The Rise and Fall of Anne Boleyn By Retha M. Warnicke

Retha M. Warnicke ↠ 4 Read

I thought this did a good job of explaining the circumstances of the times and the politics surrounding Anne Boleyn as consort and queen.I was particularly fascinated by the sections on the Boleyn origins and her patronage as queen.I also enjoyed the author's writing style and I liked how the book was organized.It seemed well researched right up to the point of Anne's last pregnancy and her trial where I felt the author tended to rely too much on the Spanish State Papers which are highly biased.Otherwise,I would recommend it if you are looking for something on Anne's life that isn't a biography. 0521406773 Well researched, well argued, and well written. Warnicke ably untangles the religious, political, legal, sexual and social issues that led to the execution of Anne Boleyn in May 1536. Her arguments are novel and very well constructed, although she relies on sheer conjecture now and again. Still, from the scarcity of clues left to us, sometimes conjecture is all we can achieve, and it is mostly forgivable in these cases. Sometimes she assumes too much prior knowledge of medieval religious and legal terminology, but it wasn't enough to keep me from understanding the bigger picture. Definitely recommended. I'm interested now in reading the views of other Tudor historians on this subject to see how they respond to Warnicke's arguments. 0521406773 Since its publication in 1989, The Rise and Fall of Anne Boleyn has often been dismissed as a joke by Tudor history enthusiasts. Like 2010's Anne Boleyn: Fatal Attractions, Rise and Fall has been criticised for relying far too much on unreliable anecdotal evidence from the 1530s to substantiate its claims. However, Rise and Fall relies on a wider range of sources, which suggests that, at the very least, it should be treated with the same seriousness as Professor Bernard's work. Thorough and admirable reviews critiquing, even de-constructing, its core arguments have been printed. It would be unfair to dismiss the entirety of the book as nonsense, because of the contents of its eighth chapter.

While Professor Warnicke's famous deformed foetus theory is largely unconvincing, it does not necessarily follow that all of her work is subsequently invalid. The Rise and Fall of Anne Boleyn remains an interesting and thought-provoking academic account of Boleyn's life and career. Warnicke places far more emphasis on gender and aristocratic culture and anyone interested in studying Henry VIII's second wife will appreciate at least some of its conclusions and research. This is certainly not a book for beginners, but by focusing on the entirety of Anne's life from her early-century birth to her execution in 1536, Warnicke does enough to unsettle the firmly-entrenched narrative of Anne's life. She suggests that, at the very least, there is still room for debate and that further research is required on some key areas of the period. It is not necessary to accept some of the more controversial elements of Professor Warnicke's theories in order to appreciate this book. Fascinating and thorough, even when unconvincing, it is an essential part of the modern debate over the sixteenth-century monarchy and upper-classes. 0521406773 There was a lot in here I didn't agree with...however, Warnicke almost fully exonerates Jane Boleyn of the hateful myths that have been repeated about her, so that counts for a lot! Definitely worth a read to get a full picture of Anne's story. 0521406773 Neither the year in which Anne Boleyn was born nor the birth order of her and her siblings can be proven beyond reasonable doubt. But you can look at facsimiles of the love letters that she and Henry wrote to each other. These are lives both very close to us and very distant from our understanding.

Warnicke's thesis is that Boleyn's second pregnancy ended in the stillbirth of a malformed male child. The malformation at worst demonstrating to Henry God's disapproval of the relationship with Anne and at best something that he needed to be distanced from. This ended in claiming that Henry was rendered impotent through witchcraft and the malformed child was the result of unnatural sexual acts between Anne and five others including her brother and therefore no reflection upon the physical and spiritual health of the controversially divorced King. To suggest that the King produced a malformed monstrous child was the same as saying that God didn't like Henry himself, not what you wanted to say in his day and age if you preferred being alive or aspired to a natural death.

Equally important, Warnicke argues is that whereas today we have a polar view of sexuality (Arctic, Antarctic and equatorial bisexuality) then the prevalent view was the slippery slope model of sexuality. At the top of the slope was a married couple, ideally they felt that sexuality was another of those burdens put on humanity by God as he kicked Adam and Eve out of Paradise, they would be certain to avoid sexual relations on the days forbidden to it (which were numerous) and would confess of any sinful activity and do penance, as one slipped down the slope the argument goes one becomes more and indiscriminately lustful, at the bottom men, women, children, animals, close relatives anything goes. In the context of such believes not only were the accusations levelled against Boleyn believable, they themselves 'proved' that Boleyn was a witch who had ensorcelled his gracious majesty good king Harry VIII. And plainly your typical witch who was indiscriminately fornicating would naturally give birth to monsters. As a bonus this also proved that there was nothing wrong with the King, his manhood, or his political leadership, simply unfortunately he was as at risk from and potential prey to witchcraft just like his humble subjects.

This provided a narrative that was consistent and allowed Boleyn and those connected to her to be removed from power without damaging the King and so the crucial factor in Warnicke's opinion is the dynamics of court life. Court politics with families scrabbling for office and reward, its protocol and ceremonial was an intricate business. This ,and the particular need, or correctly said desire, of Henry VIII for a son, was to result in the execution of Anne Boleyn. 0521406773

Warnicke's book had some really interesting takes on Anne Boleyn and her life, even if I didn't agree with them all. The book was choppy though, and lacked cohesiveness. 0521406773 The author Retha Warnicke put alot of research into this book and it contains some very interesting information suggesting other ideas and reasons for the downfall and execution of Anne Boleyn. The book was at times very intense with alot of information, but for someone who wants those facts, it would be a really good book. 0521406773 Just the fact clear and precise. 0521406773 I guess it goes without saying that Anne Boleyn is a contentious figure, not just in the context of Tudor history, but she's just one of 'those' characters in history that the popular mythos of her is imbued with strange supernatural and misogynistic stereotypes. I mean, it's not as if these stories and stereotypes come from nothing, however they're very easily discounted when you peer into the murky depths from which they have surfaced from.

Whether I agree with Warnicke's theories or not, for the most part they are presented with rationality and a close eye on critical source analysis (and, y'know, postmodernist concepts of 'differing truths' and all). The opinions of the envoy Chapuys are drawn on frequently as Charles V's Imperial ambassador (therefore, you can see that he might have some rather acerbic things to say about Anne) and this is used to tell us more about the legends that have surfaced about her, but occasionally one can look through the hostility and draw out motivations for what he writes.

As for Warnicke's theories themselves, I find myself convinced by some and not so much so with others. Her case for Anne's birth date being 1507 rather than the assumed 1501 is quite absorbing. It's something I'd have to cross-reference, but her arguments are highly persuasive.

However, I don't find myself agreeing with all that she writes regarding the downfall of Anne. I find there to be a lot of psychological reasoning involved, especially when writing about the men who were convicted and interrogated at the same time as the Queen. However, her arguments are never absurd and anything that I could label as being blatantly incorrect.

Also, what I found helpful and interesting were the appendices at the back which go into detail about some of the more prominent source material that information is gleaned from regarding the topic. It really helps to further explore the provenance of the primary material in depth, where it might be clunky in the main body of text. It explores the motivations behind those that wrote about her during her life and after her death, and I think that is useful when considering that all sources are produced for a reason, and these reasons need to be considered when one is engaging in sourcework.

I may not agree with all of Warnicke's theories, but I do appreciate that they not absurd to the point where they're not interesting. I find her prose to be readable on the whole, which makes for an interesting work. This book was received with some controversy, so I would recommend it to those who wish to familiarise themselves with the historiography of Anne Boleyn (or to anyone who has read/watched The Other Boleyn Girl and treated it like a respectable documentary). 0521406773
I have heard many litigious comments regarding Retha Warnicke’s book but I really wanted to give it a chance and see what all the talk was about. I went into this book with an open mind, willing to read and contemplate anything that Warnicke presented. Unfortunately, despite trying to take her writing in an open frame of mind I still came away disagreeing with much of what she had stated as fact. The main issues that I disagreed with were as follows:

Anne Boleyn’s Age: I am in the camp that Anne Boleyn was born in 1501 and not in 1507 as Warnicke suggests. I personally believe that there is far too much evidence for the claim that Anne was born in 1501. I do not think that just because she wrote a letter while in Europe with supposedly poor handwriting that is enough to claim that she was born in 1507. I am open to the fact that people (although it seems to be very few) believe Anne was born in 1507. Due to fact that Anne’s date of birth was either never recorded or has been lost to history we may never know exactly when she was born, it is just up to us to interpret the evidence given to us from history.

Anne’s siblings: Warnicke claims while Anne was the middle child born to Thomas and Elizabeth Boleyn, it was George who was the oldest and Mary the youngest. I have never in all my readings about Mary and Anne Boleyn heard of this theory. In fact evidence would seem to suggest that it was Mary who was the oldest child, while George was the youngest. During Queen Elizabeth’s rein, Mary Boleyn’s son Henry Carey petitioned his cousin the Queen for the title of Earl of Ormond (a title once held by his grandfather). Henry would have only been able to make this claim because his mother was the oldest child born to Thomas Boleyn. There is no evidence to suggest that it was George who was the oldest child.

The soul reason for Anne’s fall was Henry’s dissatisfaction that Anne miscarried a son: This idea just flabbergasted me! Of course Henry was probably upset that Anne had miscarried a son, the son who was to be Henry’s longed for heir – but to claim this was the only reason for Anne’s fall… I think that is a HUGE assumption. Once again there is evidence to show that Henry was growing dissatisfied and even frustrated by Anne’s vivacious personality and her abrupt and possessive attitude. There is also evidence to suggest that there were members at court, influential members including Thomas Cromwell who were perhaps threatened or distrustful of Anne. There are lots of reasons for why Anne fell from favour, to many to list here for it is such a complicated and detailed issue. But to suggest that the soul reason she fell was because of her miscarriage, for me that really shows a lack of understanding about Anne Boleyn and political and social life during the 1530’s.

Anne miscarried a deformed foetus in early 1536: I actually read this theory several times before I could even get my head around what Warnicke was writing. There is NO firm evidence to suggest that the son Anne miscarried was deformed. In fact the child, who was about three months, three and a half months, must have been well formed enough because the doctors were able to determine that it was a male. It could be that Henry VIII believed Anne had bewitched him – suggesting that she may have been a witch or involved in witchcraft. During the Tudor times it was believed that witches gave birth to deformed or mutated children. From this it has been suggested that those who did not like Anne spread the rumour that her miscarried child was deformed to strengthen the idea that she was a witch and thus insight people to dislike her. Again I do not believe there is any evidence to suggest that the child Anne miscarried in 1536 was deformed in anyway.

Henry had completely fallen out with Anne during the first few months of 1536: Again the evidence we have actually suggests the opposite of this. Even though Henry was probably bitterly disappointed from the loss of his longed for heir, he was still pushing Rome and European powers to recognise Anne as his true and lawful wife. Why would he do this if he had completely fallen out with Anne?

Henry Publically Humiliated Anne: Warnicke writes that Henry publically humiliated Anne by having Chapyus formally recognise her as Queen. Chapuys was invited to Mass and when Anne turned and stepped out from the pew Chapuys was standing so close to her that he had to publically recognise her and her status. It was a set up designed by Henry for Chapuys who had long claimed Anne as nothing more than a concubine, to formally recognise Anne as Queen. I do not see how in any way this could be skewed as Henry wanting to snub and insult Anne, rather I believe that it was a clear indicator that Henry still viewed Anne as his lawful Queen and wanted her recognised as such.

George Boleyn and Mark Smeaton were homosexuals: Again this is a theory that really shocked me. Just because George Boleyn and Mark Smeaton both owned the same book at one time does NOT mean that they were homosexual’s engaging in intimate liaisons! (My husband has given his best friend books for his birthday, does that make him a homosexual?!) Nor does the claim that because at his execution George Boleyn claimed he had committed many sinful acts he was therefore a homosexual. There is no evidence to suggest George Boleyn or Mark Smeaton were homosexuals and how Warnicke could make this claim really astounds me!

Unfounded statements: I felt that Warnicke made to many grand assumptions and made too many claims of what Anne Boleyn did or felt when there was no proof to back any of her statements up. One of my greatest pet peeves is when historians make a claim about the life of Anne Boleyn without providing enough evidence to back up this claim. There is so much we do not know about Anne, so much that we will probably never know. She lived her life almost five hundred years ago and there is no way that we in modern times can claim with any fact what she truly felt or thought. We can make assumptions, proposals, suggestions, but we were not there and no definitive records survive of her true thoughts or feelings. It frustrated me when Warnicke made such statements on how Anne felt or what she must have thought or did when she simply did not have the evidence to support these claims.

On one hand I was glad that I read this book because finally I got to understood what all the controversy was about; yet on the other hand I was extremely disappointed. I came away from the book feeling that Retha Warnicke had made such ludicrous claims that were based on little or no evidence. She seemed to have interpreted events in such a strange and distorted light that I was left quite flabbergasted. Her ideas and theories are so far away from what most other historians have written that at times they seem quite preposterous. I was really dissatisfied with this book and unfortunately this is not one book about Anne Boleyn that I would recommend reading.


The execution of Henry VIII's second queen in 1536 has traditionally been attributed to a conspiracy masterminded by Thomas Cromwell. This radical reinterpretation focuses instead on the many intrigues that pervaded Henry's court.

It looks at opinions only of Warnicke - for example, the idea that Anne Boleyn was deformed and had a sixth finger and a wen under her chin. The Rise and Fall of Anne Boleyn