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The Lady in the Tower: The Wives of Henry VIII Paperback – June 24, 2003

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Book 4 of 11 in the Queens of England Series

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Editorial Reviews

From the Inside Flap

One of history’s most complex and alluring women comes to life in this classic novel by the
legendary Jean Plaidy.

Young Anne Boleyn was not beautiful but she was irresistible, capturing the hearts of kings and commoners alike. Daughter of an ambitious country lord, Anne was sent to France to learn sophistication, and then to court to marry well and raise the family’s fortunes. She soon surpassed even their greatest expectations. Although his queen was loving and loyal, King Henry VIII swore he would put her aside and make Anne his wife. And so he did, though the divorce would tear apart the English church and inflict religious turmoil and bloodshed on his people for generations to come.

Loathed by the English people, who called her “the King’s Great Whore,” Anne Boleyn was soon caught in the trap of her own ambition. Political rivals surrounded her at court and, when she failed to produce a much-desired male heir, they closed in, preying on the king’s well-known insecurity and volatile temper. Wrongfully accused of adultery and incest, Anne found herself imprisoned in the Tower of London, where she was at the mercy of her husband and of her enemies.

From the Trade Paperback edition. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

The Prisoner

HERE I LIE IN MY DARK PRISON. I hear voices in the night--those who were here before me, those who had suffered as I am suffering now, numbed by fear, without hope, the prisoners of the King.

They came for me yesterday, and we glided along the river to the great gray Tower. Many times had I seen it before but never with such fearful clarity. Once I came here in great pomp and glory--and that only three years ago--and never for one moment then would it have seemed possible that one day I should be brought here--a prisoner.

It was May then as now and the people crowded the river banks to see me pass. I was proud, so confident, so sure of my power. At the prow of my state barge was the stem of gold with branches of red and white roses--symbolic of York and Lancaster, which the King displayed on every occasion to remind people that the Tudors had united the warring factions; and among those roses was my very own symbol, the White Falcon, with the motto "Me and Mine."

How had I come to pass from such adulation to bitter rejection in three short years? Was it my fault? I must be in some measure to blame. When did I cease to be the adored one and become the outcast?

The people had not cheered me even in my day of triumph. They did not like me. All their affection was for Queen Katharine. They did not accept me. "We will have none of her," they cried. "Queen Katharine is our true Queen." They would have abused me if they had dared. The people were my enemies, but I had greater and more powerful enemies than they were. Now they would be openly gathering against me; even during the days of my triumph they had sought to destroy me; how much more assiduously would they work against me now! And they had succeeded, for I was the King's prisoner.

As I passed through the gate the clock was striking five, and each stroke was like a funeral knell.

Sir William Kingston, the Lieutenant of the Tower, was waiting for me. I murmured to myself: "Oh, Lord help me, as I am guiltless of that wherefore I am accused."

I turned to William Kingston and said: "Mr. Kingston, do I go into a dungeon?"

And he replied: "No, Madam, to your lodging where you lay at your coronation."

They took me there and I laughed. I could not stop laughing, for I, who had come in such pomp and glory just three years ago, now was here in the same apartment...a prisoner.

Had they brought me here purposely to remind me? Was it a touch of that exquisite torture which so many of my enemies knew so well how to administer?

My women tried to soothe me. They knew the nature of that wild laughter; and in time I was quiet.

I thought: I will write to him, I will move him with my words. I will remind him of how it once was between us.

I wrote and I destroyed what I wrote. Again and again I took up my pen and tried to appeal to him.

"Your Grace's displeasure and my imprisonment are things so strange unto me that what to write or what to excuse, I am altogether ignorant..."

That was not true. I did know and I would not make it easy for him. I knew him well--his reasoning, his sanctimonious excuses, his mean, hypocritical nature, his passionate desires all cloaked in piety. No, I would not make it easy for him.

My angry pen flew on. My lack of discretion had often turned people against me, but I was reckless. I was fighting for my life. I would let him know that I was aware of the real reason why he wanted to be rid of me.

"...that Your Grace may be at liberty, both before God and man, not only to execute worthy punishment on me as an unfaithful wife, but to follow your affections already settled on that party for whose sake I am now as I am..."

Angrily I wrote--more vehement perhaps because I was now in the position of the discarded wife.

He would be angry. He would try to pretend that it was not because he desired another woman that he wished to be rid of me. He was a past master--not of deceiving others, for those about him saw through his utterings and posturings as clearly as I did--but of deceiving himself.

He was superstitious, fearful of ill luck; he committed his sins with one eye on Heaven, hoping to pull the wool over the eyes of God and His angels as he thought he did over those of his ministers and courtiers.

"But if you have already determined of me that not only my death but an infamous slander must bring you the joying of your desired happiness, then I desire of God that He will pardon your great sin herein and likewise my enemies, the instruments thereof and that He will not call you to a straight account of your unprincely and cruel usage of me..."

I was again on the verge of hysterical laughter. I must calm myself. Others had suffered like this before me. This place was full of the ghosts of martyrs. What was so important about one more?

I sealed the letter. I would send it to the King. I wrote on it "From the Lady in the Tower."

It must give him twinges of conscience. His conscience was important to him. He referred to it constantly; and knowing him well, I believed that it did exist.

I could see him in my mind's eye so clearly...those days at Hever and at Court...his little eyes alight with desire for me, his cruel mouth suddenly soft and tender...for me. How he had wanted me! He had fought for me with that tenacity which was a part of his nature; he had been determined to have me. For me he had shaken the foundations of the Church; and however much he declared he did it to satisfy his conscience, he knew...the whole world knew...that he had done it for me.

So where did it change? There must have been some point where I started to go downhill. When? I could have stopped myself perhaps.

I remembered early days at Blickling and Hever and later at Court where I was surrounded by those who loved me. My dearest brother George, my friends, Thomas and Mary Wyatt, Norris, Weston, Brereton--the wits and poets of the Court. We had talked of life and death, of ambition and achievement; we had come to the conclusion that we were all masters of our fate. The wise knew how to recognize danger before it reached them, to step aside and let it pass by. We were what we made ourselves.

That was George's theory. Some of the others disputed it; and in a Court where living was precarious and once-great men could be brought low in the space of an hour it was a debatable conclusion.

But in my heart I believed there was some truth in it, for if a man or woman did not wish to face danger he or she could stay away from where danger would most likely be--and nowhere in the country was that more than at Court.

So where did I go wrong? Where was that moment when I could have averted the danger?

I could have produced a son; but that was not in my power. I had my sweet daughter Elizabeth and I loved her dearly, though I did not want to think of her, for I greatly feared what would become of her. She had her governess, a good friend of mine. I trusted Lady Bryan for she loved the child well and her husband was a kinsman of my family. When the power had been mine I had always looked after my own family.

But I must not think of Elizabeth now. It is too distressing and could do no good.

But if I had had a son this would not have happened. Henry would have been unfaithful, but the ambitious Seymour brothers would not have been able to guide their silly sister; she would have become his mistress no doubt and I should have been expected to accept that. I should have raged against them; I should have been insulted and humiliated, but I should not be in this doleful prison in the Tower.

No. I had taken a false step somewhere. All through the waiting years I had managed--with consummate skill, all would agree--to hold him at bay, to refuse him until I could take an honorable position beside him. Suppose I had not done this? Then I should now be a cast-off mistress instead of a Queen in a Tower.

I put my fingers to my throat. It was long and slender. It added an elegance to my figure. I accentuated it as I did all my assets and I disguised my defects, with success, I believe. I could almost feel the sword there.

All through the waiting years I had known I must hold him off. I knew him as the hunter and his delight in pursuit. As long as it remained the chase he was determined to succeed. But the joys of capture were brief.

I should have known. I should have realized even as the crown was placed upon my head that it was there precariously.

I knew well the man on whom my fate depended. None knew him better. I should have realized that my life depended on one who was not to be relied on. His fancies faded as quickly as they came. I had been bemused because he had pursued me so ardently and with such persistence. The years of the chase had been long; those of possession short. When had he begun to weary? When had he begun to realize all he had done for me and to ask himself whether it had been worthwhile? What did he think now of his public quarrel with the Pope and the power of Rome--all for a woman who had ceased to interest him?

I should never have become involved with him. I should have escaped while there was time. I should have married Henry Percy. I should have died of the Sweat. Then this would never have come to pass.

Somewhere along the years the fault lay with me. Where? I would seek it. It would occupy me in my prison. It would keep my thoughts in the past, away from contemplation of the fearful future.

I would go back to those happy days at Blickling and Hever, to the glitter of the Court of France, my return to England--a young girl knowledgeable beyond her years, brought up in the most sophisticated and elegant Court in the world. That was what had made me what I was, and what I was had brought me to my present state. I wanted to recall it in detail...and while I waited here in my prison I would do so.

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Product Details

  • Series: A Queens of England Novel
  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Broadway Books (June 24, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400047854
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400047857
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 2.5 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (40 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #327,006 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

27 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Ellis Bell VINE VOICE on August 2, 2004
Format: Paperback
Anne Boleyn is probably one of the most fascinating women in English history. Here, Jean Plaidy brings her to life with a spectacular first-person narrative about who Anne Boleyn really was.

The book begins in the Tower of London; Anne has been convicted of adultery and treason and is waiting for her execution. She then revisits her days at the French and English courts, being courted by the King, and her eventual marriage to him and the birth of her daughter, Elizabeth. Anne tells her story with simplicity, recounting her life at a Court that was filled with seductions, intrigues, murder, and plotting.

The story of the Queen of a Thousand Days is recounted here with unbelievable historical accuracy, as well as remarkable insight into those events which were to shape the course of history. Although it may seem that there is too much history infused into this book, it is necessary because it gives shape to all that these characters say and do. Anne grows from a frightened little girl in the retinue of Princess Marguerite to a lady-in-waiting to Queen Katharine, and finally to Queen of England, seemingly without effort on her part.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Alison Leigh on June 11, 2006
Format: Paperback
Jean Plaidy's The Lady in the Tower tells the story of the rise and fall of Henry VIII's second wife Anne Boleyn, and charts her life from her beginnings at the French court until her execution for treason.

Anne, who many consider to be Henry VIII's most fascinating queen, has been the subject of countless retellings. What I like about Plaidy's novel is that it is written in first person as a kind of memoir while Anne is imprisoned in the Tower of London, and tells her story from her own point of view. This creates a sympathetic portrait and helps in humanizing a historical figure who was greatly hated and villified in her own day.

A very great and interesting read. I am so happy that many of Plaidy's other novels are being re-released for a new generation of readers to enjoy.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Kat on July 21, 2004
Format: Paperback
I am having trouble understanding why people's complaints with this book are the fact that its "boring." I can name other Anne Boleyn novels that are so much more boring then this. While Jean Plaidy's work are aged, written over 50 years ago, the story of Anne Boleyn is ageless and a true drama even from the plain textbook.

It's been a long time since I've read it, but it was the first Anne Boleyn novel, so maybe that is why I remember it so fondly. The novel opens with Anne in service to Queen Mary, then Queen Claude in France. Then countinues from playing a cruel game on Henry in the garden pretending not to know who he is and have a lengthy conversation with him criticising the English court and praising that of the French, to her end on May 19th, 1536.

A novel that paints a vivid painting of Tudorian life, but a better picture of Anne Boleyn's true charcter. Passionate about everything, arragont and ambitious.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Gary Selikow on August 1, 2008
Format: Paperback
Anne Boleyn was the second and most famous of Henry VIII's six wives.
Henry's determination to marry her, in part, led to the separation of the Church of England from the Roman Catholic Church.
Another reason was that Henry wanted the wealth of the Church in his own hands being a greedy grasping man.

The book begins with Anne's incarceration in the Tower of London as she reflects on her life.
We are taken back to when Anne was seven years old and traveled to France to serve in the household of Princess Mary, sister of Henry VIII, and wed to the King of France, Louis XII.

We are given the colorful details Anne experiences and witnesses in the Royal French Court. Anne's beautiful sister Mary becomes mistress to the new king of France, Francois, but is sent back to England in disgrace , because of her lack of discretion at the French court.
Mary was simply too trusting and simple to hide her indiscretions which were all too common in the French court, but were done in more secretive and hiding fashion, Mary Boleyn with her big beautiful blue eyes saw no evil, thought no evil and spoke no evil, but gave her love freely without considering the consequences.
She was sent back to England and married to a poor nobleman, William Carey.

Mary Boleyn later became mistress to King Henry VIII.
She too was discarded by Henry who became infatuated with Anne, and became determined to make her his mistress despite her refusal.
Anne's love with with a young and honest nobleman Henry Percy was destroyed by King Henry and Cardinal Wolsey.
And eventually Anne enticed to marry King Henry in exchange for becoming Queen.

Henry secretly married Anne in January, 1533.
Read more ›
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Jerika on October 10, 2004
Format: Paperback
The first half is a lot more detailed and imaginative than the second, when it appears that the author got tired and started rushing through to the end we all know is coming. "I got pregnant, then I lost the child" is not the stuff of gripping psychological drama. Pick up Margaret George instead.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Babsie on June 16, 2009
Format: Paperback
I loved this work of historical fiction for its sympathetic portrayal of Anne Boleyn. Jean Plaidy makes the reader see reasons for Anne's behavior. This novel was infinitely better than Gregory's The Other Boleyn Girl, which I hated for its tawdriness. Plaidy's work is far more classy.
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