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Anne Boleyn by W.S. Pakenham-Walsh (1921)

March 21, 2018

If you’ve read a book about Anne Boleyn by W.S. Pakenham-Walsh, it probably wasn’t this one — he’s much better known for his later book, A Tudor Story (1963) in which he described his attempts, throughout the 1920s and 1930s, to meet Anne and her circle with the assistance of mediums. How convincing the resulting transcribed seances are must be left to the individual reader, but I was intrigued by his mention of a play he had written earlier and his wish to write a sequel containing the new information he had learned from the spirits. He never said whether the play had been printed and for a long time I thought it had not been, until I was fortunate enough to discover that it had been published in 1921 under the obnoxiously unsearchable title of Anne Boleyn. (A word to anyone interested in writing about her — I own fourteen books with this title and there are more out there. If you don’t want your book to get buried under all of these in search results, don’t choose this title.)

The proposed second play was never written — he said that he “did not feel equal to it”, which is unfortunate, since that play would undoubtedly have included the mystery of “Send”, Danahan the maid, Lady Rochford’s anger at George stemming from false allegations of infidelity, and numerous other unique elements. Still, this early play gives us valuable insight into Pakenham-Walsh’s conception of what Anne Boleyn and her circle were like, and what information he brought with him initially to his seances. It’s a relatively old-fashioned story — his Anne is definitely a throwback to the coerced, high-minded Annes of the nineteenth century, and has little in common with the Anne of The Favor Of Kings (1912), to say nothing of the many hyper-intelligent, scheming, adventurous Annes who would begin coming down the pike after The King Waits (1918). This is an Anne who flees from power to the extent of literally leaving her fate up to a game of “He loves me, he loves me not.”

The story commences with Anne newly returned from France and happily contemplating her approaching marriage to Henry Percy. Unlike in some versions of the story, nobody will be able to accuse these two of marrying in haste; they fell in love even before Anne left for France, meaning that they’ve been engaged for no fewer than eight years. Alas, before they can make it to the altar, Anne is spotted by Henry VIII, who promptly enlists Wolsey to break up the marriage; he pretends that it’s for political reasons, but Wolsey knows better, cynically observing that if there’s really nothing personal behind this “then I’m no Cardinal.” As Wolsey awaits the arrival of Percy and his father so that his dressing-down can begin, Wolseys thinks of Anne and knows that he’s made a new enemy: “The Cardinal will feel the woman’s wrath / And yet, God knows, at heart I pity her.(He later laments his own lack of courage for “poor Anne” and feels that he could have redeemed his own licentiousness a little by refusing to help the king, but as it is “my aim must be to keep her out of court” because Henry is currently so crazy about her that he might make her queen, and where will Wolsey be then?)

Anne faints on receiving Percy’s letter breaking off their engagement and is caught by faithful governess Simonette, who can’t bring herself to wish that Anne will survive. “Cease, trembling breath, move not those lips again, / For when Anne Boleyn lives again, she dies.” As it turns out, however, Simonette is the one who departs this vale of tears — suffering secondhand broken heart, it’s implied — and Anne hides out at Hever for the next four years, receiving entreating letters from Henry all the while, until she finally gets tired of resisting the efforts of her father, Thomas Wyatt, and (long distance) Queen Catherine and decides she’ll go back to court and do her bit to support her family. She’s so unsure of it that she ends up cutting up an apple and counting the seeds “Stay, go, stay” to see what she should do.

All Voices bid me go to court — the Queen,
My friends, my father, and my health, and now
This silent monitor [the apple] the chorus joins.
And yet one little still voice says “stay.”
Why should it range itself against so wise
A crowd? These louder voices know the world.

Henry has of course already been hounding her with his love letters and once she returns to court he instantly singles her out to lead a dance with him. Apparently this is enough to tell Queen Catherine all she needs to know, because as soon as the dance is over she draws Henry aside and tells him that for the good of Anne’s soul (and Henry’s) Anne will be departing forthwith. Catherine is sharp but fair — after Henry acquiesces (with some whining about the unfairness of not being able to do whatever he wants) Catherine meets with Anne and tries to let her down easily.

Thou has begun to bear a woman’s griefs
Too young, but it is part of woman’s lot
To meet with woe. I’m acting for thy best;
Nor canst thou be quite dead to what I mean.
Perhaps thou wert in France and didst not know
Thy sister Mary’s trouble. There’s too much wit
And beauty in thy house, and though I sent
Thy sister home, she’s lived to understand
My care, and now for her the peril’s past.
So let us part as friends, for I must say
Farewell.

She tells Anne that they’ll say her health is poor to explain her sudden departure. Anne, unhappy but understanding, is preparing for her not totally unwelcome departure when Henry stops by to explain how none of this is actually his fault: “Let us humour her [the Queen] / Though I am at a loss to comprehend / What I have done to cause these tears.”

Then Anne lets rip with the accumulated anger of four years.

”Hast done! Thou’st made of me a laughing stock
To all the court, if not to all the world
Men are not blind, and though the Queen may hide
The truth by pleas of health, there’s not a tongue
That will not wag, and make its joke at me;
And to the court I’ll be a naughty girl
Sent down for setting bonnets at the King.
I’ve given thee no cause to treat me thus.
…Thou hast a wife, too good
To be thy Queen, and since I cannot be
Thy Queen, why single me from all the rest,
Draw every eye on me, and then let me
Be sent back to my home, because forsooth
I am a sickly maid. Thou art not free
To court and kiss whatever damsel comes
Across thy path, and as there sits one Queen
Upon the throne, no second can find place.
I’ve said my say, a subject to a King;
But if thou art indeed a King, why then
Thy very kingship will forgive plain speech.”

Exit on, on a magnificent high note from which Henry derives the exact opposite moral from the one Anne intended. “My stars! What eyes! What flames of fire, I felt her fury burn me,” he tells the audience admiringly. “She’ll never come to court till she is Queen / But what a Queen she’d make! I do admire the / The woman’s courage … God’s truth, I swear I’ll clear / The way for Anne.” He then summons Wolsey, who apparently has been hard at work on getting Henry’s marriage secretly annulled and has almost succeeded in both breaking that off and finalizing arrangements for a new marriage “with the French princess, the fair Renee / The sister of Queen Claude.” Wolsey is aghast to discover that Henry now proposes to swap Renee for the “saucy wench” Anne, but Henry charmingly instructs him to “Get up, thou whining hound” and make it happen if he wants to keep his confused head on his shoulders. Wolsey is left alone to reflect on the net he’s caught in; he let Anne down years earlier and he knows she hates him, and if she becomes Queen “my star has set.”

Next comes an abbreviated version of Campeggio’s inquiry and subsequent booting of the annulment issue back to Rome, followed by Thomas Cromwell’s sarcastic observation to his peers that “These foreigners can hardly hide / Their sneers at us. Why should we ever wait / Their verdict? We have brains enough at home.” Wolsey then comes in, fresh from a meeting with the King, who has no use for Roman-style delays and is demanding “a speedy ending.” Wolsey knows just the man: Thomas Cranmer, who proposes that the matter be referred to the universities, a proposal approved by all but Fisher and More, who are ticked off by Archbishop Warham before everyone clears the stage for Wolsey to give some parting advice to Cranmer in which Wolsey sounds less concerned about keeping in Rome’s good graces than you might think:

The times are ripe for change; it only needs
A match to set the waiting pile ablaze.
’Tis bound to come, this threatened break with Rome,
And if, through thy advice, thou wilt be called
To play the man and guide the Church and State
Through troubled waters. Firmly hold the helm;
And once thy hand is on it, do not heed
Each voice that bids thee steer this way and that.
Go bravely on, and it may be that God
Will use thee to restore that liberty
Which we have lost, and make the English Church
In days to come, a blessing to the world.

Next scene: Anne Boleyn back at home, playing rounders (early baseball!) with village children, when her father enters, letters in hand, and announces that he will be “first of all to hail thee as our Queen.” He kneels and kisses her hand, while giving the happy news that the King’s marriage is annulled and Anne can now marry Henry forthwith; oddly, nobody has ascertained what Anne’s opinion of this is until now, when she says sadly that she “loved the Queen; she seemed the only friend / I had at court.” Her father doesn’t have much time for that; the past is in the past, her uncle the Duke of Norfolk is backing her, and while the annulment isn’t 100% done it’s certainly going to be, so he’s sending her back to court so that her presence can light a fire under the people who can make it happen. Anne is not particularly enthused. “There will be two queens in many minds, / And on my head will fall the blame because / I am a woman.” Then she reflects on the fact that being powerful isn’t all that bad and she’d be serving her country at the same time.

“’Twill give me power, and power must take the place
Of what I’ve lost. Yes, power, and power is sweet.
I’m but a woman, yet a woman may
With such a power, take sweet revenge for wrongs
… Ambition was
An alien to my breast, but dreadful guests
Invade an empty soul, and this strange friend
Is like a cuckoo in a nest, and soon
I fear may reign supreme. Oh, for some sign
To show me what is right!”

The sign promptly appears in the form of the children with whom she was playing earlier; they made her a crown of flowers like Anne “used to wear in May.” There’s the sign, and Anne’s decision is made.

Anne’s coronation takes place with some grumbling from the crowd which is joked about Patch (“Why has a man two eyes? To see two queens with!”) and King Henry proudly presents Anne, still crowned with flowers, to the assembled throng — “On her head you see combined / The red rose and the white — both Lancaster / And York.”

On to Act III, in which Anne’s sad opening monologue lets us know that several years have gone by and even though she’s now living in Wolsey’s old home and both Wolsey and Catherine are dead, her position with Henry is wobbly both because she hasn’t yet produced a prince and because “I know I’ve lost his heart.”

Is it because the bloom
Of youth has left my cheeks, with all the cares
Of motherhood? Surely it cannot be
Some other woman has usurped my place?
Hush, baby, hush! Thou art a fair princess
And thou shalt be a queen, dear little Bess.

Presumably the last lines are meant solely as a lullaby, as it soon becomes apparent that Anne is pregnant — “All my hopes of future joy / Are centred in this child” as she tells faithful friend Mary Wyatt, even as she laments the “ambition” that brought her into this position (though the reader might be forgiven for thinking Anne is doing some retroactive revision here — we’ve already seen that she was less than anxious to become queen). However, birds of ill omen are flocking around in the forms of Jane Seymour and Lady Rochford, the former of whom isn’t shy about showing her dislike of Elizabeth — “I am tired of tending this young squealing brat” is literally the first thing she says in the scene — and the latter of whom is seethingly jealous of her husband’s friendliness towards his sister and is determined to take it out of both their hides, as she informs the audience in an aside.

He brings
No flowers to me; never kisses me;
Why should he kiss the Queen? I’m tired of both
And with that kiss I’ll weave a rope to hang them.

As it turns out, Lady Rochford almost doesn’t need to bother, because the Jane Seymour who lives in these pages is one of the most overtly vicious specimens ever to see print, every bit as bad as she is in Head (2006). When Anne is startled at the spectacle of Jane and Henry walking arm in arm, Jane’s response to go on the attack — “Your day’s done. / The court is tired and weary of your ways.” Henry, of all people, is the one who tries to intervene. “Spare her, Jane,” he says, only to be flattened with this:

A man may spare a rival, but not I.
She has no right to be a queen. She set
Her bonnet at Lord Percy; then forsooth
She jilted him to strike for higher quarry.
And now she throws her eyes about the court,
As if a King were not enough. I’ll give
The little witch her proper name — Harlot!

Anne faints, Henry rushes to her aid, but Jane stops him.

Nay, leave her with her unborn babe, and let
Them die together. What ails your royal Grace?
’Twill save the trouble of an execution.

We are then told that “Jane Seymour leads the King out,” in one of the finest examples of Helpless Henry VIII that I have ever seen (and there are many, many works in which Henry is portrayed as a hapless idiot forever acting at the behest of whoever spoke to him last, but this moment takes the cake). Jane’s influence must have been powerful, because by the next scene it’s April 30 1536 and a now-miscarried Anne has heard that three men have been arrested for committing treason by sleeping with her (a few days ahead of schedule — in reality only Smeaton was arrested in April and she probably never had time to hear of it). She’s already accepting the consolations of religion from Dr. Latimer and disclaiming any part she had to play in promoting the Bible in the vernacular, saying that she did only a little and future generations won’t remember her — she also commends Elizabeth to the care of Matthew Parker and is generally getting her spiritual affairs in order. Mary Wyatt attempts to cheer her up by reminding her that she’ll have a chance to defend herself at her trial when she’s arrested, but Anne, realistically enough, has no expectations that the trial will make a difference and is prepared to die. In fact, she accepts that she was doomed long ago.

I doubt that even had the baby lived,
My life would have been spared. Mary, I’m just
A broken toy, cast by my lord away.
But do not call thy mistress back again;
The world has lost its charms for me ….
All records of this case will be destroyed,
To hide their guilty deeds, but truth will out,
And in the days to come my name be cleared,
And all the world confess that I am guiltless.
Now lead the young princess to me, and bid
The Hever children come and bring their flowers.

The Hever children, it transpires, are there to celebrate May Day with her, and since the King has, oddly, promised her “the grace of one last joust” they’ll be attending her the next day. After bidding Elizabeth farewell and tell her they’ll meet in the afterlife, we then see Anne and the Hever children at the May Day joust, although there’s no pretence of normality; although Anne is crowned with red and white roses as Queen of the May, Henry enters with Jane on his arm, and “coldly” asks who will “defend the royal Queen of May / against all foes?” Henry Norris says he’ll do it, George Boleyn challenges him, and Rochford wins in what is presumably hand to hand combat and not an actual joust on the stage. Anne makes the gesture of dropping her handkerchief to Norris, Norris returns it, and that’s apparently Henry’s cue: “Soldiers! Arrest the Queen! Arrest all three!” he shouts, and soon the stage is empty except for the crying children with their empty flower baskets.

Anne’s trial is short on the long speeches we usually see but has an unusually lively back-and-forth: Anne demands that the witnesses against her be produced, but Mark Smeaton is in prison and can’t appear. Lady Rochford, not in prison, and who has accused her of “unnatural acts” with her brother, also can’t appear for vague reasons; when Anne challenges the lack of evidence against her — “No proof of any of these crimes alleged / Has yet been shown,” the peers who are desperately trying to sleaze the charges through mumble something to the effect that “for a queen / No witnesses need be produced.” Hearteningly, if unhistorically, the Duke of Norfolk and Henry Percy actually come to Anne’s defense when it looks like she might be condemned by a bare majority vote on nonexistent evidence. Norfolk says that “although she stands / Between my daughter and the throne, and I confess / I like her not,” a guilty verdict would embarrass them (Norfolk’s daughter was married to Henry’s illegitimate son), and Percy, once it becomes clear that they’re going to bow to royal wishes and condemn her, tells all of them off before refusing to vote and stalking out of court.

No witnesses have been produced;
No forms of law have been observed. I know
The prisoner well, and her pure heart could ne’er
Conceive the awful guilt with which she’s charged …
If Percy fail
To save her life, he can at least declare
That though love may be crushed, it cannot die.

A declaration of love for a woman who’s married to someone else and accused of betraying him may not be the most politic thing, but it’s more than the real Percy ever managed — though as a random Tower guardsman later observes “‘Twould have been better had he found his courage younger.” As Anne awaits her death, Lady Rochford drops by the Tower to call on Lady Kingston; Lady Rochford, it transpires, hasn’t had a great couple of weeks. “I scarce could sleep last night / And when I slept I had ill dreams” she tells Lady Kingston, and is not reassured by Lady Kingston’s strongly-worded declaration that Anne was, in her opinion, entirely innocent, as she had sworn her innocence on the Sacrament. “Oh mercy, mercy on my guilty soul! / ’Tis my false witness brings them to the block,” is Lady Rochford’s response, followed by her desperately wondering if she can save Anne and George at the last moment. “’Tis too late to save their lives / But not to make confession,” Lady Kingston tells her, and off Lady Rochford goes, swearing to make confession and amends — though anyone who knows how her life went afterwards might wonder how exactly she was planning to do this. It’s not as if she knew that she’d have the chance to confess on the scaffold six years later (not that the actual Lady Rochford confessed to betraying Anne, but for a long time there was a story that she had.)

Anne appears after all of this in order to speak the only prose lines in the play — her scaffold speech, after which she takes off her headdress and collar, hands them to Mary Wyatt, and “passes on” to an offstage scaffold. Mary Wyatt cries out “Farewell, pure soul. Angels will on thee wait; / And meet me when I come to Heaven’s gate.” After the sound of a cannon, Mary eulogizes Anne and prophesies that in the years to come, Anne’s name will

Be breathed with ever growing reverence —
’Twill be the name of her I called my friend
Whose spirit will be with me to the end.
The Rose of Kent, the royal May Day Queen,
Brave, beautiful and gentle Anne Boleyn.

SEX OR POLITICS? Sex seems like the wrong word for such an ethereal character; I’ll say romance instead, as while this Anne clearly has little attachment to Henry (and why should she?) her years-long unconsummated romance with Percy bookends the story vividly. The play does take a stab at politics in the first half, but the issues surrounding the annulment are tidied away relatively quickly and in the second half they disappear completely, along with most of the secondary characters we saw before. Catherine and Wolsey are dead by the time of Anne’s fall, of course, but even Cromewell doesn’t make any further appearaces; Anne’s fall is brought about by the combined efforts of Jane Seymour and Lady Rochford — jarringly, we saw neither of them in the first half of the play, so there’s no feeling of continuity at all. Religious reform receives the obligatory nod, but it’s definitely not the first thing on either Henry’s or Anne’s minds.

WHEN BORN? 1501 — in his introductory “Life Of Anne Boleyn” Pakenham-Walsh states flatly that “Camden’s date 1507 is discounted by the fact that she went to France as a Maid of Honour in 1514.” Pakenham-Walsh also appears to have been one of the relatively few Strickland readers who took her estimation of Anne’s birthdate seriously. Her father later describes her as “my eldest daughter”, it’s unclear if George is older or not.

THE EARLY LOVE Henry Percy, who has actually loved Anne even before she went to France; since the opening scene in which this is revealed takes place in 1522, he’s been hanging on for eight years. No wonder Simonette is confident in telling Anne that “If he lose thee, it will break his heart / As well as thine.” Heartbreak aside, Percy lives long enough to denounce the proceedings at Anne’s trial, tell the world that he’s always loved her, and leave without casting a vote.

THE QUEEN’S BEES Margaret (here called Mary) Wyatt is the chief one; she’s a childhood friend who serves as Anne’s confidante after Simonette’s early death, and when Anne receives the news that she’s going to be Queen, she makes Mary her maid of honor then and there. Jane Seymour and Lady Rochford only make their appearances in the final third when Anne’s star is already falling; Jane is overtly hostile to Anne and treats the young Elizabeth roughly when she’s supposed to be caring for her — “She tosses her about / As though she were a doll” says that concerned Mary. Lady Rochford is about what you would expect from this period; jealous, neglected and if her victory over her hated husband and sister-in-law is Pyrrhic, then so be it.

THE FAITHFUL SERVITOR Simonette the governess appears, which isn’t surprising considering that Strickland was Pakenham-Walsh’s main source. What’s more surprising is Simonette’s eventual fate; she’s so grief-stricken over the failure of Anne’s love affair with Henry Percy that she dies. The jester Patch also appears, who historically was affiliated first with Wolsey, although that isn’t mentioned. Will Somers and Jane Fool are absent. At Hever, we see several pairs of servants at various points in the action, few of whom interact with Anne much, they’re mostly there for exposition and to praise Anne’s character.

THE PROPHECY During her first “court” with her friends and family, Anne goes into a trance and describes her vision:

I’m looking down the vale of years. I see
A little child, a fair princess. She seems
To have no mother; yet she is my child!
What can it mean? She is a woman now,
A crown is on her brow; not white and red
Like mine but only white. She is alone.
There is no King to share her royal state.
Her court is brave and true, and men ride forth
On all the seas, and spread her fame afar.
The mother is forgotten in the child,
But in the hearts of all the best of men
Her memory lives, and in Westminster’s halls
Her statue stands. They call her Queen of May;
And on her head they place a crown of flowers,
Not white and red, but only white, a pure
White crown of roses which shall never fade.

And just before she goes to prison, she has both the toddler Elizabeth and the children of Hever — who brought her flowers — brought before her celebrate May Day, and she tells the children that

My little friends, some day this child will be
Your Queen. And when she’s Queen, I want you all
To give her the same love you’ve given me.
She’ll be a noble queen and reign for long.
You will be men and women when that comes
But will you promise me to serve her well
And be her loyal subjects?

(If you’re wondering, they promise that they will be.)

IT’S A GIRL! Anne recollects Elizabeth’s birth in her opening monologue in Act III while she sits by Elizabeth’s cradle. It seems that Henry didn’t take it well.

It vexed him that the child was not a boy.
I tried to turn it with a jest, and said
That she was born within the Virgin’s room,
And on the Virgin’s day, but I could see
He scorned me. I could mark the cruel look
Which bodes no good. Oh, how I fear those eyes!

DO YOU HAVE SIX FINGERS ON YOUR RIGHT HAND? Not mentioned.

FAMILY AFFAIRS Thomas Boleyn is anxious to please the king and pushes Anne into receiving him when he arrives at Hever despite her wish to avoid him, but at the same time he’s shown as being genuinely concerned about Anne’s decline after her engagement with Percy is broken off, and part of the reason he’s pushing her is just to try and get her back into living her life again — “But Anne, thou art still young, and ‘twere a shame / To shut thyself away from life and love.”

Anne’s mother is dead, and her stepmother is briefly mentioned but does not appear; she follows the Strickland model of having lower status than her husband, who married her simply because he liked her. As he tells Anne:

But even thou hast marked how my dear wife
Avoids the etiquette of courts, and she
Herself entreats that you should take her place.

Mary was formerly pursued by the king— “He worshipped at my sister’s shrine,” and even though she never actually became his mistress, it was a close call and Anne is afraid that his failure with Mary will make him purse Anne all the more fervently. “My sister scarce escaped his treacherous arts, / And even now her name is bandied round / The country-side.”

George is unhappily married to a jealous and vengeful Lady Rochford (she’s never given her first name in the play and later evidence is that the author didn’t know it). Lady Rochford bears a strong grudge against George for neglecting her, and sulkily remarks, after George brings Anne some flowers from Hever, that he neither brings his wife flowers nor kisses her, and that with those flowers “I’ll weave a rope to hang them.” (Personally this was the instance where I most wished that Pakenham-Walsh could have written a new play after his seances — a Lady Rochford who was furious about being falsely accused of fathering another man’s child on George would make a much more strongly-motivated character).

DID SHE OR DIDN’T SHE? No.

WRITERS OF THE PURPLE PAGE The quoted passages give a pretty fair idea of the author’s style, but there was one surprisingly naughty moment early on when Wolsey is told to get Percy “the bumble bee” out of Anne’s “flower.” I see what you did there, Reverend.

ERRATA The author includes both an introduction and a long series of notes giving details of background; some of it is wrong because his primary source was Strickland, but one can hardly blame him for that. Anne’s coronation takes place on May 19th instead of June 1st 1533, but this was done deliberately to make her coronation and execution exactly three years apart. The dates at the end of her life are also compressed — on April 30 1536 she’s depicted as aware of several arrests and already certain that she’s doomed. Smeaton, Brereton and Weston are also described as imprisoned, although only Smeaton has confessed. Smeaton likely had been imprisoned by April 30 but the others were all still free; Anne herself was not arrested until May 2, and on April 30 it’s unlikely that Anne even knew anything had happened to him. When she talks with Mary Wyatt in prison, she describes herself as willing to die since in the afterlife she’ll see her mother — while no doubt she would see her eventually, Anne’s mother was still alive at this point and would outlive her by two years. Anne also describes herself as a “British Queen” when of course Scotland was still very much its own country and she was an English Queen.

WORTH A READ? It’s an interesting period piece and a valuable insight into Pakenham-Walsh’s conception of his “heavenly patroness”, but as a piece of drama it’s broken-backed. The verse isn’t Shakespeare but rolls along smoothly enough, however, the sudden appearance of Anne’s two antagonists only in the very last portion of the story, coupled with the disappearance of most of the earlier characters weakens it fatally. (Catherine and Wolsey are dead by this point, but Cromwell was alive and very active, and even Henry, who blusters so splendidly early on, does virtually nothing here except get shoved around by a dominating Jane Seymour.) Furthermore, Anne’s character development is minimal; she starts off idealistic, naive, and with little control over her fate — and that’s just about where she ends up. Not once but twice we see Anne literally leaving major decisions to chance — both when deciding whether to return to court (counting appleseeds) and deciding whether or not to accept Henry’s offer of the now-vacant Queen’s throne (seeing if the village children will crown her). Even in the Percy arc, Percy is always the one who acts — first by breaking their engagement under duress, then at last by standing up, rebuking the court, and declaring his love for her. Anne never takes the initiative even in her one real love affair.

And although she’ll later reproach herself for the repressed ambition which drove her to take the throne, it’s hard for the reader to really believe this was the case; she’s so clearly not in control for most of the story that her agreeing to marry Henry seems like less of a conscious choice and more accepting the inevitable and acknowledging that at least she’ll be able to do some good in her new, unasked-for position. Her declaration that she was doomed by her own ambition comes across as less the anguished realization of her own faults than an effort to get her husband and father off the hook for their own misdeeds. Considering that this play’s Anne is a fine specimen of an Angel In The House, it’s a thoroughly in-character response, but it’s also a rather depressing one. The Jane Seymour in this play is one very few people would want to be acquainted with, but one can’t help getting the sneaking feeling that Anne might have benefited by taking a few leaves from her book.

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