October’s Book of the Month

Posted By on October 7, 2009

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

The Lady in the TowerIt’s here! The long awaited book by Alison Weir has been released in the UK and is being devoured by Anne Boleyn fans and Tudor history buffs.

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
  • Elizabeth
  • 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.”

and

“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.

Anne Boleyn Ruby Headdress New additions

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.

Your opinions

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!

17 thoughts on “October’s Book of the Month”

  1. amy says:

    This book doesn’t come out in the US until Jan. 5. I’m on amazon right now we can only pre-order it 🙁

  2. Jeannine Rainone says:

    I read somewhere that the executioner from France was brought over before Anne was ever brought to trial. Is that true? Because if it is true, than it means either Henry or someone with the authority to order an executioner f(rom France, no less) was intent on Anne’s death. If Allison Weir explains that in her book, then I will definately buy the book.

  3. Okay, I’m going to have to order this book from Amazon in the UK. I’m writing a chapter about Anne for Scandalous Women, and this looks like I’m going to want to have it on my shelf along with Joanna Denny’s book.

  4. Claire says:

    Hi Amy,
    You can order it from Amazon UK, they ship worldwide – just click on the book photo. I’m awlays doing it the other way round and getting stuff from the US!

  5. Claire says:

    Hi Jeannine,
    Yes, that is correct and Alison Weir does make the point that Anne’s guilt was a foregone conclusion. Weir states that in the Tudor period it would have taken at least 48 hours to travel from Dover to London plus the 20 mile boat trip from Calais, so the French swordsman must have been ordered on the 14th May at the very latest. He may even have been summoned as early as the 9th May. Weir writes:

    “Thus the King had intended all along that Anne should be beheaded, and this not only pre-empted the verdict given at her trial, but also inflicted an added refinement of cruelty in keeping her in suspense for a whole day as to whether or not she would suffer the agony of burning.”

    Another good point that Weir makes is that the fact that the men were found guilty of treason by sleeping with the Queen and for conspiring the King’s death before Anne had gone on trial meant that Anne’s trial was prejudiced.
    It is a great book with lots of detail – transcripts of letters, indictments, speeches etc.

  6. julie b says:

    Hi Claire,
    I cannot wait to read The Lady in the Tower! Looks like an awesome book.
    Love this website, I have been able to see so many videos, aritices etc that I would never
    have seen otherwise.
    Wish I could be a part of the “Experience” trip that you have planned. That would be a dream come true. Not looking too promising though…..Maybe one day!!!!

  7. Claire says:

    Hi Elizabeth,
    Yes, this is definitely a must-read for people researching Anne and it’s great to have so much detail on her fall, trial and execution in one book. Have you read Eric Ives’ book? I prefer it to Denny’s and Warnicke’s, it’s my “Anne Bible”!
    Thanks for the comment, Elizabeth, and good luck with the article!

  8. Carrie says:

    I got my copy yesterday and I was so excited! I’ve only gotten as far as the first couple of chapters, but so far it is very interesting. I also enjoyed the pictures that are included. There is a painting in there of one of the man accused with her. I think it was a picture of Weston. It has always interested me that there are no pictures of George Boleyn or of any of the other men as well. Has anybody else seen any portraits of the accused men in any books?

  9. rochie says:

    Gosh! This sounds good. The way you describe it, Claire, this really seems to have some new information, new ideas.
    Would you say – for somebody coming fresh to the Anne Boleyn story – that this would be a good introduction, or would you still stick with Ives?

  10. Claire says:

    Hi Carrie,
    Yes, the painting in the book is of Francis Weston. It is weird that there are no surviving portraits of George Boleyn or the other men. There is a portrait of Thomas Wyatt in the Eric Ives book but he was one of the lucky ones!

  11. Claire says:

    Hi Rochie,
    I thoroughly enjoyed it because, like Ives, Weir does seem balanced and fair and doesn’t come out with anything weird and wacky. It is very readable so it could be used as an introduction to Anne Boleyn but it obviously only covers the last few years of Anne’s life, whereas Ives gives a rundown of her whole life.

  12. julie b says:

    Hi Claire,
    Just ordered the book! Can’t wait to read it.
    I am sure this book will only prove even more Anne’s innocence of adultry. I think we all feel that way. And your question about if Henry truly beleived Cromwell, I think he honestly felt that she was innocent but his desire to have a son was so strong that he was willing to do anything to get rid of her and move on, just like he did with Katherine.

  13. Ashley says:

    oh boy. I think I have to get it now, I am off put though by how negative she was about Anne in “The Six Wives of Henry VIII” I really don’t want to end up reading something that bashes her the whole way through. It seems like Weir, in “Six Wives” really wasn’t sympathetic at all. I think me and all of the people on this site believe her innocence through and through and really just lift her up as a woman ahead of her time, at the forefronts, so to speak. 🙂 I dunno. I guess it doesn’t hurt to give it a try and by the way you describe it, its deliciously tempting, haha! Anyway, now I have to lengthen my book list! 😛 Thanks for the review!

  14. Claire says:

    Hi Julie,
    It is an excellent book and although Weir does make the point that there was enough evidence for a jury to convict Anne and the men and for Henry to be convinced of her guilt so we cannot be 100% sure that Anne was completely innocent. However, Weir, like Ives and many other historians, feels that Anne was framed and that the speed of the coup, her trial and execution were so that Henry did not have time to think about things and change his mind. It is sobering to think that Henry may well have changed his mind or ordered further investigations if events had not happened so quickly.

  15. Claire says:

    Hi Ashley,
    I know what you mean about your book list, Amazon make a fortune out of me! It is a good book and, like you, I was concerned that Weir would be very negative about Anne but I think that she was actually very fair and balanced. She doesn’t gush like Denny and she doesn’t “bash” her, she’s realistic about her. We know that Anne had her faults and was no angel but she certainly didn’t deserve her untimely end. I just love the way that Weir gives new information and details e.g. the location of Anne’s execution, where in St Peter ad Vincula she may be buried, which ladies may have attended her etc. I would definitely recommend it – the photos are lovely too!

  16. Ingrid says:

    ouuww,
    I really loved this website too
    I was looking for this a long timee ago
    and never found it!
    Gongratulations *-* And unfortunately I can not bought the book because I don’t live in U.K.
    But I hope onde day I will.
    A lot of kisses *-*

  17. Claire says:

    I’m so glad that you found the site, Ingrid, it’s nice to have you here. Where do you live? Amazon UK will ship overseas if you can’t wait for it to come out where you are. Thanks so much for your kind words and welcome to The Anne Boleyn Files!

Please note: Comment moderation is currently enabled so there will be a delay between when you post your comment and when it shows up.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.