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Excellent Re-appraisal of so called facts about Anne Boleyn,
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This review is from: The daring truth about Anne Boleyn: cutting through the myth (Kindle Edition)
There are some proof reading errors in the book, but please remember the author is Polish and the print version addressed those errors made by the kindle version. That aside, the book is very readable and looks afresh at the known sources and evidence for what historians assume that they know about Anne Boleyn.
The author challenges some of the assumptions such as the over-rated emphasis on Anne having a French education for nine years at the court of Queen Claude of France after she was in the Netherlands and in the service of Mary Tudor, the young wife of Louis XII, sister of Henry VIII. She does not deny that Anne may have been in France or that she was at the court, but points out that the evidence is not as conclusive as we assume it to be. Zupance has noted that a so called letter from Anne is not clear about the destination that she writes from and that the palace in question could as well have been away from the court as it was at the centre in Blois. She also points out that Margarite does not mention Anne in her retinue of ladies and the letter meant to be addressed to Thomas Boleyn is in fact addressed to another ambassador and does not refer to Anne as assumed by historians. She also points out that 'le petite boulen' could refer to Mary her sister, for whom there is more evidence of her stay in France and not to Anne. In the list of ladies attending Claude she points out there is a reference to M. Boulene and not to Anne and the surname is spelt differently. While names were indeed spelt in many ways by this time educated people did use standardised ways to spell surnames at least even in French.
There can be some criticism made at Zupance as she uses heavily for reference sources that are regarded by other historians as unreliable: namely Nicholas Sanders who was writing several decades later and was writing for a pro Catholic audiance against her Protestant mother who had banished many Catholics, executed or imprisoned them. Therefore Sanders had reasons not to be favourable to Anne Boleyn who was a reformer and who had a hand in the laws that caused the deaths of Thomas More and others. But Sanders is not unique in his criticism of Anne and follows the traditions set down by Eustace Chapyrs and others who saw Anne first hand and repeated much of the gossip and reports of those who served inside the English court as well as many of the complaints and remarks of the King himself. Sanders is fanciful in many regards and does use his work to attack Anne, but many of his observations are factual and born out by others. Zupance also cites historian Retha Warnick as having used many of the same sources and come to some of the same conclusions to back up her own research.
Zupanec is not afraid to raise questions about the extreme views of Anne Boleyn either as some kind of saint or reformist martyr or as a mean girl whore as painted by Philippa Gregory and Hollywood. Anne is in-between these two extremes and Zupanec examines the myths that have built up both of these extremes and strips away such notions to reveal the real Anne Boleyn. Readers may not agree with some of her conclusions but I found her work refreshing and that she was not afraid to challenge those who today either want to say that Anne was hard done to by history and all of the sources about her are hostile or that she deserved all that she got. Looking afresh at the sources is long overdue, and were there is scant evidence or hostile evidence; she is not afraid to advise that we should use caution rather than bowing to the traditions that raise Anne up as a sophisticated woman with a good French education or as a victim of a tyranical king. For her appearance also we have few reports but those that we do have are not that favourable, so we need to forget about Anne as a great beauty; she was not but neither was she deformed as Sanders has us believe. But argues Zupanex just because he was hostile does not mean that we should merely dismiss him. He does use reports that were known at the time and we should look at his work, even if we do so with care.
Nor is Zupanac afraid to look at the questions that modern historians dismiss; was Anne Boleyn a witch, did Henry believe that his marriage was cursed and was there evidence that Anne had been involved in this? Although i would argue that Anne was not condemned for witchcraft there is some evidence that Henry did believe that she had seduced him by witchcraft but what he meant by this is open to interpretation. The author shows that there is evidence that Anne was believed to be using sorcery for her own ends in 1532 and Henry believed that she had cast a spell on him with her looks and forced him to marry him. He may merely have meant that she made him passionate by her looks and he fell under her spell in a sexual way and was attracted to her or he may have believed that she was using some sort of magic to trap him. This is not evidence that Anne used witchcraft and it was not included in her trial records, but many of these apart from the list of charges, which are very explicit, are missing.
There is much about Anne that is a mystery, including her early life and her years in France. She may not have had the education claimed by others for example and there are allegations to consider about her behaviour in France. We do not know the answer to these things as the evidence is just not there. Many of the sources are hostile and others assume that the rumours about her are true. There is little from the pen of Anne herself or from the pen of people who supported and knew her as a young woman in France or in England. Zupanac attempts to fill in the gaps but admits that we need to just accept that we cannot be sure or to take the word of the sources available. Many historians will claim that history has not been good to Anne Boleyn; I would say that Anne made her own history and that we can only read what we have available to us. She may be more complex than any source or view paints her; but Anne was a woman who defied the norms of her day and as a result she paid a high price. She was both pius and sexy, she was not a sexual preditor or a witch, but she used her sexual attractiveness to her own advantage and her political saviness when she wanted to; she agreed to hold out with the King until they were going to be married before sleeping with him and has been painted as virtuous as a result, she was fun and charming and playful, but once married she was faithful to the King. There is no evidence that she was guilty of any of the crimes that she was accused off but court gossip was fuelled because she was unconventional and played courtly games when she should have been a more submissive wife to the King. In the end we can only see Anne through the eyes of others, for she left us little in her own hand. Her letters to Henry have vanished; we have some letters to friends and two beautiful inscriptions in her prayer books, but other than that we have the words of those on the inside of the court that we must use to seperate fact from fiction.
This book attempts to get at the truth, uses the sources in new ways and makes us ask questions. It is an excellent reappraisal about Anne Boleyn and the myths that we have been fed by history and drama about this remarkable woman. It is well researched; it reveals new truths in those sources and it is not aftaid to challenge our misconceptions and those of other so called historians. I recommend it and believe it to be one of the best books on Anne that I have read. It is not a biography; it is an assessment; and one that is long overdue.