Was it lust and infatuation for Anne that led Henry to break with the Church? Or were there more political intentions than one might think?
In the new Channel 5 series Henry and Anne: The Lovers Who Changed History historian Dr Suzannah Lipscomb delves into the world of possibly the most fascinating and contested royal relationship that our monarchy has ever seen – this being the courtship of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn.
In this two-part series, Dr Lipscomb will explore how this King fell so fiercely in love with a lady at court, and how this led to him going to such drastic extents to marry her. We are all too aware of the events that came about from this romance, including Henry VIII breaking with the Roman Catholic Church and the papacy, becoming the Head of the Church of England, and divorcing his devoted wife of around twenty years, Catherine of Aragon. However, in this series, Suzannah will investigate the background of these events in an attempt to unpick what political and personal reasons could have led Henry into consequently changing history forever. The question is, was it simply love, sheer devotion and infatuation between Henry and Anne which influenced the events leading to their marriage? Or are there more underlining factors that we have not yet considered? And, for such a notably impatient King, what made Henry drive towards these changes for so many years?
In this first episode, Dr Lipscomb will begin her research at Hever Castle in Kent, which was Anne’s childhood home. It is here that Suzannah comes across a copy of the religious volume Book of Hours, which holds an example of Anne’s writing. Within it, she inscribed a notable phrase: “The Time Will Come”. This could be an interesting piece of evidence towards revealing Anne’s strategic and advantageous ambitions from such a young age.
Anne Boleyn – Ambitious for the crown or a pawn of Henry’s advances?
Dr Lipscomb then follows Anne’s path to Château de Blois in France, where she was made a lady-in-waiting to the French Queen. It was here that Anne learned the fashionable French customs of courtly life. She was educated in how to present her wit, intelligence and refined manners to other members and visitors of the Royal court, one visitor being none other than Leonardo da Vinci. Alongside this, she also learned how to hone other courtly skills, such as dancing and singing.
After some time in France, Anne made her first appearance at the English court and met the King at a royal banquet. But was it after this first meeting that Anne became so determined to attract the King and keep his favour? Or was it Henry’s constant pursing of Anne which led to their notorious relationship, this meaning she was not as ambitious as some may think? This documentary explores the possible answers to these questions. In relation to the last point, in the first episode, Suzannah discusses with Tom Betteridge at Hampton Court about how chivalry worked within Henry’s court circles, analyising how quickly notions of love and desire could erupt into motivated sexual advances amongst the young courtiers at the time.
As their relationship developed, by reading the surviving letters between Anne and Henry, Dr Lipscomb exposes a love-sick king who wished with all his might for Anne to break her promise and become his mistress. Suzannah also looks at a number of gifts sent between the couple during their courtship, and also witnesses the Biblical messages that Anne sent to Henry relating to her providing him with a male heir – something which he desperately strove towards as his reign progressed.
It is through visits to the buildings which are now defined by the history of this Royal couple, alongside rich theatrical reconstructions, that Suzannah will bring viewers into the sphere of this enthralling and volatile relationship which changed British history.
The first episode of this series will be broadcast on Channel 5 at 8pm on Thursday 20th February, and will be repeated on Channel 5+24 on Friday 21st February at 8pm.