The Boleyn Inheritance, written by Philippa Gregory, takes a fresh look at the short, tragic reigns of Anne of Cleves and Katherine Howard. These queens are linked together not only by their common husband, but by the machinations of Jane Boleyn, Lady Rochford.
I enjoyed this book immensely. It is well researched and wonderfully written. Of course, due to the lack of contemporary evidence, much of the story is speculation.
Each woman tells her story in her own voice:
In Anne of Cleves, we find a young woman who very much loved her mad father, and loathed her abusive brother. She welcomes the opportunity of become Queen of England, and resolves to be a good one. However, she is wholly unprepared for her exalted position. The first meeting between the future spouses is a disaster, and everything goes downhill from there. From that moment, until his death, Anne lived is constant fear that she may end her life in the same matter of that other Queen Anne.
Katherine Howard is portrayed as a bit of an airhead with a sweet, but completely self-absorbed nature. She longs for pretty clothes, constant attention (especially male attention), and good times. This is all she sees when she is offered the chance to win the crown. There are moments when a smattering of common sense emerges, at which times she is a bit fearful, but it is quickly gone. I would like to think that “Kitty” was a bit more intelligent than Ms. Gregory portrays her, but, frankly, I doubt that she was. I mean, to blatantly have an affair under the King’s nose, when that same king executed another wife, her cousin, for just such an offense (though Anne Boleyn was quite probably innocent of the charges), is a sure sign of stupidity.
Jane Boleyn is, in short, creepy. She seems to genuinely believe that she was trying to save her husband, George, and his sister from the block by her testimony. Sly and self-delusioned (I’m not sure if that’s even a word, but it certainly describes Lady Rochford), she was enough to make any body’s skin crawl.
I highly recommend that you read this book. Also try The Constant Princess, about Katherine of Aragon, and The Other Boleyn Girl, which is about Mary Boleyn.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars