It is interesting to me — yet not at all salient — that the author photo of Alison Weir included in The Lady in the Tower (M&S/Ballantine) shows the accomplished British author looking not unlike the painting detail of her subject that graces the cover of her latest book. In these particular images, both Weir and Boleyn look attractive and mysterious and both wear just the trace of a Mona Lisa smile. As things turned out, the second wife of England’s Henry VIII had a lot less to smile about than does Weir, who has written a string of bestselling books — both fiction and non-fiction — that have captivated world wide audiences and shed light in dimly lit corners of some of history’s best known moments.
The Lady in the Tower is the first non-fiction exploration of the final days of Anne Boleyn whose demise may well have altered Britain’s religious make-up forever. Boleyn was charged with high treason and died not longer after, still protesting her innocence. This is an area of history that has fascinated Weir, and she has spent so much time researching various ultimately related works that is seems possible that she has made herself one of the world’s leading experts of the wives of Henry VIII. She is the author of two bestselling novels, Innocent Traitor and The Lady Elizabeth. Her historical biographies include Mistress of the Monarchy, Queen Isabella, Henry VIII, The Life of Elizabeth I and The Six Wives of Henry VIII. Unsurprisingly — considering the expertise she brings to this era — Weir comes up with some details others have either missed or construed in different ways, including Boleyn’s innocence of the charges she was executed for and what might have motivated Thomas Cromwell to construct such an intricate case against the doomed queen.
As always, Weir writes compellingly and well. She manages to give the impression of great scholarship while maintaining an interesting and accessible tone. The Lady in the Tower is another very good book for this impressive writer’s résumé.