I am a seeker of truths. I have never been a person to take anything on face value. When I took a creative writing course many years ago, I wrote a short story in which a young woman visiting the Tower of London falls down a set of stairs and wakes up at the Court of Henry the Eighth. I wanted to use this device to time travel back to a time in history that has fascinated me since high school. I wanted to learn the truth behind the stories of Henry and his second wife, Anne Boleyn. By this time I had read several biographies about Anne and had formed my own opinions about her, which I must admit were at odds with what the historians were saying.
About this time I began a correspondence with a woman in England who became the driving force behind the creation of my novel, BETRAYAL. Christine, like me had found herself fascinated by Henry and particularly with Anne. She had read the biographies too. We discussed them long distance in letters and telephone calls, arguing about the claims of Anne’s deformities and that most authors ignored Anne’s drive to use the monies from closing the monasteries to fund schools and education. It seemed to us that historians were ignoring the good that Anne did in an effort to portray her in a certain way, as a spiteful, ignorant woman who bewitched Henry and destroyed the Catholic Church in England. It wasn’t until Eric Ives published his wonderful book Anne Boleyn in 1986 and The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn in 2004, that we felt the truth was finally being told.
Christine had been urging me to take my short story further and with the new information from Ives’ books I began working on Betrayal with the aim of making Anne a real person. I chose to portray her sympathetically, in particular with reference to her supposed deformities. I believe that there is no way that Henry would have married a deformed woman. He was seeking sons, healthy sons who would succeed him and create the dynasty he dreamed of. It was believed in the sixteenth century that women were vessels for the creation of children, as she was so were her children. Henry would never have risked the health of his children in marrying a deformed woman, no matter how seductive she was. We only have the word of Nicholas Sander that Anne was deformed. He describes “a large wen under her chin” which Anne always concealed by “a high dress under her throat.” He also makes mention of a sixth finger. Yet he concedes that Anne was “handsome to look at, amusing in her way, and a good dancer.” Whether we will ever be able to know the truth of the matter remains unknown, perhaps documentation as yet unfound will be reveal the truth.
I am grateful to sites like The Anne Boleyn Files for sharing the truth about Anne. Thank you for allowing me to share the story of how my novel was born.
Bocabec, New Brunswick
You can read my review of Michele’s book, Betrayal, on my Tudor Book Reviews site – click here.