The “Lady in the Tower”, Anne Boleyn, was the second wife of King Henry VIII of England and a woman who changed England forever. Alison Weir examines in detail the circumstances leading up to Anne Boleyn’s arrest, detainment in the Tower of London, her trial and execution.
There are many questions and theories behind Anne Boleyn’s fall and Weir gives her account of whether King Henry: instructed Thomas Cromwell (his chief minister) to get rid of her so he could marry Jane Seymour (his third wife), if Cromwell constructed a case against Anne and then presented it to the King or if Anne was in fact guilty.
The book covers the story from the beginning of Anne’s fall to the end and some of the aftermath. Weir examines multiple sources, exposes the common theories and debunks other historian’s conclusions based on the primary evidence. It is a rich text full of footnotes and it explains in depth the happenings of Henry’s court.
Through the majority of the book, Weir takes the reader through the events leading up to Anne’s execution. If being accused of committing adultery with five men of the King’s privy chamber, including Sir Henry Norris (groom of the stool), Sir Francis Weston (gentlemen of the Privy Chamber), William Brereton (Groom of the Privy Chamber), Sir Thomas Wyatt (poet), and Mark Smeaton (court musician), wasn’t enough she was also charged with incest with her brother, George Boleyn. On top of all this she was also said to have plotted Henry’s death with these men, “her lovers” and thus committed high treason against the crown.
Weir looks at each accusation and shows how plausible it could have been and how unlikely these counts of adultery occurred, as it would have required assistance from her ladies in waiting. Showing all sides of the story through evidence and other historian’s conclusions, Weir determines that these crimes were not really feasible and due to Anne’s already delicate place as a non-royal who was made Queen through the King’s break with Rome. It is more likely that Thomas Cromwell, seeing Anne Boleyn as a definite threat to his power and ability to persuade the King on matters of state, he conceived an unfounded case, which had many holes and little evidence.
Although, the book can be heavy in some places with all angles and multiple theories analyzed, Weir does a great job of showing the reader what is most likely the true story of Anne Boleyn.