The Lady in the Tower: The Fall of Anne Boleyn
While the dramatic story of Anne Boleyn is familiar to many, very few actual facts are present in the typical retelling. In The Lady in the Tower, historian Alison Weir takes a day by day look at the life of Anne Boleyn and the social and political culture which influenced her fate.
In her time, Anne Boleyn was one of the most recognized women in the world. Anne was the first woman to be made Queen solely for love, rather than for political alliance or financial gain, and for this alone; she was the subject of much scandal. King Henry VIII had abandoned both social convention and the political protocol of the monarchy, defied the Pope and declared himself the head of the English Church, all in order to set aside his aging wife, Katherine of Aragon, and marry Anne, Katherine’s maid of honor.
Katherine had failed to produce an heir, and that task now fell to Anne. Anne’s position depended solely on the King’s love for her, which dwindled as one pregnancy after another failed to provide the King with the son he required. He needed a legitimate heir, and this required that he have a wife capable of bearing sons. As Katherine before her, Anne’s downfall began when the King’s eye began roving for a more suitable candidate.
Henry VIII had waited six years to marry Anne, yet after only three years of marriage, Anne was arrested on charges of adultery, incest, and treason and sentenced to death. The Lady in the Tower details the last four months of Anne’s life, from her conviction until her death on May 19, 1536, and the changes wrought on the political climate by her execution.
While exceptionally well researched, the record is exhaustive, and the scholarly tone offers little in the way of entertainment. Based largely on excerpts of letters and formal court correspondence, this book reads more like a very long and well annotated thesis paper than anything meant for widespread publication. The bibliography alone shows the results of what was likely years of document collection and cataloguing. This book is clearly not intended for the casual reader, as following the narrative requires general knowledge of the events and persons involved. I have a great interest in the Tudor era, and this book was still often poisonously dull.
The Lady in the Tower would be an extremely helpful resource if you were writing about the subject, but for the general reader, I cannot see that there would be any appeal.