Saturday, October 29, 2011

To Die For

Sandra Byrd did an excellent job in writing to Die For. This book follows Anne Boleyn and her childhood friend Meg Wyatt in Hever. They are good friends and Meg's brother Thomas has a crush on Anne and writes poems for her. Anne is sent to the French court to serve Queen Claude with her sister Mary and she is gone many years. Meg is often at her home with her two brothers, abusive father and very sick mother. Whenever there is a courtly gathering Anne is sent home and Meg is excited to see her and catch up. Anne has become even more lovely and poised, sophisticated. Meg notices how men just watch her. Her sister Mary is to marry Will Carey; the King of England attends and Meg notices he dances often with the new bride. She wonders how long it will be before he makes her his mistress. As Meg and Anne visit, she discovers that Anne has been reading scriptures and seems to be interpreting them for herself. Meg herself isn't very religious and finds it kind of strange coming from her childhood friend.

Meg has a crush on Will Ogilvy, a nearby neighbor, but he tells her since he is the second son that he will be entering the priesthood. Meg is very disappointed as she had hoped they would marry one day. Anne is soon sent to serve in the English court as her sister Mary is the King's mistress and has had a child by him. Meg begs to go with and Anne's father writes a letter to hers and he allows her to go. Her marriage is being arranged to a Lord Blackston, an elderly rich childless man, but betrothals could take much time to come to pass. Anne's own betrothal had been years in the making and nothing had occured. Meg thought it was because the family was so busy at court and tied up in Mary's affair with the King. While at Court, Meg came to learn that Queen Katherine and King Henry were not on good terms and had not been for some time. The King was often flirting with this woman or that, and seemed larger than life. Soon the sweat breaks out and they disperse to various places to avoid it. Anne catches it and Meg helps nurse her. Mary's husband Will Carey died of it, and alone with her two children by the King but not acknowledged, she is no longer in favor. Anne doesn't seem to care as they don't seem very close.

Soon they return to Court, after Meg has been formally betrothed to Lord Blackston. His heir Simon attends the ceremony on his behalf as he is quite ill. He said she would be sent for when he was better. A married woman, but not really, Meg returns to court. She notices that the King is paying Anne attention and singling her out. Soon it becomes a full out courting that is obvious to all at court. Anne tells Meg that the King believes his marriage to be null and void in the eyes of God, because he had married his brother's widow. He quotes scriptures for her telling her that it is a sin and why they have had no male issue. The King seems to have found a match in Anne, and her wit matches his in Gospel discussions. Anne is for the reform and soon is lending her books to the King to read. Meg stands by Anne through the many years as the King courts her, never beds her, as he seeks to find a way to wed her. Meg is there when finally, after several years, they are able to marry. When the King finds that Anne is pregnant, they marry again more publicly so if the child is a boy his legitimacy would not be questioned.

Meg often attends the private and secret Lutheran meetings at court to spy for Anne. She meets up again with Will her childhood crush, and he is indeed a priest now. He gives her his banned English Tyndale bible, and Meg finds herself becoming immersed in them. Soon the long awaited for babe is arrived, but it is a girl. The King is quite beside himself, after all the work he did and turned over the country's religion to put aside his former wife. Anne tries to become well again and quickly, so they can soon have another child, a boy. Meg is sent for by her husband, only for him to tell her he is dying and will leave her a proper income. Even though they had never consummated the marriage he said he would provide for her. Meg returns to court as a dowager baroness, content that she is free while being able to provide for herself. As the years pass, Meg continues to serve Anne faithfully even during her two miscarriages. Both babies were boys.

Will comes to Court to warn Meg that he has heard that Thomas Cromwell along with others is working to find a way for the King to free himself from Anne. He warns her to watch the Queen and keep her safe. Anne is beside herself and still not fully recovered from her last miscarriage. During this time Queen Katherine had passed away, leaving her daughter Mary alone and forgotten in the household of the Princess Elizabeth, her half sister. Meg had noticed that Anne had changed with the years of being married to the King; she often railed at him when she should have just kept quiet, and had become more haughty with those serving her. Soon word spread that Anne was to be taken to the Tower because of witchcraft. Meg was not able to go with her, but soon more charges followed. She was accused of incest with her brother George and affairs with other men. Meg did all she could to help Anne, and eventually was able to be with her in the Tower. She had saved and put aside some of her prised treasures to one day give to her daughter Elizabeth. The King had annulled their marriage, making Elizabeth a bastard.

It seemed he was again on the prowl for a fertile wife. Meg stayed with Anne through her last month of life, encouraging her and praying with her. At her trial, she was composed and denied all charges. They were ridiculous as most the times and places they cited her having these affairs were at the wrong places or times; some she was still pregnant or recovering from childbirth. Meg thought they were ridiculous and would be put aside, but they weren't. The men Anne was accused with were all put to death. Her brother George was beheaded just a day or so before Anne. A French swordsman had been sent for, because the King knew Anne loved the French ways, and because it was told it would be swifter and not painful. Anne's closing speech was eloquent and sweet. She died a Queen that day, regal and composed. Meg and the other ladies in waiting had to take her body and head and bury it themselves. The King married Jane Seymour not long after Anne's death.

Meg left Court, disconsolate and very alone. She was in her late thirties now, unwed with no children and no dowry. Her mother and father had passed away, leaving her second brother in charge. As he was cruel to her she didn't expect much from him. Thomas came for her instead; he had been imprisoned in the Tower as well but was released. He took her to Will, who had been released from his vows. His eldest brother had died, leaving him heir. They married quickly despite her having no dowry, and without his father's approval. She still had Anne's favorite string of pearls with her and her locket ring to give to Elizabeth one day. Anne had said to Meg before her death, "But if you ever have occasion, do not be reluctant to commend me to His Grace and tell him that he hath ever been constant in his career of advancing me; from private gentlewoman he made me marquess, from marquess a queen, and now that he hath no higher degree of honor he gives my innocence the crown of martyrdom."

Anne still is a highly written about and talked about woman of history. She is often reviled because she was a big cause of the King's divorce to his first wife Queen Katherine- she also was a huge part of the reformed church in England. I liked this book because it showed a different side to her than I've read about in The Other Boleyn Girl or other books. This author showed through her friend Meg, that she followed the King because of his passionate belief that his first marriage was invalid. She so wanted to give the King a son, but was not able to. She is often loved as well as hated. I liked this book because I actually felt compassion for her. I did skip over the slow years of the King's workings to divorce Katherine to marry Anne. It is her abrupt downfall that is more compelling and sad. Meg and Anne were childhood friends, although I'm not sure how often she attended her at Court. I will always be fascinated by Anne and her life, as well as that of the King's. By the end of Henry's reign, there were English Bibles in every church in England. For those that have read about Anne Boleyn and her life- what do you think of her? I certainly believe she was ambitious for that is how she was raised, but I think she did believe in the King's cause and when they were finally married, she found it wasn't as desirable or happy as she thought it would be. The stakes were much higher, and she fell.


  1. Thank you so much for reading and reviewing To Die For, Heather. I appreciate it!

  2. How exciting to hear from the author!! I am honored, thank you. Please let me know if there is a blog of yours I can follow or a Facebook page. I'm a huge fan!

  3. My blog is on my website, and there is also a to be read blog on there (under the adult tab) which usually showcases great historical books. Thanks so much for the review!