Anne Boleyn, the Butler, the Chaplain and other such Poppycock!

Posted By on July 4, 2011

Claire is angry – watch out! Claire has got her soap box in hand and is about to get on to her high horse and is writing in the third person so something must have really ‘got her goat’, as they say in England.

OK, so back to first person… I am soooooo annoyed. Eliza (thank you, Eliza!) has just pointed out the absolutely ridiculous blurb that goes with Josephine Wilkinson’s latest book, “Anne Boleyn: The Young Queen to Be”, which says, and I quote:-

“Anne Boleyn is perhaps the most engaging of Henry VIII’s Queens. For her he would divorce his wife of some twenty years standing, he would take on the might of the Roman Church and the Holy Roman Empire; he would even alienate his own people in order to win her favour and, eventually, her hand.

But before Henry came into her life Anne Boleyn had already wandered down love’s winding path. She had learned its twists and turns during her youth spent at the courts of the Low Countries and France, where she had been sent as a result of her scandalous behaviour with her father’s butler and chaplain. Here her education had been directed by two of the strongest women of the age – and one of the weakest.”

Now, I’ve put the annoying bit in bold, just in case you missed it or are new to The AB Files and don’t know that I get annoyed by myths and pure poppycock. Before I go into detail regarding this myth, I want to make it clear that I have no problem with Josephine Wilkinson at all, I think she is an extremely good historian, but it is the publisher’s blurb that lets her down with this book. I remember reading the blurb for her last book, “The Early Loves of Anne Boleyn”, which, funnily enough, is exactly the same as this book, and being put off it. Fortunately, I did go on and read “The Early Loves”, which is a very interesting book, and Wilkinson says quite clearly on page 34 of the hardback version that Nicholas Sander’s tale of Anne being sent away at the age of 15 because she had fooled around with her father’s chaplain and butler “is untrue”. It is dealt with, and refuted, in one paragraph, yet this salacious myth is included in the publisher’s blurb and makes it sound like Wilkinson believes it and is claiming that it is the reason Anne was sent to the Continent – face palm, bang head on brick wall, put head in gas oven… Grrrr!!! It really makes me mad.

The story of Anne Boleyn, the butler and the chaplain comes from Nicholas Sander, a Catholic recusant during the reign of Anne’s daughter, Elizabeth I, who also described Anne as having six fingers, a protruding tooth and a large wen on her neck. In his work “Rise and Growth of the Anglican Schism”, Sander wrote:-

“At fifteen she sinned first with her father’s butler, and then with his chaplain, and forthwith was sent to France, and placed at the expense of the King, under the care of a certain nobleman not far from Brie. Soon afterwards she appeared at the French court where she was called the English mare, because of her shameless behaviour; and then the royal mule, when she became acquainted with the King of France.”

No other source backs up Sander’s story and we know that Anne was in the Low Countries before France and that the reason she was sent there was because of her intelligence and her father’s friendship with Margaret of Austria, not her inappropriate behaviour. Plus, she was 12 when she was sent abroad, not 15! I wonder if Sander is confusing Anne with her sister Mary, who Francis I allegedly nicknamed his “English Mare” and boasted about the amount of times he had ridden her.

I am incensed that this silly tale, which has no basis or foundation, is being used to sell this book, and I bet that Wilkinson disregards it as a myth anyway. Surely this type of blurb and publicity puts more people off than it attracts?? What do you think?

Rant over! Well, for now…

P.S. Sue has just drawn my attention to an interview I did with Josephine Wilkinson ages ago when her “The Early Loves of Anne Boleyn” was published:-

“Claire – The blurb on Amazon about your book mentions the Sander story about Anne being banished abroad for becoming entangled with her father’s chaplain and butler, do you think there is any truth in this?

Josephine – I don’t think there was any truth in it; Sander was a recusant Catholic living in exile. Whatever we might think of those who slander people who are in no position to fight back, we have to acknowledge that he had his own reasons for saying the things he did.”

So, don’t let the blurb put you off this book, I’m sure Wilkinson has not changed her mind about Sander!

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