With ‘The Final Year of Anne Boleyn,’ Natalie Grueninger has masterfully crafted a scholarly yet accessible volume that offers a fresh, in-depth perspective on Anne Boleyn’s life, death, and character.
When reading and writing about Anne, it is so easy to fall into a partisan position. Although Natalie’s admiration for Anne does shine through, she offers a very fair, unbiased assessment of all the key players, and offers a fresh perspective on the motivations of Henry and Cromwell.
The brilliance of this book lies in Natalie’s impeccable research skills. Rarely has a historian taken such care to review each and every source for themselves, refusing to blindly accept assumptions of the past. No single source is purely relied upon, but rather questioned and compared with other documents, in order to present the most accurate picture possible of Anne’s life. One of the major issues that many historians trip over into is an over-reliance on Chapuys’ correspondence; but Natalie takes a very balanced and critical approach to these letters. By critically revising every source herself, Natalie is able to disprove several long-held assumptions.
Natalie goes out of her way to research what is known about each place Anne visited during the Summer Progress of 1535; the layout of the houses, the owners and what was going on in their lives at the time, even what is known of the furnishings of the rooms Anne stayed in!
By providing such rich descriptions of the homes and rooms Anne walked through and slept in, Natalie shows not only what Anne did, but life as Anne experienced it in her final year.
Natalie provides a final gift in the appendix: a breakdown of the dates and places Anne allegedly committed the offences she was charged with and the reasons most of them were impossible.
For anyone interested in Anne Boleyn or Tudor history in general, I highly recommend ‘The Final Year of Anne Boleyn,’ by Natalie Grueninger.