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The Lady in the Tower: The Fall of Anne Boleyn

The Lady in the Tower: The Fall of Anne Boleyn

3.9 151
by Alison Weir

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Drawing on myriad sources from the Tudor era, bestselling author Alison Weir provides the first book ever to examine, in unprecedented depth, the gripping story of Anne Boleyn’s final days. The Lady in the Tower explores the motives and intrigues of those who helped to seal the queen’s fate, unraveling the tragic tale of Anne’s fall, from her


Drawing on myriad sources from the Tudor era, bestselling author Alison Weir provides the first book ever to examine, in unprecedented depth, the gripping story of Anne Boleyn’s final days. The Lady in the Tower explores the motives and intrigues of those who helped to seal the queen’s fate, unraveling the tragic tale of Anne’s fall, from her miscarriage of the son who would have saved her to the final, dramatic scene on the scaffold. What emerges is an extraordinary portrayal of a woman of great courage, tested to the extreme by the terrible plight in which she found herself, a powerful queen whose enemies were bent on utterly destroying her. Horrifying but captivating, The Lady in the Tower presents the full array of evidence of Anne Boleyn’s guilt—and innocence. Only in Alison Weir’s capable hands can readers learn the truth about the fate of one of the most influential and fascinating figures in English history.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“[Weir] is well equipped to parse the evidence, ferret out the misconceptions and arrive at sturdy hypotheses about what actually befell Anne.” —The New York Times

“Well-researched and compulsively readable . . . Acclaimed novelist and historian [Alison] Weir continues to successfully mine the Tudor era, once again excavating literary gold.”—Booklist

“It is a testament to Weir’s artfulness and elegance as a writer that The Lady in the Tower remains fresh and suspenseful, even though the reader knows what’s coming.”—The Independent (U.K.)
“Weir does a Herculean job of re-creating the doomed queen’s final weeks.”—Boston Herald

“Compelling stuff, full of political intrigue and packing an emotional wallop.”—The Oregonian

Hilary Mantel
…[a] brave effort to lay bare, for the Tudor fan, the bones of the controversy and evaluate the range of opinion about Anne's fall.
—The New York Times Book Review
Janet Maslin
[Weir] is well equipped to parse the evidence, ferret out the misconceptions and arrive at sturdy hypotheses about what actually befell Anne. Her command of minutiae is impressive, as is her enthusiasm for even the most minor aspects of Anne's frequently distorted story.
—The New York Times
Publishers Weekly
Rejecting as myth that Henry VIII, desirous of a son and a new queen, asked his principal adviser Thomas Cromwell to find criminal grounds for executing Anne Boleyn, the prolific British historian Weir (The Six Wives of Henry VIII) concludes that Cromwell himself, seeing Anne as a political rival, instigated “one of the most astonishing and brutal coups in English history,” skillfully framing her and destroying her faction. Ably weighing the reliability of contemporary sources and theories of other historians, Weir also claims that though perhaps sexually experienced, Anne was technically a virgin before sleeping with Henry. Anne was also, Weir posits, a passionate radical evangelical, with considerable influence over Henry regarding Church reform. Weir wonders if Anne's childbearing history points to her being Rh negative and thus incapable of bearing a second living child. Dissecting four of the most momentous months in world history and providing an eminently judicious, thorough and absorbing popular history, Weir nimbly sifts through a mountain of historical research, allowing readers to come to their own conclusions about Henry's doomed second queen. 15 pages of color photos. (Dec.)
Library Journal
Premier popular historian Weir (Mistress of the Monarchy: The Life of Katherine Swynford, Duchess of Lancaster) delivers a most impressively researched book about the last days of Anne Boleyn. Imprisoned, tried for treason (she was accused of adultery, incest, and plotting to murder the king), and beheaded, Anne Boleyn, the second wife of King Henry VIII of England, lived an ultimately tragic life that has continued to fascinate people for centuries. Weir examines Boleyn's last few months in depth by concentrating primarily on contemporary primary sources. Referring first to them and then to other historians' research, Weir is able to offer a fresh perspective on the end of Anne Boleyn's life, dispelling long-held facts as myths, refuting some theories of modern historians, and even correcting some of her own previous research. What emerges is the most complete and compelling portrait available of Anne Boleyn in her last days. Weir's impeccable research and gift for storytelling help readers understand the fall of one of the most influential queens in English history and the world of Tudor England. VERDICT A superb example of a nonfiction page-turner that history lovers cannot afford to miss.—Troy Reed, Southeast Reg. Lib., Gilbert, AZ
Kirkus Reviews
Is there a facet to Henry VIII and his wives that novelist and biographer Weir (Mistress of the Monarchy: The Life of Katherine Swynford, Duchess of Lancaster, 2009, etc.) hasn't yet brought to light?It's hard to believe, as the author maintains, that there has never been "a book devoted entirely to the fall of Anne Boleyn," but here we have the sad tale of the isolated, doomed woman. Weir looks at Henry's growing disenchantment with his second wife; his sense that she lied to him about being virginal at their marriage; his desperation to have an heir after her second miscarriage of a boy; and his susceptibility to the conniving of his ministers, especially Thomas Cromwell. With the death of Katherine of Aragon in 1536, a rapprochement with her nephew Emperor Charles V seemed possible, while other European powers had not considered his three-year marriage to Anne legitimate. She was not popular and had many enemies at court, including the imperial ambassador Eustace Chapuys. A passionate evangelical and reformer, she was held responsible for the "heretical" views of a violently anti-clerical nature and considered by Chapuys to be "more Lutheran than Luther himself." By May Day, Henry VIII had stopped visiting her, having already taken up with Jane Seymour. Anne's household was questioned and trumped-up charges of adultery were delivered. Conveyed to the Tower of London, she was charged with seducing five men, including her brother. The case against the queen had to be airtight; as Weir notes, "Henry VIII was to be portrayed as the grievously injured party." The show trial was open to the public, all the while Anne protested her innocence; she became the first queen of England everexecuted. An adept guide through the thickets of evidence, hearsay and apocrypha, Weir considers how later generations came to regard Anne, including her daughter Elizabeth, "the concubine's little bastard."Weir knows her subject and lends her seemingly inexhaustible interest. Author tour: five cities by request. Agent: Julian Alexander/Lucas Alexander Whitley

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Random House Publishing Group
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5.60(w) x 8.40(h) x 1.00(d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Occurrences That Presaged Evil

Three months earlier, on the morning of January 29, 1536,1 in the Queen's apartments at Greenwich Palace, Anne Boleyn, who was Henry VIII's second wife, had aborted--"with much peril of her life"2--a stillborn fetus "that had the appearance of a male child of fifteen weeks growth."3 The Imperial ambassador, Eustache Chapuys, called it "an abortion which seemed to be a male child which she had not borne three-and-a-half months,"4 while Sander refers to it as "a shapeless mass of flesh." The infant must therefore have been conceived around October 17.

This was Anne's fourth pregnancy, and the only living child she had so far produced was a girl, Elizabeth, born on September 7, 1533; the arrival of a daughter had been a cataclysmic disappointment, for at that time it was unthinkable that a woman might rule successfully, as Elizabeth later did, and the King had long been desperate for a son to succeed him on the throne. Such a blessing would also have been a sign from God that he had been right to put away his first wife and marry Anne. Now, to the King's "great distress,"5 that son had been born dead. It seemed an omen. She had, famously, "miscarried of her savior."6

Henry had donned black that day, out of respect for his first wife, Katherine of Aragon, whose body was being buried in Peterborough Abbey with all the honors due to the Dowager Princess of Wales, for she was the widow of his brother Arthur Tudor, Prince of Wales. Having had his own marriage to her declared null and void in 1533, on the grounds that he could never lawfully have been wed to his brother's wife, Henry would not now acknowledge her to have been Queen of England. Nevertheless, he observed the day of her burial with "solemn obsequies, with all his servants and himself attending them dressed in mourning."7 He did not anticipate that, before the day was out, he would be mourning the loss of his son with "great disappointment and sorrow."8

Henry VIII's need for a male heir had become increasingly urgent in the twenty-seven years that had passed since 1509, when he married Katherine.9 Of her six pregnancies, there was only one surviving child, Mary. By 1526 the King had fallen headily in love with Katherine's maid-of-honor, Anne Boleyn, and after six years of waiting in vain for the Pope to grant the annulment of his marriage that he so passionately desired, so he could make Anne his wife, he defied the Catholic Church, severed the English Church from Rome, and had the sympathetic Thomas Cranmer, his newly appointed Archbishop of Canterbury, declare his union with the virtuous Katherine invalid. All this he did in order to marry Anne and beget a son on her.

It had not been the happiest marriage. The roseate view of Anne's apologist, George Wyatt reads touchingly: "They lived and loved, tokens of increasing love perpetually increasing between them. Her mind brought him forth the rich treasures of love of piety, love of truth, love of learning; her body yielded him the fruits of marriage, inestimable pledges of her faith and loyal love." Yet while some of this is true, in the three years since their secret wedding in a turret room in Whitehall Palace, Henry VIII had not shown himself to be the kindest of husbands.

In marrying Anne for love, he had defied the convention that kings wed for political and dynastic reasons. The only precedent was the example of his grandfather, Edward IV, who in 1464 had taken to wife Elizabeth Wydeville, the object of his amorous interest, after she refused to sleep with him. But this left Anne vulnerable, because the foundation of her influence rested only on the King's mercurial affections.10

His "blind and wretched passion"11 had rapidly subsided, and from the time of Anne's first pregnancy, following true to previous form, he had taken mistresses, telling her to "shut her eyes and endure as more worthy persons had done"--a cruel and humiliating comparison with the forbearing and dignified Katherine of Aragon--and that "she ought to know that he could at any time lower her as much as he had raised her."12 And this to the woman whom he had frenziedly pursued for at least seven years, and for whom he had risked excommunication and war; the woman who had been the great love of his life and was the mother of his heir.

"The King cannot leave her for an hour," Chapuys had written of Anne in 1532. "He accompanies her everywhere," a Venetian envoy had recorded at that time,13 and was so amorous of her that he gladly fulfilled all her desires and "preferred all that were of [her] blood."14 Similarly, a French ambassador, Jean du Bellay, had reported that the King's passion was such that only God could abate his madness. That was hardly surprising, since the evidence suggests he did not sleep with Anne for six or seven frustrating years. It has been suggested that it was Henry who, having enjoyed a sexual relationship with Anne during the early stages of their affair, resolved to abstain as soon as he had decided upon making her his wife, since the scandal of an unplanned pregnancy would have ruined all hope of the Pope granting an annulment.15

The theory that the couple were lovers before 1528 rests on the wording of the papal bull for which the King applied that year. Because Anne's sister Mary had once been his mistress, he needed--in the event of his marriage to Katherine being dissolved--a dispensation to marry within the prohibited degrees of affinity, which was duly granted; and he also asked for permission to marry a woman with whom he had already had intercourse.16 He must have been referring throughout to Anne, whom he had long since determined to make his wife. But the wording of this bull does not necessarily imply that he had already slept with her: he was looking to the future and hopefully to making Anne his mistress in anticipation of their marriage. He was covering every contingency. Moreover, his seventeen surviving love letters to Anne strongly suggest that the more traditional assumption is likely correct, and that it was she who kept him at arm's length for all that time, only to yield when marriage was within her sights.

Despite all the years of waiting and longing, there had been "much coldness and grumbling" between the couple since their marriage,17 for Anne, once won, had perhaps been a disappointment. She was not born to be a queen, nor educated to that end. She found it difficult, if not impossible, to make the transition from a mistress with the upper hand to a compliant and deferential wife, which was what the King, once married, now expected of her. Years of frustration, of holding Henry off while waiting for a favorable papal decision that never came, had taken their toll on her as well as the King, and made her haughty, overbearing, shrewish, and volatile, qualities that were then frowned upon in wives, who were expected to be meek and submissive, not defiant and outspoken. And Henry VIII was nothing if not a conventional husband.18 George Wyatt observed that, rather than upbraiding him for his infidelities, Anne would have done better to follow "the general liberty and custom" of the age by suffering in dignified silence.

These days, Anne was no longer the captivating twenty-something who had first caught the King's eye, but (according to Chapuys) a "thin old woman" of thirty-five, a description borne out by a portrait of her done by an unknown artist around this time, which once hung at Nidd Hall in Yorkshire; one courtier even thought her "extremely ugly."19 She was unpopular, and she had made many enemies in the court and the royal household through her overbearing behavior and offensive remarks.

Nor had her much-vaunted virtue, employed as a tactical weapon in holding off the King's advances, been genuine. We may set aside Sander's malicious assertion that Anne's father sent her to France at the age of thirteen after finding her in bed with his butler and his chaplain, but she did go to the notoriously licentious French court at an impressionable age. "Rarely, or ever, did any maid or wife leave that court chaste," observed the sixteenth-century French historian, the Seigneur de Brantome, and in 1533, the year of Anne's marriage to Henry VIII, King Francis I of France confided to Thomas Howard, Duke of Norfolk, her uncle, "how little virtuously [she] had always lived."20 Given the promiscuity of Anne's brother George and her sister Mary, and the suspect reputation of their mother, Elizabeth Howard, as well as the fact that their father was ready to profit by his daughters' liaisons with the King, it would be unsurprising if Anne herself had remained chaste until her marriage at the age of about thirty-two. In 1536 a disillusioned Henry told Chapuys in confidence that his wife had been "corrupted" in France, and that he had only realized this after their marriage.21

Anne, however, would stand up one day in court and protest that she had maintained her honor and her chastity all her life long, "as much as ever queen did."22 But that chastity may have been merely technical, for there are many ways of giving and receiving sexual pleasure without actual penetration. Henry VIII, perhaps not the most imaginative of men when it came to sex, and evidently a bit of a prude, was clearly shocked to discover that Anne already had some experience before he slept with her, and his disenchantment had probably been festering ever since.23 It would explain the rapid erosion of his great passion for her, his straying from her bed within months of their marriage, and his keeping her under constant scrutiny. He believed she had lied to him, thought her capable of sustained duplicity, and may also have been suspicious of her naturally coquettish behavior with the men in her circle.

On the surface, however, he had maintained solidarity with Anne. He could not afford to lose face after his long and controversial struggle to make her his wife, nor would he admit he had been wrong in marrying her. He took the unprecedented step of having her crowned with St. Edward's crown as if she were a queen regnant, crushed opposition to her elevation, slept with her often enough to conceive four children in three years, gave her rich gifts, looked after the interests of her family, and in 1534 named her regent and "absolute governess of her children and kingdom" in the event of his death. That year he pushed through an Act of Parliament that settled the royal succession on his children by "his most dear and entirely beloved wife, Queen Anne," and made it high treason to slander or deny "the lawful matrimony" between them.24

The conventional expressions of devotion in the Act of Succession concealed the fact that Henry was already "tired to satiety" of his wife.25 The French ambassador, Antoine de Castelnau, Bishop of Tarbes, reported in October 1535 that "his regard for the Queen is less than it was and diminishes every day."26 According to a French poem written by the diplomat Lancelot de Carles in June 1536, "the King daily cooled in his affection." He was seen to be unfaithful, suspicious, and increasingly distant toward Anne, and her influence had been correspondingly eroded.27 Nevertheless, every quarrel or estrangement between them had so far ended in reconciliation, leading many, even Chapuys, to conclude that the King still remained to a degree in thrall to his wife. "When the Lady wants something, there is no one who dares contradict her, not even the King himself, because when he does not want to do what she wishes, she behaves like someone in a frenzy."28

The Queen's subsequent pregnancies had failed to produce the longed-for son. After the birth of the Princess Elizabeth in September 1533, Chapuys had written of the King, "God has forgotten him entirely." Anne quickly conceived again, but, in the summer of 1534, had borne probably a stillborn son at full term. So humiliating was this loss that no announcement of the birth was made, and the veil of secrecy surrounding the tragedy ensured that not even the sex of the infant was recorded, although we may infer from Chapuys's reference in 1536 to Anne's "utter inability to bear male children" that it was a boy.29 In the autumn of 1534, Anne thought she was pregnant again, but her hopes were premature. "The Lady is not to have a child after all," observed Chapuys gleefully. He would never refer to Anne as queen; for him, Katherine, the aunt of his master, the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, was Henry's rightful consort, and he could only regard Anne Boleyn as "the Lady" or "the Concubine," or even "the English Messalina or Agrippina."30

Anne's third pregnancy ended in another stillbirth around June 1535.31 To Henry, who was perhaps already despairing of her bearing him a son,32 it might have seemed that she was merely repeating the disastrous pattern of Katherine of Aragon's obstetric history: before reaching the menopause at thirty-eight, Katherine had borne six children--three of them sons--in eight years, yet the only one to survive early infancy was Mary, born in 1516. Now, after four pregnancies, Anne too had just the one surviving daughter.

Daughters were of no use to the King. It was seen as against the laws of God and Nature for a woman to hold dominion over men, and so far England's only example of a female ruler had been the Empress Matilda, who briefly emerged triumphant from her civil war with King Stephen in 1141 and seized London. Yet so haughty and autocratic was she that the citizens speedily sent her packing, never to regain control of the kingdom. The whole disastrous episode merely served to underline the prevailing male view that women were not fit to rule. England had yet to experience an Elizabeth or a Victoria, so there was no evidence that could overturn that thinking. Thus, even though he was the father of a daughter, Henry VIII had felt justified in claiming that his marriage to Katherine was invalid because the divine penalty for marrying his brother's widow was childlessness. Without a son, he was effectively childless.

This was not just a chauvinistic conceit, but a very pressing issue. A king such as Henry, who ruled as well as reigned, and led armies into battle, needed an heir. The Wars of the Roses, that prolonged dynastic conflict between the royal Houses of Lancaster and York, were still within living memory, and sixteenth-century perceptions of them were alarming, even if overstated. There were those who regarded the Tudors--who had ruled since 1485, when Henry's father, Henry VII, had defeated Richard III, the last Plantagenet king--as a usurping dynasty, and there was no shortage of potential Yorkist (or "White Rose") claimants to challenge the succession of Princess Elizabeth, should Henry die without a son.

From the Hardcover edition.

Meet the Author

Alison Weir is the New York Times bestselling author of the novels Innocent Traitor and The Lady Elizabeth and several historical biographies, including Mistress of the Monarchy, Queen Isabella, Henry VIII, Eleanor of Aquitaine, The Life of Elizabeth I, and The Six Wives of Henry VIII. She lives in Surrey, England with her husband and two children.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Lady in the Tower 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 151 reviews.
ZQuilts More than 1 year ago
I always eagerly await the release of any book written by Alison Weir - both her fictional works as well as her historical, always well researched, books never fail to please. I am happy to be able to say that "The Lady In The Tower" has been no exception! I began to read it as soon as I got my hands on it and enjoyed this book all of the way through. I have long believed that Henry VIII was a narcissistic megalomaniac - especially in the way that he treated Anne Boleyn. Despite whatever faults Anne may have had, Henry quite literally,changed the course of history in order to make Anne his Queen. In this very well researched book, Ms. Weir postulates that it was, in fact, Thomas Cromwell, not King Henry himself, who was behind the allegations made against Anne that resulted in her death. This books covers a very small window in time - 1536- and it has been Ms. Weir's task to sift through voluminous, and sometimes very conflicting, historical accounts, reports & letters to formulate her opinion that Thomas Cromwell was the cause of Anne's meteoric fall from Henry's good graces. In referencing Anne Boleyn's inability to carry a second child, the longed for son & heir, to full term, Ms. Weir postulates a very likely theory that Anne's pregnancies were complicated by the RH negative antibody. There would have been no treatment let alone understanding for this sort of complication at this time and the theory goes a long way as an explanation for the still born son who, in effect, sealed Anne's fate. Ms. Wier has managed to make what really amounts to 19 days - from sham trial to execution - an engrossing read that will appeal to history lovers in general and, most especially, to those of us of thrive on Tudor and Elizabethan history. The wait for this book was worth it. I do highly recommend this book!
harstan More than 1 year ago
Historian Alison Weir takes readers on a deep look at the last days of Anne Boleyn and what led to her execution. Interestingly, the author admits her research changed several of her notions and nukes popular beliefs. The key change that Ms. Weir claims is that she exonerates King Henry VIII of directing his principal adviser Thomas Cromwell to find seditious excuses to rid himself of his second queen so that he can remarry a woman who will give him a male heir. Instead, the author makes a powerful case that Cromwell realizes his boss' spouse was a politically shrewd rival unlike her naïve predecessor Katherine of Aragon so with allies he trumped up false charges of treason and adultery with five men including incest. In other words the monarch's advisor conducted a blood of one velvet coup. This is a super biography that is rich with supporting data yet is easy to read and follow the detailed support and conclusions drawn by Alison Weir; who makes a strong case that Anne declaring her innocence all the way to the gallows was telling the truth. Other related "truisms" are also shredded, but it is the historian's powerful argument of Anne Boleyn's innocence, Thomas Crowell's diabolically successful plotting, and King Henry's being bamboozled that make for a great look at who did what leading to the second wife's execution. Harriet Klausner
underdog3 More than 1 year ago
WOW! I loved this book....the information is fresh, even after 500 years! The author really digs in deep in the details....you can really invision the tower, the trial...everything. The most shocking part, of course, is that no other author (that I know of) that has written on the subject of Queen Anne's death, has actually described in detail what happens during a decapation...what the person experiences. I had never read anything like that....and the compassion I felt for her, in that moment of no return, was heartbreaking. The hardest part of the book, what I found most difficult, was the authors use of exact quote's....the way people spoke 500 years ago is much different than today, so, at times, I would have liked her to translate the meaning so that the modern reader can understand the context better. However, it is also because of her use of direct quotes, that the author is even more creditable.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed this account of Anne's final months. Weir takes you through all of the players' involvement in Anne's downfall, including historical documents to support her theories. She proceeds to take you through the mock trial of the accused and supports the conclusion that the trial was nothing but a farce to clear the way for the Seymours. An interesting fact that Weir points out to support the circus was that Henry had sent for the French swordsman, her executioner before the trial had ever even started. Weir proceeds to conclude the volume by showing the aftermath of the scandal, including its inevitable impact on her young daughter, the future Queen Elizabeth I. An excellent book for any Tudor buff.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great read and insights into this Tudor story! Alison Weir has such a talent at research and conveying her findings in a readable way! If you are interested in Anne Boleyn, you must read this book!
TudorPrincess More than 1 year ago
Great historical read. Goes into great detail of the events surrounding Anne Boleyn's downfall with good background information. She makes some very good points but never comes out and says whether she believes that Anne was set up or not. Overall, if you are an Anne Boleyn/Tudor Fan, read this book. You won't be disappointed.
Lockhart7 More than 1 year ago
WOW. Well-researched with perspectives on multiple opinions; superb writing skills with chapters organized to perfection. Colored images & portraits included. To find this book uninteresting you'd have to have no imagination. Weir brings to life a mysterious part of history that many people, even some 400 years later, are still intrigued with. The book covers detailed information not only on Anne's fall, but also the men accused with her, as well as a chapter dedicated to the after-effects. Anne Boleyn's story is ever-changing as new documents are unearthed, and to have an up-to-date work like this is stupendous. I'm a religion/history major obsessed with the Tudor era & own MANY books on the subject, and believe me, Weir's works are graciously satisfying to a vivacious passion like mine. I'd love to go on about it, but the other reviews here seem to cover everything. You honestly can't find anything better than Alison Weir.
vanilla2976 More than 1 year ago
I absolutely adore the reign & wives of Henry VIII. Most interesting of all the wives is Anne Boleyn. She was a strong, ambitious, intelligent, willful woman in a time when such traits were not pleasing for a lady. She refused to be a pawn and became a player in a most dangerous game. She would not settle for anything less than the title of "Queen of England". This book helped me to get to know this woman who was the love of one the most scandalous kings in history in a way I never had before. Henry VIII adored her and you will too.
Packleader3 More than 1 year ago
Having read all of Ms Weirs books as well as those of other historical fiction authors, this book was the frosting on the cake as regards Anne Boleyn. This details those involved in Henry's court during her reign and the part they played in her arrest. It favors no one but provides a real taste of the law in those days and moral attitudes of the time-all of which contributed to her fall. Anne and those accused with her went to a horrible and needless death. Ms Weirs does a great job of explaining why. She gives indepth descriptions of all the events and lets you know what happened to the descendents of those executed. Even medical descriptions of decapitation, which although graphic, brings the horror of the times to life. Not the fast read of fiction but very hard to put down the closer you get to the scaffold and after your eyes are cast away. Highly recommended!
MichaelEM More than 1 year ago
Allison Weir is THE living expert in Tudor history. She takes on the story of a very complex and controversial figure with gusto. Ann, the second of Henry's wives, is a most complex woman. She is rude and ruthless, virturous and tender, ruthless and loving-a complex person. Weir portrays her as a strong woman who gets caught up in intrigue and she is ultimately sacrificed to make way for the next wife. But, in fact the story is much more intriguing and involved. Weir paints a much more compelling series of events that took hold of Ann's life and lets you follow the story and understand that her death was about much more than not providing Henry with a male heir. Weirs writing is detailed, clear, concise and very understandable. She makes history alive and the people she describes have both great beauty and unsightly warts. That is, the characters are real.
AustenStudent More than 1 year ago
About five years ago, I wanted to read about the notorious six wives of King Henry VIII. A co-worker’s personal field of study is the Tudors and all history majors like myself know of the controversy and politics surrounding Henry VIII and his several wives. But I don’t know the details and am still learning. I read the first chapters of several notable works on these six women by David Starkey, Antonia Fraser, and Alison Weir, and Weir’s writing style was the most readable and interesting to me. I very much enjoyed that book and this did not disappoint either. This book tightly focuses on Henry’s second wife, Anne Boleyn, the mother of Queen Elizabeth I, and only on the final harrowing and frightening month of her life. It’s a chilling story of deceit and treachery, of religion and politics, of court favor and power and, in Weir’s hands, it becomes history at its best that reads like a good novel. She impartially weighs evidence–limited as it is–on both sides and lets readers make their own judgments. Did Henry merely tire of the second wife he fell passionately in love with and waited seven years to wed? Or was it because she didn’t give him his much-needed heir, a son? Or was it her open and direct manner, her vivacity and wit, and her ambition–qualities that attracted him in the first place? Whatever the reasons, in less than a month the queen, along with her brother and five other men were accused of adultery, incest, and treason against the king, were arrested, imprisoned, tried, and executed.  Within ten days of Anne’s death, unbelievably, Henry married Jane Seymour, the woman who would finally bear him a son and raise her own family into prominence. Along with a gripping narrative of the events leading up to Anne’s execution, Weir discusses the precariousness of the Crown, the overwhelming influence of religion, as well as daily manners and customs of the Tudor era.  She also discusses the impact of the tragedy on Anne’s daughter, the powerful Queen Elizabeth I, who renounced marriage herself no doubt because of “her conviction that wedlock was an insecure state."  ”…were she to marry, her husband might ‘carry out some evil wish, if he had one.’“ It is interesting that many of the very people who condemned Boleyn and the others met later with premature and brutal death themselves.
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kpet More than 1 year ago
THE LADY IN THE TOWER tells of the fall of Anne Boleyn. It is well researched, but not sensationalized. It examines the background and the personalities, from Thomas Cromwell to Henry VIII, and the women who help condemn Anne. It is very readable, and even though, very sad. It brings Anne alive, and studies the effect of her death on Elizabeth I. I recommend this for everyone, from casual readers, to students of history.
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EburnsFL More than 1 year ago
As usual, alison Weir does a fantastic job making the story come to life :)))
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