The Lady in the Tower.
Oh, Anne Boleyn. Is there anything I love more than Anne Boleyn? No, no there is not. She’s why I watched the first two seasons of the Tudors – I can’t be bothered to care about the final four wives of Henry VIII, for me it’s all about Anne Boleyn. She’s endlessly fascinating to me – she rose so fast, due to political forces, of course, but truly one of the few women in history who gained power through her own efforts – and then… fell so hard.
I’ve read several biographies of Anne (and duh, I read The Other Boleyn Girl, though I haven’t watched the movie yet), but none really go into the details of her fall other than “Smells like a setup.” The Lady in the Tower outlines the general feeling in England at the time of Anne’s miscarriage in January 1536 and, rightly, starts there as the beginning of the end.
And she goes right up to the bitter end, documenting the various existing versions of Anne’s scaffold speech and the evidence that her bones in St. Peter ad Vincula are probably not the ones labeled as “hers.” The case against Anne and the five men accused of adultery with her (including her brother!) is gone into with incredible care and detail – not only to the charges against them, but into the legal process at the time. It’s very illuminating to read that by the standards of the time, while she may have been tried on trumped up charges, Anne’s trial was no sham. Tudor legal proceedings are incredibly different from what we today consider “due process.” Whether or not we’ve evolved a more fair system of legal representation, at least we’ve gotten beyond commuting a death sentence to beheading as an actual act of mercy.
I could go on and on about my own theories about Anne’s trial (I essentially believe that from the historical details she couldn’t be guilty of adultery during Henry’s reign, and that the case against her is a cover-up for the actual reason of her removal, which was likely a plot to kill Lady Mary, daughter of Katherine of Aragorn – something that Anne certainly discussed “in jest” and may have seriously moved on. This could have very well necessitated a cover-up to prevent Elizabeth from being in physical peril from Mary’s supporters.) – I would simply say that this book provides as much detail as we can have on a trial that took place nearly 500 years ago. Very compelling, and I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys a good beheading.