Between Two Worlds: The Story Of Henry VIII And Anne Boleyn — And Her Celtic Heritage by Kathleen Ann Milner (2003)
“I was born a natural healer and a psychic” says the author in the book’s introduction, and we’re given to understand that the first portion of the book, which appears to be a fictional rendition of Anne Boleyn’s story, is in fact a true rendering of facts which the author had psychically intuited during her visits to various places where Anne once lived. Readers will doubtless have their own opinions about that, but while the story the author tells is not precisely a good one, nor yet (one guesses) especially accurate, it reveals a lot — if not necessarily about Anne’s time, then about certain characteristics of our own. Among the more interesting revelations: George Boleyn was an incestuous rapist, Jane Seymour a practicing witch, and Anne Boleyn was … well, read on and see.
We begin with a brief history of Margaret Boleyn, grandmother of Anne, and her Irish gift of healing — not only is she unusually knowledgeable about herbs, she’s a Goddess-worshipping “wisewoman” who has to keep her head down for fear of being attacked as a witch. We see how she works after her young husband is gored by a bull:
It was Margaret, not the physicians, whom the servants knew to fetch. It was Margaret who called for the pork fat and applied it into the deep wound. Afterwards, she took off her amethyst and placed it on the injury. People still believed in the healing power of some stones, and kings understood the innate force in large stones. After lying [sic] the amethyst on her husband, Margaret prayed out loud for Jesus, Mary and the angels to be present, and silently for the Goddess to hear her prayer. To observers, Margaret’s actions were considered correct and within acceptable social and religious behavior. What the servants were unable to see was Margaret stilling her mind as she gazed with soft eyes beyond the amethyst and into her husband’s body. Then she closed her eyes and focused on her feet, under her soles and then twelve inches beneath her feet. It was here that she found the stream of Christ Consciousness, and the red energy came up into her …. She went deeper within until she was able to step back inside her body and watched herself and the angels repair a yellowish ball inside her husband. The wound slowly became slower and the bleeding stopped!
Margaret inherited this skill from her own grandmother, who told her that these powers were not inherently evil but could be misused, and once the user spends too much time messing around with the Black Art she’ll no longer be able to heal.
When Margaret’s youngest granddaughter is born, both on a symbolically interesting day (Judas Iscariot’s supposed birthday) and with a caul, which portends second sight, Margaret takes a special interest in her early education, teaching her the usual wise woman routine of herb collecting and healing and also about the secret worship of the Goddess; she also tells Anne a lot of Irish folktales and encourages her to develop special bonds with an animal, and Anne eventually chooses a snake, which she meets in the woods, and Snake eventually becomes her go-between with the spiritual world when Anne has visions of traveling to the “World Tree” . Anne’s visions and intuitions are not enough to save her from her first real trauma — when she’s eleven, her brother George rapes her when they’re both alone in the stables. Anne, understandably dubious about whether she’d be be believed, tells nobody, but is thrilled several months later when her father tells her that he’s sending her abroad to Mechelen and the court of Archduchess Margaret.
Anne’s feelings were split. On the one hand, she would miss her parents, Mary, Mr. and Mrs. Orchard, Margaret and Thomas Wyatt and of course, Jaccobe [her horse]. While Mary and her mother preferred the Howard home in London, Anne loved the country life at Hever. On the other hand, it would be good to leave George and her shame behind her. She had managed to find the courage to confess her sin to the local priest. She would never forget his shocked face when she told him what had happened and she took into account that it may have been a mistake to disclose her secret. The priest did recover his composure. “Jesus understands and forgives you, Miss Anne. It is George who has sinned but no good will come out of your telling anyone else about this matter. Even if your parents believed you and punished George, it would be minor in comparison to the shame you will suffer. Your [sic] are leaving now for a new land and a new life and by the time you return to England, George will more than likely be married and will inflict no more harm upon you. He will be changed and so will you. Leave this incident a closed book. Pretend it didn’t happen. Go to Brussels in peace.”
She goes to Brussels in peace and loves it so much that within a few years she acts, speaks and feels like a born Frenchwoman — she also has her first voluntary sexual and romantic experience, not with Francois I or one of his henchmen but with a carefully unnamed “Duke”. When political events sweep her back to England, she doesn’t want to go, but soon enough she’s happily going about Henry Percy and both sets of parents have consented to their marriage. Alas, the king spots her during the famous Shrove Tuesday masque and orders Wolsey to scuttle the match — not that Anne will learn the full truth of this until much later, because the Earl of Northumberland is forced to take the fall for breaking the engagement.
Henry then begins to pursue Anne (who’s rather peeved since he previously was sleeping with her sister and fathered Anne’s nephew, though her niece isn’t mentioned), and his initial declaration of love when he visits her at Hever is met with what one would think was a surefire excuse not to marry him.
”I have no sons because I married a woman who was not a virgin.” Henry continued. “My spies tell me the Queen is discouraged. England and Spain are enemies, and Mary is no longer betrothed to Charles V. Catherine has even mentioned on several occasions that she would welcome the peace of a convent.”
Anne could not say “no” to the King. She was, after all, his subject. There was, however, something that she could say to discourage Henry, even repulse him. Before she could speak Anne heard a voice shout loudly through her right temple and into her head. “Do not tell him!”
Anne dismissed the warning and shook it off. “Sire, I cannot marry you! I am not a virgin! My brother raped me when I was eleven. My parents knew nothing of it. I only told the parish priest in the confessional. He advised me not to tell anyone.”
Henry’s neck, face, and ears turned a brilliant red. “I am not anyone, I am the King!”
He then storms out in fury and the subject of Anne’s rape by George is never addressed by either of them again until the last weeks of their lives.
The relationship continues, mostly because Henry wants it to and Anne feels that, having told him the worst, she has no other reason to resist. She rises high, rejoices in the death of Wolsey, urges Henry to read Tyndale and Fish, and rejoices that she can confer favors on her relatives. As for Henry himself, “Anne was not entirely devoid of feelings for Henry but she was never able to give his love the chance he deserved.” Since Henry is portrayed as being entirely piggish towards everyone it’s not clear just how much of a chance he does deserved, but that’s by the way. At one point after her visions, she’s approached by a mysterious dark-eyed man who offers her the chance for unlimited power, but she remembers her grandmother’s warning against people who use their powers for evil and rejects his offer with horror. Another woman looks on his offer more kindly, however. At Anne’s coronation, held a few months after she marries Henry after “finding herself” pregnant — Jane Seymour is gossiping enviously with her friends, Lady Noreen and Lady Celia. “I would give anything to be in her position,” says Jane, and shortly afterwards, she’s approached in Hampton Court by the same dark-eyed man, who tells her that if she seriously wishes to take Anne’s place, he can help make that happen. Intrigued, Jane follows him to a sinister little room in which stands a tall, cloaked man holding a skull. “Welcome, Lady Jane! We are here to discern if your comment that you would do anything to become queen was fervent or flippant …. For you to become queen would mean that Queen Anne must die. The King cannot afford to have two ex-wives hanging about. Are you willing to go forward with this in mind?”
Jane is “repulsed” but her ambition is stronger than her disgust, and she tells him that she’ll do anything, including using black magic. The man gives her instructions on how to set up an altar using the “demonized soul” whose skull he happens to be holding, a few strands of Anne’s hair, and the assistance of her friends in cursing Anne.
A pentagon, a symbol of protection, was drawn on the floor and when they were assembled and ready, they dredged up feelings of anger and hatred from within themselves. Tearing at the air, snatching at their black robes and gnashing their teeth they gnarled and snarled until at last they sent the demon out on the energy they had created to destroy the Queen and turn the King’s head towards Jane Seymour.
After the disappointment of Elizabeth’s birth, the King’s head is duly turned — may I say that one thing I appreciated about this book was that although Jane Seymour is the usual bland, plain, sour-milk faced fool, at least we’re given a real if silly explanation for the king’s attraction to her? The demonic powers take their time about helping her, though, since shortly after Elizabeth’s birth, Anne is pregnant again. Everything seems to be going well until July of 1534, when she’s seven months along and spending time at Gilford with Henry. She complains about the rudeness of his mistress (not Jane, but the young lady of 1534, who isn’t named here), and Henry blows up, telling her “Had I to do it over again, I would not ask Wolsey to break off your engagement to Henry Percy.” Anne’s shock at learning who was really behind that, and her regret at blaming Wolsey for it to the end of his life, bring on the premature stillbirth of a boy. Henry is enraged by this mishap and makes the entire household swear that they’ll never breathe a word of what happened. Shortly afterward, they’re off to Wolf Hall, where even Jane Seymour’s brothers are puzzled as to what exactly is drawing the king to their sister (though they’re happy to advise her on how to take advantage of it). By the time of Catherine’s death (celebrated by the couple in yellow, though Anne is fearful and suspects Catherine died of belladonna poisoning) Henry has made up his mind. “I have decided to marry Jane Seymour,” he tells Cromwell. “With Catherine dead even the Papists will recognize my marriage. How can we bring this about? … What if we were to reverse the game and accuse Anne of adultery?” He promptly nominates George Boleyn as a possible confederate in adultery, and tells Cromwell to pick other men loyal to Anne in order to accuse them and weed them out. Cromwell spends the next few months obligingly doing so while Anne has visions portending her own end.
When the end does come (and it’s very quick — we don’t even hear her speech, just hear about it) Anne is promptly transported into the afterlife with her grandmother, but is still in an earthbound realm and able to influence others. She’s whispering into Henry’s ear as he decides whether or not to let Princess Mary have more time to swear the Oath (she tells him not to be hard on her) and Henry even has a brief vision of the future since Anne is, so to speak, in his orbit. He isn’t able to see Elizabeth’s succession, but he gets a brief glimpse of Mary succeeding a poisoned Edward, which naturally distresses him. Jane Seymour dies shortly after giving birth to Edward, not just from puerperal fever but also the price she ultimately pays to the dark powers for having taken their help; her confederates meet similarly sticky and premature ends. Anne’s spirit remains in an earthbound limbo, guarding over Elizabeth and occasionally visiting her in hawk form, until Elizabeth succeeds to the throne — only then does she enter the “vortex of Light” which is the real afterlife, and where the rest of her family, along with Henry Percy, are waiting for her.
This is the end of the first part. The second part, which is entirely about the author’s modern-day trips to England and her psychic revelations of this version of Anne Boleyn’s story, takes up the last quarter of the book but needs no summary here.
SEX OR POLITICS? Not much sex — this book is something of a throwback in that Anne’s feelings towards Henry are not particularly romantic — but a reasonable amount of politics is there, albeit mostly in the form of long authorial info dumps. Still, it’s there, so at least the reader isn’t left completely clueless as to why Anne is going to (or from) France at a particular time. The book’s major interest is Anne’s spiritual connection to the Other Side, ancient Celtic gods, familiar animals and so forth.
WHEN BORN? Appropriately for someone who’s between two worlds, Anne is born both with a caul (meaning that she would have second sight) and between two days — her head emerges on “the last Monday of December” 1501, but she isn’t completely born until the clock has struck midnight and it’s Tuesday. Her grandmother worries that her birthday may actually be on Monday, and since was traditionally Judas Iscariot’s birthday, this could portend ill. Mary is two years older than Anne, and George is one year older.
According to one calendar I found, the last Monday of December 1501 was the 27th — therefore Anne’s birthday is either the 27th or 28th of December. We’re never told which day is ultimately settled on, only that she celebrates her birthday and Christmas around the same time.
THE EARLY LOVE An unidentified Duke at the French court becomes Anne’s first (consensual) sexual experience and they get along very well until Anne realizes that although the Duke may not love his Duchess, the Duchess feels differently and is very unhappy about the affair. A possible marriage to James Butler is mentioned when Anne’s father is recalling her to England, but we never hear enough about that for Anne even to get upset (it helps that Snake tells her that she and Butler won’t marry). After Anne’s return to England, she and Henry Percy meet and become engaged in the course of a very quick couple of pages, and Anne’s and Percy’s parents are actually thrilled and everyone approves of the engagement — until Wolsey intervenes on Henry’s behalf. Ultimately the Earl of Northumberland is granted certain “concessions” by the king in order to see to it that the engagement is broken; it’s implied that this was an offer the Earl couldn’t refuse. At Anne’s trial, Henry Percy storms out, declaring “I will not be party to this mockery!” which you have to admit is more impressive than what the real Percy did, which was faint.
FAMILY AFFAIRS Thomas and Elizabeth Boleyn get comparatively little screen time, though it is mentioned that they married for love (“childhood sweethearts”) and that after Thomas gets over his initial disappointment at Anne’s sex, he eventually regards her as “the son he always wanted.” Thomas is in fact a comparatively benign sort; his greatest fault is being miserly and he’s actually described as “amiable”, cautious, and a gifted diplomat. We don’t see a whole lot of Elizabeth Grandmother Margaret Boleyn has a special bond with Anne as someone who has the ability to communicate with spirits of the earth, and teaches her the usual herbal lore that wise women tend to teach in books like these. Despite her large part in the book, Margaret dies unhistorically early, before Anne is even seriously involved with Henry VIII. (The real Margaret outlived her).
For once, George Boleyn and not Mary is the odd sibling out, and not for particularly benign reasons. He dislikes Anne and tries to dominate her in everything, and when she ignores him he eventually rapes her in the stables — we find out later that he also raped Mary, so it seems to have less to do with George having a particular quarrel with Anne and more that he simply enjoys brutalizing his sisters. George is, literally, the golden boy — he’s the only blond child, whereas Mary and Anne are dark — and Anne tells no one except the priest, who tells her that although she’s not to blame, it would be better not to tell anyone and to take advantage of her father’s offer to send her to France in order to get away from George. Mary’s later promiscuity is blamed on her abuse by George, and although we don’t see much of Jane Parker, it’s clear that she’s been badly treated by George as well. Oddly and unhistorically, Jane ends up testifying at Anne’s and George’s trials to the effect that she once saw George touch Anne’s pillow while she was asleep, and that that implicated him in incest. It’s not clear how much of the truth she actually knows.
THE QUEEN’S BEES Margaret Wyatt appears in Anne’s youth and also occasionally at court attending her during her confinement; she also accompanies Anne to the scaffold. She isn’t very interesting in her own right. Jane Seymour is, of course, a prominent attendant who is also malevolently determined to use witchcraft, with the assistance of “Lord Mabush”, in order to destroy Anne and take her place. Two women called Lady Noreen and Lady Celia (or occasionally Cecile) are also maids of honor who assist Jane with her spells, and both later come to sticky, supposedly accidental ends as a result of their fiddling with the Dark Powers. Jane Seymour’s own death is her own ultimate payment to the powers she used for her own advancement.
THE FAITHFUL SERVITOR Mrs. Orchard, Anne’s old nurse, looks after her at Hever, and Mr. Orchard looks after the horses and stables and takes especial care of Anne’s favourite horse Jaccobe. Mr. Orchard clearly suspects the worst of George but isn’t able to do much about it, especially as Anne won’t tell him what happened. Simonette the governess also makes a brief appearance, tutoring Anne in French after she goes abroad.
IT’S A GIRL! “Both Henry and Anne were initially disappointed that the baby was not a son …. Elizabeth had Anne’s features and Henry’s red hair and fair complexion, and they both loved her dearly.” Henry is initially outraged, not because the baby is a girl but because Anne wants to nurse her. Lady Celia rushes to tell him the outrageous news and Henry storms into the birthing chamber and insists that the baby be taken to a wet nurse as befits her rank.
DO YOU HAVE SIX FINGERS ON YOUR RIGHT HAND? No
THE PROPHECY Several, mostly made by Anne herself since she was born with both Irish heritage and a caul. Anne is able to transport herself mentally to “the roots of the World Tree” and get answers from Snake; she uses this in her youth to predict whom her friends will marry, but Snake doesn’t always come through too clearly (he tells her that she won’t marry James Butler but not whom she actually will marry). As her doom approaches she has dreams warning of this fact but without telling what she can do to prevent it.
DID SHE OR DIDN’T SHE? No — although Henry very likely bases the incest accusation on her confession that she was raped in childhood by her brother. Weirdly, he has no other reaction to this revelation, either at the time or afterward.
WRITERS OF THE PURPLE PAGE There’s no getting around the fact that this is self-published and shows it to the point of distraction. It’s in Courier font, the punctuation is terrible (for some reason, lots of sentences end with exclamation marks) and the dialogue in the historical sections is stilted; back-and-forth dialogues are scarce and long speeches from some of the characters don’t do much to convince the reader that they’re actually in the early sixteenth century. The second, modern half — in which the author travels to England and studies different spiritual practices with friends who just happen to be the reincarnations of other notable figures in Henry VIII’s court — has everything including the kitchen sink; detailed accounts of means eaten, flights taken, rivalries between Reiki and Tera-Mai students which confuse and bore the reader, and far too much about how the author’s stomach virus when she was visiting Hever. I’ve left this part unsummarized as it has nothing to do with Anne Boleyn and is essentially just a rambling, unedited travel diary.
ERRATA Margaret Boleyn dies while Anne is still young — thus enabling her to welcome Anne to the afterlife after the latter’s beheading — when in fact she outlived her by three years. (I can’t find a specific death date for her. Since her son Thomas died in March of 1539, it’s possible that she outlived him as well). Henry Percy is described as divorcing his wife, which he did not; they were separated but went no further than that. He’s also described as striding out of Anne’s trial while denouncing it as unjust. Percy was really at her trial, but the most notable thing he did was faint, though whether it was before or after voting on Anne’s guilt isn’t clear. Mind you, it’s hard to blame him. And while this isn’t something that is provable one way or the other, the charge is serious enough that I feel bound to point out that there’s zero evidence that George Boleyn ever raped his sisters, or anyone else for that matter. In fact, the real Anne seems to have held him in great affection and William Kingston recorded her concerns for her “sweet brother” when she was arrested. Family relationships being as complicated as they are, this is not incontrovertible proof that neither one ever mistreated the other, but in this case I think it’s fair to say that he’s innocent until proven guilty.
WORTH A READ? Unless you’re really interested in Reiki-related drama, or have a compulsion to read every single extant version of Anne Boleyn’s story, no, it isn’t — it does have some interesting passages, but it drags, bores, and ultimately does not convince. Threads are picked up — like Anne’s revelation of her incestuous rape to Henry — and then abruptly dropped for no apparent reason. Really the best thing about it is the subplot with Jane Seymour teaming up with the Dark Powers in order to take Anne’s place — and ultimately paying a high price for it. It had a nice, old-fashioned Windsor Castle-like air to it, but unlike Harrison Ainsworth, this author didn’t commit to that plotline enough to make the book into the guiltily entertaining overt fantasy novel which it might have been. Jane and her confederates lurch on and off the stage, doing ceremonies with pentacles and manipulating demons (as they think) but we just don’t see enough of them and all the exciting things tend to happen offstage (Jane’s confederates are murdered by “shadows”. Sounds dramatic, doesn’t it? But we don’t get to see it, we’re just told in passing after the fact). It wasn’t a very flattering take on Jane Seymour (really, what Anne Boleyn-centered novel is?) but at least she was active and the magic explained why Henry found her so irresistible — not to mention that it gave Jane a reason for having those mysterious “tools of sorcery” which she seems to have owned in real life.
The chief trouble with this book, besides the fact that it’s incredibly poorly written and edited, is that it can’t decide what it wants to be: a novel? A travelogue? A treatise on Reiki? A truthful recounting of facts received in someone’s psychic visions? Should it just cut the cord completely and became a demons-and-magic centered historical fantasy? It keeps jumping back and forth between all of these things and the end result is choppy, underdeveloped, and unsatisfying except as a curiosity.
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