As I was sorting through my bookshelves recently, I was working on winnowing my “Tudors and other assorted European royalty” shelf. Mostly comprised of Tudor history, I have books on Elizabeth I, Jane Grey, and of course, Henry VIII and his six wives among others by authors such as British historian Alison Weir, Antonia Fraser, and Eric Ives. One book made me pause as I picked it up.
Titled The Lady in the Tower: The Fall of Anne Boleyn, author Alison Weir recounts the trial and execution of Henry VIII’s second queen. It’s a very interesting read if you’re in to Tudor history. Weir examines the great lengths Henry VIII went to, trying to put an official, righteous gloss on the entire sordid affair to appear justified in ridding himself of this wife and marriage. It didn’t work, needless to say. History does not look kindly on Henry VIII’s execution of Anne. Anne’s story is especially poignant and ironic given that her daughter Elizabeth became one of the greatest queens in British history, truly the legacy Henry VIII went to such terrible lengths to ensure.
I was reading it a little over a year ago during my second fresh IVF cycle and stopped in the midst of a passage talking about the fear and anxiety Anne endured as she waited for her fate. I had a visceral moment of identification with this woman who had miscarried and in the end, most likely died because of her inability to produce the desired child. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to look at Anne’s story and eventual execution quite in the same way again, from a comfortable distance of centuries and a complicated legacy (some of the best contemporary sources on Anne Boleyn are the letters of the ambassador to Charles V, a man deeply partial to Katherine of Aragon and extremely hostile to Anne, which makes it difficult to suss out the true dimensions of Anne’s personality).
It was a sobering reminder of the very real ways infertility and pregnancy loss have affected families and people’s lives throughout history. I put the book back on the shelf, but I don’t know that I’m going to read it again.
Have been messing around with this post, but I think I’m sticking with the original – sorry for any confusion.