Last week, I published a guest article, Fact, by Clare Cherry in which she talked about the problem of assumptions and theories becoming taken as fact. The article received lots of comments and I also received a fair few emails about it. One Anne Boleyn Files follower asked me “but why are these “notions” not challenged and put straight, so we can have facts and not myths?” I replied that while there are those who perpetuate myths and “notions”, there are many others who are working hard to challenge them or correct them. Here at the Anne Boleyn Files, for example, I share with you what I have found through my own research and I question some of what is taken as “fact” about Anne Boleyn, other Tudor personalities and events. I also share the work of other historians, authors and researchers.
Clare listed a few assumptions and theories that are taken as fact, so I thought I’d list some of these again with links to articles and videos challenging them. I hope you find it helpful.
- Anne Boleyn had an extra finger – See the article Anne Boleyn, Nanny McPhee and Nicholas Sander.
- George Boleyn and the rest of the men were charged with ‘buggery’ – George Boleyn’s Sexuality article, Was George Boleyn homosexual? video.
- Anne Boleyn was manipulated by her male relatives – I look at Thomas Boleyn in my article In Defence of Thomas Boleyn, Father of Anne Boleyn.
- Catherine Howard said she loved Thomas Culpeper and wanted to be his wife in her speech on the scaffold – See 13 February 1542 – Catherine Howard and Jane Boleyn, What they Did and Didn’t Say.
- Mary Boleyn’s two children were the offspring of the King – See Mary Boleyn and Henry VIII.
- Anne Boleyn was charged with witchcraft – See Anne Boleyn – The Mysterious and Maligned One.
- Henry VIII had syphilis – Kyra Kramer’s guest article Henry VIII, Syphilis and Mistresses.
- The Boleyns were Protestant – See Anne Boleyn’s Faith.
- George and Jane Boleyn had an unhappy and abusive marriage – See the video Was George Boleyn forced into marrying Jane Parker? and the article The Marriage of George and Jane Boleyn by Clare Cherry.
- Anne of Cleves was ugly – See Anne of Cleves – Flanders Mare?
- Jane Boleyn admitted lying about Anne and George in her scaffold speech – See Jane Boleyn – History’s Scapegoat and 13 February 1542 – Catherine Howard and Jane Boleyn, What they Did and Didn’t Say.
Some myths, assumptions and theories can be blown out of the water by what primary sources tell us, others can be challenged and another rational viewpoint put forward. In studying history, we have to conclude that there are many things that we will never know for sure, which is the joy of the subject and which keeps us busy debating. And, of course, things can get messy when primary sources do not corroborate each other or when they are open to interpretation. Fun!
P.S. On this day in history, 11th August 1534, the friars observant were expelled from their houses due to their support of Catherine of Aragon and their refusal to accept the King’s supremacy. Click here to read more.