Libby's Reviews > The Lady in the Tower: The Fall of Anne Boleyn

The Lady in the Tower by Alison Weir
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's review
May 20, 2010

really liked it
bookshelves: fun-with-the-middle-ages, royal-ladies-no-fiction, tudors-and-stuarts

I always look forward to a new history by Alison Weir. I frequently want to disagree with her conclusions, but she is just so darn readable! Even when I do disagree, I always find her style gripping as good fiction and her choice of subjects eternally interesting. In this treatment of the last weeks of Anne Boleyn's turbulent life, she held me to the page, riveted by her snappy prose and her pertinent comments on the evidence. I was spraining my thumb turning the pages even though I knew what had happened. (I mean we all know Henry had Anne beheaded so he could marry Jane Seymour. Right? Well...maybe not.) Ms. Weir has done her usual thorough review of the available evidence and has concluded that perhaps Henry VIII was innocent of deliberate murder. She argues that Anne was done in by political plotting, masterminded not by Henry, but by his number one fixer, Thomas Cromwell. She postulates that Henry was astonished and devastated when presented with Cromwell's "evidence" that Anne had played him false with not one other man, but five, one of them her own brother. She suggests that in his anger, psychological pain and confusion, he allowed himself to be duped into a fast trial and a first class execution. Weir allows that Henry wanted Anne out of the way and wanted to marry Jane, but acquits him of cold-blooded plotting to murder a woman he knew to be innocent. She presents a fair amount of evidence that could be interpreted to support her theory. I do buy into her theory that many of her accusers had much to gain by Anne's fall. Likewise, I think it plausible that the gentlemen accused with her were chosen deliberately because they were her staunchest supporters. With them in the Tower, accused of treason, she had no effective defenders to support her. Contemporary evidence makes it clear that the vultures were circling, waiting to pick up plum appointments that had been held by her coterie. Removing not just Anne but her political partners created a power vacuum next to the throne and there was no lack of eager place-seekers. All of this I can readily accept. What sticks in my throat is the picture of Henry, all hurt and innocent, letting the vultures hustle the mother of his child into the Tower and onto the scaffold in just three weeks. I believe the deck was stacked against Anne, all right, but I firmly believe that Henry was doing the stacking. Henry VIII was very smart, totally paranoid and meaner than a rattlesnake on crack. No way was he letting anybody bamboozle him into doing anything he didn't want to do. If his wife was "shuffled off this mortal coil" it was because he planned it to be so. However, having got that off my chest, I still heartily recommend this book to any lover of the Tudor period. Weir always does her homework and always presents her ideas in an amazingly attractive and engaging style. This is a splendid feast, so dig in!

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