Friday, November 26, 2010

Pick a View and Stick to it!

As any full-time or amateur historian will tell you, pinpointing the dates of events in Tudor history is a very frustrating proposition.

Besides the fact that we are missing simple information, like birth dates for many--especially women--born between 1480 and 1603, a great deal of information has been lost over the centuries to fires and other disasters. This is not even to mention the many during the reign of Elizabeth I (and later Victorians) who tried to vindicate those beloved by their sovereign or create history where they found none.

As I read Alison Weir's latest, The Lady in the Tower: The Fall of Anne Boleyn, I am frustrated by the amount of speculation required to piece together events. To a degree, I suppose that historians are happy that there are such holes in story's fabric, as new speculations sell books.

I avoided this book at first, as other reviewers pointed out what I have now read for myself: Weir's conclusion is that Anne Boleyn--while perhaps not guilty of the laundry list of offenses on which she was indicted--was guilty of something, and thus made her own bed.

What was not stated by reviewers was that a chapter or two later, Weir writes the sentence, "In a word, Anne Boleyn was framed."

This is where I begin to be angry and confused by Tudor historians. I may not agree with your theory, but I can only respect it if you choose one and stick with it!
I am not a fan of those who publicize one stance to get me to buy a book, but then hedge their bets.

I have already decided to go back and read those chapters again. Perhaps it's me and I misunderstood her meaning.

It's funny, I knew I wouldn't like this book--but was way of on the reason why.


  1. I don't quite understand your argument. Yes she was guilty of having a bad temper, not knowing when to submit, pushing her husband - basically being a modern woman in the 16th century. And YES she was framed as most of the evidence against Anne was completely and utterly made up for one reason - to bring about her downfall.

  2. It just seems to me that Weir claimed to believe in one chapter that Anne must have committed at least one of the crimes of which she was accused in the indictment--and then in the next chapter said she was framed. When I say crimes, I don't mean "appearing" to have misbehaved because of her lack of 16th century female propriety.

    I am a staunch believer that Anne did NOTHING of which she was accused. (perhaps naively) I believe she became a liability to Cromwell and Henry pursuing their own desires and both saw that her temper and tongue could be exploited.

    Like I wrote, I will go back and reread the chapters again, but it seemed as though Weir was flip-flopping a bit.

    Have you read this book yet? I am very curious to get another perspective. I knew from other reviews that Weir's conclusions did not always agree with mine.


  3. I've read it twice now - thoroughly enjoyed it (one of my favourite's actually as I was lucky enough to buy it from Hampton Court when I was in England last year. I guess it has sentimental meaning!)

    I didn't get that feeling from Weir at all. What I understood her to mean, as I wrote above, was that Anne was guilty of a sharp temper, being outspoken, not knowing her place etc. etc. etc. but that she was innocent of all the charges brought against her and that as you said, Henry wanted her out of the way to peruse his own desire and Cromwell was the man to do that. Not to mention Cromwell had his own agendas!

    Let us not forget in the indictment it stated something along the lines of Anne speaking negatively of the King - which technically she did do. I don't think intentionally to commit treason, but with her sharp tongue she did say a lot of things which could be taken the wrong way.

  4. Sarah,

    I must say that I actually agree with you now about this book: it is one of my favorites too. (and no sentimental meaning here!)

    I really enjoyed the way Weir examined Anne's last days. I think she did a better job than all the others I've read. I will certainly be rereading this soon.

    I will be interested to see if I feel the same way about the first half on my second pass.