Anne Boleyn, Squib

In my chapters for Harry Potter and History, I made much of Anne Boleyn, not just for her interesting and significant life, but also because she figures into the Harry Potter mythos, albeit in a small way. In an online game on her website, author J. K. Rowling revealed that in her story world Anne Boleyn was a Squib (someone born to wizarding parents who never developed magical abilities).

Anne Boleyn by Holbein While Anne is hardly the focus of the series, I was amused that Rowling seemingly couldn’t let such a delicious character entirely pass by her story world. Anne Boleyn’s life is endlessly fascinating, having been fodder for films (The Other Boleyn Girl, Anne of the Thousand Days – both adapted from other media), television series (The Tudors arguably launched itself off of the fascinating story of Anne’s rise and fall) and, of course, novels. Anne Boleyn is a cultural industry, in and of herself.

There are literally dozens, perhaps even hundreds of novels featuring Anne Boleyn. As others have rightly noted, her life story has a tabloid quality about it that immediately captures readers’ interest with frissons of excitement over questions of adultery, treason and execution, all at a royal court. But for Rowling, the greatest appeal had to be Anne’s association with witchcraft, most fully articulated by Retha Warnicke in The Rise and Fall of Anne Boleyn (although Eric Ives disputes her interpretation strongly in his own writings on Anne such as The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn). Charges that she bewitched the king are interesting, but hardly the meat of what was held against her in her trial. (More interesting is Warnicke’s link between her miscarriage and witchcraft accusations.)

Whether or not the charges of witchcraft levied against Anne were serious and significant in her downfall wasn’t a concern for Rowling when she whimsically picked on the detail of the charges to incorporate Anne Boleyn into wizarding world history. It’s simply a fun concept for author and readers. Are we to imagine that Anne’s mother, perhaps, had attended Hogwarts in her youth? Was Anne sadly disappointed in her ambition to do the same, only reluctantly turning toward capturing a king’s interest instead of achieving renown in the magical world? Did she employ potions and charms to win the king’s heart? Unless Rowling revisits the wizarding world in the sixteenth century, such speculation will only be fodder for blog posts and fanfiction.

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5 Comments

Filed under history, pop culture

5 responses to “Anne Boleyn, Squib

  1. Carolyn Schriber

    I’d lke to be able to follow your blog.

    • jliedl

      Carolyn, if you have a RSS Reader set up (like Google Reader at http://www.google.com/reader ) you can add jliedl.ca to your subscriptions. Even easier, if you visit the front page of my blog, you can use WordPress.com’s private system to sign up for email alerts: http://jliedl.ca – just look at the bottom of the right-hand bar.

      Thanks for visiting!

  2. CK

    Wow, that’s fascinating! I did not know that Anne B was accused of bewitch…bewitchery? … bewitchment?

    • jliedl

      Retha Warnicke focused on that accusation relating to her miscarriage and the deformities of the fetus as a key part of Anne’s downfall.

      In the decades after her death, Anne’s story became increasingly embellished by these ideas of witchery. You might have read claims that she had a sixth finger on one hand or a mole (witch’s mark) on her neck that she covered with a choker. These are pretty much the invention of anti-Elizabethan propagandists fifty years on.

  3. Sam

    I also love reading about Anne B, not only was she an interesting person herself… but she was the mother to my favourite historical figure!