Today’s post is inspired by something I mentioned in one of my twitch.tv streams. I said I always felt there was a connection between Anne Boleyn and Morgana. So that is my topic of discussion in this post! Morgana was a witch and faery enchantress, and Anne Boleyn was accused of witchcraft, albeit not officially.
Within the Tudor times it was very popular to study the Arthurian legends. Morgana caused a stir wherever she went, and that was especially true of the way she was portrayed in the most popular version of the legends to Tudor audiences. That would, of course, have been Sir Thomas Malory’s Le Morte D’Arthur! It was Malory that first solidified Morgana Le Fay as the ultimate evil enchantress. She does little that can be seen as redeemable within this text!
Anne Boleyn would have been very familiar with this interpretation of Morgana Le Fay, and she would also have likely read other versions of the legends. She spent much time in France, and would have had access to the French Arthurian romances. It is also known that she could have had access to the work of such literary greats as Christine de Pizan (during her time at the court of Margaret of Austria)!
Anne was sent to learn breeding at the court of Margaret of Austria, sort of as a finishing school. Here she learned how to abide by the traditions of courtly love, and of the chivalric code. In a similar fashion Morgana Le Fay was sent to a convent, or in some variations it is believed she went into study on the Isle of Avalon. In both cases she learned the magical arts, and also became skilled in healing and necromancy! It is this time spent away from the court for both Anne and Morgana that helped to make them so beguiling to those around them. They became figures who had a sense of Other about them. Anne was so incredibly enticing to Henry in part because she was so very different than the other women of the court, and he prized her intelligence. Morgana is often described as the most intelligent and skilled woman at the court of Camelot!
Morgana was the sister to the King (but also was married to a King in a different land) in the legends. While on a different aspect Anne was the second wife of a King. But both were said to be the mother of a child of a King. One of the crimes Anne Boleyn was charged with in 1536 was incest with her own brother. In some versions of the legends Morgana was the mother of Mordred, who was fathered by her own brother Arthur! Earlier versions gave this story to Morgause (however they are commonly conflated)! In the case of versions where Morgana was Mordred’s mother, they have the incest accusations (or reality) in common.
Both of these Queens circumvented what was expected of them, and where Morgana practiced magic Anne became a proponent of heretical texts and the reformation. Both of these things would be something to get one excommunicated from the Catholic Church, if they were proven! This going against the grain of expectations is something that made both Anne Boleyn, and in legend Morgan Le Fay, infamous for their actions. In all the stories of these Queens can be seen as mirroring one another in many ways. Largely it is because of the strict era in which they were living, or written about, that makes them so infamous. Anne and Morgana are also known to be incredibly intelligent. Intelligence is something that drew Henry to Anne, and Morgana is often said to be the most intelligent woman in Britain in her time. Likewise her intelligence is why Morgan was the leader of the ninefold sisterhood of Avalon!
I hope you have enjoyed this post comparing Anne Boleyn and Morgana Le Fay. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!
Note on Image: The image at the top of the post is Anne Boleyn. I found the image on https://discover.hubpages.com/education/The-Life-Of-Anne-Boleyn.
- The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn by Eric Ives
- Le Morte D’Arthur by Sir Thomas Malory