Anne Boleyn books – My top picks

Mar29,2021 #Anne Boleyn books

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.

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. link –

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.

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. link –

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.

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. link:

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.

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. link –

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.

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… link –

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!

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. link –

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.

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. link –

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.

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. link –, or for the series.

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