The Boleyn Inheritance Book Review
Admittedly, I don't get really sucked into a good book until I have read far enough into it and have become enveloped in the plot and character development. But with The Boleyn Inheritance
, I was immediately caught up in the drama of King Henry's later life court. It was one of those wonderful novels that I could not put down. Although I already knew the fate of the women involved through the childhood rhyme:
Divorced, Beheaded, Died,
Divorced, Beheaded, Survived.;
I was still intrigued and completely intertwined with the lives, thoughts, hopes and fears of these women. Right from the very beginning the book carries you back in time and places you beside these important female characters who lived precariously in the madhouse of King Henry's court.
The author, Philippa Gregory, did a terrific job piecing together the little known facts about his fourth and fifth wives and created a remarkable drama to fit what we did know of them. Fictional as it may be, we do know that these women suffered greatly as they lived in daily fear of the axe. For whatever reason, King Henry VIII was able to turn on someone in a heartbeat, even his own wife, and no one was safe from persecution or execution. He did this regularly to suit his needs whenever it pleased him. He was thought to be paranoid and possibly insane in his later years.
The story begins long after the King has mourned the death of his third wife. He is no longer the handsome young King jousting under the banner of Loyal Heart who caused an entire country to fall in love with him. He is now old, obese, injured and bitter. He accepts a marriage to Anne of Cleves, a young and chaste German woman, who gladly accepts, thankful for the opportunity to leave her over bearing family and cruel brother. Too late she realizes the she only traded one tyrant for another. Returning to court to serve the new Queen Anne is Jane Boleyn, whose own husband was beheaded, along with the former Queen Anne (the second wife), for having an affair with the queen. Jane was known to have testified against the Queen herself and her own husband. Her testimony lead to their deaths and her guilt is tackled in the novel as she takes her place in court once again with the new Queen Anne.
The first meeting between Anne and Henry goes sour, and Henry nearly rejects her immediately. Since he is unable to dispose of her satisfactorily, he looks for a reason to have the marriage nulled, an accusation of witchcraft is even considered. Meanwhile, he begins to fall in love with the beautiful Katherine Howard, a mere girl of only 16, a member of the court also brought in to serve the new queen. Through careful plots and actions of other individuals, Jane helps bring Katherine to the throne and testifies once again against the new Queen Anne. Yet, the Queen Anne is saved, remarkably, and is declared to be sister to King Henry in the eyes of God. Whatever King Henry says comes from God giving him power over the church and the people of England.
All we really know about little Katherine Howard is the opinion that she was very stupid. Most likely, she was a young girl unsure of how to handle herself in an adult court and in such a grown up and responsible position of Queen. She was also very much in love with Thomas Culpepper, the King's own groom. What can you expect? She was a mere child married to a heartless brute three times her senior. Her affair with Thomas was also known to be encouraged by Jane Boleyn, or thought to be, and the reasons for these actions come alive in The Boleyn Inheritance
as Philippa Gregory gives life to Anne, Jane and Katherine with desire, fear, plotting and even love.
Whatever the real stories were that transpired during this time during King Henry's reign, one thing is for sure: no one was safe. It would take a strong individual to risk her life just to experience the pleasures of being at court. The fear of Henry must have been dreadful. And even worse still would it have been to be a woman in the center of it all while conniving men on different sides would use Henry's paranoia and heartless spite to get rid of one wife representing a certain alliance so another could take her place. In a twisted sense of politics, the Queens were treated as expendable pawns in a game of chess, and that is exactly how they were played.
Pick up The Boleyn Inheritance
for a good read. You won't be able to put it down. I do recommend this book.
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