I’ve just come back from a two week holiday travelling through Spain and France to the UK, and while I was in the UK I was lucky enough to attend David Starkey’s talk “Henry VIII: The First Brexiteer” at the Festival Theatre at Hever Castle. It was a wonderful talk, both entertaining and educational, and in it Dr Starkey shared his view on the dating of Anne Boleyn’s acceptance of Henry VIII’s proposal of marriage. It is something that he has mentioned before in his book on the six wives, but I haven’t discussed it here on the Anne Boleyn Files before so I thought I’d share it with you.

As Dr Starkey explained, and as many of you will know, Henry VIII’s love letters to Anne Boleyn, which are held now in the Vatican Archives, are not dated. There are several theories regarding the order in which they were written and when they were written, but only David Starkey, I believe, goes as far as to give a firm date for Anne’s acceptance of the king’s proposal, which she signified by sending him a jewelled trinket. Henry VIII described it in his letter as “the costly Diamond, and the Ship in which the solitary Damsel is tossed about”. Henry thanked Anne for the gift, “but chiefly for the fine interpretation, and too humble submission”, i.e. for her submission to his will. Eric Ives explains that “For centuries the ship had been a symbol of protection – the ark which rescued Noah from the destroying deluge; the diamond – as the Roman de la Rose had said – spoke of a ‘heart as hard as diamond, steadfast and nothing pliant’.”

Now, this letter was written in French, and this is where things get interesting. As Ives and Starkey both point out, Henry VIII thanks Anne for “l’etrene [étrenne]”, rather than “le cadeau”. If you don’t know French, “cadeau” means gift or present and so does “étrenne”. However, “étrennes” are more specific than “cadeaux”, they are usually gifts given at New Year. Starkey believes, therefore, that Anne said “yes” to Henry VIII on 1st January 1527, 1527 fitting with the king’s claim that he had been in love with her for a year. Eric Ives talks about the use of “étrenne” in the letter, stating that “the word was acquiring an implication of ‘novelty’ or ‘special occasion'”, but that it “was also developing a second meaning – ‘virginity’.” Ives believes that by using this word, rather than “cadeau”, “Henry could be picking up on Anne’s assertion that her maidenhead was reserved for her future husband” and that by giving Henry this gift, and thereby accepting his proposal, she was offering her maidenhead to him. Interesting!

So, Starkey dates the acceptance to 1st January 1527 and the start of Henry’s interest in Anne to 1525, but what does Eric Ives think? Well, he believes that Henry began his “courtly pursuit” of Anne at Shrovetide 1526 and that the couple agreed to marry in summer 1527. Does it matter? Well, as Ives points out, if you go with the earlier date then you make Anne “the catalyst for the rejection of Katherine”, whereas if you go with the later dating then it’s two years after Henry had ceased to have sexual relations with his first wife, and Anne is more of a solution to the king’s matrimonial woes rather than a cause.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this so please do leave a comment.


  • “Henry VIII: The First Brexiteer”, talk by Dr David Starkey at the Festival Theatre, Hever Castle, 8 August 2018.
  • ed. Oldys, William (1745) The Harleian miscellany: or, A collection of scarce, curious, and entertaining pamphlets and tracts, as well in manuscript as in print, Volume III, p. 54, Lettre V. This can be read at https://archive.org/stream/harleianmiscella03oldyiala#page/54/mode/2up
  • Ives, Eric (2004) The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn, Blackwell Publishing, p. 88-90.

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77 thoughts on “When did Anne Boleyn say yes to Henry VIII?”
  1. Hi Claire!
    How fortunate to be able to attend this event with Dr. Starkey. He is brilliant! He does give some convincing insights into this subject, as does Eric Ives, and as always, we will never really know for sure. But it does make for good consideration. Are those letters in the Vatican available for study?

    1. Sorry, I forgot to comment on the first bit of your comment, Ruth. I’ve never heard him speak before and he was brilliant. He’s very entertaining and he brings history to life. I was also fortunate to meet him beforehand and he was very kind and gracious.

      1. Starkey has a reputation for being a bit blunt but I think he’s fantastic, he narrated the television series ‘The six wives of Henry V111’, and I loved it, if I could choose a guest at my table it would be David Starkey.

        1. David Starkey’s Six Wives really did deliver in a direct way. Lucy Worsley also did well and I like how the conversations there were recreated. I have David Starkey’s book to read.

  2. Please don’t maintain this fiction that H8 was the first Brexiteer. He wasn’t. He left the Roman Catholic Church because he couldn’t keep it buttoned in his trousers. A purely personal thing.

    Not like the national disaster that is about to screw all the British.

    1. Where did I say that? I mentioned the title of the talk and the talk was given by Dr David Starkey. I’m not maintaining any fiction and this article is about Henry and Anne’s relationship and when she accepted his proposal, not about Brexit.

      The talk wasn’t like that at all, Starkey was simply drawing comparisons and contrasts between Henry’s break with Rome and the situation with the UK today. It was very well done, cutting and humorous. He talked about the political situation in Europe in the 16th century, the break with Rome and its impact, and he commented on how at least England had strong leadership in the 1500s and Henry made alliances to help him, as opposed to the UK’s situation today. Fair point.

      To be fair to Henry VIII, and I can’t believe I’m defending him here, the break with Rome was not down to sex, it was down to his frustration with the Pope, who had annulled other royal marriages easily enough, and with his growing belief that monarchs as God’s appointed leaders should be answerable to God, and that’s putting it simplistically. Yes, he wanted to annul his marriage to Catherine so that he could marry Anne, and that was down to lust/love and his need for an heir, but it was also a bit more complicated than that. It was a personal thing but it was also supported by those who favoured reform. Brexit is also personal in that each person who voted had their personal reasons for doing so.

    2. Europe has been screwing us for years it was a disaster when the people voted to join, the common market as it was called then, I do not know your age but so many young voters in this country cannot see anything but Europe, they vote purely out of self interest, shock horror they won’t be able to travel around Europe so easily, older folk who grew up when Britain was running her own affairs remember those sublime days when the streets were much safer to walk then, when kids did not have to travel miles from home to go to school because most places were taken by droves of immigrants, because WE had a say who came in our country, when jobs were easier to get, when the waiting lists for hospitals were half possibly more than they are now, when our fishing industry was safe, no billions of money going into the Europen Union and most of all, that farcical ‘human rights ‘ act that is merely an excuse by criminals to get a softer sentance, I have nothing against Europe I love to visit Spain when I can and Italy etc, many European countries are beautiful and we all have our own culture which makes us unique, Britain is an island race which stands us apart from Europe, we had no help from them in 1940 and in fact we helped to save them, along with America who is a much more reliable ally then all of Europe put together, we have been running our country for several thousand years, and along with other nations for several hundred years, we was in India for over 250 years, proof that we can get along quite well on our own thanks, pro remainers it seems to me knows nothing of our history if they really think we need the wonderful European Union to survive, they seem to think Britain as a nation starts and ends with Europe, I feel very sad that they do not appear to possess the pride and patriotism in their own country, Churchill said we are part of Europe but not in it, the great man was right, trade and comradeship is vital for all nations but what the British did not vote for in the 1970’s was to have all our rights and all our laws swallowed up by her continental neighbour’s, we was told our sovereignty would not be threatened but we were lied to, because little by little our sovereignty has whittled away to nearly nothing, no wonder we voted to leave, if Henry V111 was the first brexiteer than he definitely gets my vote, and he wasn’t just this bloodsucking tyrant who couldn’t keep it in his trousers, his main preoccupation was his need for a son.

      1. As an American, I appreciate your tip of the hat to us, Christine.

        No one can know how correct the Brexit analogy might be, though; historical patterns can seldom be accurately discerned on the spot.

        (Nice, trendy bit of titling from Dr. Starkey; he isn’t a public intellectual for nothing. I’d like to have heard him, but the idea of Henry as the first Brexiteer just sounds like click-bait to me.)

      2. I don’t want to turn this into a Brexit argument, as my article is not about that at all. We need to keep on topic.
        However, I do need to highlight your comment regarding pro-remainers knowing nothing, not having pride or patriotism or being solely young people. I’m not going to be drawn into an argument on this, but your labelling of people that voted differently to you is unfair and completely untrue. I need to comment on that because it will cause offence.
        Now can we get back to Henry and Anne….

        1. It’s ok Claire I was not going to say another word about Brexit as it is off subject, it’s just that ever since the vote to leave those who voted to do so have had to put up with a lot of flak from the remain group, calling us stupid uneducated and mocking us because we’re not young, it just seems to me anyway that the derision is mostly from the younger generation, however as mentioned this discussion is about Anne and her infamous hubby therefore to Anne we will devote ourselves.

        2. I haven’t seen such flak on this site and by saying that “pro remainers it seems to me knows nothing of our history” you’re doing just the same to others as has been done to you. For the record, I’m very much pro-remain, as are the majority of my family and friends, who range from in their 40s to in their 80s, and I know British and European history. I’m also one of those pesky European immigrants!

          Anyway, back to the wonderful Anne Boleyn!

        3. Yes Claire everyone is entitled to their opinion, I respect others as I hope they respect mine, I respect your vote to remain, I was referring to the attitude of the remain group who never respected the vote of those who voted to leave, as I mentioned most vitriol comes from youngsters who leave many comments in for eg, the Daily Mail comments section, you can see quite plainly their age as they call leavers uneducated old farts, and they have robbed us of our future, they will die before Brexit is completed etc, all ridiculous silly comments from people who without the older generation would be speaking German, according to them we did not go to university so we do not know anything, never mind about life experience, this is only my opinion but their attitude to me seems to smack of a generation who have no respect for the horror of what their grandparents had to endure during the horror of two world wars, how they had to fight for the very freedom which has been suppressed by being in Europe, not all youngsters are the same however and you do get trolls on every website, we have had them on here but ever since the vote attempts have been made to thwart the wishes of those who voted to leave, there has been nothing but doom and gloom from the remain group old as well as young, now it’s even been mentioned on the Anne Boleyn files by Diane and one does get weary of the negative comments, anyway let us leave the 21st century behind and travel back to the 16th century world of candlelight and Greensleeves….

        4. It was mentioned here on the ABF by Diane but she simply said “Not like the national disaster that is about to screw all the British” rather than getting personal.
          Now you are treating remainers as if they are all the same and also lumping all young people together. There have also been negative comments from pro-Brexit people regarding topics like immigration. Some of the comments I have seen on social media have been incredibly bigoted and amount to hate speech, but I don’t believe that all pro-Brexit people are like that.

  3. O Claire, that sounds like one beautiful holiday and so richly deserved… got any photos?
    How I would have loved to be a fly on the wall at Hever! Hope too the eyes have fully recovered and you have moved on, yay!
    Am I correct in thinking that Henry faced his Waterloo some time in 1524 when he stopped sleeping with Katharine, who had reached the menopause? Charles the Emperor must surely be a pretty big catalyst for Henry’s decision-making, when in 1525 he turns from Mary to Isabel, creating a crisis out of a drama? Next Henry moves Mary to Wales and ennobles his illegitimate son. Is it possible then, that Anne was simply a part, though important, of an evolving situation long in the making, and complicated?

    1. It was wonderful although I think I might need another holiday to get over that one as we drove 5000 km in all! We travelled through Spain, into France, staying at Carcassonne and then Calais, then we went to see my parents in North Wales (plus a stop to see a friend who lives in an Elizabethan mansion!), back to the South-East to see Tim0’s family and to go to the Hever talk, then back via France (Blois and Bordeaux) and then a night at Pamplona before coming home. Phew! I’m exhausted but my brain is rested. I will definitely be writing about Blois and sharing photos.

    2. IIRC, in one of my books on the Six Wives (I forget if it is Starkey’s, Weir’s, or Fraser’s), it was noted that Henry didn’t think of divorcing Katherine until after Charles dumped Mary; until then, Henry’s concern about a female heir was reduced due to the wealth and power his grandson would have (if he inherited from both Charles and Mary). IMO, even after that, Henry still wasn’t thinking of divorce … why would he advance Mary (by sending her to Wales) or ennoble his illegitimate son if he is planning on replacing both with a legitimate son?

      1. Sounds as if you had a great time, very nice. I don’t believe the nay sayers and doom sayers on Brexit are actually correct, we didn’t vote for a political union with Europe but an economic one. We can be a more independent nation and we will remain in Europe, just not as a political enity.

        Anyway, as you say it’s not about Brexit, thankfully, or we would all end up not talking to each other. I agree that Henry used his break with Rome more out of frustration than anything else. I also agree that for quite some time Henry saw Mary as as potential heir, treated her as his heir and he sent her to Ludlow to represent him and learn how to rule, just as he would have done if she had have been Prince of Wales. Perhaps the reality that he could have a second wife and her own persuasion that she could give him a son, put into his mind that he really did have a problem with no male heir. Who knows?

        1. I do believe that at some time he was resigned to Mary being his heir and being a princess of the blood Royal she had an excellent education, she was taught how to dance play music etc all which she did with aplomb as she was a highly precocious child, she could speak and write several languages and all these attributes were needed in a queen, I think at one point she shared the nursery with Fitzroy to, however Henry did confer on his bastard child the Royal dukedom’s of Richmond and Somerset which was very telling as they had belonged to his father, and many thought he was being schooled for one day becoming Henrys heir, Katherine was furious at this honour and maybe to appease her he sent Mary off to Wales, as mentioned the heir to the crown was schooled to become Prince of Wales or in Marys case, Princess of Wales or he could have still believed she would be his heir to the crown, as he and his wife grew increasingly older and Katherine approached menopause the idea of Fitzroy becoming his heir must have looked a much more desirable reality than Mary inheriting, he had hoped by now to have had a nursery full of healthy children, daughters as well as sons and all he had to show for his long marriage was one daughter, and a bastard son, had Henry never met Anne he could well have attempted to put him in the succession, he cut out both his daughters then put them both back in as he knew after Edward, there was little chance of him ever siring another son, I think when he met Anne yes there is the possibility that he was resigned to Mary being his heir or as I mentioned Richmond, but there was the stigma of his birth, then Anne made him think here was a young healthy woman who could give him a legitimate son, she could have said to him she could give him a son but that was a dangerous thing to predict, no woman can ever be certain what sex her child could be, she possibly thought the fault lay with Katherine not Henry, in those days it was not known that the father determines the sex of the child, there were lots of old wives tales about bearing sons and daughters, and Anne as a woman in the 16th century was aware all too well of the dangers of childbirth and the infant mortality rate, her own mother had lost several children before she was born, so she was very brave to even mention giving the King a son and heir if indeed she had, we know Anne was confident in her own abilities but she miscalculated dreadfully her chances of giving Henry a son.

        2. Yes, giving the two old titles of Richmond and Somerset to Henry Fitzroy really upset Katherine as they had been given to Henry’s father, grandfather and great uncle. Of course they also fit well with the Tudor myth as Somerset comes from the illegitimate Beaufort line and Richmond the lower status Tudor line. Henry Vii wasn’t really Earl of Richmond when he became King, either, he styled himself this as it had been his father’s title. The Earldom actually belonged to the Herberts because of their support for the House of York. However, it was originally a Tudor title and Henry vii’s mother, Margaret Beaufort always called herself Countess of Richmond. It has been proposed more recently that Edmund Tudor was actually the son of Edmund Beaufort, rather than Owen Tudor and so literally from the Somerset line, but that is another story.

          Princess Mary was raised as a high born royal Princess, with all of the attention and privileges of her high rank, was educated and coddled as any heiress and precious child, she was taught everything to rule and Katherine certainly saw her daughter as the rightful heir, expecting her to become Queen. There was no indication that Mary should not expect anything less for several years. In Ludlow she had a full Council who ruled for her, but she was the official representative of the King. She was being trained for Government. Then, boom, one day she is recalled and told she has to serve her baby half sister. No wonder the seventeen year old was pretty miffed.

  4. Sounds like a wonderful holiday! As to the timing of Anne and Henry’s agreement, I’m going with the later date. I don’t think she was instantly enamored of the idea of marrying Henry….I do believe it took him a lwhile to win her over. But I guess we’ll never know for sure. Thanks for a great post!

  5. This pleases me, as I hate to think of my beloved Anne as a home-wrecker! I’m across the pond from you all, and so I have to live vicariously through this blog. So horribly sorry to miss David Starkey! I’m an avid fan of his books. Thanks for sharing this (and all the posts!) Susie from Canada!

  6. Anne said yes to Henry because she wanted to be Queen, was by now also in love with him mutually and she believed she could give him the heir he lacked. Anne definitely didn’t want to be his mistress but that doesn’t mean she wasn’t flattered by his letters, which were passionate and full of compliments. If King Henry Viii came courting me for a year and offered me the crown, seriously I would have said yes. In 1527 he wasn’t too bad a catch. The only problem was, he was already married. I think Anne dud struggle with the fact that Henry already had a wife and I am positive he also worried about the consequences of divorcing Katherine. He didn’t even think about the marriage ending until noises about the possibility that Mary may not be legitimate arose and he then saw the passage in Leviticus, which seems very convenient. Katherine had ceased to be able to have children in 1524_but his marriage was investigated in 1526 and this appears to be prior to his involvement with Anne Boleyn.

    When Henry continued to write to her and to appreciate her Anne became more fascinated with the King and I believe they had a mutual relationship after a year or so. When Anne gave indications that she could give him a son he asked her to marry him and she consented. Unfortunately, the entire process took six long, frustrating years, with Katherine refusing to give up her rights as Queen and mother of Henry’s legitimate heiress, Princess Mary and Henry refused to wait for a decision from Rome any longer. Katherine had appealed her cause to Rome in 1529 and nothing had happened by 1532. Henry had made moves towards making himself the Head of the Church in England, but remained linked to the Vatican. The Parliament of 1529 to 1536 prepared legislation for a total break and for his Supremacy, a new law of Succession from his second marriage alone, a new Treason Act and for Revenues from the Church to be transferred to the Crown. Henry left the Vatican in order to achieve his annulment, marry Anne Boleyn and to set up a clerical hierarchy that would grant him both, independent of Rome. However, he didn’t leave the Catholic Church and remained mostly traditional in his practice, belief and worship.

    Anne Boleyn proved useful during this process and helped him intellectually and with theological arguments for leaving Rome and taking over his annulment himself. Henry came across certain passages in the Book by William Tyndale “Obedience of the Christian Man” which argued a King is subject only to God, not the Pope which traditional stories say was somehow introduced to him by Anne Boleyn who had intercepted the book when it was confiscated as a banned book. Henry was impressed and he saw that if he broke from Rome he could achieve the ends of his marriage to Anne Boleyn and hopefully the birth of a son.

    Anne and Henry apparently were well suited, he respected her as a well educated woman and they had a lot in common. They developed a loving and beneficial relationship. Anne wanted to be his Queen and Henry wanted to marry the woman he loved and have sons by her. He had loved Katherine but Henry needed a male heir, which is why he looked for a new marriage, otherwise he wouldn’t have married Anne Boleyn. As Anne refused to be his mistress, it is unlikely any sort of relationship would have developed if Henry and Katherine were blessed with living sons. Henry now needed to find a new wife, believed his first marriage was void and Anne had accepted his proposal, could give him male children, so of course he offered her the crown.

    For Katherine everything was different. She was Henry’s Queen, his lawful wife of over twenty four years. She had shared his coronation, they had several children together, although they had lost all but one, their beloved daughter, Princess Mary. Katherine may have been married first to Prince Arthur, but she was adamant that this marriage was never consummated. Therefore her marriage to Henry was lawful and their daughter legitimate. In any case the Church could make it right if both parties were ignorant of any impediment to their marriage, and their child could be legitimate under good faith, even after an annulment. Katherine wasn’t going to give up and Anne was recorded as being insulting about her former mistress. Anne could be arrogant and ambitious and certainly wanted to be Queen. Henry was pleased to marry someone he found fascinating and was passionate about.

    1. It must have been very very difficult to have the most powerful man in the kingdom on whose good fortune you and your family’s welfare rested on, to have him declare passionate love to you and for you not to reciprocate but dread upsetting him by refusal, many believe in the end she did love him but I am unsure, I think she developed for him a very fond attachment and it shows through the long years of waiting how dexterous she handled him, like a skilled player at the card table, she kept him dangling and never once did his love for her waver she held all the aces and she knew it, a woman in love would have slept with the object of her affection much sooner, the closeness you get with the physical side of a relationship strengthens the bond between you and she never gave him that, that tells me she was not as passionate about Henry as he was about her, a woman really in love would have found it very hard not to sleep with the man she loved, true she did have I believe a very real affection for him, it would have been hard not to, when your would be lover showers you with luxurious gifts and passionate letters, and makes your father an Earl, when he elevates you from mere ‘lady’ to a ‘marchioness’ all in readiness for queenship one would become very fond of him, but did she love the King, it’s something else we will never have the answer to, one remark she did say years later is very telling, she said she never sought the King in her heart, the way she kept him dangling for many years and then finally giving him what he wanted, when she knew her dream was about to come a reality, smacks of a woman whose feelings were more about ambition than love, and I think Henry V111 knew this deep down but was too besotted by her to trouble himself over it, he came to realise I think that it was his crown she loved more than himself which does explain a little his complete abandonment of her years later.

      1. I believe Anne was terribly flattered by the King, but she had an example of what it is to be his mistress in her sister, a brief period of elevation, a few gifts and attention and then a handshake, nice to know you, but it’s over as I am a married man. In other words Henry and Mary had a good time for a while, a period we can’t know the length of but for argument sake, say three to six months, ending with a possible pregnancy at which point the King got bored and went back to his wife. There wasn’t a future because both parties were married and one was the King, and until Henry, Kings didn’t normally marry their mistress. His great grandfather, Edward iv, was the big exception and in his defence the lady had many sisters and brothers and a dominant mother and he was probably overwhelmed, poor man, as Edward had a reputation for getting women into his bed. Elizabeth Woodville, captivated him and captured his heart, refused to sleep with him and he married her. They fell in love but when is something for speculation but he kept her a secret until forced to inform the shocked Council that he and EW were married, and we know the fallout from that point. Generally, however, Kings married a Royal Princess or the relative of a powerful European noble. Mary Boleyn was also married in 1520 to Sir William Carey a man much in favour with the King. The Boleyn family were already well known in Court circles and in Royal Service for many years. As a family they didn’t benefit in any material way from Mary’s relationship with Henry. It has been argued that the later grants to William were for the King’s children, Catherine and Henry Carey, but they could also be advancement for services to the King. Henry was an extremely generous man and his friends and favourites benefited enormously when in his affection. (When people fell out later on_they also lost much, including heads). I personally believe Catherine was his child but Henry didn’t recognise her. Anne saw this and guarded her virtue, which she had done in France and refused to give in before she was married.

        We can confidently date Henry’s attraction, by my interpretation, by 1526 at least. Anne’s agreement to being courted is more difficult, because the letters are not dated. We also don’t have anything from Anne, so we assume Henry destroyed them, although the contemporary records are silent. The Vatican has the original letters to Anne, thankfully as they too may have gone out of shame, because Anne’s execution brought shame, regardless of the fact she was innocent. Her family would have to follow protocol and hide the letters at least, to show loyalty. The Vatican had agents in England, they had official representatives in England, they had representatives at Court because England was Catholic, they also had many friends who would be pleased to discredit the Boleyns as friends of Katherine and one suspect is Chapuys but any number of the above could have stolen them and they provided evidence that Henry wanted to annul his first marriage in favour of Lady Anne.

        I believe there is enough reconstruction of Anne and Henry’s relationship to say it was developing during 1526 and had turned into a love match sometime during 1527. Henry asked the Pope leave to marry an unnamed person, related to another unnamed person, interpreted by experts as Mary and Anne Boleyn, during this period and her gift to Henry accepting him as her lover and protector dates from this time. Henry did look into the possibility of his first marriage being null and void at this time and Charles V rejected Princess Mary in favour of another political marriage, although there are reasons of state which he had to consider, in the Ladies Peace which saw Francis marry his sister, Eleanor, that played a part. Rumours came about that there was a question mark over the legitimacy of Princess Mary, and, Henry’s doubts certainly surfaced during 1526/7. It is therefore more likely that Henry questioned his marriage before any serious relationship with Anne Boleyn developed and that he saw her as a mistress and nothing more.

        We know that Anne’s no inflamed him and he wrote and wrote and sent her gifts and she fled to Hever. Henry visited her at Hever but after all the Courting she couldn’t say no forever. We don’t know the full details of how and when they met for dates but clearly they saw each other a lot and fell in love. During this ardent period it is generally believed Anne made it clear she wouldn’t fully accept Henry as he was married but would give him sons if she was Queen. The contemporary evidence is practically silent but this is a strong traditional story, which may or may not be true. It was certainly used in Anne of 1000 Days but we have to be careful as it is probably dramatic licence. I would accept that at some point Anne hinted she was willing to marry Henry if he was free and that he assumed she could give him sons and was fertile. The Boleyn family had sons, but were not a massive clan, but the Howard side was very fertile. Henry made a reasonable assumption. He proposed marriage and as he now wished to end his marriage to Katherine as he longed for male heirs and politically needed them, because this was a world in which women were seen as unable to rule, despite the fact that Europe was dominated by able women doing just that while a man was not of age or absent. The Tudors were a new, insecure Dynasty with plenty of rivals as they saw things. The pre Tudor noble Houses were not actually any real threat or interested in ruling, but Henry feared that without a legitimate male heir, civil war would return. 1527 was only 42 years after the Battle of Bosworth and 40 years after Stoke Field, so this was a realistic fear. Henry and Katherine had been married 18_years with only one living child, a daughter, 11 years old Mary. She couldn’t have any more children and he had stopped sleeping with his wife about 1524. He needed a new wife if he was to have more children. Henry would have to marry again to someone. Why not marry a woman he was passionate about and with whom he had so many things in common if she was willing? Henry found Anne attractive, intelligent, worldly wise, sophisticated, ambitious, experienced in the ways of Court from her time in France, well connected, sexy, passionate and very interesting as a person. He also found her interested in his favourite subject, theology. She understood the debates around his annulment and her interest in reforms gave him ideas on how to achieve it. Henry was a man who knew what he wanted and how to get it. He wanted Anne Boleyn, he wanted an annulment, he wanted sons, so marriage to this fascinating woman, to his mind achieved all three. Anne consented because by now she wanted the same things and the crown presented her with a unique opportunity, the advancement of her religious ideals.

    1. It is a tragedy Michael that we do not have any of her replies to Henry, there are few letters written from her that do survive, one which she wrote to a female friend, professing her love and loyalty, two to Cardinal Wolsey concerning the divorce and one written to her father as a young girl from abroad, if only one of her letters to Henry had survived it may tell us a good deal about the way her mind worked, I also think it’s a shame yet rather droll that his love letters are housed in the Vatican, I wish they were on view in England somewhere, maybe in a museum or a private collection, for those of us who are interested in her story it would be so interesting to actually see them, the parchment she had used, with the ink and quill pen, and I can imagine her seated at her little desk pondering about the best way to write to this most ardent and difficult of suitors, maybe one day a lost letter will turn up.

        1. Sandra Vasoli viewed the letters while researching her two novels on Anne Boleyn and her latest book Anne Boleyn’s Letter from the Tower, which of course is the subject of hot debate over the authorship. I doubt that the Vatican would release them now, although you never know 2036 could see several special exhibitions on Anne Boleyn on the 500th Anniversary of her death. It is very sad so few of her letters have survived. Maybe the Vatican obtaining Henry’s to Anne, perhaps as evidence for his adultery and use to deny his annulment, saved them from destruction. Anne wrote to a friend while Queen and to several women giving aid, but we don’t have anything really intimate as a love letter. A great pity.

  7. I find it curious that the letters somehow ended up at the Vatican! Who took them there? It seems so ironic, somehow…! And what are the bureaucratic hoops we would have to jump through to get to see them there?

    1. The theory is that a papal agent stole them as evidence of Henry’s relationship with Anne, to prove there was more to the king’s wish for an annulment than the Leviticus argument. I’m so glad that they ended up there because I think that if they had remained in England then they would have been destroyed.
      I know Linda Saether, who shared her experience here on the Anne Boleyn Files, went through all kinds of bureaucratic hoops to get to see them. She corresponded with an expert at the archives for a while and had to obtain references and all sorts. Then there is all kinds of security at the archives, you can only take in paper and a pencil, I believe. They are very well guarded. Then it was quite a shock when she did see them as sometime in the past they’ve been glued into something like a scrapbook! But at least they’re safe.

  8. Thanks Clair for an interesting article. I bet the talk by David Starkey was fascinating. BTW I just read your book on AB for a second time since it was our featured book in our “Tudor Book Club” here in PA USA. I subscribe to the later date theory of Anne’s acceptance. It seems logical to me she would be highly ambivalent about committing to Henry with so many “red flags” at that stage. It also fits with the theme in his letters that he was constantly in pursuit (lets also recall Wyatts poem that describes her as the deer pursued by the hunter….an imagery I think that Wyatt likely drew from what he observed) early in the relationship, a role he seemed to revel in. No doubt Anne was fascinated with the kings ongoing interest even after she made it clear she was not going to be a mistress and as time went on the reality of his willingness to set aside Katherine became more real.

    1. Hi Tina,
      The talk was fascinating and Dr Starkey is so entertaining as well, a very good speaker.
      You’ve just made my day! It really is so heartwarming to hear that my book has been used by a book club. I hope you all enjoyed reading it and discussing it. If your club ever wants to ask me questions or anything, I’d be very happy to help.
      I completely agree with you with regards to Wyatt’s poem and what it says about Henry’s pursuit of Anne.

  9. Interesting about the maidenhead reference. I hadn’t heard that before. What a difference two years can make. Home-wrecking harlot or completely innocent in that respect. I like to think of her as the latter.

    1. Yes, I go with the latter depiction too, but I think that even if the earlier date is correct that people need to stop thinking of Anne as someone who had power and who could somehow manipulate and control a king, and as someone who was a Tudor woman, with no power, pursued by a powerful man, a man that was God’s anointed sovereign and the ruler of her country and her family’s employer.

      1. I would love to meet and have a talk by David Starkey (despite his outmoded ideas about Richard iii) because he really does know what he is on about with Henry and his wives. He may be old school when it comes to style, but that means he does things properly. His paperback version of The Six Wives was recently reissued as it is so popular. I would love him to do a session in Waterstones one day. I have some downloads from talks he has done and he is excellent, very engaging. I have seen him on Question Time and he always gives very detailed answers. I once saw a documentary were he was trying to teach a lot of mouthy teens history. They were very disrespectful. They were also very ignorant of basic history, which I knew when I was in infant school. I can tell you if I was privileged enough to have an eminent historian like Dr Starkey come to my school for a few weeks and teach me, I would be hooked. I don’t care how bored you are, you are the child, he is the adult, you shut up and listen, you don’t talk over him and show disrespect as many of these kids did. The sad thing was, some actually wanted to learn and couldn’t because of the behaviour of the bored ones. Anyone being disrespectful to a teacher in my school would have been swiftly removed. Within a couple of sessions though he had at least won their attention and some of them at least listened, but it was sad to think that this man had given his time just to have people disrespect him! Dr Starkey is an expert on Constitutional History which is why he has done programmes on Magna Carta and the Reformation as well as being on political programmes. It must have been wonderful to meet him.

        1. I saw his book ‘Elizabeth The Journey’ in one of my charity shops and I wished I’d bought it, but yes iv often bought books from Amazon and EBay really cheap, in fact the postage often costs more than the books, I’m going to go back there and see if it’s still there, I love old dusty books, I recently bought ‘Anne Boleyn’ by Hester Chapman, I love reading my books when I go to bed with some chocolate biscuits and a hot drink.

        2. I read his first book on Elizabeth which was her early life and reign but then got mixed up with the latter books. He co wrote a beautiful catalogue book on Elizabeth that I have from London for an expedition of her portraits. Is Elizabeth the Journey her later reign? I have his Six Wives ( including updates) and his Henry Virtuous Prince which covers Henry up to about 1513, and his book on Monarchy and Music and the Magna Carta and The Pageant of the River Thames and one or two others. I love his Monarchy series and have all of his series on DVD. I would love him to complete his long awaited Henry Viii, based on the series Mind of a Tyrant. I also love second hand and charity book shops, my second homes.

        3. Hi Bq, no ‘Elizabeth The Journey’ is about her life as a young girl on the brink of womanhood, the dedicated teenager – scholar before she became queen, this is the Elizabeth that Starkey professes to have fallen in love with, it is the Elizabeth I have always loved myself, both flirtatious with a love of dancing and music, yet devoted to her studies and trying to find her way in a dangerous world where her bastardy was a very real issue.

  10. Very interesting article. Thanks so much Claire for sharing.
    I appreciate that you share the information you’ve gathered or learnt when you travel and it’s always a joy to read little glimmers of Annes life & world.

    1. It’s a pleasure. When I get chance to go through my photos I will definitely be sharing more here and on the Tudor Society. I got very snap-happy at the Chateau de Blois!

  11. I wish England had Henrys love letters, but yes I agree with Claire it was best that they were taken in the first place to Rome as they could well have been destroyed, at least this way they have been preserved, I have heard that Italy would love to have the Mona Lisa back and Greece the Elgin marbles but wherever these treasures are housed, they are well protected.

  12. I want to fangirl that you got to meet David Starkey! I have never commented here before but been a long time fan. I love his documentaries, he and Lucy Worsley are my favorites. Another great read, wouldn’t it be wonderful to be able to see the letters from the Vatican?

    1. He was soundchecking his microphone when Tim and I got to the theatre early to meet friends and there was just him and us and Tim kept nudging me and saying I should take the opportunity to say hello as I had corresponded with him via email in the past and we have mutual friends, but I was so embarrassed and starstruck. I did it, though, and he was so kind and gracious.

  13. Hi Claire. No I have not but thank yo for suggesting the book. Where could I obtain a copy? Would it be possible to get the book from the library I wonder.

    1. I’m sure you’d be able to get it or order it from your library. Otherwise, Amazon or the Book Depository will have it, or you’d be able to order it from your local bookshop. It really is brilliant.

      1. I love Book Depository. But I do try and support independent bookshops too. Hope King Francis enjoyed the holiday too. David Starkey sounds like a lovely man to meet. Doesn’t a virtuous prince have values and morals though?

        1. Purchase through Marketplace on Amazon. I’ve bought many used nooks this way over the years. Many smaller shops just using Amazon as an outlet. My books have come from all over the world: UK, US, Sweden Austria. Usually cheaper than Amazon proper and your choice of new or used and condition of used and each shop is rated. I highly recommend finding many things not just books this way.

  14. Such a spirited discussion. Apropos as isn’t this topic the core of what this site is about?. Thank you Claire for recommending ‘Virtuous Prince’. I’m always looking for new books on the subject and am a huge fan of David Starkey. I found a used copy on Amazon and it should be here shortly.

  15. The belief in the later date making Anne the solution to Henry’s matrimonial problem pairs with the book Divorced, Beheaded, Died book by Karen Lindsey. In her book she paints Jane Seymour as more cruel in her participation of Anne’s downfall knowing she was still in her childbearing years. Anne on the other hand knew Henry was no longer sleeping with Katherine and that she was past her childbearing years. While we may never really know it is a great debate. I would also like to believe Anne was not attempting to destroy Katherine but rather was resigned to helping Henry solve his heir problem.

    1. I find Karen Lindsey’s ideas interesting but I feel she is wrong on the point of Jane Seymour because Jane had nothing to do with Anne Boleyn’s fall. Henry and Cromwell together are responsible for the set up of Anne Boleyn, nobody else. Henry is responsible in that he initiated the move against Anne because he was fed up and wanted a new marriage as this one was also cursed according to him, but Cromwell is responsible as he carried out the orders, put the fake case together and then he invented the evidence. Some people also believe that Cromwell began to plan this and conspired to bring Anne down and Henry accepted the evidence as fact. More realistic is a combination of factors, but Jane Seymour was not responsible for any of that and the evidence merely puts her on the sidelines.

      Was Jane cruel because she accepted Henry’s proposal and prepared for her wedding while Anne was in the Tower awaiting death? Quite possibly. We don’t know how she felt about all of this and maybe we can say that she took up her role as Queen with unbecoming acceptance and that Henry married her in undue haste. Jane has also been seen as a zealot because she wanted to marry Henry in order to convert him and help Princess Mary, but in reality she probably had little choice in the matter and Henry was hard to say no to.

      I don’t believe Anne intended to destroy Katherine either, but I agree she knew her mistress was past childbearing age and offered a solution. From what I remember Karen Lindsey sees the pursuit of Anne by Henry as sexual harassment, but it could also be seen as old fashioned courtship, although obsession may also be accurate. Yes, Jane knew that Anne could still have more children, but she could do nothing to prevent her arrest and trial and Henry saw her as his mistress at first. Jane played a wise game, just as Anne had, reminding Henry that she would be virtuous until she made a good match. Nothing inflamed Henry more and he desired Jane even more, deciding she was a deserving mother of his future heirs. I don’t believe it fair to say Jane was cruel because she moved in even though she knew Anne could have more children. Henry also knew this and he abandoned Anne after just three years. Anne fell from grace even though she could have gone on to have more children, because Henry decided he wanted a new marriage. The new object of his affection was Jane Seymour, but it was Henry, not Jane who had Anne arrested, tried and executed on false charges, with Jane merely being in the background.

  16. I find Karen Lindsey’s ideas interesting but I feel she is wrong on the point of Jane Seymour because Jane had nothing to do with Anne Boleyn’s fall. Henry and Cromwell together are responsible for the set up of Anne Boleyn, nobody else. Henry is responsible in that he initiated the move against Anne because he was fed up and wanted a new marriage as this one was also cursed according to him, but Cromwell is responsible as he carried out the orders, put the fake case together and then he invented the evidence. Some people also believe that Cromwell began to plan this and conspired to bring Anne down and Henry accepted the evidence as fact. More realistic is a combination of factors, but Jane Seymour was not responsible for any of that and the evidence merely puts her on the sidelines.

    Was Jane cruel because she accepted Henry’s proposal and prepared for her wedding while Anne was in the Tower awaiting death? Quite possibly. We don’t know how she felt about all of this and maybe we can say that she took up her role as Queen with unbecoming acceptance and that Henry married her in undue haste. Jane has also been seen as a zealot because she wanted to marry Henry in order to convert him and help Princess Mary, but in reality she probably had little choice in the matter and Henry was hard to say no to.

    I don’t believe Anne intended to destroy Katherine either, but I agree she knew her mistress was past childbearing age and offered a solution. From what I remember Karen Lindsey sees the pursuit of Anne by Henry as sexual harassment, but it could also be seen as old fashioned courtship, although obsession may also be accurate. Yes, Jane knew that Anne could still have more children, but she could do nothing to prevent her arrest and trial and Henry saw her as his mistress at first. Jane played a wise game, just as Anne had, reminding Henry that she would be virtuous until she made a good match. Nothing inflamed Henry more and he desired Jane even more, deciding she was a deserving mother of his future heirs. I don’t believe it fair to say Jane was cruel because she moved in even though she knew Anne could have more children. Henry also knew this and he abandoned Anne after just three years. Anne fell from grace even though she could have gone on to have more children, because Henry decided he wanted a new marriage. The new object of his affection was Jane Seymour, but it was Henry, not Jane who had Anne arrested, tried and executed on false charges, with Jane merely being in the background.

  17. Iv always found Jane as much an enigma as Anne but for a very different reason, we have no idea of her true feelings concerning the fall of her mistress, all historians state that her brother’s schooled her for the sole purpose of catching the Kings eye and to be his next queen but was she a willing tool or merely did as her family said, women were mere vessels in the 16th c and had no control over their lives at all, Jane was from a catholic family, she was unmarried and of a quiet demeanour so different from the volatile queen, the King was tired of her so Jane was thought of as a good candidate to fill the shoes of her luckless mistress and help bring Catholism back to the realm, Lindsay is not the first historian to deride Jane for courting Henry whilst still in the employ of Anne, Strickland called her behaviour shameless but as with Anne years before what could she have done, how can you tell your lord and master you are not interested for fear of retribution? Anne was bold and had told him in no uncertain terms she would not be his mistress because in those long ago days all he wanted was to sleep with her, but everyone knew Henry was so sick of his wife that Jane could be a potential new bride for him, she is said to have been told what to say to the King how to act etc but how do we know that is true, Jane had been at court for many years and had served two queens she knew the way of the court, and Henrys interest in her could have grown when he first visited Wolf Hall or Wulf Hall as iv seen it spelt, when did her family notice his fancy for her and when did her two ambitious brothers put their heads together and see potential glory for the Seymour’s? More importantly was Jane there and how did she feel about taking the queens place, why did they think she could replace Anne at all, did Henry inform Jane about how his love for his wife had died and he thought he should get married again? The purse of coins he sent her and how she sent it back is well documented and it is obvious then that he only thought of her as a mistress, because her rather smug reply about being too virtuous to accept such a gift is telling Henry as an unmarried woman she cannot do otherwise, if we consider Janes position, she was the eldest daughter in a large family and was still unmarried, which must have been quite humiliating for her as her younger sisters had husbands bar I think one who later married Cromwells son, she had no sweetheart and possibly had resigned herself to being a spinster, she had loved Queen Katherine and seen the misery she had been subjected to and had a deep affection for her unhappy daughter, she had witnessed the deaths of several respected men at court and seen the country ripped apart from the severance from Rome and the dissolution of the monasteries, here then was a way to right the wrongs that Anne Boleyn had wrought and also to bring Mary and her father together again, like Anne years before who thought destiny had ordained a great future for her thus Jane no doubt felt the same, In that deeply religious world she must have felt that God had chosen her for this purpose and so she happily, I believe went along with what her family suggested, Anne was not young though today she would be but in Tudor times she was considered past her childbearing best, I don’t believe she could have had another child as her sad childbearing history shows, she had no problem getting pregnant but she could not carry to full term and she could have had a medical condition unknown at the time, Henry certainly thought God had cursed his marriage as the lack of a son was proof to him and I think many thought this to including Jane, second cousins though they were there was no love between them and all her sympathies were for Henrys first queen, was she cruel it’s hard to say, she had seen Anne literally dance on the day her death was known to the court, so to describe Jane as cruel because Anne was still of childbearing age when she was seeing the King is somehow forgetting what Anne herself did, yes Katherine could not have another child she was menopausal but Anne had lost several babies and there was every reason to believe she could not bear a healthy living child, I don’t believe Jane herself knew of a plot to oust Anne it was purely between Henry and Cromwell, I think the former kept her in the dark for how would his intended bride feel about that same man who was planning to murder his ex wife, but because she was the woman Henry was seeing when his wife was arrested put in the Tower and executed, and became the next queen barely two weeks later, her name is irrevocably linked with her former mistresse’s fall, she is not liked by Annes supporters and is often portrayed as a heartless woman who readily stepped over the grave of her mistress to become queen, the reality is she probably had no choice and if by accepting the kings proposal she saw a chance to make peace between Henry and his daughter and bring the country back to what she believed was the true religion, then we cannot blame her for that and it’s true when she was queen Mary enjoyed a close relationship with her father again, it’s not fair to call her cruel in the past I thought her behaviour was snidy, but she couldn’t make Henry want to marry her, she had no idea he would have an interest in her she had no hand in Annes treatment the blame was all Henrys, because she became the other woman in an unhappy marriage she is blamed as much as Anne was when Henry wanted to divorce Katherine.

    1. Very good assessment and well put. Yes, Elizabeth Norton, Jane’s biographer shows a much stronger Jane Seymour than the meek and mild lady of legend. She had served two Queens and knew about life and the snake pit that was the Court. Jane hadn’t lived a sheltered life. She loved and had served Queen Katherine and had a natural affinity to help Princess Mary and she was determined to do so. Although not to blame for what happened to Anne, Norton does believe Jane had a ruthless streak, like her mistress before her and of course she had an ambitious family behind her. Jane reluctantly accepted her role as Henry’s wife because she saw herself as an agent for peace and to save Henry by helping him back to traditional religion and his family back into favour. According to Norton, Jane learned more than how to behave, but how to handle Henry, but that she had watched Anne and learned from her mistakes. Although a very traditional sixteenth century woman and therefore wife, which Anne wasn’t, Jane was no less capable of working her way through the political minefield and of ensuring her own survival. She was far from being a doormat, but Henry expected obedience in his wives, as did every other sixteenth century husband, and Jane found the secret to do that while attempting to make life better for her stepdaughter.

      As you say there is no way to know what Jane thought during the 19 days Anne was in the Tower and it is a mystery as to how much she knew about the events in London. It does seem cold hearted her getting ready for her wedding while Anne awaited death but she was obeying a royal command and it was now a sacred duty that she had assumed. Maybe all of Henry’s wives had an ambitious desire to be Queen and maybe that was part of the game of Court. 500 plus years later without the voices of these women who risked everything to say yes to a man who had no compunction about executing two of them, we really can only speculate over a thousand questions about why they acted as they did while he was married to their predecessors.

  18. It seems in most accounts we read that Jane is meek and mild and is instructed by her brothers on how to act towards the King and really doesn’t have a mind of her own. Why do we believe that? Who wrote these accounts? First hand reliable witnesses or people against the Seymour clan who may have been silent supporters of Anne and wanted to show the Seymours in a bad light for posterity? Just something I was pondering.

    1. Yes how do we know, the answer is we don’t, we only assume these things about these long dead people, because Jane was quiet it has been assumed she was meek, she pleaded with the King over the dissolution of the religious houses, to question the authority of Henry V111 seems to infer a not so meek character, we do not know if Jane was horrified by Annes death she could well have pleaded with the King to pardon her, we do not know if she was reluctant to marry the King, she may have been bullied into receiving the King as a potential husband, we do not know if Anne ever truly loved him but my guess is she didn’t, I think she just made do as we say today because she couldn’t have another, Henrys interest in her kept all other would be suitors at bay, we do not know what these people said to each other behind closed doors, the tantalising question about Henry V111 and his second queen is who mentioned marriage first – did Anne tell Henry she had no wish to be his mistress because she valued her virtue more or did she tell him she would only sleep with him if he married her, setting her sights high then, or was it Henry who offered marriage in the first place, putting lust aside and looking on her as the mother of a future King? We will never have the answer all we know is what the facts tell us and we determine from them, Anne refused to become his mistress and became his queen and Jane succeeded her, that doesn’t make Jane a bad person and it certainly does not mean she had any hand in Annes tragic end, whilst queen she did what she could to help others and it is sad she lost her life in childbirth, being denied the chance to see her precocious little boy grow up, equally sad was little Elizabeth who was about two years and eight months when she lost her mother, I like to think she had some sort of hazy memory of Anne which she carried with her all her life, but poor Edward only had his father, not just any old father though – Henry V111 was larger than life in his ostentatious garb, red bearded and huge glittering with jewels and bellowing orders, scowling and laughing at the same time, to a little boy in the safety of the nursery he must have appeared terrifying and very kingly to, an awe inspiring presence.

      1. I agree with everything you said. I was just throwing that out there for thought. My own personal opinion of Jane is that perhaps ‘meek’ may be replaced with ‘cautious’. Her brothers may very well have coached her on how to act with Henry but also may have mentioned his reputation telling her that as long as people stayed in his good graces they were fine. When Jane did challenge Henry over the monasteries etc she may have felt (wrongly) that he wasn’t as volatile as she had been left to believe. She found out other wise. Re Anne Boleyn after her execution who knows what Jane may have heard from the anti-Boleyn faction about her predecessor. She didn’t have the luxury of hindsight we have today and may have believed the most horrible things that she had heard about her and thought her execution just. Do I think Jane had anything to do with Anne’s death? Absolutely not.

        Karen Lindsey is not a name I am familiar with. If as you say she is using the term ‘sexual harassment’ when describing things in this time period she is way off base. The concept didn’t even exist until centuries later.

        1. I haven’t heard of Karen Lindsay either and the term ‘sexual harassment’ is just another word for ‘stalking’, as you say those words did not exist in Henrys day in fact they only came into being during the latter part of the 20th century, imagine some one telling Henry V111 he was stalking Anne Boleyn! Bq is right it could be termed just old fashioned courtship and Henry being King was just telling his sweetheart how he felt about her, his feelings for her is similar to those of his grandfather whom he is said to have much resembled, Edward 1V who is often described as the most handsomest King ever to sit on Englands throne, there is a tale that relates how he tried to force himself upon Elizabeth Woodville and she in terror held a knife to her throat, exclaiming she would kill herself if he didn’t desist, could that have happened with Anne, all Kings since from birth were fawned over and had every whim satisfied and were used to have women eagerly falling into their bed, wether they were all eager is not known but maybe they were too frightened to say no to them, could Henry have tried to seduce Anne and she outraged took of for Hever, it would explain her many absences to her family’s country residence, there are similar parallels between Henry V111 his second queen and Edward 1V and his queen, both were blinded by love for their lady and they were both rejected initially, the refusal of both women to sleep with their would be lovers made them Queen of England but there the similarity ends, Elizabeth suffered the dreadful loss of her two children in the Tower and Anne lost her life whilst still young to the executioners sword, both women suffered but they chose to become embroiled in the heady atmosphere of the politics of the day, they would not settle for less and thus were consigned to the pages in history, but had they opted for role of merely Kings mistress their life though less glorious maybe would have been more happy and Anne would have been allowed to live her natural life span.

        2. Karen Lindsey is a feminist writer and her views of the six wives is a modern feminist perspective. It’s a bit of a warts and all account, well referenced but some of her conclusions are definitely taken with a modern spin. You won’t find another book quite like it and it is also otherwise accurate, but I would recommend it if you are studying various social theories about Henry and his wives. I encountered Lindsey as part of my degree and my hardback fell apart, that’s how many times her book was used. I now have a paperback which I got from Oxfam in reasonable condition. You are right about the term sexual harassment. I had a bum pinching boss in the early 80s. He pinched mine on day one, but the public dressing down this 21 year old gave him, he apologised and didn’t touch me again. I understand to some extent career women not standing up to a boss because they have a lot to lose but I would say, which is more important, your career or your safety? What if your boss takes it further because you haven’t reported or screamed at him to leave you alone? Men use power just as much now as back then. Henry was a confident and powerful, if possibly insecure man and King, so Anne’s no must have come as a shock. It had the opposite effect and Henry didn’t go away. But Anne probably also played with him and waited until he showed her respect and an offer of marriage, not just sex. As a mistress she could offer him a lot more than the average woman and they had a lot in common. I don’t see Anne as a feminist, but she wanted more than the average woman. She was intellectual and ambitious but you are right, even though Anne ran off to Hever, the idea of sexual harassment didn’t exist, but I don’t think Henry did harass Anne either, he was more an over enthusiastic courtier.

  19. What makes things so difficult for those of us in the 21st century is that women for the most part were thought of as commodities to trade and deal for power from royalty to the lower classes and as such history was written/recorded by men who lived during that era and may very well have agreed with this. We all need to be careful not to transpose our modern ideals onto ancient life. I’m sure many women at that time also agreed that they were less than men as that was what they were taught and saw. I by no means mean all. Today you and I know this isn’t the case but we live in more enlightened times thank Heavens.

  20. Hi BQ. If I ever found out I had a friend who acted the way your boss did they would no longer be my friend. Luckily all of my friends are civilized. I have a friend in her late 70’s who told me of a boss she had was about as bad. She was in her 20’s at the time. As to Karen Lindsey I wasn’t giving her much credence but your recommendation holds a lot of water with me because I know your knowledge on this topic

  21. Ha ha good for you Bq! Both me and my sister were subject to much the same as what happened with you, most men seem to think their irresistible even when their in their seventies with no hair and a paunch, it always has been difficult for women in the workplace and most men don’t seem to realise that, those who just want to go to work and get on with their work without groping and remarks, years ago my sis and I worked in the same place and the cleaner was a pensioner who used every opportunity to get close to you, his name was Bob and we called him ‘Dirty Bob’ all the women used to avoid him because he was a pain, but when I look back now I laugh because really he was just a harmless old man.

  22. Oh dear, am I the only one who hopes Jane Seymour isn’t History’s ‘merest cypher’, so anodyne and pale that she can’t even merit a ‘cruel’? From my 21st c vantage, Jane was merciless in aiding and abetting the conspirators in Anne’s downfall.

    She says she is, ” a gentlewoman, born of good and honourable parents and with an unsullied reputation. She had no greater treasure in the world than her honour which she would rather die a thousand times than tarnish, and if he wanted to give her money, she begged that he would do so once God had sent her a good match.” IMO, that is best CV ever sent, flag waving at it’s most consummate best.

    But I think Jane believed, passionately, that QA’s religious beliefs were heretical, Anne’s influence malign and dangerous, and the treatment of her beloved QK and the P Mary had been outrageously, flagrantly, cruel and wrong. I hope that (in her mind) Jane’s ‘cruel’ was cancelled out by QA’s deeper, blasphemous cruel. I want Jane to be more human than cypher, more real woman . Don’t you?

    1. ThI do agree with you Globerose a lot of sympathy was with Katherine but I think more so for Mary who had lost her very right to be queen because of Anne, and also Anne acted like she did not care what people thought of her either, she said out loud she wished all Spaniards were in the sea, a marked reference to the queen and when admonished by one of her ladies, got the sharp reply that she would rather die than acknowledge her as her mistress, she was overbearing and turned people against her, she quarrelled with many including her own uncle who insulted her by calling her a great whore, we must remember Jane witnessed all this and must have thought this odious woman would be the downfall of the country as she was the downfall of Katherine and Mary, she was a believer in the new religion and was swaying Henrys mind towards it, so yes she must have believed she was a heretic, and to save the true religion she had to go, maybe Jane like Henry had the convenient gift of believing what she chose to believe and happily told herself Anne had betrayed Henry and conspired to kill him, she could also have thought she dabbled in the dark arts, she had slapped Jane on more than one occasion and had torn her locket from her in rage after discovering Jane kept opening and shutting it, the locket contained a picture of the King, but it was no way for a queen to behave one maintained a dignified silence but Annes temper was fuelled by constant stress and worry and maybe she thought Jane was trying to wind her up, if she was it was rather childish, I don’t believe neither Jane or Anne were cruel but these two women were both caught up in rather heady circumstances, – they were both sought after by a King and both believed they had been chosen for their gifts to bring good to the realm and give the King a prince,
      In Janes case I think she was thinking more of her catholic belief and the good she could do for Mary.

      1. In the end Jane also had to accept defeat and could do very little for Mary because Henry was an absolute monarch who by now would brook no disobedience. Henry wanted his Supremacy enforced and that went for his wives and daughters. Katherine of Aragon could refuse him, there was nothing he could do to her without risking a war he couldn’t afford. His daughter was another matter. Henry had literally the power of life and death over Mary and everyone else and as her father, she had a duty to obey him. Henry rightly saw a spirited young woman who was a disobedient adolescence and a rebellious child and subject. He had put up with three years of nonsense from both Katherine and Mary, by his own view and now if Mary wanted to come home, she had to commit herself to being a good, obedient and submissive daughter. She also had to accept and obey all of his laws. That meant his Supremacy and the annulment of her parents marriage along with her own status. It was to Thomas Cromwell that Mary turned for help and he must be given credit for reconciling Mary and Henry. Henry was approached by Jane but laughed off her approaches. It was total submission first, reconciliation afterwards. Cromwell and Eustace Chapuys helped Mary see the danger of not accepting everything and once she had signed the articles given to her by Henry Jane was able to set up a meeting and later welcome her stepdaughter to Court.

        In the end, this illustrates the true role of women in a Court and world dominated by and controlled by men, to obey and to be the means by which peace was made, empires and alliances built and the mothers of sons and dynasties. In the end even Anne Boleyn for all of the power she had held over Henry’s heart, for all of the power she thought she had as Queen, was powerless when he decided he no longer wanted her around. If love and passion wasn’t enough to save Anne from the block, what hope would anyone else have, even those he had affection for? Jane knew the risk that she took, she had to learn to lessen that risk and she too needed a son to be secure. Sadly Jane lost her life in that endeavour.

  23. Umm, I guess Christine, I probably think that the 16th c was a cruel age, an adjective the Cambridge dictionary tells us means ‘extremely unkind and unpleasant and causing pain to people or animals .’ QA and her uncle, the DofN’s attitude to Mary typifies my feeling here, in that they both agreed with buffing the lady about the head to force her to comply with their wishes, both men and women loved to hunt, women happy enough to have hapless animals sent into their path so that they could shoot them, the acceptance of cruel and horrible means of execution, I could go on…..
    Could Jane Seymour have acted so callously towards Queen Anne, as she did, today? Absolutely not, and why? Our moral values have changed. Part of my fascination with AB and JS is exactly this difference, which is vast, and yet we can still intuit their thoughts and feelings knowing how they thought, so very different to us. We find Jane’s behaviour towards Queen Anne questionable, but to Jane……….. she acted according other own moral compass, didn’t she?

  24. We have to be very careful about imposing our 21st century morals on those who lived in the 16th. For example hunting, which you consider cruel was a necessity if you wanted meat. The hunt itself may have been sport but the reason was also food. Be careful how you judge the past. In the future we will be the past and those later generations may judge us by their morals.

    1. I agree 100%. We cannot assign today’s ideology on history. It will blind us every time and we will learn nothing. It is what it is: history.

    2. Michael, you have touched on one of the most contentious and fascinating problems of our time, esp. in our universities, on whether we hold the past accountable for their moral failings.
      Louis Sarkosy wrote in the Examiner, “If we fully adopt the view that morality is entirely and uniquely a product of one’s own time, then we forfeit the ability to draw a permanent line in the sand between good and evil. This launches is into dangerous territory and dismisses the progressive advances we seem to make with each passing generation. It is noble and necessary to condemn the ‘crimes’ of the past, but we must realise these ‘crimes’ were the norm for all of human history.”
      Miranda Fricker is aware of this topic and she thinks the test for blameworthiness is whether the person could have known any different.
      Since I have been thinking about and reading about the topic, I would no longer label an entire age ‘cruel’. I think we have to look at the individual and think about their moral boundaries. One of the reasons I am so fascinated by Anne Boleyn is her interest in new ideas, however it came about, whatever her influences. She is a thinker.

  25. I believe in the New Year’s date. Anne had spent the first half of the year away from Court, but that could easily have been planned by both of the so as not to arouse suspicion about their secret betrothal.

    She returned May 1527 for the Greenwich revels, her first public appearance with Henry, in which they were recorded as having danced together, and the French ambassador danced with Anne as well– these events were before the Sack of Rome. Henry and Anne had no idea how difficult it would be to obtain an annulment and remarry in part because of it, and Charles V taking the Pope prisoner, so this was probably their calm before the storm. They were likely optimistic and full of hope.

    We know they often were together as a unit even before marriage, like with their dual letter to Wolsey. So it’s very possible to me that officially became a unit that New Year’s, and that their behavior shortly afterwards would suggest that she had accepted his proposal.

  26. David Starkey’s books are wonderful. His TV presentations are well made. But did you see his performance at the trial of Richard III, on the web and I guess made in the 80s? a totally different persona. the trial is fascinating to watch.

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