sure, as I havnt read any biographies of Lucretia, but her family were seen as the most powerful and evil corrupt family in 15th century Italy during her fathers reign as Pope Alexander V1.

    1. Banditqueen says:

      I already knew much of what we were doing before we did the Tudors because like you I was self taught and when I missed a year of school my home school tutor was excellent. He learnt me an excellent book by Neville Williams on The Court of Henry Viii and I loved it. I also read those thin books on the wives of Henry Viii by Jean Evans from my local sweetshop when I was 12. My dad also paid for me to collect a fantastic set of encyclopedias when I was about the same age. By the time we did the Tudors in school I was the class know it all. I started reading Jean Plaidy during my teens and I was heavily into biographies as well. I was a member of the school book club and lived in the senior library which was in the attic. I started doing research in Central library in the archives when I was 16 and my dad practically had to drag me out at 1. 30 to get to Anfield on time. Even he couldn’t believe how much time I spent there. I got on a bus once and travelled to London, just to try and get a book out of the British Library. Boy was that dumb. I didn’t know you can only see them the there. I fell in love with the history archives at Central Library and you can imagine how much photo copies I made. I was a permanent feature when I was researching. Then there was University and that was library heaven. I felt like Susie Lipscomb when she visited the Parliament rolls and she described it as a sweetie shop for historians. When the digital age arrived there was a whole world on line all of a sudden. I still have some of my post graduate access because we both worked at the University, I kept up courses for the public because you get full library access and I have an account with subscriptions to just about anything that will accept me. Papers are available now on line, many old documents and sources are available at Internet Archive and British History online. Academia has lots of papers and a number of libraries have on line access. I think I am probably a history or book addict and I was like a wet sponge soaking up knowledge as a child. I was lucky to have two very good history teachers and unlucky to have one who really didn’t have a clue. I certainly didn’t learn an awful lot about Richard iii at school, not unless it was the Shakespeare version or what we know now about Anne Boleyn, her reformers ideas and so on. Thats something I am still learning with new evidence and brilliant sites like this. Jere is where children should come to learn. I love reading as well and that helped a lot. I was basically a pain in the neck at school but it was great fun.

  8. Christine says:

    From very young I love watching tv documentaries about the Romans Vikings and the Egyptians, as well as dinosaurs and I loved archeological programmes to, the rows I used to have with my father to let me watch them, in fact I wanted to be an archaeologist and always wanted to find some buried golden or silver Roman treasure, I watched the tv series The Dectectorist’s with McKenzie Crook about some novice fortune hunters and it was really enjoyable, Diana Riggs daughter was in it as well, it was light hearted drama with a bit of comedy, like you I used to spend much of my school lunch hour in the library I loved it, when I visited stately homes I always loved the libraries the best, there is always something so calm and therapeutic about them, I love Charing Cross because is full of old dusty second hand bookshops, I could spend all day in them, after I’d read Weirs ‘The Lady In The Tower’ I emailed her to say how much I’d enjoyed it, and she emailed me back thanking me and recommending a novel she’d read when young about Katherine of Aragon, called ‘Henry’s Golden Queen’ by Loziana Prole, I often do look on her website for latest news about her upcoming books, because I do like her work, so I’d already read that she thinks it’s a marvellous novel, my mother when young had belonged to Foyle’s book club and she told me about ‘Forever Amber’, but she wasn’t into historical novels much, however she loved this one and also ‘The Goldsmiths Wife’ which I’d earlier mentioned, I was the real history buff in the family though.

  9. Banditqueen says:

    Yes, its very true that Lucretia Borgia was as much a victim as she was she wolf in the family politics and marriages. Her first two marriages ended in disaster and death for the husband, but she became a very important person through her third marriage to the Duke of Ferrara, with whom she had many children. She was also one of the best educated women of her day, possibly second only to her sister in law, Isabella de Este. Lucretia held numerous titles. She was Govenor of Spoleto in her own right, Princess of Solerno, Duchess of Ferrara, Moderna, Reggio and Lady of Pesaro, Grandara and Countess of Catingola. She ended her days in great repentance and is buried in a Convent. She was 39 when she died and yes jer second husband, Alfonso of Aragon, was most likely killed by her eldest brother, the notorious Caesare de Borgia. Her first marriage was to Giavanni Sforza who was forced to accept he was impotent in order to escape being accused of incest by the Pope and this marriage was annulled. Lucretia did however jave an illegitimate child during this period who was later absorbed into the papal family. Lucretia was an intellectual like many of the women in her family and her children carried on that tradition of high learning. Here she is well captured by Plaidy who was also self taught because she missed much schooling through illness.

    There are a couple of good factual books on Lucretia that are worth mentioning Lucretia Borgia by Maria Belonchi and Deadly Sisterhood by Leonne Frieda which covers Lucretia, Isabella de Este and several contemporary intellectual women. Both are in paperback so should not cost too much. Last year I got the reprint of the Concubine by Nora Lofts and one of my old favourites is Brief Gory Hour by Margaret Campbell Barnes. The first biography I read about Anne Boleyn was by Marie Louise Bruce which has just been issued for Kindle. The reprint of Paul Friedman two volumes masterpiece in one paperback volume a few years ago I think was revolutionary as it really is one of the first studies to actually look closely at Anne’s innocence and to deeply research her life. For a nineteenth century book ots very sympathetic, although his idea that a Northern Confederacy of nobles and supporters of Katherine of Aragon almost rising in 1534 is probably somewhat exaggerated. Yes, some of the nobles did question Henry and his policies in private and moves were afoot to sound out the potential of a rising and imperial invasion nut the fact is the nobility were far too toothless yo move against the King and Katherine didn’t want action taken which may endanger her daughter or harm her English subjects, even though she found the offer appealing. I doubt that Katherine could have acted against Henry, given her health was poor and she was now much more closely watched and her house arrest closely monitored. Friedman nonetheless explores the political landscape in interesting detail and shows how challenging Henry’s marriage really was to the status quo enjoyed by his over mighty nobles. Henry’s curbing of the power of the Church served as an example of just what the Supremacy might mean, unleashed and without legal restraint. The nobles would just have to accept Henry could more or less do as he wished or face the consequences.

    We have two really good books on the Fall of Anne Boleyn, one by Claire and the other by Alison Weir. Claire gives us a almost day to day countdown of Anne’s Fall. Alison presents us with a more general and intimate and emotional fall of Anne Boleyn. Both lead us via the personal trauma Anne feels from the days just before her arrest to moments afterwards. I recommend them both.

  10. Christine says:

    Ha ha you wrote Brief Gory Hour Bq, that did make me laugh, mind you there was quite a lot of gore in Anne’s story, a few years ago I purchased the two original volumes by Friedman on Anne paid about £100 for them, I treasure them because they are so old, Henry did view Katherine as a very real threat although as the years passed and the threat of invasion lessened somewhat, he was still overjoyed when she died, declaring now we are free from the threat of war, of course for Anne it meant she was the one true queen, no shadowy one lurking in the background, Friedman described Anne as not a good woman, he was after all a Victorian with Victorian views, the idea that women were not people in their own right, and Annes ambition and audacity did not fit in with the ideal of the time as a proper well behaved miss, and Katherine as violent in her thinking and rigid views, but I believe he had sympathy for both women, talking about the fiction novels on Anne, iv tried a few and found them quite laughable, like you I find the old authors the best, for pure fiction I don’t think you can beat Du Maurier’s Rebecca now that really is a classic.

  11. Banditqueen says:

    Absolutely you cannot beat Rebecca, the original dark romance. Daphne de Maurier came from a wild part of Cornwall and you can imagine she saw everyone and everything in her novels. Smuggling, pirates, highwayman, wrecks, storms, old bleak houses on cliff tops, wild winds and the old trades in the village, the bays, the cliff top pathways, the beautiful painted quaint houses in the villages which look as if they are frozen in time, the ships, the fishing boats, everything you might lift out of Poldark including the tin mines and put them straight into her wonderful books and movies. They really are classics.

    I recently started to read the Anne Boleyn book by Joanna Denny and although she really does have sympathy for Anne as a victim, she does have something against poor Katherine, accusing her of lying to do anything, even about jer virginity. She was speaking of the somewhat inappropriate relationship that she was rumored to have with her first Confessor. It was true that Katherine had a close relationship with her Spanish Confessor but there was no evidence of anything inappropriate. Katherine was a young lady and she was very intense and she was devoted that’s all. However, this Confessor was a bit of a naughty boy apparently and was dismissed by Henry Viii after a few years because he was chasing the ladies of the Court. Katherine was very upset but she didn’t believe the rumours and there is no way we can know the truth, he was accused of something and had to go. There was no evidence that Katharine had a relationship with this Confessor or hid anything about him, she simply didn’t know. Denny makes out that Katharine knew and her relationship was not that of supplicant and priest but was closer than that. Denny is very outspoken about Katharine and her devotion as a Catholic Queen and she definitely thinks Katharine was manipulative. Its only a small part of what is still a decent book, but I really don’t understand why some authors have to attack one character in order to show sympathy for another. There were rumours about Katharine and her concessor but that’s all they ever were. There is no way Katharine lied about her virginity anymore than Anne lied about her innocence. Neither did she lie about her first pregnancy she was told that she was carrying twins and still pregnant. Both Henry and Katharine wrote to King Ferdinand about a second pregnancy as if Katharine were just pregnant because he wanted to protect his wife. That’s what a good husband does. Henry knew what had happened so why blame Katharine? Henry knew Katharine was a maid at the time of their marriage because she challenged him in the Blackfriars Court and he said nothing. This was called public honesty and Katharine was honest in that at least. I think Denny just doesn’t like Katharine and her really over the top sympathy for Anne has prevented her from being impartial as a historian.

  12. Christine says:

    Yes in Giles Tremlett’s book on Anne he wrote how there was certain gossip about Katherine and her confessor, obviously fuelled by the fact she spent so much time with him, but she was very devout and did pray a lot, she used to rise around midnight to pray and then at six in the morning, it was a close friendship she had with him nothing more, and he was Spanish like her after all, maybe she found him a welcome solace when she could escape the busy court and spend some hours with him talking of their homeland and in Spanish to, the fact he was a rake does not mean Katherine was easily seduced into bed by him, besides Katherine was very much in love with her husband and I cannot understand Denny’s reasoning, I have never wanted to read her biography on Anne, because I remember when it hit the bookshelves the mails book critic savaged it quite a bit, Denny was too pro Anne and was quite sarcastic about Katherine and her Catholic faith, she seemed to want to paint Katherine as the bad person and I have no time for historians who do that, Katherine was the wronged person in the sorry mess that Henry wove, as for lying about her sleeping with Arthur, I for one would not blame her if she did, she was fighting to save her marriage and her daughters birthright, if Henry could play dirty, so could she, but I do not believe she lied, I really think she was speaking the truth when she said she and Arthur had never consummated their marriage, years later in the hall at Blackfriars when she kneeled at his feet, she told him in front of everyone that she was a virgin on their wedding night, she knew only Henry could know that and she was daring him to deny it, he said nothing but just looked straight ahead, Henry whilst having been married to Katherine for over two decades totally misjudged her strength of character, getting back to Rebecca that is the original weepy, the young wife whose name we never know, is haunted by the memory of her enigmatic handsome husbands first wife, there have been several series over the years, but to me none of them captured the suspense of the novel as much as Hitchcock’s movie, the sinister Mrs Danvers and the torment of the young wife as she struggled to step into the shoes of the beautiful and alluring Rebecca, her other novel she wrote I loved is ‘My Cousin Rachel’, suspected of being the murderer of her husband by his young cousin, he ends up falling in love with her himself, and never discovers whether she did kill him or not, because of her untimely death, another weepy, another book I loved which I read years ago is ‘Sara Dane’ by Catherine Gaskin, another pseudonym of Jean Plaidy’s, a wonderful book which is based on the story of Mary Riley one of the first settlers of Australia, highly recommended.

    1. Banditqueen says:

      One of the reasons Katharine may have confided in her Confessor so much, apart from the obvious that is, was because after Arthur died she was left alone and was in limbo, neither widow or wife, neither betrothed or free and she was a pawn for King Henry Vii to play with. He refused to allow her to go home, he wanted her dowry and she was caught up in a tug of war between her own father and the English King. Fra Diago was a man trusted by her mother and her spiritual director since she was a young girl. His reputation as a scholar and his knowledge of the teachings of the Church was well known but unfortunately he was also lax in morals. However, he was one of the few companions Katharine had still from home and she sought his advice when she was home sick or worried about her future. It was because of his guidance that they became close, but it didn’t cross any forbidden boundaries. But of course people have to gossip about something.

      Yes, I put Brief Gordy Hour when it should be Brief Gaudy Hour. I love all of Margaret Campbell Barnes books, they are very well written.

      1. Christine says:

        I bought Brief Gaudy Hour second hand and I could not get into it for some reason, I gave it away, I then bought Mary Of Carisbrook about the civil war but that was a bit too warified if you see what I mean, however I think I would love her other historical novels so might give them a go one day, The White Witch by Elizabeth Goudge is a great book with elements of the mystique about it, there are gypsies thrown in as well, the Famished Land by Elizabeth Byrd another great book about the potato famine in Ireland, in my local market there used to be a bookstall where you could buy secondhand books for about 50p, it always had people browsing through because books after all are dear, then the stall went which was a shame, in Muswell Hill there’s an oxfam bookshop which is great and through working in charity shops Iv been able to purchase lots of lovely old books, I like to collect children’s books especially Enid Blyton, and so does my friend, so I was able to get some for her, some have colour illustrations which are delightful, last year someone donated a Rupert annual from 1961, we could not sell it because without going into detail it wasn’t very pc! So I promptly bought it, in fact quite a few things donated weren’t very pc at all, including an old fashioned shop sign advertising Robertson’s jam with the golly symbol, we had to get rid of that, a shame because all children in Britain grew up with the golly brooches and collected them, my sister and I did, wish I’d kept them now because they might be worth something oh well!

  13. Banditqueen says:

    I am not a big fan of all this PC nonsense. Yes I appreciate some things are considered out now because of racist connections but they are cultural objects and should be treated for education purposes. A golly sign or badge still makes considerable amounts of money so if you get another one pass them on to a famous auction house as they can still sell them to collectors. My mum by law had a Gollie Band, that was a special presentation for collection of jam jars of all the figures on a special band. She still had it when she died and we didn’t know what to do so one of us kept it, but then they needed money so we sold it at a special auction in London for collectors and made an absolute fortune. We gave half of it to charity. If you ever get anything like that Christie or somewhere will sell it for you and because its a charity they don’t charge the commission. There are collectors everywhere and they don’t care about the content just the condition. I still watch Brazil Faulty and in fact downloaded the episodes to keep last year when Gold threatened to take them off. Yes, they are racist and sexist but they are making fun of people who are like that, not agreeing with them. People can’t tell the difference between something which is highlighting the wrongs of the past and something which is definitely racist. The statues of ex slave owners are not acceptable but a notice should be put up telling the full story, not just letting them fall victim to random destruction. I don’t consider many older biological works PC or correct because they repeatedly used out of date sources or later nonsense and not more scholarly analysis as we do today but they are what they are and I gave up being offended years ago. This doesn’t mean I will not criticise them but with why they are wrong. The Victorians had their own ideas and influences from them lasted years. I criticise Denny for the same reason. Her information is somewhat biased because its sources are biased. Her information on Thomas More has long been shown to be wrong by Guy and others and from later biased sources. Therefore her biography is biased. However, its still useful and there is a lot of good scholarship on Anne herself and very good personal information not used in some other biological works. There are better works including Ives which I recommend for content and scholarship but it isn’t the best organised book.

    Amy Linence has done two excellent biographies of Catherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn over the last few years and Lisa Hampston wrote Anne Boleyn in London based on those whose lives she connected with as a new biography. Natalie Richards The Falcon Rises is a fantastic new novel as is the follow up. I can’t wait for our book shops to open again in the next couple of weeks and Oxfam I think is open this weekend.

    I have been very busy with lots of talks on zoom or everbite by different historians and local history groups all over the place from Glasgow museums to the Guildhall in London.. I pick them up on Twitter and then you end up with links everywhere. I follow a number of historians who have done a series of talks online and its been great fun. I have joined three societies since January, goodness knows why but they run events all the time and have lots going on online. So I am now a member of Heritage Lincolnshire. The Mortimer Society and Karmos women. The Riii Society put all of its talks online and of course Matthew Lewis and Nathan Amin have been doing a number of talks. I keep as much as possible up to date with the videos from Claire but I am two weeks behind as they are done weekly now. I am a regular visitor here. I am gabbling up history at home like a machine and to be honest I am hoping some talks stay on zoom after lockdown. Well now we can go out more so that’s good. I am hoping my reading group opens up again and belly dancing as I miss them. I try to stay active with walking but am exhausted the next day. Now we have the extra daylight I can at least go to the local shop later in the evening or to the park once its quiet. Its not as if there isn’t green space ten minutes away. I have been quite tired today but I am also recovering from a couple of health issues so that’s probably why. I had a zoom yesterday on London and Magna Carta and another very long one because of some technical issues on Medieval Women, Wardships and Marriage. It was the last in a series for Women’s History Month. I have the books by three of the ladies giving the talks by coincidence so its been very interesting seeing them on zoom and interactive with them. This has been my social outlook to be honest which for someone with mental and physical problems is a real necessity. I am going for a short walk now so bye.

    1. Banditqueen says:

      The book Anne Boleyn by Lisa Hampston should say Lisa Chapman. The book is only on the pile at the side of me. It should be easy to remember.

      You are perfectly correct about Henry’s tactics during the divorce from Katharine of Aragon. At first because he believed the decision would be quick and Katharine agree he pursued everything in an orderly manner but as things dragged on, with Katharine refusing to budge, the case going to Rome and the Emperor playing a dirty political game which left Rome sacked and the Pope in custody, Henry became more desperate and he did allow his lawyers to pursue a libel campaign, although I don’t think this scandal was one of the things he raised. He did allow it to be said that Katharine was haughty, that she was proud and gave herself airs and graces, that she was too popular and too powerful and used that against the King, that she hated the King and was using the people against him, that she plotted with the Emperor and so on. Some of these accusations were made by those Henry recommended as her own lawyers and she soon changed them and dismissed this stuff as nonsense. It was the beginning of a war of words between Henry and Katharine and both of them used dirty tactics, especially once the case was ended at Blackfriars. Henry used a number of back door attempts to force the Pope to move more quickly and Katharine counter moved, resulting in rebukes against Henry. Catherine Fletcher in her work from the point of view of our agents in Rome gives fascinating insight into the longest divorce in history.

  14. Christine says:

    To shame his wife like that was not worthy of Henry V111, it did not show him in a very good light, and did nothing for his character, and it’s strange when we know that he used this smear campaign against Anne, she also according to the charges plotted to kill him with her lovers, but as we have seen as the years rolled by and there was still no sign of a divorce, his wife and child in open rebellion against him, the affection and respect he had once had for her descended into a burning resentment and dislike, encouraged by Anne his hot tempered and frustrated mistress and her faction, The Kings Great Matter certainly was the talk of Europe and made the pope in Rome the most put open in her history.

  15. Banditqueen says:

    The gossip must have been ripe. Its a good thing they didn’t have Twitter. They had pamphlets of course and people in the inns must have really talked. No wonder there was a new Treason Act which virtually made talking about the King, his wife and heirs in the wrong way treason. Goodness knows what the grapevine was saying. Henry really must have been the laughing stock of Europe. Katharine had a big advantage, her nephew was the Holy Roman Emperor and he was at war with Italy. Clement did nothing for six years because Clement couldn’t do anything. The Emperor had him as his prisoner for a time and his armies were never too far away. Rome had been sacked for three days in 1527 by Charles V Lutheran mercenaries and horrible atrocities committed. It was a warning.

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