Out of all the woman we learnt about in our history textbooks, saw in period dramas and experienced in Phillipa Gregory’s scandalous fiction- Anne Boleyn is and will always be my guilty favourite. Was it her olive skin in a royal court filled with women of blonde hair, blue eyes and fair skin? Was it her protestant beliefs in a time plagued with superstition and tyrannical leadership of the Pope? Was it her independent and sometimes reckless spirit? Or the raw passion she exuded from her body language? Too many reasons to list!
I first came across Anne Boleyn in BBC’s ‘The Tudors’, an epic saga spanning the rule of Henry VIII and his six unfortunate wives. Jonathan Rhys Meyers as Henry was surprising because from what I knew of Henry, he was an ugly man with a fat, round head, obese and unattractive body and tiny cold eyes with the smile of a pervert. But he wasn’t always like this, at one point he was the ‘Handsomest Prince in all of Christiandom’ and Meyers embodied that quickly. But as Henry’s attention shifted from the old yet dignified and submissive Katherine of Aragon to Anne Boleyn, we saw a darker, violently passionate side to Henry. Natalie Dormer’s Anne didn’t fall for him for his throne, she challenged him, argued with him, defeated him now and then and he relished it. He found her thoughtless nature, sharp wit and undeniable royalty irresistable. Many argue that Henry was only lustful towards Anne, that is why when he didn’t need her anymore he imprisoned her in the Tower of London and ordered her beheading. But I believe he did love her at one point and when he did he declared war against the Pope, the Holy Roman Empire and Spain so he could be with her.
But Anne was one of those monsters from hell who dazzle you with their charm so much that you cannot look beyond their veil of power and greed. But in Phillipa Gregory’s ‘The Other Boleyn Girl’ I realized that behind this veil there was a vulnerability, an insecurity, a feeling of not being enough. While reading this book I realized that the most stunning woman in the Windsor Castle, the most intelligent woman to ever sit on the throne of England and the most fascinating woman to ever grace the pages of history was infact fearful. Fearful of losing her crown, fearful of losing her wealth, fearful of losing her dignity, fearful of losing her reputation and fearful of losing Henry.
But the major reason why I am endlessly captivated by Anne Boleyn is that she lived by the sword and she died by the sword. It was her cleverness and direct approach that made her Henry’s favourites among all the pretty ladies in court, that made her the most publicly detested Queen of England and that made her Henry’s worst enemy. He knew that if there was any woman who had the power, charisma and the courage to uproot his rule- it was Anne Boleyn. But even after being arrested by her own husband and imprisoned in the Tower, she was not whimpering, whinning or begging and seducing anyone to get her out. Even while being accused of heinous and disgusting crimes like treason, adultery and witchcraft she listened with a quiet dignity and her head held high.
She walked through the crowd of people who mindlessly hated her for being well-educated and intelligent (something only men were allowed to be) and made her way to the block. Although she knew that if she had given up her protestant beliefs she would have the people’s support and if she dumbed herself down she would have Henry’s love- she died the way she was born, way ahead of her time. Maybe that is why I am so obssessively passionate about her- because she wasn’t a ‘Damsel in distress’.