“But Will He Respect Me in the Morning?” A Century of Fictional Sex Between Henry and Anne

From Susan:  I thought it might be fun, now that I’ve reached the 20th century in my chapter, to show you some of the changes, over the century, in depicting Henry and Anne’s first night together. Here’s my first selection, from one of the very first writers to actually acknowledge (although with much symbolism and a big “dot dot dot”) that Henry and Anne had sex before marriage.  This scene may seem very squeamish today.  But it was pretty bold for its time. Many Victorian plays and histories, rather than admit that Henry and Anne had premarital sex, claimed that Elizabeth was born prematurely!! This is from one of the first post-Victorian fictionalizations of Anne’s life, published in 1912 by American novelist Mary Hastings Bradley. 

From Mary Hastings Bradley, The Favor of Kings, 1912

“As she sat there alone in the room, her chin in her hand, her dark eyes heavy with anxieties, the thought that had slipped some time ago, shamefaced and sly, into the back of her mind edged more and more into the open…What if she played her last card—her precious card—herself!..

…`I dare not, ‘ she whispered to herself, and then in a strangled voice, `I dare!’

She grew aware at last that her clasped hands were clutching each other so tightly that the rings were cutting into the flesh.  She drew off the ring from the sharpest cut.  It was one of Henry’s earliest gifts to her, a plain gold band with,`Thy virtue is thy honor,’ graved within it…Her virtue—God alone knew how she had hugged that comfort to her smarting pride against the secret sneers she divined about her.  And now…

The ring slipped from her fingers and rolled out across the floor.  A bit of rush blocked it and it toppled and dropped through an open knot hole.  The augury seemed to her complete.  She laughed—and then something, like a hand upon her throat, seemed to strangle the laughter at its source and she quivered back among the cushions, her hands hiding her face like some poor shamed thing.

That year the Christmas revels were gayer than ever and King Henry was scarce an instant to be parted from his marchioness.

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Filed under Anne and Gender, Anne Through the Ages

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