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Anne Boleyn: Fatal Attractions by G W Bernard – Two New Reviews

Posted By on March 30, 2011

I reviewed historian G W Bernard’s “Anne Boleyn: Fatal Attractions” when it first came out last year – click here to read my review – so I was interested to read two new reviews of it, one by my friend Gareth Russell over at his blog “Confessions of a Ci-Devant” and another by Susan Walters Schmid in “History Review”.

Gareth Russell’s Thoughts

You can read Gareth’s review for yourself in his post Fatal Delusions, but although Gareth does highlight the positives about this book, he criticises Bernard for

  • His “clumsy” attempt at arguing Anne Boleyn’s guilt.
  • The errors in his book – Anne’s execution date, Thomas Boleyn’s title, Charles V’s relationship to Catherine of Aragon), and the confusion between Anne Boleyn’s mother and her aunt.
  • His heavy reliance on the poem by Lancelot de Carles to prove Anne’s possible guilt.
  • His conclusion in which he likens today’s fascination with Anne Boleyn to people being obsessed with a celebrity.
  • The Anne Boleyn who emerges from Bernard’s book – Gareth writes “Despite the glib subtitle he or his editor chose for this biography, it is not clear that G.W. Bernard can understand that there was ever anything particularly attractive about Anne Boleyn. The Anne who emerges from Bernard’s narrative is a vapid, self-centred idiot, either too stupid or too reckless to have exerted any kind of political or religious influence. There is nothing special or remarkable about her beyond her physical beauty, certainly nothing to justify the fascination with her during her lifetime, much less in the five centuries since. And yet, it is this very fascination which poses the ultimate question of Bernard’s Boleyn: if she really was as unremarkable as he suggests, then what was all the fuss about?”
  • “Bernard’s attempts to make the facts fit his theory, rather than vice-versa, and to prove that his controversial theory concerning Anne’s downfall is worthy of the same academic consideration as those it is challenging.”

Susan Walters Schmid’s Thoughts

In “History Review” Issue 69 March 2011, Dr Susan Walters Schmid, an American independent scholar and freelance editor, has written a comprehensive review of G W Bernard’s book. It is an excellent article and is more than just a review, it is also a rundown of Anne Boleyn’s life, so try to get your hands on a copy.

Schmid’s main criticism is Bernard’s inability to take into account bias in sources, his “eclectic speculations and his apparent confusion” regarding the poem written by Lancelot de Carles and his heavy reliance on that poem, which is a summary of Anne Boleyn’s life and death. Schmid writes:-

“Early in Fatal Attractions Bernard refers to Carle as Anne’s ‘biographer’ and he often frames quotations from the poem in a way that lends authority to it, and to Carle himself, that arguably neither has.”

Schmid points out that Lancelot de Carles, secretary to the French ambassador to England, intended the poem only to be read by one person, the French ambassador, and:-

“he makes clear at the outset that he is repeating what he has heard from a variety of sources during the time he has been in England, but he does not name his sources, address the truth of his information, correct a number of factual errors he could have checked, or claimed to have witnessed any of the events he recounts. These circumstances combine to make it reasonable to question the reliability of the poem’s content, making it surely unwise to give this source too much credibility, especially without a greater understanding of the poem and its author.”

Schmid goes on to point out that although there are thirteen extant copies of the poem in existence, two printed ones and eleven manuscripts, “except for the two printed copies, which are identical to each other, none is identical to any of the others” and “there is no documentary evidence to suggest that any of them is Carle’s original”. Also, the published version did not appear until 1545 and we do not know that de Carles approved it. Bernard uses the version chosen by George Ascoli, the French literary scholar, in 1920 as the one he thought to be closest to the original but Schmid says that Bernard makes a mistake when he describes this version as an edited copy of the printed version and that it is actually “a verbatim transcript of the manuscript version in the Bibliothèque Nationale” and he does not address the fact that editing and translation can “affect the accuracy and usefulness of the poem as a source.”

Schmid concludes that those interested in Anne Boleyn should familiarise themselves with Bernard’s arguments “if only to understand their weak points” and that he “disappoints by not demonstrating a thorough knowledge of the context of the poem and thus sound reasons why we should believe it as evidence.” Bernard uses the poem to corroborate his theory that the Countess of Worcester was the woman who provided evidence of Anne Boleyn’s adultery, yet de Carles does not name the woman and, more importantly, “he is only repeating what he has heard from unnamed others.” In other words, the poem is just gossip which cannot be relied on as evidence.

Conclusion

I completely agree with Gareth and Schmid regarding Bernard’s reliance on the poem written by Lancelot de Carles. As Schmid points out in her article, “the historian of Anne Boleyn must draw from a complex body of information” and not rely on one source or have a narrow perspective. Bernard’s book is great in that it offers a fresh perspective but I find it frustrating in its narrow view of Anne Boleyn.

I’d also like to mention a few points that jumped out at me:-

  • Bernard’s use of labels – As I said in my review of the book, I, like Eric Ives, believe that it is far too early in the English Reformation to label English people as “Protestant”, “Lutheran” or “Evangelical”. G W Bernard seems to want to label and pigeon-hole Anne and just because she doesn’t clearly fit the label of “Lutheran”, he makes out that she was actually a conservative Catholic and that her religious position was based on “self-interest and ambition”, not a personal faith. No! Anne Boleyn clearly had reformed views, although still within the Catholic faith at this time, and, as Eric Ives points out, “It is, indeed, hard to deny Anne a personal faith. Apart from the Bible in which, significantly, we know she had an interest in Paul’s epistles, the works she read and collected are certainly redolent of a Christianity of commitment and not of routine observance.”
  • George Boleyn – Poor George! Although Bernard doesn’t portray him as a rapist, wife-beater or libertine, he concludes that George was “so committed a gamer and sportsman” that he would not have had time to translate the religious manuscripts that other historians believe he did for Anne and that “Rochford’s interests were more those of a courtier-nobleman than of a scholar”. I don’t really see why George couldn’t be a courtier and a scholar, other people managed it!
  • Bernard’s view that Anne was simply following Henry’s lead as far as religion was concerned – No, she was passionate about her faith and I believe that she was far more reformed in outlook than her husband whose Church of England was really to be the Catholic Church with him as its head, rather than the Pope, at that time anyway.
  • Bernard’s ‘dig’ at Anne Boleyn websites, the fascination we have with Anne and the women who see Anne Boleyn as a role model – I’m not quite sure why he felt the need to mention this at all and I can see no harm in being fascinated by an historical figure or admiring one. If nobody was interested in Anne then his book really wouldn’t sell!

Anyway, I do believe that G W Bernard’s book is worth a read and I would recommend it as I think it is important to take on board all views of Anne Boleyn, but I would say that the best book for those studying Anne Boleyn’s life and downfall is The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn by Eric Ives as that covers all aspects of her life, her rise, her downfall and death.

Sources

26 thoughts on “Anne Boleyn: Fatal Attractions by G W Bernard – Two New Reviews”

  1. Thank you very much for the link and Dr. Schmids article was excellent!

    1. Claire says:

      That’s ok, I’m happy to link to such a great article! Yes, I really enjoyed Dr Schmid’s article and it was good to see someone else questioning Bernard’s use of that poem, it’s like relying only on The Spanish Chronicle!

  2. Christine says:

    I wouldn’t like to be suspected of Bernard bashing, but I think he may be a type of scholar who, once they’ve found a new source etc, they become fixated on their new find! In 1979 he found an early Elizabethan manuscript, a gossipy chronicle which everyone except Bernard believes was written by John Hales, a former adherent of the Duke of Somerset. As some readers of the Elizabeth Files perhaps will recall, in that chronicle it says that Amy Robsart, Robert Dudley’s wife was murdered at the command of Sir Richard Varney. However, the chronicle which is at the same time a screed against the Dudley family, itself says that this was street talk. So, hardly a mystery! Now Bernard is practically the only academic historian who believes that Amy Dudley was indeed murdered — because of his find.

    His arguments in that case remind me of some of the Anne Boleyn arguments — Amy couldn’t have been ill because she was only 28! You can’t have cancer at 28! Amy and Robert’s marriage was no love marriage because in those times there was no such thing! He says there is absolutely no reason to assume that — he never heard of the wedding guest William Cecil it seems.

    Bernard certainly did publish great things, about Thomas Seymour, and he helped finish Jennifer Loach’ fine book on Edward VI after her death. But I must say I feel some professional historians sometimes concentrate too much on one single document they were happy enough to find, this is understandable, but it lacks a bit of insight into the whole picture; and into human nature generally.

    1. Christine says:

      He doesn’t rule out that Amy killed herself — hunted to her death by Dudley’s men, that is. Of course it cannot be suicide because of a “strange mind” (as Amy had). Like in the case of Anne Boleyn’s supposed adultery, he has a thesis and then is looking around for evidence, arguing letters and other things away; now that is possibly a common enough method with historians, but Bernard seems to have a penchant for the spectacular and for accusing famous people of very unlikely crimes. He never seems to bother about practicalities.

  3. DeAnn says:

    I love Gareth Russell’s website so I’m glad to see Claire highlight the review. Thank you Gareth for sharing it with us!

    But as much as I respect Claire, I just cannot bring myself to spend any of my money on such a poorly researched hit piece on Anne Boleyn. I hate to see bad work rewarded. If you are depending on the cult of Anne Boleyn to sell your book, then makes no sense to attack folks like myself who admire Anne Boleyn. I didn’t answer the post from earlier in the week because it’s hard to describe particularly in few words. I will say before modern times that there are few strong women in history to serve as role models. Few fiesty, spunky women who tried to use the system and break the system. Anne Boleyn was her own woman in a time where women were to be seen but not heard. She shaped and made history. She has my admiration. I certainly do not think she was without flaws or didn’t make mistakes.

    Bernard strikes me as a man with an agenda trying to make a buck off the very people he mocks. I have nothing against trying to make a living. But when you are sloppy or close minded or biased….I just say no thanks.

  4. Conor Byrne says:

    I have to say, although I am only half way through the book, I completely disagree with Gareth’s suggestion that GW Bernard conveys that there was nothing special about Anne, or that she was an ‘idiot’. It appears to me that Bernard recognises all of Anne’s renowned qualities – sexually exciting, charismatic, intelligent – but portrays that it was Henry who held the upper hand, and who held out and waited in order to legitimise his children by Anne. I don’t think this portrays her as ordinary, or as an idiot politically – when it comes to political matters, he doesn’t depict Anne as stupid or unknowledgable, but again, that Henry held the upper hand and did involve Anne, but preferred to make the important decisions first.

    And I don’t understand the bit that he dislikes Bernard’s comparison of Anne to being like a celebrity nowadays? For me, this rings completely true; just look at this website, the constant biographies and novels on Anne that appear yearly, the films and TV series, to name but a few of what Anne Boleyn is represented in, and she is like a celebrity. Many people can feel like they can relate to what Anne went through, or despise her for her apparent lack of morals, or her religious standing; so no, perhaps the word ‘celebrity’ is too modern, superficial or cliche when referring to a Tudor queen, but I would certainly agree with Bernard and disagree with Gareth. That fascination is there, and many would see Anne as a celebrity, perhaps not the academics, but some people, perhaps the type who view The Other Boleyn Girl as truth.

    As with Retha Warnicke’s controversial take on Anne, coupled with this, we don’t KNOW what Anne was like. At least this man has tried to fit an alternative theory to Anne’s downfall. For the record, I personally believe Anne was innocent – her younger, abused cousin Katherine Howard was more likely to have been guilty of adultery – but it does appear tedious in books when historians more or less repeat what others have said on Anne’s fall; there is no questioning of the evidence, no questioning the possibility that Anne MAY have been guilty. Who knows – she could have been. And it’s original of Bernard for interpreting sources that suggest she may not be all we expect – it’s compelling reading.

  5. Louise says:

    Bernard believes that Anne may have committed adultery with Norris, Smeaton and possibly Weston. So if Anne was guilty of adultery with those men, why was George brought into the equation? If it wasn’t a set up, and if Anne actually was guilty, there would have been no need to bring such a ridiculous charge as incest. Bernard doesn’t explain why a person i.e. George, who Bernard himself believes was innocent, was brought into the equation. Surely, if Anne really was guilty as Bernard suggests there would have been no need for the charge of incest.

  6. ellevp says:

    What a coincidence, I just bought this book today! Can’t wait to read it for myself.

  7. lisaannejane says:

    I agree with DeAnn and that it is hard to spend good money on a book which has not received good reviews. If you want to give me a free copy, I may glance through it and toss it aside. I guess I do not have the time to waste on reading books that others have already found contain too many errors,

  8. Adrienne Dillard says:

    I am so glad someone else feels the same way. I hated Fatal Attractions. Just didn’t feel right to me. He does make some good points, but I too felt he relied way too heavily on sources he shouldn’t have. I actually had to stop reading it and go back to it later to get all the way through it.

  9. Nasim says:

    Though I share many of Gareth’s criticisms, namely the overreliance on the same source material (and I think there were some very suspect legal arguments supporting the idea of Anne’s ‘guilt’) I, like Conor Byrne, gained a different impression from the book. Evidently Bernard’s arguments are unusual and controversial, but at no point did I feel he disliked her (though certainly he holds an unromantic view of her along with everyone else from this period). I can also forgive the occasional absurd errors and pass them off as mere typos. He is not the first, nor sadly the last, academic to include some very stupid mistakes (I have read the Jane Seymour caesarean story too many times for my liking!)

    I share your criticisms Claire about Bernard’s perception of Anne’s faith as in some way ‘belonging’ to Henry’s. I believe that Henry’s and Anne’s approaches to religion were genuinely rather similar, an argument implied in Lucy Wooding’s study on Henry VIII.

    I’m not sure I agree though about the use of labels. Certainly Bernard believes Anne was more conservative than often surmised and had built a case for this. In this I feel he is no different from historians who have argued for Anne the ‘reformer’, even those who state, somewhat flippantly and without understanding contemporary usage of the term, that she was a ‘Protestant’. Ives believes Anne was a Catholic of strong reformist tendencies. This is arguably pigeonholing Anne as well for Ives has ultimately consigned Anne somewhere in the imaginary complex chart of Tudor religious beliefs. Of course we expect Anne’s biographies to provide us with a discussion on her faith, and to come to some sort of conclusion. I’m not opposed in any way to Ives’s decision to come to a verdict, nor Bernard’s. Both produced cases which were ‘hit and miss’ with me, but I wanted them to define her in some fashion, and that ultimately means labelling. I think Tudor historians in general though lack complex narratives of what they truly mean by terms such as ‘conservative’ and ‘reformer’ and further work into this is needed (though Alec Ryrie covered the reformers/evangelicals very well).

    I also didn’t gain the impression that Bernard disapproved of sites on Anne Boleyn. He picked up an example of a website which presented Anne as a role model, and believes this verdict (not the idea of a site on Anne itself) to be wholly incorrect. But he does not criticise the use of sites to act as forums for discussion on Anne. He ultimately calls Anne ‘one of the most important figures in Tudor history’, evidently realising her appeal and the need to discuss her. He loves debates regarding his work, and will gladly answer any questions readers of his books may have.

    1. Claire says:

      Sorry, I didn’t mean it to come across as a Bernard bashing article as I actually really enjoyed the book as a whole, there were just parts that I couldn’t relate to, mainly the parts about Anne’s faith, and I did feel that Bernard’s case relied very heavily on the poem by Lancelot de Carles. You’re right about labels, I suppose we all like to pigeon hole Anne in that respect, but what I don’t think is right is using the label “Protestant” about anyone in England in the 1530s as the label just doesn’t fit people’s beliefs at that time. Also I really didn’t like Bernard’s denial of Anne’s faith. Whatever faith she had was personal and important to her, in my opinion, it was not just based on politics. Sorry this is a short reply, I’ve just been for a run (mad, I know!) and my shower is calling!

    2. Laurie says:

      I think, in general, why so few historians provide complex narratives as to the definition of ‘conservative’ and/or ‘reformer’ is because this particular moment in history was very fluid in England – a sort of corridor between the medieval and renaissance. In the 1530’s, a “reformer” in England was a very different thing than a “reformer” in Germany. Moreover, because England was in religious flux at the time (and in the process of breaking away from the Roman Catholic Church), what constitutes a “reformer” could mean many things. For example, there were “reformers” like Thomas Cromwell and Thomas Cranmer who could be aptly labeled Protestants, but were also called “reformers”. Then there were people like Bishop Gardiner – no doubt a Catholic, but one who went along with Henry’s reforms. Henry, it seems, was caught between his theological upbringing, which made him firmly Catholic, and his desire later in life for absolute power, which made him him a “reformer” – though never a Protestant. Anne continued to hold firm Catholic believes (for example, she never disavowed transubstantiation), but wanted deep political and moral reform of the Catholic church. In other words, the word “reformer” could be used to describe someone who adheres to Catholic beliefs but wishes to reform the Catholic church and those who wish to reform Catholic beliefs, practices and traditions and are, thus, Protestants.

      1. Nasim says:

        Laurie – though I share your opinion regarding the ‘flexible’ nature of religiosity back then, I would not see this as a reason why historians have failed to discuss in a specific manner the intricacies of belief back then. If anything the fact that faith was so fluid should be reason enough not to use labels so precisely (as many historians have done). Additionally, it should not be difficult for a historian of this period to pause and tell the reader what they mean by using the term ‘reformer’, ‘conservative’, etc; if they have chosen to endorse such labels they must possess some opinion regarding their meaning and this must be made clear to the reader. And, I suspect, if many did stop to reconsider the terms they use, they would come to find them highly problematic. So far there have been some excellent discussions re-evaluating the religious positions of various persons, like Cromwell and Anne Boleyn, but we are still lacking broader studies which tackle the whole concept of ‘factions’ at the court.

        I would disagree that Cromwell could ‘aptly’ be called a Protestant. During his lifetime the term had a very specific meaning in England – even those accused of being Lutherans in 1530s/40s were not readily called ‘Protestants’, but labels like ‘heretic’. I doubt Cromwell would have felt comfortable with such a term; in fact, he may have its usage somewhat bizarre given its particular meaning (still largely confined to Luther’s supporters in the HRE). We know that Cromwell was appalled by the allegation he was a ‘heretic’, and spoke out against this. We can of course debate his sincerity here (I agree with recent historians that his confusion regarding the heresy charges were genuine and think he was not as radical as Cranmer, whose faith was in itself still developing at this point). But even if we credit the view that he was rather radical, it still would be difficult to ascribe him to a religious position that would have been regarded as almost ‘alien’ by him and many of his contemporaries.

        1. Laurie says:

          I agree that historians should take care not to gratuitously through around labels unless they are prepared to define them – at least their own understanding of them. Obviously, this would provide readers with much needed clarity as to their theories. Unfortunately, I have seen exactly what you are talking about and share in the opinion that such labels, without definition, should not be used at all. In fact, I’ve seen a number of books where labels are used in several different contexts, rendering the same label with multiple definitions. Needless to say, this has often caused me to question (ir not full out wonder) what the author is driving at. A classic “is she or isn’t she” situation. My point, I suppose, is that many authors and historians avoid defining “reformer” because it is not easily defined. Others avoid doing it because they are lazy. And still others refuse to do it because it’s inconvenient to their pre-drawn conclusions.

  10. Anne Barnhill says:

    I’ve read the book and felt the writer had a definite bias against Anne (perhaps even deeper than that–maybe women??) at any rate, I don’t think it’s an example of excellent scholarship–just controversial. But, it does leave the door open for the ‘what if’ factor. What if she was somewhat guilty? I don’t believe that for a minute but, what if??
    Thanks for those reveiws, Claire.

  11. Vermillion says:

    I borrowed the book from the library to avoid investing in an unknown quantity. While I can appreciate there’s some value in having an ‘alternative’ viewpoint out there – indeed, given that the trial found Anne ‘guilty’, it’s at least logical to understand someone using that fact as their base point, even if the majority of academic work doesn’t agree – I didn’t find it to offer a great deal.

    My chief stumbling block is the ‘Anne’ that Bernard seeks to portray in his books. From my perspective, most of his controverisal views on Anne (that she was probably guilty of adultery, that her personal religion was essentially orthodox and not of especial note, that her role in causing the furthering the Reformation is relatively minor and that it was Henry, not her, who refused to consummate the relationship before securing the annullment) have one common theme: to depict Anne as much more ‘conventional’, ‘ordinary’ and ‘unremarkable’ than other studies would suggest. This really doesn’t work for me – regardless of what you make of Bernard’s case on each of these points (and in my opinion he doesn’t substantiate any of his claims sufficiently), in primary sources and certainly in many subsequent studies of the period, it’s quite clear that Anne is ‘remarkable’ and ‘different’. Whether in a positive sense or otherwise depends on the commentator, but you don’t get the feeling that Wyatt or Chaupuys are discussing someone conventional. I suspect Anne was one of those characters who would have stood out in any age, although perhaps not to the extent that she did during the Tudor period. Bernard’s ‘Anne’ just doesn’t tally with the evidence we have of her character.

    In addition, to me, as Christine mentioned above, there’s a lack of human understanding in Bernard’s opinions. I thought a big weakness of his earlier book The King’s Reformation was his insistence that Henry not Anne kept their relationship ‘chaste’ from its early days, despite no evidence to support flipping the usual interpretation. It wasn’t psychologically convincing – why was this scenario more plausible? More to the point, if Anne and Henry had had sexual relations before Henry supposedly decided they should stop until they were married, then Anne must indeed have been something special, for without the extra thrill of the chase and eventual fulfilment of that, what drove Henry to continue to obtain a divorce and marry her for so many years in the face of such opposition?

    The lack of parallels drawn with Katherine Howard’s fall is also a weakness, although I suspect that Bernard may have left this out as those parallels that can be drawn all point to Anne’s innocence rather than her guilt.

    This isn’t even to mention the lack of logic behind some of Bernard’s suggestions. If Anne probably didn’t commit incest with her brother, why was he charged, tried and executed for that ‘crime’? Essentially, if there actually was evidence and enough to secure Anne’s conviction, what on earth was the point of adding to the charges with fabrications? If the supposed errors in dates when the adulteries allegedly took place were down to human error, why were so many wrong? The person copying these dates must have been very bad at his job. Wouldn’t it be more likely that they were wrong because they were not based on fact?

    ‘Fatal Attractions’ to me reads more like a thesis than a book – perhaps its arguments might have been better put had it been read by someone familiar with the subject who could have highlighted to Bernard the weakest points of his assertions. I know many books are written by authors with a certain desire to prove a point they hold and then finding the evidence to fit that interpretation (look at the flourishing whole book industry around Richard III!), but it’s not good history when people start building on their (pardon the pun) ‘hunches’. A hunch isn’t good enough if you’re a professional historian.

    1. Laurie says:

      Actually – you touched upon the one part of the book that I actually did agree with. I actually do agree with the theory that it was Henry, and not Anne, who refused to consummate the relationship. It makes perfect sense, when you think about it. The popular theory is that Anne did not want to consummate the relationship either out of virtue (less likely) or because she was afraid if she effectively became Henry’s mistress, he would lose interest and never marry her. But what one must remember was that Henry’s main motivation (in my opinion) in divorcing Katherine and marrying Anne was not passion or love, but rather his desire for a legitimate male heir. Had he consummated the relationship with Anne before marriage and had she become pregnant and had a son, it would be an illegitimate child even if they married down the road. Remember, Henry already had one illegitimate son with Bessie Blount – he didn’t want another. Even if he had parliament pass an Act of Succession naming his bastard son as his heir, it would still constitute an opportunity for someone to challenge the succession (just as Edward VI challenged the succession to Mary I). It had to be a legitimate son born into a legitimate marriage. Therefore, I believe it to be entirely plausible that Henry abstained from consummating the relationship (and having any other mistresses during this time) to avoid another illlegitimate birth.

  12. To be clear, in answer to Conor, I didn’t say that Anne wasn’t a celebrity, of sorts, I said that Bernard found that development (which I agree with) distasteful. Which he does. If you read his concluding quote from Brecht, it is quite clear that he finds any amount of admiration for Anne Boleyn to be at best ludicrous and at worst harmful. And I’m afraid Conor that I have to respectfully disagree – an historian does not deserve credit for taking a new source. Even if De Carles’s source was new, which it isn’t, Bernard doesn’t deserve credit for using it. They deserve credit if they use all the sources. Which he doesn’t. I’m afraid he does present Anne as an idiot, as any sixteenth century woman capable of multiple adultery must have been, and he portrays her as cluelessly unaware of any of the major developments or participants in the Great Matter in the late 1520s.

  13. Laurie says:

    I had a lot of problems with this book. There are various concrete, indisputable facts we know about Anne Boleyn. I am always open to reading various books about Anne Boleyn where the author puts forth a theory outside mainstream historical thought. However, I find that my mind is disinclined to entertain such theories when the author can not even get the basic irrefutable facts straight. It strips them of all credibility – even when such errors are the result of shoddy research or incompetent editing and not a lack of knowledge on the part of the author. Unfortunately, this was the case with G.W. Bernard’s book. His portrayal of Anne was, in my opinion, overly simplistic, one dimensional and reliant too heavily upon one source which I found biased and dubious. For me, it was an eloborate opinion piece that I wholeheartedly disagreed with.

    1. In a sense, I feel the same way about Joanna Denny’s “biography” of Anne. She is the other end of the spectrum obviously, but she makes the same sort of errors, is alarmingly personal in her attacks, and allows personal and religious prejudice to cloud the issue. Yet I find Bernard is attacked more often, on a professional and personal level, possibly because Denny is incredibly Pro Anne, while Bernard is not entirely. I certainly would never call him, or any other historian deluded. I do not find Bernard’s research to be personally motivated by hatred for Anne, nor do I think he dislikes her at all. He could in fact, be trying to approach the subject from a different, if unpopular angle. We can disagree all we like, but just as we accuse him of making it personal, we too must ensure our attacks of Bernard are solely based on a disagreement with methodology, not personal bias due to a difference of opinion of a woman on whom we have our own fixed views.

      1. When I say I felt the same way, I mean that how some people have reacted to Bernard, is how I have reacted to Joanna Denny. Just for clarification!

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  15. Conor Byrne says:

    Funnily enough I’ve just found this article again and seen my comment above! I do agree with both Gareth and Schmid – I find the reliance on the poem strange and I don’t believe, at all, that Anne Boleyn ever committed adultery/incest.

    I’d agree with you Claire that Ives’ book remains the authority on Anne which ALL Tudor lovers should read.
    But as for which one to read next – Bernard or Warnicke – tough one, both are fascinating but erroneous!

  16. BanditQueen says:

    Although Professor Bernard is alone in his belief that Anne had some guilt and may have committed both adultery and treason. Or at least I assume as I have not heard of any one else who accepts her guilt as fact! However, Lancelot de Carlos was not writing a poem but a tragic history and had some authority at the time. He takes that the word of Lady Brown, Countess of Worcester as fact and that she has no reason not to have spoken the truth. Anthony Brown was a prude and challenged his sister over her conduct with Sir Francis Weston and she hit out blaming the Queen for being worse: morally delinquent.

    Lancelot de Carles may have made some minor facts wrong but his work is very detailed and Professor Bernard is certain that it cannot be easily dismissed as it also has other details that are verified by other sources. He also points out that although we cannot judge the legal procedures by modern standards, it does not follow that Anne and the others should automatically be seen as innocent.

    Anne gave people food for rumour, she was flirting with many courtiers and she was over familiar in her general manner. She was hot tempered and did not behave with the dignity of required of her as Queen. At the time of the accusations she was very insecure and vulnerable and was making threats to the Princess Mary. Anne was an easy target from the moment that she lost the King’s son. Her ladies could have simply capitalized on that. Lancelot de Carles was reporting the court gossip that resulted from all of this and perhaps should not be taken too seriously. Having said this, Professor Bernard sees something in the source that has merit and adds it to the debate about Anne.

    As a historian to me it is clear that the source has merit as a historical document and gives an insight into what was going on behind the scenes of the Queen’s household. It cannot be taken as evidence of adultery as it reports gossip and not known facts. Having said this, all material must be consideredbefore forming a theory or opinion, and not just dismissed because our modern sensibilities do not like the way things were done 470 years ago. When debating the guilt or innocence of Anne Boleyn it is helpful to have a different opinion to give the opposit point of view, otherwise we are merely debating in a vacume. Professor Bernard may not be correct in his assessment, but his work is scholarly and insightful and enables us to understand just why Henry may have believed those charges to have been true.

    Henry clearly believed the charges brought against his wife and so at the time the evidence must have been compelling. Having said this, I believe that had the jury not been directed that Anne at least would have made a good argument to persuade them and the public that she was innocent. But Henry wanted out of the marriage and evidence could easily have been manipulated to present an image of her guilt, an image that was persuasive and compelling. This is argued by Professor Bernard, and as a historian, I cannot ignore or dismiss it, even if I do not agree with his findings.

  17. kim says:

    he said that lady rochford was the go-between for anne to have an affair but that’s absurd since rochford would’ve been executed for it if there was proof or even suspicion. i e-mailed a while back and he never responded.

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