My Review of The Boleyns: The Rise and Fall of a Tudor Family by David Loades

Product details
  • Hardcover: 303 pages
  • Publisher: Amberley Publishing (28 Sep 2011)
  • Language English
  • ISBN-10: 1445603047
  • ISBN-13: 978-1445603049
  • UK Edition

The fall of Anne Boleyn and her brother George is the classic drama of the Tudor era. The Boleyns had long been an influential English family. Sir Geoffrey Boleyn had been Lord Mayor of London. His grandson, Sir Thomas, had inherited wealth and position, and through the sexual adventures of his daughters, Mary and Anne, ascended to the peak of influence at court.

The three Boleyn children formed a faction of their own, making many enemies: and when those enemies securied Henry VIII's ear, they brought down the entire family in blood and disgrace. George, Lord Rochfort, left no children. Mary left a son by her husband, William Carey - Henry Carey, Lord Hunsdon. Anne left a daughter, Elizabeth I - so like her in many ways and a sexual politician without rival.

“Anne was a woman with a mind of her own, and her own political agenda, more suitable in many ways  for the council chamber than for the boudoir. She had held her lover’s attention through the interminable years of their courtship by her intelligence and her temper.  She had steered Henry’s policies  when he had seemed uncertain which way to go, she had led her family based faction, often in spite of her father, and she had not hesitated to tell her lover what she thought of him when he attempted to stray. Henry had found this fascinating, and although her behaviour had resulted in flaming rows, these were always followed by passionate reconciliations. Observers were baffled and intrigued by his reactions, but Anne always appeared to know what she was doing” (Loades, 134)

Historian, David Loades in his own words explains,‘The Boleyns The Rise and Fall of a Tudor Family’ is a work of history; an attempt to reconstruct the fortunes of a remarkable family from the records’ (Loades, 8).

This is not another Tudor retelling of a biography but instead a concise assessment of The Boleyn Family from the Ormond side to the Howard side. A chronological and historical look beginning in 1457 with the life of Thomas Boleyn through August 1600 just before the death of the daughter of Anne Boleyn, Queen Elizabeth I.  I highly recommend this family study for anyone wanting to learn in-depth information about one of Tudor history's most important families!

Chapters are dedicated chronologically to each Boleyn family member whereby historical events occur in various locations during the span of their lives. Each are thoroughly discussed and analyzed. Chapter notations, historical records as well as biography lists are provided for further research.

Anne Boleyn is by far my favorite of the Boleyn's and the one I am most interested in because of her strong character, sense of self, religious idolatry and dedication to her daughter thus representing what she stood for in her brief lifetime.
The usual limited documentation and letters provide a chronological life of a mythical woman named Anne Boleyn. One striking bit of information David Loades never mentions and or leaves out completely in chapter five which heavily accounts for the year 1533 and the courtship of King Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn was a 'supposed' 'secret marriage in January, 1533' between the happy couple! His notes section for this chapter in the back of the book only lists documentation for a marriage taking place between 15 + 23 February, 1533. Very Interesting! 
I have never come across this date before especially not written with such certainty. This is why I love reading and writing about history!

I enjoyed learning more about younger brother George Boleyn's life. He was a complicated and quite learned man. A true renaissance man if ever there was one. He spoke several languages and was even knighted!
For whatever reason, I have never been that interested in older sister Mary Boleyn's life. The documentation and information that survives supports the idea that she was a young woman content to live a life in the countryside married with a family of her own. Although, parents Thomas Boleyn and Elizabeth Howard raised both daughters to have similar opportunities to cultivate and broaden their horizons i.e. being sent to France in the court of Margaret of Austria under the care of Queen Claude Bouton.  I did however enjoy learning more about William Stafford, Mary's husband who outlived her and led a long and fascinating life!

A surprise was reading chapters including The Boleyn Family Descendants...Queen Elizabeth I.
Perhaps, the most important descendant Elizabeth Tudor, daughter of King Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn.  David Loades introduced infant Elizabeth briefly connected her in lineage to the Tudor line. He mentioned Anne Boleyn briefly instead focussed on Elizabeth's reign and connection with Robert Dudley and William Cecil who he does not like very much but I still do!
David Loades took one different approach with Elizabeth I that I think is quite courageous by saying, "We do not, of course, know what kind of a woman her mother would have been if she had lived into her fifties, but the similarities between mother and daughter are so marked, that we can probably reconstruct the hypothetical Anne of the 1550s in the person of Elizabeth" (Loades, 216)

Overall, a very enjoyable and fascinating attempt to shed some light on a very important family line and aspect of Tudor history. I highly recommend David Loades many books on various historical people and events. If you are looking for an historian whose sources and word can be trusted as factual and not 'fluffed up' for their own purposes, go with Mr. Loades!

Back cover and detail from Holbein's design for a coronation pageant. It was staged on the eve of Anne's coronation, 31 May 1533. 

Please feel free to leave any comments or questions,


Anonymous said…
This is a wonderful review of a very interesting approach to The Tudors!
I enjoy reading your reviews because you personalize them and not just give the dates and events, so thanks and your funny! Maggie
Kimberly Eve said…
Thank you Maggie for taking the time to read my blog and commenting!
You are so kind! I just try to give my feedback on what I enjoyed and what bothered me! I'll leave the dated reviews to the historians!
Anonymous said…
Very nice....and interesting. gigigirl
Kimberly Eve said…
Thanks for reading and commenting gigigirl!

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