Updated: Jul 15
'Don't lose your head' sings Anne Boleyn, beheaded for adultery (among other things). How about a chic gift for lovers of this musical?
When the bee watched Six the musical at the West End, it thought the show was loud, garish and of no lasting value to any member of the audience other than serving as a short bout of sassy entertainment on an otherwise boring evening. Sure, the songs were catchy, the actresses highly talented and the costumes captivating, and sure, it was impossible to be at the performance and not feel immersed in it, but the show did not evoke a strong emotional reaction. It only elicited laughter, which is great for entertainment, but the show does not make you grow as a person (which is the bee's personal #1 criteria for rating any show five stars). It's probably just the bee, but the bee wanted to learn something new, or consume a story with substance and depth, and this show (perhaps entirely deliberately) had neither (how could it, when the lyrics to Katherine Howard's solo goes something like "I'm the ten amongst these threes" *rolls eyes*).
All said, Six the musical makes for some great merch. Check out the range - adorable gifts for theatre lovers and musical enthusiasts
To the musical's credit, the bee did laugh, and especially because of Anne Boleyn. So the bee went ahead and created a cute design from its memory of how Boleyn looked (garishly glittering green and black costume with dark hair rolled up into two buns) and slapped that design onto a bunch of t-shirts, hoodies, mugs and whatnot, because as you know, the bee loves to create caricatures and mockups, and the bee absolutely loves musical merch. The bee picked the scene in which Anne Boleyn takes a selfie, because it was perhaps the most ludicrous scene in the whole show and the bee was thoroughly vexed by this travesty (but the bee apologies; the bee will leave its complaints for its review, and instead focus on the fun stuff here).
Five fun things about Anne Boleyn from Six the Musical (that make the bee's Six merchandise great gifts for musical lovers)
Disclaimer. The contents below are not factually verified. This is not a post about history. This is a post celebrating Six the musical, especially the character Anne Boleyn in it, and the bee's inspiration to create Six merchandise.
1. Historical accounts of Anne Boleyn’s spectacular beauty and poise…
…are pretty much non existent, because her contemporaries who wrote about her, even her admirers, stop just short of calling her...what's the politically correct term to use these days for ugly and unattractive? Tudor historian Natalie Grueninger writes that Anne was described as having a sallow complexion as though plagued by jaundice, a projecting tooth under her upper lip, six fingers on her right hand, a big wen under her chin that she covered up using high dresses, and several other features that disagreed with the era's popular conceptions of beauty. Or so writes Nicholas Sander, an activist contemporary of Boleyn whom, Grueninger notes, we have no reason to take at face value as his account is most likely coloured by Boleyn's controversial relationship with the King; she was seen as an interloper, betraying the King's first wife Katherine of Aragorn of whom Boleyn was a maid of honour, and generally disturbing the peace by unduly tempting and distracting the King (and countless other suitors in her brief lifetime of only 30 odd years, it turns out, which casts severe doubts on Sander's accounts of her ugliness). In fact, many of Sander's details like the fact that she had six fingers have since been disproved categorically.
In the modern musical Six, of course, Boleyn is far from unattractive, so if you're worried that the bee's merch features a big ugly boil on a human face, let the bee put your worries to rest. The bee does not have the artistic talent to pull off a wen, anyway. No, Anne Boleyn is cute in the musical, was most likely cute in real life too, and is definitely quite cute in the bee's merch featuring her (stick figures are the cutest, aren't they?), so don't hesitate to gift the musical lover in your life a nice Six themed t-shirt from the Theatre Bee Store.
2. Anne Boleyn promised Henry VIII a son before they married
She was young; perhaps she thought she would conceive and give birth indefinitely until they had a son, and they had to have a son after a handful of pregnancies at most, right? In fact, she was already pregnant when she and Henry VIII got married. Now, to be sure, it was not entirely worthless to have daughters in the royal family, as girls are useful for the purpose of enticing and luring into marriage princes from exotic lands that would provide valuable strategic allies to the kingdom. But there was already Mary, Henry VIII's first daughter, so there wasn't much incremental value to having another one.
3. Henry VIII, doctors and other royals were certain that Boleyn's first child would be a boy...
...so the birth of a girl instead must have come to the King as a crushing blow and severe disappointment, as having a son was absolutely crucial for the survival of the Tudor dynasty. In fact, everyone was so sure that the baby would be a boy, that the royal family had prematurely written out announcements welcoming their new 'prince' and these announcements were hastily edited to add the two 's' letters to the end of the word. Well, repeating something to yourself a thousand times until it feels true doesn't actually make it true. Anyway, Henry VIII believed his first marriage was cursed and was close to believing that his second one was, too, which might be one of the reasons he began courting Jane Seymour.
4. Anne Boleyn was beheaded on charges that were allegedly fabricated - incest, treason, infidelity - so that Henry VIII could lawfully court and marry Jane Seymour.
And if you were worried, for whatever reason, that Henry VIII would deliver a hat trick with three cursed marriages and zero sons, let the bee reassure you that Seymour did, thankfully for Henry VIII, bear him a son. Third time's the charm. Isn't it ironic that Anne Boleyn's daughter, quite unwelcome when born, and not Henry VIII's son with Jane Seymour, would go on to be one of the most historically significant monarchs of England? Yes, Anne Boleyn was the one out of the six that gave us the Elizabeth I.
5. In Six the musical, Anne Boleyn is depicted as an empty-headed, childish and immature girl endlessly texting and taking selfies
As though historical record has not been harsh enough on this pitiable personality. The musical's depiction of the character is so, so at odds with, for example, what we can infer about her from her speech immediately before execution:
‘Good Christian people, I am come hither to die, for according to the law, and by the law I am judged to die, and therefore I will speak nothing against it. I am come hither to accuse no man, nor to speak anything of that, whereof I am accused and condemned to die, but I pray God save the king and send him long to reign over you, for a gentler nor a more merciful prince was there never: and to me he was ever a good, a gentle and sovereign lord. And if any person will meddle of my cause, I require them to judge the best. And thus I take my leave of the world and of you all, and I heartily desire you all to pray for me. O Lord have mercy on me, to God I commend my soul.’
Hanson, Marilee. Anne Boleyn’s Last Words – Speech At Her Execution, February 8, 2015
The execution took place on 19 May 1536 at 8 o’clock in the morning. It was the first public execution of an English queen. But enough of the morbid stuff. How about you celebrate this woman's great spirit with some cute souvenirs?
Say it with Six! Must-have memorabilia for musical lovers
Do you like Six? Do you like Anne Boleyn? Do you like things that are stylish? If you said, yes to any of these three questions, then this is the perfect gift for you! Show your love for Anne Boleyn, the second and most controversial wife of Henry VIII. This stylish, must-have merchandise is designed with a modern twist on the Anne Boleyn's character from the hit Broadway and West End show Six. Perfect for any fan of this international sensation.