by Sandra Vasoli
TRUTH ENDURES: Je Anne Boleyn
I am grateful to Beth von Staats and the wonderful site QueenAnneBoleyn.com for the opportunity to provide insights to accompany the publication of the second (and final, probably!) book in the series titled Je Anne Boleyn.
The first book, Struck With the Dart of Love : Je Anne Boleyn, has been reissued by MadeGlobal Publishing. I am thrilled to announce that its release date is today, May 19, accompanying the worldwide, first-time publication of TRUTH ENDURES: JE ANNE BOLEYN.
The release of both these novels completes a seven-year project. I admit that its finalization has left me a bit melancholy. I have researched, read about, contemplated, and gazed upon various portraits depicting Anne Boleyn continuously for all those years, and, strangely, I have never tired of her as an endlessly fascinating subject. Very often I wondered why this woman captivates so many people around the globe – 500 years after her too-brief life came to its tragic conclusion. After all, there have been many compelling figures throughout history whose lives were cut short in dramatic fashion. Even amongst the cadre of Tudor luminaries, no one seems to capture the imagination as does Anne: young Anne Bullen from Hever, then Mademoiselle Anne Boleyn, soon to be Marchioness Pembroke, and finally Queen Anne – consort of one of the most powerful men in the world, Henry VIII of England.
Much has been written about Anne, and writings abound as to why she was and is so famous. As a result of her notoriety, I admit that I struggled to know what to offer in this article which might provide a new insight.
I decided at last to tell you, lovely readers, why I wrote these two books in the way that I did. What motivated me, personally, and what drives my interest today.
The initial inspiration for Book One came as I searched for something new and different to read about Anne Boleyn – who had been a favorite topic of mine for many years. I longed to read something very personal about her – almost intimate – her thoughts, how she made her decisions, what she really felt about Henry and the events of her big, glamorous, tumultuous life. And I could not find precisely that, even though there are surely wonderful biographies and novels galore. So I set out to write it myself, not really knowing how it would take shape.
I began by determining that the story must be told in Anne’s own voice, all in the first person. From that point on – and I do not mean to imply the journey was smooth or easy – the memoir unfolded. It was as if Anne wanted the narrative to be accounted for her way. Throughout the entire process of creation of these two novels, I felt guided and directed. It is for this very reason that the series is called Je Anne Boleyn.
I, Anne Boleyn.
With that as a raison d’être, I would like to share some of the assertions I make – on Anne’s behalf – in both books.
Struck With the Dart of Love opens as Henry and his courtiers are engaged in an exhilarating hunt on a chilly, misty November day in 1525. A young Mademoiselle Anne Boleyn accompanies the field. Anne becomes distracted watching Henry masterfully control his horse, and through a lapse in hunt etiquette, her mare almost overtakes Henry’s hunter and they nearly collide. The error results in an encounter between them – an extraordinary point in time – which changes the course of history. I do believe that while Henry and Anne had previously been in each other’s company upon Anne’s return from France, there was a singular occurrence during which they looked upon one another, and both were ‘struck with the dart of love’. This, of course, was a phrase which Henry penned in a letter he wrote to Anne a year later: but I am convinced that she, too, was ensnared at that very same moment.
There has been great speculation about the nature of Anne’s relationship with Henry Percy. I contend, and have depicted it as such in Book One, that for Anne, young Lord Percy was just a dalliance…one which came to be seen as a marriage prospect in the dearth of any other promising possibilities. Not for a minute do I feel that Anne saw Percy as her great love – and consequently hating Cardinal Wolsey for thwarting her chance to marry him. I find Anne too intelligent, too headstrong, worldly and cultured, and with too much ambition to make her mark on the society of the day to marry a young inexperienced courtier like Percy and be banished to Northumberland. Percy was just not her match.
Therefore, how did Anne feel about the King, once they had shared their romantic encounter? Most information we have available to us reveals Anne as a young woman with good moral principles. So she would have been reluctant to leap into a full- blown amorous relationship with the King, a married man. Yet as time elapsed, she was unable to deny her feelings for him, for Henry was, indeed, her true match in every sense. Their chemistry was likely undeniable, and their interests, talents and energies were synergistic.
The love letters which Henry wrote to Anne over a period of several years (c.1526 – 1529) are very strong indicators that Anne, from early on, returned the King’s love. Viewed in the original, the quality of the writing, along with the sentiments, tell so much more than mere transcriptions. The early letters are formal, tentative, and carefully penned, and the messages ardent but courteous. Later letters refer to Anne’s responses (therefore we know that they did exist), and not only does the handwriting become more casual indicating a comfortable familiarity, but the terms of endearment he used were more natural and heartfelt. It is doubtful that Henry would have expressed himself thusly had he received nothing but coy, restrained responses. Further on, the letters’ ribald jokes, and the ease between the couple becomes very evident on the pages. Henry’s true panic when he thought Anne might be dying of the sweating sickness, as made clear from the state of that letter’s scratches and splatters, is a testament to how much he loved her – and how in love they were.
Struck With the Dart of Love is a happy novel. It is the telling of a love affair which was epic in its scope: the relationship between two exceptional people who were beautiful, stylish, dynamic and charismatic – and prevented, by circumstances, from being together as they would have wished. Most of their time, from their fateful encounter till the close of 1532, is characterized as a story which captivates us as only a highly romantic tale of a King’s love for a beautiful and exotic woman can. Of course, there were moments of great frustration…Henry and Anne endured many disappointments as they waited in vain for a sanction to marry from the Church – their Church; something which was never granted them. But in many ways, the tolerance and endurance required to withstand impediments to their marriage made them stronger, and they grew in unity. Often, it was Henry and Anne against the world. They learned to abide, for they were a mighty couple.
The close of Dart of Love sees Anne and Henry, hands entwined and gazes locked upon one another, stating their marriage vows as snow fell on the London rooftops in the pre-dawn of a January morning, 1533.
At the outset of Book Two – Truth Endures, Henry is hale and hearty, firm in his shift toward establishing autonomy from the Church. Anne is content: greatly pleased with Henry’s growing independence. His progress suits her endorsement of Reform from the Catholic Church – an evolution for which Anne is not often given enough credit – and furthermore, she is pregnant. Both Anne and Henry are overjoyed at her condition, and their relationship could not have been better.
While there are sources which describe Henry as tiring of Anne even before their marriage – sick of the tribulation she caused him in his dealings with Rome, and in partial agreement with Anne’s opponents, my research (and that of others like Eric Ives’) and my belief tells me this could not be further from fact. They had everything to look forward to, and although they had been together for some 7 years, they acted as most couples would: loving, yet bickering and arguing at times. There is ample evidence, as well, that they still shared a great deal of passion. Therefore, the book reflects their pleasure and satisfaction in 1533 as they await the birth of their child…hoped and expected to be a son.
Anne’s experience of birth, as described in the story, is profound. Her emotions upon giving birth to a daughter instead of a son are an indicator of her strength, determination, and her belief in the capability and intelligence of women; a conviction which was not widely held at that time. Her awareness of her daughter’s potential brilliance is a notion Anne holds close to her heart, and one which sustains her through two subsequent tragic pregnancies.
Life becomes ever more complex for Anne – and Henry – as the tide of religious revolution sweeps across Europe, and the dearth of a male heir weighs ever more heavily on Henry, and consequently on Anne. Their highs and lows become more sweeping, and anti-Boleyn factions seek any loophole with which to upset the existing power base. The Spanish ambassador, Eustace Chapuys, does whatever he can to sow negativity about Anne in the futile hope of restoring the former Spanish queen, Katherine of Aragon, to the throne. In copious writings to his master, the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, he spews poison and outright lies about Anne, calling her The Concubine, and her daughter The Bastard. His reports are often so biased and vicious that It is difficult to lend them any credence at all. Unfortunately, it is his narrative which has given rise to many of the rumors about Anne, many which have persisted over the centuries.
Anne’s second miscarriage in January of 1536 – a tragedy so heartbreaking that one can only imagine her grief – is described by Chapuys coldly; and he perpetrates the myth that Anne’s child was deformed, therefore evidence of her witchcraft. This tale I believe not at all. I doubt that whoever attended her during the time of this delivery spouted such reports; in fact it is highly probable that any child, at a gestation of about 14 weeks, would have had an underdeveloped appearance. In any case, she was expected to rapidly recover physically and emotionally from this event, and carry on as Queen and wife to the King. With the benefit of today’s knowledge, we can share just an inkling of what this failed pregnancy, and also the one which apparently occurred in the summer of 1534 – at almost full term – must have inflicted upon her mental well-being.
These crises, layered upon the very distinct political pressures for the King to turn away from Anne, were just part of the ‘perfect storm’ which built leading to Anne’s downfall. It is maddeningly confusing, as we ponder this situation today, to try and make sense of why a man who so desperately loved a woman who probably was the true love of his life would turn his back on her so utterly…leading to such terrible devastation. Thus remains the mystery: no matter which documents we study now, nor any which may be discovered in the future. It will never be solved, because we cannot know what thoughts Henry harbored.
We can glean an insight into Anne’s final thinking, however. Her actions and words while imprisoned in the Tower as recorded by William Kingston have remained to be read. Her trial speech and scaffold speech have been recorded, though posthumously. But we certainly have an amazing view into Anne’s psyche during her imprisonment, as she realized her fate. It is her letter to her husband the King, written in the Tower: a scribed document which rests in the British Library today. This letter represents the very best of Anne, and it clearly depicts the love she had for the husband she had known so well and had cared for so deeply. In it, she eloquently describes her innocence of the charges of adultery, and she does it in such a way that her blamelessness seems without any doubt. She knows this man – her husband – and she knows why she is destined to her awaited end. But she loves him still, and prays for the salvation of his soul.
I hold these words to be Anne’s truth. And, along with the letter, her truth does indeed endure.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Sandra Vasoli, author of Anne Boleyn’s Letter from the Tower; Struck with the Dart of Love: Je Anne Boleyn, Book One; and Truth Endures, Je Anne Boleyn, Book Two earned a Bachelor’s degree in English and biology from Villanova University before embarking on a thirty-five-year career in human resources for a large international company.
Having written essays, stories, and articles all her life, Vasoli was prompted by her overwhelming fascination with the Tudor dynasty to try her hand at writing both historical fiction and non-fiction. While researching what would eventually become her Je Anne Boleyn series, Vasoli was granted unprecedented access to the Papal Library. There she was able to read the original love letters from Henry VIII to Anne Boleyn—an event that contributed greatly to her research and writing.
Vasoli currently lives in Gwynedd Valley, Pennsylvania, with her husband and two greyhounds.
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