Wednesday, 3 September 2014

The life and Death of Anne Boleyn - Eric Ives


 


I have always been fascinated by Anne Boleyn.  She is certainly one of the most fascinating women in English history.  She was ambitious at a time when women were not meant to have ambition beyond producing heirs, she looked men in the eye at a time when women were supposed to be quiet and demure, she had political influence, and changed England forever.  Whether you consider her to be a martyr or she-wolf there is no getting away from the fact that she was a remarkable, brave woman, who came to a tragic and unjust end at the hands of a tyrant.

Eric Ives' biography is one of the best accounts of Anne's short life.  It is thoroughly researched giving us a detailed description of how Anne's life would have been before she met Henry VIII, her education (rare for women at this time), her time in the Austrian and French Courts, her relationship with Henry and how and why she ended up on the scaffold along with 5 innocent men.  The book is big and hefty, not a lightweight read, but certainly not overly academic. I think anyone who doesn't really know Anne will have their preconceived ideas challenged.  Yes she divided the country (and Europe), she userped a Queen of England, and was a terrible step mother, but she was ambitious,  charitable in an age of corruption,  lived what she believed and spoke out against wrong doing - she didn't care what people thought of her (which perhaps contributed to her demise).  She even dared to challenge the formidable Thomas Cromwell! Above all she was a mother, and from what I have read a very good one at that. 







This is thought to be the place of execution on Tower Hill.  There is now a beautiful memorial to all those who lost their lives there (afterall who deserves to have their head hacked off!).  I finally visited this summer and was deeply moved. I stood and looked out at what must have been the last thing she looked at before she was executed and felt a chill down my spine.   




DEATH, rock me asleep,
Bring me to quiet rest,
Let pass my weary guiltless ghost
Out of my careful breast.
Toll on, thou passing bell;
Ring out my doleful knell;
Let thy sound my death tell.
Death doth draw nigh;
There is no remedy.
 
My pains who can express?
Alas, they are so strong;
My dolour will not suffer strength
My life for to prolong.
Toll on, thou passing bell;
Ring out my doleful knell;
Let thy sound my death tell.
Death doth draw nigh;
There is no remedy.
 
Alone in prison strong
I wait my destiny.
Woe worth this cruel hap that I
Should taste this misery!
Toll on, thou passing bell;
Ring out my doleful knell;
Let thy sound my death tell.
Death doth draw nigh;
There is no remedy.
 
Farewell, my pleasures past,
Welcome, my present pain!
I feel my torments so increase
That life cannot remain.
Cease now, thou passing bell;
Rung is my doleful knell;
For the sound my death doth tell.
Death doth draw nigh;
There is no remedy. 
 
Anne Boleyn. RIP

If anyone is interested in learning more about Anne I would highly recommend this blog http://www.theanneboleynfiles.com/  by Claire Ridgeway.  She is an expert on Anne's life and has published books on the Boleyn family.  There is also a forum for people to discuss her life and other Tudors.

Who is your favourite historical figure and why?

3 comments:

  1. I remember learning all about Anne Boleyn in my History class at school....we were taught lots of English history, and so this brings back memories...the poem was a fitting tribute to her life and legacy.

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  2. Ah! she had a bit of Essex girl in her like me! We're not all as the stereotype might suggest x

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