Heirs of Ambition: The Making of the Boleyns uncovers the story and the family behind England’s most obsessed-over queen, Anne Boleyn.
From the fields of Norfolk to the royal court, via city commerce, local government, liberal education and numerous wedding bells, the Boleyns emerge as just one of many newly prosperous and ambitious families seeking to make the best of a changing world. As they struggle upwards, England is visited by famine, plague, revolt and civil war – but also opportunity.
Struggling peasants in dirt-floored cottages scratch a living on tiny scraps of land. More than half are swept away by plague while revolt soaks the south-east in blood, but hope lies in the teeming, timber-framed streets of London amongst ambitious merchants who speculate and scheme. Meagre rations become venison pasties and straw-filled mattresses, featherbeds, but some things remain the same. Disease has no respect for gold and silver; war takes sons whose lives have barely begun. While the Boleyns’ new-found wealth delivered power and status, they still lived in a violent world and life could be precarious, even for a queen.
From steady climb to bone-breaking fall, the Boleyns’ story is medieval life at its messy, prejudiced and unstable best.