New Insights on Anne Boleyn’s Fall?

I would have just been delighted to have my chapter on ‘The Fall of Anne Boleyn: A Crisis in Gender Relations?’ in the book I edited with Tom Betteridge for Ashgate, Henry VIII and the Court: Art, Politics and Performance, described as ‘compelling, well-researched and intriguing’.

So imagine my pleasure at Tessa Marlou van Gendt’s suggestion, in her review in The Journal of Northern Renaissance, that my essay sheds ‘new light’ on the greatly contested question of Anne Boleyn’s downfall and brings ‘interesting and oft-forgotten angle to the debate’.

Marlou van Gendt even generously concludes that it is ‘a must-read for anyone interested in Boleyn scholarship’.

Her full text is below:

‘Suzannah Lipscomb, in ‘The Fall of Anne Boleyn: A Crisis in Gender Relations’, presents the reader with a different perspective on the debate over Anne’s fall. Quickly, yet convincingly, sketching the various issues surrounding this controversial event, Lipscomb provides readers with an account that, as she herself mentions in general lines, closely matches that of Greg Walker in his article, ‘Rethinking the Fall of Anne Boleyn’(The Historical Journal, 45-1, pp. 1-29). Lipscomb’s exploration of sixteenth-century gender roles and relations, however, is an interesting angle and serves to entertain, as well as to instruct, in the world of courtly love. Her description of the social tensions between the sixteenth-century ideals of a ‘good and chaste woman’ and the notion of the inherent culpability of the female as the origin of sexual sin, relate persuasively to Anne Boleyn’s case and indictments. Her analysis of the discourses of courtly love within the confines of the rigid social structure of the Henrician court, lends credibility to the interpretation that it was, indeed, Anne’s words rather than her actions that caused her eventual demise. The essay is compelling, well-researched and intriguing. Its discussion of sixteenth-century ideas of manhood and impotence provide cause for amusement and enlightenment. The concept of sexual honour introduces an interesting and oft-forgotten angle to the debate, elaborating on the personal struggle Henry must have faced in charging Anne with adultery. The concern arises from the reasons for her supposed infidelity. Clearly, Henry’s ministrations in the bedchamber could be nothing short of entirely satisfactory, he was, after all, the King. It follows then that Anne herself must, in some way, be deficient to crave sexual fulfillment above and beyond what he could provide her. Although the Chapter does not settle the matter of Anne’s fall (nor is it, perhaps, entirely reasonable to expect it to, given the brevity necessary to include it in such a collection as this), it certainly sheds new light on the tensions between the sexes which arguably caused much of the appearance of guilt during her prosecution. An effective and engaging study of gender relations and underlying social currents that furthers our understanding of why, if not how, Anne was condemned, this is a must-read for anyone interested in Boleyn scholarship.’