Anne Boleyn, Sex and the Church of England

Posted By on July 30, 2010

Miranda Raison as Anne Boleyn

Yes, you read the title correctly! Did you realise that Anne Boleyn “used her sexual stranglehold over Henry VIII to pursue the idea of religious reform” and “deployed her sexual power to become a ‘conspirator for Christ’ “? – aaaggghh, bump, bump – me banging my head on my desk and the stone wall behind me!

That’s what The Guardian review of Howard Brenton’s play, “Anne Boleyn”, says of our Anne. So, what The Guardian is suggesting is that the Church of England was a result of Anne Boleyn’s sexual power over Henry, if I have read it correctly – all together now, bang heads on any hard surface!

The Daily Mail, in their review of the play, say:-

“Using a shrewd political intelligence, this Anne Boleyn (Miranda Raison), advances herself in court – and Henry’s heart – by dedicating herself to the spirituality of William Tyndale’s low church, while simultaneously allowing a drooling, still-Catholic Henry to inch ever further up her leg over seven long years.”

Bang!

While I love the fact that Howard Brenton’s play is giving people a very different view of Anne Boleyn – Anne as the Protestant Reformer rather than witch and adulteress – I hate the way that the press are now painting her as a woman who used sex to push for religious reform. Just a few months ago, the papers were full of articles about Anne being guilty of incest and adultery, after the publication of G W Bernard’s “Anne Boleyn: Fatal Attractions”, and now we have swung in completely the opposite direction and she is now a sexy Protestant Martyr who started the Church of England. All of it is bad history and goodness knows what the general public now think of Anne.

As I have said before, I agree entirely with Howard Brenton regarding his view that Anne helped to shape England’s destiny, but she was not responsible for bringing Protestantism into England and she was not a martyr. We do not consider Thomas Cromwell to be a martyr, yet he was condemned for heresy and executed as a traitor and heretic. Anyway, knowing Anne’s rather wicked sense of humour, I think she’s having a little chuckle about all of this, don’t you?

You can read the full Guardian review of “Anne Boleyn” at http://www.guardian.co.uk/stage/2010/jul/29/anne-boleyn-review and the Daily Mail one here. I’m not sure that Howard Brenton really wanted Anne to be seen in this way!

P.S. I’m not being critical of Howard Brenton or his play, “Anne Boleyn”, as he is putting forward his view of his Anne Boleyn, and it is a play, not an academic study, I’m just cross with the ideas that the press focus on and the bad history that the general public are being taught.

Tickets can be ordered online at http://www.shakespeares-globe.org/theatre/annualtheatreseason/anneboleyn/

Photo by Manuel Harlan and used with permission of The Globe.

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