BLURB: “The story of Anne Boleyn goes to the root of all history; what makes an individual or event memorable to later generations? Anne is an exceptional case for her life is a double helix intertwining extraordinary human drama with profound historical crisis. A young lady of no particular importance or talents – she was neither a great beauty nor a captivating charmer – married a man who turned out to be England’s most notorious monarch. and then three years later she was publicly executed for treason, accused of quadruple adultery and incest. Mistress Boleyn was the crucial catalyst for three of the most important events in modern history; the break with Rome and the English Reformation, the advent of the nation state, and the birth of a daughter whose forty-three years on the throne stand as England’s most spectacular literary and political success story. Remove Anne and the Reformation as we know it today would not have taken place; remove Anne and Elizabeth I would not have existed at all. Anne Boleyn stands as a monument to the truth that there is nothing consistent in history except the unexpected.”
REVIEW: It was so nice to dive back into a work of historical nonfiction for pleasure rather than study, especially when this is a work written by a historian whom I greatly admire. Baldwin-Smith’s previous biography of Katherine Howard is one of the rare accounts of the young Queen’s life and is one of my favourite and most useful works of nonfiction. This book, however, is unlike Baldwin-Smith’s usual style – he himself describes it as more of a ‘biographical essay’, giving a relatively detailed account of Anne Boleyn’s life while studying in depth the conclusions that four other eminent historians have drawn about her – Eric Ives, Retha Warnicke, G.W. Bernard and Alison Weir. In this sense, it was unlike the majority of other nonfiction works that I have read. I nonetheless found it to be extremely informative, written with a light and entertaining wit that made the account of Anne’s life all the more fascinating to read. Although I sometimes disagreed on his views of the other historians, on the whole Baldwin-Smith seems convinced of Anne’s innocence, which is something I always warm to in historians. Baldwin-Smith’s research, although seeming minimal in this rather brief and shallow account, is clearly meticulous and by dissecting the work of other historians in the area he clearly demonstrates his skill both as a historian and a historiographer.