There was a brilliant article in yesterday’s “Independent” by Howard Brenton, the playwright responsible for the play “Anne Boleyn” which will be performed at the Globe Theatre from the 24th July – 21st August. In the article, entitled “Anne Boleyn: Drama Queen”, Brenton reveals exactly why Anne Boleyn’s story inspired him and how there is a “fast growing Anne Boleyn cult” of people who are just as fascinated by her story.

Brenton gives the following reasons for why he thinks Anne Boleyn’s story has created such a cult following:-

  • “Her story has a Wagnerian intensity of love, death and betrayal, shot through with a very un-Wagnerian sense of reckless fun, of daring sexiness.”
  • Guilt – We feel guilty because of what happened to her.
  • The tragedy and drama of her life – The way she was plotted against by Cromwell and executed for crimes she did not commit.

  • The many faces of Anne Boleyn – “Popular culture – as in the BBC series The Tudors – sees her as a bright, sexy girl manoeuvred by an ambitious father and his friends into the King’s bed. Historians disagree. David Starkey sees her as “a brutal and effective politician” who was, after all, able to bring down the King’s First Minister, Cardinal Wolsey – whom she hated, ironically, for blocking a possible betrothal when she was younger. Antonia Fraser, who is very much of the Catholic party of Henry’s first wife, the much put upon and infuriatingly correct Catherine of Aragon, sees Anne as a schemer and a poseur. She accuses her of “religious chic”, always making sure she had a religious book in her hands when someone important came into the room. In her recent novel, Wolf Hall, Hilary Mantel gives us an extraordinary Anne, calculating yet instinctive, almost feral, a very dangerous woman indeed.” Yet we also have Anne the religious reformer and Brenton ponders whether “there was a Joan of Arc, driven by a religious vision, within the more familiar figure of Anne the dazzling sexual predator.”
  • The fact that had so much intelligence, ambition and influence that she got “to the centre of a dangerous maze of male power”.
  • The fact that “she helped detonate a religious upheaval which culminated a century later in the Civil War, the breaking of divine royal power and the establishment of our Parliament” and changed the course of English history.
  • She was ahead of her time.
  • She has been misunderstood and maligned.

It is obvious from his article that Brenton has fallen under Anne Boleyn’s spell, just as we all have. You can read Brenton’s full article at and you can find out more about his play at

If someone asked you why you’re so fascinated by Anne Boleyn what would you say? What is it about her that grabs you?

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