Review of George Boleyn: Tudor Poet, Courtier & Diplomat

I recently bought Clare Cherry and Claire Ridgway’s new book,  George Boleyn: Tudor Poet, Courtier & Diplomat, and I was very glad I did.

The blurb for the book promises a lot of information:

“George Boleyn has gone down in history as being the brother of the ill-fated Queen Anne Boleyn, second wife of Henry VIII, and for being executed for treason, after being found guilty of incest and of conspiring to kill the King.  This biography allows George to step out of the shadows and brings him to life as a court poet, royal favourite, keen sportsman, talented diplomat and loyal brother. Clare Cherry and Claire Ridgway chart his life from his spectacular rise in the 1520s to his dramatic fall and tragic end in 1536.
George Boleyn: Tudor Poet, Courtier and Diplomat is divided into three sections – Beginnings, Career and Influence, and End of an Era – and topics include:
– George Boleyn’s poetry
– Personal attributes and social pursuits
– Religion
– George’s marriage to Jane Parker
– The Reformation Parliament and the League of Schmalkalden
– George the Diplomat
– The fall of the Boleyns, arrests and trials
– The aftermath of their fall
– George Boleyn, Dean of Lichfield, and the Clonony Castle Boleyns
The biography is fully referenced and includes chapter notes, bibliography and useful appendices.”

Happily, the blurb did not lie. There was a LOT of information about George Boleyn in the book. Moreover, the information was well-researched and fair. While the author’s did not attempt to turn George Boleyn into a maligned saint, they were not amiss at pointing out places in the historical record which negated or cast doubt on one of the many slanders circulating about Anne Boleyn’s little brother. His many talents and good qualities were finally brought into the spotlight were they belong.

I was also happy that the authors took the time to explain certain actions or inactions on George Boleyn’s part in the context of the time in which he lived. George didn’t come across as a paragon, even in context, but it certainly explained why some of his decisions and choices would have been considered reasonable in the Tudor era. 

While reading the book I was especially impressed by the scope of George Boleyn’s intellect and accomplishments. He is so often seen as an extension of his powerful sister that I had failed to realize just how much work he did as an ambassador and courtier, or his own merits. Anne Boleyn’s quick temper has gotten far more press that George Boleyn’s quick wit, so I was largely unaware that he was actually a very fine poet, held in esteem with poets Thomas Wyatt and Henry Howard. 

With his combination of good looks, snappy replies, athletic ability, and gaming skills it is no wonder George Boleyn was  a favorite of Henry VIII, and was a powerful an influence in the court in his own right.

The book further impressed me because not only did Cherry and Ridgway show me a George Boleyn I had overlooked, they did so with such a relaxed writing style that I never felt I was being “lectured” about the topic. That balance is often hard to find in non-fiction.

I can highly recommend this book to anyone who has an interest in the Tudor world.

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