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Anne Boleyn: Fatal Attractions [Hardcover]

Gw Bernard
3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
RRP: 20.00
Price: 19.02 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

6 April 2010
In this groundbreaking new biography, G. W. Bernard offers a fresh portrait of one of England's most captivating queens. Through a wide-ranging forensic examination of sixteenth-century sources, Bernard reconsiders Boleyn's girlhood, her experience at the French court, the nature of her relationship with Henry, and the authenticity of her evangelical sympathies. He depicts Anne Boleyn as a captivating, intelligent, and highly sexual woman whose attractions Henry resisted for years until marriage could ensure legitimacy for their offspring. He shows that it was Henry, not Anne, who developed the ideas that led to the break with Rome. And, most radically, he argues that the allegations of adultery that led to Anne's execution in the Tower could be close to the truth.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press (6 April 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300162456
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300162455
  • Product Dimensions: 23.6 x 16 x 2.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 170,181 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


`It is brilliantly argued, sometimes exhaustingly so, but it will reward those who come to it with an open mind.' --Linda Porter, History Today, June 2010

`A close-up, fine-focus retelling of dysfunctional royal family history.'
--Patrick Skene Catling, Irish Times, 24th May 2010

`...a book whose accessible style will mean that most readers, like this one, will devour it in a single setting.'
--Alexander Lucie-Smith, Catholic Herald, 14th May 2010

About the Author

George Bernard is Professor of Early Modern History at the University of Southampton, and Editor of the English Historical Review. His most recent book was 'The King's Reformation: Henry VIII and the Remaking of the English Church' (Yale, 2005). His earlier books include 'Power and Politics in Tudor England' (2007) and 'Studying at University' (2003).

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Worth reading but lacking in evidence 1 May 2012
By Roman Clodia TOP 100 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Bernard's revisionary view of Anne Boleyn revolves around three arguments:

a) that Anne wasn't particularly religious and had little to do with the Reformation;
b) that it was Henry who withheld from a full sexual relationship with Anne for five or so years until they could be decently married;
c) that Anne really did sleep with the five men with whom she was accused of committing adultery, including her brother.

It has to be said that the evidence to support these positions is a little fragile, to say the least, so this book is primarily based in interpretation.

I don't know enough about the religious context to accept or fully reject the first point. But that it was Henry who refused to sleep with Anne for about five years doesn't feel convincing. Bernard suggests that Henry was so concerned about only having sex within marriage so that any children would be free from the stain of illegitimacy - but that assumes that from the moment he saw Anne, Henry knew that he wanted to marry her. His letters to Anne (from the late 20s) as well as his previous and later behaviour with other women don't really support this. Henry, as king of England, doesn't appear to have been a man used to or even wanting to restrain any of his appetites, and on Anne's first arrival at the English court she was just another attractive girl for him to consume. Why would he then hold himself back?

The third proposition that Anne really was stupid enough to commit serial adultery in the face of the public court equally doesn't really stand up, in my view. Bernard's `evidence' here is a single poem written after the events. To believe this, we would also have to believe that Anne took her first lover, Mark Smeaton, just a month after having given birth to Elizabeth in 1533.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I had imagined that this book would uncover some interesting new "evidence" that would challenge our version of events. Written a kind of investigative journalism style it is interesting and entertaining to read and certainly it is good mental excercise to have old truths challenged but ultimately many of his arguments are fairly farfetched and purely speculative. There simply is no really new "evidence" We have to live with the simple fact that given that most of the material about Anne's trial was destroyed in the Elizabethan age and is 500 years old anyway our knowledge of the facts is limited. I also got the feeling that this could have been written as an essay but has been strung out as far as possible to fill a book.
Worth reading definitely but not a "groundbreaking biography"
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34 of 40 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Extremely disappointing 25 Jun 2010
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Having read many books about Anne Boleyn I was looking forward to this as it promised to be 'a groundbreaking new biography'... but there was no new material, only the same stuff with the author's personal interpretation which was, indeed, different. Having expressed his disagreement with others' interpretations (including Eric Ives and Retha Warnicke) seemingly because of their overuse of such phrases as 'maybe...' and 'It was possibly...' Professor Bernard follows with his own version, full of 'Let us imagine...' and 'It would surely have been...'.

Although there is an extensive set of notes and bibliography, the author relies heavily on two sources - the letters of the Imperial Ambassador, Eustache Chapuys, and a poem by Lancelot de Carles. We know that Chapuys was extremely antagonistic to Anne but I'm not aware of de Carles' attitude. The output of each seems to have been swallowed whole and regurgitated here by Bernard.

The discussion of portraits was shallow and the suggestion that the well-known picture of Anne (used on the book jacket) is really of Henry's sister Mary is laughable. For a good in-depth discussion of the Anne portraits, read Eric Ives's version.

Bernard finishes his last chapter 'Was Anne Guilty?' with the following:

'...And so it remains my own hunch that Anne had indeed committed adultery...'

Sorry, Professor, not good enough, as I'm sure you would tell your students.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Well-researched and controversial 1 Aug 2013
The purpose of G. W. Bernard's biography of Anne Boleyn is to demonstrate that current historiography surrounding the queen in terms of the nature of her childhood, her relationship with Henry VIII, her religious beliefs and her downfall in 1536 is overwhelmingly incorrect. Promising to offer a correct version of the events which led to Anne's rise and downfall, this is an ambitious, if misguided, study.

Agreeing with Ives that Anne was born in 1501 as the middle child to Thomas Boleyn and Elizabeth Howard, Bernard suggests that Anne was an attractive, sophisticated and highly educated courtier, who made an immediate impact at the English court following her childhood spent in France. He asserts, however, that it was not Anne who had the upper hand in her relationship with the king, and goes as far as to suggest that the king and she enjoyed a sexual relationship before Henry decided that he wished to marry Anne and should therefore abstain from sexual relations, in case she conceived a child and it was then born illegitimate. This is an interesting theory, but it does not make much sense. Although it is obvious that the king would have been in overall control, by virtue of his status, Anne clearly had some say in the matter, and there is no evidence to indicate that they enjoyed sexual relations before 1532.

Suggesting that Anne and Cardinal Wolsey had an amiable relationship agrees with other scholars, such as Retha Warnicke, and opposes arguments put forward by Ives and Starkey. Bernard argues that Anne was entirely conventional in her religious beliefs and can in no way be termed a Lutheran, much less a Protestant. He therefore strongly disagrees with Ives, Maria Dowling, and Starkey, who have all portrayed Anne as a religious radical.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Review of Anne Boleyn: Fatal Attractions
Good book, quality and delivery time. Excellent introduction and coverage of key themes, from what I've read so far. Also the style is readable, which is a plus.
Published 10 months ago by Jean
5.0 out of 5 stars A fresh interpretation
Fatal Attractions has become controversial with Tudor history lovers and Anne Boleyn fans because, rather than taking the official party lines, it challenges a lot of what we think... Read more
Published 12 months ago by Sarah
2.0 out of 5 stars Infuriating.
I don't think this book was written for any academic merit. The tone is purely aimed at people who do not have an intellectual interest in the Tudor dynasty, but a sexy romp idea... Read more
Published 18 months ago by Jess_Collett
4.0 out of 5 stars Daring and Thought Provoking
This is a very well written and challenging book. Thought provoking in that it charges the reader to consider their views of the character and life of Anne Boleyn and whether she... Read more
Published 19 months ago by Kokino
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent use of primary source material
I enjoyed this book. I read it after reading Hilary Mantell's Bring up the Bodies and was interested to read some of her background reading. Read more
Published 21 months ago by I readalot
4.0 out of 5 stars A Determined Attempt.
In this book Professor Bernard has made a determined attempt to convince us that Anne Boleyn was guilty of the accusations of adultery which brought about her downfall. Read more
Published on 28 Aug 2010 by Mrs. K. D. E. Barratt
1.0 out of 5 stars Professor seems to have confused dates
Anne Boleyn, according to traditional sources (Starkey,Ives,Weir and Warnicke) was executed on 19th of May 1536. Read more
Published on 26 July 2010 by Mrs. N. J. Harris
4.0 out of 5 stars Anne Boleyn: Fatal Attractions
I am very interested in Anne Boleyn and that Tudor world, so a book based on the serious possibility of her committing incest was refreshing. Read more
Published on 19 July 2010 by Kim M
5.0 out of 5 stars A bold and provocative study
For many years now Professor Bernard has been producing essays about various aspects of the life of Anne Boleyn. Read more
Published on 20 Jun 2010 by Josepha Josephine Wilkinson
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