Hunting the Falcon: Henry VIII, Anne Boleyn and the Marriage that Shook Europe

Hunting the Falcon is the story of how Henry VIII’s obsessive desire for Anne Boleyn changed him and his country forever. John Guy and Julia Fox have joined forces to present Anne and Henry in startlingly new ways. By closely examining the most recent archival discoveries, and peeling back layers of historical myth, Guy and Fox can re-evaluate the backstories of Henry and Anne, especially Anne during her seven years in France about which, until now, very little has been known. They then set Anne and Henry’s tragic relationship against the major international events of the time. Among other things, they dispel lingering and latently misogynistic assumptions about Anne which anachronistically presume that a sixteenth-century woman, even a queen, could exert little to no influence on the politics and beliefs of a patriarchal society. They reveal how, in fact, Anne was a shrewd, if ruthless, politician in her own right, a woman who steered Henry and his policies, often against the advice he received from his male advisers – and whom Henry seriously contemplated making joint sovereign.

Hunting the Falcon sets the facts – and some completely new finds – into a far wider frame, identifying the women around Anne as queen (friends and foes), exploring how she organized her ‘side’ of the royal court on novel and (in male eyes) subversive lines compared to her queenly predecessors, adopting instead French protocol. Men could share in the women’s often sexually charged courtly ‘pastimes’ and had liberal access to Anne, and she to them—encounters from which she gained much of her political intelligence and extended her authority, and which also sowed the seeds of her own downfall.

An exhilarating feat of historical research and analysis, Hunting the Falcon is a thrilling and tragic story of a marriage that has proved of enduring fascination over the centuries. In the hands of John Guy and Julia Fox, even the most knowledgeable reader will encounter it as if for the first time.

A ground-breaking, freshly researched examination of one of the most dramatic and consequential marriages in history: Henry VIII’s long courtship, short union, and brutal execution of Anne Boleyn

A sumptuous drama of lust, intrigue and betrayal, underpinned by the harsh realities of politics

Amanda Foreman

Better than Wolf Hall because it’s all true. The authors’ extraordinary scholarship in every possible historical source, as well as the vibrancy of their writing, delivers the seemingly impossible: a genuinely fresh interpretation of the marriage that produced Protestant England and the greatest of all the British monarchs, Elizabeth I. With a paranoiac court where mild flirtation could lead to torture and disembowelment, the story still has the power to shock.

Andrew Roberts, author of Churchill: Walking with Destiny

Hunting the Falcon is a fierce, scholarly tour de force. The authors, a husband-
and-wife historian team, are a dream pairing. There is an intensity to their
research – the sleuthing through water-damaged documents hiding in musty
collections; the reinterpreted ciphers and signatures in Tudor missives singed by
fire; the telling marginalia in manuscripts and folios; the pithy asides from
courtiers in disregarded journals … [It] brilliantly shows how time,
circumstance and politics combined to accelerate Anne’s triumph and tragedy.

Tina Brown, The New York Times

In this revelatory biography by two leading historians, we see Anne Boleyn
more clearly than ever before. Conducting a fingertip search of the original
sources, Guy and Fox present Henry’s second wife as neither a tragic heroine,
nor a scheming minx, but as a startlingly modern woman.

Kathryn Hughes, Daily Mail

Hunting the Falcon is a wonderfully rich book, thoroughly researched, with a
wealth of detail and a fair-minded approach to its story. We are told that Anne
chose a falcon as her heraldic insignia; it was crowned and holding a scepter.
Anne ‘could have sent out no stronger signal of her belief that Henry would
share his crown with her.’ A misplaced belief, in the end. Mr. Guy and Ms. Fox
have done Anne justice – justice she didn’t receive in life.

Allan Massie, Wall Street Journal

John Guy is a superb historian, utterly determined to understand the
individuals he studies. Here he teams up with his wife and fellow historian,
Julia Fox, to provide a fresh and sensitive examination of the relationship
between Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn. Both emerge as more complex
characters: Anne as shrewder and more powerful, Henry as more sensitive and
vulnerable. Fox and Guy have taken a rather tired topic and given it new drama,
new interest, new life.

Gerard DeGroot, The Times, History Books of 2023

It would be easy to assume that Hunting the Falcon is yet another addition to
the huge number of biographies of Anne Boleyn and her husband, Henry VIII.
But it isn’t. It’s something more interesting than that … Guy and Fox have
ransacked the French archives to far greater effect than is usual in our
traditionally Anglocentric approach to history … In many places, where once
we had speculation, we now have certainty. This book is at once an education
and a joy to read.

Sarah Gristwood, The Literary Review

The method chosen by John Guy and Julia Fox in this fine new study is to
focus on narrative, adopting a biographical approach in which Anne’s story
hurtles relentlessly forward towards her tragic end. The book is executed with
consummate skill. As an exercise in storytelling, it is a formidable achievement
… a splendid read, a remarkably well-told account of the rise and fall of Anne

George Bernard, History Today

John Guy and Julia Fox’s Hunting the Falcon takes a familiar subject … and
still manages to shed new light on it. The book’s understanding of and
sympathy for the personalities involved is impressive, but its explication of the
grand politics behind this most politically momentous of marriages is surely

Prospect Magazine – Books of the Year 2023

John Guy and Julia Fox’s Hunting the Falcon had me riveted. What an
extraordinary woman Anne was, and how loathsome of Henry to frame and
murder her.

Times Literary Supplement – Books of the Year 2023

The vivacious Anne Boleyn comes alive in this impressive study.

The Times

The story of Henry VIII’s court, with all its low intrigue and high politics, is
familiar, but rarely has it been brought to life with such verve and sumptuous
detail as by husband-and-wife historians John Guy and Julia Fox.

Daily Mail – History Books of the Year 2023

Their book provides the most cogent narrative reading of the evidence to date.
It leaves us in no doubt of the momentous consequences of Henry’s pursuit of
Anne Boleyn, the woman who, in Wyatt’s evocative phrase, ‘set our country in
a roar’.

Mark Bostridge, Spectator

Hunting the Falcon is a serious and compelling study … a genuinely useful
addition to the abundant literature about a period when the rule of law was more
violently abused than at any other period in English history; and it vividly
evokes a governing class organised around a dominant psychotic personality.
And neither of these things is of narrowly academic or purely historic interest.

Rowan Williams, New Statesman

Combines meticulously researched history and contemporary voices with
narrative flair …. The Guy/Fox approach is fresh partly because they are a
married couple writing about a marriage, but more because they reframe the
story in the context of continental European politics, in contrast to the parochial
English exceptionalism that pervades writing about this era.

The Sunday Times

The book is thoroughly researched, up-to-date and scrupulous in providing
answers to matters of debate …. Anyone interested in the facts behind the
numerous fictional riffs on the Henrician court could not do better than to read
this work.

Jean Wilson, The Times Literary Supplement

Is there much new to say about Anne Boleyn? She is already one of the most
written about of the Tudors, although her voice and agency can be frustratingly
elusive. The answer, in this richly detailed analysis of Anne and her marriage to
Henry VIII, by a husband and wife, John Guy and Julia Fox, turns out to be,

John Cooper, Church Times

An exceptional royal biography.

Book of the Year 2023, The Scotsman
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