Tudor Miscellany

First, books:

The Last Wife of Henry VIII by Carolly Erickson

From someone who is supposed to be a respected historian, this book is an unmitigated disaster.  I have no problems with a bit of artistic license in the creation of a good story, but this is ridiculous.  An amicable resolution between Anne Bouchier and William Parr?  Where was Robert Aske in the Pilgrimage of Grace?  Wasn’t Margaret Neville older than Katherine?  This isn’t artistic license by artistic butchery.

Avoid this book at all costs.  Instead, read Jean Plaidy’s The Sixth Wife.

Rating:  2.5 out of 5 stars

Anne Boleyn: A New Life of England’s Tragic Queen by Joanna Denny

Most of the time, books about Anne Boleyn fall into two categories:  Saint Catherine vs. The Great Whore or Saint Anne vs.  The Spanish Bitch.  This book falls under the later.  In the extreme.

Anne is portrayed as a saintly heroine, struggling to promote her evangelical religious beliefs and to restore a strict moral rectitude to a Court poisoned by Catholic licentiousness and venality.

Catherine, on the other hand, is shown to be a great liar.  Proud, obstinate, and treasonous, she blatantly lied to her father, her husband, and the world, plotting to overthrow her husband with the aid of Imperial armies, and to put their daughter on the throne in his stead.

Nowhere in this narrative will you read of the infamous Boleyn temper, or the equally famous saintliness of good Queen Catherine.  This is a book of extremes, breaking the recent trend of books that take the middle ground, or, at least, attempt to.

The author, in my opinion, makes one continuous mistake:  she judges the people of the sixteenth century by twenty-first century moral standards.  What now seems a great crime of intolerance against human rights, was, then, seen as a virtuous stand against the greatest of all crimes:  heresy.  Ms. Denny virtually crucifies Thomas More with her pen (or her keyboard).  Surely, in our modern eyes, More was a villainous hypocrite, but, in the eyes of his contemporaries, he was a very learned man of great moral rectitude.  Heresy was seen as a crime against God, and, therefore, all the more horrifying.  Obviously, the “evangelicals”, as Ms. Denny calls them, viewed More as a fanatical hunter of right thinking men, and women, but, to Catholic Europe, he was defending the “true faith”.  And, dare I point out, that the Edwardian regime of extreme Protestantism burned it’s fair share of “heretics”?

Though I found Ms. Denny’s one-dimensional approach to Anne’s life to be annoying, I recommend her book anyway.  After all, one can only know the true story if you read all sides of the argument.

Rating:  3.75 out of 5 stars

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Also, there is an interesting article about a dictionary owned by Sir Francis Knollys, or, to be more precise, what he wrote inside it, which you can get at author Philippa Gregory’s website.  The article is in PDF format.  Just scroll down to:  New research on Mary Boleyn, and click to download.

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