The Secret Diary of Anne Boleyn was a fascinating take on the connection between two of history’s most memorable women, two Queens and a mother and daughter.
Anne gave the diary into safekeeping and it was presented to Elizabeth at the beginning of her reign. Anne describes the events of her life beginning just before her ascendency to the throne, her downfall and ends just prior to her death. It is through reading the words written by the hand of a mother she barely remembers that Elizabeth learns not only about Anne, but comes to understand much about herself. Elizabeth finds she shares her mother’s fierce independence, love of learning and understands the impact of those qualities in a world ruled by men.
Anne, through the diary, uses her own life as a means of mothering and advising Elizabeth from beyond the grave. Not only does Elizabeth discover how Anne dearly loved her but also provides Elizabeth with sage motherly advice. Anne uses her own rise and fall to caution her daughter about the dangers for women in a world controlled by men. After reading the diary Elizabeth, though desperately in love with Lord Robert Dudley, resolves to “have no master”.
Robin Maxwell does an amazing job bringing both of these women to life; especially Anne – the woman and the mother. I have so often wondered about the impact that Anne’s life and death had on Elizabeth and if she knew the real Anne, rather than the propagandized heretical concubine that much of the world bought into. I enjoyed Maxwell’s style of jumping from the past to the present, which clearly connected the reader to the impact of Anne’s words on Elizabeth the Queen, and in turn the history of England.
Maxwell empowers and humanizes Anne and provides the reader with a deeper depiction of Anne though a very sympathetic one. Anyone who loves Anne will love this wonderful characterization of her. I confess that the portrayal is completely in line with my own opinions as I have always seen that through Elizabeth’s long successful reign Anne was ultimately vindicated. Therefore, I must admit my bias to Maxwell’s account.
The Secret Diary of Anne Boleyn is a thoroughly enjoyable read. In fact, it is quite difficult to pry yourself away from it! I recommend it highly for its unique method of connecting two enormous personalities, each a legend in her own right, as mother and daughter.