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The Rise and Fall of Anne Boleyn: Family Politics at the Court of Henry VIII (Canto) Paperback – 26 Jul 1991

3.1 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 338 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press; New Ed edition (26 July 1991)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0521406773
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521406772
  • Product Dimensions: 13.8 x 2.2 x 21.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 389,496 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

Product Description

Review

'… succeeds triumphantly … this is an intriguing thesis, and Warnicke develops it with erudition.' The Observer

'The Rise and Fall of Anne Boleyn … an excellent book, clears away various misapprehensions.' The Times Higher Education Supplement

Book Description

The events which led to the execution of Anne Boleyn, Henry VIII's second queen, in 1536 have traditionally been explained by historians in terms of a factional conspiracy masterminded by Henry's minister Thomas Cromwell. Retha Warnicke's fascinating and controversial reinterpretation focuses instead on the sexual intrigues and family politics pervading the court, offering a new explanation of Anne's fall.

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Customer Reviews

3.1 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Warnicke presents some interesting alternative theses, although adhering to the generally accepted view that Anne Boleyn was not guilty of the adultery charges. It is a well-written and readable account, however a number of her hypotheses - particularly in relation to Viscount Rochford, and one of Queen Anne's micarriages - are based on scant (perhaps even non-existent) evidence, and have since been discredited by other scholars. Furthermore, at times it reads very much like an American 20th century reconstruction, without examining events in their contemporary context. It is certainly worth a look for those with a good knowledge of the area, and who are interested in comparing the various historians' interpretations of the events of 1536. However for those relatively new to this period, it is not a good starting point - I would recommend Antonia Fraser's "Six Wives of Henry VIII" as a better introduction
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Format: Paperback
There is no denying that Professor Warnicke's book has an almost revolutionary outlook on both the rise and fall of Anne Boleyn. The key areas in which Warnicke's thesis challenges conventional historical opinion on Anne Boleyn's life are on the subjects of her date of birth, physical appearance and fall from power.
It has to be said that for the first part of the book, Warnicke is remarkably successful. She convincingly demonstrates that the current historical belief that Anne Boleyn was born sometime around 1501 is incorrect, and that the more likely date is 1507. Similarly, few can dispute her arguments that refute the age-old rumours of certain deformities (namely the infamous sixth finger/extra nail and warts.) However, it is in her assessment of Anne Boleyn's demise that Professor Warnicke disappoints.
Her entire thesis is based on the assumption that Anne Boleyn gave birth to a deformed foetus in early 1536, something that led to her arrest on charges of witchcraft, incest and adultery in May of that year. She also alleges that the men arrested with her were known homosexuals, something that allowed their 16th-century contemporaries to accuse them of gross sexual indecency. However, there is almost no evidence at all that Anne Boleyn's "lovers" were homosexuals, indeed some of them were active womanisers. The evidence for the deformed foetus idea is also disappointingly scarce, and Warnicke bases much of her idea on 'ifs' and a kind of 'if A happened, then B,C,D and E must also have happened' mentality, often disregarding evidence that she finds inconvienient. She latches onto a comment made in the virulently anti-Boleyn work of Nicolas Sander, who Warnicke spent the rest of her book discrediting (and very convincingly, it has to be said.
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Format: Paperback
I bought this book and I really didn't like it. It goes against everything that I have read from other books and what I myself personally believe. For example, the 1507 birthdate is completely wrong in my opinion-what Retha Warnicke presents as evidence is a letter written by Anne from Margaret of Austria's court. In her opinion the fact that the letter has bad spelling mistakes obviously means that a child of seven wrote it and not a young woman of 14. She does not make allowances for the fact that at this time Anne was still learning the language, and would make mistakes. The handwriting of the letter confirms in my opinion that it was written by a young woman not a child.
She also asks us to believe that Anne became the accomplished courtier she was whilst still in the nursery.
Retha Warnicke also asks us to believe that a deformed foetus was the reason Anne was disposed of and that Anne and Cromwell were never in alliance. Other biographies I have read completely contradict this fact.
I could recommend better books about the life of Anne Boleyn, Eric Ives "The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn: The Most Happy" is one of the best I have read. Don't buy this if you are new to the period-it will mislead you.
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Since its publication in 1989, "The Rise and Fall of Anne Boleyn" has often been dismissed as a joke by Tudor history enthusiasts. Like 2010's "Anne Boleyn: Fatal Attractions," "Rise and Fall" has been criticised for relying far too much on unreliable anecdotal evidence from the 1530s to substantiate its claims. However, "Rise and Fall" did rely on a wider range of sources, which suggests that, at the very least, it should be treated with the same seriousness as Professor Bernard's work. Thorough reviews deconstructing its arguments would be a good thing, rather than simply rushing to dismiss the entirety of the book as nonsense, because of the contents of its eighth chapter.

Whilst it is true that Warnicke's famous "deformed foetus" theory is largely unconvincing, it does not necessarily follow that all of her work is subsequently invalid. Certainly, some of her findings can be queried, but "The Rise and Fall of Anne Boleyn" remains an interesting and thought-provoking academic account of Boleyn's life and career. Refreshingly, Warnicke places far more emphasis on gender and aristocratic culture than other academics and anyone interested in studying Henry VIII's second wife should not rush to discount this book too quickly. With its dense, academic tone this is certainly not a book for beginners, but by focusing on the entirety of Anne's life from her early-century birth to her execution in 1536, Warnicke does enough to unsettle the firmly-entrenched narrative of Anne's life that was seemingly established by academics writing in the early 1980s. She suggests that, at the very least, there is still room for debate and that further research is required on some key areas of the period. It is not necessary to accept some of the more controversial elements of Professor Warnicke's theories in order to appreciate this book. Fascinating and thorough, even when unconvincing, it is an essential part of the modern debate over the sixteenth-century monarchy and upper-classes.
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