Front Page Titles (by Subject) ESSAY IX.: ON THE LIFE OF ANNE BOLEYN, WIFE OF HENRY THE EIGHTH, A PROPOS OF MISS BENGER'S WORK, ENTITLED MEMOIRS OF THE LIFE OF ANNE BOLEYN, QUEEN OF HENRY THE EIGHTH. - The Historical Essays and Narratives of the Merovingian Era
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ESSAY IX.: ON THE LIFE OF ANNE BOLEYN, WIFE OF HENRY THE EIGHTH, A PROPOS OF MISS BENGER’S WORK, ENTITLED “MEMOIRS OF THE LIFE OF ANNE BOLEYN, QUEEN OF HENRY THE EIGHTH.” - Augustin Thierry, The Historical Essays and Narratives of the Merovingian Era 
The Historical Essays, published under the Title of “Dix Ans d’Études historiques,” and Narratives of the Merovingian Era; or, Scenes of the Sixth Century, with an Autobiographical Preface (Philadelphia: Carey and Hart, 1845).
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ON THE LIFE OF ANNE BOLEYN, WIFE OF HENRY THE EIGHTH, A PROPOS OF MISS BENGER’S WORK, ENTITLED “MEMOIRS OF THE LIFE OF ANNE BOLEYN, QUEEN OF HENRY THE EIGHTH.”
This book is one of the witnesses in the action which morality and reason ought to bring against the sixteenth century. If the violent death of Anne Boleyn belongs to Henry the Eighth alone, the circumstances of what are called the rise and fall of this woman, belong to the manners of the time, and especially to the spirit of courts, a spirit which in the France of that age, was the same as in England. Anne was the great grandchild of Geoffrey Boleyn, a London merchant, whose credit and acquired fortune had raised him to the situation of lord mayor of that city. The children of this man, abjuring the paternal condition, dispersed his property among the noble houses to which they allied themselves; they bought patents to be courtiers with the riches of their family; and thus it was that the descendant of the rich plebeian was born both poor and noble. The father and mother of Anne Boleyn lived as parasites in the court of King Henry the Eighth, by whom they were both much liked, one for his talents, the other for her graces. No sooner was Anne out of her cradle, no sooner had she given the first promise of that beauty which rendered her afterwards so celebrated and so unfortunate, than her parents destined her for the life they themselves led. There were then at court places for complaisants and beauties of every age. Anne was a maid of honour at seven years old; with this title she went to France in the train of Mary, sister of the King of England, whom a diplomatic treaty united by force to old Louis XII., at the moment when she had a violent and declared passion for another man. But in the same way that Anne Boleyn’s parents cared very little at seeing their child exposed to the dangers of a foreign education, and deprived of their care and caresses, provided she became a court lady, Henry the Eighth did not hesitate to drive his young sister into the bed of an infirm old man, provided she became Queen of France.
Anne spent the years of her childhood in continual studies of the art of pleasing; she was early able to figure gracefully in those puerile masquerades which helped the powerful of that century to bring to a close their blank and idle days; she learnt to captivate all eyes, and to encourage flattery; she learnt to listen to the admiration of men, before she was old enough to understand it; she learned moreover to excite by her successes the envy of her young companions; not that envy of emulation which arises from the sentiment of what is right, and doubles the desire of attaining it, but that hateful jealousy, which is indignant at seeing another advancing more rapidly towards the common end; for goodness and personal graces were esteemed only as means for acquirement and advancement. Amongst the envious hatreds which Anne Boelyn excited when she returned to her native land, there were some violent and implacable ones which pursued her till death. She was on the point of fortunately escaping the fortune which awaited her, by marrying a young Lord Percy, who loved her, and whose love she returned; but the father of this young man, informed by a cardinal, that Henry the Eighth had cast his eye on the betrothed, threatened to disinherit his son if he persisted in hindering the king. The young man was compelled to give way; and Anne, left by her lover, became accessible to Henry the Eighth. He came to visit her in the country house purchased by the labour of her ancestor, a spot to which she had retired to cure her wounded love. Tradition still points out the hill whence the sound of a hunting horn proclaimed the approach of the king, and caused the drawbridge to be lowered which separated him from the woman he expected to obtain at the price of a few transient attentions. Anne, prouder or more skilful than he had himself expected, repeated to him the words of Elizabeth Grey to Edward the Fourth; “I am too good to be your mistress, not good enough to be your wife.”
Henry VIII. was irritated by the obstacle; he had been married several years to a woman of irreproachable virtue and tenderness; he solicited a divorce, that remedy for ill-assorted unions, which the Romish church obstinately refused to the wants of the people, but granted eastly to the lightest caprices of the great. History has transmitted to us the details of the trial of Queen Catharine, whom this time the court of Rome hesitated to sacrifice, because she was related to Chartes V. Shakespeare’s pen has immortalized the noble resistance of this woman to the despot who rejected her like a piece of worn-out household furniture. Instead of the voice of the pope, Henry VIII. bought that of the Catholic universities: the divorce was pronounced, and Anne Boleyn, in return for her youth, delivered herself up to a man older than her father, and received the title of queen, which from her childhood she had learned to envy.
Her father, satisfied until then with the favour he enjoyed, became irritated and discontented, because he did not obtain an increase of fortune proportionate to the elevation of his family; the grief it occasioned him was such that he left the court, abandoning her whom he ought to have protected, to the mercy of the numerous enemies which her new rank created. Amongst all the new queen’s relations, there was one alone, one of her brothers, who preserved any affection for her; the others detested her out of envy, or accused her bitterly of the mischances of their own ambition. She herself, in the first month of her pretended triumph, saw herself humiliated under her purple canopy by a poor Franciscan friar, who, in the very chapel of Henry VIII., and in his presence, reproached this prince with having broken his faith towards his faithful wife. All the monks of that order were banished from England; but their banishment was unable to efface remorse from the heart of the despot, and blushes from the cheek of his partner. Men of no consequence who did not fear death, more than once repeated this outrage to her whom they called an usurper, and seasoned with bitterness to her the dishes of the royal table: her gentle spirit became gradually soured; she conceived a cowardly and unjust hatred against her whose place she occupied, against poor Catherine, who lived retired in a cloister, disenchanted with the pleasures of this world; she wished for the death of that woman whom she had formerly loved, and who had loved her exceedingly. On the day of her death, she was unable to refrain from betraying her joy, and exclaiming, At last I am queen!
But she was so no longer, for she no longer possessed the heart of the man who disposed of that title; a young girl presented to the king, had effaced in his eyes all the graces of Anne Boleyn. Anne surprised her husband in adoration of the object of his new worship; she dared to utter a complaint; and, from that moment, she was devoted to death, as guilty of offending his power. At the first symptoms of her disgrace, her secret enemies declared themselves; and at their head appeared the Duke of Norfolk, her own mother’s brother. She was surrounded with spies; her thoughts were attempted to be discovered; her sighs were registered; she was accused of adultery with two men whose society she had been partial to, and of incest with her own brother, the only protector she had left. More revolting still, it was this brother’s wife who dared to bear witness against her sister-in-law and husband. The accusation could not be carried on; they then threw themselves upon a conversation in which Anne had expressed fears about the king’s weak health; the evidence of a formal conspiracy against the sacred majesty was founded upon a few innocent words: the brother and the other two accused were condemned as accomplices, and the tribunal of the English aristocracy pronounced their sentence of death. The day on which Anne Boleyn was beheaded in a room in the Tower of London, Henry VIII., who was at Richmond, repaired to a height whence he could hear the discharge of artillery, and discover the black flag which were to announce to the citizens that the execution was over. Some years afterwards, he had the impudence to put forth, in the name of the woman he had assassinated, claims to the inheritance of her family, to the ancient habitation of the merchant Geoffrey Boleyn. Thus ends this history of misfortune, infamy and crueity; such was the fate of the woman who had aspired to unite herself to an absolute monarch. The authoress of the Memoirs of the Life of Anne Boleyn has not confined herself to exciting the human interest which these events present; she has drawn from them great lessons on the life of courts, on the ambition of women, and on those false positions which the vulgar call great: it has not sufficed her to present numberless piquant details, and descriptions full of life, to give the colouring of the period to an always animated narrative; as a woman, Miss Benger has not neglected to give moral opinions on the destiny of the wife of Henry VIII. These serious and grave opinions give as much value to her book as the literary talent which is displayed in it. After so many centuries of bad laws and bad customs, when human nature, long thrown out of its right place, seeks painfully to regain it, women have, as well as we, examples to observe, and meditations to make. When the ambition of men was to crush their fellow-men, the ambition of women was to share the pleasures and profits of power: now humanity, better understood, offers very different careers. One sex no longer looks on domination and avarice as their supreme objects; the other, in its turn, will doubtless prefer the fortune of honest men to that of the rulers of the world; and however loaded with brilliants the diadem of a queen may have been, the young maiden of the nineteenth century will not hesitate to pronounce that the wife of a Henry VIII., is nothing by the side of the wife of a Sydney.