Portraying Anne Boleyn in Fiction by Charlie Fenton

I am delighted to welcome Charlie Fenton to On the Tudor Trail. Charlie runs the ‘Through the Eyes of Anne Boleyn’ blog and Facebook page and has recently written a novel about Anne Boleyn, entitled Perseverance.

Over to Charlie!

Portraying Anne Boleyn in Fiction

By Charlie Fenton

The reason I started writing Perseverance is because of some of the negative portrayals of Anne in fiction. This was a couple of years ago, so I can’t comment on the more recent novels, but, whenever I read a novel that portrayed Anne in a positive light, it wasn’t accurate. Surely there had to be a way to portray her in a positive but accurate light?

A sly, devious Anne in The Other Boleyn Girl movie (2008)

I knew I wanted to write it from Anne’s point of view, I never considered changing that. I had always been interested in Anne’s relationship with Wolsey and researching that was enlightening. I don’t think that she wanted him dead or wanted to get her revenge because of him breaking up her relationship with Henry Percy, I think she generally relied on him to get Henry VIII’s divorce. When he couldn’t do that, she saw no need for him anymore, she needed someone who could get the job done. I don’t think she planned on him dying or maybe even being arrested, once he was banished, things just escalated around her.

One of my biggest problems with writing Perseverance was trying to portray everyone else accurately too. I couldn’t portray Anne like that but forget about everyone else. However, there were times when accounts simply did not match up or someone’s motivations were unclear (which actually happened a lot). I did a lot of research on each character, but I focused mostly on the Boleyn family. One person that grabbed my interest and I hope to write about someday is Jane Boleyn. Many people think her relationship with her husband, George Boleyn, wasn’t very good. Some even think that she provided evidence for his arrest, yet there isn’t any sound information to prove that. I had to do something different, show Jane and George’s relationship as accurately as I could, as well as Jane and Anne’s. Here is an excerpt showing Jane confiding in Anne, saying that she actually missed George while he was away:

“George has risen high thanks to you.” Jane appeared out of nowhere, standing beside me as I watched George dance with some women.  I laughed a little in response.  I knew that she was joking, but I still corrected her.

“Many people assume that he has because of me, but they’re wrong.  He has always been the King’s favourite, my relationship with him just encouraged the King a little more.”

Of course, Wolsey’s fall also helped.  George had lost his position in the Privy Chamber during the Eltham Ordinances, a terrible statute that allowed Wolsey to remove some of the King’s gentlemen.  Luckily, George was restored a few months ago.

“But at least, thanks to you, he will never fall.  He will always be in the King’s favour as long as you are his wife.”  The last part of her sentence sent a chill down my spine, but then she continued on a different track.  “I appreciate the time that we spend together, and I understand that George does a lot of work for you and the King, but I do miss him a lot.  I wish I could see him more often, but he spends more time in service to the King, than he does with me.  Even when he’s here and free, you see him far more than I do.”

“Are you jealous of me spending time with my brother?” I asked, trying to make it sound normal while I was actually genuinely concerned.

“No!  No, of course not.” she protested and couldn’t help laughing with me.  “I admire your love for each other and his dedication to you, I just wish I could see him more.  That four month embassy to France was torture.  I wish we were like you and the King; he adores you.”


One of the supposed portraits of Jane Boleyn

It wasn’t just Anne I had to portray accurately, but her relationships. Reading about her charitable works, I believe she was a genuinely nice person. However, I also had to be careful not to make her seem like an angel. She wasn’t. She had temper tantrums, arguments and did seem spiteful sometimes. She fell out with her family and husband frequently, but she still loved them. But don’t we all have moments like that? We wouldn’t be human otherwise. Anne was human and I needed people to remember that.

Anne Boleyn, by an anonymous painter. Hever Castle, Kent.

One of my favourite portraits of Anne Boleyn.

Recommended books/books that helped write Perseverance:

Borman, Tracy. (2014). Thomas Cromwell: The Untold Story of Henry VIII’s Most Faithful Servant

Evans, Victoria Sylvia. (2014). Ladies-in-Waiting: Women who Served at the Tudor Court

Fox, Julia. (2009). Jane Boleyn: The Infamous Lady Rochford

Fraser, Antonia. (2012). The Six Wives of Henry VIII

Friedmann, Paul. (2010). Anne Boleyn

Hart, Kelly. (2011). The Mistresses of Henry VIII

Ives, Eric. (2005). The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn

Jones, Philippa. (2009) The Other Tudors: Henry VIII’s Mistresses and Bastards

Licence, Amy. (2013). In Bed with the Tudors: The Sex Lives of a Dynasty from Elizabeth of York to Elizabeth I

Mackay, Lauren. (2014). Inside the Tudor Court

Morris, Sarah. & Grueninger, Natalie. (2013). In the Footsteps of Anne Boleyn

Ridgway, Claire. (2012). The Anne Boleyn Collection I

Ridgway, Claire. (2013). The Anne Boleyn Collection II: Anne Boleyn and the Boleyn Family

Ridgway, Claire. (2012). The Fall of Anne Boleyn: A Countdown

Ridgway, Claire. & Cherry, Clare. (2014). George Boleyn: Tudor Poet, Courtier and Diplomat

Starkey, David. (2004). Six Wives: The Queens of Henry VIII

Weir, Alison. (2010). The Lady in the Tower: The Fall of Anne Boleyn

Weir, Alison. (2012). Mary Boleyn: ‘The Great and Infamous Whore’

Wilkinson, Josephine. (2010) Mary Boleyn: The True Story of Henry VIII’s Favourite Mistress

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  1. Hi Charlie,

    I absolutely agree about Jane Rochford’s portrayal because I think she knew if George went down she would too.So,It doesn’t make much sense for her to give evidence against him.It looks like a very interesting novel and I’m looking forward to reading it.

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