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Anne Boleyn: Fatal Attractions by G W Bernard

Posted By Claire on May 1, 2010

Because this book is an Anne Boleyn book, I have actually reviewed it over at The Anne Boleyn Files. Here is the beginning of my review and you can click on the “Read more…” to read it in full.

There has been lots of controversy over this new Anne Boleyn biography because, unlike other modern historians like Eric Ives, G W Bernard is of the opinion that Anne Boleyn may have been guilty. This theory has had Anne Boleyn fans around the world up in arms but I decided to read Bernard’s book with an open mind and refrain from judging a book by its cover, or rather all of the newspaper articles about it. I was pleasantly surprised and my blood actually did not boil once.

My history teacher used to say that you can argue any point of view in an essay as long as you back it up with evidence and Bernard has made a good use of primary sources in backing up his views.

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4 Responses to “Anne Boleyn: Fatal Attractions by G W Bernard”

  1. Lynn says:

    Claire, I just finished this book and I am glad I read it. Bernard does lay out a strong case for Anne’s guilt in the issue of adultery. Another strong case made was that it was Henry who was the impetus for the Henrician Reformation, not Anne. It was Henry, not Anne, who held off sexual relations until the time was right (a legitimate heir). Bernard certainly did his research! Some parts of this book were very dry and it was all I could do to not skip a chapter or two. Tied up beautifully at the end!

  2. Claire says:

    I agree, Lynn, that it’s definitely worth reading and that he argues his case pretty well but I think that Eric Ives makes a stronger case for Anne’s innocence. In the 1990s Bernard and Ives wrote many articles arguing with each other and they are wonderful to read and I must say that I’m definitely on Ives side but it was refreshing to read another point of view.

  3. BanditQueen says:

    I have read G Bernard’s book and although he makes a good case for the guilt of Anne but the source the poem by Lancelot de Carles, although it gives good back ground information to some of the allegations against Anne is basically based on court gossip. His account of Anne and description of Anne is quite accurate, and he may only be repeating an accurate account of what went on between Francis Weston and his wife, but he is repeating third party hear-say. Bernard however is making the point that we should consider all of the sources. They may be poetic, hostile, letters, hard to interpret pose and so on, but historians have to take them all into consideration and make a judgement on the balance of those texts.

    I like most historians believe that Anne was innocent based on the fact that for many of the dates given at the time of the allegations she was either confined with her ladies waiting to give birth, confined after the birth, or could account for her self in another way. Yes, it was possible for a Queen to bride her attendants to leave her alone with someone, or to contrive an absence for a meeting but that was foolish. Anne is a very well educated and intelligent woman: she knew the risk if she had a lover. She was not popular, she had plenty of enemies, even may-be within her own household, and she was being watched. To have taken a lover, even one who could have reason to be alone with her, meant she risked the future heir to the throne, and it meant she was opening herself up to scandal that already existed in the minds of some of her enemies.

    How many times have historians pointed out that rumours existed that Anne had some liaisons before she was married? It would be foolish to have risked herself any more. And Anne is meant to have been super moral and issued instructions for people to be Godly and strict in dress and behaviour and not have sexual affairs. She was a hero of the Protestant reformation and dismissed anyone who swore or came out with lude language. Would someone of this personality and moral character have lovers? I do not think so.

    I admire Bernard for putting forward his theory and the text itself of de Carles is interesting in that we see some behind the scenes court politics and his theory is backed up well. I found it compelling, but I do not in the end agree. I think Anne was innocent of the charges and have done since 1975. I formed that opinion myself and I have seen more evidence than not in many biographies that show the charges were not sustainable. However, I do like Bernard for making us look again at the evidence and his book is well worth a read. You do not have to agree; but it is certainly worth looking at the evidence with fresh eyes, no matter what the belief or outcome may be.


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