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RETHINKING THE FALL OF ANNE BOLEYN

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  02 April 2002

GREG WALKER
Affiliation:
University of Leicester

Abstract

The lurid story of the fall of Anne Boleyn, her trial and condemnation on charges of multiple (and in one case incestuous) adultery has been used to support many different interpretations of the political and religious history of the reign of Henry VIII. This article argues that the fate of the queen and those accused with her was not the result of wider factional battles or a cynical sacrifice, either to appease a jaded king or to enable a shift in religious or diplomatic policy. Nor was it a case of justice catching up with a libidinous woman who was guilty as charged. In fact Anne's fall was far swifter and more dramatic than previous accounts have suggested, the result essentially of just two days of hectic activity at court and their aftermath. Anne fell, it is argued here, not as a result of what she did, but of what she said during the May Day weekend of 1536, in a series of incautious conversations with the men who were to be tried and executed with her.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
© 2002 Cambridge University Press

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Footnotes

I am grateful to Mrs Iola Treharne and my colleague Dr Elaine Treharne for their generosity in reading through drafts of this article and offering help and advice with various aspects of its argument and apparatus. The essay also benefited greatly from the astute reading and comments of the two anonymous readers for the Historical Journal. I am very grateful for their suggestions. Most of all I would like to thank the members of the Arts and Humanities Research Board Research Leave awards panel and the University of Leicester Study Leave scheme for supporting the extended sabbatical during which the article was written. As readers will quickly realize, this article builds upon the foundations laid down by other scholars, chiefly Eric Ives and G. W. Bernard. Although I differ markedly, if to varying degrees, with each of them in what follows, it could not have been written without them; and I should like to record my indebtedness to their work here.
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