Discussion Questions – ‘The Boleyn Reckoning’ by Laura Anderson

  1. The Duke of Norfolk declares: “William is his father all over again – what he wants, he gets” (page 257). Do you agree with Lord Norfolk’s assessment? Why or why not?
Laura Anderson 'The Boleyn Reckoning'
Laura Anderson ‘The Boleyn Reckoning’

I think it becomes more so towards the end of the book as William suffers betrayal by his best friend and the woman he loves. He isn’t willing to give things up without a fight, so strikes out at those around him. Henry VIII wanted to marry Anne Boleyn and wouldn’t stop until he achieved that. He broke with Rome to achieve it, and changed the religion of the entire country, suppressing revolt and rebellion at home and abroad. William seems to have the same attitude towards Minuette, but doesn’t realise that she doesn’t share the same hopes. He kills people who disagree with him (George Boleyn and Princess Mary) and tries to gain foreign support for an unpopular match.

  1. Elizabeth tells William that she can always be trusted to put England’s good before her own personal interests (page 367). Are her actions in England’s best interest? Do you agree with her assessment of her motives, or is she serving her own personal interests? Had William not murdered Robert Dudley and confined Elizabeth to the Tower, do you think she would still consider William’s death and her ascension to be in England’s best interest? What are Elizabeth’s defining characteristics that make her a more desirable monarch than William?

I think that Elizabeth knows how distracted William would be if he married Minuette, and she also understands, when Minuette and Dominic are married, what William’s emotions would be and how he would deal with the situation – I think that’s why she encourages them to flee. It is largely about the interests of the country, but I think that she also wants to do what is best for her friends. Elizabeth knows that, if William doesn’t have a son and heir, then she will succeed to the throne, and she knows that William’s revenge on Dominic and Minuette could ruin the country, so she does what she can to stem it. I think that Elizabeth began to see that William was becoming more like their father, and more unstable in the betrayal, so I think she did come to believe that her own accession was in England’s best interests. Her best characteristics are her patience and loyalty to those who are loyal to her, and her long-term friendships. She knows how to value people and the importance of valuing people.

  1. Discuss the theme of loyalty in the book. William and Elizabeth often are faced with choices related to balancing loyalty to their loyalty versus loyalty to their country’s interests. Minuette and Dominic are forced to choose between loyalty to each other and their own personal happiness, and loyalty to their life-long friends and personal senses of honour and duty. What choices would you have made in their positions? Which character do you consider to be the most loyal?

I think that loyalty to people automatically translates into a different kind of loyalty which can protect countries – if people are loyal to each other then they will band together to save their country if necessary. I think that, if I was as desperately in love as Dominic and Minuette are, I couldn’t choose not to be loyal to my other half. I think their personal senses of honour encourage them to be together. I think that the most loyal character is Elizabeth because she doesn’t give up on Dominic and Minuette when they betray her brother – she can understand their motivations and love for each other, as I think Elizabeth feels the same strength of emotion for the people she loves. She goes to the Tower for her part in the deception and that takes great courage.

  1. On page 278 Minuette asks herself: “Am I whore, or am I saviour?” What do you think of her bargain with William? Are her actions disloyal to Dominic? What would you have done in her position? Does Minuette’s history with William and the fact that her heart, “so long entwined with William in friendship, would demand its share of [that] hour” (page 278) colour your opinion of her action? Why do you think Minuette later refuses to make a similar bargain with William in exchange for Dominic’s life?

I think that Minuette loves Dominic so much that she will do whatever it takes to save him, even to the extent of cheating on him. It is her pride over his life, so I don’t think that her actions are disloyal to Dominic because she is only doing it to save him. I think I would likely have done the same thing to save the people I love in the same situation. I think that Minuette and Dominic were a bit heartless in their handling of the situation – coming clean about their feelings for each other before their marriage and before William’s announced intention to marry Minuette would have caused a lot less hurt and strife for all involved. I think Minuette refuses to make the later bargain because she knows how William handled the aftermath of their first bargain – possibly she believes William won’t really kill Dominic, or she fears that he will kill Dominic whatever happens.

  1. After William had all-but announced his engagement to Minuette, was there any reaction he could have had to the news of her secret wedding and miscarriage (short of labelling her a traitor) that would have enabled him to save face at court? How could he have reacted differently without becoming a laughing stock in England and abroad? Considering how much he fought for the right to marry (with his council and foreign ambassadors pushing for a strategic marriage) was his reaction reasonable in the context of the time? How would you react if similarly betrayed by a close friend?
Henry VIII by Hans Holbein 1540
Henry VIII by Hans Holbein 1540

I think that William could only have saved face if he claimed that he knew of the secret marriage and had given it his blessing, keeping it secret at the behest of Minuette and Dominic themselves. I think that it was inevitable that it would be talked of across the courts of Europe because Dominic had made no secret of his desire to marry Minuette. I think if he had taken the news more calmly and brushed it off, there would have been less for people to talk about, and he wouldn’t have been an open mockery. If he’d brushed it aside it would have been forgotten in a shorter space of time. I think that, given how much he had fought to be allowed to marry whom he chose, his reaction was fairly reasonable, as Minuette knew how much William was fighting for her, and still didn’t say anything about her true feelings. I think I would probably react in a similarly angry and over the top way, to be honest, not that I would be proud of it afterwards.

  1. On page 224 Minuette asks herself “At what point could pain have been avoided?” How would you answer the question? Was there a moment at which Minuette could have acted differently in order to spare William’s pride and feelings? If so, what should she have done?

I don’t think that pain could have been avoided – William would inevitably get hurt when he realised that Minuette didn’t love him in the way that he loved her, but that would likely have been a minor blow compared to the moment he found out that Minuette and Dominic were secretly married and that Minuette was pregnant. I think if she had told William at the beginning that she didn’t love him in that way, and that she loved Dominic instead, I think that William would have been more likely to accept it. I think that it was the deception and lies that hurt him the most, especially from his two closest friends, and one he hoped to marry.

  1. At one point, the Duke of Norfolk tells Dominic “you were a traitor the moment you took [Minuette] from [William]” (page 261). Do you agree? Was Dominic a traitor? If so, at what point did his actions become treasonous? If not, what label would you give his choice to deceive the king?

I don’t think that Dominic and Minuette’s actions constituted treason precisely, as they didn’t act to kill the king, or to rebel and disturb the peace of the kingdom – they fell in love, and they couldn’t help the fact that someone would get hurt as a result. They realised that they couldn’t live without each other, and it was unfair on William and Minuette for them to marry when Minuette’s heart was engaged elsewhere. I think the betrayal came from Minuette and Dominic’s lies and choosing not to admit straight away to their feelings, but to go behind William’s back. It was a personal betrayal and not a political one. I think Dominic and Minuette decided to follow their hearts rather than their heads, and they were destined to hurt William the moment that they pledged themselves to each other.

  1. What do you make of Minuette’s refusal to tell William the last lie that could have granted her and Dominic safety? Considering they had been lying for a year, why do you think she chose the moment before they were scheduled to flee to come clean?

I think Minuette realised that telling that last lie would do more harm than good – William would self-destruct without them to take it out on, and I think that Minuette loved William enough to want to stop this. I think, for her, fleeing with Dominic would have secured their safety, but they couldn’t have been entirely happy having upset William so, and his behaviour over their betrayal could get out of hand and endanger the safety of the whole country. I think lying was taking a huge toll on both Dominic and Minuette, though Minuette seems to have suffered more emotionally as a result, and finally caved in.

  1. William had to make several difficult decisions regarding the lives of family members, significantly his half-sister Mary and his uncle George Boleyn; how do you think those decisions impacted him? Did they pave the way for his later decisions to convict Dominic and Minuette of treason, and to imprison his sister? What would you do if a family member or close friend posed a serious threat to your position, success, and happiness, personally or professionally? What if the threat were to your country?

I think that William had been overshadowed by both Mary and George, and I think that their downfalls signalled that William was fully mature and able to run the country himself. I think these events gave him a sense of his own power and ability, and enabled him to understand what he could do with those who betrayed him; the falls of Mary and George did pave the way for the conviction of Dominic and Minuette. I think Dominic felt threatened by those closest to him, especially when he realised they had been lying to him. I think that, if Minuette and Dominic had come clean before they married, they would have had a better chance. I can’t imagine what I would do in Dominic’s situation, but being a monarch is difficult and you have to make difficult decisions to secure the happiness and success of your realm, which is no doubt what William believed he was doing in locking up Minuette, Dominic and Elizabeth.

  1. How have the various relationships between the four central characters evolved over the course of the series? Compare the William in The Boleyn King to the one who rides to battle the Duke of Norfolk in The Boleyn Reckoning. How has his leadership style changed over the course of his reign? To what do you attribute these changes?
Elizabeth I coronation portrait c.1610 copy of a lost original
Elizabeth I coronation portrait c.1610 copy of a lost original

I think that William comes more into his own – he comes to resemble Henry VIII much more in his determination to have his own way and to take power into his own hands – he is his father’s son. His leadership style has changed from one who took advice to one who assumes that he is always correct, again, rather like his father, and his mother to some extent. I think the changes mainly come from his betrayal by Minuette, like his father’s changes came from the betrayal of Katherine of Aragon to fail to provide him with a son. I think that William withdraws from Elizabeth, Minuette and Dominic as he takes on more royal responsibilities. Elizabeth remains close to Minuette in particular, but Dominic and William’s close friendship is irreparably destroyed when Dominic marries Minuette.

  1. Is it possible for royalty to have true friendships, or is William right in thinking otherwise? Is it necessary for those in power to have an attitude towards mistrust? If so, can friendships exist anyway, or is perfect trust required for true friendship?

I think it is extremely difficult for royalty to have true friendships, because the royals would always wonder if their ‘friends’ were using them for power, wealth and influence. However, in history I think that Henry VIII did have a true friendship with Charles Brandon and I think in the book that Elizabeth and Minuette’s friendship was genuine. I think that Dominic and William’s friendship was also genuine; otherwise William wouldn’t have been so hurt at Dominic’s betrayal. I don’t think that those in power need to have an attitude of mistrust; I just think they need to be careful who they do trust, especially with personal secrets. I think that trust is vital in a friendship, but sometimes people err on the side of caution in trusting people so as not to hurt them.

  1. What is your reaction to William’s decision to execute Mary Tudor? Was this the right choice for his government? What about for him on a personal level?

I think that William had to execute Mary to ensure that Elizabeth would succeed him. Mary would have torn the country apart, as she did in real life, to turn the country back to Roman Catholicism and the faith she believed in. I think it was a difficult decision for William to make, as she was still his sister, even though their fundamental beliefs were different. He understood the uproar that could be caused by this one action – a rebellion by the conservatives to try and unseat him and replace him. Mary represented the Catholic faction, and by executing her, William was doing what was best for his government as he was cutting the head off the snake. On a personal level, I think that William did respect Mary for sticking to her beliefs – they both (along with Elizabeth) shared a stubborn streak.

  1. What impact (if any) did the death of Jane and the loss of his son have on William?
Streatham Portrait of Jane Grey, copy of a lost original.
Streatham Portrait of Jane Grey, copy of a lost original.

I don’t think William really loved Jane – I think his love for Minuette went too deep. However, I think that the loss of Jane made him realise that, and the loss of his son made him realise that the event his father so feared – the accession of a woman – was therefore inevitable in the shape of his sister, Elizabeth. I think after the deaths of Jane and his son, William pretty much gave up, knowing that nothing he did would change the situation. Perhaps he came to really regret what he’d done to Dominic and Minuette, as I think he did really respect Jane as a friend in the end, and understood what it meant to Dominic and Minuette to be apart.

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