Thursday, March 18, 2010

Cinema Royal: Genevieve Bujold

French-Canadian actress Genevieve Bujold starred as Anne Boleyn in the 1969 film "Anne of the Thousand Days". For someone coming from an admittedly partisan point of view, and as someone who views Catherine of Aragon as one of the greatest ladies in all of history, it is hard for me to find a portrayal of Anne Boleyn which I admire. Genevieve Bujold, however, strongly delivers. She certainly has the physical beauty to convince the audience she could motivate a king to tear his country in half to have her, however, in this film Anne Boleyn is portrayed as not really seeking for this to happen. Although she is portrayed as a woman with, I shall politely say romantic experience, she nonetheless wants nothing to do with the King who broke up her engagement and had left her sister abandoned after being his mistress. Rather than stringing the king along to get all the earthly glory she can, in this film Bujold portrays Anne as a woman who resists the king at every turn and hopes that she can put up so many obstacles the king will have to stop pursuing her and allow her to go her own way. Henry VIII, played by Richard Burton, tears down every obstacle though and finally wins her over, though as soon as she submits to love him he has fallen out of love with her and wants her gone whom he had once so desired. The part is played well (she won a Golden Globe for best actress and was nominated for an Oscar for the role) and gives Genevieve Bujold's Anne Boleyn a place amongst my Tudor film favorites.


  1. I saw this movie while in high school and enjoyed it.
    Later on I found out that Elizabeth Taylor was the (unbilled) masked court lady who crashes in on Katherine of Aragon.

  2. You're kidding! I'll have to go watch it again and see if I can catch any clues...

  3. One of my absolute favourite film portrayals of a historical person - although, like you sir, I am coming from an admittedly partisan point of view (however, in this case, my admiration is for Anne!) Sometimes I think Bujold's performance of Anne's reluctance is much closer to the truth than that hypothesised by various historians. Anne was undoubtedly clever, but she wasn't a seer. There is no way she could have known playing hard to get would have ended in a marriage proposal from an already-married monarch! Moreover, there's a fantastic account of their courtship in Derek Wilson's new book "A Brief History of Henry VIII: Reformer & Tyrant," in which he argues that Anne was an ambitious girl who knew that by being deflowered by the King she would effectively destroy any chances of marrying into the upper echeleons of the aristocracy. (The idea that kings' mistresses "married well" in early 16th century England is sheer nonsense!) Thanks for this post - it reminded me of one of my favourite films!

  4. Anne, like all the other wives to varying degrees, has been written about with more assumptions than most realize. We have certain facts and then others fill in the rest with their own opinions, often leaning on rumors to one degree or another. The truth is we don't know what was going through her mind while the King was pursuing her, and no matter what one's own opinion, it is worth considering other possibilities. What was most tragic about this portrayal was that she was trying to distance herself from the King for so long and when she finally fell for him he had tired of the chase and wanted to be rid of her. As stated, of all the films I've seen on the subject, this is the "Anne" that sticks most in my damaged mind.


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