The Last Days of Anne Boleyn – A Review and Rundown

Posted By on May 24, 2013

Last Days of Anne BoleynI thought I’d write a review (well, more of a rundown) of the BBC2 programme The Last Days of Anne Boleyn for those of you who missed it or are unable to see it. I sat scribbling notes as fast as I could and I hope this makes sense!

The programme flitted between a narrator telling Anne’s story (her fall apparently happened 600 years ago???), while actors acted out various scenes from Anne Boleyn’s last days, and historians and authors sharing their views. The historians included David Starkey, Suzannah Lipscomb, Greg Walker and G W Bernard, and the authors included Alison Weir, Philippa Gregory and Hilary Mantel. I have to admit to sighing deeply (and nearly throwing my pad at the TV) in the first five minutes as Philippa Gregory described Anne Boleyn as a “she-wolf” and “ravenously ambitious” – why are strong historical women always labelled “she-wolves”? The narrator then went to talk about how the reasons for Anne’s fall are the subject of fierce historical debate and that her family were “notorious for their scheming ambitions” (*sigh*).

The authors and historians then shared their views on Anne. Philippa Gregory talked of Anne being quick-witted, having a genuine interest in theology and being the “sexiest girl at court”, and Suzannah Lipscomb described Anne as sophisticated, cosmopolitan, charismatic and “a cut above”. Hilary Mantel spoke about how we don’t know how Anne felt about Henry, whether she loved him or whether their relationship was simply down to her “cold ambition”. She concluded that Anne was too intelligent to stake anything on love. The narrator then cut in, saying that Anne told Henry that she would settle for nothing less than being Queen, and that this led to Henry deciding to divorce Catherine and breaking with Rome. Did Anne ever actually say that? We do not have Anne’s replies to Henry’s love letter, but we know from Henry’s letters that Anne refused to be Henry’s mistress and that she consented to be his wife, but that’s not quite the same. David Starkey pointed out that no other woman had ever done what Anne did. She moved from royal mistress to Queen, moving another Queen out of the way, and she changed all the rules.

The programme then moved on to Anne Boleyn’s miscarriage on the day of Catherine of Aragon’s funeral. Starkey spoke of how the idea of not having an heir was unthinkable and that Henry only having two daughters (legitimately) was a failure for a King because the future of the dynasty was at stake. Mantel talked of how the deeply religious Henry VIII saw the “deathly pattern reasserting itself” and that the miscarriage would have led to him having doubts about whether he was on the right side of God. She went on to talk about Henry’s words to a courtier soon afterwards about how he’d been bewitched into the marriage and that this shows that he had decided to get rid of Anne, that he was thinking that his marriage had always been null and void.

Then came a “throwing my pad at the TV bit” as Philippa Gregory told viewers that a midwife examined the baby that Anne had miscarried and declared that it was “malformed”. She spoke of how a malformed foetus was seen as evidence that the woman had committed an awful sin, such as gross adultery, incest or witchcraft, and that Henry would have believed that his marriage was not blessed by God and that he may have thought Anne was a witch. I was so glad when Hilary Mantel then said that there is NO evidence that Anne miscarried a shapeless mass and that the story is down to Nicholas Sander’s propaganda. She commented that the story is sensational and so is therefore “attractive to novelists”. What annoyed me about Gregory’s statements is that she presented them as fact, as if there is a midwife’s statement in the records, which there isn’t.

We then had a section on Jane Seymour, Henry’s new flame. Mantel pointed out that Jane was the direct opposite to Anne, she was demure, obedient and self-effacing, while Starkey described her as “so pale, she virtually doesn’t exist.” Mantel went on to talk of Jane teasing Henry by reading his letter on 30th March 1536, kissing it and then giving it back. Suzannah Lipscomb spoke of how there was no evidence at that time that Henry was trying to get rid of Anne or that he was seeing Jane as anything other than a potential mistress. The historians and authors then shared their views on Henry’s feelings for Anne at this time. Mantel spoke of how Henry wanted another Catherine of Aragon, a woman who was intelligent but knew her place; Greg Walker mentioned how being involved in matters of religion and politics, as Anne was, was not the conventional role of a wife, and Mantel stated that Anne saw herself as a player and adviser, but that Henry didn’t want an adviser as a wife.

The discussion then moved on to the Passion Sunday sermon by John Skip, Anne Boleyn’s almoner. Its theme was religious reform and the dissolution of the monasteries, but historians and authors disagree over what the aim of the sermon was. G W Bernard saw it as “political theatre”, as Skip “laying into” the King and his council. But was Skip’s target Thomas Cromwell? Had the relationship between Anne Boleyn and Thomas Cromwell reached crisis point? Mantel described Cromwell as “clever as a bag of snakes”, “the supreme master of the political game” and spoke of how Anne had hoped to be Henry’s key adviser but that Cromwell had taken that position. Starkey described the sermon as “extraordinary” and said that Skip’s reference to Haman must have been directed at Cromwell and that it was “a declaration of war”. Mantel then stated that Cromwell had complained about Anne as early as 1534 when Anne had threatened that she’d have his head and Alison Weir spoke of the power rivalry between Cromwell and Anne, how Anne felt her influence was waning and how they felt threatened by each other. However, G W Bernard felt that the idea that Anne was campaigning against Cromwell is far-fetched because Cromwell was simply the King’s servant. Suzannah Lipscomb also felt that the idea was “too much of a leap” and that we should not necessarily view Skip as Anne’s “mouthpiece”. Starkey disagreed with Bernard and Lipscomb, saying that if Skip’s sermon wasn’t evidence of trouble between Cromwell and Anne, then what was?

There was then a discussion of Henry’s trick on Chapuys, the imperial ambassador, on 18th April when Chapuys, who had always refused to meet Anne Boleyn, was forced to meet her face-to-face and acknowledge her as Queen. Lipscomb spoke of this “little piece of etiquette” being “a diplomatic coup” and Bernard saw it as a coup for Anne and evidence that her miscarriage in January was not a problem. Bernard questioned why Henry would have made Chapuys acknowledge Anne as Queen if he knew that Anne would be falling in just two weeks’ time.

On the same day that Chapuys acknowledged Anne, he met with the King, in Cromwell’s presence, to discuss foreign policy. Hilary Mantel described how Henry seemed to turn on Cromwell, accusing him of making up his own foreign policy, and that it was a definite row which left Cromwell distressed. She felt that it was possible that this was the turning point for Cromwell and that this dressing down from Henry caused Cromwell to act. Lipscomb, however, felt that there was no real evidence for this and that it was all speculation. We do know, though, that Cromwell left court at this point, excusing himself by way of illness.

This is the point, according to the narrator, when rumours started. Discussion moved on to Lady Worcester and how, in an argument with her brother, she justified her own bad behaviour by saying that it was nothing compared to the Queen’s. Lipscomb described how Lady Worcester implicated Smeaton, and Mantel spoke of how the situation exploded and everything changed. Smeaton was then interrogated by Cromwell and Greg Walker spoke of how we do not know whether Smeaton was tortured but that he confessed to sleeping with the Queen three times. His confession, Walker said, could be the result of torture or it could be fantasy. Bernard described Smeaton’s confession as a bombshell to Henry VIII and Lipscomb spoke of how Henry’s worst fears had been realised and that he felt betrayed. David Starkey was incredulous at this view. He spoke of how people just don’t understand Henry VIII and explained that the most convincing liars believe their own lies and that Henry believed his own lies because it was convenient.

Smeaton’s confession resulted in an atmosphere of paranoia and panic at court. Starkey described a “court of terror” where everyone was playing with fire and was a whisker away from execution. Walker spoke of how, after her arrest, Anne alternated between the belief that Henry was testing her and the knowledge that she couldn’t be saved, but that she was also desperately trying to figure out what she’d done. Starkey explained how the charges against Anne were “deliberately pornographic” and that their sheer magnitude made them believable, particularly when Anne had “inverted the religious universe”. Lipscomb explained the Henry Norris incident as Anne accusing Norris of wanting to marry her when her husband was dead, and Mantel spoke of how it was a short step from mentioning the King’s death to wishing it to accelerating it, so Anne was coming close to treason in what she said. Lipscomb went on to explain that a wife’s adultery suggested a man’s lack of sexual dominance and the idea that if you cannot govern your own household then how can you govern a country.

The programme then moved on to a discussion of who was ultimately behind the coup against Anne. Mantel spoke of how Cromwell told Chapuys that he had dreamt it all up, but that there’s no way he could have planned it step-by-step. Mantel believes that Cromwell put people under pressure by asking them questions and then saw what happened. She doesn’t believe that it was a pre-arranged, highly intricate conspiracy, but rather a series of events that spiralled out of control. Walker believes that there was more holding Anne and Cromwell together than dividing them and that Cromwell would not have been happy to be investigating Anne because it could lead to his own ruin. Alison Weir believes that Cromwell “masterminded” the whole coup and that this is proved by Cromwell telling Chapuys that he had plotted it. Walker countered by saying that Cromwell would have said that anyway and that the evidence shows that Cromwell only came into it when the King told him to. Suzannah Lipscomb commented that historians often ignore the line before, in Chapuys’ report, in which Cromwell states that he was commissioned by the King and admits that the King told him to do it. David Starkey spoke of how the final drive of everything under Henry was Henry and that he was driven by his desire to get rid of Anne. Anne would have been safe if she had not miscarried, but she miscarried, her arrogance broke etiquette, she trod on toes and her relationship with Henry became “fraught”; she had to go.

Suzannah Lipscomb then spoke of how Henry believed the charges but that it was courtly love gone wrong. Men were expected to pay court to their queen and Anne had to be chaste but also been seen as “available” at the same time. Greg Walker, explained that Anne had to behave flirtatiously, as part of the courtly love convention, but that she crossed the line with Norris and that that moment destroyed her. She was an innocent woman displaying “patterns of guilt.” Alison Weir then spoke of Anne’s remarkable courage, her admirable composure at her trial and how she was already reconciled to her death. G W Bernard asked why we assume that Anne was innocent and said that we should ponder whether there was actually something in the charges because Henry was committed to the marriage and then suddenly something happened to call it into question. Bernard went on to say that the Countess of Worcester was in a position to know about the Queen’s behaviour and there would have been no reason for her to make it up. He also made the point that Smeaton confessed and never withdrew his confession, and that Anne’s comments hinted at an intimate relationship. He went on to say that Anne’s uncle, the Duke of Norfolk, had described Anne as a “great whore”. Bernard then stated that he had a “hunch” that Anne had slept with Smeaton and Norris.

The subject of incest then came up. Philippa Gregory spoke of how Anne and George had not been brought up together, so when they met it was like meeting a stranger. She described Anne as “very ruthless indeed” and explained how it is possible to imagine Anne committing incest with her brother if Henry was unable to get her pregnant. Greg Walker then stated the obvious (I so wanted him to say “Duh” at this point), i.e. that if Henry was impotent that Anne committing incest in order to provide Henry with an heir wouldn’t really work. Lipscomb pointed out that 3/4 of the dates in the indictments can be disproved and that they were made up in order to achieve an end: that Anne wouldn’t come out of it alive.

The programme cut to the Anne Boleyn actress receiving the sacrament and making her final confession on 18th May at dawn, the day she thought she was going to die. Lipscomb explained how Anne swore twice, before and after receiving the sacrament, that she was innocent. She “swore on peril of her soul’s damnation” and Lipscomb explained how serious this act was to a person who knew they were just about to meet their maker, Anne would not have risked her soul. Alison Weir pointed out that Anne swore that she had not offended the King with her body, and pondered whether she had with her heart, but we don’t know.

Suzannah Lipscomb concluded that with Anne’s fall “there’s just enough evidence to keep historians guessing but just enough gaps to make sure they can never finally get to the solution.” Alison Weir spoke of Anne being framed and described it as “judicial murder” with Cromwell as the “guilty party”. Philippa Gregory spoke of Anne as the victim of a husband who wanted to kill her but Hilary Mantel said that it doesn’t do Anne any favours to cast her as a victim when she chose to step into the tough political game.

Thanks to Ashley Rene for giving me this link to the YouTube video of the programme – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CXxjEVM7bIU. Please share your thoughts on the programme in the comments section below.

You can see my timeline of Anne Boleyn’s fall at www.thefallofanneboleyn.com and obviously my book, The Fall of Anne Boleyn: A Countdown is all about Anne’s last days.

The following articles also cover some of the topics raised in the programme:

Next week, I’ll be sharing with you my thoughts on who was ultimately responsible for Anne Boleyn’s fall.

Do remember to watch the Cromwell programme tonight on BBC2 at 9pm.

74 thoughts on “The Last Days of Anne Boleyn – A Review and Rundown”

  1. Laura says:

    I enjoyed this as much as I enjoy any documentary or drama about Anne and the Tudor dynasty. However, the big let down was, for me, Phillipa Gregory. I have to admit (and I know I will most likely be told off here by many!) I find Phillipa Gregory’s books very hard to ‘get into’ and didn’t think her contribution added much. I much preferred listening to Hilary Mantel and Alison Weir. I also like David Stakey’s animated way of talking, you can sense his passion for the era when he talks. Overall, very interesting. Looking forward to tonights show about Thomas Cromwell. Someone I think is very interesting.

    1. susan says:

      Yes i agree with your comments Hilary Mantel is my favorite takes her a long time to give her views but she get”s there in the end ! As for bernard he just makes me angry but we all have our views some agree some dont .I dont think we will ever know the truth unless some document pops out the wood work to fill the gaps in .Its been 600 yrs and we are still debating but i love it !!!!!

    2. Dee says:

      I never could get into Phillipa Gregory’s Tudor novels at all, so you’re not alone there (although her Cousins’ War series isn’t too bad; I think the slight supernatural element and fewer historical sources makes it go down easier). And there were so many disturbing things in The Other Boleyn Girl; I couldn’t even watch past a certain point–when Anne is trying to get George in her bed. Completely squicked me and I never went back to see if they changed their minds.

      David Starkey’s pretty good, although I never cared for Alison Weir, either. Probably a good thing for me that I wasn’t able to watch this, huh?

  2. Sally-ann says:

    I waited in anticipation for this to come on the TV and was very disappointed. I know that everyone is entitled to their opinion and have to put all sides across, but found some of it a bit far fetched.

  3. Anne Fan says:

    A lovely summary Claire. I felt that the programme makers did a good job of balancing out all the different theories. (I disagree wholeheartedly with Gregory and Bernard but I’ll defend their right to air their views, particularly when one of them was so beautifully put down by Mantel!)

    For me the biggest let-down was the narrator’s script – the 600-year phrase was used at least three times and at one point in the January 1536 section he said Anne would be dead in three months.

    1. Donna says:

      I agree. Three times they state 600 years and it has not been 500 yet, What calendar were they using in 1536? From January to May I count 5 months. These gaffes were really annoying, I was also surprised at Phillipa Gregory. I got the impression that she disliked Anne quite a bit. Interesting attitude for a person who has written several books about her.

  4. Marilyn R says:

    Excellent summary, Claire. The programme demonstrated wonderfully how the evidence (or lack of it) can be interpreted in so many different ways. As I said in an earlier post, it was my privilege to be a guest historian on Alison Weir’s ‘Lancaster and York’ Tour last week; her enthusiasm is infectious and reserves of knowledge remarkable, and she makes a good case for her conclusions. Nevertheless, it is always good to hear another side of the coin, and at the end of the day Suzannah Lipscomb’s conclusion that with Anne’s fall “there’s just enough evidence to keep historians guessing but just enough gaps to make sure they can never finally get to the solution” is something we just have to live with.

  5. Susan Bordo says:

    Claire, thank you so much!!! I’m going to try the link, but I suspect your summary is as good as the documentary. You are a treasure!!! Susan

  6. Dennis says:

    To be honest, I was quite disappointed, thank goodness I have recourse to the late Eric Ives well researched material.

  7. jed says:

    I have always concluded that it is possible for truths to be recorded as lies and lies to be recorded as truths, due to mankind’s nature and motives at the time that they are recorded. Even evidence can be, and often is, tampered with. I watched yesterday’s programme with fascination and bewilderment, as both author’s and historians not only for the most part contradicted and disagreed with each other, and the facts as we know them, but with themselves also. For me personally, the programme’s only achievement was to confuse the confused. But well worth the watch anyway – (I think) – (sorry I’m confused).

    All in all – A history buffs nightmare, but a storytellers playgound.

  8. Helene says:

    I was also scribbling notes, but mainly intriguing quotes. Some of the best ones in my opinion, in case you missed them:-

    Alison Weir claimed that Anne “burst upon [the English court] with a certain brilliance”. Weir describes Anne’s fall as “one of the most shocking and audacious plots in English history”.

    Greg Walker describes the John Skip sermon of April 1536 as a “wonderful satirical sermon”. Walker argues, in relation to Henry that “every step he takes could lead to his own ruin”.

    Suzannah Lipscomb sees the events of May 1536 as “a game of courtly love gone wrong”. Lipscomb also claims that the dates in the indictment were “made up to achieve an end”.

    Hilary Mantel described Cromwell as “clever as a bucket of snakes”. Mantel describes the events of May 1536 as a “series of events spiraled out of control”. Mantel sums up saying that “she was not a victim … she played a winning hand. Ultimately she lost”.

    On Henry’s involvement in the fall, David Starkey argues that the “best and most convenient liars believe their own lies”.

    G.W. Bernard backed up his controversial belief in Anne’s guilt, claiming that she “did sleep with Mark Smeaton and Henry Norris”.

    Philippa Gregory described the idea of incest as “perfectly plausible”. Gregory sums up, saying that “she’s the victim of a husband who decides to kill her”.

  9. Sandi Vasoli says:

    Claire – Thank you so very much for your great summary. I am in the US and was moping about last night knowing we couldn’t see the program. You have really captured the wildly differing views on Anne by historians and authors alike. Yes, it may always be a mystery, but I feel that when one looks at the patterns we do know of Anne’s past and her actions, as well as how much Henry loved and revered her (and let’s face it – he was no dummy), one can assume a reasonable conclusion about what she would and would not have done.

    And why are people so ready to refute the fact that Anne may very well have loved Henry as much as he loved her? I, for one, believe that she did. Which makes for a very interesting, and different, interpretation of her actions.
    Thanks again,
    Sandi Vasoli

  10. Aimee Grose says:

    I really enjoyed the programme, and as many above have said above equally enjoyed Hilary, David and Suzannah’s views on Queen Anne’s demise. Each time PG took to the screen I was tutting and huffing.. I find her uninformed and showboaty. My fiancee however seemed to like her views more.. and the idea that Anne DID do all those things she was accused of. I suppose there needed to be some element of controversial comment so to get other viewers.. I don’t know. I did like it though!

  11. Keeley says:

    thank you for posting the link online, as I was able to watch it before work this morning. I liked how it showed the different views/theories people had on this subject. I found Bernard’s “was Anne guilty?” theory actually quite interesting. I don’t agree with Greogry’s incest theory but in comment to another comment, I love reading her books for an easy non essay type book on history; it has gotten me interested in Anne and now the The War of the Roses. I always do my research though afterwards on her characters afterwards! It would have been nice to have Susan Bordo as a panelist because as I am reading her book I think I agree with her more then the other historians on the episode. I loved Lipscomb ending line about open holes etc because she is right! ( which sucks but keeps us all talking and debating)! but great article Claire!

  12. heather says:

    It was interesting to me that no-one mentioned the fact that, just a few days after her execution, Henry married Jane Seymour. If he was so committed to the marriage with Anne how did that come about so quickly. David Starkey is correct. Henry only ever believed what he wanted to believe

    1. Helene says:

      That’s also my overwhelming opinion, Heather. From my own research on the topic, Henry wanted Jane in order to have a son where Anne had failed. It was this overwhelming desire for a settled succession that led Henry to order Anne’s demise.

    2. princesssmaz says:

      Also interesting that no one mentioned that the executioner had been sent for before the trial… I would say that screams foregone conclusion!

  13. Jessica says:

    I thoroughly enjoyed watching the programme last night, the historians and authors kept you hooked (well they certainly kept me hooked). I really enjoyed listening to all their theories especially Hilary Mantel’s and Suzannah Lipscomb’s. I liked how at the end they all all gave their views on what caused Anne’s demise, whether it was Cromwell (over power struggle, Cromwell feeling threatened by Anne) or Henry wanting to get Anne out of the way. I loved how they went back on where the problems could of started and Anne’s various relationships (Henry Norris, Mark Smeaton…), Anne’s struggle to assert her power (Eustace Chapuys and Thomas Cromwell), her miscarriage, her ladies-in-waiting, Jane Seymour coming into the picture, etc.

    I think the thing that made last nights programme so compelling was the authors and historians passion over Anne Boleyn and how strong they felt about their views on her demise.

    Although, Philippa Gregory’s presence on the screen irked me at times, I enjoyed listening to her views but it felt like she wanted her opinion to be absolute. That what she was saying was the only thing you should be listening to and everyone else’s opinion was wrong. Other than that i enjoyed what she had to say.

    All in all a great programme to watch. David Starkey, Hilary Mantel and Suzannah Lipscomb kept me hooked whenever they would come on to the screen. I cannot wait to watch tonight’s programme about Thomas Cromwell, i think it’s going to be a compelling one.

    Also a wonderful review Claire!

  14. Emily says:

    While I have not yet watched this (thanks so much for the link), based on your review it sounds like they did not even quote from Eric Ives’ work, which I find very disappointing. Even though he has passed on, he was undoubtedly the preeminent scholar on Anne Boleyn…I have finally finished his marvelous biography of her and it was so extraordinarily thorough that any Anne Boleyn documentary worth its salt should utilize Professor Ives’ research (in my opinion, at least)!

    1. Deborah Braden says:

      Emily, I thought the same thing about Eric Ives. My goodness, he is after all, the most researched of scholars on Anne Boleyn. They want evidence, he provided the most extensive collection of evidence to date.

  15. Anne Barnhill says:

    Claire, thank you SO much for the utub–I enjoyed watching it very much. I also appreciate your insightful comments on the program and I, too, wondered at the math–600 years??? WEll, it was a good program, very interesting to hear all the differences of opinion. THanks!

    1. Jillian says:

      I enjoyed the programme more than I expected to do, and like others, found David Starkey and Hilary Mantel the most impressive (although I may be biased as a big fan of both). I felt that Alison Weir also did well, and made a particularly good point about Anne’s denial of adultery in her final confession.

      Although the narration had its dodgy moments, the re-enactments were well done and not too obtrusive. I was pleased that the actors generally resembled their portraits, in contrast to a recent drama series!

  16. Anerje says:

    I enjoyed the programme. I was disappointed when I found out that Philippa Gregory was featured, but then I always am whenever she’s on tv as a ‘serious’ commentator on Tudor times. I picked up on the ‘600 years’ blip as well.

    I attended the BBC Talk Tudor day last month, and was very impressed with Suzannah Lipscombe’s presentation and I enjoyed chatting with her later. I like her take on ‘courtly love’ gone wrong, and that Jane Seymour was just a passing fancy, and that Henry married her on the ‘rebound’ from Anne.

    As to Mantel saying it was a diservice to think of Anne as a victim – Anne played the game of court politics etc, but she surely could never imagine it would end in her execution. And it’s not even worth commenting on Bernard’s views as there is no evidence for them.

    1. kipper says:

      There is as much evidence for Bernard’s view as any other view, if not more if you are going by the majority of surviving records. We all assume the records are false and biased against Anne, but whilst most historians would disagree with him, they cannot say he is wrong. His views are worth listening to simply to remind us that the common view that AB was an innocent victim is not necessarily correct. Without views such as his, programmes such as this would only have confirmed the ‘victim’ view and it would start being taken as fact. I personally was very interested to hear his views, though I do not think he is correct, but then we will never know, which is what makes it all so fascinating and frustrating.

      1. Sue says:

        Actually there isn’t as much evidence for Bernard’s view and he actually says it is based in a hunch. Here is a quote from his book “It remains my own hunch that Anne had indeed committed adultery with Norris, probably with Smeaton, possibly with Weston, and was then the victim of the most appalling bad luck when the countess of Worcester, one of her trusted ladies, contrived in a moment of irritation with her brother to trigger the devastating chain of events that led inexorably to Anne’s downfall.” Why does he have this hunch? It seems to be mainly based on a french poem which Ives says was basically the official French line based on Cromwell’s information sent to the French Ambassadors. Despite the fact that Chapuys, the Imperial Ambassador who hated Anne with a passion didn’t believe she was guilty. My over riding impression is that Bernard’s own admiration for Henry himself has blinkered him in his view of Anne. My opinion of his short book is that he does not give any real evidence and is based on an unsubstantiated hunch.

        1. Claire says:

          I completely agree, Sue, and Bernard admitted in the book and on TV that his view was based on a “hunch”. Eric Ives wrote a wonderful article reviewing Bernard’s book “Anne Boleyn:Fatal Attractions” in the Journal of Ecclesiastical History in October 2011 – downloadable at http://journals.cambridge.org/action/displayAbstract?fromPage=online&aid=8381583&fulltextType=RV&fileId=S002204691100087X. I wrote an article about back then and here’s an excerpt from my article:

          “Finally, Ives handles Bernard’s argument that the allegations against Anne in May 1536 could actually be “close to the truth”. Ives writes that “Bernard’s method is to take evidence which he accepts appears to be in Anne’s favour, and construct alternative interpretations one after another”. Ives criticises Bernard’s frequent use of “let us imagine” (7 times in one paragraph) and “let us for the sake of argument, suppose…”, likening this to the words of Donald Rumsfeld, who once said “Reports that say something hasn’t happened are always interesting to me because as we know, there are… known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns – the ones we don’t know we don’t know.”!
          Regarding Bernard’s reliance on the poem of Lancelot de Carles as evidence that Anne committed adultery, Ives points out that de Carles’s account is bound to be “congruent with what Cromwell circulated on the diplomatic network, seeing as de Carles worked for the French ambassador. Ives also points out that it is hard to believe the allegations against Anne when we consider that no woman was accused of helping her with her affairs, even though a queen would have needed help to escape detection, and that de Carles’s material is not corroborated.”

          In his book, Bernard just does not back his hunch up, so it just cannot be taken seriously. As Sue says, even Chapuys did not believe that Anne or the men were guilty and it was reported that both George and Anne defended themselves admirably and that it was thought that George would be found innocent. To rely on someone who had never met Anne (he’d only witnessed her trial and execution) and who got all of his information from Cromwell just seems odd to me. Cromwell would make out that Anne was guilty, wouldn’t he?

  17. Phoenix Risng says:

    I thought on the whole it was well enough balanced, and it gave some insights into the intrigue and atmosphere of Henry’s court at the time. I can imagine that before Anne’s fall although there would be tensions beneath the surface, the court would have been running much as it had done previously.

    But, as was said, once the arrests and interrogations began, then there must have been a few people looking over their shoulders or in the shadows, thinking of things that they might have said or done in the past with regard to the Queen, as even a slight slip of the tongue or recalled indiscretion, however slight, could have been used against them and implicated them in the whole morass – implications that might well have led to the block.

    I think it also showed quite clearly how little we actually know in reality, trying to put the threads of the story together from the evidence that we have. The opposing opinions of the authors and the historians for example, all of them seeing different motives and reasons for the behaviours of Anne and those about her and the events that took place, some so contradictory – like the business with ensuring Anne had to pass close the Eustace Chapuys so he was forced to acknowledge her (which he had vowed never to do) for instance, yet this was only a few weeks before the ‘trial’ and her death.

    How little we really know…

  18. Jeane Westin says:

    Thanks so much for the utube video since we Americans didn’t get to view this. You’ve done us another service, Claire.

    1. Terri says:

      I agree, living in the US as Jeane said.

      Thank you for the summary and the link!

  19. Laura says:

    Hello,
    I too shared some of your comments about the programme on Anne’s Boleyn fall (especially regarding the 600 years ago error!) and found your article an interesting reaction to it.
    In relation to your comment about there being no evidence that you know of about Anne Boleyn telling Henry that she would only be content with being his wife and Queen, I think I can help there. I have just finished my AS level History course and part of what we looked at during our study of the Tudor period was the rise of Anne Boleyn. I believe that in a book written by the historian G.W. Bernard, he quotes directly from a correspondence between Reginald Pole and the King, in which Pole reveals that Anne would only ‘make herself available’ to Henry on one condition: Pole said that she wanted Henry to ‘reject your wife whose place she desires to hold’. Implications that Anne had a desire to be both Henry’s wife and Queen.
    I hope that this is of interest to you.

  20. margaret says:

    when anne spoke to Norris (dead mens shoes) this was treason and this was a crime punishable by execution ,so when people say she was innocent of all crimes ,well this is not true ,who knows what else happened back then ,courtly love could have got out of hand ,i think her miscarriages completely disillusioned henry owing to the fact that this begetting of heirs was very important in henrys life ,anne was unlucky and took a big gamble on saying she would give him a son ,this coupled with her inability to conform from mistress to wife did not make henry happy ,there are many things that were against her ,even if she had had a son this would not have saved her ,i think her problem was her arrogance and she was used to flattery by all accounts and again as henry pulled away from her and went towards jane ,anne needed to feel she still had “it” and went towards those who continued to flatter ,a very dangerous thing to do.

    1. Claire says:

      No, it wasn’t actually treason but could be twisted to be so. What Anne said to Norris was “You look for dead men’s shoes, for if aught came to the King but good, you would look to have me”, so she was accusing Norris of wanting to marry her if he King died. It was treason to “compass” (plot) or “imagine” the King’s death ((intend to kill), but Anne’s words were not evidence of her plotting to kill Henry in any way, they were twisted to be so. She was actually reprimanding Norris for wanting to take the King’s place. Obviously she had gone too far by mentioning the King’s death and so was worried afterwards.

      Anne was charged with incest, adultery and plotting to kill the King and I don’t believe that she was guilty of any of those things.

      1. margaret says:

        I stand corrected ,you are right Claire ,it was twisted to look very bad but for goodness sake could no one say anything at all in case it was remembered and at a later date used against them.seriously who would have wanted to be around at that time .

        1. Claire says:

          Yes, people must have felt like they were treading on eggshells all the time.

      2. LittleLear says:

        I don’t believe she was guilty either. My heart tells me she was innocent. I wonder if King Henry truly believed her guilty or if he convinced himself of her guilt to assuage his own guilt over wanting to end their marriage to marry Jane Seymour. Not only was her death tragic, but I can’t help but imagine how hurt and betrayed she must have felt. It breaks my heart. As for the account of Countess of Worcester having no reason to lie, I feel that is incorrect. It seems, to me, that in those days they relied heavily on fear and torture to get their way. She may have made a false confession in fear.

  21. Great summary Claire, thanks :>)

  22. mandy1536 says:

    Hi everyone I am a new member. I would like to start with saying you summed the programme up really well for those who didnt see it I have watched most of it and it was good to read the end so to speak. It was interesting to hear all the historians and authors different views sadly we will never know the complete truth as it went to the grave with Queen Anne. I personally believe in her innocence and always have, granted I think at times she played dangerous games but for someone not stupid enough to become a mistress and ruin her life would she really have been stupid enough to risk death !! I didnt always agree Henry was still commited to Anne and his marriage his first love and prority was always his kingdom and the security of continuing the Tudor dynasty. I think maybe with guidance from his council and maybe some persuasion he realised Anne had to go, could he really divorce her and lose face knowing what he’d caused to marry her ? somehow I think he had to look the victim and win the love and sympathy back from his people what better than a heartbroken husband bewitched by this devils whore(, as a lot of people saw her)I believe evidence was fabricated and a bit like chinese whispers within the court until Anne’s fate was sealed. I Don’t believe Anne would have pleaded her innocence until the end knowing this would mean damnation of her soul (the one thing she had left) she was not by all accounts afraid of death and I feel her soul would have been more important to her than her mortal body. To add incest with her beloved brother is in a word sick, George was probably one of the only people she could trust in her life and to take that bond away from her by labelling it unnatural is cruel and humiliating and as for Henry being commited to Anne and his marriage after her tragic miscarriage I ask this does a commited man write to another woman and does he get ready to marry again a day after his wifes death and then marry 11 days later ????

  23. Sherri says:

    Its all so confusing to try to find the truth of why Anne had to die. Everyone has a opinion as to why. Maybe it was just a misrepresented comment of courtly love gone wrong. Maybe it was all misconstrued and carried way too far. Everyone had their own agenda. By the time that anyone realized that there was no truth to the matter it was too late to turn the tides back. Maybe it gave Henry the perfect out of the marriage to Anne so he could marry again and beget a son. Maybe Henry never really wanted to be rid of Anne but the opportunity rose so he took it. There is so much we don’t know about Anne. We Anne followers don’t even have a true image of what she looked like. Hopefully someone somewhere will be researching something and lo and behold up pops records of that time in the Tudor reign. We can only hope it will occur in our life time.

  24. Linda Davies says:

    Hi – I watched it and taped it to watch again. Your summary is spot on Claire, well done. I watched with annoyance, fascination and bewilderment in some cases,but I did enjoy it. Also enjoyed the comments made by Alison Weir and David Starkey best of all.

  25. Sarah Holland says:

    Yes, I agree about the Chapuys incident. I think they interpreted it perfectly in The Tudors: – it was to lull the victims in a false state of security.

  26. Ann Russell says:

    I was able to watch the trailer for the show (thanks for the YouTube link, Claire) and I noticed that they referred to Phillipa Gregory as Doctor. I looked her up and she has a doctorate in 18th century British literature. So, I said to myself, ‘That explains it.’ She should stick to the 18th century. I think that a window opened for whoever wanted to get rid of Anne when Catherine of Aragon died. If Henry had divorced Anne before that, a lot people would have wanted him to take Catherine back. Also, Anne did not cause Henry to get rid of Catherine. He was looking for an out long before he got serious about Anne. Wolsey didn’t want him to marry an English bride, so he was against Anne. RE: incest; it is interesting that at the trial of Marie Antoinette she was accused ot incest with her son. (I have a ‘thing’ for executed Queens.) She lit into the prosecutor and he dropped it; the result was a forgone conclusion, anyway.

  27. SteveJ says:

    Great summary. 🙂 I’m at the point where I suspect that Henry’s famous bawling-out of Cromwell was a charade, along with much of the ‘TC materminded the whole plot by himself’ notion.

  28. Mariette says:

    Thank you Ashley and Claire for the youtube link so that those of us who live outside the UK could see this documentary! I enjoyed it very much and found Claire’s summary very helpful. G. W. Bernard’s views about Anne’s supposed guilt based on a “hunch”and Alison Weir’s sidestepping Henry’s Involvement in the events of may 1536 and heaping all the blame on Cromwell lack credibility. Did anyone find it strange that there was no mention of the manoeverings of the Seymours, Nicholas Carew etc and the religious conservatives and their role in Anne’s fall?

  29. Cait says:

    I feel like Philippa Gregory lives in her own little fantasy-world of wrongness.

    1. Sarah Holland says:

      Have you read Wideacre (Philippa Gregory)? It was her first novel, the one that made her famous. It’s riveting and goes a long way to help explain The Other Boleyn Girl, which was pretty much a Tudor version of Wideacre, I feel.

      1. Christine says:

        Iv read Wideacre years ago and really enjoyed it, the heroine was a right bitch from what I remember.

  30. Ashley says:

    I watch this on youtube, I enjoyed it (aside from the many mentions of 600 yrs ago, whats that about?) But I was a bit disgusted that gregory wasput on the show with her biased opinions passed off as facts. Her books are riddled with inaccuracies to the point I’ve tossed a few across the room, I feel like her opini-facts do more harm than good to anyone who wants to know true history. I found Hillary Mantel quite likable and when giving her opinion worded it in such a way to note this was her opinion. Anne was no angel or saint she had faults like anyone but I dont feel there is enough original evidence to conclude at all that Anne was guilty of the crimes she was accused as one historian believes, and lets be real if Anne had commited adultery in 16th century England it would not have been with one of Smeatons station.

    1. BanditQueen says:

      On the BBC website a number of people commented that the 600 years was annoying and incorrect. It did not distract from the documentary but it was a glaring error.

  31. Rio says:

    You should have been in this documentary! You rock!

  32. Sonetka says:

    It sounds interesting, I’ll have to check it out. I have to say, though — as much as Philippa Gregory isn’t my favourite for accuracy (though her books are great beach reads) I wish people would give credit for the “malformed fetus meant witchcraft” idea where it’s due: Retha Warnicke. Laying that one entirely at Gregory’s feet seems a little unfair. (Sander’s “Shapeless mass of flesh” isn’t nearly as detailed as Warnicke’s hypotheses).

    1. Sarah Holland says:

      I agree.

    2. Claire says:

      It’s not a case of not giving credit where it’s due, it’s just the fact that Warnicke wasn’t interviewed or mentioned on this programme and it was Gregory’s take on it. Obviously Gregory got it from Warnicke but she’s run with the idea and popularised it. I always cite Warnicke when discussing it, but she wasn’t on the programme, it was Gregory stating it as fact.

  33. Pauline says:

    I enjoyed the BBC documentary about Anne Boleyn in the Netherlands. I also loved to read your comments. Thank you all.

  34. Marie says:

    I think that how Henry behaved towards Catherine Howard, gives insight as to who was pulling the strings in 1536. It took from the first week of Nov. 1541, till Feb. 7,1542 for her execution. Three months!

    1. Marilyn R says:

      Maybe the delay over Katherine (it was 13th February) had something to do with the fact there wasn’t anyone waiting in the wings to replace her – no need to rush this time!

  35. Lindsey says:

    Why have you included Alison Weir as merely an author? she also writes history and is considered an historian.I also liked Mantel’s closing remarks, Anne played the game and lost, we should not paint her as a victim and romantic martyr.

    1. Claire says:

      It depends what you call a historian. Most people use the term to describe people who have attained a certain level in academic history, e.g a doctorate. Weir doesn’t have a history degree or doctorate, although she has spent many years researching history.

  36. Linda Walsh says:

    Claire,

    Just wanted to say how much I enjoyed “The Last Days of Anne Boleyn” and how well I think you summed the program. I kept thinking how it would have been interesting if all the participants were able to “debate” the topic all together in the same room. Thanks for making a link possible for all the American Tudor history buffs.

    Lilnda

  37. Christine Link says:

    I was so thankful for the posting to the link on YouTube to be able to watch this program here in the USA. I agree with you so much Clair on everything and felt like throwing my mouse at the monitor on my lap top whenevery Greggory opened her mouth as well as Bernard. I loved Starskey for his defence of Anne and even Alison Weir. I just wish Eric Ives was alive to add more to the disscussion.. I did enjoy it and hope to see the one on Cromwell.

  38. Ann Russell says:

    I was able to watch the Anne Boleyn program on YouTube, and Cromwell, also. While the presenters were discussing who devised the whole thing-I personally like the idea of Cromwell, myself-it occurred to me that no one mentioned Henry’s jousting accident. If I remember correctly, he was unconscious for several hours and the Duke of Norfolk rushed in and told Anne that he was dying. Some people think that may have caused her miscarriage. Because these are historians/pseudohistorians-novelists, and not medical or mental health people, they may not be aware of the consequences of such an accident. Henry undoubtedly had a TBI and was suffering from the consequences. He may have had wide mood swings, when he would be happy with Anne one minute and mad the next. If they caught him when he was angry, he might have said get rid of her. And he absolutely believed everything that came out of his mouth. I think these mood swings lasted the rest of his life. In the Cromwell piece, the presenter talked about Cromwell getting permission to print the English Bible when Henry was in a good mood because Jane Seymour was pregnant. And there is the episode where he signed the warrant for Catherine Parr’s arrest, and then when they came to arrest her, he sent them away with a flea in their ear.

  39. BanditQueen says:

    I think that Phillipa Gregory for all that her novels are good and entertaining justified the comment in the press by Dr David Starkey that taking the writers of historical novels as experts is totally ridiculous.

    Now there are a lot of very good historical novels, well researched and clearly from people with good historical knowledge and interest, and some could most likely write a good historical study, but they are not experts and they are writing fiction. You can explore wild theories in fiction and get away with it. You cannot do this in a history book.
    It is good to have the opinions of authors on documentaries but it should be pointed out that they are fiction writers. Hilary Martel writes good award winning fiction, but it is fiction. She is not a historian and she is not an expert. You do not have to have fancy letters in front of your name either to be a good historian or expert. Taking an example from another field: the late Patrick Moore, the astronomer was not a qualified expert but he was one of the greatest men in his field this century and of course for most of the last.

    I really enjoyed the documentary and the varied opinions. I did not find any of it offensive in any way as everyone is entitled to give a balanced point of view. However I concur that when authors on these things trot out stuff that is from a source that is not contemporary and is based on rumour, it should be clearly stated that there is no facts to support this claim. I did notice that the bit about the fetus being born without form was made to sound as if it came from a source we can trust and that there is a fact to support it. I think Gregory was citing Nicholas Sander, and if this is her source she should have stated that it came from a hostile source and that nothing else supports this. That at least would have been more acceptable. However, I do think that she is entitled to say what sort of person she believes Anne Boleyn to have been even if it was negative as that is her opinion based on her research. You cannot cut negative things out of a documentary just because a few bloggers do not agree. It is called free speech.

    The rest of the documentary I found to be very stimulating with the number of differing theories about whether or not it was a conspiracy that brought down Anne Boleyn or Henry and Cromwell acting alone. The pieces of evidence that countered each other were very well presented and sort of left you make your own mind up. I am also pleased that although I do not agree with him, that Professor Bernard was invited onto the programme to give his own view point that Anne may have been guilty of some of the charges. His case is actually compelling and forces a close examination of what small pieces of evidence and trial documents that we have left. By looking at all exanct literature including the tragic history by Lancelot de Carles, you can also see into the political back stabbing that was going on at court. Anne may have been a victim of this careless talk.

    Conspiracy or not it is also interesting to find that Henry may not have been acting with any degree of rational thinking and i believe he went into shock. He believed he was betrayed and it hit him hard. I agree with Suszanna Lipscombe that Henry was heart broken by these allegations and that he came to the conclusion that there was some truth in the facts about his wife and his courtiers. Did he also believe that he had been a victim of witchcraft? Some evidence suggests that he did believe that Anne had tricked him into the marriage. Anne Boleyn was associated with sorcery as early as 1532. It would not have been an unreasonable thing to claim in order to declare the marriage null and void in an age that believed such things really were possible. And to have heard that Anne was suggesting to another courtier that he wanted the King dead must have been particularly unsettling.

    In the end I think that Anne simply made too many enemies and that she continued to do so as Queen. She rubbed up the wrong way Henry VIII’s friend and brother in law, Charles Brandon for one thing; she quarreled with Thomas Cromwell on a number of public policy issues and she even made an enemy of her own uncle by her haughty ways. Anne did not accept herself as being a quiet and obedient wife and she openly argued very loudly with the King. Henry fell out of love with her. She put herself in a vulnerable and dangerous position by treating Mary unfairly and by arguing with those who supported the Imperial Cause. Seen as being in the way and a failure, having no son and heir, poor Anne was isolated for the last few months after her last miscarriage. Henry even seems to have indicated that she had pretend pregnancies. She made threats against Mary and Katherine in public and in private to the King and said she wanted them dead: this may have been hysteria and she may not have meant it, but she marked her cards by annoying a growing number of people who wanted to see Mary as heir to the throne. She was a flirt and a tease: may-be this was natural court behaviour, but in the wrong atmosphere it could be seen as indications of misconduct. Gossip was rife and it was being noted. Harsh as it may be to say this; but I believe Anne contributed to her own downfall. Her enemies, like vultures were waiting in the background for her to slip up and when the moment came, Henry gave signals that he had, had enough and wanted out of the marriage. With glee her enemies pounced and the stage was set for her downfall and death. And anyone who was to be there to support her fell with her.

    Anne had been in danger before her miscarriage in January 1536: this was the straw that broke the camels back. Why did it take five more months? Henry and her enemies did not have the reason or the evidence that they needed. Time was needed to put various plans in place, and Henry and Cromwell had to give the signal for everything else to proceed. Also the pro Mary lot needed a replacement for Anne; a Queen who would promote Mary as heir to the throne and support the imperial alliance. They had to be certain that Jane would agree to becoming Henry’s wife and that Henry could be steered in the direction of his mistress. Mary was familiar with Jane and the Seymours had some sympathy for her position and claims. Those that Anne had offended joined the cause. Henry indicated he wanted rid of her, and Jane’s supporters got Cromwell armed to the teeth with weapons. He did the rest, and it all fell into place when Smeaton, afraid and in great pain from torture opened his mouth and squealed.

    It went better than Cromwell had hoped for. I am sure that he did not want to find anything against the Queen, but having gotten a weak willed Mark Smeaton to speak and accuse others, he had to investigate further. Unfortunately for Anne, Mark accused five other men and her ladies verified much of what he had said. Cromwell put the pressure on and a case was built against the Queen and her alleged lovers. The wheels of justice turned: and there was no escape. This was Tudor England: the assumption of innocence did not exist. A person said something and it was taken as true. If you made a false confession or lied under oath you suffered the same fate as the accused prisoner. To conceal treason was also punishable by death. The inner circle of Anne’s household told what they believed they had seen, just to escape being accused themselves. We might think this cowardly: but I am not sure I would like to have been questioned by Thomas Cromwell or Richard Rich or anyone else. The women were vulnerable. They may not have wanted to frame their mistress: but in reality they had no choice. The courts and jury were rigged and Anne herself gave way to foolish mutterings and hysteria in her rooms in the Tower. It was all noted down and used against her. Anne was trapped. It was hopeless from the moment she was accused and arrested. Henry wanted a new wife and his council and friends did all they could to provide him with one. It may have been brutal, but this was the norm of the day, and yes, I do believe that when faced with the full fallout from the confessions and the trials, Henry did believe the charges to be true.

    We may think Anne Boleyn was innocent or set up, but we do not judge from the standards of the day. Henry was shown a dossier of over 100 pages long, much of which has been lost; the case must have been a persuasive one; Henry was most likely in shock; he believed what he wanted to believe; but by the standards of the time and with what was laid before him; I think he was in a vulnerable state of mind and easily persuaded that even the most unlikely accusations were true.

    Anne herself was terrified and she gave vent to mood swings; hysteria, laughter and weeping. She went from being calm and denying the charges to making foolish and wild statements. It was only at the time of her trial when she had accepted her fate and believed she would be found innocent that she remained calm. She was distressed to find that she would not be and believed that Henry was testing her. Once the shocking reality hit her; she commended herself to God, made confession, declared herself innocent on the Blessed Host, at the peril of her immortal soul, and prepared to die. In the end she died with dignity and as much restraint as she could muster. Her declaration of innocence on the Blessed Sacrament as she took communion convinced many that she was innocent.

  40. Sue says:

    I thoroughly enjoyed the idea of having all those opinions on one video …even P.Gregory’s because as Claire said, she was refuted right after she made her statements. Even Bernard’s opinions were marginalized by what the other historians said. I was quite impressed with Hilary Mantel. It would have been perfect if the Late Eric Ives’ opinons had been featured.

  41. kipper says:

    I apologise. I totally agree and didn’t make myself clear. My point was that there is so little evidence either way that if you take the writings at the time at their word, there is probably more to support his view than not, ie Spanish and French correspondence, the constant references to the ‘whore’ etc. It now seems quite unlikely that she committed all of the crimes that she was accused of but still no evidence has come to light to prove it and we do have Smeaton’s confession which we cannot be sure was obtained under torture. It is all very easy for us to believe that it was all trumped up by Henry/Cromwell or whoever, but it might, just might, be true! It is, in my view, better to hear the other side of the argument than to simply rubbish it.
    Nice to chat all the same!

    1. Claire says:

      It’s always better to take into account the different sides of an argument than to rubbish something as a knee jerk reaction, but I don’t believe that any historian or history researcher does rubbish Bernard’s views without listening to them and taking them on board. Eric Ives and Bernard were arguing in historical journals throughout the 90s and Bernard’s book was actually based on those articles. The trouble with Bernard’s argument is that he depends far too much on one source and doens’t take into account others. Chapuys always referred to Anne as “the concubine” or “the putain”, even before her marriage to Henry, because he saw her as ‘the other woman’, it was not to do with her actual actions.

      We don’t actually have Smeaton’s confession, but I know what you mean. We don’t actually KNOW what Smeaton said and all of the other men denied the charges. For me, the fact that Henry showed no signs of distress that his Groom of the Stool (and one of his best friends), two men he had supported financially (Weston and Smeaton) and his beloved wife had betrayed him suggests that Henry knew that none of it was true. When he found out that Catherine Howard had betrayed him, he wept in front of his privy council.

      Yes, always nice to debate!

      1. Sue says:

        well said Claire… and kipper, there is not more evidence to support his view (hence the reason he called it “a hunch”)…. he is basically the only historian who believes she could be guilty as charged.

  42. Ann Russell says:

    When I think about Anne Boleyn, I have often been reminded of the Duchess of Windsor. I was not born when the abdication crisis happened, but my mother was in high school and remembered it well. She said the view of the Duchess was that she was a terrible person, grasping, aggressive, just wanted to be Queen. As it happens, we know that she married the Duke after he abdicated and lived with him until his death. She certainly had ‘issues’ and was not perfect, but was not as bad as she was painted by the press at the time. I think the same thing might be true of Anne Boleyn. Of course, she had people like Nicholas Sander who were motivated to write bad things about her years later, and Elizabeth does not seem to have been comfortable with the idea of rehabilitating her mother. If it occurred to her at all.

  43. Ann Russell says:

    I noticed that no one mentioned the conversation that Anne is said to have had with Mark Smeaton about how he should not expect her to talk to him as though he were a person of rank. I think she was telling him to keep his distance. Since you bring up Donald Rumsfeld, we know that under torture most people will say what the interrogator wants to hear. And, what our government didn’t realize was that you don’t have to physically torture someone to get what you want. End of politics, except for the 16th century.

  44. Conor Byrne says:

    In relation to Gregory using Warnicke’s theory and often being blamed for it, I have often heard that Warnicke has “publicly distanced herself” from Gregory’s novel TOBG… but is there any evidence for this?

    Just out of interest, does anyone know how Professor Warnicke feels about this novel? I can imagine her satisfaction that the novel uses the theory of a deformed child, but I bet she hated the portrayal of Anne which went against everything she wrote in her study.

  45. Rudy Merckx says:

    A very interesting story indeed. I just finished watching the BBC docu on PBS (public broadcasting). So this one dates back to 2012…..it took a while for the docu to be broadcasted here in Chicago…..today’s the 13th of April 2014….
    I absolutely enjoyed watching it…ended up doing some more online research…
    After watching “The last days of Anne Boleyn” I would have to agree with Mrs Lipscomb’s conclusion…there’s just enough evidence to keep historians guessing but just enough gaps to make sure they can never finally get to the solution

    However…this is so intriguing to me.. I plan on doing a bunch more reading on the subject…am also interested in Anne’s early years ..her time spent in Brussels…a bit confusing to me..some say France..some say Netherlands.some mention Brussels.but time frames seem to overlap….

    A Belgian in Chicago

    Q: Is this site updated from time to time?
    Q Can I expect a docu on Cromwell soon in the US too ?

  46. Maxine says:

    I find that the British tend to romanticise their royals. This was a great documentary but no one in their right mind would think it was indisputably factual. The same I suppose can be said about Caligula. Much of what is written about him is said to be an exaggeration and yet, despite the exaggerations I sure as hell wouldn’t want to be seated next to him at a banquet!

  47. Cynthia Bates says:

    Just saw this on PBS. Two omissions. Why not include Anne’ s gracious last words praising Henry, probably calculated to help her daughter Elizabeth as much as possible. Also, on the incest accusation, that was from one source, Jane Rochford, George Boleyn’s vindictive wife. Cromwell was so pleased with her for this that she retained George’s property after his execution when usually the property of traitors was attainered. When Lady R was about to be executed for her complicity in aiding poor teenaged Katherine Howard, Henry’s fifth queen and Anne’ cousin, to commit adultery, the only sin she confessed to on the scaffold was that she had lied about the incest accusation.
    And now why not a program about Katherine Parr, Henry’ remarkable sixth queen, a highly intelligent, educated woman, whose judgement he respected so much that he made her regent in 1544 when he went to war with France. A strong supporter of religious reform, she published two books, Prayers/ Meditations, and Lamentation of a Sinner. In 1546, she was in grave danger of being accused by heresy and possibly burnt at the stake, an effort spearheaded by Cromwell’s successors in scheming and self interest, Richard Rich and Th Wriothesley, who personally racked convicted heretic Anne Askew, to try to torture her into admitting that the queen and her ladies supported her and held heretical views. She did not break, tho was so injured she had to be carried to her burning at the stake.
    So we have torture, the threat of execution, and for romance, Katherine’ s relationship with Sir Thomas Seymore, the most eligible and dashing bachelor of his day.

  48. charlotte Brown says:

    G Bernard is a serious historian who’s book is well researched I take him far more seriously than the likes of wierr or mantel anne boleyn was human and humans sometimes act on desire I think the evidence suggests a genuine shock to the king and court.

  49. charlotte Brown says:

    Claire just read your comment on Bernard s hunch. You say he does not substanciate his claim have you read his book everything is well explained there he cited many sources early in the marriage where so many people called her a wore even her own uncle that the king in acted new slander laws to protect her. I strongly feel our judgement is clouded by the dreadful penalty especially by today standards. Bernard questions the conventional view because it is so widely held yet with so little evidence a bit like a viking saga to me he is displaying his good common sense and compitance as an historian.when searching for fact we should try to remove sentiment

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