The Boleyn Inheritance Book Summary and Study Guide

Detailed plot synopsis reviews of The Boleyn Inheritance

"The Boleyn Inheritance" depicts the lives and struggles of Anne of Cleves, Catherine Howard, and Jane Rochford during their tenures as the fourth and fifth wives of Henry VIII and lady-in-waiting at the Tudor court, respectively. In "The Boleyn Inheritance," the stories of Catherine Howard, Anne of Cleves, and Lady Jane Rochford during their time at the court of Henry VIII are told. In "The Boleyn Inheritance," the stories of Catherine Howard, Anne of Cleves, and Lady Jane Rochford during their time at the court of Henry VIII are told. It's 1539, and King Henry VIII of England is being encouraged to marry again after the death of his third wife, Jane Seymour. Seeing as his rival countries, Spain and France, have now formed an alliance, leaving England isolated as a major European power, Henry's advisers encourage him to seek an alliance of his own with the Protestant League via marriage with Anne of Cleves, sister of the Duke of Cleves.
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"The Boleyn Inheritance" is divided into three perspectives: Anne of Cleves, the shy, withdrawn chosen fourth wife of Henry the VIII; her newest lady-in-waiting, Catherine Howard; and her chief lady-in-waiting, Lady Jane Rochford.

Anne of Cleves looks forward to her journey to England, if only to escape her abusive brother, the Duke of Cleves. When she arrives in England, however, a chance encounter with her future husband in disguise seals the fate of her marriage before it is even given a chance to succeed-Anne does not recognize Henry, so when he tries to kiss her, she shoves him away and spits out the taste of his kiss, to the horror of the surrounding courtiers (who knew it was Henry the whole time, but didn't tell Anne). The fact that Henry is unable to consummate the marriage at all on their wedding night does not help matters either, and since it is treason to say that the king is impotent, Anne is on her own. She is haunted by the ghosts of Henry's past wives, who all met tragic ends, and fears she will follow in the footsteps of Anne Boleyn to the executioner's block if she cannot give Henry a son. Seeing as Henry is repulsed by her and begins pursuing her maid, Catherine Howard, any chances of success for a child seem impossible for Anne.

Jane Rochford is also haunted. Having been a lady in waiting to the last three queens of England, one of whom was her sister-in-law, Anne Boleyn, Jane constantly recalls the past and her actions that led her husband and sister-in-law to lose their heads. During their trials (both were arrested on charges of adultery-accused of incest), Jane testified against them in an odd attempt to save their lives, which backfired. When Henry's advisers begin seeking an end to his marriage to Anne of Cleves, Jane is called on again- to give evidence against Anne so the marriage may be dissolved, and later to serve as a lady-in-waiting to Henry's newest wife and queen- Catherine Howard.

Lastly, there is Henry's fifth wife, Catherine Howard, seen here first as a maid to Anne of Cleves, then repeating in the footsteps of former ladies-turned-queen Anne Boleyn and Jane Seymour and becoming queen herself: Henry's 'Rose without a thorn.' Catherine is merely a child of fifteen, and is pushed and coached to attract Henry's attention. She enjoys the fame and gifts that come with being queen, but when she chooses to follow her heart and begin an affair with Thomas Culpepper, one of Henry's grooms, her days as queen are numbered.

The story takes a darker turn two-thirds of the way through, as Anne falls from grace but miraculously lives thanks to agreeing to an annulment to her marriage and settlement. Catherine rises to the throne only to follow her cousin's (Anne Boleyn) path to the Tower Green thanks to her discovered act of adultery. Jane is caught up in the treachery of trying to aid Catherine in her affair with Culpepper and is arrested as well. Both Catherine and Jane lose their lives for their actions, while Anne is briefly suspected of a false plot to overthrow the king.

"The Boleyn Inheritance" ends with a final word from Anne, years later when Henry has died and his son Edward is to become king. It is only with Henry's death that Anne realizes she is fully free and rejoices in this knowledge.
Best part of story, including ending: Seeing as the events shown in "The Boleyn Inheritance" were something of a turning point in Tudor history (the beginning of the twilight of Henry's life), it was really interesting to see them brought to live from three different women's perspectives. I will say I disliked some of the repetitive phrases like "Hush" and "D'you think?" It got tiresome. But that's minor.

Best scene in story: My favorite scene was when Anne of Cleves returns to court for Christmas as a guest of Henry and Catherine. All three women share their opinions on this bizarre occurrence- having two queens of England present, and getting along on top of that! Anne shows just how much she has grown as a woman in her own right, which greatly contrasts with the petty nature of Catherine and the paranoia of Jane.

Opinion about the main character: There are three main characters, but I'd have to say my favorite was Anne because of the personal journey she goes on. She was one of only two queens to outlive Henry VIII, and here Anne is portrayed as a gentle soul who quickly figures out how to play the game and survive the lion's den that was Henry's court. Her ability to keep her wits about her, especially when Catherine is arrested and suspicion lands at her door, is nothing short of extraordinary.

The review of this Book prepared by Rachel Swords a Level 1 Blue Jay scholar

Chapter Analysis of The Boleyn Inheritance

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Plot & Themes

Tone of book?    -   thoughtful Time/era of story    -   1600-1899 Life of a profession:    -   royalty Is this an adult or child's book?    -   Adult or Young Adult Book Job/Profession/Status story    -   Yes

Main Character

Gender    -   Female Profession/status:    -   Prince/Nobleman/King Age:    -   20's-30's Ethnicity/Nationality    -   British


How much descriptions of surroundings?    -   4 () Europe    -   Yes European country:    -   England/UK

Writing Style

Sex in book?    -   Yes What kind of sex:    -   vague references only    -   descript of kissing    -   touching of anatomy    -   Boob talk! Weird Victorian/Shakespearean English?    -   Yes Amount of dialog    -   significantly more dialog than descript

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Philippa Gregory Books Note: the views expressed here are only those of the reviewer(s).
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