Anne Boleyn: 500 Years of Lies
By Hayley Nolan
Published by Little A
What’s it about?
The premise of this book is that everything history has taught us about Henry VIII’s second wife, Anne Boleyn, is wrong.
Nolan sets out to correct some of the common misconceptions about Anne Boleyn: her family; relationship with Henry VIII; religious beliefs and the reasons behind her death after just three years as Queen.
What I think:
This is a hard book to review.
Having studied the Tudors for A Level history, I’ve found them fascinating ever since and have quite a few recent biographies and historical novels based on the period.
Nolan claims that she is exposing the truth about Anne Boleyn. She’s not.
I’ve read a few books in recent years that dispel the “myth” that Anne Boleyn was nothing more than a scheming, ambitious adultress and discuss how the Queen has been portrayed by historians. So the idea that Nolan is the first person to do this doesn’t sit well with me.
Nolan talks about the importance of studying the original sources, but the primary sources list in the bibliography is surprisingly short and most of her references are actually quotations from other historians.
Nolan also interjects throughout the book. Her use of informal chat and hashtags gets a bit tiresome. Presumably they are intended to appeal to people who don’t normally read historical biographies, but I didn’t feel that they added anything to her arguments and actually sometimes found them distracting.
Having said all of this, I enjoyed the book. It’s very readable and does analyse the different sides of Anne Boleyn and the complex political and religious debate of the period in an accessible way.
Tudor scholars are probably going to hate this book! But if, like me, you find the period fascinating and want some of the historical fact behind the historical fiction, then this could be a good place to start.
Anne Boleyn: 500 Years of Lies is available from:
Waterstones: click here
Amazon.co.uk: click here