In the first book of the series, Weir’s Katherine of Aragon saw Anne Boleyn as a petty, vindictive avatar of evil incarnate. I was super curious how Weir would depict Anne in her book. Every one’s the hero of their own story, so how would this historical “villain” see herself? I’m not sure how Weir feels about Anne Boleyn personally, but for fictional purposes she seems to have taken a more sympathetic stance than historians usually do.
Weir’s Anne Boleyn is a complicated woman. She’s skilled in “the game of courtly love” (or “harmless flirting” as it were) and also zealously guards her virginity. She’s a feminist who wants to see more women in positions of power. She chafes under the double standards women are subjected to (which is a nice touch considering one of those double standards gets her executed for adultery while her serial philanderer husband is free to marry his new mistress). She has no romantic feelings and little respect for Henry VIII and doesn’t try to attract his notice, but when he notices her anyway and relentlessly pursues her (for years) she decides “What the hell, I’m gonna get me a crown and be one of those women in positions of power I want to see more of. And I’ll make Henry reform the super corrupt Church while I’m at it.”
She then proceeds to nag her way into a crown and then nag her way straight back out of it. Anne sees what a shrew she’s becoming, and she occasionally tries to correct her behavior. But as Henry’s divorce proceedings drag on year after year, and as her enemies begin to vastly outnumber her friends, the strain of her increasingly untenable position erodes her self-control until there’s almost nothing left but her sharp tongue and bitterness. Her favorite nagging subjects involve punishing people she feels have wronged her, and considering her targets include some of Henry’s favorite people on the planet, it’s quite amazing to me that he didn’t kick her to the curb long before he found himself threatening his first wife and daughter, executing his most loyal advisors, and risking excommunication by the pope and war with his in-laws.
The overlap of this book with Katherine’s manages to be interesting rather than repetitive, though I’m not sure I’d feel the same if I’d read the two back to back. Events of course look slightly different from Anne’s point of view. I liked Anne’s story more than Katherine’s for the simple fact that Anne was more proactive and lived a more interesting life. Five hundred pages of waiting and scheming beats five hundred pages of waiting and praying.
I’m anticipating Jane Seymour’s book will overlap both previous books as she served both queens as a lady in waiting. Weir’s Anne Boleyn declared her someone who was “sly, deceitful and never had a word to say for herself!” I’m looking forward to seeing how she’s portrayed, and how she feels about being the next chosen one after personally witnessing Henry getting rid of two wives in increasingly cruel ways.