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The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn by Eric Ives: A Book Review

The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn
Author: Eric Ives
Genre: Nonfiction, History, Biography
Publisher: Blackwell Publishing
Release Date: 2004
Pages: 458
Source: My State Public Library
 Synopsis: Anne Boleyn is the most notorious of England’s queens, but more famous for her death as an adulterer than for her life. Henry’s second wife and mother of Elizabeth I, Anne was the first English queen to be publicly executed. Yet what do we know of the achievements and legacy of her short reign?
     
     In The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn, Eric Ives provides the most detailed and convincing portrait we have of the queen. He reveals a person of intellect with a passion for the new culture of the Renaissance, a woman who made her way in a man’s world by force of education and personality. She played a powerful and independent role in the faction-ridden court of Henry VIII and the unceasing struggle for royal favour that was Tudor politics. The consequences can still be detected today. Indeed, Ives shows that it was precisely because Anne was a powerful figure in her own right that it needed a coup to bring her down. She had to be stopped, even by a lie.

     My Review: Anne Boleyn is one of Henry VIII’s most famous wives, simply because she was executed and was the mother of Elizabeth. She was also an important figure in English history because of Henry’s break with the Catholic church and the start of the Protestant reformation. This biography shows Anne as woman of power who was greatly feared. It would take a coup to bring her down, even if the conspiracy was based on a lie. Thus, Eric Ives portrays Anne as a true Renaissance queen.

  I have read many biographies of Anne Boleyn, and I was hesitant to pick this up, for I thought that I already knew a lot about her. However, Eric Ives's biography has been recommended to me many times by Anne Boleyn enthusiasts, and since my favorite historian, Alison Weir, was having a new historical fiction novel out about Anne Boleyn this year, I thought I might read this biography before I close the doors on Anne Boleyn for an indefinite amount of time. After reading this biography, I can definitely see why this book has been repeatedly recommended to me. Everything I thought I knew about Anne Boleyn has been turned upside down. The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn has shown me a different side to Anne Boleyn.

    This novel shows Anne Boleyn as a self-made woman. She was a woman who rose from her status simply based on her own merit. She formed a political faction and secured her own power. She was also heavily involved in politics. Anne was also a patron of the arts and supported English reform. Thus, she is portrayed as a powerful queen, and the real reason why she was beheaded is because she was too powerful for her own good and meddled heavily in state politics. Thus, while it would secure her position if she had a son, her enemies feared her increasing influence of the king and sought to bring her down.

     Overall, this biography portrays a different view of Anne. While Eric Ives does not hide Anne’s faults, it is clear that she was a major influence in the court of Henry VIII. It is through her intelligence that she was able to rise to be queen and lose her head. I was really enthralled by The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn, and I wished that I could have read it earlier. Yet, I'm pleased that I did because it has revived my fascination of Anne Boleyn again. This biography is not for the general reader because there are many parts that are bogged down with too much detail about Anne Boleyn. Thus, for those of you who have never heard the story of Anne Boleyn, this may not be the book for you because the amount of information may make you feel overwhelmed. I advise you to read Anne Boleyn: The King’s Obsession by Elizabeth Norton or The Six Wives of Henry VIII by Alison Weir for a more generalistic overview of the life of Anne Boleyn. However, if you are an Anne Boleyn enthusiast, this is definitely a must read! This biography is not only sympathetic towards Anne, but it shows her as a remarkable woman. This is one of the penultimate works on her life, and is a classic biography on one of England's most famous queens.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars



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