on 2 August 2004
Anne Boleyn is sometimes referred to as "that woman" by Tudor historians. She has "provoked trench warfare" amongst experts in the field and it is almost impossible to remain impartial to her story.
Professor E.W. Ives, the author, is an acknowledged expert in Tudor history - specialising on the Boleyns. His 1986 biography, "Anne Boleyn," became the standard work on Anne's life - and deservedly so. It provoked two historical responses - George Bernard's "The Fall of Anne Boleyn" (which was quickly discounted) and Professor Warnicke's controversial "The Rise and Fall of Anne Boleyn" - which challenged much of what Ives had said.
The new book is an updated version of the 1986 copy, with extra chapters elaborating on Anne's role at Court and incorporating all the new research on Anne Boleyn's life and times. Ives writes well and the book (although long) is witty, insightful and extremely well-researched.
While I don't agree with everything Ives says in this book - I tend to believe she was born around 1507, not 1501 as Ives suggests and I think his famous version of her fall from the throne is a little too "neat" - it's clear that this book is the best currently in print about Anne Boleyn's life and death.
Ives convincingly shows that Anne was one of the most important women ever to sit on the throne of England and that she was far from the wicked-witch of legend. His greatest achievement is his complex exploration of her religious views.
In the end this book got 5* because of Ives' research, writing style and well-argued case. No-one who is interested in any of the Boleyn children or the era of Henry VIII should miss this book. Carlsberg-style, it is, probably, the best biography of Anne Boleyn in the world.
Eric Ives' book `The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn' is a must read for people interested in British history, the British Royal Family history, the history of the Tudor period, and particularly for those interested in one of the key figures around that most colourful of English kings, Henry VIII. Anne Boleyn's influence in court, which dominated state and church affairs at a critical moment in European affairs, is shown here, in addition to the personal strife that Anne Boleyn both caused for others (her rival for Henry's affections, Katherine, is but the least of these) as well as the strife she herself endured.
Ives contrasts Anne Boleyn with Katherine of Aragon in terms of overall worldviews that they represented - Anne being far more a child of the Renaissance, intellectually curious and passionate, independent and full of ideas; Katherine of Aragon was representative more of the `old order', which included a staunch piety and adherence to Roman Catholicism in principle and political loyalty. This contrast is in part why Ives can state with reasonable certainty that Anne Boleyn was the most controversial woman ever to have been a queen of England (which, given that she's up against the likes of Eleanor of Aquitaine, among others, is saying something). Part of this controversy stems from the sources historians have for details about her life; being a pivotal person in the Catholic/Protestant split during the Tudor and post-Tudor world, she was constantly reinterpreted, and rarely for the better. Even the glorious reign of her daughter, Elizabeth, did little resurrect her image in popular or short-term historical opinion.
Ives' writing is lively and full of passion, as befits his subject. Ives also introduces new interpretations and contexts to the events of the time. For example, he describes the fall of Anne Boleyn as a coup, normally a term reserved for the removal of a reigning monarch or primary executive; it is a testament to the power of Anne Boleyn's influence over King Henry VIII that his advisors, such as Thomas Cromwell, saw need to remove her, for their own safety, as well as (possibly) the safety of the king. Ives concludes with Wyatt's elegy and a brief epilogue of the Tudor aftermath, not drawing too many conclusions, but rather, as a responsible historian, asking a few questions and leaving the reader to ponder the outcomes.
There is a good middle section of photographic plates, 64 in all, which includes many paintings, engravings and pictures of artifacts of Anne Boleyn. He also includes handy lists of titles and offices, genealogy charts of the European royal families, the Tudor court, and the Boleyn/Howard families (Henry VIII's last wife, Katherine Howard, was a cousin of Anne Boleyn). Scholars will appreciate the extensive endnotes, bibliographic/historical references, and index, together which comprise nearly 100 pages. However, this is a book for general readers as well as scholars, accessible and well-paced.
on 23 January 2008
This highly informative account of Anne Boleyn brings to life a Tudor woman once seen as elusive and obscure.
Due to the high volume of biased primary accounts of Anne Boleyn written by the likes of Chapuys (the Spanish ambassador to England at the time) and others, it has been notoriously difficult to make an objective and impartial assessment of Anne Boleyn however Ives succeeds in bringing the true character of Anne Boleyn to life using a variety of sources, challenges biased accounts of Anne's life (such as Chapuys' accounts of the ailing marriage) and also presents compelling evidence to support his assertions, such as the controversy surrounding Anne's birth date.
Whilst at times, Ives presents the not so endearing qualities of Anne Boleyn, on the whole Ives' account of Anne is largely sympathetic, particularly in the last two chapters of the book where politics and religion appear to play a pivotal role in Anne's downfall and destruction.
It is also refreshing to see Anne portrayed as human and not demonized as she has so often been portrayed.
Ultimately, this is a balanced, magnificently researched and a tribute to Anne, whose efforts helped shape the reformation in England, a sentiment even echoed by Thomas Cromwell, one of her bitterest enemies who helped bring down the "most controversial queen consort" of England.
on 29 November 2007
If one is looking for mere entertainment, this is not the book to buy. I thoroughly enjoyed "The Six Wives of Henry VIII" written by Antonia Fraser, which contained only the most necessary historical facts in order to present the six Queens properly.
When I have given Eric Ives' book five stars, it's because this book is probably the most detailed and enlightening book ever written about Anne Boleyn. But the book is not an easy read, not if one is searching for pure entertainment. For me it is more a book of facts about Anne which I can go back to whenever I'm searching for more information about her. That does not mean the book lacks for numerous enjoyable anecdotes from Anne's life and vivid descriptions of her as a person.
The book tells about Anne's family and background, which was far more important than one is often led to believe. Originally, the family made its fortune in trade, but later on its relations with the Tudors became significant and Anne was by no means an unsuitable match for King Henry.
What I found most interesting was the picture of Anne as a very cultured and highly educated young woman. The time she spent at the Continent and how this influenced her in her role as Queen of England. It thoroughly explains why she became as powerful and politically important as she did. And not the least, the circumstances leading to her death.
For a complete picture of Anne Boleyn, look no further. This book gives all the answers.
on 18 November 2008
I have been looking for a truly historical analysis that neither confinces this complex character to one chapter in a book on the reign of Henry VIII, portrays her as a saucy temptress nor eulogises her in sickeningly romantic tones in the manner of the unprofessional outpourings of Joanna Denney, who should be ashamed to call herself a historian with a one-sided diatribe such as England's Tragic Queen.
This book is it. A well researched and analysed construction, that really builds up the layers of historical evidence to present a picture of Anne Boleyn's life, character, and influence, and shows an interest in considering whether there was any merit in the charges that led to her death. I this is quite simply a must for anyone interested in getting as close to historial accuracy as is possible given the limited sources available, yet is done in an entirely readable way. Hats off to Mr Ives!
on 10 September 2010
This is the definitive Anne Boleyn biography. The vastness of the historians research is mind blowing and provides the reader with as accurate portrayal of Anne Boleyn as possible.
This book gives a warts and all account of Anne Boleyn however it is not coloured with bias. There have been many books describing Anne boleyn "the witch" and "the great whore" and "the evil seductress" and the remaining tiny percentage of Anne Boleyn books depict her as a loyal and obedient angel. Eric Ives provides the true Anne she was not wholly satanic or angelic but a most fascinating mixture of the 2. Anne Boleyn is my favorite woman in history and her story never fails to enchant me. I love her character, her strength, her determination. She was a fabulous and intriguing woman whos rise and fall is an unforgettable read, and there is no author that tells her story better than Eric Ives.
An exhaustively researched but generally very readable biography. In a few places (esp. the chapters on image, art and costume) the level of detail does get a little too much, but this is a testament to the author's endeavours. It is difficult to see how this can be bettered as a biography of this subject, absent the discovery of some significant new primary source.
on 2 February 2010
Rightly deserves all the positive reviews. It is thorough, balanced, sympathetic and very readable. He knows his subject and you really get a feel for the complex, intelligent woman Anne was and for the paranoia of the court of Henry VIII. Anne Boleyn's treatment of Princess Mary was undeniably cruel and good men such as Thomas More and John Fisher lost their lives because of her - this is how she tends to be remembered but there was another side to her. She was a real religious reformer at a time when there was much corruption in the Church. Probably the real reason she was executed was that she interfered in politics - for example her clash with Cromwell over the dissolution of the monasteries - not because Henry tired of her or she could not give him a son. It is true that if you only read one book about Anne Boleyn this is the one but come on!!! Tudor history and Anne Boleyn in particular are a bit of an addiction. You are not going read just one book. After reading this I am halfway through Alison Weir's "The Lady in The Tower" - very,very good, she truly makes history read like a novel and is clearly an Eric Ives fan.