The year is 1536. A young woman climbs the scaffold for her execution while her three-year-old daughter is miles away, not knowing what will happen to her mother. Never speaking about her mother in public for decades, it would seem that the bond between mother and daughter broke that fateful day. Still, Elizabeth I kept the memory of her influential mother, Anne Boleyn, close to her heart. How did Anne prepare her beloved daughter for the complex nature of the Tudor court, and how did Elizabeth keep the memory of her mother alive? This bond is explored in depth in Tracy Borman’s latest book, “Anne Boleyn & Elizabeth I: The Mother and Daughter Who Changed History.”
I want to thank Grove Atlantic and Net Galley for sending me a copy of this book. I am always looking for a new approach to telling these two women’s life stories, so when I heard about this book, I was fascinated to see what Borman would bring to the table.
Borman specifies that this differs from your typical joint biography of Anne Boleyn and Elizabeth I. We get information about the lives of Anne Boleyn and her only daughter Elizabeth I, but the focus is on their relationship. It may be hard to imagine any relationship being established between this mother-daughter duo when Anne Boleyn died when Elizabeth was only three years old.
Borman begins her book by examing this dynamic between a mother and a daughter separated by death with a single ring, the Chequers Ring. This stunning ring is essential to understanding how Elizabeth I felt about her mother, even if she couldn’t speak about it publicly. The first portion of this book focuses on Anne Boleyn, her life, her religious affiliations, and how she prepared for Elizabeth to succeed in life even after she was gone. After Anne’s death, we see Elizabeth as a young princess trying to navigate the treacherous world of the Tudor court while keeping her mother’s memory close to her heart. The little tributes, declarations, who she put in her household, her love of fashion and music, and tokens dedicated to Anne that Elizabeth created when she became queen show how much she loved her mother.
I have read many books about Anne Boleyn and Elizabeth I, but this book breathed new life into this topic for me. I have always wondered what this relationship between mother and daughter was like, how Elizabeth dealt with her mother’s death, how she felt about her father, and how her mother’s influence affected Elizabeth’s reign.
Borman delivered an exquisitely heart-wrenching account of the mother and daughter duo who radically changed England forever. Some parts were so emotional to read that I had to take breaks and reflect on the impact of Anne and Elizabeth. This is one of my top books so far for 2023. If you want a book that packs a punch and breaths new life into the story of Anne and Elizabeth, “Anne Boleyn & Elizabeth I: The Mother and Daughter Who Changed History” by Tracy Borman is a must-read.