Best Anne Boleyn Books

Posted By on July 2, 2010

My favourite Anne Boleyn book!

I thought it was about time that I updated our Anne Boleyn Books page so I thought I’d ask you all what you consider to be the best Anne Boleyn fiction and non-fiction books.

Here are my favourites, but please do comment below if you have a recommendation and then I can get the page sorted out. You can click on some of the titles below to read my reviews.

Non-fiction

These are the books that I use on a regular basis for research and inspiration:-

  • “The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn” by Eric Ives – THE Anne Boleyn book. This is the one that I always recommend because it covers just about everything, an Anne Boleyn handbook!
  • “The Lady in the Tower” by Alison Weir – What I love about this one is that it concentrates on Anne Boleyn’s fall and the events of 1536. The reader gets detailed information about all of the events leading up to Anne’s execution and great bios on all of the people involved.
  • “Anne Boleyn: A New Life of England’s Tragic Queen” by Joanna Denny – Yes, Denny can be a bit OTT in defending Anne and can sometimes come across as slightly anti-Catholic but this book still has its merits and is packed full of great information about Anne’s life.

  • “The Rise and Fall of Anne Boleyn” by Retha Warnicke – While I don’t like Warnicke’s opinion of George Boleyn and the other men involved in Anne’s fall, I still think this is a brilliant academic history book on Anne’s rise and subsequent fall.
  • “Anne Boleyn” by Paul Friedmann – This 19th century biography has just been edited by Josephine Wilkinson and re-released by Amberley books and I find it incredibly useful. Friedmann makes excellent use of primary sources.
  • “The Early Loves of Anne Boleyn” by Josephine Wilkinson – A great book for information on the men Anne Boleyn was linked to, including James Butler, Henry Percy and Thomas Wyatt. It also covers her marriage and her fall.
  • “Anne Boleyn: Fatal Attractions” by G W Bernard – An interesting one that caused a stir in the Tudor world! Bernard actually thinks that Anne Boleyn may have been guilty and he also has interesting theories regarding Anne Boleyn’s faith and her role in the Reformation. One to read to give you a balanced view and Bernard also backs up his arguments well with primary sources.
  • “Anne Boleyn: Henry VIII’s Obsession” by Elizabeth Norton – A highly readable and interesting biography of Anne Boleyn.
  • Six Wives: The Queens of Henry VIII by David Starkey
  • The Six Wives of Henry VIII by David Loades
  • The Six Wives of Henry VIII by Alison Weir

I use all three of the six wives’ books for research, along with biographies of each wife.

Fiction

It is tricky to choose Anne Boleyn fiction because we all have our own idea of Anne and it can be frustrating to read a novel which you feel gets her completely wrong!

  • The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory – You either love this book or hate it and it can cause serious disagreements. We’ve all heard of forums and websites where you can’t even mention Philippa Gregory. I can’t dispute the fact that this is a real page turner, but I really didn’t like how Anne was portrayed or Gregory’s view on Anne in the accompanying notes.
  • Murder Most Royal by Jean Plaidy – I loved this novel because it was the nearest to “my” Anne and it also helped me understand Henry’s feelings and motivation.
  • The Secret Diary of Anne Boleyn by Robin Maxwell – I love the storyline of this one as we all wish that Anne had left something for Elizabeth to learn about her story.
  • The Queen’s Governess by Karen Harper – This books opens with Anne Boleyn’s execution and is about Elizabeth I’s governess, Kat Ashley, and a secret treasure Anne Boleyn entrusted her with.

Let me know in the comments below which Anne Boleyn books you have enjoyed and why. Thanks!

34 thoughts on “Best Anne Boleyn Books”

  1. Amber says:

    I read The Queen’s Governess. What bothered me throughout was the question of Anne’s finger. I’m a Tudor geek and feel like I should know this, but is that true? I don’t think it is and I feel like it was added in there to subtly show her “guilt”.

  2. Charlie says:

    I loved Alison Weir’s Six Wives book and really want to read Lady in the Tower. The Six Wives taught me so much about Catherine Parr and more than I’d known about Elizabeth (I’ve come to admire her so much recently). I never realised how much Anne of Cleves was involved after the annulment. Ironically I can’t remember so much what I read about Anne Boleyn, though I do remember the images they brought to mind of her life.

    I’m so glad I’m not the only one who didn’t like The Other Boleyn Girl! Everyone seems to love it but the bias against Anne was horrible.

  3. Heather says:

    My favorite fiction is Brief Gaudy Hour. It is the first fiction book I read on Anne and it helped hook me on her. I was especially intrigued by the depiction of her initial dislike of Henry and how she turned his desire for her to her advantage. In a time when women had so little control, she did well for herself, at first anyway.

  4. Jeanette says:

    Jean Plaidy The lady in the tower was a pretty good book
    Philppa Gregory The other Bolryn girl was a good book but what i did not liked was she made a very nasty bitch out of Anne

  5. Daphne says:

    I haven’t read that many non-fiction books yet to have a favorite, but my favorite fiction one is The Concubine by Norah Lofts. It’s told mostly from Anne’s point of view and Ithought did an excellent job of getting “inside her head”.

  6. leogirl1975 says:

    I have to agree with you wholeheartedly about “The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn” by Eric Ives. I have never read a book about Anne Boleyn that was so detailed and in depth. I loved reading it!

  7. Dana says:

    I’m surprised that with all the books listed under Fiction that “Wolf Hall” by Hilary Mantel was not included. The main character of that work is Thomas Cromwell, but Anne Boleyn also plays a large role. This book has (deservedly) won many awards over the last year, including the prestigious Man Booker Prize, and gives a good portrayal of Anne during her rise to power.

  8. lana norris says:

    Claire:

    I have never read an historical fiction based on Anne’s life that fully satisfied me. She has always been depicted as so much more or so much less than I conceive of her. The picture of her that I have in my heart and mind is based on gleanings from all of the above plus a few more. I have constructed such a personal vision of her that I don’t know that an author could really do her justice in my eyes.
    I read a quote from Sharon Kay Penman that she isn’t particularly interested in the Tudors, but I have so loved all of her work that she would be my choice to really get into Anne’s head and Henry’s, too; especially after she gave such an incredible portrait of Edward IV, Henry’s grandsire in “The Sunne In Splendour”. Her interpretation of Elizabeth of York and Henry VII is particularly interesting and helpful in formulating an opinion of why Henry VIII was who he was early on and in later life as well

  9. tudormommy says:

    “The Lady in the Tower” by Jean Plaidy is also very good. It is another book about Anne, but told in the first person.

  10. Anne Marie Barrios says:

    Murder Most Royal was what got me interested in Anne Boleyn in the first place–it was a chance grab at a book at my high school library, and the beginning of my appreciation for Queen Anne. I also love anything that Alison Weir writes (about any subject, too!)

  11. Eric Ives’ book is the best on Anne, in my opinion. I’ve read some fiction about her, and I think Madamoiselle Boleyn is a great one. It covers her early life, while she was in France. You can almost imagine Anne saying those things that Robin Maxwell wrote. David Starkey’s book on the Six Wives is an awesome read…

  12. gillyO says:

    I loved “The Other Boleyn Girl” as a story and I think it was interesting that the main character was actually Mary Boleyn. As far as the representation of Anne in that book I thought she was made out to be less intelligent and principled than she was. There were parts of it that rang true for me, especially when she was desperately trying to keep him engaged with her when she couldn’t (wouldn’t) sleep with him. The tricks she had to play to keep him interested in her and the stress and pressure it put on her were the most realistic and compelling parts of the book. She had to have been a very strong driven intelligent person to not have cracked completely under the pressure of her situation.

    My own theory is that Anne was like most of us, a combination of characteristics, some good, some bad. She was obviously intelligent and gifted, but she could also be petty and vindictive. She made some bad choices and said some things she shouldn’t have. My main suspicion is that once she became Queen the pressure of the role as well as the continous stress of repeated pregnancies and miscarriages, (her hormones must have been out of control!), she just got tired and instead of using her innate intelligence and good sense, she got sloppy in her interactions with others. It’s understandable, but it shows the main difference between her and Catherine of Aragon. Anne was not raised to be a Queen so she never learned how to rise above things on a regular basis. It’s interesting how her daughter Elizabeth had a lot of the same qualities as her mother but learned how to use them to her advantage.

  13. julie b. says:

    “The Lady in the Tower” was an excellent book. It was nice to read about what was going on behind the scene, per say.
    I will read it again!!!

  14. Cranky says:

    Eric Ives is probably my favorite of the straight historians. David Loades comes in a close second. Alison Weir is OK I guess but she really turned me off with the way she attacked that Julia Fox book. After reading the John Guy rebuttal, I don’t know that I trust Weir’s research as much as I might have previously.

    As for doing Anne justice fictionally, we need Hilary Mantel to get busy – lol. Anne showed up in Wolf Hall but boy oh boy would I love a Mantel book devoted to Anne or her daughter. I really loved Wolf Hall and got lost in it for hours. I know not everyone liked it but I loved it. I agreed with the reviewer who said you could almost smell the wet wool and horses or something like that.

  15. Rachel says:

    For nonfiction- Divorced Beheaded Survived by Karen Lindsey is an excellent reinterpretation of events.

    For fiction- The Autobiography of Henry VIII by Margaret Gregory. Henry is a bit biased, so Anne doesn’t come out so well. But I love how much you feel like you are in Henry’s head, especially during his obsession with Anne.

  16. rosalie says:

    brief gaudy hour.I couldn’t remember what made me first readabout anne boleyn.and it was this book, when I was 13, and babsitting.and found it to read. and reread it countless times.

  17. Rose says:

    Hum… It would be hard for me to say which books are my favourite on Anne Boleyn, becasuse I read a lot more about people such as Katherine Parr, Jane Grey, and her daughter, Elizabeth. I would have to say, though, that ‘The Lady in The Tower’ by Alison Weir is a particular favourite of mine; ‘The Boleyn Inheritance’ by Phillipa Gregory, although set after Anne’s death, talks alot about how she shaped those such as Jane Boleyn and made a lasting impression on everyone around that time. Other than that I like the fact that lots of books about Elizabeth’s childhood, non-fiction and fiction, hint that she respected Anne’s memory and thought of her from time to time.

  18. janice says:

    well, i have read some fiction about Catherine Parr, but i didnt like it, i prefer do get just the facts based on existing documents, not reading somebody else ideas what might had happened.
    favorite is definitely Eric Ives` book, not just because i`m working now on translation, Alison Weir`s Six Wives, because i learned a lot about Catherine Parr.
    and i`d like to ask something …maybe it belongs to forum, but i`ll try – does somebody has any idea, where to find, how to say it (english is not my native language)…..the rank hierarchy on the tudors court? i will need probably to find in czech anyway, but i wondered if i got right the meaning of the very first rank i found – esquire of the body. i found on the web that it was a man, who serves the knight before being knighted. in czech we have two different words, which can mean the same rank, so i`m little confused at the moment

  19. TinaII2None says:

    I’m reading ‘The Lady in the Tower’ now (I’m about 200 pages into ‘War and Peace’ so I’m taking a break *g*), and it’s refreshing to read some new views on the motivations behind Anne’s arrest. I’m so used now to the view of Henry just wanting to be rid of her to get another wife, that it’s interesting to read about such things as Cromwell’s own reasons. I don’t think I’ve read many books devoted to Anne herself. There was a bio from years ago by Norah Lofts, and a fiction book (can’t remember the author) called ‘The Secret Diary of Anne Boleyn.” She is such a complicated woman, well, a complicated human being, like many of us. I didn’t care for her treatment of Queen Catherine and Princess Mary (could sort of understand the reasoning, but it was still hurtful), but there are other things I admire about her, and of course being Elizabeth’s mother, well, what more can I say?

  20. Dani says:

    My first introduction to Anne in books form was Plaidy’s lady in the Tower then i was hooked and read TOBG which I enjoyed.I love TBI by gregory as Well .
    I havea hard time getting in to Nonfiction about Anne seems to bore me to death.

  21. mickey mayhew says:

    I’d like to read a book on Anne from Catherine of Aragon’s POV!

  22. Valerie says:

    I loved ‘The Lady in the Tower’ – I thought it was a very balanced view of events. I loved the fact as well that it was so detailed. I recently read ‘The Tudor Wife’ by Emily Purdy it is written from the perspective of Lady Rochford and as such is obviously quite biased against Anne but it is a good read.

  23. Anne says:

    Hello Claire!
    Thank you so much for your list. I’m from Germany and I think my english is pretty good. So I was asking myself if the books include many technical words, and which one would you recommend to me.

    Thank you!
    Anne

  24. liz says:

    I really likedthe fiction novel titled A Lady Raised High. It’s about a country girl who defends Anne during a journey through the girl’s town when someone tries to fling mud at Anne. The girl becomes a companion to Anne through her rise and fall as Queen.It is told through the country girl’s point of view in first person. I believe the novel is by Laurien Gardner.

  25. Meghan says:

    Hi All –

    Great feedback! Many of these books I own but have not been able to pick up as other Anne Boleyn ones seem to take priority.

    I just discovered a new series (if you will) by C.C. Humphreys called The French Executioner and it’s sequeal Blood Ties. Her is the brief bio in the back:

    “On a spring day at the Tower of London scaffold a last request is granted…It is 1536 and the expert swordsman Jean Rombaud has been brought over from France by Henry VIII to behead Anne Boleyn. But on the eve of her execution Rombaud swears a vow to the ill-fated queen. He promises to bury her six-fingured hand, symbol of her rumoured witchery, at a sacred crossroads. yet in a Europe ravaged by religious war, the hand of this infamous Protestant icon is so powerful a relic that many will kill for it…”

    Curious if anyone has read it and what they thought. Thanks!

  26. Margaret McCrank says:

    I’m presently reading The Lady In The Tower by Alison Weir – very clearly and carefully written . It has actually clarified for me the role of Thomas Cromwell in all this. I read Wolf Hall earlier this year and got bogged down- Weir takes much less time and paints a clearer picture.

    However, my very favorite of all the “Anne” books is Brief Gaudy Hour, which I read as a teenager, and has largely accounted for my fascination with Anne Boleyn ever since. I had forgotten the title of the book, so I was pleased to see it mentioned here.

  27. Gemma says:

    Brief Gaudy Hour – love it!! x

  28. Jessica R. says:

    Threads was always a favorite historical fiction novel of Anne Boleyn. It deals with Anne in the afterlife reliving the reasons and path of her life as Henry’s queen. But it also shows different lives she has lived with Henry throughout history. It goes very deep into the idea of soulmates, fate, and reincarnation. Basically, no matter what, Henry and Annes souls were linked throughout time but each life had different consenquences. Something different in Threads than has been seen in other novels. I especially loved the bits with Henry Percy, the sometimes forgotten first love.

  29. Pat says:

    Favorite Anne Boleyn Fiction Reads: The Queen of Subtleties by Susannah Dunn; Vengeance is Mine by Brandy Purdy; Dear Heart How Like You This? by Wendy J. Dunn; The Bolelyn Wife by Brandy Purdy; Anne Boleyn by Joanna Denny. A Lady Raised High by Laurien Gardner;Mademoisell Boleyn by Robin Maxwell

    An Aside: Jane Boleyn: he True Story of the Infamous Lady Rochford by Julia A. Fox; Katherine Howard; A Tudor Conspiracy by Joanna Denny; No Will But His (Katherine Howard) by Sarah A. Hoyt; An Unchaste Life: Memoir of a Tudor Queen (Katherine Howard) by Anne Cato; Pour the Dark Wine (Jane Seymour) by Dina Lampitt; Plain Jane (Jane Seymour) by Laurien Gardner, and The Life of Lady Jane (Lady Jane Grey) by Edward Charles

  30. Ana says:

    I have read some fiction based on Anne and other Tudors, but I don’t like much of it. For one thing most novelists seem to have not much grasp of what 16th C life was really like, the – to us – rather alien ethics and morals that governed life and makes the history so interesting. .They give them 21st C mindsets and that itself makes them more annoying than anything else. Also I am a total anal nerd and hate historical inaccuracy. And most novels are full of that. The authors either don’t know the true facts or simply ignore them. I’m trying to be a writer myself and I understand that fiction is fiction, but if you’re writing fiction based on real people I do think you have a kind of duty to make it as close to all known facts as possible. I would hate to think of someone some day writing a fiction based on my life (fat chance, but you know what I mean), that misrepresented me in some major way, and it seems just as wrong to inflict that on anyone else. These people weren’t ‘characters’, they were living human beings, and we have to respect that even 500 years down the line. I wish someone would write a novel that really did that, really tried to tell the truth without embellishments – I’d love reading it!

  31. Miriam says:

    I cannot believe nobody mentions Lady Antonia Frasier’s Six Wives. After Ives, it’s my favourite.

  32. Karissa says:

    I must say that Threads was a wonderfully written book, and the lady in the tower by plaidy and threads are great works of fiction. I really like the six wives by weir and am eager to crack open the lady in the tower by her as well! i also like plain jane as a whole especially the part where after their(henry and jane’s) marriage, Henry cries over anne on their wedding night. havent read ives yet…

  33. Alex says:

    Oh I just happen to love Anne Boleyn! I will certainly take
    a look at some of these books. I do have one though that I can
    recommend it is called “Doomed Queen Anne” By Carolyn Meyer. It
    goes from her as a young child attending French Court to right
    before her execution. Told in first person. It is part of a Young
    Royals Series which also has Books on like Elizabeth, Mary, Ect.
    I’m reading Wolf Hall right now and am really struggling to get
    into it as the beginning does not really include Anne at all… but
    I don’t want to give up on it so I am hoping I will see some of
    her- or even some of Henry soon!

  34. Paul Friedmann’s book(s) are extremely compelling.
    I’ve read comments saying he pretty much blindly followed whatever Chapuis wrote.
    Is this such a huge crime?
    Didn’t Chapuis have to stick to some version of the truth since his missives were meant to give a fair account of what was going on at court?
    Wouldn’t it have caused him to be dismissed if his reports weren’t factual?

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