The Murdering Anne Boleyn Rises Once More!

Posted By on August 30, 2011

Anne Boleyn Files visitor, Tina, has kindly alerted me to the blurb of Carolly Erickson’s upcoming book, “The Favored Queen”, which is due out on the 27th September. It is described as “a powerful and moving novel about Jane Seymour, third wife of Henry VIII, who married him only days after the execution of Anne Boleyn and ultimately lost her own life in giving him the son he badly needed to guarantee the Tudor succession.” Sounds good so far, but then we have the following blurb:-

“Born into an ambitious noble family, young Jane Seymour is sent to Court as a Maid of Honor to Catherine of Aragon, Henry VIII’s aging queen. She is devoted to her mistress and watches with empathy as the calculating Anne Boleyn contrives to supplant her as queen. Anne’s single-minded intriguing threatens all who stand in her way; she does not hesitate to arrange the murder of a woman who knows a secret so dark that, if revealed, would make it impossible for the king to marry Anne.

Once Anne becomes queen, no one at court is safe, and Jane herself becomes the object of Anne’s venomous rage when she suspects Jane has become the object of the king’s lust. Henry, fearing that Anne’s inability to give him a son is a sign of divine wrath, asks Jane to become his next queen. Deeply reluctant to embark on such a dangerous course, Jane must choose between her heart and her loyalty to the king.”

Bang! Bang! Yes, that is my head banging on my desk! Aaaaggghhh! Yes, that’s me screaming! Do join me!

Now, I know that I will receive comments and emails from people telling me to calm down and chill out, after all, it’s only fiction and there’s no need to take it so seriously, but I know from first hand experience the damage that “The Other Boleyn Girl” has done to Anne Boleyn’s reputation. Not a week goes by when I don’t receive emails from people asking me whether Anne Boleyn really did murder someone, whether she really did commit incest and whether she really was a prize b**ch, or I get attacked for defending a woman who was the devil incarnate. That is the power of “The Other Boleyn Girl”!

Much of the confusion which stems from “The Other Boleyn Girl” comes, I feel, from Philippa Gregory’s representation of herself as an historian and the way that she writes about Anne in the accompanying notes. People are led to believe that “The Other Boleyn Girl” is based on fact and that Anne Boleyn was really like that, when, actually, there is no evidence that Anne was involved in anyone’s murder or that she ever considered sleeping with her brother – although I was told recently that this would be the natural thing for her to consider seeing as she was having problems getting pregnant by the king! What I’m wondering, and it’s also a comment that Tina made when she sent me details on this new novel, is whether the fact that Ms Erickson has actually written a biography of Anne Boleyn in the past (“Mistress Anne”) will make people think that Anne Boleyn really did threaten everyone who stood in her way and plot someone’s murder. On the Macmillan books website, Carolly Erickson is described as a “distinguished historian” so how many people are going to think that she is writing about the real Anne Boleyn?

Just when I feel that the tide is turning, that the message is spreading about the real Anne Boleyn and “The Other Boleyn Girl” is releasing its hold on the world, this book comes along. Will the mythical Anne Boleyn rise from the shadows once more? Will the truth be annihilated by fiction? Who knows, but I’ll be battling for the truth, don’t worry!

As much as I don’t want to spend my money on this novel, I’m just going to have to, after all, the publisher’s blurb is often misleading. If you hear some screaming emanating from this website at the end of September then you’ll know what it is!

By the way, I’m not challenging the idea of free speech or attacking historical fiction, which I love, I’m simply worried about the future fall-out. I’d love to hear your ideas and feel free to tell me to stop over-reacting and to get down off my soapbox!

95 thoughts on “The Murdering Anne Boleyn Rises Once More!”

  1. HI says:

    Whatt??? Why? Why?? Why d o historical novelists feel the need to defame Anne !

    1. tugce says:

      because she is brillant and most of the people can’t stand this.

  2. Liz Hallahan says:

    Interesting that after hundreds of years Anne Boleyn is still so fascinating, in all her incarnations. There are just so many things we really don’t know about here-down to her actual birthdate. That gives authors a great deal of room for thieir own versions of Anne. I think many times it’s a case of “bitchifying” another strong willed, strong minded, intelligent woman. By the way, I do enjoy Carolly Erickson’s non fiction writing, including ‘Mistress Anne’. This newest work of fiction may be interesting as well as infuriating.

  3. Mel says:

    I hate how Anne Boleyn is always depicted as a villainess…

  4. Niki says:

    Carolly Erickson confuses me. I am reading one of her books now, “The First Elizabeth” and it appears to be historically accurate and written with an “academic tone.” After all, Erickson does hold a Ph.D. in Medieval History from Columbia University, so you would think she would strive to write accurate and useful contributions to this era of history. Perhaps she feels historical fiction sells better? I don’t know, but putting these sort of contradictions in her books could be damaging to her credibility.

    1. Claire says:

      Perhaps she simply enjoys writing fiction and being creative. It’s like Alison Weir, she writes both and I don’t think it’s a problem if your books are clearly marked, put in the right section of the bookshop and there are notes to explain where you have strayed from the real story.

    2. Christine says:

      The First Elizabeth is not an “accurate” biography of Elizabeth, I’ve only dipped into it, but it’s certainly one of the least accurate on the non-fiction sector. Now, of course please do enjoy it! Erickson is an excellent writer, but she relies extremely on gossip. I seem to recall a sort of “murderous” Anne Boleyn in Erickson’s “Bloody Mary”. This was all very entertaining, of course, but her books should not be taken seriously, and they are not.

  5. Jenn says:

    I’m not going to claim to know a ton about Jane. What I know I’ve learned from my focus on Henry/Anne/KOA. What still bothers me to this day is Jane being painted as an innocent. I think she knew exactly what she was doing at the time. She watched Anne and knew enough not to sleep with him. She wanted the throne. I don’t believe for a nano second she was torn.

    I also don’t understand why authors believe you need to make Anne a devil in order to write a good book. History alone will give you enough intrigue. Why make up false facts?

    On one level I thank the Other Boleyn Girl for getting me into Anne. It was the reason I started doing research on her years ago. I didn’t believe everything I saw could be true. Some of it when against what little history I knew at the time. I think historical fiction is fine as long as you stay with in the context and don’t make the person so unlike who he or she was. That is the problem with these authors. I’m right with you on your opinion. Go get em 🙂 Anne would be proud.

  6. Niki says:

    That’s true — it should be clearly marked as fiction because she is otherwise regarded as a respected historian of the era.

  7. Claire, I read Carrolly Erickson’s last novel about Lettice Knolly’s which I reviewed at Scandalous Women. I was shocked by how dreadful it was, especially since I have read and enjoyed Erickson’s non-fiction in the past. I haven’t even touched her novel on Mary Queen of Scots because I’m afraid my head will explode.

    1. Claire says:

      Oh dear, I must read your review. I’m going to have to read this book just to see if it is as bad as it sounds but I might have to read it in a padded cell!

    2. kari says:

      Steer clear of the Queen of Scots book!
      It opens with Bothwell witnessing Mary’s execution and continues to get worse. When it had Darnley and Riccio being lovers and Henry telling Mary to go and take as many lovers as she wanted, I flung that book so hard into my wall, I left a dent.
      I read a bit more later, and honestly cannot force myself to read anymore.

  8. Eliza says:

    Oh come on now!! Not again!! The easiest way to sell is to present Anne as a monster? Please, Claire, keep up your soapbox thing, because it is needed!!

    I wouldn’t buy a novel like this not in a million years!

    1. Claire says:

      I do rather like my soapbox!

      1. Anyanka says:

        And you do look good on it.

    2. Fiz says:

      I’ve stopped reading Phillippa Gregory thanks to “TOBG” and her having Margaret Beaufort murder the princes in the Tower! This sounds another from the same stable and I shall be avoiding it too! The sad thing is, publishers are pushing historians into fiction saying that real history doesn’t sell! What a stupid idea! They are doing the same thing to my favourite true crime writers too – who have also built their reputations on the real thing are are now being told they need to write fiction! I don’t think publishers know what they are doing at the moment.

  9. Louise says:

    I have to disagree with you on this, Claire. I don’t think Ms Erickson has gone far enough. If you look back through history you will see that Anne was indirectly responsible for both the Spanish and French civil wars. I actually think her influence can also be traced to the two World Wars. She is probably responsible for more deaths than any other human being. I’ll go further. Dark hair. Dark eyes. Sound familiar? Yes, Saddam is a direct descendent and Oh dear God, I’m setting up the next novel aren’t I?

    1. Claire says:

      Wow, yes, you are soooo right, Louise. Anne is responsible for all of the evil in the world!

      1. Janet says:

        I think you are confusing Anne with Eve now Claire *lol*

      2. Anyanka says:

        Probably responsible fot the earthquake and Hurricane Irene the NE of US and Canada suffered last week….

        1. nanci says:

          well, you know she’s supposed to be the mother of the Antichrist – no, wait, that’s a male child, so i guess that was Jane!!!!!!!!!!! just joking all! rofl

  10. Makenzie says:

    I’ve read her book The Last Wife of Henry VIII. It was ok, but not great. She made Elizabeth sound like a very rebellious child towards Henry. I think there is more but its been awhile since I’ve read this book. But the whole Elizabeth thing is what stays with me.

  11. Katherine says:

    Hey Claire! Have you read her fiction book on Mary Queen of Scots? It was an enjoyable read, but her characterization of Elizabeth would make one think she was a murderous villaness as well!

    She has however written in one of her Authors notes that her novel was meant to entertain and not instruct, which puts her a step ahead of PG I suppose?

  12. In fairness to Erickson, she does describe her novels as “historical entertainments” and acknowledges taking considerable liberties with the facts. But I read a review copy of this novel, and it simply didn’t work for me.

  13. Milady12 says:

    I usually enjoy Carrolly Erickson novels. The one about Katherine Parr and the one about Josephine were entertaining. Although I have yet to read the one about Elizabeth. As for whether or not Anne or anyone else was responsible for murdering anyone, I must say this first and foremost. As a Sicilian, the way I see it is this. Being a courtier was like being in the present day mob, only MORE dangerous. At least the mob has rules and a code of ethics. A Don could never behave like Henry VIII or he would have been whacked immediately and replaced. But my point is that you know the danger when you join. People are going to screw you over, step on you or even kill you on their way up and down the social ladder. Period. It was the way things were done and no one batted an eyelash about it. Besides anyone with an ounce of good sense knows that the men in these families positioned the women in their families like pieces on a chess board. If anyone got in the way of their Queen, the men destroyed them as they saw fit. The women looked the other way and kept their mouths shut. Only the uninformed don’t understand this. Besides, I think more people like Anne Boleyn than you think. Many people love a woman who can be a bit of a bitch when the occassion calls for it. I should know, I am one. Haha! I also believe that the SHOWTIME series The Tudors did wonders as far as winning people over to her side. I truly do. Since more people watch TV these days than read, unfortunate but true, I think she will not be undone by shoddy research! Fear not. Anne Boleyn shall prevail as long as there are women like us, women after her own heart, women with her spirit, to champion her!

    1. Jenny says:

      That is actually a very interesting statement about the mob bc I just made a sign to hang in my classroom library today comparing Henry VIII to Al Capone since we have books about both so that the kids will make the comparison and read the books! Those are my exact thoughts the mob and the court are like one and the same, you know the risks! LOVE IT!

  14. Toni says:

    Anne seemed like a wonderful and interesting person, mother, and queen. If people are not willing to take the time to attempt to learn the true Anne, then they need not voice their opinion. For those that have and continue to put effort and energy into the mystery that is Anne Boleyn I applaud you.

  15. Beth says:

    Stay on your soapbox, Claire! We need you up there! We’ll support you like your own private Boleyn army 🙂 (Maybe we could get one of those funky coloured vans that the Jesus Army has…)

  16. Esther Sorkin says:

    If the blurb is accurate (and it may not be), her picture of Jane Seymour is about as “realistic” as her picture of Anne Boleyn [sarcasm intended]. After all, if Anne Boleyn was really a murderess, wouldn’t Jane want her replaced … even if she had to marry Henry to insure it? I think the real problem is not that works of fiction portray Anne as a murderess, but that they are not clearly identified as fiction. Just being in the “fiction” section isn’t enough, IMO, when the writer makes false claims of historical support (like Ms. Gregory) or when the writer has some background in the field that is exploited.

  17. Sam says:

    oh stay on your soapbox! I honestly don’t think I want to read this book, although probably will end up reading if only to bash it to pieces on my goodreads page! Honestly I hate how people constantly assume Anne is the villain of the piece, it just makes people think its the truth! And don’t even get me started on TOBG! I read that when I worked in a bookshop (borrowed a copy from the shelf and read it behind the counter) and on many occasions almost chucked it across the shop at some poor unsuspecting customer!

  18. Undine says:

    I’ve read a couple of her ostensibly “academic” books and thought *they* were bad historical fiction, so I shudder to think what happens when she writes an acknowledged novel.

    I wouldn’t be bothered by all the unhistorical historical novels that are out there, if it wasn’t for the fact that so many people read this stuff and take it as gospel. Anne isn’t the only figure from the past to get slimed by the novelists, believe me.

    And, please, you can’t build that soapbox too big or too loud.

  19. miladyblue says:

    A pity Anne has no blood descendants who could sue these fiction “authors” for defamation of character. And what, exactly, are the “historian” credentials of some of these bodice ripper writers, anyway? Are history degrees being given away as prizes in breakfast cereal lately?

    I am SICK of hatchet jobs/character assassinations on historic people I admire.

    Couldn’t there be, at least once in a while, an inaccurate “fiction” book where Anne is an admirable heroine?

    LOL, maybe we should join the new fiction movement, and commission a book called, “Anne Boleyn, Zombie Huntress” or something like that, where a valiant Anne Boleyn is in a fierce battle against UN-Holy Roman Empire zombies trying to take over England and France.

    1. Sam says:

      Don’t tempt me to write about Anne the zombie huntress 😉

      1. miladyblue says:

        Ooohhh…. think of the possibilities, the movie rights, the money that could roll in….

        And the hit theme, based on that old Herman’s Hermits song:

        “I’m Zombie the Eighth I am…”

      2. Fiz says:

        Oh, yes, please do! At least we could have a good laugh if you posted it here!

  20. Ralphine says:

    Oh good lord~ not another book painting Anne as a conniving witch. Poor Jane Seymour. It gets old so fast. Henry was probably bored with her after 3 months. I’m surprised at Carolly E. I like her books. Maybe it’s just the hype.

  21. Kari says:

    Even after hundreds of years Anne is still the evil witch who will stop at nothing to save herself and Jane is the sweet, innocent victim who sacrifices herself. It really does get old but unfortunately until someone makes a historically accurate film on Anne the truth will never be told by hollywood whatever it takes to make a buck. Its very sad.

  22. MadameDeMerteuil says:

    Whatever happened to Carolly Erickson? Her book on Elizabeth got me into the Tudor era. It was well researched, not a fiction, and, above all, it seemed that its author did not support simplistic concepts.
    Now….she would be writing this rubbish? I apologise if the strong word shocks some….I actually had to stop myself from writing a somewhat harsher word.
    Fiction or not, surely, one should retain the same dislike for simplifications…

    1. miladyblue says:

      Rubbish a strong word? Claire would boot me off the Files if I actually wrote what I had to say about this latest hatchet job on Anne!

  23. RxPhan says:

    Hi Claire,

    I’ve only read Carrolly Erickson’s bio on Josephine and read some of the critic’s reviews of it. On the minus side, the biggest complaint was that she sometimes played a little fast and loose with facts despite being a respected historian. On the plus side, they liked that she tells a wonderful and colorful story about Josephine and the times. One wonders…

  24. Amy says:

    I am glad to hear someone having similar thoughts that I have had about the Other Boleyn Girl and books like this new one.. And Carolly Erickson actuallly has a history degree! However, I am fairly certain that in her biography of Anne Boleyn published several years ago, Erickson claimed that Anne’s head was placed on display on Tower Bridge after her execution. That always bothered me because it is so wrong.

    1. Eliza says:

      If you remember it right, that’s a huge mistake and a really morbid one. Even we, who are not historians, know that this never happened.

  25. Dawn says:

    I must admit I find authors who interprete well known figures of history in their own way entertaining, amusing and interesting,and it seems Anne is a very popular choice, but because I know the real story, and still learning, I can see it for what it is, a piece of fiction.

    Anyone who reads this fiction without previous factual knowledge is, obviously going to get a false picture, but on saying that when I started reading about Henry and his wives, especially Anne, although many of the books had some basic facts most of it was so far off the mark, with the invented/exaggerated dark sides of these people/Anne that they got me hooked. For example, Anne yet again, a scheming, whore with evil intent, it was WOW!, must read more on this ‘she-devil’. And I did, eventually getting to the books that DO give you the correct image based on historical fact, sooo this kind of novel, could actually encourage future ‘Tudorphiles’ to find out more, by contacting such as you Claire, which gives you the perfect chance to point them into the ‘light’ and bring them into the fold..,

    I think the confusion comes when a fictional book is written by someone who is titled as a Historian, of whatever standing, readers may forget to separate the two styles of writing.

    So I say take the book at face value, treat it as ‘light’ entertainment, so the characters have an artistic twist to them,we know the real story, some don’t but may want to learn, and some will always want to think as Anne as ‘bad’ no matter what. These ‘fictional tales’ can be seen as a possitive thing if it makes readers curious. What is it the P.R’ fraternity say, ‘There’s no such think as bad publicity’.. Anne would probably laugh her head off (sorry, sick sense of humour) at all the interpretations of her personality, I’m going to give it a whirl anyway….

    I know when you are very passionate about something, as you are Claire, it must be very frustrating when books are written like this, it must seem as though you take 2 steps forward and 3 back sometimes, but I assure you thats not true, so please try not to let it stress you out, your work on this site can never be underminded by a book such as this, take care… 🙂

  26. Jenny says:

    I have read all of Erickson’s fiction novels and I actually really like them. It’s fiction so it is only one person’s artistic expression of a situation. Sometimes things are just fun to write you know? We are living in a C- world, maybe a D-, people don’t seem to realize that there is a difference between historical FICTION and fact. I have read almost every Anne Boleyn novel out there and some I like and some I don’t but I guess you have to realize that they are stories, not fact. People don’t use their brains much of the time I think. Keep defending Claire, people who have the sense to know fact from fiction are really the only ones worth having a conversation with anyway! I think it is Anne’s ultimate victory that we are all actually sitting here 500 years later still talking about her and defending her against all slander! I love it! Take that Henry!

  27. Amanda says:

    I have to, as a writer, contribute something here.

    I’m someone who loves Anne Boleyn. I hate that get get’s villafied, but… this book is about Jane Seymour, from Jane Seymours point of view, who obvlously, for the sake of this book, despises Anne. Just going from the blurb, it sounds like Erikson is doing the job of a writer and writing from the character, instead of just saying “well, people think Anne was good, so I’m going to show her as good and my main character is going to be good” etc. While I have a strong feeling the Anne in this book WILL be a murderer, we don’t know for sure until we’ve read it, and it could end up just being Jane Seymours interpration of events.

    I’m currently working on a novel from Jane Seymours point of view, that has her a villain and the mastermind behind Anne’s downfall, and I have to say, it is REALLY hard to portray Anne as brilliant as she most likely was from Jane’s point of view. My Jane’s teeth are set on edge from Anne, and everything Anne does is “evil” in her view. On the other hand, I’ve almost finished one from Anne’s point of view, and after a bit of editing, it should show her in all her fantasticness.

    However, this does further my view that all historical novels should come with a warning page stating that some charactisations are at the invention of the author, and I have a feeling people who rely upon one historical novel to make up their minds about Anne Boleyn are probably also obsessing over Edward Cullen at the same time… lol

  28. I have to say that I’m deeply disappointed in some of the attitudes towards Jane Seymour on this site. Opinions of Jane are still stuck in the 19th century. It’s time to move on and stop the antagonism towards Jane, and worse, the dismissive tone. Liking Anne does not mean one has to hate Jane, any more than liking Katherine means one has to hate Anne. We need to grow up a bit and see Jane as a person.

    1. Claire says:

      Lauren,
      I don’t hold a negative view of Jane whatsoever, I believe that like Anne she did not have a choice in the rollercoaster of events of 1536. I have never dismissed Jane Seymour, she was the mother of Edward VI and brought Henry VIII a period of happiness and calm and is interesting in our own right, it’s just that as an Anne Boleyn focused website do focus on Anne Boleyn. Hope that makes sense, I really never meant to come across as dismissive of Jane or negative towards her.

  29. lisaannejane says:

    Please do not hit your head on the desk but I would think that if someone was called a historian they would be as accurate as possibly historically. So after Phillipa Greggoy and reading this site and some others, I was surprised that anyone could call themselves a historian and play around with the facts. By the way, when I told my sister I was getting a Jane Seymour necklace she wanted to know when the actress started making jewelry.

    1. nanci says:

      lisaannejane, that is a hoot!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  30. I didn’t mean you Claire, but I have over the months found myself defending Jane against some truly nasty comments. It’s just sad that there is such a double standard. I appreciate that you are open minded about Jane, and I wish more would follow suit.

    1. kari says:

      I don’t have anything against Jane, but I do get irritated with people who see Jane as an innocent girl in all this. She was doing her best to attract the king, and she had no qualms at all about having to basically step over the body of Anne Boleyn to do so.
      Remember that scene in the Tudor’s where she was trying on her wedding clothes as Anne was preparing for death, that was pretty close to the truth.
      My main complaint is that people vilify Anne Boleyn and attempt to canonize Jane Seymour for basically doing the same thing. The only difference was that Jane was able to give the king his longed for son and then die before he got tired of her.

      1. Claire says:

        I don’t believe that Jane stepped over the body of Anne to get to the King. I believe she was coached to appeal to the King but I don’t think she had any control of that and could she really have changed what happened to Anne? I think we have to separate what happened to Anne from Jane Seymour, I don’t believe that they are connected. If it hadn’t been Jane then it would have been someone else, she was not responsible for Anne’s downfall.

        I agree with you that there is often a Team Anne/Team Jane thing going on. Some people who like Anne automatically hate Jane and some who like Jane automatically hate Anne, very weird.

  31. Karla Parker says:

    Ugh! This is frustrating! Claire I hope you don’t get off your soapbox. And only get off it to write a novel that depicts Anne faithfully! I’ve come to your website faithfully for awhile and feel that you are probably the best suited to write a good novel of our Anne.

  32. Charlie says:

    Oh not another one. This is what makes me dislike historical fiction that’s based on real characters, even when some are done well.

  33. Lauren says:

    I have not seen many instances in which Jane is canonized. If she’s not hated she’s seen as boring. Anne was happy to let Katherine be miserable and die alone and uncared for. Jane married the King shortly after he murdered his wife. None of them were perfect but they were ALL victims in some way. Jane deserves more than the nonsense I often see.

    1. Maybe you should start a Jane Seymour Files web site. 😉

      1. Lauren says:

        Maybe I should! someone has to speak for her! 🙂

        1. People feeling that way about Anne was how this got started. Go for it! And you’ll feel good about changing people’s perceptions of Jane. If you do start it up, will you come back and give us the web site addy? I’d like to see it. Good luck and follow your passions!

  34. Rachel says:

    I have to agree with Lauren, Jane is often painted in the same light by Anne Boleyn fans that Anne is by Katherine of Aragon fans. It is unfair to think that a woman can so easily manipulate Henry. While he did evil things, he was not a stupid man. He was highly intelligent and knew his own mind. Had Jane not been the woman he wanted, it would have been another girl playing the part. The fact is, Anne Boleyn was not wanted as Queen anymore and Henry got what he wanted.

    While Jane has the distinction of carrying on after her predecessor was executed, I do not think it is fair to say that she contrived the event. There is little known of her mind or her opinions. We know she was coached, we know she followed her family’s ambitions, but we don’t know her mind.

    As historians, we can’t make assumptions without facts.

  35. TinaII2None says:

    I want to thank Claire for getting on her soap box. As I told her, I ran across the book by accident — it was one of my Amazon recommendations since they know I’m a Tudor freak. I had no idea who the Favored Queen would even be until I started reading the blurb…and all I could think was I have to tell Claire about this! I’m really disappointed as I have owned some of Ms. Erickson’s historic biographies….It’s just sad.

    I hope one day to produce my own novel, a story I have been working on I guess since I was a teenager 🙂 Believe me, it has undergone changes — is still undergoing changes as my studies of the Tudors, the Wars of the Roses, etc. continue unabated. But I swore one thing to myself a very long time ago — that I would remain true to those real people that have excited my imagination since I was a child. I owe them that much, as a student of history. And yes, their story can be told without the need to fictionalize them to the point of them being unrecognizable.

    And to the poster who mentioned Anne Boleyn — Zombie Huntress. Hey, why not! That Elizabeth Vampire Hunter book wasn’t all that bad. 🙂

    Claire — thanks again for tackling this and if you do read Erickson’s novel…I/we appreciate you taking the proverbial bullet.

  36. Anne fan says:

    Having had my own attempt at writing about Henry’s wives I agree that any book written from Jane’s perspective will portray Anne as a bitch at the very least. It’s very difficult to avoid falling into the camps, however much you might want to avoid it. I agree with Claire that Jane was coached to use Anne’s own lines but I also think that when Jane realised she’d got Henry’s attention she set out to annoy Anne – there’s the flaunting of the locket. I don’t think Jane realised Anne would be killed but I think she did set out to replace her.

    So far, I don’t have a problem – it’s the murderess thing that will prevent me from parting with my money for this book. A step too far methinks (says the woman who had them all appearing on post-life TV!).

  37. Trish says:

    There should be some sort of law against twisting facts to make history more interesting. It’s interesting enough on it’s own! I love to indulge in a good historical fiction now and again, but I prefer ones with completely fictional characters. It’s hard for me to enjoy a book with historical figures, especially ones I adore, being misrepresented. All of my friends and family know how much I love Tudor history, and always come to me asking horrifying things that they’d heard or watched about Anne Boleyn. Books like this one appears to be make her look like a villain. I fully support people reading books like this if they are prepared to find the truth when they are finished.

  38. nanci says:

    although I am always skeptical when it comes to fictional books on Anne, I have to say one of my favorite images of her is from a fictional book, “Murder Most Royal”; the scene where Anne visits her grandmother the Dowager Duchess of Norfolk and meets young Catherine Howard. She talkes to her grandmother after meeting Catherine and says that Catherine is a sweet child but somewhat gauche, that she will send some clothes to dress her more appropriately. It just sounds like something Anne would have done, looking after her family and taking notice of another less fortunate. It also illustrates so clearly the differences between Anne and Catherine and their upbringings. So although it is a fictional book, there is a place for a well done one.

  39. Wendy says:

    It’s just historical fiction. I enjoy them, for entertainment.

    People should be able to figure out truth from fiction.

  40. Dawn says:

    Anne and Jane had two completly different personalities.
    Anne vivacious, lively and encaptivating, Jane quite, outwardly submissive and calm, dare I say it, obedient.

    Both women had ambitious families who actively encouraged/coached these women to use their personalities and female charms to capture the King fully, not as mistresses.
    Just because Anne’s personality was more full on, does not mean she was the bitch from hell, likewise just because Jane was of a more subdued dispossition, does not mean she was a naive pawn in a game of marriage.

    Both these ladies had first hand knowledge of the King and his behaviour towards women, Anne through her sister, and Jane with being at court and seeing his treatment of Katherine, then of Anne, though neither really would have had a lot of choice when his sights were set.

    I would imagine that both ladies would have had doubts along the way taking on this larger than life King, but I suspect that the closer that crown came towards them the more the doubts faded into the background, whether being coach or not, after all it didn’t get better than that in those sort of circles.

    I would also have thought that Anne and Jane would never have got on socially, or have been friends no matter what status they had, with their personalities being so opposite to each other.
    Yes Anne did see the cruel way in which Henry treated Katherine, but to say she was happy about it can not be taken as fact, just as Jane can not be blamed for Anne’s treatment and execution, they would have had to go along with it, how could they not, it was the will of the King, no-one else.

    It took many years for Anne to replace Katherine on the throne, it took Jane a matter of days, and I think this is why people see her as stepping over Anne’s body to take her place, this was Henry’s doing, he couldn’t wait, he had played the waiting game with Anne, and was unwilling to do it again, after all he knew he was no longer a young man time was getting on, and he had no male heir…

    As it is said above if it hadn’t have been Jane it would have been someone else, Anne’s days were numbered, Henry fixing his eye on Jane just speeded up her downfall.
    I don’t see Jane as a complete innocent, I think she had ambitions after her initial push from her family, but I don’t think it would have entered her head that Anne would lose hers when she became involved with the King. And as for the harsher attitudes towards Jane personality and reputation, she still fairs better than Anne in those stakes.

  41. Anya says:

    Another book like this! Oh Lord! Just when recently I spent an hour trying to convince a fellow classmate that what she saw on TOBG wasn’t real! Ii was extremly frustrating.

    Still If this book makes Anne look like a she-devil only because it’s told in the eyes of Jane Seymour, well then that’s understandable.
    I do like historical fiction, even false historical fiction written in fanfiction.net, a place where authors always clarify when they take liberties with facts and characters, and they’re not even published authors.

    It ‘s very sad that people is misguised of facts by books like this. I mean history itself is already to spicy, why then the need to make someone look more of a villian or saint like than they really were.
    I mean you can still like or dislike someone by studying facts, see all the hate Anne has get since the time she was a live, justified or not.

    This books lacks originality cause it falls (again) in the old cliche of Devil Anne, Good Jane. I mean why can anybody write a novel that actuallly embraces the complexity of Anne’s persona, not devil nor saint, or giving an actual credible personality to Jane Seymour? I mean she basically do the same thing that Anne, just in a more subtle way, so she must have a personality, even if she was coached.

  42. Anyanka says:

    On the plus side the woman on the cover has a head….

    That’s the best i can do

    1. Marilyn R says:

      Could this herald the end of the monstrous regiment of headless women?

      1. LOL. Let’s hope so. That’s was a strange trend.

  43. janice says:

    i see, that i`m the lucky one, i dont read such novels, because i know it would make me upset. If we talk about the history, i like facts, not somebody`s imagination (which is mostly welcomed in books like Games of Thrones). On the other hand…once i find some inaccuracy, i go deeper and look for information or some kind of proof and that way i educate myself.

  44. Jenny says:

    I guess I am bothered by this whole thing because we are arguing about a FICTION book. As a teacher I try to instill a love of reading into my students every day. I teach the difference between fiction and non-fiction, and especially around these historical characters. My group of fifth grade girls would live and die for Anne Boleyn but they understand that what they read in their young royals novels are not the facts. They poured through huge adult books and Claire’s website as well as the Spanish Chronicle where we could see it online to find out the real facts. Some things, like her personality, they know we will never know, we only know what other people thought. I guess my point is the point of reading a fiction book is to get carried away somewhere, to get lost in the story and to love the characters, no matter how they are portrayed. You know going in that it is not real, but if it makes you feel something, sadness, grief, happiness, then the author has done a really good job. No two portrayals of Anne Boleyn are alike, some I like, some I don’t and one I love dearly. But despite my feelings about the character of Anne, I am smart enough to realize that her character had to be part of a story and it had to fit into the events and other personalities in the story. I get bent out of shape about “mistakes” like saying Henry grew up at Whitehall palace (PG) because that feels like shoddy research. But fiction books are a look into someone’s imagination and we all have different imagination. The point is supossed to be to have fun reading it. Erickson’s book is written from Jane’s point of view. Anne has to be the villain. Honestly I am sure that there was a VERY tense rivalry going on between the two of them, especially after Anne caught Jane with Henry and lost her child soon after. Part of my love for Anne is that what we hear of her personality, what is left from her contemporaries reminds me a lot of myself. The sense of humor with the motto, her passionate and sometimes volatile relationships with people (especially Henry) and her shining intelligence and love for her daughter.

    In that vein if such a thing happened to me I would be furious and I would find no end to the ways I could make Jane’s life miserable. If I had been Anne and discoved those two together I would have been so hurt, frozen with it, but then, watch out. There is something of a code of honor among women about crossing the line with the husbands of others, you just don’t. Jane did. Therefore she was the enemy and I’m just thinking that if Anne was as fiery and hurt as I think she was Jane would have been the enemy that made Anne throw civility out the window. She would have been an enemy unto death, unless perhaps later they found they had a common enemy. The enemy of my enemy is my friend or so the saying goes. Let’s be real, women hate women who try and steal their husbands, and whether or not it was Jane’s fault, she didn’t say no. So, she is the enemy.
    But you know what? It’s a work of fiction. You are just supossed to enjoy the story and something that the author imagined. That’s it, please, stop villifying other authors, (not you Claire, I think you keep clairifying that that is not your position) everyone is entitled to an imagination and to share that with others. You know what else, I read The Other Boleyn Girl. I cannot stand Anne’s character in that book, but I loved the book itself, it was a good STORY. In fact I could hardly put it down. I have read much of the nonfiction stuff out there too, and some of it worries me bc I think it is opinion but I enjoyed both. As I stated in my first comment if people do not know the difference between fact and fiction that is their own ignorance. But do not discount a book just because the position or personality of one character is not what you know to be reality, if it goes with the book to make a good story then the author has done their job. Please relax people,
    I don’t like the putting down of other authors. We are all entitled to share our imaginations. Don’t worry so much about it the facts when reading fiction. J.R.R. Tolkein wrote what I consider to be the blble if fiction writing. He wrote about hobbits and their village was based on Scara Brae, an ancient village site in the Orkney islands. Hobbits aren’t real, but the story would have stunk without them! Claire?

    1. Claire says:

      It’s a really tough subject because you can argue it different ways. Readers should be responsible for their own views and opinions and fiction is fiction, but as someone who receives regular emails from people who believe that TOBG is factual because it was written by an “historian” I can see the damage that historical fiction can do if it is misconstrued. I have even heard of people using TOBG as a kind of study guide for Anne Boleyn and I am not joking.

      I love historical fiction because it mixes the two things I love most, history and literature, but I appreciate books where the author has written accompanying notes explaining that their book is fiction and how they were inspired etc. I feel then that the author is being responsible. These are real people that are being written about, they are not hobbits or elves, they have a real story behind the fiction. I am not damning historical fiction or its authors, I just want it to be made clearer that these novels are fiction. My problem with TOBG is not its content, its the fact that PG believes, and says so, that it is based on fact. The reader reads the novel, turns to the notes and is told that what they’ve read is true. The reader is not being ignorant by believing that.

      I am grateful that historical novels bring people to history and that they get people curious and asking questions, that’s great, but for everyone who digs deeper into the real story there are a few who don’t bother and base their opinions on what they have just read. It’s a conundrum, people should be entitled to be creative and write what they want, readers should be more responsible, but perhaps historical novelists should take some of the responsibility too, and many do.

      1. Jenny says:

        Well if PG puts that in the back of the book that is not good. But people have to do their research, they are responsible for what they believe and think. That’s what I am trying to say. I guess I am just trying to teach a whole new generation of thinkers, and to teach my students that they must have something to back up what they think is truth in their writing, it’s part of the writing process. Citations are required. They are 11 and I teach in a title one school (high poverty) with a 77% Spanish speaking student body. But what they have learned about finding actual facts and separating that from fiction makes me so proud of them. One of my proudest moments was last year when a student read the book “Patience Princess Elizabeth.” She told me what she read and asked if it was all true. I said no and she said “Well, can you show me where to find out what really happened?” I just loved that she had learned not to take anything as truth until she did the research. I thought my heart might burst!
        I don’t know, I just have a real problem with people who would actually spout something off as fact after reading a work of fiction. I don’t think that really shows them to their best advantage, you know? I agree that authors should let people know that their work is fictional, no author should claim something that is easily proven to be false as truth, that is misleading to the reader. But the reader must take some responsibility for themselves. They are responsible for what they believe to be fact or fiction to a large extent. I don’t know, I think I sound mean and I don’t mean to sound that way. I just know when I go back to work next week that I will have to teach responsibility for your own actions and learning. I love teaching about Henry VIII, and I love it when they become fascinated with the time period because they have not seen or read anything about it before, nobody reads to them at home. But what I love best (besides my sweet students) is that moment when they discover that they loved reading a book about something and that they want to know more, they want to know what REALLY happened. That makes me smile for days!

        1. Claire says:

          I know just what you mean, Jenny, I used to be a teacher and it is such a rewarding career and those moments when you can see how much you have helped a child are just magic and they stay with you for ever.

          I’m not saying that readers should not take responsibility, I just think that it is hard for them to do so when the book they are reading says in the notes that it is true to history and also when they have seen that person on TV introduced as an historian or expert on that subject. It is all very misleading and confusing. If a person takes something as fact which is clearly fiction then they are irresponsible but if they’ve read the author’s notes and researched that author and still are led to believe it is true then the responsibility lies with the author in my opinion. I hope that makes sense. I don’t mean to come across as pig-headed and stubborn about it, I just think that there has to be responsibility on both sides.

          It’s heartwarming to hear you talk about your approach to teaching and takes me back a few years when I was teaching in a rather challenging part of Birmingham, UK. Very rewarding.

  45. antonio says:

    my opinion is that Anne Boleyn had a price on her head for oposing the catholic church which to me is the whore of all the earth, does anyone know how much blood has the catholic church have on its hands , from Spanish inquisition to persecusion of protestants througouth Europe and the world.

    Anne boleyn was a corageus woman who recognized that, helped people have the bible , which was forbiden at the time and break england from the slavery of the pope.

    from spain , juancho

    1. Claire says:

      I don’t want a religious argument to start here and what we have to remember is Anne did not oppose the Catholic Church, she was interested in its reform. Yes, the Catholic Church has blood on its hand but so does the Protestant Church and so do many religions.

      1. antonio says:

        do you know what kind of beliefs or doctrines did Anne believe in? which ones he conformed or didnt with the catholic church? (this is asking me for my email but i dont get any message there, i have to search on google to come back to this page)

        1. Claire says:

          Hi Antonio,
          The comments section asks you for an email to prevent spam comments. I have written a few articles on Anne Boleyn’s faith, including https://www.theanneboleynfiles.com/anne-boleyns-faith/4990/ and https://www.theanneboleynfiles.com/anne-boleyn-and-the-reformation/4978/. Although Foxe calls her a Protestant martyr, I would not call her a Protestant or martyr. As Eric Ives has often said, it was too early in the English Reformation for people to be labelled Protestants and Anne, although she had many reformist views, was a Catholic, albeit an evangelical one. As for being a martyr, Anne died from a miscarriage of justice, not really as a religious martyr. Eric Ives sums up how I feel about Anne’s personal faith:-
          “Her attitude would be characteristic of all shades of English evangelical reform for at least a decade more: real spiritual experience, yes; the priority of faith, yes; access to the Bible, yes; reform of abuses and superstition, yes; but heretical views on the miracle of the altar, no.”
          and I’ve written more on the subject in those two articles.

      2. antonio says:

        did you get my last question?

  46. antonio says:

    i doubt protestants will have to answer as much as the catholics , but you are right, those are not appropiate comments

  47. Boleynfan says:

    I seem to remember reading a book by Carolly Erickson about Catherine Parr, in which she mentions that Catherine had a miscarriage in one of her marriages previous to her union with Henry VIII. Correct me if I’m wrong, but to my knowledge there is no historical record of this whatsoever.
    On one hand, I agree that historical fiction writers should be free to write creatively whatever they wish, and more often than not those books make very entertaining reads. However, those authors must make sure that no one takes their books as accurate (like “The Other Boleyn Girl”).
    And on another note-why Anne?! Why ALWAYS Anne? You’d think Jane Seymour would be villainized just as often, wouldn’t you? If I were to write a novel and I was planning on villainizing someone, Jane Seymour would be at the top of my list, personally. 🙂

    1. Lauren says:

      I appreciate that this is an Anne fan site, but I would have thought that Anne fans of all people know what it is like to see an historical figure maligned. Saying Jane was responsible for Anne’s downfall, or could not have been as innocent as she is painted, suggests that there are plenty of people who are dying to villainize Jane, or just trash her as a person, which amounts to the same thing. This might sound like a crazy suggestion for this site, but how about we try a little empathy for ALL the wives.

      1. Claire says:

        Hi Lauren,
        “This site” does have “a little empathy for ALL the wives”. I cannot control the opinions of people who leave comments on here, and neither would I want to, and there are always going to be people who don’t like Jane or who like Jane and hate Anne etc. but please be assured that this site does care about all six of the wives. I know you’re referring to comments on here but you keep saying “this site”.

  48. Lauren says:

    Sorry, I mean comments on articles, because this Is a site dedicated to Anne.

  49. Boleynfan says:

    Lauren: When I wrote, “You’d think Jane Seymour would be villainized just as often” I didn’t necessarily mean she should be villainized. My point is, Anne is considered a “homewrecker” and “husband-stealer” by many people, especially those who like Catherine of Aragon. Regardless of your opinions about Anne, Jane, or Catherine, Jane effectively did the same thing, even using Anne’s own tactic of refusing Henry VIII’s gifts as well as his bed. So, if they did roughly the same thing, even in a similar manner to some extent, why would Anne be villainized in novels so much more often?
    And as to my last sentence-I was joking, as I much prefer Anne to Jane and am aware that most people on the AB Files do–after all, this is an Anne Boleyn website, although, like Claire said, I think most people on here (including me) do have empathy for all of the wives. I don’t really respect Jane as a person (much less than I do Anne or Catherine of Aragon, for instance), but I do empathize with her because I realize that, whether she was scheming or actually just sweet and led by her family’s ambitions, it was a tough position to be in. But while I do empathize with Jane Seymour, I have more sympathy for Anne because I like and respect her more-I’m sure you can understand that, Lauren.
    Also, like Claire said, I don’t speak for the site obviously and that’s just my opinion. Everyone on here has different opinions on Jane, Anne, and the rest of the six wives, and I enjoy debating about the merits, flaws, and motivations of all of the six wives and Anne in particular.

  50. Daniel says:

    With fictional historic novels it is always the question to what extent the author is ”obliged” to write historically correct. Or any case, the question is to what extent he or she is entitled to shed negative light on the character in question. But there is no legislation on the matter, which is also silly of course.

    I don’t think it’s correct to display Anne (or whomever) as someone who would commit incest or kill anyone, as this information is highly unlikely to be true. The film should convey the story correctly or any case not incorrectly. After all, this is what people are going to think since, generally, they believe historic reinactments in movies are historically correct.

    This being my personal opinion, you can fill in the gap as regards my opinion of the movie The Other Boleyn Girl.

  51. Boleynfan says:

    I agree for the most part, Daniel. However, I realize that for some historical fiction authors, even good ones, they care more about their characters, plot, and story than about historical accurateness. I understand that, but I think if you are going to do that (e.g. Philippa Gregory or, it seems, Carolly Erickson), you should definitely write a long historical note about how your writing is definitely NOT fact, because unfortunately (and this is what Claire talked about as the “damage” to Anne’s reputation due to “TOBG”) a lot of people take historical fiction literally. For instance, a friend of mine read a novel about Catherine of Aragon that made Anne out to seem horrible, and she refuses to be open-minded about Anne despite my efforts.

  52. Lauren says:

    I wasn’t referring to just one comment, though I am intrigued as to why you would not respect Jane as a person? I have seen Jane called a home wrecker and a schemer too, and that is my point. Perhaps people notice the attitude towards Jane less.

  53. Valerie says:

    I read Carolly Erickson’s book ‘The Memoirs of Mary Queen of Scots’, which I thought was really good, mainly because she did actually point out that it was a work of fiction and not a historical account of what actually happened. So I was able to read the book without getting annoyed! I would hope that she would include a similar note in this book.

  54. Shoshana says:

    I have said it so often my family will probably have it inscribed on my tombstone:

    “there is no reason to make up things about historical figures, especially those from the Tudor era, their lives were interesting enough withou adding events that never took place.”

    A writer can produce dozens of books about Anne, all with a different plot, and never once stray from historical fact – if they are excellent writers.

    Now, I’ll relinquish my soapbox for the next person.

  55. Shoshana says:

    I have said it so often my family will probably have it inscribed on my tombstone:

    “there is no reason to make up things about historical figures, especially those from the Tudor era, their lives were interesting enough withou adding events that never took place.”

    A writer can produce dozens of books about Anne, all with a different plot, and never once stray from historical fact – if they are excellent writers.

    Now, I’ll relinquish my soapbox for the next person.

  56. Libi says:

    I love to read historical fiction, and so I fall upon a good number of these novels where historical figures are completely antagonized to help the flow of the plot or to evoke sympathy for the main character. Cleopatra is often turned into a sexual deviant who is manipulative enough to sleep with other men to get pregnant, and then parade that child around as the son of Caesar. Forget her intelligence and ability to speak multiple languages fluently, or any number of factors that made her a great queen. Unfortunately, Anne Boleyn is prey to writers who make her the conspiring mistress-who-would-be-queen, the evil step mother, and selfish sister.

    Anyways, what I am trying to get to, is that I started my love of history and the Tudors by first being exposed to these inaccurate depictions. The important thing is that I’ve striven to research and learn the actual history. I think it’s good to treat this book as a gateway. 🙂

  57. Debbs says:

    What or who exactly was Jane Seymour? The most exciting thing about her ia a BOND girl who took her name! She actually being beautiful was nevertheless misguided. So Jane gave Henry his son, WOW!!! I dread to think of the tyranny he would have instigated given the opportunity.. If he could have escaped his leading strings!! I doubt Jane would have held Henry longer than a month had the precious Edward been a girl. Jane had no more substance than her milksop, boring portrait suggests….her only asset the demure, placating, non-entity , this way or that personality of a parasite, thriving on leeching the life out of others as she did to Anne! Anne, vibrant, exotic, tumultuous, never a hypoctire and always, always her own person, exciting, fearless but too hot to handle. Nevertheless from that anvil of that fire and passion the great Elizabeth was forged and the name of Tudor dominates our history. FACT!!! God bless you Anne xxx

  58. Czarina says:

    Oh my gosh, I have just read this book, and, yes, it was quite misleading. Though it was an enjoyable read( I finished it in 6 hours without breaks), it portrayed Anne as this woman who desperately wants to get pregnant and will do anything(keyword: ANYTHING) to achieve it. Now, if I didn’t know a lot about Tudor history already before reading this, I would have assumed wrongly. And yes, I do get your point about The Boleyn Girl tarnishing Anne’s reputation. You see, my sister and I were watching the Tudors one night when my mom walked in the room and asked what we were doing. I told her we were watching the Tudors, and she asked which episode. My sister told her we were watching the episodes with Anne Boleyn in it( beautifully portrayed by Natalie Dormer) because she was our favorite character in the whole series. My mother just like gave disgusted look and said, “Why would she be your favorite character? She’s a murderer and commits incest!” However, being the pro-Anne fan AND Tudor history freak I was( I have read 10-15 books about every Tudor monarchy/era by that time) I corrected her. She then was taken aback and said, “But that’s what happened in The Other Boleyn Girl.” I quickly screamed, “THAT’S A FICTIONAL BOOK!” So, all in all, I really get the point in this article, and if anybody wants to read this book, I suggest to do a little research before or after reading so you don’t assume wrongly.

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