Anne Boleyn
Josephine Wilkinson

Anne Boleyn

Few historical figures polarise opinion more than Anne Boleyn - people either love or hate here. The traditional story, still the one best known to the non-academic readership, depicts her as an ambitious woman who captured the heart of Henry VIII and then kept him at arm’s length until he promised to fulfil her desires and make her queen. Anne has been held responsible for the fall of Thomas Wolsey and the deaths of John Fisher and Thomas More. She has been seen as the driving force behind the break with Rome, the establishment of the English reformation and the emergence of the nation state. When she fell out with Cromwell, he believed that his life was in danger and devised a way to get rid of her before she could destroy him. Subsequently, Anne was found to have committed adultery with five men of the court, one of whom was her own brother, and executed.

   This book challenges this version of Anne’s story. Making extensive use of original documents and drawing on the latest academic research, it shows her to have been much less in control of her own fate than tradition allows, and it places Henry more firmly in the centre of events. Anne was able to exercise some influence over the king, of course, but she could not sway him in political matters. While she provided the catalyst for great changes that occurred in England and the rest of Europe, her involvement was incidental at the least and passive at best. Anne’s fall, when it came, was frighteningly fast and it has been the subject of debate for more than five centuries; here, it will be shown that, rather than being the work of Cromwell, and certainly not the result of factional politics, Anne’s fall and execution were carried out on the orders of the king himself, who had heard talk that Anne had been unfaithful to him and ordered Cromwell to investigate. However, Anne’s execution on grounds of adultery does not make sense because it was not a treasonous crime at that time, even in a queen. It is only when Anne’s words to Henry Norris, ‘You look for dead men’s shows, for if aught came to the king but good, you would look to have me’ are considered, that her fate begins to make sense: to imagine the king’s death was certainly treason, and this provided the justification for her execution.

   This book will argue that:


●       Anne had no ambitions to be queen - she would she have been content simply to be Henry’s sole mistress.

●       She did not withhold her sexual favours until Henry made her his queen - the restraint was both hers and Henry’s, and for sound political and dynastic reasons.

●       Although Anne was arrested for suspected adultery, she would be condemned as a traitor and executed.

●       Anne inadvertently brought about her own death by uttering treasonable words.

●       It will focus more closely on the relationship between Anne and Henry, for it is essential to include Henry’s perspective in order fully to understand Anne’s story.

Book Details:

  • Author: Josephine Wilkinson
  • On Submission
  • Rights Sold
    • UK: The History Press
Josephine Wilkinson

Josephine Wilkinson

Dr Josepha Josephine Wilkinson received a First Class Honours degree from the University of Newcastle. She was the winner of the Third Year Prize for her work on The Little Apocalypse, which placed Mark chapter 13 into its historical context, and the Jewish Studies Prize for her historical study of the community at Qumran. She remained at Newcastle, earning an MPhil for her thesis on the historical John the Baptist (as close to a biography as is possible to do); her PhD traced historical traditions and legends of John the Baptist across several cultures as well as art, literature and film. ...
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