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Oct. 7th, 2009

Anne Boleyn

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Read my review of Alison Weir's latest book "The Lady in the Tower" at www.theanneboleynfiles.com

The Lady in the Tower by Alison Weir

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Sep. 18th, 2009

Anne Boleyn

Anne Boleyn and Elizabeth I

Elizabeth's WomenI've just been listening to BBC Radio 4's "Woman's Hour" from Monday 14th September in which historian and writer of "Elizabeth's Women", Tracy Borman, discusses Elizabeth I and the influence that women, such as her mother, stepmothers and half-sister, had on the course of her life.

It is a wonderful interview and a "must-listen" for Anne Boleyn fans and Elizabeth fans alike. You can download it from iTunes - search for "Woman's Hour" in podcasts - or you can listen to it at the BBC Radio 4 Woman's Hour website - click here to go directly to the programme.

The best part of the interview for me is when Borman is discussing Anne Boleyn and what her feelings must have been while she was in labour, hoping for a boy. Part of Borman's book is read out:
"Just as Anne had hoped, this child would one day bring England to such glory and power that its name would echo down the centuries as one of the greatest monarchs that ever lived. But in the stifling confines of the birthing chamber, on that hot September day, none of this could have been predicted, for the child that Anne had borne was not the hoped for prince - it was a girl."

Borman talks of how Elizabeth's birth was Anne's downfall. After Henry had pursued her for over 6 years, spent time and energy securing a divorce from Catherine of Aragon, and even overturned the religious establishment, Anne fails him by providing him with "yet another useless girl". The irony and tragedy is that Elizabeth was anything but useless and, as Borman says, was "arguably the most successful of the Tudors". How sad that Anne never lived to see Elizabeth rule and that Henry discounted her as useless.

Tracy Borman also dispels the myth that Anne Boleyn meant nothing to Elizabeth or that she was ashamed of her mother. Starkey talks of how Elizabeth never mentioned Anne at all and Weir mentions that Elizabeth only talked of Anne twice, but Borman talks about how we have to consider Elizabeth's actions to really see the high regard and affection she held for her mother:-

  1. A high proportion of the servants in Elizabeth's household were Boleyn relatives.

  2. The locket ring she wore up to her death contained two miniatures - one of herself and one of her mother.

Although it may have been dangerous for Elizabeth to speak out about her mother, who was still considered by many to be "The Great Whore" or a traitor, her actions speak louder than words.

For Elizabeth fans, the radio interview goes on to discuss the influence that other women had on Elizabeth and it is well worth listening to.

Tracy Borman's book, "Elizabeth's Women: The Hidden Story of the Virgin Queen", is due for release in the UK on 24th September - click here to pre-order it from Amazon UK. Amazon UK will post overseas too if you don't want to wait until it is released where you are.

Here's what Amazon says about Borman's book:-
"Elizabeth I was born into a world of women. As a child, she was served by a predominantly female household of servants and governesses, with occasional visits from her mother, Anne Bolyen, and the wives who later took her place.

As Queen, Elizabeth was constantly attended by ladies of the bedchamber and maids of honor who clothed her, bathed her and watched her while she ate. Among her family, it was her female relations who had the greatest influence: from her sister Mary, who distrusted and later imprisoned her, to her cousin, Mary, Queen of Scots, who posed a constant and dangerous threat to her crown for almost thirty years. Despite the importance of women in Elizabeth's life, most historians and biographers have focused on her relationships with men. She has been portrayed as a 'man's woman' who loved to flirt with the many ambitious young men who frequented her court. Yet it is the women in her life who provide the most fascinating insight into the character of this remarkable monarch. With them she was jealous, spiteful and cruel, as well as loyal, kind and protective. She showed her frailties and her insecurities, but also her considerable shrewdness and strength. In short, she was more human than the public persona she presented to the rest of the court. It is her relationships with women that hold the key to the private Elizabeth.

In this original chronicling of the life of one of England's greatest monarchs, historian Tracy Borman explores Elizabeth's relationships with the key women in her life. Beginning with her mother and the governesses and stepmothers who cared for the young princess, including her beloved Kat Astley and the inspirational Katherine Parr, "Elizabeth's Women" sheds new light on her formative years. Elizabeth's turbulent relationships with her rivals are examined: from her sister, 'Bloody' Mary, to the sisters of Lady Jane Grey, and finally the most deadly of all her rivals, Mary, Queen of Scots who would give birth to the man Elizabeth would finally, inevitably have to recognize as heir to her throne. It is a chronicle of the servants, friends and 'flouting wenches' who brought out the best - and the worst - of Elizabeth's carefully cultivated image as Gloriana, the Virgin Queen, in the glittering world of her court."

Tell me what you think of the interview after you've listened to it. I can't wait to read the book!
Anne Boleyn

Good Queen Bess

Elizabeth ITo celebrate the launch of our new sister site The Elizabeth Files, we held an article competition where entrants had to write about why Elizabeth I interests them or why she is such an icon still today. Well, we have a winner! A panel of five judges picked Tracey Saxon's article as the winning article and Jennifer Schuh's article as second place. Tracey wins a $20 voucher and Jennifer wins a $10 voucher - congratulations!

All seven entries can be read on The Elizabeth Files, on our special Elizabeth I: An Icon page, but here is Tracey's winning article:-

Good Queen Bess

I remember the smell of her perfume as I sat perched on my Grandmother’s lap. “Always remember that we are Americans by birth but Virginians by the grace of God,” she would say as she told me stories of the Virgin Queen. Growing up in the Commonwealth of Virginia I have always felt a connection to the red-haired monarch who encouraged people to think for themselves and stayed married to her country. Her epic speeches to her people, her soldiers, her court were pieces of a complex puzzle that today I still enjoy putting together.

As a woman she transformed England into a time of wealth and prosperity; all the more impressive since by standards of the time she should never have had the chance. Her dedication to her people, her firm belief in the rights of all her subjects to worship as they saw fit, are all attributes that would still be valued in leaders today. So why am I still so fascinated by her?

I must admit that recent movies depicting her as a fragile yet unbreakable woman have done a lot to rekindle the interest in the Renaissance and the life and legacy of Queen Elizabeth. I believed, as I watched Cate Blanchett deliver the “Heart and stomach of a King” speech to the soldiers preparing to meet the Spanish Armada, that the image was perfect. I heard teenage girls talking about Elizabeth as they left the theater using words like “cool” and “boss lady” instead of Elizabeth who? As the Assistant Principal of a Middle School I did notice more and more kids commenting on the Elizabeth poster on my door featuring Blanchett and saying, “Wow! We’re (Virginia) named after HER!” Quite a wonderful thing to see modern, techno-savvy kids google-ing a monarch who died 400+ years ago. Many students are die-hard fans of “The Tudors” on Showtime as well, and I have enjoyed talking to them about the history of that time, even if I feel the series may be a tad inappropriate for them at times!

So we are Virginians, proud of this mysterious woman who lived so long ago and was honored with a piece of land in the New World where we live today; proud to be a small connection to this incredible woman. I hope that the Elizabeth Files will inspire fans young and old to continue learning of her life and legacy, Gloriana can still teach us all. God Bless Good Queen Bess!

By Tracey Saxon
Anne Boleyn

Anne Boleyn and Bloody Mary

Princess Mary

Let's get back on track today with our series on Anne Boleyn and the relationship that she had with other main Tudor personalities. I've already looked at Anne and Catherine of Aragon (see Part 1 and Part 2), and now I'm going to look at Anne's relationship with Henry's daughter by Catherine, the Lady Mary (Princess Mary as she had once been), the future Mary I or "Bloody Mary" as she is commonly known.

Now, whatever your thoughts on "The Tudors", you have to admit that this TV production has done a very good job at portraying Mary in a more sympathetic light. If you ask the general public about Mary - go on, get on the streets and ask - those people who have actually heard of her just know her as the English queen who executed loads of Protestants, as "Bloody Mary", a bitter and twisted woman. But, the Mary of "The Tudors" is so different to that stereotypical view of her and we gain a new understanding of her personality.

I know "The Tudors" is not real and there are many many inaccuracies but I think it helps us to understand what turned Mary from a young girl with hopes and dreams of romance to the harsh, bitter zealot that she became.

Mary had so much to cope with, including:-

  • Her parents' marriage breaking down

  • Being made illegitimate and being stripped of the title of "princess"

  • Having a rather questionable future

  • Having a new and unsympathetic stepmother who obviously resented and disliked her

  • Hearing her mother's views of Anne Boleyn

  • Being banned from seeing her mother

  • Coping with a new stepsister who takes her place in her father's affections and who usurps her place as princess and heir

  • Being ordered to join Princess Elizabeth's household

  • Having to deny her faith and being threatened by her father into accepting that he was the Supreme Head of the Church of England and that her parents' marriage was "incestuous and unlawful"

And those were just the issues she had to contend with as a result of Henry's relationship with Anne Boleyn! Mary suffered much more later.

No wonder Mary resented "the concubine" Anne Boleyn - wouldn't you?

But what was their relationship like and did they really hate each other?

Anne Boleyn


If we are to believe Eustace Chapuys, the Imperial Ambassador, Anne Boleyn planned to poison Mary to get rid of the girl who was so popular and intelligent and who was such a focus for those who disliked the woman who had usurped Catherine's rightful place as Queen.

But, we cannot rely on Chapuys because of his hatred for Anne, a woman he never referred to by name but by the name "concubine" instead. There is no evidence that Anne tried to poison either Mary or Catherine, although it is said that she mentioned to her brother George that she would consider putting Mary to death if the King ever left her as Regent while he was away in France!

We know from evidence that Anne often ranted about Mary and threatened to curb "her proud Spanish blood", but Anne was a quick-tempered woman who felt backed into a corner and was just lashing out. Imagine Anne's position: she is Queen of England but there is still a woman who declares herself to be the "true queen", and who is still embroidering her servants' liveries with "H&K". This woman's daughter is refusing to acknowledge Anne as the new queen, was once the legitimate heir to the throne, is a pretty and popular princess, and could be a real threat to Princess Elizabeth. Wouldn't you be paranoid and defensive? I think Eric Ives is right when he says that any rantings and ravings from Anne were borne out of self-defence, rather than any malevolence.

There is evidence that Anne did try and forge a relationship with the defiant Mary. On one occasion in 1534, she visited Elizabeth's household by herself and asked to see Mary. Anne offered to welcome Mary back at court and to help reconcile her with her father if Mary would accept her as queen. Mary's impudent reply was that she knew of no queen apart from her mother but that she was pleased if the king's mistress wanted to intercede on her behalf! How Anne must have wanted to slap her face! Anne id in fact try to reason with her, but to no avail.

At another time, according to "legend", Anne and Mary were both in Eltham Palace chapel at the same time. According to the story, an attendant told Anne that Mary had acknowledged the Queen before leaving the chapel and Anne, embarrassed at not noticing and pleased that Mary acknowledged her, sent a message to Mary apologising for not noticing and saying that she desired this to be the start "of friendly correspondence". Mary swiftly replied that she had knot acknowledged Anne and that the queen could not have sent her this message because it was from Lady Anne Boleyn, not Catherine! A spirited reply!

Anne tried again when when Catherine was dying. She asked Lady Shelton to tell Mary that the queen desired to be kind to Mary and when Catherine died Anne sent a further message saying that if Mary would obey the King she would find a second mother in Anne. Again, Mary did not take kindly to this and replied that she would obey her father only as far as her conscience would allow. I don't think we can blame Anne for giving up at this point!

Mary I


As I have already said, you cannot blame Mary for resenting her stepmother and sticking up for her mother. She was only 17 when Henry married Anne and it must have hurt her deeply. We can only imagine what she heard about Anne from her mother and it must have seemed that her mother's cruel treatment and her own abasement were down to Anne. Mary had gone from being the apple of her father's eye to being deliberately ignored and slighted, in favour of her stepmother and stepmother. How Anne must have fit the role of "wicked stepmother" from Cinderella in Mary's eyes!

Eric Ives writes of how Mary rejoiced in Anne's inability to produce a son and did not hide her resentment of the Queen and I wonder how much Catherine was involved in turning Mary against Anne. Mary did seem to blame Anne alone, rather than her father, and Linda Porter wonders if Catherine absolved her husband from blame and heaped all of it on Anne. This may explain why an impressionable Mary sought to keep her father's affection while refusing to accept his new wife and she must have blamed Anne for Henry's pressure on her to "conform" and his punishments when she didn't. Perhaps she believed that Anne had bewitched her beloved father and that he was not to blame.

It is sad that these two women could not get past their difference and build a relationship. Linda Porter writes of how much the two of them had in common and how "in other circumstances, Mary and Anne might have respected each other and even been companions", after all, they both loved fashion, music and dancing, and were both highly educated. But, I'm not sure that either of these women was to blame for the resentment and bad feeling that existed between them. Only one person was to blame and that was Henry. The fact that he continued to abase Mary and treat her cruelly after Anne was dead and gone testifies to this.

Henry VIII

Henry VIII put an intolerable pressure on his teenage daughter. He saw her as a defiant and obstinate child who needed to be disciplined and broken. How any loving parent can treat a child in the way that Henry treated Mary, I just cannot begin to understand. Ives talks of how Henry's treatment scarred Mary for life and Porter talks of the ill health that Mary suffered due to her circumstances. She even felt that her life was in peril at one point when Henry sent a deputation to try and persuade her to sign the articles accepting her father as Supreme Head of the Church and her parents' marriage as unlawful. The Earl of Essex threatened her, saying that:
"since she was such an unnatural daughter as to disobey completely the king's injunctions, he could hardly believe she was the king's own bastard daughter. Were she his or any other man's daughter, he would beat her to death, or strike her head against the wall until he made it as soft as boiled apple."

However much Mary blamed Anne for everything, she surely must have seen that her father was culpable after he carried on treating her this way and also playing with her feelings by continually setting up marriages for her and then changing his mind. Only one person is accountable for the broken woman that became Mary I of England, and that is Henry VIII.

What do you think about these two women and the King who linked them? Is Anne to blame for how Mary turned out? Is Henry to blame?


Friday Fun

Check out the BBC History Magazine Friday Quiz at http://www.bbchistorymagazine.com/quiz/history-quiz-4.
Anne Boleyn

CatherineParr - The One Who Got Away

Catherine Parr

On this day in history, on 5th September 1548, Dowager Queen Catherine (Catherine/Katherine Parr) died of puerperal fever just a few days after giving birth to her daughter Mary Seymour.

She will always be known as the queen who got away, the one who outlived the tyrannical King Henry VIII who had divorced two if his wives and beheaded another two.

But there is more to this often neglected Queen Consort's story than that - here is a brief bio of Catherine Parr.

Catherine Parr's Life

Catherine Parr was born in 1512 as the eldest daughter of Sir Thomas Parr, a descendant of Edward III. Her mother, Maud Green, had been a lady-in-waiting to Henry's first wife, Catherine of Aragon, and so named her daughter after her beloved queen - how ironic!

Catherine's father died when she was five years old and so her education was left to her mother, who educated Catherine to a high standard. Catherine was known for her love of learning and for her fluency in languages such as Latin, French and Italian.

Catherine is famous for being the most married English queen because she was married four times. Her first marriage to Edward Borough, 2nd Baron of Gainsborough, took place when she was 17 but was short-lived because Thomas died in 1532. Catherine married her second husband, John Neville 3rd Baron Latymer of Snape, North Yorkshire, in the summer of 1534. During this marriage, Catherine and her stepchildren by Neville were held hostage by the rebels involved in the Pilgrimage of Grace while the rebels forced her husband to join their side. Neville managed to get his wife and children freed and also managed to escape getting caught up with the rebellion and its repercussions. He died in March 1543.

In 1543, although Catherine had been widowed twice, she was only 31 and was an attractive lady. She soon caught the eye of Thomas Seymour, brother of Jane Seymour who had died in 1537. Catherine was very taken with Thomas but unfortunately Thomas could not compete with the King, who had also noticed Catherine at court. On July 12th 1543, Catherine Parr became the sixth and final wife of King Henry VIII in a small ceremony at Hampton Court Palace, after a mourning period for Catherine's second husband.

Catherine Parr: Henry VIII's Last Love

Catherine Parr as Queen

Catherine was an attractive and intelligent woman, who combined the intelligence and wit of Anne Boleyn with the prudence and diplomacy of Catherine of Aragon. She was what Henry needed after the heartbreak of the Catherine Howard marriage.

Catherine is known for reuniting Henry's children with their father and bringing them back to court. Mary was won over by the fact that Catherine's mother had been a good friend to her own mother, Catherine of Aragon, Edward was young enough not to remember his own mother and to see Catherine as his mother, and even the precocious Elizabeth was won over by Catherine's warmth and intelligence, and this relationship would be a deep one which lasted until Catherine's death. This reunification of the family was not just good for the children, it also presented a united front against Henry's opponents.

The belief that Catherine Parr was a glorified nursemaid to the ageing and ill King is a myth. Catherine was an intelligent woman who was an accomplished author ("Prayers Stirring the Mind unto Heavenly Meditations" published in 1545) and Henry even trusted her to act as Regent while he was in France in 1544. She was also a patron of the arts.

Her achievements as Queen included bringing the royal family back together and influencing Henry to pass an act giving his daughters the right of succession to the throne. Catherine's influence over Henry was resented by some at court and there was a conspiracy to remove her from "power". In 1546, the conservative faction, including Stephen Gardiner and Thomas Wriothesley, used Catherine's reformist beliefs against her and managed to persuade the King, who had just had an argument with Catherine over religion, to order her arrest. An arrest warrant was drawn up and it was even said that Henry would replace her with Catherine Willoughby, the Duchess of Suffolk and Catherine's best friend. However, the quick-thinking Catherine Parr managed to save her head by pleading with Henry and persuading him that she had only argued with him in an attempt to help him forget about the pain caused by his leg ulcer and to learn from him. Henry forgave her.

Another Marriage

In January 1547, King Henry VIII died and Catherine caused a scandal by marrying former love, Thomas Seymour, just months after the King's death. Catherine became guardian to Princess Elizabeth and Lady Jane Grey was a ward of Thomas, so both girls lived with them. After a scandal involving an alleged sexual relationship between Thomas Seymour and Princess Elizabeth ( he would stroke her buttocks and tickle her!), Elizabeth was sent away from the family home.

On August 30th 1548, Catherine Parr gave birth to her first child, a daughter Mary, at Sudeley Castle in Gloucestershire. She finally had a child of her own but just a few days later, like Jane Seymour, she died of puerperal fever (childbed fever). Catherine was buried at Sudeley Castle, where she still rests today. Her husband, Thomas Seymour, was executed for treason a year later and her daughter was taken by Catherine Willoughby, Duchess of Suffolk. Mary Seymour is believed to have died in early childhood as there are no records about her after the age of 2.

If you're interested in learning more about Catherine Parr, Susan James has written a book devoted to her alone. Click on the book cover above to find out more about the US version or click here to see details of the UK version.

P.S. Some sources have Catherine Parr's death as the 5th September and some as 7th September!

Sep. 1st, 2009

Anne Boleyn

(no subject)

Latest Tudor Book Review - Get the truth behind "The White Queen".

Richard III and the Murder in the Tower by Peter A Hancock

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Aug. 31st, 2009

Anne Boleyn

(no subject)

Fancy winning a $20 voucher? Enter this Elizabeth I competition!

Elizabeth I Competition!

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Aug. 29th, 2009

Anne Boleyn

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Just to say that we've reduced some of our prices - yay!

Price Reductions and Skin-Friendly Options

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Aug. 27th, 2009

Anne Boleyn

"The Tudors" - Is it Really So Bad?

The Tudors
Here's the blog post that I've just written on The Anne Boleyn Files:-

It's interesting the reaction you get from people when you mention the hit TV series "The Tudors". In fact, in my experience there are three main reactions:-

  1. A lighting up of the eyes and excitement - These are the people who rave about how wonderful Jonathan Rhys Meyers is, what a great Anne Boleyn Natalie Dormer was, how sexy Henry Cavill is... etc. etc. and how wonderful the program is at portraying the Tudor period warts and all.

  2. Shock and horror - People who believe that "The Tudors" is pretty much a swear word - David Starkey publicly lambasted the series for its "ignorance of facts" and said: "I've got no problem with getting history wrong for a purpose - Shakespeare often got things wrong for a reason. But it's the randomised, arrogance of ignorance of The Tudors. Shame on the BBC for producing it."
    He's not the only one who feels this way. In many circles, if you mention that you watch "The Tudors" then that's pretty much saying that you are not serious about history and you may even get thrown off forums and discussion boards - a bit like mentioning "Philippa Gregory" - oops, I mentioned her!!

  3. A balanced appreciation - There are those (like me!) who love "The Tudors" for what it is - entertainment! I love its richness and vibrancy, the way it brings the characters to life, the way it portrays life at the Tudor Court and the way it makes it so real. Yes, it is littered with inaccuracies, but as Anne Boleyn Files visitor Gemma pointed out, it also has many accuracies. Gemma pointed out about the episode where Henry falls in the river and gets his head stuck in the mud - an event that really happened but that not many people knew about previously.

The reason I'm blogging about "The Tudors" today is partly because many people commented on how I mentioned it in yesterday's post, but also because Tudor historian Dr Tracy Borman has written an article for "The Radio Times" (copied in the BBC History Magazine) defending the series. Wow, an historian saying she likes it!!

In her article, "The Truth Behind "The Tudors"", Borman writes:
"Having been determined to loathe the hugely popular BBC series, with its unfeasibly beautiful actors, dodgy costumes and improbable storylines, I found myself becoming strangely addicted...I grew to appreciate The Tudors for its merits as an historical drama. Yes, the scriptwriters may have taken liberties with the facts, but they have also succeeded in recreating the drama and atmosphere of Henry VIII’s court, with its intrigues, scandals and betrayals. And if Jonathan Rhys-Meyers bears little resemblance to the red-headed, bloated image of Henry that we know so well from contemporary portraits, then he does at least evoke the dangerously seductive charisma and magisterial arrogance that kept a court in thrall for almost forty years."

Borman also makes the point that I have often made about how the series has had a positive effect in that it is stimulating people's interest in the Tudor period. She writes of how Hampton Court Palace has seen a surge in visitor numbers and how the show even has its own wiki site. People are crying out for information on the era and the characters and, as owner of a Tudor history website, I can testify to this! I even have a friend who rings me after she's watched "The Tudors" (she calls me her Historical Oracle!) to ask if events really did happen.

Borman goes on to say:
"In my view, this is all to the good. Television dramas, films and novels offer a way in to history and can inspire an abiding passion for the subject. Provided that they encourage people to find out what ‘really’ happened, rather than being treated as reliable historical sources in their own right, then they can and should be respected as a force to be reckoned with in the world of history."

I wholeheartedly agree with her. I'm sure that if we looked at the sales figures for Tudor history books and the number of Google searches done on "Tudor", "Henry VIII" etc., we would see a significant rise as people want to know what really happened. Also, is it any coincidence that so many Tudor history books are being published at the moment?

Another criticism of "The Tudors" is that it's a bit like a soap opera, but then what else would you call Henry VIII's life? I'm showing my age now but Henry is a lot more interesting than JR Ewing!

So, is "The Tudors really so bad?

I can't criticise "The Tudors", I think I would be two-faced if I did, because there are some of you out there who have set out on your mission to find out about Anne Boleyn because "The Tudors" piqued your interest and you found this site! If "The Tudors" helps to get people interested in Anne, if it helps me to spread the message about her and share the truth then long live "The Tudors"!

You can read Dr Tracy Borman's article and her examination of Season 3 Episode 1, and the historical facts behind it, on the BBC History Magazine website. Her new book "Elizabeth's Women: The Hidden Story of the Virgin Queen" is due to be published on the 24th September.

Aug. 26th, 2009

Anne Boleyn

(no subject)

Read my blog to see who I think was responsible for the cruelty that Catherine of Aragon suffered.

Anne Boleyn and Catherine of Aragon - Part 2

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