I had absolutely no intention of reading another book by Alison Weir so soon after reading her book Innocent Traitor a fictional account of Lady Jane Grey’s life, but when I saw The Lady in the Tower sitting on the non-fiction shelves of one of Fife’s at risk of closure libraries I just had to borrow it. It is of course a biography of Anne Boleyn which was first published in 2009.
I must say that I preferred this one to the only fictional one of hers which I’ve read, and it’s also better than her biography of Mary Boleyn, which was just full of supposition and question marks. However this one isn’t perfect by any means. I find it annoying when she gives four slightly different accounts of the same meeting – shock horror, different people report things differently. It didn’t add anything to the book, except to bulk out the pages, just padding really. Weir should edit herself more strictly.
She also seemed to be keen to lay most of the blame of Anne Boleyn’s demise at Cromwell’s feet, and not Henry VIII. Cromwell was just trying to make sure that he himself didn’t end up getting the chop for facilitating Henry’s marriage to Anne. Kings have a terrible tendency to blame anyone but themselves for their bad behaviour.
Most of all though it was Anne Boleyn who set herself up for such a heavy fall. She strung a king along for years, not sleeping with him and playing the virtuous lady card – when in fact she was anything but innocent. She had hissy fits when she didn’t get her own way, she was greedy, arrogant and too familiar with men. Those men had the same failings which led to them all being despised and friendless within the rest of the court. The most amazing thing is that they didn’t see it coming, considering that Anne was supposed to be very well educated and politically astute. Anne and her gentlemen friends were almost certainly all framed, but we knew that already – didn’t we?
Henry must have felt such a fool for allowing Anne to behave as she did, apparently she humiliated him in public by being distinctly unimpressed by his musical skills and poetry – and saying so! Kings even more than most men need to be buttered up, and anyway I quite like Greensleeves. I’ve long thought that it was just amazing that Henry didn’t have her bumped off, poisoned or pushed downstairs or something, it would have been a lot simpler, but he did seem to be obsessed with doing things legally.
Well, The Lady in the Tower seems to have given me quite a lot to think about, and the cover reminded me that when I first saw Diana, Princess of Wales wearing her ‘D’ pendant which she was very fond of pre her marriage, I thought immediately that it wasn’t a good omen. Surely she must have realised that it was Boleyn’s favourite type of jewel too! No, I’m not saying that Diana was bumped off by anyone, except a drunken and drugged up driver, but they seemed to be a similar type of woman.
It was pointed out in the book that Anne’s temper tantrums might have been exacerbated by raging hormones, as after they got married she was almost always in a state of pregnancy or recovering from birth or miscarriages. I’d agree with that, but she was ‘difficult’ long before they got married, I suppose we can blame that on PMT!
Have you read The Lady in the Tower? If so what are your thoughts on it?
You might be interested in reading the love letters sent between Henry and Anne which are available on Project Gutenberg here.
And below is a lovely version of Greensleeves, if you fancy a listen to it.