Monday, January 17, 2011

Alison Weir & Tracy Borman

I recently found two book reviews or just my thoughts really on two novels that were published in the UK in 2009 and in the US in 2010 so I'm sharing my ideas with you!


I am an avid fan of Alison Weir's historical biographies and being such an admirer of Anne Boleyn, simply could not wait to read Alison Weir's latest novel. I was not disappointed.

The first question I asked myself was What new information could there possibly be?
Hasn't every other historian and fictional author of historical biographies said everything that could be said about the second wife of Henry VIII? Apparently not!

Alison Weir's novel entitled, 'The Lady in The Tower THE FALL OF ANNE BOLEYN' covers January - May 1536. 1536 is remembered as the year that Anne Boleyn was executed; the first queen of england to be put to death. Although, not the first woman to be executed on the grounds of the Tower of London.

There has been much question and discussion in U.K. newspapers and on websites as to the one source used to support 'her new evidence' put forth in this novel i.e. The Spanish Chronicle(The Chronicle of King Henry VIII of England) written by Sir John Spelman: The Reports of Sir John Spelman (B.L. Hargrave MS 388, ff. I44V,I85-I87V; 2 vols., ed J.H. Baker, Seldon Society, London, 1976-1977).

This is where I differ from the norm and I get passionate when it comes to British History of the Tudor Period and Anne Boleyn. I have said it before and I will repeat it again and again...Alison Weir provides a seven page bibliography front and back of her numerous sources as well as a 20 page Notes and Reference section covering all sixteen chapters and The Appendix of her novel. Is it such a surprise that The Spanish Chronicle is sourced so often or is it just not enough of a valid source I'd like to know what my readers think?

What I loved about this book is that Alison Weir's painstaken research has provided me with some newly enjoyable facts about Anne Boleyn and her daughter Elizabeth I:

For example, in Chapter 3, Page 47 (UK Edition), Source: LP(Letters and Papers Foreign and Domestic, of the Reign of Henry VIII) and Chronicle of Henry VIII.
"Anne was perhaps also occupying herself with her charitable works,as well as with dressing up her daughter. Between 19 February and 28 April, she spent lavishly on garments for the two-year old Elizabeth, whom she loved intensely (Chronicle of Henry VIII). Her purchases included purple, white and crimson satin caps with cauls of gold; crimson satin and fringe for the Princess's cradle head; 'fine peces of needle ribbon to roll her Grace's hair'; and a fringe of gold and silver 'for the little bed'(LP Letter and Papers Foreign and Domestic, of the Reign of Henry VIII).
For example, in Chapter 4, page 93 (UK Edition), Source: Gristwood, Sarah: Elizabeth and Leicester(London, 2007).
"That Anne already feared something ill might befall her, and had realised that Elizabeth would be left in a very vulnerable position, is clear from her seeking out, on or soon after Wednesday, 26 April her chaplain of two years, Matthew Parker.
Anne charged Parker with the care of Elizabeth, should anything happen to her. She did not reveal what it was she feared, but it is likely to have been that, in the event of her marriage being annulled, she might be forbidden to see her child, or Elizabeth might be bastardised. She can have had little premonition of what would befall her. Her plea made a profound impression on the chaplain. Years later, when Elizabeth was queen and he had become her first archbishop of Canterbury, he would dedicate himself to her service and tell her secretary William Cecil that 'he would fain serve his sovereign lady in more respects than his allegiance, since he cannot forget what words her Grace's mother said to him not six days before her apprehension'. Unfortunately for prosterity, he did not say what those words were".

In summary, Alison Weir's novel The Lady in The Tower THE FALL OF ANNE BOLEYN is a page turner covering one of the most important and lesser documented periods in British History written with new insights into Anne Boleyn, and the people around her, that if you love history and admire strong women, you will enjoy this trip back into sixteenth century England!


'Elizabeth's Women' is my introduction to author Tracy Borman. She has studied and taught history at the University of Hull where she was awarded a PhD in history.
Her writing style is studious, descriptive, and thorough in nature. Her love of history and affection towards the mother daughter relationship of Anne Boleyn and Elizabeth is palpable with the turn of every page. For example, Chapter 2 opens with the telling of how Anne could not bear to be separated from her newborn daughter so much so that upon returning to court Anne gently placed the newborn on a velvet cushion next to her throne under what's called 'the canopy of estate'. This was highly unusual and defied convention since the custom was for the infant to be kept in the royal nursery. Moreover, as the custom dictated, Henry VIII, King of England had three month old Elizabeth relocated to Hatfield Estate twenty miles outside of London to be raised by wetnurses, governess, a full royal staff. The separation devastated Anne but she made sure that her daughter's royal staff consisted of relatives from her side of the family, The Boleyn's in hopes that Elizabeth would always be reminded of her mother's side of the family as well as the ruling Tudor Dynasty.

Reading this novel was a completely refreshing experience because the novel opens with such tender and realistic descriptions of a mother and a daughter not simply the doomed Anne Boleyn and the orphaned, bastard Elizabeth I.
When it came time to read this novel, I approached it with an open mind but much reservation hoping I would not find another chronological, fact driven, historical documented quoted novel. I can say I have not found that to be the case with 'Elizabeth's Women The Hidden Story of The Virgin Queen'.

The title makes reference to the women that surrounded the life and rule of Elizabeth I from her mother Queen Anne Boleyn to Catherine 'Kat' Ashley Elizabeth's governess to Blanche Parry to her sister Mary Tudor and her cousin Mary Queen of Scots to name but a few.

What Tracy Borman does rather successfully is humanize the woman Elizabeth Tudor through exploration into her childhood by painstakingly providing the rare documented day to day life of the women who comprised Elizabeth I's privy chamber.
These were the women who not only were related to Elizabeth's mother, whom she never forgot, but who provided safety and much needed security for Elizabeth during her reign and life as Queen of England.

I have found a new favorite historian and author who has the guts to humanize one of the most misunderstood royal women of all time. I highly recommend this novel to anyone who is interested in looking behind, underneath, and inside a woman, not just a queen depicted in a royal painting hanging for centuries in a London museum.

I would like to close this review with a few stories that I found fascinating.
1) The story of the coronation of Elizabeth I is well known amongst history lovers I'm sure. However, I never realized that Elizabeth I insisted that every aspect of her mother Anne Boleyn's coronation be copied from the dress to the scepter she held to the falcon emblem representing the Boleyn's even the style of Elizabeth's hair being worn long and down her back. Elizabeth I studied and read the documentation concerning her mother's life. She was always involved and aware of keeping her mother's memory alive within her by maintaining symbolizism since Elizabeth I did not tolerate hearing or speaking about her mother amongst her privy council.

2) In the year of Elizabeth I's death, 1603, at the age of seventy years old, as her health was quickly diminishing, it was reported by her ladies of the bedchamber that she was seeing visions of flames around her and one lady of the bedchamber told the story of how she left the room while Elizabeth I was on her death bed and upon her return encountered a woman bending over Elizabeth's bed that vanished as the lady got closer to her.

Thank you for stopping by. Please feel free to leave any questions or comments.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

good work....captured my attention and interest. gigigirl

Kimberly Eve said...

Thank You gigigirl for your lovely words and for stopping by!

Marie said...

I read adn reviewed both of these works and found them each to be insightful and enlightening. Both are on my favorites list, & provide excellent reading for those looking for some of the characteristics and flaws of the two women.

Kimberly Eve said...

Hi Marie,
Welcome to my little blog!
I couldn't agree with you more.
For anyone interested, you MUST check out Marie's blog, http://burtonreview.blogspot.com/

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