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3.5 out of 5 stars
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3.5 out of 5 stars


on 22 July 2017
great help with my project
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on 5 November 2011
The five words above come to mind when I think of David Loades writing after I've read this book and his last on Mary Tudor, it being such a bore when books are too long, cover events that have nothing to do with the subject matter and either read like a historical novel or are linguistically far to scholarly to just simply enjoy.

David Loades has a rare talent.

To cover the Boleyns, including Anne and her daughter Elizabeth I in just over 200 pages would seem impossible. Loades has succeeded effortlessly.

The story of the Boleyn family is told from the early 1400s, covers the Boleyn generations before Thomas Boleyn's rise in the 1510s, the meat during the 1520s and 1530s centred around Anne and also the lives of Mary, George and Mary's descendants through to the Stuart age while covering 'the third Boleyn girl' Elizabeth I in just a 24 page chapter by comparing and contrasting her character with her mother's.

The important questions are covered; the birth dates of siblings Anne, Mary and George Boleyn, when Mary and Anne first attracted Henry VIII, the paternity of Mary's son Henry Carey and of course whether Anne was guilty of adultery, amongst others. Loades does, however, assume some background knowledge, but only some.

A joy to read!
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on 6 February 2012
I finished this book about three weeks ago but have taken my time to reflect before writing this review. This was the third book by Professor Loades that I have read in recent months and, without doubt, my least favourite.

The book was short and lacked detail. I estimated about 80,000 words compared, for example, to about 120,000 in Weir's biography of Mary Boleyn alone. It was made to look bigger by double spacing and larger fonts but the overarching impression I was left with was that this was Amberley simply looking to make a fast buck; continuing the trend of maintaining the Tudor band wagon with barely average, rushed publications. I was left feeling decidedly short changed. This is a shame because it is completely obvious that the author is infinitely more capable than this book implied. There was nothing much new here and I was left with the impression that it was largely a quick rehash of Loades's other books, reworked to show Tudor life through Boleyn eyes.

Like his other books, Loades assumes a good deal of knowledge; he introduces characters and key events, often with absolutely no preamble whatever, on the assumption the reader will know all about them and their place in history. Suddenly a name appears out of nowhere and many might think: who's he, where did he come from and what's his role in all this? Luckily, I know enough now to be rarely troubled by this - but only because I have been reading about Tudor history for twenty years; I claim no special skills.

I did not like the management of chronology; so that rather than deal with the whole family history on a time line, different family members were covered in parallel so that the reader was constantly moving backwards and forwards in time. I appreciate this is an option and that some, even many, might prefer it; but it is not my preference - it troubles my need for order and symmetry and can, and often does, lead to loose ends.

There is much factual content that could be argued about; Loades makes brief (very brief) reference to the possibility that Henry Carey could have been Henry VIII's illegitimate child, and, like most, more or less dismisses it; but he never even mentions the possibility in Catherine Carey's case. He also has Catherine being born after Henry, which would certainly make it more unlikely that she was the King's; however, whilst I accept there is some doubt about this, the consensus among authors that I have read is that Catherine came before Henry and certainly not as late as 1527 - which Loades gives as Catherine's birth date. Even Henry's birth date is open to question but Loades gave March 1526, without any question.

It does not matter that readers might agree or disagree with Loades assertions on these points. My point is that there is no discussion about them. Naïve readers may conclude that his claims are unarguable.

Towards the end of the book there were chapters on the last remnants of the Boleyn family. Henry Carey warranted a whole chapter and so did Elizabeth; the latter is unsurprising for Professor Loades whose attitude towards Elizabeth might be regarded as bordering on the obsequious (to the extent that it is possible to be such to someone long deceased). This chapter spent too long trying to draw parallels between the characters and behaviour of Elizabeth and Anne, none of which could be made with any conviction, through lack of evidence, and anyway I couldn't see the point. The main aim of this chapter seemed to be to reach the conclusion that family Boleyn had one significant place in history - that is, to produce the "Great" Queen. Just read the very last sentence of the book.

But more than this, if Henry Carey justified a whole chapter, why is there next to nothing on Catherine Carey. There is much of interest here and not least the fact that she was very close to the Queen and, even more significant, that her eldest daughter, Laetitia Carey, was the same Lettice Knollys who appears briefly in the book on her marriage to Robert Dudley. Lettice was also the mother, from her previous marriage, of Elizabeth's one time favourite the Earl of Essex. Incredibly these familial connections were never once mentioned. If I had been new to the subject I would have been pretty miffed that these historically important relationships were entirely ignored.

In short, I found this hugely disappointing.
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on 27 February 2013
This book arrived quickly, it is a beautiful, informative book. I enjoyed reading about the Boleyns and what happened to them, first book I have read solely about them. I loved it!
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VINE VOICEon 6 November 2012
I am a bit lost what to think about this book. I can not get excited about it, but it is not too bad either.

I feel it starts of very badly as the information on the Boleyns before Thomas Earl of Wiltshire. Very flat. The parts on the whole area of Anne Boleyn are mostly neither new nor very well presented. Interesting that David Loades seems to believe that Anne Boleyn was actually guilty of high treason. I liked the parts on Lord Hunsdon.

To be pretty frank: if one had not read this book, one would not have missed much. One can simply do without it. There are definetly better books on the whole Boleyn saga. That is why I just rate it with two stars.
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on 29 January 2012
If you know absolutely nothing about the Boleyns, then this book would be a good starting point. If, however, you're looking for something with more meat, then don't bother to buy this. David Loades just writes a series of interconnected essays that flit backwards and forwards in time. There is very little about Catherine Carey, almost nothing about Anne's mother Elizabeth and actually not that much about Anne herself. But there's plenty of rehashed history and wandering away from the family. Difficult to imagine how to make the Boleyns boring, but Loades has succeeded brilliantly. Alison Weir's biography of Mary Boleyn is a much better researched book and better written. Loades' book even has a wide range of typographical errors and grammatical howlers.
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on 31 December 2011
While not in any way doubting Loades' talent, impartial and sound judgement and enthusiasm for Tudor history, this book can only be judged in the light of the reader's own grasp of Tudor affairs. For instance, as other commentators have rightly suggested here, there is indeed nothing new for Tudor enthusiasts and not enough focus on pivotal aspects of the rise and fall of the Boleyns as the title suggests. It is also disappointing that there was little focus on Katherine Carey, Elizabeth I's much beloved maternal cousin.

The concluding aspect of the story detailing the lives of Mary Boleyn's grand-children was highly interesting however although there was also much duplication and overlap between various chapters.
However, for anyone wishing to gain a foothold or an introductory passage on the Boleyns, this book is ideal. Very readable in a sense that it is uncomplicated and easy to understand and summarises all the major events and precursors in under 250 pages but would not generally recommend this to the more established and accomplished followers.
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on 10 November 2013
I have read other books by thos author and have enjoyed them. This one, however, for me, doesn't work. I probably was expecting a biography of Anne Boleyn and din't realise that all the family, ancestors and all, are covered. as all the men seem to have been named after their father it got very complicated trying to keep in touch with which generation you were and the narrative didn't flow - far too many dates .
Sorry, but not one of his best books
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on 25 October 2015
great
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on 4 December 2011
..to prop up the end of the bed with if the leg falls off, found it a bit dry and tedious myself, but for anyone with a strong interest in things Tudor could be a real page turner. End predictable though!
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