Speak Her Truth
Campaign Against the Censorship of Women’s Impact in History
Hayley Nolan is a Tudor historian, Anne Boleyn expert and author of Amazon No1 bestselling correctional biography Anne Boleyn: 500 Years of Lies. Last year in parliament, Nolan corrected Boleyn's work lobbying the Tudor's first access to free healthcare as part of the #BeMoreBoleyn campaign, revealing the Tudor Queen’s secret life as a working politician, humanitarian and activist. Yet this work has been heavily censored by history, the evidence hidden from the general public in all commercial depictions of her life, and her story re-written with victim blaming rhetoric to say she was a heartless scheming seductress who pursued the throne for selfish gain. But when the victim of domestic homicide gets villainised more than the murderer it’s time to question the narrative we are being sold.
It’s time to call out the male-washing of female activism in history.
Historical documents prove Anne Boleyn used her privilege and power as queen to fight against the oppression of the poor, with evidence revealing she campaigned for radical anti-poverty laws, the amnesty of refugees and free education for underprivileged youths from the moment she accepted the king’s marriage proposal.
In 2019, Hayley Nolan launched the #BeMoreBoleyn campaign for UK Parliament Week at Houses of Parliament, revealing how Boleyn’s incredible hidden story can inspire young women today to step into their power and get involved in politics.
A Censored History In 1534 William Marshall wrote a dedication to his patron, Anne Boleyn, asking her to petition King Henry VIII to personally lobby The Poor Law in parliament - a radical move Boleyn managed to achieve, the king even appointed his chief advisor, Thomas Cromwell, to assist the scheme! Marshall and Boleyn’s revolutionary Poor Law would provide the poor with free healthcare in order to get them well enough to work and care for their families, as well as ensuring cities find work for the unemployed. However, because Boleyn proposed the king create a new national council to oversee the scheme - one that would rival the powers of Henry VIII’s prestigious Privy Council, of which Cromwell was the head - this posed too much of a personal threat to Cromwell. He subsequently sabotaged The Poor Law by lobbying a much diluted and ineffectual alternative when the original was met with resistance in parliament due to its cost. Two months later Cromwell framed Boleyn for adultery and treason. She was executed while he re-wrote her life of humanitarianism to be a life of vacuous debauchery, and The Poor Law was 'male-washed' and has been accredited to Cromwell ever since.
#SpeakHerTruth in Parliament
If it can end in decapitation it was never love!
Anne Boleyn’s true story has been re-written to say she was a power-hungry scheming temptress. But when we know a story ends with a man killing his wife it’s our responsibility to the audience - as historians, writers, producers or directors - not to put a romantic spin on his actions, sending out the message that these are perfectly acceptable expressions of love and heartbreak in our own lives.
This means historians need to stop branding Anne’s running away from court to escape the king’s unwanted advances for a year as “a calculated tactic,” as though the ultimate example of when a girl says no she really means yes. Stop calling his relentless, year-long predatorial pursuit “love letters” – letters in which he acknowledges she didn’t want him and was even ignoring him. Yet we are repeatedly told it’s clear that Henry VIII loved Anne due to the ‘mercy’ he showed her in death; having her decapitated swiftly and pain-free by sword. However, the method with which a man kills a woman does not prove his love for her.
Adina Claire, acting co-Chief Executive of Women’s Aid says: “The way we understand history affects the way we understand the world. Minimising and even romanticising domestic abuse through history sends harmful messages about what is acceptable and what is a serious crime. Women’s Aid is raising awareness of this with Hayley Nolan, who is examining Henry VIII’s harassment and murder of his wife Anne Boleyn, and challenging the way that her story has been told in history.”
Why Boleyn’s Injustice Impacts Women Today
History repeats. Not only do modern victims of domestic homicide cases similar to Anne get victim blamed when their deaths are reported in the media today, but women in positions of power throughout the world continue to get harassed, abused and torn down in a way that is excessive to their gender. If the good work of women in history like Anne Boleyn continues to be male-washed, we are left with the belief that only men can be trusted change makers, when that is historically false. Frustratingly, we still refer to the past as the status quo, so when young women don’t see any women in power - or worse, are shown the only women to achieve power are evil, selfish and deserving of downfall - they think there is no place for them in the world. But it’s only a man’s world if we continue to censor the positive impact of women in history, like Anne Boleyn. So it’s time to #SpeakHerTruth when you speak her name if we are to have a future of equality, where all people stand side by side in this world, empowered and heard.
The 500 Year Censorship of a Powerful Woman In History
After being hidden away in the historical archives and niche academic studies, last year Hayley Nolan’s correctional biography finally exposed the extent of the censorship of Boleyn’s true story, bringing the full evidence of her life’s work into the commercial mainstream for public consumption.
Here are some of the main revelations:
Anne’s father did not plot to push his daughter into the king’s bed to further his career - as a successful royal diplomat, we have letters proving that he tried to stop his daughter and king wading into this dangerous marriage.
Anne Boleyn did not seduce the king or scheme to be queen; she ran away from court for a year to escape his unwanted advances - as a commoner she couldn’t conspire to marry into the Tudor monarchy, nor could she believe the king had grounds to file for annulment.
The king’s admission that Boleyn left court, ignored his letters and did not return his affections was not a “tactic” or “sexual blackmail” as accused by modern historians. After being sent away from court previously to cool down a romance with courtier Henry Percy, evidence proves Boleyn wold have seen as something that would stop a flirtation, not encourage it.
Anne did not accept the king's proposal in order to live a cruel and vacuous life - evidence proves she used her position as queen to offer amnesty to refugees who were fighting the corruption of the Catholic church as early as five years before her marriage, during her engagement. Enemies and supporters alike confirm she was a devout Evangelical who brought about the religious reformation.
Anne did not force the people to accept her as queen whatever the cost to human life - evidence shows she fought relentlessly against the manipulation of the public with the sale of fake Holy relics and paying to have their sins forgiven by a priest.
Anne was not responsible for the king’s first divorce - evidence proves he was looking into an annulment and alternative bride two years before Boleyn.
Henry VIII did not “break from Rome” to be with Anne - they were already married when Rome broke with England and excommunicated the king resulting in the Tudor’s own Brexit.
Henry did not have Boleyn killed to marry his third wife, Jane Seymour. We have evidence Boleyn’s charges of adultery were concocted by political rival Thomas Cromwell. Not because she wanted to "save the smaller monasteries from dissolution" but because she wanted to create a rival council to his ‘King’s Privy Council’ and establish a Tudor ‘NHS/Job Centre' scheme. Evidence proves it started with Boleyn but has been accredited to Cromwell ever since.
Damning stories of ‘risqué flirting’ with the men accused were not events witnessed by others but were taken from Boleyn’s own protestations of innocence while in The Tower and re-written to sound incriminatory.
The king did not love Anne Boleyn - death by sword was no ‘act of mercy for the woman he loved’, the manner with which a man kills a woman does not prove his love for her; it was propaganda orchestrated by Cromwell for the king to appear ‘chivalrous’ to the world!
YOUR CALL TO ACTION!
A message from Hayley Nolan:
Are you appalled by the censorship of this incredible woman in history? Good. Be angered into rebellion like Anne Boleyn, because if it can happen to an English queen it can happen to any one of us, and it still continues to happen. Anne Boleyn is representational of all maligned women today who are silenced for using their voice. So prove to the oppressors that they can’t silence us any more; use your voice...
Educate yourself - if you want to learn more about Anne Boleyn’s story, read the evidence of how she used her privilege for good and how she was silenced then you can support the truth by buying a copy of Anne Boleyn: 500 Years of Lies. And while it took me many years of in-depth research, if your interest lies in a woman in history’s story, do not just take the word of one historian as gospel. Read many varied books on the topic, look at the original sources they reference and form your own opinion. Yes, including my own work. I am transparent with my list of sources and I welcome you to dive into the archive links provided, they are fascinating and most are accessible online.
Spread the word - educate others and tell them the truth. We all have a platform on social media, whether its for our private group of family and friends, or reaches a large following. Use your voice and Boleyn’s story of injustice to highlight the censorship of women in history and how this impacts women today using the hashtag #SpeakHerTruth and #BeMoreBoleyn
Question the narrative - whether reading a troll-baiting news article, watching a movie or reading a history book; always question the narrative you are being sold, because in so many subtle ways we are being told what to think, who to like and who to hate. This part gets uncomfortable because you will soon notice problematic rhetoric in your favourite publications, books and shows, but so long as you are aware that there is likely more to the story, that the woman in question may not be to blame or be as scheming and evil as we’re being led to believe, then you are in control.
Use your voice - when you see an activist, writer, politician or historian being trolled online for using their voice, calling out injustice or censorship, don’t shake your head and move on. Speak up, be supportive, leave a positive comment to show they do not stand alone. It’s time to realise how powerful your own voice of protest is. By supporting a protester - who can be an activist, writer, politician, or artist - this sends a firm message to the oppressors that we, as consumers, won’t be silent and complicit any more. It also gives a vital boost to the courageous activist putting their neck on the line and daring to speak out.
Diversity - If it can happen to a white English queen then imagine the oppression of the stories of Women of Colour throughout history. Let’s not have to imagine any longer. #SpeakHerTruth is inclusive of all women; WOC, trans women, those who identify as female and non-binary folk. We must see and hear them all. And while the Tudor era is one moment in history the media tend to focus on, Anne Boleyn’s truth is always suppressed. In her name, may we take a stand against the silencing and suppression of all powerful women’s true stories. When you share a story about another person or woman in history as part of the #SpeakHerTruth campaign you might like to phrase it along the lines of “Inspired by the exposed censorship of Anne Boleyn’s activism, I am here to #SpeakHerTruth about another silenced woman in history….”
Thank you for allyship in supporting women's voices throughout history!
SOURCES & EVIDENCE
For full details on The Poor Law and historical sources, see page 204-209 of Anne Boleyn: 500 Years of Lies. See page 82 specifically for how she ran away from court for a year to escape the unwanted advances of Henry VIII, and page 140 for a round up of her activism and amnesty.
On social media please always credit historian Hayley Nolan: