My Stage is the World

Oh what a tangled web we weave, when first we practise to deceive

Anne Boleyn – The Most Happy

Anne Boleyn“Good Christian people, I am come hither to die, according to law, and therefore I will speak nothing against it… To Christ I commend my soul!”

Yesterday marked the 476th anniversary of Queen Anne Boleyn’s execution and I know I am not alone in mourning her death.

I’ve admired this woman since I was 6 when I first studied the Tudors, and as I grew older I found myself thinking about her more and more, as I realised how similar we are.

I own a replica Boleyn necklace, dyed my hair brown when I dressed up as her and have visited Blickling, Hever, the Tower of London and many other places on my quest to know the real Anne Boleyn.

The recent series of The Tudors, plus the dramatisation and film of The Other Boleyn Girl, has suddenly thrown Anne and her family into the public eye and the glamour and beauty that she evokes in people is quite startling. For what is it about someone who died so long ago that makes us all admire her so?

Twenty years ago when I was in Hampton Court in my school uniform, clutching the hand of my current best friend, I ran about looking for the infamous HA engraved in the ceiling. Later I would write a script with my ‘boyfriend’ – a conversation between Anne and Henry as they talked about Wolsey. I was already a madam and a writer.

Back then I was merely insensed by the seemingly arrogant man who dismissed wives as if they were going out of fashion. As I grew older and studied Tudor history again, I became intrigued by the flirtations and excitement that surrounded Anne at court. I was turning into a feisty, headstrong girl and I started to see similarities between us.

We were both manipulative and perhaps a bit spoilt. Clever and determined, we wanted our own way and would stop at nothing to get it. Men were nothing more than a tool, useful in some ways, as long as they could get us what we wanted in life. I started to realise the trouble I would have been in if I’d lived 500 years ago. Had it been in my power I would no doubt have risen and fallen in much the same way.

I read The Other Boleyn Girl before the hype, one summer in Barcelona when I was 17. I was fascinated and realised there was so much more to learn about Anne Boleyn. Unfortunately my A-Level History coursework was not allowed to be about Anne Boleyn and her sister because there ‘wasn’t enough information about her and it was mostly conjecture’, but one degree and a Masters later I had done plenty of research about this ‘conjecture’.

Every time I argued with a boyfriend I thought how lucky I was that he couldn’t chop off my head, although one caused my neck to become very delicate and I can now no longer bear to have it touched. Another left me with a broken heart, which I think was because I was too passionate and argumentative, just like Anne. I even remember thinking about their heated relationship where they would argue and then she, full of remorse, would apologise… just like me.

I recently appeared in a documentary about Anne Boleyn, alongside Philippa Gregory and Alison Weir. One question I was asked was why Anne Boleyn was suddenly so popular.

There are many reasons why I wasn’t the only person who wanted to leave flowers for Anne Boleyn in the Tower of London’s chapel this weekend. To me she’s always been a beautiful, intelligent woman who rose to become Queen, changing our country’s religion just because she was loved by a king. That’s power.

Power all of us women would long for. Some of us have it – the power to control people through our emotions and actions. Walk into a room and everyone wants to speak to us.

Passion. Lust. Power. Danger.

When I am 50, she will have been dead 500 years. I wonder if she’ll still be remembered by so many.

Advertisements
5 Comments »