Please note my review is from an advance readers copy. Due to be published May 2017.
Following on from the first book about Katherine of Aragon in Alison Weir’s new series ‘Six Tudor Queens’ book two concentrates on probably the most famous or should I say infamous of King Henry VIII wife’s, Anne Boleyn.
Whatever your popular concept or view of Anne is, you can’t fail to be fascinated by her story. Weir takes you on an enthralling journey in this book, the story is told from Anne’s unique point of view, partly fiction in some areas but always firmly grounded in historical facts, Weir has used her initiative and some historical guess work to add some more life to the tale and it makes it all the more fascinating.
We begin with Anne’s early life as a daughter with little promise of fame other than a good marriage, she takes a crucial role to serve the regent of the Netherlands and spends several years there and in France soaking up the culture, education and learning French. Anne becomes highly educated, sophisticated and importantly develops a sense of independence that is unheard of for young English women in the Tudor age.
Coming back unexpectedly to England she finds herself at the court of King Henry and Queen Katherine, slowly but surely she finds herself pursued by Henry and eventually and shockingly for her the King makes an offer to her of marriage.
It’s interesting that we see Anne initially doesn’t like Henry, she falls in love with the idea of being Queen and the power and prestige that the position brings. Anne seems to be the guiding force during the heyday of their romance in the breaking from the Catholic Church.
Multiple stillbirths follow and of course the birth of her only living daughter, Elizabeth who ironically ends up being one of England’s most famous monarchs. King Henry increasingly becomes annoyed with Anne and even cruel to her, eventually leading him into a secret romance with Jane Seymour.
The last part of the novel is the most interesting as Anne is arrested and cruelly accused of something which she possibly could not have done. It’s obvious now through the eyes of history that this was the doing of Henry to get rid of her so he could pursue Jane Seymour. It’s emotional and very sad to read the last few chapters and we see the demise of Anne and her fellow accused Smeaton, Norris, Weston, Brereton and her beloved brother George Boleyn.
The shocking end is sad and thought provoking. I thought I had made up my mind about Anne Boleyn but to be honest reading this book has changed it. I see her now as brave, educated, sophisticated, ambitious but above all used by people who were not true to her. Perhaps yes she was vindictive towards Katherine but I don’t see her now as the evil woman often portrayed in history books.
A wonderfully enthralling, enlightening and emotional read. Highly recommended!