Book Review: “Anne Boleyn, An Illustrated Life of Henry VIII’s Queen” by Roland Hui

Anne Boleyn IllustratedThe wives of King Henry VIII have been discussed for centuries in length through novels and nonfiction books. Katherine of Aragon, Jane Seymour, Anna of Cleves, Catherine Howard, and Catherine Parr are all very popular queens, but there is one that you have all been waiting for, the most famous Tudor queen, Anne Boleyn. Her story has been told so many different ways by historians and historical fiction authors for centuries, and now it is time for another historian to write their spin on her story. In his latest book, “Anne Boleyn, An Illustrated Life of Henry VIII’s Queen,” Roland Hui paints a picture of the tumultuous life, love life, and death of Anne Boleyn.

Thank you, Pen and Sword Books and Net Galley, for sending me a copy of this book. I am always looking for a new approach to the lives of the Tudors in books, and when I heard about this title, it caught my eye.

Like so many books about Anne Boleyn, this biography covers Anne’s childhood, her reign and rocky relationship with Henry VIII, her tragic downfall, and her gruesome execution. Hui begins with the origins of the Boleyn family and Anne Boleyn’s childhood. I am glad Hui decided to focus on Anne’s upbringing in the court of Margaret of Austria because this is the aspect that I was always curious about when it came to Anne. We often talk about how the French court shaped Anne’s upbringing, but Hui shows his readers that the Burgundian court was just as transformative and impacted her life.

This book focuses on the relationship between Anne and Henry VIII and how she helped influence his reign, especially regarding religious matters. With the Great Matter and the creation of the Church of England alongside the rise of the English Reformation, we see Anne Boleyn’s opinions on religious matters. Anne had books written by humanists and reformers like Jacques Lefevre d’Etaples, Johannes Brenz, Simon Fish, and William Tyndale. She also surrounded herself with men like Nicholas Bourbon, Hugh Latimer, Nicholas Shaxton, William Betts, William Latymer, and John Skip. Finally, Hui discusses how Anne Boleyn fell from her husband’s good favor and was executed.

This is an excellent book to introduce people to the story of Anne Boleyn, as you can easily read it in one sitting. I found some of the material in this book repetitive compared to other books about Anne Boleyn, but Hui does lift it with new facts and the images he includes in this book. Overall, I did enjoy the new information Hui had in his nonfiction book. If you are a fan of Anne Boleyn and want to learn new facts about her life, I suggest you check “Anne Boleyn, An Illustrated Life of Henry VIII’s Queen” by Roland Hui.

Biography: King Henry V

mw03074(Born September 16, 1387- Died August 31, 1422). Son of Henry IV and Mary de Bohun. Married to Katherine of Valois. He only had one son Henry VI.

Henry V was a soldier from birth. He did so much for his country, yet he died too soon, leaving his kingdom in the incapable hands of his baby son Henry VI.

At the age of fifteen, Henry V fought alongside his father against the Welsh rebels under Owain Glyn Dwr and the English rebels under Edmund Mortimer and Henry “Hotspur” Percy. Henry’s relationship with his father in the later years of Henry IV’s life was not great. The two argued about many issues, but it was mostly about the English involvement in France. Henry IV wanted to press his claim to the French throne while France was in the midst of a civil war between the Burgundians and the Armagnacs; Henry IV supported the Armagnacs while Henry V supported the Burgundians. This issue would never be resolved between them as Henry IV would die in 1413 and Henry V became king.

As king, Henry V desired to regain the lands in France that he believed was rightfully his, but unlike his father, he was able to get the full support of Parliament to do so. Henry V tried to negotiate with the French to regain all of the old Angevin Empire,  but when that failed, he invaded on August 11, 1415. On October 25, 1415, the Battle of Agincourt took place. Even though the French had the English outnumbered, the English had longbowmen. The French lost some 6,000 men whereas the English only lost 400 men.

Agincourt was a tremendous victory for the English, but the French refused to fall. Henry V gained support from Sigismund, the Holy Roman Emperor and John, duke of Burgundy and started a new campaign in August 1417. In the spring of 1419, Normandy fell to Henry V. In May 1420, Henry V signed the Treaty of Troyes with the Burgundians which recognized him and his heirs  as heir to the French throne. In order to cement this new alliance, he married the daughter of the French King Katherine of Valois.

Everything seemed right in Henry’s kingdom, but he still wanted to gain more French land. In 1421, he went back to France and was able to gain control of the Dauphin’s stronghold of Meaux in May 1422. Unfortunately, in the winter of 142, Henry V fell ill from dysentery and died on August 31, 1422. He left his kingdom in the hands of his infant son Henry VI. Even though Henry V’s reign was one of the shortest of any English king since the Norman Conquest, it was one of the most successful. England was in a position of power on the world stage thanks to the actions of Henry V.