Since fiction wasn’t grabbing me, I tried something else: a book I could read in small chunks interspersed with all my distractions. I needed something that didn’t require any emotional involvement on my part. A biography! But whose?
I’ve read Wolf Hall and I’ve read books about Queen Elizabeth, and I knew that, historically, King James came next, but it occurred to me that I had no idea who James’ queen was. In fact, I knew little at all about King James’ reign, other than that he had been King of Scotland also. So I wanted to read about his wife.
Surprisingly, there isn’t a lot out there. Anne of Denmark by Ethel Carleton Williams is the one biography I was able to locate, published in 1970, which is older than I like to think. (There is also a cultural biography of Anne, but that is supposed to focus on her interest in masques, which isn’t quite what I wanted.)
Anne was a princess of Denmark who was chosen at age fifteen to be the wife of King James VI of Scotland. She was a dutiful wife, though not a devoted one. The book discusses the marital problems of the couple, placing most of the blame on the king. Anne was a devoted mother. She was generous and extravagant. Her life in Scotland was not particularly happy, but when James ascended to the throne of England, whole new worlds opened up for Anne.
|A picture of the book cover is not available, but this is the portrait of Anne that is on the book. (It's a public domain picture http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Anny_danny_WifeyJamie.jpg)|
This is very straightforward biography. Williams delves into the primary sources including letters of the king and queen. I did end up with a sense of the woman and the times, but only a sense of it. The scope of the book was quite narrow. Compared to the exhaustive biography, Catherine the Great. Portrait of a Woman by Robert K. Massie, Anne of Denmark seems to skim the surface. It’s only 205 pages long, as opposed to Massie’s 670+ pages, so you can see the difference in amount of content. Granted, Anne was not the ruler; her role was different. But I would have liked to get a more complete picture of the political issues of the day. Was Anne really focused only on her children’s marriages, her husband’s "favorites," her masques, and her personal finances?
Maybe I need to read a biography of King James to get a better view of the history. But for now, it’s back to fiction. If anyone knows of another biography of Anne of Denmark, I’d love to hear about it.