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Myths surrounding Anne Boleyn : Immoral temptress?

Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn by Arthur Hopkins c. 1860's-1870

When Henry VIII noticed Anne Boleyn in 1526, he didn’t wanted her to become his wife and queen. He simply desired Anne as his mistress. The king offered her a title of Maîtresse-en-titre, this title was very famous in France and meant that woman who had such a title was a chief mistress of a sovereign, and she had her own privileges like her own apartments, servants, etc. Although Henry VIII had many mistresses, he never actually had a maîtresse-en-titre and this title was offered only to Anne Boleyn. But Anne refused. Why would any woman refuse the king of England? Well perhaps Anne thought that if she refuse, then Henry will give up and find a new mistress. But perhaps, which is more likely, Anne learned from her sister’s example ; Mary Boleyn was Henry VIII’s mistress for few years, she gave birth to two children during affair with the king but in the end Henry casted her aside.

Anne’s refusal really made Henry VIII want her even more.  What was so special about Anne Boleyn? When she came back from France in 1522, she was considered a Frenchwoman – she was elegant, well-spoken and gracious. Although she was not a typical blue-eyed ‘English Rose’ with pale skin and blonde hair, she caught the attention of male courtiers and soon became very popular. She was a dramatic brunette with olive skin and enchanting black eyes, even French King called her a ‘Venus’ and Venus was synonym of beauty.

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“Elizabeth of York” by Amy Licence

When I first heard that there will be a new biography of Elizabeth of York, I was truly ecstatic because I always wanted to learn more about the woman who gave birth to Henry VIII. I enjoyed Amy Licence’s first book, ‘In Bed With the Tudors’ and I was really happy to receive Amy Licence’s newest book from Amberley Publishing.

Elizabeth of York was a daughter of Elizabeth Woodville, the first-born English queen consort. While her mother was perceived as a social-climber and was unpopular among her contemporaries, Elizabeth of York was less controversial. She was humble and beloved by people because she endured many tribulations during her life. She was born a royal princess but when her father died she was deemed a bastard. As a teenager she fled to sanctuary with her mother and sisters and when she finally emerged from seclusion in 1484, she found herself being admired by her own uncle, Richard III (or at least this is what the contemporary rumours were saying). She was also the sister of two Princes in the Tower whose fate remains unknown. When Richard III was killed at the Battle of Bosworth, Elizabeth married Henry Tudor and became a mother of the new dynasty.

This book is a fascinating glimpse into the life of Elizabeth of York. Amy Licence combed obscure sources for hitherto unknown insights and has written them into a cohesive history. The daily reality of Elizabeth of York is portrayed very well: everything is described so vividly that I could almost see what Elizabeth saw and heard, tasted, smelt. I learned a great deal of interesting details from this queen’s life. Who knew that she was involved in designing the royal gardens or that she gave money in return for presents of apples and oranges? My favourite part of the book was chapter entitled ‘A Year in the Life, 1502-3′ where Elizabeth’s expenses are outlined and discussed. What a great insight into her life! Plus I really loved the selection of pictures for this book.

Amy Licence is an historian of women’s lives in the medieval and early modern period and it really shows in the way she has dealt with her subject. She was very enthusiastic and sympathetic towards Elizabeth of York and managed to bring Elizabeth back to life, showing us the world the first Tudor queen consort lived in. What I really enjoyed about this book is that it tells you the story of a Elizabeth from a completely different angle: there are so many interesting details from every-day life at court and from the history of women, that it is really hard to put this book down. Amy Licence’s books are like a breath of fresh air, and I am definitely going to read everything and anything from this author. I highly recommended this book for all Tudor enthusiasts.

Thank you for a great read, Amberley Publishing!

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