Book Review – ‘Anne Boleyn: Fatal Attractions’ by G.W. Bernard


George Bernard's 'Anne Boleyn: Fatal Attractions', first published in 2010.
George Bernard’s ‘Anne Boleyn: Fatal Attractions’, first published in 2010.

Bernard, George W., Anne Boleyn: Fatal Attractions (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2011), first published 2010, Paperback, ISBN: 978-0-300-17089-4

George W. Bernard is a scholar of Reformation England, but had written several articles on Anne Boleyn before publishing this, his first book on her. Here, Bernard delves into a lot more detail, looking at things like her religion and role in the break with Rome, and her fall. Bernard controversially argues that, contrary to most opinions, ‘Anne had indeed committed adultery with [Henry] Norris, probably with [Mark] Smeaton … and was then the victim of the most appalling bad luck’ (p. 192). Bernard seems to argue against most accepted arguments about Anne, including her fall and religion, which are the most controversial chapters.

The book is generally in chronological order, going through her early childhood to her relationship with Henry and the divorce, to Anne as Queen, to the evidence for her fall, and possible reasons, taking a break to delve into her religious sympathies. The title of the book is Fatal Attractions, a fiery title, adhering to how the book is aimed at a general readership rather than a scholarly audience. Continue reading “Book Review – ‘Anne Boleyn: Fatal Attractions’ by G.W. Bernard”

Book Review – ‘The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn’ by Eric Ives


'The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn' by Eric Ives, first published in 2004.
‘The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn’ by Eric Ives, first published in 2004.

Ives, Eric W., The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn (Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 2005), first published 2004, Paperback, ISBN: 978-1-4051-3463-7

Eric Ives’s book on Anne Boleyn is probably the most famous of the large volume of works on Henry VIII’s second wife. Ives attempts to uncover the truth behind the myth of Anne’s controversial life, making excellent use of contemporary sources and pulling apart the stories surrounding her to reveal that she ‘deserves to be a feminist icon, a woman … who broke through the glass ceiling by sheer character and initiative’ (p. xv). Ives’s argument is that Anne was essentially a modern woman in an early modern world, and that she managed to thrive in a male-dominated arena.

The book’s first twelve chapters’ deal with Anne’s life in largely chronological order, from her birth and childhood spent at the French court, up to her coronation in 1533. This section includes analysis of her romances with Henry Percy and Thomas Wyatt, and her role in the fall of Cardinal Wolsey and the King’s ‘Great Matter’, controversial topics which have sparked much debate. Continue reading “Book Review – ‘The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn’ by Eric Ives”

Undergraduate Dissertation Chapter – Anne Boleyn’s Romantic Entanglements


Anne Boleyn’s Romantic Entanglements

“The Scandal of Christendom” – Katherine of Aragon

Anne Boleyn’s romantic entanglements were controversial – Henry Percy, the future Earl of Northumberland, the poet Sir Thomas Wyatt, and Henry VIII himself. The earlier two relationships ultimately affected her relationship with her future husband, the King, due to Henry’s suspicious nature. But ‘she touched their lives, as they did hers’ and each left lasting impressions on the other.[i] Essentially Anne’s public image was shaped by her romantic entanglements.

There is little surviving evidence of Anne Boleyn’s relationship with Henry Percy. There is still less from her relationship with Thomas Wyatt and we do not even know just how deeply Anne was involved with either of them. However, we can get a sense of Wyatt’s own feelings for Anne through his poetry, like Circa Regna Tonat and Whoso List to Hunt. Obviously, there is the most surviving evidence for Anne’s relationship with Henry VIII, as she rose to become royalty, though even this is lacking during their early courtship. Historians have interpreted what does survive in many different ways, affecting her public image according to their own bias. Continue reading “Undergraduate Dissertation Chapter – Anne Boleyn’s Romantic Entanglements”

Undergraduate Dissertation Chapter – Anne Boleyn’s Fall From Power


Anne Boleyn’s Fall From Power

“And thunder rolls about the throne” – Thomas Wyatt

Anne Boleyn National Portrait Gallery.
Anne Boleyn National Portrait Gallery.

Lacey Baldwin Smith said that ‘the closer the proximity to the crown, the greater the danger’, and this definitely proved true in the case of Anne Boleyn.[i] Anne was executed for adultery, incest and treason, ‘despising her marriage and entertaining malice against the King’.[ii] However, Henry VIII’s motives behind Anne’s execution remain unclear.

The reasons for Anne Boleyn’s fall from power can affect our view of her public image. Was her fall her own fault? Henry’s? Cromwell’s? These questions tend to be the focal point in the secondary literature, which questions, not only whose fault it was, but also the motives for bringing Anne down. Anne failed to give birth to a son and Henry had fallen in love with Jane Seymour. Did Cromwell see Anne as a threat so plotted to bring her down? Or was her fall the result of an accusation of misconduct by one of her ladies? All of these possible reasons will be discussed in this chapter. Continue reading “Undergraduate Dissertation Chapter – Anne Boleyn’s Fall From Power”

Do I Think Henry VIII Deserves his Reputation as a Tyrant?


Henry VIII by Hans Holbein 1540
Henry VIII by Hans Holbein 1540

The short answer is no, I do not think Henry VIII deserves his reputation as a tyrant, at least not fully. Henry VIII was a victim of the court in which he lived. He was constantly manipulated; by his wives, particularly Catherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn, his ministers like Thomas Wolsey and Thomas Cromwell, and even the clergy like Stephen Gardiner and Thomas Cranmer. Rarely any of the decisions he made were actually his own.[i] Although Henry VIII was in part manipulated, at least in his early years, he did gain some measure of control over the affairs of his country and himself later on in his life. This began with the issue of his lack of a male heir and divorce from his first wife, Katherine of Aragon. It was enhanced by his changing religious beliefs to enable him to get a divorce, and it was certainly developed in his quest to choose his own wife and to marry for love. Only two of his wives came from diplomatic pressure, his first and fourth (Anne of Cleves). The other five were born and bred in England, and whom he married for personal choice rather than diplomatic pressure.[ii] Continue reading “Do I Think Henry VIII Deserves his Reputation as a Tyrant?”