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The Secret Diary of Anne Boleyn - A Book Review
One drawback to studying history is the lack of material on many of the people and events as well as having too much material that is one-sided and written by the victors. This leaves the door open for many theories and discussions on what a person was really like and the truth behind many of history’s myths. One person who is the most shrouded in mystery is Anne Boleyn. She is known as a seductress, a witch, and even a pawn. In Robin Maxwell’s The Secret Diary of Anne Boleyn the author tries to give the reader a different viewpoint of this once queen as well as that of her famous daughter, Elizabeth I.
This book is set during the reign of Elizabeth who is less than a year on the throne. She has been without a mother most of life and without the love a father all of her life. She has been labeled illegitimate and even faced the possibility of death at the hands of her sister and her supporters. Her religious stance as well as that of being the child of Anne is enough to have her condemned by many.
It is the gift of a secret diary that Anne kept, that gives Elizabeth new insight into the mother she never knew and always thought of as a conniving witch. Through the entries of a young girl, the reader is given a glimpse of what the real Anne Boleyn might have been like.
She admits to being taught the ways of intrigue and seduction in the French courts though she maintains her purity. She is not above leading a man on to get what she wants yet she hates the idea of being the pawn of any man. In the diary, she reveals her love for one man and the hate for the Cardinal who takes that man from her. Ironically, this act is what opens the path for the king to notice the young sister of his current mistress. The Cardinal wants nothing of Henry and Anne’s union yet through his own actions he initiates it.
Anne denies the king for six years her body until he gives her the crown as his queen. Elizabeth reads of how torn her mother is and how everyone including her own family use her to their advantage. She tries her best to gain to control, yet finds herself falling into a vortex that no one controls. After promising a son to the king, she gives him many miscarriages and a daughter who he rejects. Not getting what he wants, the king turns to others to satisfy his needs.
The author does not sugar coat the personality of Anne. Known for her nasty fits of rage, she admits them in her diary. She concedes that she does not help the situation much. Finding herself in the same situation as the first queen, Katherine, she realizes how little she controlled any part of her life.
Through her mother’s words, Elizabeth realizes that she cannot allow men to rule her. Marriage would hand over England to the king and remove her from power. She is queen and will not be ruled by man.
Maxwell does an excellent job of taking all the historic descriptions of Anne Boleyn and meshes them together to give us a picture of what she truly might have been like. She was not completely evil. She was not completely innocent. She was a woman who tried to make her mark in a man’s world. The result was an historical tsunami and the loss of her head.
Disclaimer: This book was purchased by the author’s own funds.
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