Publication Date



Anne Boleyn, English Reformation, women's studies, forgery


The controversy in 1983 over the validity of the Hitler diaries publicized once again the need to authenticate historical and literary documents with great care. The problem of verification has existed since the classical period of history, probably the most famous forgery of all time being the Donation of Constantine, which secured Western Europe for Christendom. Throughout the Middle Ages and into the modern era, the Christian faith has been plagued by charges that many of its holy works and relics are nothing more than fakes or fabrications. Three forged letters of Anne Boleyn, which will be examined here, can be treated as an integral part of the tradition of religious fabrications, since her marriage to Henry VIII was at the core of the English Reformation and contemporary religious politics. These letters must also be examined in light of the continuing interest in women's studies, an interest that dates largely from the 1970s. As this is, relatively speaking, a pioneer field, scholarly mistakes are bound to have occurred. Two of these forged letters, which perpetuate a negative view of Anne Boleyn, have recently been identified as originals in books on women writers, although the letters' genuineness has not been accepted in recent historical analyses of her life. Given the scarcity of surviving letters written by women, it is also instructive that it is the two negative ones in question that are well known, for unlike the third, more obscure one, they portray her as a femme fatale actively working to destroy the king's first marriage.