Review Blog

Jul 28 2017

Six Tudor queens: Anne Boleyn, a King's obsession by Alison Weir

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Hachette, 2017. ISBN 9781472227638
(Age: 14+) Recommended. British history, Tudor history, Kingship. Anne Boleyn is certainly a name most people will recognise as the one for whom King Henry VIII split with Rome. When all of Europe was Catholic, owing allegiance to the head of the church, the Pope in Rome, then political intrigue garnered power behind his headship and those in favour could call the shots. Henry was desperate to father a son, one to take up the rule of England after he died, to carry on the Tudor lineage. His older wife, Katherine was past her child bearing days and so Henry looked around for a new bride. He had read Leviticus which forbad a man to marrying his brother's widow, and using this Biblical reference as the reason for not having a son, lobbied Rome for an annulment. But Rome was in the thrall of the Holy Roman Emperor, Katherine's nephew, so no such annulment was forthcoming. This forced Henry to break with the church and set up the Church of England, a move which paralleled the Reformation in Europe.
But what of Anne? Alison Weir develops a page turning story of Anne's life both before and after her marriage and we see her as a young woman sent to several countries in Europe where she learnt the pattern of surviving in a court.  Weir paints a rather headstrong girl, used to getting her own way, wary of the obstacles, but looking out for a likely marriage prospect. She knew her father, Thomas Boleyn well. He was rising in Henry's court, making himself useful to the great king, always on the lookout for how his children could benefit from royal patronage. The machinations behind the scenes make for fascinating reading, particularly when Anne's sister Mary becomes the king's mistress and Anne can see how problematic it is, especially when she has a child. All the court detail is given, and conversations developed from the extensive research done by Weir, making this a riveting read into the private lives of Anne and her family. A long list of the cast of characters is given at the end in the order in which they appear in Anne's life, and a useful family tree is given at the start.
Fran Knight

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