TEN… books about Anne Boleyn

 

Do not believe for one second that the pinnacle of ‘Anne Boleyn’ focused historical fiction is ‘The Other Boleyn Girl’. Philippa Gregory is great for an interesting – and easy – historical read, but her Anne was a two-dimensional bitch and, as a result, so many people now automatically share that view. Unforgivable! Give one (or all) of these Annes a try instead.

 

 

 

1. Brief Gaudy Hour by Margaret Campbell Barnes

 

The enigmatic Anne Boleyn comes to life in this charming, brilliant portrayal by acclaimed British novelist Margaret Campbell Barnes.

The infamous love of King Henry VIII and the mother of Queen Elizabeth I, Anne Boleyn undertook a rocky journey from innocent courtier to powerful Queen of England. A meticulous researcher, Margaret Campbell Barnes immerses readers in this intrigue and in the lush, glittery world of the Tudor Court. The beauty and charms of Anne Boleyn bewitched the most powerful man in the world, King Henry VIII, but her resourcefulness and cleverness were not enough to stop the malice of her enemies. Her swift rise to power quickly became her own undoing.

The author brings to light Boleyn’s humanity and courage, giving an intimate look at a young woman struggling to find her own way in a world dominated by men and adversaries.

 

2. Queen of Subtleties by Suzannah Dunn

 

Anne Boleyn and Lucy Cornwallis: queen and confectioner, fatefully linked in a court rife with intrigue and treachery…

She was the dark-eyed English beauty who captivated King Henry VIII, only to die at his behest three years after they were married. She was both manipulator and pawn, a complex, misunderstood mélange of subtlety and fire. Her name was Anne Boleyn.

In The Queen of Subtleties, Suzannah Dunn reimagines the rise and fall of the tragic queen through two alternating voices: that of Anne herself, who is penning a letter to her young daughter on the eve of her execution, and Lucy Cornwallis, the king’s confectioner. An employee of the highest status, Lucy is responsible for creating the sculpted sugar centerpieces that adorn each of the feasts marking Anne’s ascent in the king’s favor. They also share another link of which neither woman is aware: the lovely Mark Smeaton, wunderkind musician—the innocent on whom, ultimately, Anne’s downfall hinges.

 

3. The Secret Diary of Anne Boleyn by Robin Maxwell

 

In this “energetic” (Kirkus Reviews)re-creation of Anne Boleyn’s tragic life — and death — Robin Maxwell offers a pitch-perfect version of a bawdy and exuberant time filled with lust, betrayal, love, and murder.

When the young Queen Elizabeth I is entrusted with Anne Boleyn’s secret diary, she discovers a great deal about the much-maligned mother she never knew. And on learning the truth about her lascivious and despotic father, Henry VIII, she vows never to relinquish control to any man. But this avowal doesn’t prevent Elizabeth from pursuing a torrid love affair with her horsemaster, Robin Dudley — described with near-shocking candor — as too are Anne’s graphic trysts with a very persistent and lustful Henry. Blending a historian’s attention to accuracy with a novelist’s artful rendering, Maxwell weaves compelling descriptions of court life and devastating portraits of actual people into her naughty, page-turning tale. The result is a masterpiece of historical fiction — so prophetic of our time that one would think it were ripped from today’s headlines.

 

4. Threads by Nell Gavin

 

In 1536 a woman dies and the story begins…

Henry and Anne are bona fide soul mates, bound to each other through eternity.

Still, in 1536, they are at the mercy of influences outside of their control, explosively incompatible, and caught in a marriage that ends in a betrayal so shocking that Anne requires lifetimes to recover.

Threads“, a reincarnation fantasy, opens with Anne’s death in 1536. Her husband Henry, seemingly in defense of Anne (but more likely acting out of “stubborn perverseness,” she observes), has terrorized England and decreed murder after political murder to protect her. Ultimately, to Anne’s horror, he has made the decision to have her executed as well.

Anne’s fury at her husband’s betrayal has enough momentum to survive centuries, but in “Threads” she learns that she has been assigned a hard task: she must forgive him. This may prove difficult and take some. The husband in question is Henry VIII. The narrator is the stubborn, volatile Anne Boleyn, who is not at all inclined to forgive.

It is a very unusual love story.

 

5. Anne Boleyn: In Her Own Words and the Words of Those Who Knew Her by Elizabeth Norton

 

The tragic love affair that changed English history forever.

Anne Boleyn was the most controversial and scandalous woman ever to sit on the throne of England. From her early days at the imposing Hever Castle in Kent, to the glittering courts of Paris and London, Anne caused a stir wherever she went. Alluring but not beautiful, Anne’s wit and poise won her numerous admirers at the English court, and caught the roving eye of King Henry.

Anne was determined to shape her own destiny, first through a secret engagement to Henry Percy, the heir of the Earl of Northumberland, and later through her insistence on marriage with the king, after a long and tempestuous relationship as his mistress. Their love affair was as extreme as it was deadly, from Henry’s ‘mine own sweetheart’ to ‘cursed and poisoning whore, ‘ her fall from grace was total.

 

6. The Concubine by Norah Lofts

 

Acclaimed and beloved historical novelist Norah Lofts brings to life the danger, romance, and intrigue of the Tudor court that forever altered the course of English history.

The king first noticed Anne Boleyn as a heartbroken sixteen-year-old, sullen and beautiful after a thwarted romance with the son of the Earl of Northumberland. “All eyes and hair,” a courtier had said disparagingly of her, but when King Henry VIII fell for young Anne, nothing could keep him from what he desired. Against common sense and the urgings of his most trusted advisors, Henry defied all, blindly following his passion for Anne, using the power he held over the bodies and souls of all who reside in his realm and beyond. Anne’s ascent to the throne elevates her from lady-in-waiting to the highest position a woman could attain, but her life spirals out of control when Henry is driven to desperate acts of betrayal and violence. The consequences of Anne’s rise to power and eventual demise are felt well beyond the inner circle of the court. Loyalties, to church, to queen, to country, are tested, and — in the wake of the king’s volatile passions — can be an unpredictable matter of life and death.

First published in 1963 and adored by readers for generations, Lofts’ lush and moving portrayal of the ambitious and doomed Anne Boleyn will continue to reign as a classic retelling of this epic chapter of history vividly brought to life.

 

7. Murder Most Royal by Jean Plaidy

 

One powerful king. Two tragic queens.

In the court of Henry VIII, it was dangerous for a woman to catch the king’s eye. Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard were cousins. Both were beautiful women, though very different in temperament. They each learned that Henry’s passion was all-consuming-and fickle.

Sophisticated Anne Boleyn, raised in the decadent court of France, was in love with another man when King Henry claimed her as his own. Being his mistress gave her a position of power; being his queen put her life in jeopardy. Her younger cousin, Catherine Howard, was only fifteen when she was swept into the circle of King Henry. Her innocence attracted him, but a past mistake was destined to haunt her.

Painted in the rich colors of Tudor England, “Murder Most Royal” is a page-turning journey into the lives of two of the wives of the tempestuous Henry VIII.

 

8. The Lady in the Tower by Alison Weir

 

Drawing on myriad sources from the Tudor era, bestselling author Alison Weir provides the first book ever to examine, in unprecedented depth, the gripping story of Anne Boleyn’s final days.

‘The Lady in the Tower’ explores the motives and intrigues of those who helped to seal the queen’s fate, unraveling the tragic tale of Anne’s fall, from her miscarriage of the son who would have saved her to the final, dramatic scene on the scaffold. What emerges is an extraordinary portrayal of a woman of great courage, tested to the extreme by the terrible plight in which she found herself, a powerful queen whose enemies were bent on utterly destroying her.

Horrifying but captivating, ‘The Lady in the Tower’ presents the full array of evidence of Anne Boleyn’s guilt – and innocence.

 

9. Bring Up The Bodies by Hilary Mantel

 

The sequel to Hilary Mantel’s 2009 Man Booker Prize winner and “New York Times” bestseller, “Wolf Hall” delves into the heart of Tudor history with the downfall of Anne Boleyn

Though he battled for seven years to marry her, Henry is disenchanted with Anne Boleyn. She has failed to give him a son and her sharp intelligence and audacious will alienate his old friends and the noble families of England. When the discarded Katherine dies in exile from the court, Anne stands starkly exposed, the focus of gossip and malice.

At a word from Henry, Thomas Cromwell is ready to bring her down. Over three terrifying weeks, Anne is ensnared in a web of conspiracy, while the demure Jane Seymour stands waiting her turn for the poisoned wedding ring. But Anne and her powerful family will not yield without a ferocious struggle. Hilary Mantel’s “Bring Up the Bodies” follows the dramatic trial of the queen and her suitors for adultery and treason. To defeat the Boleyns, Cromwell must ally with his natural enemies, the papist aristocracy. What price will he pay for Anne’s head?

 

10. The Love Letters of Henry VIII to Anne Boleyn

 

There are many collections of this group of letters, translated (some were originally written in French) and annotated by scholars. They were written during the period when Anne was away from court in the 1520s. Modern day historians and readers – especially with the benefit of hindsight – could be forgiven for assuming that Anne was either a puppet of her family or a scheming, power-hungry harridan for agreeing to marriage with Henry. However when you read these tender letters you really can imagine that Henry really did make Anne fall in love with him.

You can get a basic ebook version for free here.

 

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