The research that I have been doing into Anne Boleyn’s pregnancies and her fall really got me thinking about Elizabeth I, who was the result of Anne’s first pregnancy. Henry VIII had high hopes for his marriage to Anne Boleyn and was expecting her to produce his longed for son and heir to the throne, and what did he get instead? A daughter and a dead son, miscarried at around 15 weeks. No-one can blame Henry for being bitterly disappointed, but it’s hard to forgive him for standing by while people plotted against his wife (or even being a part of the plot), and neglecting his young daughter.
I find it fascinating that Elizabeth could forgive her father and move on with her life and not become the bitter, twisted person that Mary became. David Starkey writes of how Mary “nailed herself to the cross of her mother’s memory” whereas Elizabeth did not seem to harbour any resentment at all and did not let it ruin her life. Perhaps we can’t compare Mary and Elizabeth – Elizabeth was so young when her mother died whereas Mary was a teenager when she saw her mother being cruelly treated and when she also was threatened by her father – but it could also be that Elizabeth was sensible and saw that she needed to get on with her life and not brood on the past.
Those of us who struggle to understand how Elizabeth could revere such a monster and tyrant perhaps need to look at Henry through Elizabeth’s eyes, rather than our own 21st century ones. We need to see Henry the father, the private man rather than the King. As David Starkey says:-
“her memory of her father, formed in these few years of the mid 1540s, was so benign: for her, he was not a wife-murdering monster, but a loving parent, formidable ruler and model to which she aspired.”
As Anne Boleyn fans, we like to look on Elizabeth as Anne Boleyn’s greatest legacy, Anne’s final revenge, and we cheer at Genevieve Bujold’s speech as Anne Boleyn in the Tower in the movie “Anne of the Thousand Days”:-
“But Elizabeth is yours. Watch her as she grows; she’s yours. She’s a Tudor! Get yourself a son off of that sweet, pale girl if you can – and hope that he will live! But Elizabeth shall reign after you! Yes, Elizabeth – child of Anne the Whore and Henry the Blood-Stained Lecher – shall be Queen! And remember this: Elizabeth shall be a greater queen than any king of yours! She shall rule a greater England than you could ever have built! Yes – MY Elizabeth SHALL BE QUEEN! And my blood will have been well spent!”