Anne Boleyn - God's woman at God's time
I read a great book about Anne Boleyn, the second wife of English King Henry VIII, while on holidays. My husband looked at it and said, "Anne Boleyn? Isn't she the one with six fingers?"
The folklore and popular stories about Anne Boleyn are worse than just six fingers. She's commonly reputed to be an adulterer, to have seduced King Henry VIII, to have thrown huge temper tantrums and to have been incredibly ugly with an 'incubus' on her neck and other signs of devilishness at the time.
I'm no historian, but Joanna Denny the writer of the book makes a great case for this all being complete rubbish. She argues that the evidence shows these stories to be slander, disinformation and deliberate character assassination by the religious power block of the day.
Why? Because according to the evidence, Anne Boleyn was a key player in ushering in the evangelical reformation in England, undoing the power of the dominant church, and influencing Henry to break from Rome.
Denny shows Anne to be a committed evangelical believer, who read and valued the reformer books and English translations of the Bible which were banned throughout England. She and her father, Thomas Boleyn were influential in protecting people like Tyndale and other reformed theologians and thinkers.
Rather than be a seducer, Denny shows her to be a woman in the unenviable position of being pursued by a capricious king who never took 'no' for an answer. She was refused permission by the King to marry anyone else. However, she removed herself from court and refused to jump into bed with him for the years in which he wrangled about divorcing Catherine.
In the end, she saw her position as given by God for a purpose - to bring England to the gospel faith as written in the Bible. She was the 'Queen Esther' of her day, a woman in a difficult position who used her brains and wits to stay faithful to God and to work for his glory.
The typical path of life for women in her rank was either the mistress - used for pleasure, or the baby maker - producing heirs for the family line.
Anne was different. She was smart, well-educated and an equal partner in the royal marriage. So attracted to her as a person, Henry gave her powers above that which other queens before and after ever had. Unfortunately his paranoid need for power meant in the end he couldn't cope with a woman of her talent and drive, and he got rid of her on trumped up charges of adultery. The people of England were astounded and appalled.
On her death, all traces of Anne's person, personality, power and passion were erased. She became a non-person, deleted and defamed in history by the Church which wanted its power back.
The book is called Anne Boleyn, A new life of England's tragic Queen by Joanna Denny. Really worth a read and eye-opening to see such a woman so key in the reformation history.