Eric Ives’s “The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn”
Thanks to hits such as Showtimes’ The Tudors and Philippa Gregory’s The Other Boleyn Girl, the infamous raven-haired second Queen of Henry VIII has been thrust into the literary spotlight. Although Tudor scholars such as David Starkey and Allison Weir have discussed the life of Anne Boleyn in copious amounts, their work pales next to the late Professor Eric Ives. His non-fictional biography of the doomed Queen is perhaps the best research done to date on Anne Boleyn.
Although his writing may be a turn-off for those who are not used to a more academic style, it’s clear that Ives has performed meticulous research. Unlike Weir or Starkey, Ives clearly admires the Queen but does not attempt to cast her into the “home wrecker” or “ambitious social climber” roles. While he praises Boleyn for her good qualities, he also doesn’t seek to gloss over her more negative traits either. Under Ives’s careful but fair approach, Anne Boleyn is stripped of the stereotypes and emerges a very real and relatable figure.
Also unlike Starkey, Ives doesn’t hero-worship Henry VIII either. While he does allow that Henry and Anne did have strong feelings for one another, there’s also no glossing over of his negative traits or what led to his tyrannical behavior either. Henry’s “monster” status is stripped away too, revealing the flawed human being and king underneath.
From discussing what year Anne may have been born to her early career and, ultimately, the conditions that led to her downfall, Ives’s masterful research sheds new light on this much-maligned Queen. He credits her with helping to orchestrate the Protestant Reformation and also points out how her example shaped her daughter Elizabeth’s reign as well.
While this book is mainly aimed at Tudor fans, it’s also a fascinating read if you love biographies or even merely reading about strong historical women too.