Six wives, six years, six books: that is the task that Alison Weir has set herself. Last year saw the publication of Katherine of Aragon, The True Queen (click here to read my review) and this year it is the turn of Anne Boleyn, A King’s Obsession.
Anne Boleyn is my favourite of Henry’s wives: she always strikes me as having been clever and spirited, most important of all she came from Norfolk. Last year Alison Weir made me appreciate that Katherine of Aragon had also been a clever and spirited woman and I confess that I was a little fretful that Anne would not come out of this book well. The tale of Henry and his wives has been told so often that you feel that every aspect must have been told a thousand times. Alison Weir manages to shed new (well new to me) light on Anne’s early life and later motivations.
We meet Anne as an eleven year old girl at home at Hever Castle. She is always compared unfavourably to her older prettier sister and is very close to her younger brother. Anne is then packed off to European courts before eventually becoming one of Queen Katherine’s ladies in waiting. The Anne that we meet is a studious and serious young woman, aware that a glittering marriage may end up as little more than a gilded cage. When Henry starts to pay court she bats him away, only to further enflame his passion.
Henry doesn’t emerge from this tale well. With Katherine we saw him as young and handsome, eager to do the right thing. By the time he meets Anne he has been in power for a long time and used to everybody saying yes. To have been the object of his passion must have been terrifying.
That Henry should have waited for Anne for so many years only to tire of her so soon is stunning. You know the story, the split from Rome, the divorce, the birth of the daughter, the beheading. Yet even as you know what happens Alison Weir keeps you turning the pages. I stayed up until gone midnight reading the final chapter with tears streaming down my face. Next spring will see the volume devoted to Jane Seymour, I will be interested to see if Alison Weir manages to make the dullest of Henry’s queens even a little bit colourful.
ANNE BOLEYN: A KING’S OBSESSION (SIX TUDOR QUEENS #2)
by Alison Weir
Published by Headline Review
Paperback £7.99, Kindle £9.49