The best books about Anne Boleyn

5 authors have picked their favorite books about Anne Boleyn and why they recommend each book.

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The Creation of Anne Boleyn

By Susan Bordo,

Book cover of The Creation of Anne Boleyn: In Search of the Tudors' Most Notorious Queen

This book is a delight, from start to finish. I read it in one sitting. Like Lucrezia Borgia, it is both popular and erudite, but it does not recount the titular protagonist’s biography. Instead, it goes through all of the myths that have been floating around this unfortunate queen since her own lifetime. Bordo separates contemporary slander from fact, but then goes on to follow how the legend of Anne Boleyn was developed over the centuries in histories, fiction, and film. This study is also explicitly a study of how a legend takes hold and evolves.


Who am I?

After working on the writings of the 15th-century French writer Christine de Pizan for a while I turned to researching the queen of France whom Christine addresses in some of her works. As I read the primary sources, it quickly became clear to me that poor Isabeau of Bavaria’s terrible reputation had been produced by misogynistic and nationalistic nineteenth-century French historians who promulgated images of political women as promiscuous harridans. I was astounded. How could it be that we were still circulating simplistic old narratives of incompetence and debauchery without critically examining what people of the times had to say? I have been studying the afterlives of infamous noblewomen ever since.


I wrote...

The Life and Afterlife of Isabeau of Bavaria

By Tracy Adams,

Book cover of The Life and Afterlife of Isabeau of Bavaria

What is my book about?

The fascinating history of Isabeau of Bavaria is a tale of two queens. During her lifetime, Isabeau, the long-suffering wife of mad King Charles VI of France, was respected and revered. After her death, she was reviled as an incompetent regent, depraved adulteress, and betrayer of the throne. Asserting that there is no historical support for this posthumous reputation, Tracy Adams returns Isabeau to her rightful place in history.

The Falcon's Flight

By Natalia Richards,

Book cover of The Falcon's Flight: A novel of Anne Boleyn

Evocative and atmospheric, the second book in Natalia Richards' series on the life of Anne Boleyn covers her time in France. Often skimmed over by historians, understandably keen to move on to the tragedy of Anne's later life, this immersive, first-person narrative places the reader firmly in Anne's shoes. I particularly enjoyed Natalia's description of the sights (and smells) of medieval Paris, and to find myself at The Field of Cloth of Gold, where King Henry VIII met King François I of France.


Who am I?

I was born within sight of Pembroke Castle, the birthplace of Henry Tudor, who later became King Henry VII and began the Tudor Dynasty, so I’ve always had an interest in his story. I found several biographies, but no novels which brought the truth of his story to life. The idea for the Tudor Trilogy occurred to me when I realised Henry Tudor could be born in book one, ‘come of age’ in book two, and rule England as king in book three. Since then, I’ve continued to follow the Tudor ‘thread’ all the way from Owen Tudor’s first meeting with Catherine of Valois to the death of Queen Elizabeth I.


I wrote...

Owen - Book One of the Tudor Trilogy

By Tony Riches,

Book cover of Owen - Book One of the Tudor Trilogy

What is my book about?

1422: Owen Tudor, a Welsh servant, falls in love with the Queen of England. The beautiful Catherine of Valois, widow of the warrior king, Henry V, is lonely, and her son, the future King Henry VI, shows signs of family madness. As the country simmers on the brink of civil war, will Owen risk everything to protect her? Discover how they change British history – and establish a dynasty...the Tudors. 

This series of best-selling trilogies follow the stories of the Tudors in a continuous thread from Owen Tudor to the final days of Queen Elizabeth I

Songbird

By Karen Heenan,

Book cover of Songbird

I was immediately drawn to the first book in Karen Heenan’s Tudor trilogy because of the perspective from which it was written. Despite studying the period for more than thirty years, I knew next to nothing about the lives of royal minstrels. I enjoyed stories that are set against the familiar backdrop of Henry VIII’s court and especially liked this one as it is both well-researched and written. I thoroughly recommend this series.


Who am I?

Reading Historical Fiction as a youngster led me to study history at university – so the Tudors have been part of my life for about forty years now. After graduating with a Master’s degree, my career choice was easy. Of my thirteen novels, ten are Tudor, covering among others, the lives of Margaret Beaufort, Elizabeth of York, Anne Boleyn, Katheryn Parr, Mary Tudor, and King Henry VIII himself. It isn’t necessarily ‘normal’ to live in such close proximity to the Tudors, but I would be hard pushed to write in a modern setting. Give me an ill-lit chamber, a royal banquet, or even a grisly beheading and I am perfectly at home.


I wrote...

A Matter of Conscience: Henry VIII, The Aragon Years

By Judith Arnopp,

Book cover of A Matter of Conscience: Henry VIII, The Aragon Years

What is my book about?

On the unexpected death of Arthur Tudor, Prince of Wales his brother, Henry, becomes heir to the throne of England. On his accession, he chooses his brother’s widow, Caterina of Aragon, to be his queen. Together they plan to reinstate the glory of days of old and fill the royal nursery with boys. But when their first-born son dies, and subsequent babies are born dead or perish in the womb, the king’s golden dreams are tarnished.

Caterina’s fertile years are ending yet all he has is one useless living daughter, and a baseborn son. He needs a solution but stubborn to the end, Caterina refuses to step aside. As their relationship founders his eye is caught by a woman newly arrived from the French court. Her name is Anne Boleyn.

Game of Queens

By Sarah Gristwood,

Book cover of Game of Queens: The Women Who Made Sixteenth-Century Europe

There is no doubt that the sixteenth century was a man’s world. Women were treated as second-class citizens and viewed as inferior in every single respect: mentally, physically and emotionally. Yet it was also the era of powerful female sovereigns, consorts and regents. Sarah Gristwood’s beautifully written and well-researched study follows the varying fortunes of some of the period’s most formidable matriarchs, from Isabella of Castile to the six wives of Henry VIII.


Who am I?

Tracy Borman is a historian and novelist specialising in the Tudor period and has written a number of best-selling books, including The Private Lives of the Tudors, Thomas Cromwell, and Elizabeth’s Women. She is also a popular broadcaster and has presented numerous history documentaries, including Channel 5’s The Fall of Anne Boleyn and Inside the Tower of London. Alongside this, she is the joint Chief Curator of Historic Royal Palaces and Chief Executive of the Heritage Education Trust.


I wrote...

Thomas Cromwell: The Untold Story Of Henry VIII's Most Faithful Servant

By Tracy Borman,

Book cover of Thomas Cromwell: The Untold Story Of Henry VIII's Most Faithful Servant

What is my book about?

Thomas Cromwell has long been reviled as a Machiavellian schemer who stopped at nothing in his quest for power. As King Henry VIII's right-hand man, Cromwell was the architect of the English Reformation; secured Henry's divorce from Catherine of Aragon and plotted the downfall of his second wife, Anne Boleyn; and was fatally accused of trying to usurp the king himself. But in this engrossing new biography, acclaimed British historian Tracy Borman reveals a different side to one of history's most notorious characters: that of a caring husband and father, a fiercely loyal servant and friend, and a revolutionary who was key in transforming medieval England into a modern state.

Wolf Hall

By Hilary Mantel,

Book cover of Wolf Hall

Another famous man from the sixteenth century, this time Thomas Cromwell. The Holbein portrait of Thomas Cromwell shows us a very grim-looking character with shrewd eyes looking away from us. History gives us Henry VIII’s political fixer. Hilary Mantel gives us the living, breathing man, abused by a cruel father, later grieving for his dead wife and his adored daughter while negotiating a political world in which a man must be as ruthless as his enemies. Hilary Mantel shows us that history is not as simple as it might seem, and Thomas Cromwell is a human being with all the contradictions and complexities that human nature holds. And there is so much to be learnt about the Tudor period. A compelling read.


Who am I?

I love the novels of Charles Dickens and when I found out that he did go out with the London Police to research the criminal underworld for his magazine, I thought what a good detective he would make. He has all the talents a detective needs: remarkable powers of observation, a shrewd understanding of human nature and of motive, and the ability to mix with all ranks of Victorian society from the street urchin to the lord and lady. I love Victorian London, too, and creating the foggy, gas-lit alleys we all know from Dickens the novelist.


I wrote...

Summons to Murder

By J.C. Briggs,

Book cover of Summons to Murder

What is my book about?

This is the ninth novel in the Charles Dickens Investigation series. A journalist friend of Dickens, Pierce Mallory, is found shot dead in his lodgings. The inquest verdict is suicide, but closer examination of the gun causes Dickens and Superintendent Jones to have doubts. Mallory left behind debts, a discarded wife, more than one discarded mistress, and two illegitimate children. There are plenty of suspects. The investigation takes Dickens and Jones into a dangerous world in which powerful people have dangerous secrets they want to keep so badly that even Dickens’s life is in danger.

The Six Wives of Henry VIII

By Alison Weir,

Book cover of The Six Wives of Henry VIII

This is non-fiction that reads as smoothly as fiction (except it’s all true); there is also a “sequel” about his children that is well worth a read. Lately, Weir has been writing novels set in the period, but I don’t like her fiction nearly as much as I love her non-fiction!


Who am I?

By day, I am a freelance grant writer for impactful nonprofits…but by night I indulge a passion for the Tudor era I have harbored since I was eight years old and my parents let me stay up late to watch The Six Wives of Henry VIII and Elizabeth R. My Seymour Saga took me deep into one of the era’s central families – and now I am working on my follow up Regina trilogy, exploring Elizabeth’s journey from bastard to icon. I also run a blog where I post interesting takes on the Tudors – I need somewhere to share all the fascinating tidbits I can’t cram into my books!


I wrote...

Jane the Quene

By Janet Ambrosi Wertman,

Book cover of Jane the Quene

What is my book about?

England. 1535. Jane Seymour is 27 years old and increasingly desperate to marry and secure her place in the world. Meanwhile, King Henry VIII is 45 and increasingly desperate for an heir. As Henry begins to fear he is cursed, Jane’s honesty and innocence conjure in him the hope of redemption.

Thomas Cromwell, an ambitious clerk whose political prowess keeps the King's changing desires satisfied, engineers the plot that ends with Jane becoming the King's third wife. For Jane, who believes herself virtuous and her actions justified, miscarriages early in her marriage shake her confidence. How can a woman who has committed no wrong bear the guilt of how she unseated her predecessor?

Bring Up the Bodies

By Hilary Mantel,

Book cover of Bring Up the Bodies

Although Wolf Hall is the better-known and lauded novel, my preference is for the second book of Hilary Mantel’s trilogy. The author’s focus is Thomas Cromwell, Henry VIII’s ruthlessly efficient first minister who came to prominence after Cardinal Wolsey fell from grace for his failure to solve the King’s “Great Matter.”  I admit I’ve never warmed to Cromwell, although he has been praised by illustrious Tudor historians such as GR Elton. Certainly, he was instrumental in freeing the King of his papal shackles and all that followed in the wake of England’s break from Rome. That being said, the Cromwell of the historical record hardly seems sympathetic. He was one of the wiliest serpents in the snake pit of the Tudor court. Mantel’s books attempt to show a more human side of Henry VIII’s right-hand man.


Who am I?

I'm a History professor at a Canadian university. My research focuses on long-dead English sailors. I’m interested in how they “navigated” the challenges of their lives ashore and afloat. I’ve written a number of books and articles. My first book, Tides in the Affairs of Men: The Social History of Elizabethan Seamen, 1580-1603, examines the lives of seafarers during a period of intense maritime activity. If you want to “meet” those in the maritime community, this is the book for you. Since its publication, I’ve followed many of those sailors from the Elizabethan period into the early seventeenth century. I’m writing a book on diet, disease and disorder in the East India Company.


I wrote...

Tides in the Affairs of Men: The Social History of Elizabethan Seamen, 1580-1603

By Cheryl Fury,

Book cover of Tides in the Affairs of Men: The Social History of Elizabethan Seamen, 1580-1603

What is my book about?

The age of maritime expansion and the Anglo-Spanish War have been analyzed by generations of historians, but nearly all studies have emphasized events and participants at the top. This book examines the lives and experiences of the men of the Elizabethan maritime community during a particularly volatile period of maritime history. The seafaring community had to contend with simultaneous pressures from many different directions. Shipowners and merchants, motivated by profit, hired seamen to sail voyages of ever-increasing distances, which taxed the health and capabilities of 16th-century crews and vessels. International tensions in the last two decades of Elizabeth's reign magnified the risks to all seamen, whether in civilian employment or on warships.

The Other Boleyn Girl

By Philippa Gregory,

Book cover of The Other Boleyn Girl

This book, for me, is where my interest in history really began. To say I loved history at school would be a lie; it was often drab, political, and really quite dry (sorry teachers). But there were always snippets of history lessons that grabbed my attention – the Vikings, the Great Fire of London, and of course Henry VIII and his six wives. Which of us doesn’t leave school aware that there was a king who had six wives and beheaded two of them, even if we can’t remember which two! The Tudors was the one thing that did grab my interest and I did remember all the wives; in fact, I was fascinated by Anne Boleyn and as a young adult buying historical fiction, Anne was the subject of many of the books I read. 

And then Gregory wrote her book on The Other Boleyn. Anne had a…


Who am I?

I am a writer on the lives of women during the Plantagenet and Tudor periods. I have been fascinated by history since childhood, when the death of my mother when I was six years old encouraged a need in me as I grew up to look backward, for memories and glimpses of the past. When I came across queen Elizabeth Woodville she piqued my interest, and her life story has remained with me ever since. This passion for her life and the era led to my first book on her sisters (The Queen’s Sisters) and was followed up by a second book on her daughters entitled The York Princesses.


I wrote...

The York Princesses: The Daughters of Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville

By Sarah J. Hodder,

Book cover of The York Princesses: The Daughters of Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville

What is my book about?

As a collective, the lives of the Princesses of York span seven decades and the rule of five different Kings. The daughters of Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville, their young years were blighted by tragedy. With their own futures uncertain during the reign of their uncle, Richard III, the girls had to navigate their way through the tumultuous years of the 1480s before having to adjust to a new King and a new dynasty in the shape of Henry VII. 

The stories of the York Princesses are entwined into the fabric of the history of England, as they grew up, survived, and even thrived in the new Tudor age. Their lives are played out against a backdrop of coronations and jousts, births and deaths, marriages and divorces, and loyalties and broken allegiances.

Real Ghosts, Restless Spirits, and Haunted Places

By Brad Steiger,

Book cover of Real Ghosts, Restless Spirits, and Haunted Places

Steiger is a well-known explorer of the supernatural, and he brings this solid research foundation to his many books on the subject. Steiger's works tend towards the encyclopedic, simply because he gathers such a wealth of stories and information in every book. Because he's been at this business for such a long time, a reader can be confident that they are in good hands with Steiger's work. 


Who am I?

I've been a paranormal investigator (a paranormal reporter, actually) for over a decade. One of the very best parts of my job is that I get to gorge myself on books of true accounts of the paranormal. It's exciting to see what else is out there, and what other people have experienced – both historically, and personally. I'm so grateful for the chance to add to this body of work; there are many renowned investigators and writers out there, and I'm thrilled to be counted among them. And someday, someone will read about my experiences and be terrified and intrigued and inspired by them.


I wrote...

Days of the Dead: A Year of True Ghost Stories

By Sylvia Shults,

Book cover of Days of the Dead: A Year of True Ghost Stories

What is my book about?

Are you brave enough to spend every day of the year with ghosts?

Paranormal reporter Sylvia Shults has collected 366 ghost stories, one for every single day of the year, and has detailed them in this ambitious work. There's a story for your birthday. There's a story for your pet's birthday. There's a story to make every day spooky. Open the cover and peek inside - if you dare.

The Life of Elizabeth I

By Alison Weir,

Book cover of The Life of Elizabeth I

It’s wonderful to have the opportunity to recommend this particular work of Alison Weir. A brilliant historian, she – by means of both traditional, meticulously-researched biographies, as well as in her historical fiction offerings –  chronicles many aspects, and a number of personages of Tudor England in all of its – and their – colourfully untidy turbulence. 

Her account of Elizabeth I’s life is amongst her best. I especially appreciate the skillful way in which Weir continuously “introduces” the reader to Elizabeth, as the compelling figure she is – fascinatingly intricate, brilliant, and annoyingly contradictory. Just when one seems to understand her – Weir drops yet another paradox – as the reader learns that this supposedly staunchly Protestant daughter of Henry VIII maintained most aspects of orthodox Roman Catholic practices – including a crucifix – in her private chapel royal.


Who am I?

Whilst I was born in America, growing up in an old Irish family with a long history and a powerful sense of its past, I learnt a great deal of Irish, British, and European (especially French) history from an early age – proving valuable in both of my careers – one, as an international business lawyer, the other as a full-time writer of historical fiction. As a result of a “very Irish” numinous connection with the Gaelic poet, Eileen O’Connell, I frequently find myself drawn to books about strong, courageous, and memorable women – particularly those who lived in interesting times, such as the tumultuous days of Sixteenth and Eighteenth-Century Europe.  

I wrote...

Bittersweet Tapestry: A Novel of Eighteenth Century Europe

By Kevin O'Connell,

Book cover of Bittersweet Tapestry: A Novel of Eighteenth Century Europe

What is my book about?

As Bittersweet Tapestry, the third volume of Kevin O’Connell’s continuing Derrynane Saga opens, Eileen O’Connell and her husband, Arthur O’Leary, an officer of the Hungarian Hussars, have departed Vienna – where she served for almost a decade as governess to Maria Theresa’s youngest daughter, now Marie Antoinette, Dauphine of France. 

Their life in Ascendancy-ruled Ireland is in stark contrast to what they left behind, as well as to that of Eileen’s brothers, officers in the Irish Brigade of France, her youngest one, Hugh, now wed to the French Princess Royal. The Irish story evolves into a dark, violent, and bloody tale...ultimately involving an epic tragedy – which results in what has been called, “The greatest poem written in (Ireland and Britain) in the whole Eighteenth Century.”

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