Having read many books with Anne Boleyn as either a periphery or main character, Anne Boleyn: A King's Obsession offers a very different take on this notorious woman. In this second novel of the Six Tudor Queens series, Alison Weir paints Anne Boleyn in an almost sympathetic light. Where she is generally seen as a conniving, cold and adulterous woman, Weir shows her as a woman shaped by the events of her upbringing and pushed to her limits by the pursuit of a king who always gets his way, and the promise of being Queen.
The second and perhaps most well known of King Henry VIII's wives, Anne Boleyn is also the most hated by his English subjects. Her name still conjures up stories of infidelity, witchcraft and scandal. Weir begins her fictional account with Boleyn, barely a teenager, being sent to the court of Burgundy, where she continues her education. She remains in France until she is 21 and it is there she learns about French customs, reformation ideas in religion, how women are cruelly and unjustly treated and that her virtue is to be guarded at all cost. These lessons shape the decisions she makes when she returns to England and, not long after, the king begins his pursuit.
Given the aftermath of her relationship and marriage to King Henry the VIII, it is not hard to see why Anne Boleyn is vilified. Because of his love for her and his need for a male heir, the king breaks with the Pope in Rome, religious reformation begins, and his wife of decades, the beloved Queen Katherine, is put aside. However, Weir gives us a different side of Boleyn. She guards her virtue and reputation, despite rumors, and has no aspiration to marry the king from the outset. As the book progresses we see a woman who learns to be strong, relies on herself, and becomes desperate and cruel under years long pursuit and promises of a king. In this account, Boleyn dies because the precedent has been set to put aside a queen, which is part of her own doing, by being convicted of crimes concocted by the many enemies she has made, but of which she is actually innocent.