Let me say this up front: Anne Boleyn was no angel. From her tenderest years she was weaned on scandal and intrigue, schooled in Machiavellian politics, and came of age in the licentious court of Francois I. Unlike her sweet, malleable sister Mary, Anne -- the Boleyn girl who really mattered - had a great head on her shoulders. That, sadly, was the foulest crime a woman in the sixteenth century could commit, and reason enough for the all-male establishment to ensure she was parted from it.
Here was a girl who had the temerity to fight for a marriage not of convenience but love with her first sweetheart, Henry Percy, and to spurn the sexual advances of an already-married man, Henry VIII. What nerve to demand she be wed before she gave birth to their children! Who did she think she was helping bring the Protestant Reformation to England? She ought to be ashamed that her only offspring was history's favorite queen -- Elizabeth I.
For daring to survive and thrive in one of the bloodiest, back-stabbingest cultures of all time, Anne Boleyn acquired a reputation as a (gasp!) ambitious woman, a scheming, traitorous, marriage-wrecking, brother-humping, child-stealing whore. Oh, and let us not forget...witch. It was understandable that Renaissance spin doctors might be inclined to do the bidding of their half-mad, ax-happy boss, King Henry.
But what excuse have author Philippa Gregory in The Other Boleyn Girl and screenwriter Michael Hirst in TV's The Tudors for perpetuating the scurrilous rumors and trumped-up charges that insured one of history's most remarkable women end her life on the wrong end of a sword?
Maybe the answer is that every good story needs a villain. And who better to target for that role than a beautiful, too-big-for-her-britches woman that ends up with her head on the chopping block? As far as I'm concerned, Anne Boleyn was the first feminist. The first woman with the strength and convictions to face-down the London Boys Club and have her own way. At least for a while.
Despite her untimely demise, this young lady's indomitable spirit and her not insubstantial accomplishments have been an inspiration in my art, as well as my life. So I say to her detractors, "Take your swiftboats, sail back into history and find someone else to pillory."
In my book, Anne Boleyn rocks!
Read more about author and screenwriter Robin Maxwell at robinmaxwell.com