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Anne Boleyn: A New Life of England's Tragic…

Anne Boleyn: A New Life of England's Tragic Queen

by Joanna Denny

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I have read a great deal about both Elizabeth I and her mother, the infamous Anne Boleyn. Most books focus on how evil and manipulative that Anne Boleyn was. However, many of these books pull information from somewhat biased sources.

This book presents Anne not as this evil woman who changed all of England for her whim, but as a victim. Joanna Denny does a good job of presenting her view but her view is also somewhat biased.

Reading this book does provide the reader with a new view into who Anne Boleyn was. It allows the reader the ability to see her in a new light and make a better decision on who she was and what she stood for.

I definitely recommend this for anyone who wants to get more insight into Ms. Boleyn. ( )
  Angelic55blonde | Apr 9, 2012 |
Anne Boleyn is one of the most famous Queens of England. Typically in literature she is described as the manipulative schemer who lured Henry VIII from his devoted wife Katharine of Aragon and later met her death on (probably trumped up) charges of Adultery, Incest and Treason.

In this book, Denny presents a different view of Anne, as a victim of Henry's cold blooded-ness. She asserts that Henry relentlessly pursued Anne, who resisted because of his marriage to Katharine. Anne finally succumbed to Henry's advances and was then cast aside when it no longer suited him to be married to her.

The book is written in a very 'readable' way. I often find non-fiction to be somewhat dry; however this book flowed easily and held my interest throughout.

It has obviously been very well researched, and Denny is clearly a Boleyn enthusiast, with a lot of passion for her subject. However, this is a double edged sword. While I firmly believe that it is important for any biographer to really care about their subject, Denny's own view means that this book is extremely biased. Katharine of Aragon is described as a vicious, manipulative and unreasonable woman, who lied to fulfill her ambition to become Queen of England. Anne is painted almost as a saint, who could do no wrong and was blameless in every respect.

Joanna Denny wrote this book to bring balance to the general view of Anne; however, she has not created balance but has merely tipped the scales all the way to the other side. She claims that the critics of Anne are biased - and this may well be true - but unfortunately, Denny shows herself to be equally as biased. The women in Anne's world are portrayed as evil and two faced, with the exception of Elizabeth I, Anne's daughter.

I would recommend this book to anyone with an interest in Anne or the Tudor period, but I do not think that this book is 'the truth' about Anne Boleyn, as the author claims. ( )
1 vote Ruth72 | Nov 8, 2009 |
What a pleasure to read the "other" side of Anne's story!
  Amante | Oct 19, 2009 |
I do not know where to even start with this book - Denny starts from a very strange presumption that everyone believes that Anne Boleyn had been the whore the Catholics had always thought her to be. This would not have bothered me as much if the she would not continued by making the argument that Anne had done everything she had done so that she can promote the Reformation and the Protestant beliefs - and in order to achieve it, she was simply disregarding historical sources and painting some of the other characters in a quite strange way - in some places even crossing the line between history talk and yellow press. The truth as always is somewhere in the middle but it sounded like getting from one extreme to the other. The biggest problem - the historians (at least lately) do not really believe the Catholics authors for what Anne had been.

Unfortunately the book have another big problem - the repetitions. It it normal for history books to contain some repetitions but at the same time there are two types of such books - the reference ones (where you can read any chapter at any time without the need to read the previous ones) and the narrative ones (where you need to read the book in order). This biography is from the second type - the story is flowing continuously and logically (and that's one of the good things which save the book to some extent). But at the same time the repetitions are at the level of a reference book, especially for the small almost irrelevant details. Adding to this the printing of some details that simply do not matter (like the names of the people Anne gives grants for studying or some similar details) and the book becomes tedious at times.

But despite these troubles, Denny's account of Anne Boleyn and her times is interesting. She is trying to look at the facts from a new perspective and as biased as it is, it still adds a lot to the facts. It is not a good choice for introduction to the Tudors history - the reader needs to know the history in order to be able to judge what is written -- even if you choose to believe everything that Denny is writing, some of the facts do not make sense without prior knowledge of the era.

2 and a half stars out of 5 for this book and I would probably give Denny another chance - she seems to be doing her research even if she prefers to ignore parts of it. ( )
1 vote AnnieMod | Oct 1, 2009 |
This makes me want to reread my Tudor biographies and histories. One of the most amusing things about reading history is seeing the number of different ways various writers can spin the same facts. This is interestingly contrary to much of what I have read; the support for Denny's assertions varies in quality and the work has serious flaws. I would not read this either as a first or only biography of Anne Boleyn, but it raises thought-provoking issues of sources and interpretations.

Denny seems to have done a great deal of research. She also cites some original sources that I don't believe I've seen referenced before, uses others that are often ignored, and points out flaws in others. In common with most histories, I think it is insufficiently documented: what is "common knowledge" to the historians of a period may be virtually unknown to the general public. I think that if there are, say six historic documents attesting to the same fact, the helpful historian will cite at least one of them as an example. It is also my inflexible rule that where there are quote marks, there should be a citation.

It is the interpretation of facts that is open to question. Denny brings up the issue of Anne's possibly having a stepmother, which I thought had been a dead issue for about 70 years. She also argues that Anne had auburn hair (well perhaps VERY dark auburn hair and questions the authenticity of any portrait with a gable headdress. She also portrays Henry VIII as very promiscuous, when most historians argue that he was actually relatively chaste and discreet for a king, more of a serial monogamist, and did most of his straying at times when his wife was unavailable for sex.

Denny, one gathers, is an Evangelical and she sometimes gets rather vitriolic. I believe it was enough to describe certain fraudulent relics, without adding the opinion that "This proves that the Church ignored biblical warnings against idolatry ... " complete with references to Bible verses. This, of course, is no worse than those who assert that all Evangelicals were self-serving hypocrites, but I'd rather have balance than a second wrong.

I am of two minds about authors who are so clear about their own point of view on issues. On the one hand, it casts doubt upon their ability to make reasoned interpretations, on the other, at least one knows where they stand. Using carefully neutral language is no guarantee of being unbiased.

There has been a tendency to view Anne as a grasping seductress and superficial party girl, at least up until shortly before her death. When I first read that one of her silkwomen complained that during Anne's time, the court had not been so frivolous, I felt cheated that this was not in any biography that I had previously read. Ives argues in his monumental work that standard scenario whereby Anne's relationship with Henry is supposed to have deteriorated steadily (based mainly on certain of Chapuys' letters) is wrong and ignores many contradictory statements in other letters. Denny makes much of the argument that Chapuy had little access to court and understood English only poorly. This does not mean that his information was all wrong, Denny recounts that he had a string of informants (as any good ambassador does), but this does mean that his information was less reliable than if it were first hand.

Another problem is that Catharine of Aragon preferred to assert that her marriage with Henry was reasonably happy and that Anne was entirely responsible for leading him astray: without Anne, Henry would never have considered an annulment or behaved so badly to his wife and daughter. One can think of several reasons why she would say so, among them the common desire to blame all marital discord on a villainous outsider rather than one's own, at least equally guilty, spouse. I think that many people have accepted this view too uncritically. Henry's brutality even after Anne's death has been laid to her corruption of his character. I think that the judicial murder of two of his father's unpopular tax collectors as part of his coronation festivities at 18 makes this interpretation questionable. Denny chiefly blames Henry for his own conduct, and I think rightly so.

I have always found it difficult to believe that Anne's initial refusal of Henry was with the intention of causing him to abandon Catharine of Aragon. As Denny says, "No one could ever have imagined that a king could put aside wife of 20 years' standing, and with such high foreign connections, for an unknown Englishwomen." I have always believed that for whatever reason, Anne really wasn't willing to be his mistress. I therefore find Denny's interpretation of Anne as a truly pious and virtuous woman plausible and give Denny high marks for the rare look at Anne as she might have seen herself. She wasn't "the other woman" if Henry really wasn't married to Catharine. I don't know how to prove her inmost thoughts. I find the positive portrayal of Anne's father interesting: he is usually portrayed as being so cold and self-serving as to be almost a psychopath, but reading this makes me recall that most of those portrayals are not well-documented. Likewise, I have never thought that Jane's undisputed conduct was virtuous, so I like Denny's interpretation.

As to Thomas More, I think he has been all too thoroughly idolized as a selfless, otherworldly saint. He was brilliant and had numerous virtues, but I am baffled how someone presented as being so utterly without worldy ambition could have become Chancellor of England. Indeed, I wonder that there were any little Mores; one might think that he would have spent all his time living in a cave flogging himself through a hair shirt. I think that it is fine that Denny points out his unattractive qualities that are so often glossed over, but again, I would have preferred balance rather than another one-sided portrayal.

Lastly, Catharine of Aragon; I think people have an unfortunate tendency to view all conflicts as a battle between good and evil. Therefore if Anne is good, Catharine must be bad, and vice versa. I actually believe that it is possible that both women saw themselves as virtuous guardians of religious truth, and to respect both of them. From all accounts that I have seen, Catharine carried out her duties as Queen to the best of her very considerable abilities: generously supporting education, encouraging new craft industries, serving as an able regent. The English people loved her. I think Denny oversteps in insisting that Catharine "ought" to have be willing to give up Henry and that fighting for her marriage (and her daughter's inheritance) bordered on treason. It is one thing to criticize her if she discussed an invasion of England with the Emperor, but to fault her for seeking his advice and legal assistance when the annulment proceedings were first announced is unreasonable. Likewise, faulting Mary for her "unnatural" anger with his father over the sufferings he inflicted on her and her mother is incredibly unfair.

There is a lengthy bibliography and 16 pages of plates (probably about 30 images) ( )
2 vote juglicerr | Aug 12, 2009 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0306815400, Paperback)

This powerful new biography presents a portrait of Anne Boleyn different from the unsavory and unflattering accounts of her that have come down through history. Instead, we learn about the real Anne-a woman who was highly literate, accomplished, an intellectual, and a devout defender of her Protestant faith. Anne’s tragedy began when her looks and vivacious charm attracted the notice of England’s violent and paranoid king whose love for her trapped her in the vicious politics of the Tudor court. This compelling account of Anne Boleyn plunges the reader into the intrigue, romance, and danger of King Henry VIII’s court and the turbulent times that would change England forever. It will forever change our perception of this much-maligned queen.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:19:04 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

Was Anne Boleyn really the scheming temptress portrayed by her enemies, guilty of incest and witchcraft? This biography plunges the reader into the heart of the intrigue, romance and danger of the Tudor court, and paints a picture of the real woman.

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