A few years back there was a big debate about the under representation of women (other than the Queen) on Bank of England banknotes. It was just before they decided to put author Jane Austin on the next £10 note. This all got me thinking about who could be regarded as the most influential women in English history and be worthy of a similar memorial.
If I were to name such a woman it would not be the first woman Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, it would not be that famous Briton of Roman times – Boudicca, and it would not be that glorious of Queens – Elizabeth I. In terms of having the most dramatic and far reaching impact it would have to be Elizabeth’s mother, Anne Boleyn.
More than anyone she was responsible for one of the most momentous events in English history – The Reformation. After this key turning point England and indeed the world would never be the same again.
Henry VIII just wanted her for his ‘bit on the side’ after the shine went off his relationship with his wife, the formidable Catherine of Aragon. The intelligent and capable Anne thought otherwise.
She insisted on marrying Henry and used her feminine wiles to fill his head with some of the most cutting edge theological innovations of the day. Without her this would not have happened.
If Henry had succeeded with his ‘plan A’ of establishing her as his mistress the break with Rome would not have been considered let alone implemented. That would have been the customary solution for the age and history would have proceeded without upheaval.
Anne Boleyn is a case study in the application of feminine power to achieve political ends. She already had a Protestant worldview before meeting Henry. She arguably used her ‘influence’ to push a Protestant agenda at the pinnacle of state power. During the Catherine of Aragon Divorce Crisis some of these Protestant ideas would be crucial in getting the upper hand with the Pope. She would undoubtedly have made a formidable politician in our own day.
They say behind every great man there is a great woman. The case of Henry VIII was no exception to this rule. Surely she deserves banknote status.