Saturday, 10 January 2015

The Boleyn Conundrum.

We all know that Anne Boleyn was the great Wronged Woman of English history, don’t we? Executed on a trumped up charge in order to get her out of the way so that Henry could marry somebody else.

Actually, we don’t know that. In tonight’s hour-long documentary on Anne’s last days, a bevy of noted authors and historians were given the line ‘What I think happened was…’ and then let loose to present their theories and rationales. The trailer for the programme suggested we were going to get to the bottom of the sad affair. Trailers always do…  

Did Henry want Anne dead and order Thomas Cromwell to engineer the evidence? Did Cromwell engineer it on his own behalf because he and Anne weren’t exactly best mates? Was it an example of complex courtly protocols coming unstuck at the seams and creating a tragedy by accident? Could the charges levelled at her even have been true after all? Each of these theories and more were espoused by different members of the august body of experts and argued at length.

The privilege of making the final pronouncement was given to the youngest and prettiest of the historians (well, to be precise, the only one who was young and pretty. And, much to my approval, the only one to stand outside the whole process and say ‘historians don’t always give you all the facts.’) She said:

There’s enough evidence to keep the historians interested, and enough doubt to ensure we’ll never know the truth.

Ah, right. So that was an hour well spent, then.

Personally, I find Anne’s confession before and after receiving the final Eucharist the most compelling evidence of all. I’m voting ‘innocent.’

(And I’m tempted to suspect that Anne and Henry were respectively reincarnated as Catherine the Great and Tsar Peter III of Russia, and that revenge was sweet. Being neither a historian nor a Buddhist, I have no evidence to offer.)


Madeline said...

I was also convinced by the young pretty historian. I didn't buy the argument (I believe put forward by the other female historian?) that it's an easy step to take from "Wouldn't it be nice if Henry were to die" to "Let's kill him," or the idea that if one's husband fails to impregnate one with a male child, one's brother makes an obvious alternative. I did wonder why one of the men accused of sleeping with Anne confessed, though. Did he think it would save his life, was he being tortured, or was he telling the truth?

JJ Beazley said...

We watched the same programme? Fancy that.

Agreed on all points, Mad. And yes, it is odd that the lad who signed the paper for Cromwell never (as far as we know) retracted. Could he have been denied the opportunity in some way? As Ms Glampot said, 'we shall never know.'

She certainly dispelled the 'dumb blonde' myth, didn't she? When I first saw her I wondered whether she'd been trotted out as a bit of token glamour for PR purposes (I'm suspicious of the media as I'm suspicious of nearly every institution.) But I thought she was easily the most objective and well balanced of all.