October’s Book of the Month just has to be Alison Weir’s “The Lady in the Tower” because it is the latest non-fiction book on Anne Boleyn and because it is a wonderful read.
If you know me, you’ll know that I like my non-fiction books and biographies to be backed up with fact. I hate “maybes”, “might haves” and “could haves” with a vengeance and just can’t read a book which is high on ideas and theories but low on facts and evidence. I realise that it is hard to put forward “back-upable” (I just made up that word but you know what I mean!) theories when we’re examining Anne Boleyn because there is so much mystery surrounding her and, as Alison Weir points out, evidence seems to have gone astray, but authors should at least try to find something that supports their case and Alison Weir is great at this and I admire her for it.
You can read my full review on “The Book of the Month” page but here is an abridged version.
“The Lady in the Tower” by Alison Weir
Weir’s publisher, Jonathan Cape, has been publicising this book as the first book to be entirely devoted to Anne Boleyn’s fall; a little misleading when books like Retha Warnicke’s “The Rise and Fall of Anne Boleyn” and Eric Ives’ “The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn” cover Anne Boleyn’s fall and the events leading up to it in detail, but it is technically true!
I blogged last week on The Anne Boleyn Files about my thoughts on the first few chapters of “The Lady in the Tower” and you can read those at “The Lady in the Tower”, but Alison Weir does not disappoint in the rest of the book. I was forever underlining bits, putting stars by paragraphs and making notes, and that is always a sign that I am finding new ideas and theories, or things that back up my own beliefs. Question marks or exclamation marks in margins mean I am not impressed and these were rare in Weir’s book.
I wouldn’t say that there was anything truly groundbreaking or revolutionary in Weir’s examination of Anne Boleyn’s fall, but there were times when I almost said “Ah” out loud when she explained something that I had never fully understood before or when she backed up a theory that others have put forward but never proven with evidence. My poor husband had to listen to me read bits out when I got overexcited!
What is a delight about this book is the detail that Weir gives about:-
- The events leading up to Anne’s fall
- The fall or “coup” itself
- The men involved
- The trials
- Anne’s imprisonment
- The executions of the men
- Anne’s execution
- The burials
- Public reaction to the news of Anne’s execution, both home and abroad
- The legacy of Anne’s execution
- The changing views surrounding Anne’s story
- Anne Boleyn legends
Everything was covered and every question or niggling doubt that I had seemed to be answered in this book and it will definitely be the book that I use alongside my beloved Eric Ives book, which is getting rather battered. I don’t want to spoil the book by giving a rundown of Alison Weir’s thoughts and theories, but highlights of the book for me were:-
- Weir’s examination of Henry’s role in Anne’s fall – Did he order the investigation? Was he determined to get rid of Anne at all costs or was he too an innocent victim who was made to believe the worse of Anne?
- Weir’s accounts of the trials – How they were organised, who was on the jury, what happened and what evidence there was against the men and Anne.
- The detail that Weir gives about the men – Too often we forget that Anne was not the only victim, five men were also executed and they were more than just names, they were real people with jobs and families. Weir explains who they were, how they got embroiled in the coup and examines whether they really were the “libertines” and homosexuals of Warnicke’s book.
- Weir’s description of Anne’s execution and her look at the various accounts of it and the speech that Anne made.
- Weir’s examination of the evidence that brought Anne down and how, if Anne was innocent, 95 jurors could find her guilty
I also love Weir’s words on page 322 and 323:-
“Notwithstanding all this [that some believed the evidence], it is almost certain that there was a grievous miscarriage of justice. The circumstances of Anne’s fall strongly suggest that she was framed; even her enemy Chapuys thought so.”
“In weighing up the evidence for and against her, the historian cannot but concluded that Anne Boleyn was the victim of a dreadful miscarriage of justice: and not only Anne and the men accused with her, but also the King himself, the Boleyn faction and -saddest of all – Elizabeth, who was to bear the scars of it all her life. In the absence of any real proof of Anne’s guilt, and with her having been convicted only on suspicious evidence, there must be a very strong presumption that she went to her death and innocent woman.”
Many people still believe that Anne Boleyn was a whore who deserved everything she got, so I hope that this book will go some way to restoring Anne’s image – we can but hope.
All in all, I would wholeheartedly recommend this book to anyone interested in Anne Boleyn and Henry VIII, and would say that it is a must-read for Anne Boleyn fans and students doing essays or projects on Anne. Read it!
“The Lady in the Tower” by Alison Weir is published by Jonathan Cape and is available now in the UK. Click here to buy now from Amazon UK who ship worldwide.
Daniela has been working hard (between all the Halloween orders!) designing and making new jewelry and headdresses for The Anne Boleyn Files. Recent additions include:-
- “The Tudors” Headdresses – The Ruby Headband (see photo), Pearl Hair Chain and Amethyst Crown
- “The Tudors” Anne Boleyn Dragon earrings, Amethyst Chandelier earrings (also available in other stones), Anne Boleyn Opal Amethyst necklace and a selection of jewelry sets which make great gifts for Christmas.
Do check out the jewelry range on The Elizabeth Files too – I’ll be adding some more jewelry on there later today.
As always, please feel free to leave your comments below – If you’ve read Alison Weir’s book, what did you think? What do you think about Anne’s innocence or guilt? Did Henry truly believe Cromwell?…Let me know!