How I Remember Anne Boleyn
by Claire Ridgway
Editor’s Note: In anticipation of the anniversary of Queen Anne Boleyn’s tragic execution on 19 May, James Peacock, founder of The Anne Boleyn Society, and Beth von Staats, blogger of The Tudor Thomases and owner/administrator of Queenanneboleyn.com, went on a fact-finding mission by asking several historians, historical fiction writers, and history lovers “What should Queen Anne Boleyn be most remembered for?” The response was overwhelming. Today we get things started by welcoming renowned historian, blogger, vlogger, teacher, and tour guide Claire Ridgway, founder of The Anne Boleyn Files and The Tudor Society.
Editor’s Note: Both James Peacock and Beth von Staats strong recommend that you visit Claire at YouTube to enjoy her series on videos focusing on the Fall of Anne Boleyn. She will be presenting her expertise in Anne’s tragic fall daily until the anniversary of Anne’s execution, 19 May. Love Tudor History in vlog formate? Visit The Tudor Society and The Anne Boleyn Files on YouTube!
“What do you believe Anne Boleyn should be most remembered for?”
I research and write about Anne Boleyn every single day without fail so you’d think that question would be easy for me to answer, but it’s not! I live and breathe her life and I can completely understand where Eric Ives was coming from when he talked about her being the third woman in his life after his wife and daughter; Anne Boleyn is my day job and my hobby! But to try and answer that question… so hard!
While I’d like her tragic end to be remembered, the awful miscarriage of justice she suffered, I fear that to remember her for that alone turns her into a victim. Yes, she was a victim, and she wasn’t the only one. Five men lost their lives in May 1536, families lost fathers, sons, brothers, cousins, and a daughter and sister… and a little girl lost her mother. Two men lost weeks of their lives to imprisonment in the Tower. The royal court would never be the same again. But to see Anne Boleyn as a victim of King Henry VIII’s whims, or of a political coup, just doesn’t seem right, it seems to take away from who she really was. The Anne Boleyn I’ve come to know was no victim.
Anne Boleyn had a dramatic rise. It is clear from the evidence that she did not set out to trap a king and become queen, but when the position of queen was offered to her she went all out to get it. It’s unfair to say that she trampled everyone who stood in her way, but she didn’t suffer fools gladly and she agreed with Henry VIII’s harsh treatment of Catherine and Mary, who she must also have seen as defiant and disobedient. Anne did not stand on the sidelines, she fought for what she saw as hers. “Feisty” sounds too modern a word for her, but seems to fit her nature. When Catherine of Aragon gave Henry VIII a telling off and he turned to Anne for sympathy, she tore strips off him too.
Anne wasn’t afraid to be herself, and although in many ways she was the perfect queen consort – acting as an intercessor or mediator, getting involved in charitable causes, being a patron, using her influence and power to help others etc. – she was also very different. Before choosing the highly apt “Most Happy” as her motto, Anne temporarily chose “Ainsi sera, groigne qui groigne”, Grumble all you like, this is how it’s going to be, and I love the insight that that gives us into her character. I love her “I don’t give a ….” attitude. It’s when I read things like that, her comments about her little neck when she was in the Tower, her laughter at Sir William Kingston’s comment regarding how even the poorest subject received justice, her joke about being Queen Lack-a-head, her ranting and raving about Catherine and Mary… I am struck by just how human she was. It’s easy to forget that these historical characters are not fictional characters, they were real living and breathing people, but these glimpses into Anne’s character brings that home to me all of the time. She’s so tangible.
So what do I believe Anne Boleyn should be most remembered for? For being human and for being relatable; for being the woman who inspires me every day; for being courageous, for being hysterical and scared; for being a kind and charitable woman, for being flawed, cruel and impatient; for being a woman who captured a king’s heart and who then lost it; for being the mother of an incredible queen… for being the woman who believed “the time will come”, who hung onto hope when all seemed lost, and for keeping her faith to the very end.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Claire Ridgway is a highly respected author of Tudor Era history books, most focusing on the life of Queen Anne Boleyn. Creator of the exceptionally popular history websites The Anne Boleyn Files and The Tudor Society, Claire is a full-time history researcher, blogger, and writer. The Anne Boleyn Files is highly respected for its outstanding presentation, ease of navigation, and historical accuracy. Claire’s ultimate mission is to get to the truth behind Anne Boleyn’s story specifically and related Tudor history in general. For more information about Claire, her projects and her research, visit one of Claire’s wonderful websites or her very popular facebook page.