Monday, January 17, 2011

Review: The Lady in the Tower: The Fall of Anne Boleyn by Alison Weir

  • Hardcover, 434 pages

    Released: January 5, 2010 by Ballantine Books (available in TP - December 28, 2010)

    ISBN: 9780345453211

    From one of the world's foremost popular historians, a detailed and intricate portrait of the last days of one of the most influential and important figures in English history.

    The imprisonment and execution of Queen Anne Boleyn, Henry VIII's second wife, was unprecedented in the annals of English history. It was sensational in its day, and has exerted endless fascination over the minds of historians, novelists, dramatists, poets, artists, and filmmakers ever since.

    Mystery surrounds the circumstances leading up to Anne's arrest and imprisonment in May 1536. Was it Henry VIII who, estranged from Anne, instructed Master Secretary Thomas Cromwell to fabricate evidence to get rid of her so that he could marry Jane Seymour? Or did Cromwell, for reasons of his own, construct a case against Anne and her faction, and then present compelling evidence before the King?

    Following the coronation of her daughter Elizabeth I as queen, Anne was venerated as a martyr and heroine. Over the centuries, she has inspired many artistic and cultural works and has remained ever-present in England's, and the world's, popular memory. Alison Weir draws on her unsurpassed expertise in the Tudor Period to chronicle the downfall and dramatic final days of this influential and fascinating woman.
    My Rating: 4 / 5

    My Thoughts:

    Alison Weir writes the first book solely devoted to Anne Boleyn, focusing on her life during the last three months. An extraordinary work, based on intense research, she does have to rely on biased accounts of various ambassadors, eyewitness accounts and other reports with second hand information. The Lady in the Tower provides all evidence and lets it speak for itself, never focusing on one account, but rather corroborating OR discrediting the many theories out there as best one can. This is not a book to put forth any new theories, rather expect a well researched look that touches on topics such as:
  • Did Henry really know all that was going down?
  • Was the fetus from the last miscarriage really deformed?
  • Was the swordsman hired prior to Anne being put on trial?
  • Who were the 5 accused men & could they really have done what they were found guilty of?
  • Who were the members who found both the men & Anne guilty - were they unbiased?
  • The documents showing the evidence against Anne was destroyed - to cover up the lack of evidence OR was there really something so atrocious that it had to be destroyed for the King's sake?

  • For those who know a bit about the Tudors, this book is easy to follow along and really is a one-stop shop. An interesting non-fiction read (that is a tad dry only in the middle), I highly recommend this for those who are curious about one of the most controversial woman in history. I wonder, as Alison points out, if Anne hadn't been beheaded & enjoyed a long full life, would we still be talking of her? She was after all hated by many & without sympathy for her innocence, I'm not sure how much I would have liked her as a Queen.


  1. Great review! This sounds like such an interesting read; I'm glad you liked it. :)

  2. Yes, we would probably still be discussing her even if she had not met such a gruesome and unusual end. Her role in bringing about the English Reformation could never be neglected. It's not every day, after all, that a king overthrows an entire religion and lays waste half of the country's architectural heritage in order to get divorced and married again. She must have been quite special, even if only in the sense of being in the right place at the right time.

  3. Jessica ~ thanks!

    Robert ~ you are correct, I didn't finish train of thought on that one! What I should have said was would we have the same feelings towards her now? I'd say the sympathy overshadows the fact that she was hated by many. You are right on the money that she did have a profound effect on religion that cannot be ignored!

  4. I think all of Henry's wives receive continuing notoriety because of him, too. It's hard to get a comprehensive look at history today when so much was not documented or documentation destroyed to hide true motives. I'll bet though, that somewhere out there, there is further letters, etc. that would add more fuel to the conspiracy fires ;-)