Hunting the Falcon by John Guy and Julia Fox – Review and Giveaway

My latest book review is on Hunting the Falcon: Henry VIII, Anne Boleyn and the Marriage That Shook Europe by historians John Guy and Julia Fox.

A big thank you to Bloomsbury for sending me a review copy and for doing this giveaway. Bloomsbury are giving away 5 copies of Hunting the Falcon! The giveaway is open internationally. All you have to do is leave a comment below this post saying why you’re looking forward to reading this book.* Comment before the end of Friday 22nd September 2023. I’ll pick 5 comments at random, using, and I’ll contact the winners for their details.

Here’s my review:

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My review in text form:

Today, I’m reviewing “Hunting the Falcon: Henry VIII, Anne Boleyn and the Marriage That Shook Europe” by John Guy and Julia Fox. It’s release date in hardback in Europe is today, 14th September, and it’s due for release over the pond on 24th October, so not too long to wait if you’re there.

One of my favourite Tudor history books is John Guy’s biography of Mary, Queen of Scots, which, of course, served as inspiration for the recent movie, and I loved both of Julia Fox’s books, the first on Jane Boleyn, Lady Rochford, and the second on Catherine of Aragon and her sister, Juana. All of these books were a perfect blend of meticulous research and a readable writing style, so I was very much looking forward to the couple’s book on Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, particularly as it was a joint project – so much experience and expertise combined there!

In its blurb, Hunting the Falcon is described as “A groundbreaking examination of how the marriage of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn sent shockwaves across a continent and changed England forever” and this is a very accurate description. What I enjoyed about the book was it wasn’t just a biography of Anne Boleyn, it looked at how and why Anne rose to become queen, what her and Henry’s relationship was like, what kind of queen she was, and then what happened, all the while placing this relationship in a much wider context as something that was impacted by and had an impact on Europe.

I very much feel that Anne Boleyn stood out from other women at court when she came back from France, that she was a Renaissance woman and that was a lot of the attraction for Henry, so I was pleased that Guy and Fox gave a lot of consideration to her time in Europe. What she saw there, the role models she had there and the way that things worked there had a huge bearing on the queen she became. For example, as Guy and Fox note, when Anne was queen, she didn’t just have ladies socialising in her chambers, men came too, and Guy and Fox described her style of court as a French style court of pleasure and courtly love, and this was something that could usefully be used against her later.

My absolute favourite thing about this book, though, was its examination of Anne Boleyn as queen-to-be and as queen. Anne was very much a political animal. When she finally said “yes” to Henry, she didn’t let him and his advisors sort things out, she didn’t take a back seat, she was actually a huge driving force in the Great Matter. Not only did men she acted as patron to act as experts in canon law etc., Anne had her own theological arguments, she came up with ideas herself and was listened to. Anne was an intelligent woman, she’d read theological books, she knew what she was talking about. And Guy and Fox see Anne’s time in the early 1530s, before she became queen, as Anne at her zenith, as far as her influence on the king was concerned. She was very much his partner, his equal at this time. But she was also willing and able to speak out when she didn’t agree with the king and/or his advisors, and Guy and Fox look in detail at examples of that, for example, Anne’s views on the dissolution of the monasteries, which weren’t at all in synch with Henry’s or Cromwell’s.

Guy and Fox see Anne Boleyn as the love of Henry VIII’s life, a passion he had never experienced before and a passion he never experienced again. I completely agree with this assessment. I enjoyed their section on his love letters to her and their courtship, and the points they make about Henry’s relationship with his mother, Elizabeth of York, and how this affected his views on women.

And Henry, well, they see him as a narcissist, and they conclude that his marriage to Anne left an indelible mark on him, and although their marriage changed England for ever, it did not change him, he changed himself. An interesting assessment, which is well argued.
There are, of course, things I don’t agree with, for example, Guy and Fox’s views on Anne when Henry first noticed her. They see her as modelling herself on Elizabeth Woodville and being ambitious, wanting the king to propose to her and holding out on him for that reason. They also really don’t like Thomas Boleyn. They see him as mean, greedy and grasping, and willing to do anything to rise at court and to save his own neck. I definitely don’t agree with either of those views.

Is the book ground-breaking?

Yes, its examination of Henry and Anne’s relationship is fresh, and I particularly enjoyed the details about the French court and Anne’s time in France, which often gets passed over, and the details on Anne’s involvement in the Great Matter.

Guy and Fox have also found new documentary evidence, for example, a manuscript which backs up the argument that Anne was the younger of the two sisters, and they also go into a lot of details regarding Anne and George’s trials.

I won’t go into any more details as I don’t want to spoil the book, although I think this review would have to be a few feature length movies to do that! It’s so detailed.

The book also contains family trees, and, helpfully a section listing those mentioned, for example, members of Anne Boleyn’s household, with a sentence explaining who they were. And, what I really love about the book, is it has a huge notes section, so Guy and Foxe properly cite their sources – hurrah. You can see how big the appendices, notes and bibliography are if I hold up the book. My bookmark is where the main text of the book ends. It’s always good to know what source a historian is using to back up their views.

As you can see, I’ve turned down lots of corners. I do that when there’s something interesting, something that made me go hmmm…, something that I didn’t agree with or want to check out, or just something I want to go back to and re-read. Lots of hmmm… moments! That’s good. I want to read a history book that makes me pause for thought, that challenges me and my views, successfully or unsuccessfully, and this book certainly did that.

I’d definitely recommend Hunting the Falcon for anyone interested in knowing more about Anne Boleyn and wanting a fresh perspective on her relationship with Henry VIII.

Book blurb:

A groundbreaking, freshly-researched examination of one of the most dramatic and consequential marriages in history: Henry VIII’s long courtship, short union, and brutal execution of Anne Boleyn.

Hunting the Falcon is the story of how Henry VIII’s obsessive desire for Anne Boleyn changed him and his country forever. John Guy and Julia Fox, two of the most acclaimed and distinguished historians of this period, have joined forces to present Anne and Henry in startlingly new ways. By closely examining the most recent archival discoveries, and peeling back layers of historical myth and misinterpretation and distortion, Guy and Fox are able to set Anne and Henry’s tragic relationship against the major international events of the time, and integrate and reinterpret sources hidden in plain sight or simply misunderstood. Among other things, they dispel lingering and latently misogynistic assumptions about Anne which anachronistically presumed that a sixteenth-century woman, even a queen, could exert little to no influence on the politics and beliefs of a patriarchal society. They reveal how, in fact, Anne was a shrewd, if ruthless, politician in her own right, a woman who steered Henry and his policies, often against the advice he received from his male advisers—and whom Henry seriously contemplated making joint sovereign.

Hunting the Falcon sets the facts–and some completely new finds–into a far wider frame, providing an appreciation of this misunderstood and underestimated woman. It explores how Anne organized her “side” of the royal court on novel and (in male eyes) subversive lines compared to her queenly predecessors, adopting instead French protocol by which the sexes mingled freely in her private chambers. Men could share in the women’s often sexually charged courtly “pastimes” and had liberal access to Anne, and she to them—encounters from which she gained much of her political intelligence and extended her authority, and which also sowed the seeds of her own downfall.

An exhilarating feat of historical research and analysis, Hunting the Falcon is also a thrilling and tragic story of a marriage that has proved of enduring fascination over the centuries. But in the hands of John Guy and Julia Fox, even the most knowledgeable reader will encounter this story as if for the first time.

Publisher: ‎Bloomsbury Publishing in the UK (14 September 2023), Harper in the US (24 October 2023)
Hardback: 624 pages
ISBN-10: ‎1526631520 UK, 0063073447 US
ISBN-13: ‎978-1526631527 UK, 978-0063073449 US

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21 thoughts on “Hunting the Falcon by John Guy and Julia Fox – Review and Giveaway”
  1. I’m looking forward to reading this because I find each book on a Anne Boleyn reveals a new angle. She’s an endlessly fascinating character to me.

    1. Hi Dianne,
      I’ve been emailing you as you’ve been picked as one of the winners of this giveaway, but the email keeps bouncing back. If you see this, please can you email me at with your shipping address and daytime telephone number so I can arrange to get the book sent to you? Thank you!

  2. Alone the booktitile has me CAUGHT. If I´m not one of the 5 is it okay.
    To the 5 that wins congratulations
    That said I WANT this copy. i MUST have it. It feels like a contnuation of
    Hayley Nolans book Anne Boleyn 500 years of lies.
    Im so far as to say i cannot WAIT to know if I won. That I need it NOW.
    Im giddy as a kid on christmas morning.

  3. Ahm a thought. Claire mentions that the writers say Anne arrived at Henry VIII ´scourt ambitious. I ask, was Henrys court NOT FILLED with ambitious people? Men in particular? Was Henry´s court not a marriage market as well? So why was women ambitious as well? Why is THAT a bad thing? To find the right match man furthering the famiy? Why is female ambition wrong in Tudor times? Why are female ambitions wrong then as now? What are men scared of? Hmm reminds me of an article i read this past weekend on men and their hellbent need for control.

  4. Guy’s biography of Mary, Queen of Scots was the first historical biography that I read and now I have multiple shelves full of Tudor history books. This take on Anne Boleyn seems fresh and I’m excited to buy once it hits an independent book store!

  5. I would love to win this! I can’t get enough of Tudor history, especially Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn and a new history book about them is always welcome in my library. I would also like to read about the new evidence that Anne was younger than Mary.
    Thank you!

  6. I would also like to win this book, as I think the European context is often overlooked. More importantly, in addressing Anne’s fall, I hope to get an idea why Cromwell — who in 1535 is trying very hard to get a Poor Law through Parliament establishing schools and employment on public works projects for the poor (among other things) — allegedly has a motive for murder in 1536 because Anne wants the money from the dissolution to go to education.

  7. As a student of AB for over 50 years, would I want to read another account if information that I mostly know? OF COURSE!!! Would love to win .

  8. Hi Claire!!Thanks for your fab review on Hunting the Falcon.When I heard about this book I at once knew I had to have it!!
    Like you said in your review, I don’t think Thomas Boleyn was mean, and Anne can’t be compared to anyone!! Anne was Anne
    Apart from that, it looks like there is lots of good and interesting info about Henry & Anne as a couple along with so much more to learn about her life and their relationship. I would definitely love to win!!
    Kind regards

  9. Hello Claire, thank you very much for your excellent and balanced book review. I am looking forward to reading “Hunting the Falcon” because I just can’t get enough of Anne Boleyn and Tudor history and I can’t wait to read new discoveries about Anne Boleyn’s time in France, her political influence and how she reorganized her side of the court. I am also very interested in the detailed information on Anne and her brother George’s trials.
    Kind regards

  10. I have always thought one of the reasons the relationship between Henry and Anne went bad was that Anne refused to “dwindle into a wife.” Being pert and a bit difficult and arguing is fine during courtship, but Henry expected a wife to be what he was used to a wife being! I wonder if this book looks at the causes of their breakup in any detail.

    It sounds very interesting and I am looking forward to reading it.

  11. I would like to read it because I would like to know the writers perspective on Anne and Henry’s relationship and marriage. Thank you.

  12. Thanks for your review Claire! I would love to win a copy! I read any book about Anne that I can get my hands on!!

  13. I am very excited to read more about Anne Boleyn’s life. I have read as many books as I could about her and always look forward to new books. Thank you Claire for this review.

  14. I’m looking forward to reading this book as I enjoy an author’s viewpoints on historical events and persons. It is up to me to decide if I agree with them!

  15. I know I would enjoy reading another look at the wide-ranging impact of the marriage of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn.

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