How I Remember Anne Boleyn
by Janet Wertman
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 welcome historical fiction author Janet Wertman. Do visit her popular blog Indulge Your Tudor Obsession, the Seymour Saga.
Let me begin by expressing my gratitude at being a part of this tribute. My current literary focus on the Seymour family might make me seem an unlikely choice to eulogize Anne Boleyn, but I have always admired this extraordinary woman as much as anyone.
This was a tough question. I spent a long time trying to narrow down to the single most memorable element in the life of the Tudor era’s most fascinating woman. There were a lot of contenders. Anne Boleyn had grace that was not just surface deep: it was strongly a part of everything she did. She was intelligent, educated, and graceful. She could discuss art, architecture, and poetry. She could sing and dance, play the lute and compose songs, ride and hunt and hawk. She set fashions for the women in the English court (long sleeves, French style…) even as she debated religious and philosophical arguments with the men. The daughter of a simple knight (admittedly one with a claim to the Earldom of Ormonde), Anne Boleyn convinced a king who had never heard the word “no” to marry her – and wait seven years and turn his country upside down for the privilege. She created a world that Henry felt lucky to inhabit, and challenged him to improve it further. She even gave him the heir he craved – he just didn’t recognize it at the time.
But none of these held the answer: Anne’s immortality lies not in her life but in her death.
When she became the victim of Cromwell’s over-the-top scam, she rose to her fate with the same amazing grace and courage she had always shown, making a noble end that impressed even Eustache Chapuys. Anne Boleyn was the canary in the Tudor coal mine, showing us all just how evil Henry was truly prepared to be. She spoke her mind to the King in a letter from her ‘doleful prison’ (I’m a believer), and wrote her own epitaph in the form of the message she sent him (I’m a believer here too) with words that still burn through the years.
Commend me to his majesty, and tell him he hath ever been constant in his career of advancing me. From a private gentlewoman he made me a marchioness, from a marchioness a queen, and now that he hath left no higher degree of honor, he gives my innocency the crown of martyrdom.
RIP, wonderful lady.
Editor’s Note: Beth von Staats, owner and administrator of Queenanneboleyn.com and blogger at The Tudor Thomases, highly recommends Janet’s excellent novel highlighting Edward Seymour, 1st Duke of Somerset, The Path to Somerset.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Janet has harbored a passion for the Tudor Kings and Queens since her parents let her stay up late to watch the televised Masterpiece Theatre series (both The Six Wives of Henry VIII and Elizabeth R) when she was *cough* eight years old. One of the highlights of Janet’s youth was being allowed to visit the Pierpont Morgan Library on a day when it was closed to the public and examine books from Queen Elizabeth’s personal library and actual letters that the young Princess Elizabeth (technically Lady Elizabeth…) had written.
Janet is thrilled to have released the first two books in The Seymour Saga trilogy: Jane the Quene, which tells the story of Jane Seymour’s marriage to Henry VIII, was published in 2016; and The Path to Somerset, which chronicles Edward Seymour’s rise after Jane’s death to become Lord Protector of England and Duke of Somerset (taking us right through Henry’s crazy years) was released in 2018. They will be joined in 2020 by The Boy King, which will cover the reign of Jane’s son, Edward VI, and the string of betrayals he suffered.