The Secret Diary of Anne Boleyn by Robin Maxwell
Robin Maxwell’s “The Secret Diary of Anne Boleyn” is a different approach to Anne’s story than we usually see. In this book, Anne is long dead and Elizabeth has recently become Queen when an old woman who once served her mother in the Tower brings her an unexpected gift: Anne’s own diary.
Anne begins writing her diary when she is a young, gay woman at court, much enamored with Henry Percy and somewhat disdainful of her loose sister Mary, the King’s concubine. Anne is a vivacious young woman, but one who ends up changed by Henry’s love for her. Anne struggles first not to become another throw-away mistress like Mary, then to achieve the position Henry has promised her, and finally for the good of her daughter. All this struggle leaves her a much harder woman than she had previously been.
As Elizabeth reads of the hardships brought upon her mother by her father, she is struggling in her own love life with Robert Dudley. She has given herself to him mind and body, with the consequence of harming her standing in her own country. Will she learn from her mother’s mistakes?
Overall I enjoyed this book, although I was not as fond of Elizabeth’s storyline, perhaps because she simply did not have as much of one as did her mother. This was a very sympathetic portrayal of Anne. The reader could see her harden and turn into the woman oft vilified, could also see how this was almost forced upon her as she tried to keep her head above water in this dangerous age. There were a couple of things that sort of shook me out of the story, however. At one point there was a sentence about Henry that said something to the effect of “…his father dying and his brother dying thereafter.” The way it was written was a bit more ambiguous than that, but it certainly seemed (to me anyway) to be saying that Henry VII died before his son Arthur, which would have made Arthur king between Henry VII and Henry VIII. Since Arthur predeceased Henry VII by about 7 years and was never king, that really brought me out of the story. More minor was a reference by Anne to Judas denying Jesus three times. Peter was the apostle who denied Jesus, Judas the apostle who betrayed him for silver. Although, since the Bible was not widely available in English at the time, it is possible that Anne would have made such a mistake.
This is a good book to imagine how Anne’s story might have impacted Elizabeth’s life and decisions if you can keep yourself in the story.