Another book in Carolyn Meyer’s “Young Royals” series, “Doomed Queen Anne” tackles the life story of Henry VIII’s most infamous and intriguing wife, Anne Boleyn.
The story starts with Anne’s childhood, runs through her courtship of Henry VIII and their marriage, the beginnings of Henry’s disenchantment with her, and then, ultimately, her death.
Rather than just making Anne a manipulative seductress, Meyer creates a picture of a woman who, although ambitious, genuinely finds happiness in marrying Henry and motherhood after the birth of Anne’s daughter, the future Elizabeth I.
Anne’s willfulness makes her plenty of enemies. Her most prominent and threatening enemy is her teenage step-daughter, the future Mary I. Anne turns Mary into little more than a servant after Henry’s divorce from Catherine of Aragon, out of spite and the desire to subdue Mary. In this case, I felt no sympathy for Anne, as she goads and taunts Mary at every opportunity. Anne’s frustration is clearly communicated, as is Mary’s defiance (which is written amazingly well in a story told from Anne’s point of view).
Some readers might find Anne sympathetic, and while I did at times, she is truly not a completely sympathetic character. It’s true that it would have been unwise for any woman to say no to the king if he noticed them, but Anne purposefully gets Henry to notice her, and encourages him to divorce his wife, Catherine, and take away Mary’s royal standing, giving Mary the status of an illegitimate child. Anne plays on Henry’s desperation and paranoia about needing a son as an heir to further her position, and when she instead has Elizabeth, I almost felt a sense of satisfaction, as if she deserved it.
She does finally become almost entirely the victim of the story once Henry makes wild accusations about Anne being unfaithful, and when she faces her death she does so with her head held high and her pride intact, and her only concern being the fate of her daughter.
“Doomed Queen Anne” is a tragic telling of a woman who may have led herself into the horrific fate she received, innocent of her supposed crimes, but guilty of over ambition and overestimating herself.