Let's Settle This Thing

There is the air of settling things for once and for all in The Lady in the Tower, Alison Weir’s third to extensively cover some aspect of Anne Boleyn’s life. The subject for this biographical smack down is Anne's fall and the method is an exhaustive (and, yes, occasionally exhausting) comparison of the contemporary and near contemporary accounts of her arrest, trial and execution.

This goes well beyond "was she guilty" and extends to why was she accused, who stood to gain from her fall and even "what was she wearing at her execution". Of course, what Anne wore is not the point, Weir uses the conflicting accounts of the simple matter of whether Anne's hair was loose or in a net to show us how little these accounts agree upon.

Weir deserves praise for her willingness to draw conclusions and eliminate possibilities. Where another historian might hedge with “perhaps” and “probably” she’s not afraid to weigh in with an “almost certainly. Nor is Weir afraid of a fight, calling out such fellow Tudor experts such as Eric Ives and Retha Warnicke when she disagrees. It’s refreshing, frankly as is Weir’s lack of fear in pronouncing the work of Joanna Denny wrong-headed at best. If at this point you’re reading this wondering who on earth these people are then think twice about embarking on this book.

I've read nearly all of Weir's books so I feel safe in saying that this is the least accessible of her works. It is well written but because it starts shortly before Anne is arrested, the book provides little to no background on her. If you want an account of how Henry met Anne you'll need to look elsewhere. I'm a Tudorphile so I enjoyed this book. I've read most of the secondary sources discussed in the book which made Weir's assessment of say Retha Warnicke's theories all the more interesting.

This is not a book for someone new to the story of Anne Boleyn nor even for someone who simply knows the story of the second of Henry VIII's six wives. If you are very interested in Tudor history and Anne Boleyn in particular, however, you'll find this book interesting. Recommended for Tudorphiles but not novices.

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