Guest Article by Claire Ridgway of The Anne Boleyn Files
As an owner of a website dedicated to Queen Anne Boleyn, I receive countless emails from people every day telling me of their fascination with Anne Boleyn, their passion for her and her story, their appetite for new information on her. It's truly mind-boggling the way that this woman has found her way into millions of hearts all around the world, yet she has been dead for nearly 500 years and was executed for treason, adultery and incest.
[img_assist|nid=181|title=Natalie Dormer as Anne Boleyn on The Tudors|desc=Photo courtsey of Showtime Networks.|link=none|align=left|width=300|height=380]In his book on Anne Boleyn, “Anne Boleyn: Fatal Attractions”, historian G W Bernard questioned women using Anne as a role model, stating that she lived far too long ago for her life and her context to have any bearing on our lives today, but that's just not true. Yes, Tudor times were very different; yes, she was a Queen and most of us aren't; yes, she faced challenges that we cannot understand... but surely we can still admire her and take something from her story to inspire us.
I have written before about Anne Boleyn being 'all things to all people' and it's true. To some, she is a Protestant martyr, a Joan of Arc type figure who caused the English Reformation; to others she is a strong woman who had the nerve to say no to a King and who fought for the crown, and to still others she is the woman who accepted her fate with dignity and courage, putting her daughter's safety and security before her own. There are also those who admire the way that she was true to herself and kept her spirit and her feisty nature, rather than turning into the traditional submissive Tudor wife and queen.
Anne Boleyn has had a major impact on my life. I now spend every working hour researching her life, the time she lived in and the lives of those around her. Although she is a mystery in many ways and is surrounded by myths and slander, I feel that I'm getting close to the real Anne Boleyn. Of course, my idea of Anne Boleyn will be different to other people's and we all admire her for different reasons. As someone with a personal faith and a very Protestant style of faith, I admire the evangelical Anne Boleyn. Anne's time in France had resulted in her being influenced by French humanism and reform, and being exposed to literature and ideas that was deemed 'heretical' in her own country.
When she was Queen, she sought to further the reformist cause by giving her patronage to reformers, by rescuing those in danger abroad, by working to make God's Word available to all and by influencing the appointment of reformist bishops. Anne was also actively involved in supporting poor relief and education. She quite literally put her neck on the line for her faith and although I don't believe that she can be called a Protestant martyr, Anne definitely risked her life and reputation by her support of the New Religion. These were dangerous times and she made enemies, enemies who would help bring her down. Anne had courage and conviction and I believe that her faith sustained her at the end. I defy anyone to read her execution speech without being moved by her dignity and courage.
But it's not just Anne's strength and courage which appeal to me, it's also her vulnerability and the tragedy of her story. She died a brutal death in May 1536 for crimes she was innocent of. Anne Boleyn was framed and her fall was a huge miscarriage of justice, a plot engineered by her enemies and supported by her own husband.
You'd expect the outspoken Anne Boleyn to fight for her life, to rant and rave, to do everything in her power to save herself and bring down her enemies, but she accepted her fate. Anne knew her husband well and she knew that once he had turned against you that was that, there was no escape. There was no point in fighting and she had her daughter, her sister and her parents to think about. Better to hold her tongue and protect them than bring the King's wrath down upon them. Anne was, in many ways, a tragic victim, completely vulnerable, but there was nothing pathetic about her. She was the victim, the underdog, but she never once acted like it.
Her enemies may have won on the 19th May 1536, as she was beheaded and buried in a wooden chest as a traitor, but Anne won in the end. She has a place in many hearts today and it was her legacy, her daughter, who has gone down in history as one of the best monarchs England has ever had: Elizabeth I, Gloriana.
So why not have the courageous Anne Boleyn as your role model? I do and I'm proud to admit it.