There are few pros to this book. The cover is lush and attractive and not even of the lady in question. There are no authenticated pictures of Jane Boleyn. There are some color plates in the book, what Tudor history book would be without some, none of them are new or unusual. You would think the author could have at least visited Hever Castle herself, where George and Anne grew up and snapped a few shots that have not been published before. She did not. Another option might have been to take a photo of a piece of jewelry known to have belonged to the lady. Back then expensive items like that were cataloged by their owners. Nothing of such is mentioned.
Page after page of this book reminds the reader of how little is known about our eponymous title lady. Sentences like, "many young women did such and such â might Jane have been one of them?" So much for the inside story. Ok, so we don't know her actual age, neither do we know the actual age of her more famous sister-in-law. However, I would expect the historian writing the book might posit a theory based on some kind of logic. While the many different Tudor history books I've read over the years span Anne's age in a 6 year time period, each individual author gives an opinion. Julia Fox reveals little of her own belief. It comes down to "little is known".
You might wonder how she got a full hardback book out of "little is known" or "it is not known." She pads the book with information about Henry and Jane Seymour who were already seeing each other. That was part of the reason Henry VIII was so eager to get Anne out of the way. Although Anne spent the end of her life believing when Henry's first wife, Katherine of Aragon died, Anne would be ensured legitimacy to her marriage â the truth was poignantly opposite. As long as Katherine was alive, Henry clung to Anne in order to save face for all the trouble and heartache had caused his first wife. As soon as she was dead there was no longer reason to keep Anne. He could have Jane, he would have others. The precedent had been set of dethroning a consort. Each subsequent queen was easier to get rid of than the last.
This was a wonderful bit of rhetoric and public relations as the average people were tired of the bloodshed, the taxes, and every bit of the high cost of war. Then as now, war was a gentleman's game, the foot soldier just suffered. Hand to hand combat was brutal. People died of gangrene, starvation, blood lost, slow terrible deaths. Elizabeth of York did marry Henry and produce four children who reached adulthood: Arthur, Henry VII, Mary and Margaret. To say he "united" the two houses is a bit of a stretch, in that, like most women of her time, Elizabeth was not involved in politics. ASIDE from producing children, she did nothing politic. You might say her side lost.
As the story goes, Arthur died before he could be king, thus paving the way for his younger brother Henry to become the most married monarch in the English line. His second wife was the famous Anne Boleyn, known poetically as Anne of a thousand days. We have precious little from Anne written by her own hand. Henry destroyed most of the letters she wrote him during their hot and heavy dating years. We know only from the ones preserved, which he wrote her, how incredibly besotted he was. They exchanged word puzzles and poems and romantic tokens.
The end of the affair was ugly indeed. He had her brought to trial and executed for treason, for cheating on him, one of the charges was incest. Interestingly before her death he had their marriage annulled on the grounds that they were too closely related. Were that true, she could hardly have been cheating on him, (no valid marriage, therefore no ability to cheat) that fact escaped the courts at the time. People were by turn aghast and disgusted by the charge of incest.
She stood accused of sleeping with her own brother, George Boleyn, who denied the charges, as did she. She was convicted on the testimony of her own sister-in-law Jane Boleyn, George's wife! She is the lady this book was written about. Such a long set up, to get to the point, if there really is information on this famous weasel, inquiring minds would love to read about it.
The first review I read about this book posted on Amazon.com claimed the book was a wonderful scholarly work. I was hoping for insight. Did the Boleyns have a troubled marriage? Was Jane paid off? Did she have a lover lined up? After all, she lost her husband George who was executed at the same time as Anne. One wonders if Jane was coerced, and if so by whom.None of these questions are answered by this book.
In ClosingThe only thing of interest that came to me after reading this book was not even the author's intention. I started thinking for the first time, that there may have been some truth to the incest charge. Ms Fox does not posit so, I do. Only because it seems so extreme to execute a former wife. Anne Boleyn died of beheading. Henry already had established their marriage was null, why not send her away as he did Katherine?
If the incest charge were true, or at least if Henry believed it to be true, that's the kind of thing so gross to the mind, it could push a person.