It’s Hard to Escape the Anne Boleyn Effect When You’re a Woman of a Certain Age
For women who refuse to play by the rules, there’s an unavoidable expiry date.
When Anne Boleyn reappeared in England around 1521, she made a splash. Elegant, sophisticated, witty, and dressed in the latest continental fashions, she was an “it” girl of sorts who caught the eye of lordlings, poets, and kings alike. The court was captivated by her, longer before her dalliance with Henry VIII and it’s not difficult to see why.
Appearances aside, Anne was a woman of high breeding who spent more than a decade abroad perfecting her political ambitions and personas. First, in the home of Margaret of Austria, she learned what it took to be an aristocratic lady running a substantial household.
Next, as a maid of honor to Queen Claude of France, she rubbed elbows with some of the greatest minds and artists in Europe. Anne Boleyn would have met or been in the direct prescence of Leonardo da Vinci, Marguerite de Navarre, Giulio Romano, and more.
All of those experiences ran together to create a woman who was intelligent, perceptive, fierce, and driven. Anne spoke at least 3 languages fluently and could read and write in them as well. It was said she was able to debate on nearly any topic — theology, history, politics — and she also played and composed music on a number of instruments.
These things, coupled with Anne’s immense will and temper, made her stand out in the English court like no other woman. Men flocked to her, even though she refused to bite her tongue around them, and carried herself (more often than not) as a sort of equal to them in word and in deed.
Anne Boleyn stood out and captivated the heart of a king because she went against the grain. Where other English women of the time were celebrated for their quiet fastness, Anne “bewitched” Henry VIII because she talked back, refused to be put in her place, and refused to settle for the standard quo of the time (like her sister, Mary).
It was precisely this fire that burned Anne’s entire world to the ground, however, and it’s the same thing that still happens to “women of a certain age” all around the world. Every single day.