The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 83
Mr. Friedmann's "Anne Boleyn" may lead us to reflect once more on a career which excels that of Mary Queen of Scots in its picturesque tableaux.
"Without fault before the Throne," could fairly be taken by Bossuet as the text of his Funeral Oration upon the Queen of Louis XIV. Anne Boleyn, in a previous generation, had been a sparkling star at the vicious court of France. Yet she was unsullied, undimmed. She had the game to play of keeping Henry VIII. on the string for years, while the drama of the English Reformation was being consummated.
Wolsey is the central actor. Intrigue defeated itself, and his house of cards fell down, so that he made enemies of every one of the conflicting interests he tried to conciliate—Henry VIII, Anne Boleyn, Catherine of Arragon, and the Pope. In the first stage of the Boleyn crisis, his game was to—but we can convey it best in a reminiscence of Sir Pertinax Mac-sycophant, in Macklin's "Man of the World." His son Egerton is enamoured of a low-born Miss Constantia. Says Sir Pertinax to the Rev. Mr. Sidney, "If ye could only contrive to bring them thegither, why, in a week or two he'd no care for her." The clergyman fires up, "How, sir I Do you think so meanly of me?"—and so on. Sir Pertinax replies, "Hout tout, mon, if ye're so squeamish about obleeging a patron, ye'll nae rise in the Kirk, sir: ye'll nae rise in the Kirk!"
Anne Boleyn was not to be had by the deep laid plot of Wolsey, who hoped that her inexperience, and the King's passion, page 57 would find a way for him out of the embarrassing situation in which he was placed. Young Anne Boleyn took the same piqueing course as the mature Madame de Maintenon—Veuve Scarron—did with Louis XIV, who occupies the central position in French history that Bluebeard Henry does in that of England.
We have a photo of Cetewayo, in a paget coat, grey tweed trousers on his immense hams, and a waistcoat over his starched white shirt, with a neat scarf and pin. This is better than his acrobatic Zulu undress. Similarly do we desire that King Henry may moult the little hat, with its ostrich plume, the velvet coat and thick ermine edging, the gorgeous gilt white frilled waistcoat, the gartered hose, and all the other trappings, so dear to such romantic artists as Sir Walter Scott, Ainsworth, and Bulwer. We imagine Royal Harry in sober Regent-street broad cloth, with a "belltopper" on the photographer's ormulu table beside him, like H.R.H. The Prince of Wales.
After all, no one presents the real flesh and blood Henry with such vraisemblance as Froude. Besides perceiving his faults, we feel, and sympathise with his anxieties. Froude asks, reasonably, whether the whole legal and constitutional apparatus of Anne Boleyn's condemnation, for adultery, could have been brought to bear, herself innocent, merely to gratify the king's whim for her maid Jane Seymour, who succeeded Anne Boleyn as Anne had been maid to Queen Catherine.
Looking at Maclise's graphic painting of the Play Scene, in Hamlet, it struck us that Shakespeare's incident of the king rushing away, might have been prompted by the occurrence, or the tradition, of Henry VIII. hurriedly leaving the Tournament, when Norris picked up the little cambric handkerchief of Queen Anne Boleyn, flung to him, or accidentally dropped, on his victory in the Joust.
Our article was not immediately suggested by Mr. Friedmann, but by meeting with just one sentence from Froude's vivid sketch of Anne's execution, quoted in Fry's admirable handbook to "London in 1885." We fancy that Froude took the hint from the splendid finale of Ainsworth's "Windsor Castle," with the illustration, by Cruikshank, of King Henry reining up his white palfrey, on its haunches, in the glade of Windsor Park, as he notices the puff of the cannon smoke from a turret of the Castle, indicating that the axe of the Calais Headsman has fallen, and the beautiful head of Anne Boleyn lies in the basket. The King posted off to his sweetheart, Jane Seymour, and married her next day. But Anne Boleyn was the mother of Elizabeth.