The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn: "The Most Happy"

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The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn: "The Most Happy" By Eric Ives. Oxford and Maiden, Mass.: Blackwell, 2004. xxii + 458 pp. £25.00 / $29.95 (cloth); £12.99 / $19.95 (paper).

The popular view that the English Reformation was brought about merely because King Henry VIII wanted to divorce Katherine of Aragon and marry Anne Boleyn is challenged by Eric Ives s new account of Boleyn s life. Henry's controversial second wife is shown to be her own woman, who died ultimately because she dared to involve herself in the affairs of state-including the reformation of the church in England. Ives is probably the pre-eminent historian on this subject and, although this book is a reworking of his earlier work on this charismatic queen (originally published in 1988), it represents the sum of his work in this field. It is thoroughly researched, judiciously presented, but also accessible to the more general reader.

The volume is divided into four sections. In Part 1, "Background and Beginnings," the genesis of Anne's life is traced from her birth at Blickling, near Norwich (and not, as tradition suggests, at Heaver Castle) through her time abroad with the French court, her return to England and the court of Henry VIII, and to what became a burgeoning royal romance. Part 2, "A Difficult Engagement," follows the story through the complex machinations of Henry's divorce from Katherine and the developing courtship of Anne, in which the curious Tudor pastime of "courtly love" becomes something much more serious. The picture of Boleyn that emerges is of someone who is both self-assured and confident in her own mind and strong enough-with her own faction-to bring down one of the great powers in the land, Cardinal Wolsey. This section concludes with a detailed account of the lavish celebrations for Anne Boleyn s coronation as queen and the birth of her daughter Elizabeth. …