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.

E.B. Johnson | NLPMP | Editor
12 min readOct 30, 2023


Anne was a victim of an effect non-conforming women know all too well. (Illustration by Meilan Solly / Base painting by Daniel Maclise, 1835)

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 —…