The Legacy of Anne Boleyn

Posted By claire on September 21, 2009


Do They Look Alike?

As you know, if you have read my posts over the last week, Tracy Borman has just written a book on Elizabeth I called “Elizabeth’s Women: The Hidden Story of the Virgin Queen”. As the book has just been published, Borman is doing the publicity rounds and has been doing interviews and talks, and her book has also been chosen as BBC Radio 4’s “Book of the Week” for this week.

Today’s episode on Radio 4 was entitled “The influence of the life and death of Anne Boleyn on Elizabeth’s future” and I have given a full precis of the episode over at The Anne Boleyn Files – see “Anne Boleyn’s Influence on Elizabeth I – Part 2”. Here at The Elizabeth Files, I’m going to look at Anne Boleyn’s legacy, her daughter Elizabeth I, and what Elizabeth inherited from her mother.

During Mary I’s reign, the Venetian Ambassador commented that the Lady Elizabeth was “proud and haughty, although she knows that she was born of such a mother”. He was obviously expecting that Elizabeth would be ashamed of being the daughter of the disgraced Anne Boleyn, who had been executed as a traitor, adulteress and witch, and who had usurped the throne from the true Queen, Catherine of Aragon. Elizabeth was also nothing more than a bastard, what did she have to be so proud and haughty about?

A young Princess Elizabeth

A young Princess Elizabeth

But Elizabeth had inherited more from her mother than her coal-black eyes, she was her mother’s daughter in many other ways. Borman writes of how Elizabeth inherited Anne’s charisma, tenacity and self-discipline, along with the negatives like cruelty and vindictiveness. However, I’m not sure that either woman could be called cruel or vindictive in their natures – yes, they were hot tempered and passionate women, but surely we all have our moments of lashing out and wanting to hurt someone!

What I did like about this part of Tracy Borman’s book was that she recognises that Anne could have been a great Queen, if only she had been given the chance, and that what made Elizabeth such an amazing Queen was that she recognised the qualities and flaws that she had inherited from Anne and was able to control her flaws, and also learn from the many experiences she had gone through and from the other people in her life. Anne’s story also made Elizabeth aware that she had to guard her reputation, and stamp on any scandals, that she had to be self-reliant and that she could not put any trust into a man’s expressions of love.

Miniature of Anne BoleynI know that we cannot give all of the credit to Anne Boleyn, but Anne gave many of her character traits to Elizabeth, was an adoring mother in the short time she had with Elizabeth and went to her death praising the King in an attempt to keep her daughter safe from harm. Yes, Elizabeth was shaped by her life experiences, people like Catherine Parr, Anne of Cleves and Blanche Parry, and her trusted advisers, but much of her character was inherited from Anne Boleyn, the disgraced second wife of Henry VIII.

By the way, just look at the portraits accompanying this post – don’t they look similar?! Rochie reversed the National Portrait Gallery of Anne Boleyn and put it on our Elizabeth Files wiki with the John Bettes the Younger portrait of Elizabeth I, and she also compared the famous portrait of the Princess Elizabeth with the miniature of Anne Boleyn. There is definitely a marked resemblance between the women.

You can catch BBC Radio 4’s Book of the Week episodes on Tracy Borman’s “Elizabeth’s Women” at 9.45am (GMT) on Radio 4 or at the Radio 4 website. Today’s episode has been recorded and can be listened to at your leisure on the site.

New Henry VIII Resources

The latest Henry VIII talk is now available to listen to at the Historic Royal Palaces site. In this talk David Starkey considers how Henry VIII, arguably the world’s most famous king, has maintained his reputation for 500 years. Click here to listen to it.

Thanks to Oraya over at The Anne Boleyn Files for pointing this one out. If you have been unable to use the National Archives to browse or order copies of documents pertaining to Henry VIII or Anne Boleyn and her trial, you can now access records online at – Click on the first link “Letters & Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII” and then you can search for “Anne Boleyn” or look at records for different dates. It’s a fantastic resource.


3 Responses to “The Legacy of Anne Boleyn”

  1. Jessica says:

    Elizabeth get a lot of things from Anne, and no they were not cruel, they were human, i think it’s horrable to call a monarch as cruel, since all of them had their times and to keep their throne saf, they have to do many things. They were very charismatic, yes, and very passionate, something i believe she got from Henry too

  2. mariella says:

    Your site (Anne Boleyn’s and Elizabeth’s) is really fine, Thank you for your help in my research about the Tudors.
    Mariella Moretti

  3. Claire says:

    Hi Mariella,
    I’m so glad that you like the sites and have found them helpful. I’m always happy to help.

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