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The fictional afterlife of Anne Boleyn: how to do things with the Queen, 1901-2006.

Since the 1980s, feminists pondering the historical romance and its immediate cousin, the erotic historical, have complained that even when the heroine is uniquely powerful, "the majority of the novels ... end, as do the traditional formula romances, with either the marriage of the heroine or the resolution of the love conflict." (1) One science fiction writer, Lillian Stuart Carl, pokes sardonic fun at such feminist objections to romance narratives in her 1999 story "A Rose with All Its Thorns," which takes the utterly humorless feminist Virginia, injects her with Anne Boleyn's memories, and sends her off to a career-making academic conference at Hever Castle. Unsurprisingly, Virginia finds that her first thesis--"Anne Boleyn was a prototypical victim of sexual harassment"--must give way to the truth: Anne was "neither saint nor sinner but, like most of us, a mixture of both." (2) Virginia's Anne-aided epiphany leads her to disavow Anne-the-victim and, instead, propose Anne-the-agent. No simple "martyr," as Virginia had once thought, this new Anne chooses to manipulate men with her sexual appeal, just as those men choose to fall prey to her machinations. Anne's flagrant sexuality thus disrupts Virginia's predetermined feminist script, even as Virginia in turn disrupts (caricatured) academic norms by transforming Anne's literally recovered voice into revisionist history.

Carl's short story critiques feminist revisionism in order to reaffirm the value of both romance and, as Anne says, "compromise" (52). But Virginia winds up where many theorists of both historical romance and historical fiction have gone before: the genre's feminist credentials hinge on the extent to which the heroine matures not just into sexual full bloom but, more importantly, into historical agency. (3) A number of critics have argued that in recent decades, the romance hero undergoes his own maturation at the heroine's hands, but neither his historical self-awareness nor his ability to effect change is ever at stake. (4) But, over the course of the last century or so, novelists writing about Anne Boleyn have found themselves articulating a position that resists the analytical categories feminist critics have brought to the historical romance. As novelists have discovered, Anne's story as received interacts unpredictably with genre conventions; regarded in one light, the remarkable proliferation of novels about Anne Boleyn testifies to the continuing failure of romance novelists to hammer her story into acceptable narrative form. In other words, Anne Boleyn's frequent yet problematic appearances in the historical romance shed unexpected light on how the genre's conventions both work and fail to work on their source material.

Anne's position in historical and biographical narratives has always been uneasy. In the nineteenth century, Paul Friedmann fretted that "very little is known of the events of those times, and ... the history of Henry's first divorce and of the rise and fall of Anne Boleyn has still to be written"--a judgment confirmed in the heated games of rhetorical ping-pong played out between Anne's most important contemporary biographers, Eric W. Ives and Retha M. Warnicke. (5) We know virtually nothing about Anne, and much of what we do know is buried under political or theological polemic. Moreover, Anne neither controlled her own iconography nor enjoyed an undisputed reign as a Reformation heroine. (6) As a result, unlike Elizabeth I or Mary, Queen of Scots, Anne has never achieved full-blown cult status; she attracts intense curiosity but only intermittent admiration.

In a sense, then, Anne is a void--and yet, despite all the room this emptiness leaves for imaginative maneuver, fictional representations of Anne have varied little over the course of the last century. Such Annes follow a pattern formalized by the late 1950s in which Anne is vengeful, near hysterical, frequently asexual, and power mad. Even Carl's "revisionism" is wholly conventional: her thesis that Anne was politically engaged, in control of her own sexuality, and ultimately the agent of her own downfall underpins nearly all representations of Anne Boleyn since the late nineteenth century. (7) Yet why has this Anne persisted, despite the twin pressures of historical scholarship (which suggests that this Anne rests on questionable evidence) and Anglo-American cultural change (such as the mainstreaming of feminism and shifting attitudes toward sexuality)?

While an article on images of Anne Boleyn in fiction after 1901 might be startlingly terse, there is far more to say about what has been done with Anne Boleyn. To that end, this article draws on forty-five Anglo-American novels and short stories either about or prominently featuring Anne Boleyn, all published between 1901 and 2006--thirty-eight of them after 1950. Many of these novels are explicitly identified as romances or erotic historicals, written by romance novelists, and/or published by romance imprints. But even though Anne has been irretrievably intertwined with the romance genre, her story is not a romance: the "love" in these narratives is usually questionable; the courtship game is just that; the sex can be unpleasant; and, if we accept Pamela Regis's stricture that "the happy ending" is essential, then Anne's own end spectacularly fails to meet that requirement. (8) Instead, stories about Anne are antiromances about characters who believe that they are operating within the conventions of a functional romance narrative. Kay Mussell argued some years ago that "all events in romances revolve around a woman's awakening to sexuality through the experience of courtship and marriage, a moment the fantasy invests with significance out of all proportion to the everyday course of real life." (9) Put next to the Anne Boleyn novels, in which sexuality, courtship, and marriage all undergo a bloody transmogrification, Mussell's observation looks supremely ironic. Much of the tragedy in these works, that is, derives from everyone's fatal misreading of his or her own plot. While Lynne Pearce has suggested that "romantic love is preeminently a discourse defined by 'misunderstanding' and 'failed communication," the Anne Boleyn novels undo the formula: successful communication reveals the extent to which the "discourse" created an illusionary ideal partnership--and thus lays bare the emptiness of politicized sexuality. (10)

I begin by charting the parameters of Anne's character in twentieth- and early twenty-first-century fiction. The romances insist on Anne's intellectual and erotic agency, but undermine that agency by insisting on her threatening excessiveness--usually represented in terms of her hysterical speech. At the same time, male protagonists are just as likely to fall victim to the sexual politics of Henry's court; because romance at the center of power is never disinterested, it threatens to become a source of anarchic, disruptive energy, one with serious consequences for the nation. In turn, novels with a second, bona fide romance plot insist that authentic romance can exist only outside the sphere of Henry's court, and thereby critique both the politicized passion and the bodily violence associated with the Tudors. Being in history turns out to be amazingly identical to being in love--and, the novels suggest, both should be as organic (and even unconscious) as possible. Far from valorizing historical agency, the romances and the antiromances alike suggest that for women and men, the best way to participate in history is to avoid trying to make it.

Did Anne herself make anything happen? In his Acts and Monuments of the Christian Church (1559), the Protestant martyrologist John Foxe tried to transform Anne into an angel of the British Reformation. But by the early twentieth century, fictional Annes of the Foxeite stripe were on their last gasp, especially as Freudian theory became more popular. Still, romance novelists were drawing on the polemically tinted Annes of Victorian historiography as late as 1981, making it worth our while to briefly discuss these nineteenth-century texts. In the nineteenth century, Anne was considered morally dubious but probably innocent of the charges brought against her. The historian James Anthony Froude, after weighing the charges for and against, tilted strongly towards Henry VIII's side--for which he was taken to task by the popular historian Charles Knight. (11) Friedmann, whose 1884 biography of Anne remained standard several decades into the twentieth century, evasively noted that Anne must have done something, but he nevertheless insisted that the actual charges were ridiculous (2:265). On a more moralizing note, the popular historian Agnes Strickland, unenthusiastic about Anne, still observed that "Tacitus said of the empress Poppea, 'that with her love was not an affair of the heart, but a matter of diplomacy;' and this observation seems no less applicable to Anne Boleyn, affording, withal, a convincing reason that she never incurred the crimes for which she was brought to the block." (12) For Strickland, Anne's modernity rested on her position as the first woman beheaded in England: Anne's execution announced the end of the "age of chivalry" (4:269). Notably, this undesirable distinction makes Anne's historicity a matter of objectification and passivity--she is executed by another for crimes she did not commit--rather than agency, and Anne's putative theological agency lay behind attempts to revive the Foxeite, pro-Reformation Anne.

The most important project in this line was the Methodist Elizabeth Benger's Memoirs of the Life of Anne Boleyn, Queen of Henry VIII, which insisted that Anne was a would-be Reformer whose goals were thwarted by men like her husband, who after their marriage "still revolted from the disciples of Luther, and still piqued himself on upholding, with the Catholic faith, many of the grossest errors and superstitions engrafted on its principles." (13) For Benger, Anne's failed Reformation project verges on the typological, foreshadowing and ultimately completed in her daughter's achievement; rather than becoming the sign of an ending, Anne carries within her the seeds of modern Britishness. Significantly, Benger downplays what Strickland identifies as Anne's self-destructive, disruptive feminine sexuality and instead emphasizes Anne's feminine moral strength; in destroying Anne, Henry VIII reasserts the male appetite over feminine godliness. Echoes of Benger's virtuous Anne appear throughout the century in novels such as Emma Leslie's The Chained Book (c. 1879), and have persisted into the present in both popular biographies like Joanna Denny's Protestant-flavored Anne Boleyn (2006) and evangelical children's novels like Dave and Neta Jackson's The Queen's Smuggler: William Tyndale (1991).

But by the early twentieth century, the already-fraught project of recuperating the Foxeite Anne was under strain. Jessie Armstrong's children's novel My Friend Anne (1901), Reginald Drew's Anne Boleyn (1912), and Mary Hastings Bradley's The Favor of Kings (1912) are some of the last mainstream novels to test the complexities of Anne's character against Christian virtue. Still, only Drew's overwrought novel, intended as the first of a pair, represents Anne as all sweetness and moral light. For example, after the sweating sickness, Anne behaves in good Christian fashion, "reinstating the wrecked families in their homes, ministering to and aiding the needy, caring for the orphans, and commencing a life of active, conscientious goodness, which made her beloved by her own countryside." (14) This is a very Victorian Anne, but also an Anne who, defined by her selfless giving, attracts pure, desexualized love from the English people; against this agape stands the eros of the bestial Henry VIII. Significantly, in marrying Henry, Anne abandons not only her beloved Percy, but also Hever Castle's moral and emotional certainties. "How long," Anne wonders, "would she be able to keep the affections of the king? Truly the thorns of her crown were beginning to pierce her heart" (362). If the allusion to Christ's crown of thorns suggests Anne's impending martyrdom, the context indicates how meaningless such an event might be: Anne's life depends entirely on the king's whims, which are entirely unaffected by the love Anne offers and receives at Hever.

Armstrong and Bradley offer no such glaring contrasts between Henry's contaminating eroticism and Anne's moral purity. Armstrong's My Friend Anne, narrated by the impatient Patience, is apparently pro-Protestant, but sympathizes with Catherine of Aragon. And despite the title, Anne appears infrequently. Nevertheless, what we do see of Anne is significant. On the one hand, she is devout and respects Catherine of Aragon's virtue. On the other hand, she flirts incessantly--even though the narrator tries to palliate the behavior by telling herself that Anne's "blandishing ways" were "I suppose, part of her nature." (15) The narrator associates Anne with a morally problematic erotic excess while also displacing that excess onto something beyond consciousness and, therefore, beyond control. In fact, Patience represents Anne as a reluctant player of the matrimonial game, "very far from taking pride or pleasure in having been thus favoured by his Majesty" (125). The question then turns on how Anne registers her personal responsibility in this situation, and the answer is: with considerable confusion. Anne's position resides simultaneously outside of her control--"I must do as the powers that be do ordain--or there is no home for me!"--and within her control--"And so I must pray--ay, and I do pray 'lead us not into temptation--,' and I stay in temptation! Oh, the mockery of it! And yet I do not love to be wicked, nor was meant to be so--I am sure of it!" (147). The novel insists that Anne is at the mercy of the male Boleyns, yet promptly returns to the question of Anne's conscience. Anne tailors her frame of moral reference to the demands of the world, not of godliness; there is no chance of Anne following Patience's advice that "if you have a temptation that is not like to leave you, you are bound to fly from it--that is, if possible" (148-49). Patience's inability to grasp Anne's internal struggle between godly rectitude and worldly power tells us what's right with Patience--and what's wrong with Anne. In her last scene with Anne, Patience asks if Anne loves the king, to which Anne first responds, "I think so--sometimes at least," only to conclude that "yet there are times when I almost hate him!" (246). Such emotional and erotic contradictions distinguish Anne from both the virtuous Catherine and the equally virtuous, if snappish, Patience; they also suggest that Henry's violence against Anne is being anticipated by Anne's violence against herself.

Unlike the other two novels, Bradley's The Favor of Kings dwells on Anne's gendered dissatisfaction with sixteenth-century Britain, and in turn, her awareness of herself as an agent in a potentially global transformation. Aware that "she had precipitated a crisis, political, religious, whose far-reaching effects she could not begin to foresee," Anne first "vaguely" sees herself as "a tool in the hands of forces greater than she divined, forces waging a persistent and inevitable war," and then, "from a different angle of vision, as a person of deep importance, of vast potential power." (16) She seesaws between historical self-consciousness and historical blindness, between a sense of doing and an uneasy sense of being done with. She may be the subject of "precipitated," but causing a crisis and controlling it are two very different things. Anne's mind suggests a deterministic, impersonal model of history, in which self becomes object on the way to some mysterious goal, but she rapidly drifts to the Great Woman theory of history instead. Determinism and individualism are not the novel's only options for thinking about history; however, Anne's flight to individualism badly misreads her own particular case. Her momentary consciousness of those "forces"--which, personified, would include her father, her brother, and Henry VIII--is the actual insight in this passage, one that runs counter to her frequently iterated longing to demonstrate that "she was no puppet for them" (59).

More dangerously still, in interpreting herself as a woman of "vast potential power," Anne locates this power within herself. Anne has been chasing power throughout the text--"Power! It was the desire of all the world" (12)--as a means of avenging her perceived wrongs. But by internalizing power in this fashion, Anne reinvents herself as the ultimate, transcendent object of "desire." At this moment, even as she rightly sees herself participating in a historical break, she misreads her actual significance by seeing herself as a woman of "potential power," to be pursued for herself. This is the dream of romance, but a dream in which she has substituted politics for erotics. Standing in sharp contrast to Anne's vision of herself as a woman of "potential power," then, is her moment of self-consciousness as she decides to give in to Henry's desires: "She laughed--and then something, like a hand upon her throat, seemed to strangle the laughter at its source and she quivered back among the cushions, her hands hiding her face like some poor shamed thing" (248). Not only is Anne's power again displaced outside the self--the possibility of power rests in literal contact with Henry's body--but so, figuratively, is her conscience, in a moment that foreshadows the later judgment that will sever her head from her body.

In just a few decades, however, this conflict between virtue and concupiscence will have almost entirely disappeared, to be replaced by one of two things: Anne as a passionate woman, who has romantic sex with a beloved such as Thomas Wyatt but implicitly perverted (because politicized, albeit sometimes desiring) sex with Henry VIII; or Anne as anything from a "frigid" woman--"cold as Cararra marble" (17)--to a calculating schemer who has explicitly perverted (because politicized and nondesiring) sex with Henry VIII. In either case, the sexual act itself loses its stigma, for what matters is its motivation. Specifically, in those novels that represent Anne as cherishing a passion for the poet and courtier Thomas Wyatt, sexual expression enables Anne and Wyatt to achieve fleeting moments of true personhood--set against a background of theatrical court behavior, politicized sexuality, and Henry VIII's desire itself. This is true as early as Francis Hackett's Queen Anne Boleyn (1939), in which Anne and Wyatt's sexual encounter plays out as a question of privacy:

"How sad you are! I tweak you. You are a clerk at heart."

"And you my darling, are a goshawk. Eyes watch you."

"Would we could be alone, my Thomas."

"That cannot be," groaned Thomas. "We are hedged with thorns."

"Yet it could be," Anne played with a tassel. "I could find you this night." (18)

Here we see one of the key elements in the "post-Freudian" novels: the tension between authentic romantic desire, which should lead to absolutely private sex, and the Argus-eyed court, which subjects all its residents to vicious surveillance. Nobody, the monarch included, can find a private space for sex at Henry's court. Every action becomes both political theater and political commodity, traded via the network of internal spies reporting to forces like the king, his chief advisor Cardinal Wolsey, or Anne's uncle and antagonist the Duke of Northumberland. The novels in which Wyatt and Anne enjoy a brief relationship, however, elevate both privacy and emotional immediacy into proof of romantic authenticity.

It is not surprising that representations of an adulterous relationship between Wyatt and Anne come to figure "true," if doomed, passion. As we can see in Hackett's example, these novels do not represent Anne as "essentially sexually powerless," as one critic has recently charged is the case with women in pre-1980s and 1990s romance. (19) To the contrary, if men have the edge in these Tudor fictions, they nevertheless find that sex--or the imputation thereof--with the wrong woman leads not to the little death, but to death itself. Sex with Anne is truly Romantic--two lovers risking utter catastrophe to become one. In Philippa Wiat's The Heir of Allington (1973), we are told that with Wyatt the nonvirginal Anne now knows for the first time "the joy of being loved by one who truly loved her"; in fact, "Petrarch had won his Laura after all." (20) Mollie Hardwick's Wyatt, memorializing his life while in the Tower, consoles himself that "she was happy that night, and I almost out of my senses with joy; and I know that she loved me, Tom Wyatt, then," while Wendy J. Dunn's Anne tells Wyatt that "I do so want to feel the kiss of a man who loves me knowing me for what and who I am, not the kiss of a man who is enjoying the chase and now is so very eager to make the kill." (21) Whether or not the novels represent Anne as being whole heartedly in love with Wyatt, they position such erotic encounters in an ephemeral, utopian space and time--one in which an adulterous passion, precisely because it works against politicized court sexuality, trumps most of the relationships sanctioned by a very vaguely defined Catholic morality.

Nevertheless, even these sex-positive encounters with Wyatt highlight that romantic conventions in these novels are dysfunctional. In a totally different context, Leslie W. Rabine once observed that "what she [the romantic heroine] wants from the hero is recognition of herself as a unique, exceptional individual. She demands that in addition to admiring her accomplishments and admitting his strong sexual need for her, he must also recognize her as a subject, or recognize her from her own point of view." (22) This dynamic, which Rabine finds in contemporary Harlequins about professional women, also describes the governing dynamic--and, on Anne's part, the governing self-delusion--of the Anne Boleyn antiromances. After all, the core problem with the Thomas Wyatt encounters, even in novels about Thomas Wyatt, is that the real "hero" should be Henry VIII. But any relationship with Henry VIII necessarily plunges Anne back into the dangerous waters of politicized sexuality. Frequently, Anne mistakenly believes that Henry perceives her as an autonomous being, and not as a means to the end of furthering his bloodline--even as Anne herself manipulates the language of romance to turn sex with Henry into the utopian encounter that characterizes the Wyatt tales. In E. Barrington's Anne Boleyn (1934), for example, Anne seduces the king by declaring that "all I want is you--only and ever--you! Let me be all yours now--body, heart, and soul. What do name and fame matter? You--to be mine--mine," although this apparently spontaneous burst of passion is actually strategic calculation: to spur the king on in the divorce, Anne needs a child. (23)

Such strategizing becomes even more problematic in those novels in which Anne either is not truly interested in Henry or is wholly asexual. In a very few novels, Anne is guilty of some charges brought against her: Robert York posits that Elizabeth I's real father is Mark Smeaton, while--under Warnicke's influence--Laurien Gardner hints and Philippa Gregory strongly suggests that Anne may have committed incest with her brother. (24) Norah Lofts's Anne admits to adultery with three men, none of them the ones accused with her. (25) But these are outliers. More often, Annes occupy a continuum ranging from sexual manipulator to ice queen. Jean Plaidy's Anne Boleyn, musing on Henry, coolly observes that "I had never had great sexual desires myself, and at this time they were nonexistent"; Lozania Prole's "had never loved men." (26) Because they entirely lack desire, the Annes at this extreme become vicious by prostituting themselves for power, but are never wholly "virtuous"; their morality is really pathology. Even less-chilly Annes frequently manage their chastity by calculating its effect on the king's psyche, not by regarding it as a virtue. As Anne muses in Carolyn Meyer's Young Adult (YA) novel Doomed Queen Anne (2002), "If I yielded I would certainly be discarded, as Mary and Bessie had been, but if I continued to refuse him, I risked losing him to someone else--perhaps someone of Wolsey's choosing." (27) Anne's dilemma here highlights one of the novels' common threads: Anne's body retains its potential force only so long as it is withheld, even though withholding it also threatens to empty it of worth. In conflating sexuality and politics--access to the King's body as access to the King's power--the Tudor court creates a romantic fantasy that barely conceals the fact that the King's desire makes the woman valuable, and not the woman herself.

Representations of Anne as an ambitious sexual schemer reflect historical traditions dating back to the sixteenth century, and gained modern credence from Friedmann's over-reliance on the correspondence of French ambassador Eustache Chapuys (or Chapuis). (28) But the novels' plots turn this politicized sexuality into a reflection on all the ways in which both historical circumstances and narratives can be misinterpreted. Anne both is and is not what Susan Ostrov Weisser dubs "the Bitch," the woman who is a "nightmare version of assertive, aggressively sexual, and non-nurturant womanhood"; if anything, even the nastiest Anne (usually represented as genuinely maternal) is frequently less unpleasant than George Boleyn's wife, who betrays her, or Jane Seymour, who replaces her. (29) Rather, the novels suggest that Tudor court culture produces bitch-figures (because no true innocent can survive) while draping them with a temporary, protective gauze of Christian virtue. Anne's self-interested appropriation of romance, which might otherwise brand her as a villain, combines self-delusion with self-protection. Over and over again, the novels stage a clash between Anne's belief in the power of what amounts to twentieth-century romantic love, in which Henry desires her for her own sake, and Henry's pressing need for an heir. Even as Anne self-consciously draws on romance tropes in order to ensconce herself in Henry's affections, she often fails to perceive that only her body's productivity is at issue, not its desirability. She is simply a means to an end, and for Henry, that end is history: the Tudor dynasty's continuity and the nation's political stability. As the object of the king's desire, Anne is simultaneously the most and the least historical of women; Henry manipulates present circumstances in order to construct an ideal future, and in the process, he turns his women into history's potential carriers. To fail means becoming a negative--Anne "Lackhead," as the real queen ruefully dubbed herself. The most self-aware of Annes, like Robin Maxwell's, may understand that romance and dynastic politics alike play a part in the relationship--"I have always dreamt of marrying for love. Henry wants a son. Let it be so" (30)--but cannot grasp how little her subjectivity means to her husband. Such moments render twentieth-century romance conventions actively lethal: far from the idealized, mutual relationship of the modern romance, Anne and Henry's relationship collapses into incompatible fantasies of each other's minds.

The novels uniformly insist on representing Henry's interest in the Supremacy as a product of his desire for Anne--the "erotic Reformation"--even though this thesis has long been challenged. (31) Still, erroneous or not, this logic puts Henry's words first and foremost: in clashing with the Pope, Henry VIII imagines the possibility of making his own words entirely the law. Henry's words are, indeed, the ultimate performatives. "Words, words," muses Margaret George's Henry VIII, "words were so easy." (32) Anne frequently destroys herself, however, through her ungoverned language and hysterical laughter, which burst the boundaries of courtly speech. In rage, Anne calls Henry a "feeble pig's bladder instead of a man," or sneeringly inquires if he is "so simple as to believe that no man ever had me before you," or simply demands that "if you want healthy children by me, you must treat me with more courtesy, my lord!" (33) This trend in mid-century fiction, already authorized by sixteenth- and seventeenth-century polemical accounts, gained further momentum in the later twentieth century from Hester W. Chapman's influential biography The Challenge of Anne Boleyn (1974), which posits that Anne's sexual frustrations "finally drove her into attacks of hysteria which further undermined her resistance to his [Henry's] power." (34) This is more than the age-old prejudice against the speaking woman: Anne's inability to control her own speech exists alongside her inability to control her body's sexuality or fecundity--and, indeed, her inability adequately to control her own history. In speaking, Anne only demonstrates how much power she doesn't have; far from controlling the outcome of her own narrative, she self-destructs in the act of trying to shape it. (35)

And yet Henry cannot force his story into the desired form either. While Anne's and Henry's respective fates play out in gendered form--the would-be woman of power silenced and shattered; the man in charge decaying into sexual self-parody--both figures are trapped by dramatic irony. The reader, after all, knows what the outcome of this story must be. But in the novels, dramatic irony itself turns into prophecy. There is, strictly speaking, nothing new about this metamorphosis. At the end of Shakespeare's The Famous History of the Life of King Henry the Eighth (1623), Archbishop Thomas Cranmer prophesies (with understandable self-assurance) of the newborn Elizabeth that "This royal infant--heaven still move about her!--/ Though in her cradle, yet now promises / Upon this land a thousand thousand blessings, / Which time shall bring to ripeness." (36) Cranmer's speech, which predicts glory for both Elizabeth and James I, also covers for the absence of a far less politic ending--namely, Anne Boleyn's execution. If Shakespeare understandably substituted prophecy for Anne's looming transformation into Anne Lackhead, twentieth-century novelists have instead made Elizabeth's future glory the misrecognized "true" ending to the Anne-Henry antiromance. Whether Thomas Wyatt wonders "what fate had in store" for the infant Elizabeth, Anne Boleyn rages that "my Elizabeth shall be Queen, and my blood will be well spent!" or Henry asks himself, "What would scholarly Edward do for England? Would he be able to do what this girl might have done, had she been a boy?" the answer is always clear: all of Henry's machinations for a male heir have been useless. (37) And yet, the romance has, after all, its deferred happy ending, displaced from its proper place in the story and reinvented as national history.

The antiromances' heavy-handedly ironic narratives offer a model of history in which all agency implodes at the hand of fate. It is no wonder that novelists so frequently turn to prophecy, since it suggests that the future has already been charted; in hindsight, what looks like free will merely amounts to a misreading of the prophet's codes. (38) Even Henry VIII, apparently secure in the power of performative speech, cannot actually transform history at whim. The antiromances thus insist that the characters occupy a world in which all options are an illusion, save the one that has been predetermined for them. In such a world, the quest for historical agency appears a waste of time at best, a deadly undertaking at worst. And in those novels that feature a "true" romance plot alongside of Anne's, we see a very different model for living in history, one grounded in a decidedly depoliticized approach to sexuality.

Such a depoliticized model of sexual relationships, however, requires an entirely different cast of characters. In one-third of the novels in my survey, Anne's antiromance exists alongside either a conventional romance plot or, in two instances, a second antiromance. Four of these novels use the fortunes of Anne's sister (and Henry's former mistress), Mary Boleyn, as the counterromance; all but one of the others use fictional characters. While this narrative structure occurs as early as My Friend Anne (and appears fitfully in the Victorian period), it occurs with increasing frequency after the late 1960s. In part, this narrative form owes its popularity to the success of the erotic historical--a genre that rose to prominence during the 1970s. (39) Its implications, however, remain amazingly consistent throughout the twentieth and early twenty-first centuries.

Put simply, the counterromance narratives always insist that for women and men, true love and an authentically organic relationship to history can exist only outside of court culture. To be in history means relinquishing political agency--choosing what the novels represent as pure eroticism while abandoning the court's sexualized rituals. Literally distanced from the court and its politicized emotional investments, once-influential female characters sometimes find themselves unable to overcome the plot's onward rush. Thus, Bertrice Small's Blaze Wyndham, Henry VIII's former mistress, tries to persuade him of Anne's love, but even though she "did not for one minute believe in any of Queen Anne's alleged crimes," she nevertheless "realized that she must remain silent." (40) Even though Small has earlier represented Blaze as a political force, her decision to choose marriage and rural retirement strips her of language; it is Henry who will determine Anne's story, not the woman who had earlier shown herself willing to compete against Anne on purely sexual terms. Tellingly, in the two novels that offer a second antiromance, Margaret Heys's Anne Boleyn (1967) and Suzannah Dunn's The Queen of Subtleties (2004), one woman fails to overcome her passion for George Boleyn and the other for Mark Smeaton; unable or unwilling to escape the court's reach, the former woman ends in death and the latter in despair.

In the romance plots, all of the conventional tropes function "correctly." Most importantly, unlike Anne, the romance heroine matures into full-blown sexuality and is rewarded with companionate marriage or marriages, matched with a hero who himself rejects the court. But before the happy ending, the heroine must initially reject her true beloved--especially if she is already in love with a court figure. (41) In Dilys Gardner's YA romance The Witch-Girl (1979), teenage Kate must give up musician Mark Smeaton in favor of country squire Giles Ashton, a man so devoted that he can praise how "loyal" she is to the doomed Mark. (42) More troublingly, Laurien Gardner's A Lady Raised High (2006) chides the ambitious Frances Pierce for two passions: poetry and George Boleyn. The very opposite of a "self-authoring heroine," Frances herself inadvertently provides fuel for the incest charge against Anne and George when Cromwell mistakes one of Frances's poems for Anne's. (43) Frances, supposedly the woman "left unnamed" at Anne's execution, is Anne's bathetic double: Frances attempts to create a public voice for herself to mirror Anne's, with equally deadly results. (44) Even if Frances refuses to see it, the novel insists that her textual anonymity--the historical record, after all, strips her of her name--is the only option for survival.

Agency always proves deadly. This point is most brutally on offer in Barbara Kyle's A Dangerous Temptation (1994), whose protagonist, Honor Larke, truly attempts to do something with Anne Boleyn: install her on the throne in order to destroy the Church. "The realm must be cleansed of bloated priests and priest-ridden royal officials who persecute honest folk unto death!" cries Honor, justifying her decision to betray Catherine of Aragon. (45) But in making purification the goal of political action, Honor adopts the language of her enemies. By the end of the novel, Honor has gone from Catholic to Protestant to atheist, and while she helps several Protestants escape persecution in England, she otherwise accelerates Tudor bloodiness instead of staunching it. The narrative insists on "balance," in that Protestants and Catholics, the elite and the masses, all harbor murderous impulses; seeking to construct purified worlds, they instead collapse into chaos. Thus, temporarily ensconced in Munster, Honor watches the Anabaptists assault a statue--"A woman scurried out clutching a kitchen knife and hacked at the trunk in a frenzy to destroy the hidden genitals. The crowd clapped and stomped" (412)--before executing a group of "sinners." The novel associates the lust for historical change with lust itself: Henry's obsession with Anne, the eventual orgies in Munster, and Sir Thomas More's desire for Honor. History becomes a matter of ungoverned passions and ungoverned bodies. Only Honor's romance with the rakish but heroic Thornleigh offers an escape--but they must leave the country altogether in order to preserve their love.

Significantly, the romances insist that both men and women must exchange political agency for romantic potency in history. But they also insist that romantic potency offers another mode of being. Unlike Anne and Henry, the lovers in these romances eventually enjoy an organic, unthinking sexuality. Mary Boleyn, frequently caricatured as an oversexed idiot in the Anne-centric novels--"I want to dance, flirt, touch--kiss! It is always on my mind" (46)--doesn't always fare much better when she takes center stage, but her overly generous passion nevertheless becomes a life-giving alternative to Anne's calculating sexuality. Aileen Armitage's Will Carey, happily married to Mary after Henry discards her, tells her that "always your love is freely given and asks naught in return. Who can accuse a sinner of loving too well? Your sister now, she bargains like a whorehouse wench and cannot prosper." And in the novel's closing sentence, Mary thinks to herself that while life with Henry was all very well, "undoubtedly obscurity and peace were infinitely to be preferred to glittering prominence." (47) Will transforms Mary's promiscuity into purity, in which sex-as-gift trumps chastity-as-politics; this free, unselfconscious love promises a stability unavailable to those who seek power. (That being said, Armitage ends her novel before Carey's death and Mary's remarriage.) Similarly, in Karen Harper's erotic historical Passion's Reign (1983), Mary achieves orgasm for the first time (!) with her eventual second husband, Stafford, in an encounter that seesaws awkwardly between mutuality and possessiveness. Mary may be "beautiful," Stafford tells her, but her face "is honest too. Honest and so clearly lovely within. Until the late winter dawn, I am going to make love to you, and I will watch your face and know you love me too. You are mine, Mary Bullen, from this time on, no matter what befalls." (48) Mary's completely expressive countenance disqualifies her from political machination, and Stafford's fascination with her authenticity equally prefigures their mutual ejection from court life. Anne Barry's overview of Harper's heroines--"sweet and tender morsels whose lives are ruled by powerful men and by circumstances they can't control" (49)-- fits the bill here, but it is also the case that in relinquishing any pretense of controlling "circumstances," Mary and Stafford survive to live happily ever after.

While "authentically" romantic sexuality leads the way to an idealized meeting of true minds--the kind of egalitarian relationship that Anne believes she has with Henry--it also results in children. That seemingly obvious point is precisely what is at stake in Henry's convoluted marital adventures. The romance narratives counterpoint the orderly reproductive success of their own protagonists to Anne's failure-that-is-not-a-failure. Passionate sex is productive sex; while England's leaders try to force biological drives into doing their bidding, England's less-powerful residents turn out their own domestic lineages. As Gregory's Mary Boleyn sneers, "I was so fertile with him [Henry VIII] that I had two children from him one after another, and one the most beautiful boy that God ever put on this earth. You'll never have a boy like my Henry, Anne. You know in your very bones that you'll never have a boy to match him. All you can do is steal my son because you know you'll never have your own." (50)

Politically disinterested sex conjures up the promise of a real future. Even Mary's illegitimate children will rise to positions of dynastic and political influence. Where Henry and Anne try to script the future, only to mistake the nature of their lives' real "ending," Mary organically generates it. And Mary's love for her children promises a continuity threatened by Tudor dynastic politics. In contrasting Mary's natural fecundity to Anne's attempt to jury-rig a politically viable "family," the novel suggests that the court's sexualized politics dismantles the very possibility of domestic affective ties; all family relationships turn into political commodities. By catering to the monarch's unruly sexual energies, the court and its hangers-on continually destabilize what the novels insist ought to be the norm: families founded in disinterested yet passionate erotic communion. (51)

Cynthia Harrod-Eagles pushes this logic to its furthest in The Dark Rose (1981), in which the heroine--who shares Anne's name and nickname, black hair, and winding road to marriage--fails to reproduce at all. Nanette's first husband, her much-older uncle Paul, does not adequately care for either his illegitimate son, Adrian, or his legitimate son, Amyas; Amyas becomes an unpleasant, politically incompetent religious fanatic, while Adrian murders his father and rapes one of Nanette's relatives. Without true affection, the family line founders. Her second husband, who proposes when she is entering middle age, admits that marrying in order to have a son has proved a failure; now, he tells her, "I have been lonely, Nan, lonely, and I have grown to value other things more than sons." (52) Their projected future family, which will recuperate Paul's errors by incorporating the son born of the rape, turns love into the stuff of history; as the novel concludes, "The Morlands would survive, because of love, and because of faith: Fidelitas--the strength of the White Hare" (525). Lineal (and national) stability rests on couples united in love, not on reproduction for survival's sake.

But reproduction pervades these novels in another way as well: the frequent turn to the georgic. At first glance, Sabine Coelsch-Foisner's description of Rosamunde Pilcher's pastoral themes--"contrasting in soft-primitivist fashion the innocent charms of British country life with immoral city life, romantic love with matrimonial routine, the virtues of intact neighbourhood with the exploitative interests of scheming capitalists, the benefits of rural simplicity with entrepreneurial villany [sic]"--appears to sum up, with a few modifications, the very traditional court versus country opposition in the Anne Boleyn romances. (53) But the novels pointedly emphasize not just a retreat to the country, but a retreat to a well-managed country estate or even cottage, headed by an often egalitarian married couple. The court's sexual and political misdeeds do not repeat themselves in these rural locales, some of which offer models of both government and an emergent capitalism. Laurien Gardner, Dilys Gardner, Gregory, and Prince all pack their heroines off to contented married lives in the country, where they support themselves by working the land. Even the most modest of these couples thus exist in tune with the natural cycle of the seasons, in sharp contradistinction to the fraught manipulations going on at the court; just as their sex lives aspire to the organic, so too does their day-to-day existence.

It is easy to read this turn to the georgic as an attempt to evade history, but I would argue instead that the novels use the georgic to offer an alternative history. In the antiromances, the countryside functions as a purely safe haven only in moments of nostalgia. Henry VIII's travels to Hever remind the reader that the court's power is not geographically localized. Even in novels with a counterromance, like Harrod-Eagles's The Dark Rose (which showcases the Pilgrimage of Grace), the countryside always remains vulnerable to political strife; the space "outside" of political culture and its attendant violence is not a physical space, but a mental one. While the countryside may function according to natural instead of dynastic time, the land's productivity suggests that the nation and its people have a productivity that Henry VIII and his wives lack. Dynasties may come and go, but those who choose the land will remain. Moreover, the georgic moments in these texts are as "progressive" as they are productive. Small, for example, overtly identifies the rural estate with modernization instead of tradition, although Harrod-Eagles's The Dark Rose also explores a cultural shift from paternalism to capitalism. In The Last Heiress, Small's heroine, Elizabeth, is a successful sheep farmer who maintains control of her property even after her marriage; her power as a modern capitalist (not to mention lover) starkly contrasts with Anne Boleyn's doomed quest for queenship. Elizabeth and her husband, a manly Scot named Baen, become more '"historical" than Anne and Henry: their mutual love and respect, coupled with Elizabeth's continuing independence, embody a fantasy of the modern family in a way that the royals' travails does not. Anne's quest for power thus becomes a historical anachronism, unsuited for a rapidly changing world that treats the sexes equally and values the market more than absolutism. (54)

In Nancy Kress's novella And Wild for to Hold (1991), Anne Boleyn is taken as a "holy hostage" by the joint action of the Time Research Institute and the Church of the Holy Hostage. Together, these two institutions hope to avert the Reformation's bloodshed by removing Anne from her own "time stream" and keeping her hostage in theirs. But Anne furiously points out that while their meddling may have saved both her life and the lives of others, it may also have deprived her daughter Elizabeth of her historical due. (55) Even more to the point, Anne interprets the Time Research Institute's work as a manifestation of sheer terror--research that domesticates history in order to avoid history's true end, in death. As Anne tells one researcher, "Ah, but you can't. 'Prevent death'--as if it were a fever. You can only postpone it, Master Culhane, and you never even ask if that is worth doing" (649). In vengeance, Anne reenacts her original self-betrayal, thereby destroying the Institute as well; her disruptiveness, suppressed in one time stream, explodes in another. By the novella's end, Anne's embrace of death paradoxically becomes the ultimate manifestation of historical agency. As Anne dryly asks another researcher, "What else did you leave me? ... Except the power to live the life that is mine" (657).

Kress's alternative Anne, who chooses an unjust death over life in prison, possesses a rogue agency denied to the most ruthless of romance Annes. But the novella's scenario offers a dystopian twist on the romance's own critique of historical intervention. The Institute's researchers, granted the power to rewrite history--but not to foretell the exact outcome of their work--yearn for a mode of historical being characterized by continuity instead of loss; their scientific quest cloaks history's contingencies under a veil of mathematical probabilities. As I have demonstrated, both the antiromances and the counterromances turn Anne's tragic affair with Henry into a warning against the dangers of "making" history. In this reading, Henry's frantic attempts to get himself an heir, the better to preserve the Tudors' dynastic continuity, are really failed efforts to negate the reality of historical accidents. Similarly, Anne's longing to shape her own destiny implodes under the uncontrollable weight of biology. It is the unwanted contingency--the birth of a girl--that ensures England's future greatness. In these novels, the narrative's relentless forward movement to Anne's beheading foregrounds, with equal relentlessness, the inability of romance conventions to tame the bloodier aspects of sexual (and sexualized) politics. By contrast, the counterromances, with their hearty approval of a country life characterized by "pure" erotic desire, openly embrace the natural cycles of life and death--of traumatic disaster and healing love. Apparently, in the countryside, romance conventions themselves become comfortably "natural" once again. In the end, these romances suggest, the best way to live in history is not to do, but simply to be. (56)

State University of New York

Brockport, New York

(1.) Resa L. Dudovitz, The Myth of Superwoman: Women's Bestsellers in France and the United States (London: Routledge, 1990), 112.

(2.) Lillian Stuart Carl, "A Rose with All Its Thorns," repr. in Past Lives, Present Tense, ed. Elizabeth Ann Scarborough (New York: Ace Books, 2002), 36, 54. Hereafter cited parenthetically. Virginia's initial interpretation of Anne seems to have been borrowed from Karen Lindsey, Divorced, Beheaded, Survived: A Feminist Reinterpretation of the Wives of Henry VIII (Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley, 1995), 57-60.

(3.) To take a recent example, Rosemary Erickson Johnsen proposes that feminist historical mysteries ask their readers "to think about women's agency in the past and to consider the possibilities for enacting their own power to create change." Contemporary Feminist Historical Crime Fiction (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2006), 1-2.

(4.) See, for example, Ann Rosalind Jones, "Mills & Boon Meets Feminism," in The Progress of Romance: The Politics of Popular Fiction, ed. Jean Radford (London: Routledge, 1986), 200-01; Janice Radway, Reading the Romance: Women, Patriarchy, and Popular Literature, 2nd ed. (Chapel Hill: U of North Carolina P, 1991), 128-31; Pamela Regis, A Natural History of the Romance Novel (Philadelphia: U of Pennsylvania P, 2003), 114; and Carol Thurston, The Romance Revolution: Erotic Novels for Women and the Quest for a New Sexual Identity (Urbana: U of Illinois P, 1987), 185-86.

(5.) Paul Friedmann, Anne Boleyn: A Chapter of English History, 1527-1536, 2 vols. (1884; repr., New York: AMS P, 1973), 2:312. Hereafter cited parenthetically as Friedmann. Eric W. Ives, Anne Boleyn (Oxford: Blackwell, 1986); Retha M. Warnicke, The Rise and Fall of Anne Boleyn: Family Politics at the Court of Henry VIII (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1989); Eric W. Ives, "The Fall of Anne Boleyn Reconsidered," English Historical Review 107.424 (July 1992): 651-64; Retha M. Warnicke, "The Fall of Anne Boleyn Revisited," English Historical Review 108.428 (July 1993): 553-65; and Retha M. Warnicke, review of The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn: "The Most Happy," by Eric W. Ives, American Historical Review 110.3 (June 2005): 858.

(6.) On the latter point, see Thomas S. Freeman, "Research, Rumour, and Propaganda: Anne Boleyn in Foxe's 'Book of Martyrs," Historical Journal 38.4 (December 1995): 797-819.

(7.) The only recent account of Anne's literary afterlife, which excludes novels, is Retha M. Warnicke, "Anne Boleyn in History, Drama, and Film," in "High and Mighty Queens" of Early Modern England: Realities and Representations, ed. Carole Levin, Debra Barrett-Greaves, and Jo Eldridge Carney (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003), 240-55.

(8.) Regis, Natural History, 22.

(9.) Kay Mussell, Fantasy and Reconciliation: Contemporary Formulas of Women's Romance Fiction (Westport, CT: Greenwood P, 1984), 118.

(10.) Lynne Pearce, "Popular Romance and Its Readers," in A Companion to Romance: From Classical to Contemporary, ed. Corinne Saunders (Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2004), 529. It is worth noting that the Anne Boleyn antiromances are not Janice Radway's "Tailed romances," which "ask the reader to endure the embarrassment of confessing with the heroine that her desires are unrealistic and far-fetched"; instead, the Anne Boleyn novels undermine the romance's narrative and rhetorical strategies--at least when it comes to romance in "high life." Radway, Reading the Romance, 178.

(11.) James Anthony Froude, History of England from the Fall of Wolsey to the Death of Elizabeth, 12 vols. (London: John W. Parker and Son, 1856), 2:492-500; and Charles Knight, The Popular History of England, 1st American ed., 8 vols. (New York: John Wurtele Lovell, 1878), 2:384-86. The Catholic historian John Lingard thought that Henry must have had some reason to have Anne executed; see The History of England, from the First Invasion by the Romans to the Accession of William and Mary in 1688, 6th rev. ed., 10 vols. (London: Charles Dolman, 1855), 5:33, 38.

(12.) Agnes Strickland, Lives of the Queens of England, from the Norman Conquest; with Anecdotes of Their Courts, Now First Published from Official Records and Other Authentic Documents, Private as Well as Public, new ed., 9 vols. (London: Henry Colburn, 1844), 4:150. Hereafter cited parenthetically.

(13.) Miss [Elizabeth] Benger, Memoirs of the Life of Anne Boleyn, Queen of Henry VIII (Philadelphia: Abraham Small, 1822), 331.

(14.) Reginald Drew, Anne Boleyn (Boston: Sherman, French, 1912), 236. Hereafter cited parenthetically.

(15.) Jessie Armstrong, My Friend Anne: A Story of the Sixteenth Century (London: Frederick Warne, 1901), 102. Hereafter cited parenthetically.

(16.) Mary Hastings Bradley, The Favor of Kings (New York: D. Appleton, 1912), 192. Hereafter cited parenthetically.

(17.) Anne Merton Abbey, Kathryn: In the Court of Six Queens (New York: Bantam Books, 1989), 143.

(18.) Francis Hackett, Queen Anne Boleyn: A Novel (New York: Literary Guild of America, 1939), 123.

(19.) Dawn Heinecken, "Changing Ideologies in Romance Fiction," in Romantic Conventions, ed. Anne K. Kaler and Rosemary E. Johnson-Kurek (Bowling Green, OH: Bowling Green State U Popular P, 1999), 166. A similar argument drives Thurston, Romance Revolution; and Mariam Darce Frenier, Good-bye Heathcliff: Changing Heroes, Heroines, Roles, and Values in Women's Category Romances (New York: Greenwood P, 1988).

(20.) Philippa Wiat, The Heir of Allington (1973; repr., Leicester: Ulverscroft, 1995), 135. Wiat posits that Wyatt is Elizabeth I's father.

(21.) Mollie Hardwick, Blood Royal: A Novel (New York: St. Martin's P, 1988), 192; and Wendy J. Dunn, Dear Heart, How Like You This? (Yarnell, AZ: Metropolis Ink, 2002), 151.

(22.) Leslie W. Rabine, Reading the Romantic Heroine: Text, History, Ideology (Ann Arbor: U of Michigan P, 1985), 166.

(23.) E. Barrington, Anne Boleyn (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, Doran, 1934), 235-36.

(24.) Robert York, My Lord the Fox: The Secret Documents of Anthony Woodcott Concerning Elizabeth I and Anne Boleyn, Recounted by Robert York: A Novel (New York: Vanguard, 1984); Laurien Gardner, A Lady Raised High: A Novel of Anne Boleyn (New York: Jove, 2006); and Philippa Gregory, The Other Boleyn Girl (New York: Touchstone, 2001). Gardner and Gregory also follow Warnicke in hypothesizing that Anne miscarried a severely deformed fetus.

(25.) Norah Lofts, The Concubine: A Story of Anne Boleyn (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1963), 256-57. In her biography of Anne, Lofts speculates that Anne might have been guilty of adultery with Mark Smeaton, but also admits that there is no hard evidence for that position or the other charges; see Anne Boleyn (1979; repr., New York: Coward, McCann & Geoghegan, 1980), 151, 174.

(26.) Jean Plaidy, The Lady in the Tower (New York: Three Rivers P, 1986), 341; and Lozania Prole, The Dark-Eyed Queen (1967; repr., New York: Pocket, 1976), 163.

(27.) Carolyn Meyer, Doomed Queen Anne: A Young Royals Book (San Diego: Gulliver, 2002), 101. A notable exception is Maureen Peters, Incredible Fierce Desire (1988; repr., Long Preston [UK]: Magna Large Print, 1992), 37, in which the teenage Anne's chastity is clearly a matter of morality.

(28.) For a brief overview, see Warnicke, "Inventing the Wicked Women of Tudor England: Alice More, Anne Boleyn, and Anne Stanhope," Quidditas: Journal of the Rocky Mountain Medieval and Renaissance Association 20 (1999): 18-21.

(29.) Susan Ostrov Weisser, "The Wonderful-Terrible Bitch Figure in Harlequin Novels," in Feminist Nightmares: Women at Odds--Feminism and the Problem of Sisterhood, ed. Susan Ostrov Weisser (New York: New York UP, 1994), 270. Compare Jan Cohn on the "Other Woman" as "gold-digger" in Romance and the Erotics of Property: Mass-Market Fiction for Women (Durham: Duke UP, 1988), 47-48.

(30.) Robin Maxwell, The Secret Diary of Anne Boleyn: A Novel (New York: Scribner Paperback Fiction, 1997), 168.

(31.) See, for example, J. J. Scarisbrick, Henry VIII (Berkeley: U of California P, 1968), 287; and G. M. Bernard, The King's Reformation: Henry VIII and the Remaking of the English Church (New Haven: Yale UP, 2005), 225-92.

(32.) Margaret George, The Autobiography of Henry VIII, with Notes by His Fool, Will Somers: A Novel (New York: St. Martin's P, 1986), 425. Significantly, George imagines that an insane Henry VIII is troubled by "the voices in my head" (914)--language bites back.

(33.) Respectively, Evelyn Anthony, Anne Boleyn (New York: Thomas Y. Crowell, 1957), 266; Margaret Campbell Barnes, Brief Gaudy Hour: A Novel of Anne Boleyn (Philadelphia: Macrae-Smith, n.d.), 296; and Margaret Peters, Anne, the Rose of Hever (Bungay, UK: Fontana, 1971), 154.

(34.) Hester W. Chapman, The Challenge of Anne Boleyn (New York: Coward, McCann & Geoghegan, 1974), 103. Chapman's theories, clearly descended from Friedmann's, are pushed to their furthest in Carolly Erickson's Mistress Anne (New York: Summit, 1984).

(35.) In an odd twist on this theme, Godfrey Turton's Anne Boleyn deliberately destroys herself in order to enact a pagan sacrificial ritual. My Lord of Canterbury (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1967), 174-77.

(36.) William Shakespeare, The Famous History of the Life of King Henry the Eighth, in The Riverside Shakespeare, ed. G. Blakemore Evans et al. (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1974), V.iv.17-20.

(37.) Quoted from, respectively, Hackett, Queen Anne Boleyn, 477; Edward Fenton, Anne of the Thousand Days (New York: Signet, 1970), 152; and Plaidy, Murder Most Royal (1949; repr., London: Pan, 1966), 542. Compare Martha Tuck Rozett, who notes that Rosalind Miles's historical novel about Elizabeth I grants the queen the ability accurately to imagine her own future reputation. Constructing a World: Shakespeare's England and the New Historical Fiction (New York: State U of New York P, 2003), 125.

(38.) Compare Peter K. Garrett: "opening up from the midst of a narrative the possibility of grasping it as a completed whole, such intimations can replace the contingencies and choices through which the story uncertainly advances with the assurance of a predestined pattern it must follow, an irresistible force it must obey." Gothic Reflections: Narrative Force in Nineteenth-Century Fiction (Ithaca: Cornell UP, 2003), 175. In the Anne Boleyn novels, however, power paradoxically speaks in retrospect--it writes the reader's historical consciousness into the text.

(39.) The standard study of the erotic historical and its development is Thurston, Romance Revolution.

(40.) Bertrice Small, Blaze Wyndham (New York: New American Library, 1988), 340.

(41.) This romance formula has been analyzed repeatedly in a variety of contexts; see, for example, Teresa Ebert, "The Romance of Patriarchy: Ideology, Subjectivity, and Postmodern Feminist Cultural Theory," Cultural Critique 10 (Autumn 1988): 41-44; Joke Hermes, "Sexuality in Lesbian Romance Fiction," Feminist Review 42 (Autumn 1992): 60-61; and Cynthia Whissell, "The Formula behind Women's Romantic Formula Fiction," Arachne: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Language and Literature 5.1 (1998): 89-119.

(42.) Dilys Gardner, The Witch-Girl (London: Robert Hale, 1979), 197. Another YA (and nonromance) novel, Alison Prince's Anne Boleyn and Me: The Diary of Elinor Valjean, 1525-1536 (London: Scholastic Children's Books, 2004), departs slightly from the pattern: Elinor's loyalties remain with Catherine of Aragon, and she holds herself apart from the highly sexed Boleyn family. By the end of the novel, however, she and her husband have left the court permanently, and they live happily in "this tumbledown cottage" (235).

(43.) Karin A. Westman, "A Story of Her Weaving: The Self-Authoring Heroines of Georgette Heyer's Regency Romance," in Doubled Plots: Romance and History, ed. Susan Strehle and Mary Paniccia Carden (Jackson: UP of Mississippi, 2003), 165-84.

(44.) Laurien Gardner, A Lady Raised High, 1.

(45.) Barbara Kyle, A Dangerous Temptation (New York: Onyx, 1994), 216.

(46.) Joanna Dessau, All or Nothing: The Life-Story of Anne Boleyn (Leicester: Ulverscroft, 1998), 37.

(47.) Aileen Armitage, The Tudor Sisters (1974; repr., New York: Severn House, 2005), 190, 191.

(48.) Karen Harper, Passion's Reign (New York: Zebra, 1983), 350.

(49.) Anne Barry, "Romancing History: Karen Harper's Heroines Are Real-Life Royal Mistresses," Ohioana Quarterly 29.2 (1986): 52.

(50.) Gregory, The Other Boleyn Girl (2001; repr., New York: Touchstone, 2003), 313.

(51.) In more recent novels, such "disinterested" communion becomes available to homosexual couples as well--most startlingly in Bertrice Small's The Last Heiress (New York: New American Library, 2005), which features one remarkably campy uncle and his charming partner, both accepted without fuss. See also Dunn, The Queen of Subtleties (London: Flamingo, 2004), which takes a much subtler approach to this theme. Gregory's The Other Boleyn Girl features a homosexual George Boleyn (again, following Warnicke), but he obviously fails to achieve the same happy ending.

(52.) Cynthia Harrod-Eagles, The Dark Rose: The Morland Dynasty 2 (New York: Dell, 1981), 519.

(53.) Sabine Coelsch-Foisner, "(Pop-) Romance: Repetition and Repeatability, with a Reading of Rosamunde Pilcher," Imaginaires: Revue du Centre du Recherche sur l'Imaginaire dans les Litteratures de Langue Anglaise 9 (2003): 144.

(54.) Small, The Last Heiress (New York: New American Library, 2005). Charles H. Hinnant has discerned a similar, although not quite identical, dynamic in one of the pioneering erotic historicals, Kathleen Woodiwiss's The Flame and the Flower (New York: Avon, 1972), which he argues "modernize[s]" Jane Austen's "feudal system" by "infusing it with elements of a capitalist system." "Desire and the Marketplace: A Reading of Kathleen Woodiwiss's The Flame and the Flower," in Strehle and Carden, Romance and History, 157.

(55.) Nancy Kress, And Wild for to Hold, in Modern Classic Short Novels of Science Fiction, ed. Gardner Dozois (1991; repr., New York: St. Martin's P, 1994), 637.

(56.) My thanks to those readers on the Little Professor website ( who responded to my ruminations on this project while it was in process.
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