Friday, January 28, 2011

The Death of King Henry VIII

King Henry VIII died on 28 January 1547. Henry VIII was buried in St George's Chapel in Windsor Castle, next to his third wife Jane Seymour, the mother of his son and heir Edward VI. He was 56 years of age when he died, not a bad age to reach during the Tudor period. So did he die of old age, was there a specific illness or was the cause of death syphilis? To ascertain the cause of the death of Henry VIII it is perhaps a good idea to look at any health issues or illnesses that he had suffered during his life.

The most famous doctors who attended Henry VIII were George Owen, M.D, Doctor Augustine and Doctor Butts. During his lifetime King Henry VIII suffered from the following health issues and illnesses:

In 1513 at the age of 22 he suffered from a bout of smallpox

In 1524 at the age of 33 he suffered the first of recurring attacks of malaria

In 1535 at the age of 44 King Henry VIII badly injured his leg in a jousting accident.

Although the leg first appeared to have healed it reopened a few years later and became ulcerated. He was unable to take exercise and his weight heavily increased

His height was six foot four inches

His early armour showed a waist measurement of waist of about 34 to 36 inches indicating a weight of about 180 to 200 pounds

His last set of armour showed a waist measurement of waist of about 58 to 60 inches indicating a weight of about 300 to 320 pounds

Eventually, both of his legs and feet became affected with ulcers

His increase in weight could also have been due to diabetes

He then suffered from insomnia, sore throats and migraine headaches

He suffered with some mental decline in later life exhibiting some paranoia, feelings of depression and loneliness and a terrible temper

He suffered from a series of strokes prior to his death possibly indicating circulatory problems and high blood pressure

His toes became gangrenous as ulcerations worsened and advanced

Will Death And Succession
On 26 December 1546 Henry summoned a small group of confidants. They included Edward Seymour, Earl of Hertford, Prince Edward's uncle; John Dudley, Viscount Lisle; Sir William Paget, Henry's Principal Secretary; and Sir Anthony Denny, chief gentleman of his Privy Chamber. The King told Denny to produce his will and after hearing it read, ordered Paget to make certain changes.
Among them was the exclusion of Stephen Gardiner, Bishop of Winchester, one of Henry's ablest servants, from the list of executors of his will. Those present allegedly asked Henry to restore Gardiner, but he steadfastly refused, saying that Gardiner was of such a troublesome nature that his fellow executors would be unable to control him if he were included.
On 30 December, the fair copy of Henry's amended will was signed with the dry stamp of the King's signature, which he was presumably now too weak to write himself, sealed with the signet and witnessed. Henry handed it to Seymour.

Henry was seriously ill early in January 1547. He received foreign ambassadors for the last time on 16 January. His condition deteriorated soon afterwards. In the evening of 27 January Sir Anthony Denny warned him to prepare for death. After a short sleep, Henry sent for Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury. By the time Cranmer arrived from Croydon, Henry was speechless. The Archbishop told Henry to give him a token of his trust in God, and Henry gripped Cranmer's hand hard. He died before two o'clock in the morning of 28 January 1547.

The Lord Chancellor announced the news in Parliament three days later. Henry's funeral procession set out from London on 14 February and arrived at Windsor the following day. The funeral mass, celebrated by Stephen Gardiner, and the King's burial alongside Jane Seymour in St. George's Chapel took place on 16 February. The nine year old King Edward's record of his father's death in his journal and the conventional letters of condolence he wrote to his two sisters tell us nothing of his personal feelings.

The succession of Henry's devoutly Catholic daughter Mary on Edward's early death in 1553 and her restoration of papal supremacy underlined the vulnerability of the Edwardian and Henrician religious changes. After Henry's second daughter Elizabeth came to the throne in November 1558 and broke with Rome once more in 1559, it was clear that the famous successes of her long reign certainly owed much to her father's achievements in government, but set England on a very different course from the one he had followed. (Doran, Starkey, P. 257-259).

SOURCE: Man & Monarch Henry VIII, Catalogue edited by Susan Doran, Exhibition guest curated by David Starkey, British Library.

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

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Secret Marriage of Henry VIII & Anne Boleyn

25 January 1533 is one of the dates of a secret marriage between Henry VIII & Anne Boleyn.
There is not much historical record or documentation clarifying the exact date or providing much information at all. Instead of doing a blog post with said information I am doing the following:

In honor of the wedding anniversary of Henry VIII & Anne Boleyn, I am sharing a brief historical part of a chapter I've written in my upcoming novel. I am writing a Tudor themed time slip novel. Here is how I imagine Henry and Anne to be i.e. a young, newly married, much in love, couple who happen to be King and Queen of England.

Anne waited for her husband in her bedchamber all the while wondering just what the devil he was up to this time! He had been in a rather jovial mood all morning and hardly slept a wink all night. Anne blushed thinking of her and Henry coupling last night and as thoughts of Henry’s well toned, muscled, naked body ran through her mind, the heavy oak door swung open frightening Anne as she turned sternly about the room ready to chastise whomever dare disturb her.
“Oh, hello husband. You did frighten me so. Where have you been? You know I hate being away from you!” Anne cooed to Henry. Henry made his way towards her leading a procession of about six men behind him. His privy council no doubt. “My word whatever is that Henry? Oh, Henry tapestries” Anne could not abide surprises unless it was jewelry.
“Now, Anne, hold your tongue until you see what I have for you” Henry walked over to his newly married wife holding he elbows and gently moving her to the corner of the room making way for his staff.
“Now men, I want you to put this tapestry up on that wall away from the sunlight but facing my bed” Henry instructed. “Yes, your majesty” answered the king’s staff.
Henry walked over to Anne and stood next to her as they both watched the tapestry being slid across an oak bar and hoisted up on to the main wall and fastened upon heavy metal hooks. The workmen turned to the king awaiting his next instruction.
Henry’s arms crossed in front of him against his chest walking in front of the tapestry looking at it from every angle as the sunlight illuminated his flaming ginger hair his blue eyes sparkling his 6’3 lanky frame towering over every person in the room. Henry smiled nodded yes to the men giving his approval and waving his hand motioning them out of the room. The heavy solid oak chamber door thundering closed behind them leaving Henry and Anne in the room standing in front of a tapestry.
“My darling Anne whom I love more than the sun in the sky and the stars in the heavens, I have commissioned two tapestries be made for you as a wedding present commemorating our abiding love. Do you like it?” Henry asked Anne. Anne completely surprised stood stock still next to Henry and could not utter a word she just shook her head in a no direction both hands covering her mouth and when Henry looked closer at her he noticed there were tears streaming uncontrollably down her face. He waited for her to spteak. He waited several minutes until finally Anne said, “My sweet husband, I do not know what to say; that you would do this for me, nobody has ever expressed such devotion for me. You have finally done it Henry, I am at a loss for words, I am truly gobsmacked” Henry smiling, beaming actually, hugged his wife tightly rubbing her back and loosening her tight bun and watching her long wavy black hair fall out cascading down her shoulders as she tried tieing it back up but Henry stopped her, “Anne, no leave your hair out, leave it down for me darling. You are so beautiful”.
“Henry it is the middle of the day, it is unheard of, what if the privy council enter the room or my ladies, what will people think? No, No, I cannot” Anne lifted her arms behind her head but Henry still smiling gently bringing down by her sides, rubbing her upper arms tenderly reminding her, “Darling we can do as we like, we are the King and Queen of England remember?” they both broke out in laughter Anne agreeing with her husband saying, “You are right Henry, who cares what people think. Now, please tell me what this tapestry means? What exactly does it represent?”
“I’m so glad you asked” Henry explained that the tapestry was entitled, “The Unicorn Defends Himself” and you can see Anne that in the tapestry there is a hunting scene in a forest near a garden and the unicorn is being hunted by a nobleman because it is the rarest and most beautiful creature he has ever seen. The unicorn as you know represents innocence and purity of heart. You’ll notice Anne that the hunter is holding a sword and the inscription on the sword reads, Ave Regina Coelurna which in English means; Anne interrupts Henry giving him the English translation of ‘hail queen of the heavens’. Yes, my darling, Henry impressed by his wife’s intelligence proudly answers of course.
“So, Henry, you have had a tapestry commissioned for our wedding depicting a hunting scene where you are the hunter and I am the hunted, the noblest of prizes, the rare and beautiful unicorn, me right?” Anne stood there in front of the tapestry her face no longer tear stained in disbelief because she could not get over how beautiful the tapestry was and it was completely Henry’s taste. It is exactly what he would do she thought to herself and started laughing outloud actually doubling over with laughter. All the while Henry was not sure what to make of his wife’s reaction.
“Anne, have you gone mad? Don’t you like it? Love, are you mocking me? I thought you would appreciate the gesture, the symbolism of our love. I see I was wrong” Henry stood there in shock and disbelief turning his back to his wife.
Anne her stomach aching from laughter, quickly composed herself when she realized that Henry had misunderstood her reaction and was genuinely hurt. She rushed over to Henry walking in front of him grabbing his face in her hands saying, “my darling husband, don’t you see how much I love you and this beautiful tapestry. My henry, I only laughed because the shock of such a grand gesture surprised me so, no one has ever done this for me besides look at it Henry, it is you! Tis a bloody hunting scene husband, you in command giving chase in search of beauty and purity. My darling you have me, always and forever, fear nothing ever separating us ever. I am yours utterly and proudly. I love you ever so much” Anne let go of her husband’s face as he picked her up in his arms swinging her about the room until they both got dizzy.
“Anne, that’s wonderful. Follow me. He took her hand opening the door to Anne’s bedroom chamber, calling for his men to bring in the next tapestry. The one for Queen Anne. Bring it hee now!”.
“Husband, what have you done now? What are we doing in here? Don’t tell me I have one of my own as well. Oh Henry, how I love you”. Just then, six workmen came in placing another tapestry on the wall adjacent to Anne’s bed hidden away from the sunlight as well.
Anne surpressing her laughter not wanting to cause offense stood next to Henry observing the tapestry. There against the wall was another unicorn tapestry. This one easy to depict its meaning. A lone unicorn sitting in a lush green grden looking rather content and relaxed even though there is a fence surrounding it fencing it in. The Unicorn Is Captured.
“So what do you think?” Henry asked his wife.
“I love it Henry, I really do. Thank you my darling. Every time I look at it I will know how much you love me. Henry, I have some news to tell you. I’ve been waiting for the right time and I only just had it confirmed this morning and well these tapestries caught me off guard” Anne stood there looking at Henry.
“Anne tell me what is it? I know you haven’t been feeling well. You’re not going to faint again? I will fetch the physician if you need” Henry was nervous talking quicly when Anne stopped him and said, “No darling, I am with child that is all. Thought you would want to know”. Anne said.
Henry knelt down kissing her still flattened stomach softly over her embroidered dress standing up taking her in his arms kissing her passionately holding her close to him.
“Careful Henry or you will crush the baby” Anne chided him. Henry stepped back nervously.
“Do not worry love, I am a lot stronger than that. I feel fine really. Are you happy Henry, truly happy then? Anne asked already knowing the answer still needing reassurance. Henry called his men back into the room announcing Anne’s pregnancy and ordering another tapestry to be commissioned.
“I want you to go back to the Netherlands with my specific orders for another tapestry depicting the birth of our son. Keep the unicorn garden theme I will leave the depiction up to the weaver but I want initials added to the tapestry forming a cross and the initials shall be A representing Anne and E for our soon to be son Edward. The A and E shall be entwined together as in a vine. Wrap it accordingly. When it is ready upon my approval it shall hang in the nursery” Henry explained ordering his men out of the room

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

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.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Elizabeth I Coronation 15 January 1559

Why was the date of 15 January 1559 chosen as the coronation date?
One of Elizabeth's first appointments as Queen was to assign the radical Protestant Robert Dudley to be chief organiser of her coronation. Dudley immediately called upon the assistance of astrologer John Dee. Choosing the date of the coronation was extremely important. England could not afford another difficult reign like the last two. Elizabeth's right to the ascension of the throne was challenged for a number of reasons. Not only was she officially still illegitimate, she was also considered a heretic. A woman ascending the throne was seen as going against the political and cosmic order, as had been proved by Mary's less than successful reign. It was important to find a time that would forgo the disaster that had been foretold. Dee wrote a long and detailed analysis of the astrological augurs for her reign and after much consideration of her natal chart and the current influences, he chose 12pm on the 15th January 1559 for the commencement of celebrations. Details of this election are now lost but history has shown that it was a fortuitous time.[John Frawley, The Real Astrologer, Apprentice Books, UK. 2000, pp.109-111 for an interesting discussion on John Dee's coronation chart).

Coronation Procession
Mary I was buried on 14 December 1558 after a deliberately long delay, which allowed Elizabeth to ease herself into her new role. The date choosen for Elizabeth' s coronation was 15 January 1559, and the festivities kicked off on 14 January with a coronation procession through London. The day long spectacle saw the Queen taken through the crowd-lined streets carried on a golden litter. The procession was punctuated with a series of five pageants staged by various London bodies in honour of the new queen.

The first pageant laid out Elizabeth's genealogy, stressing her 'Englishness', and her descent from Henry VII and Elizabeth of York, whose marriage had put an end to years of civil war. The pageant made clear the implication that the granddaughter of those who ended the War of Roses would herself reunify England and bring peace to it. The second pageant showed Elizabeth's government characterized by the four virtues of True Religion, Love of Subjects, Wisdom and Justice trampling their opposite vices, including Superstition and Ignorance. During the third pageant the Lord Mayor presented Elizabeth with a gift of gold, symbolically demonstrating the interdependence of the City and the Crown.

In the fourth pageant, a decaying commonwealth (Mary's) was contrasted with a thriving one (Elizabeth's). It featured the figure of Truth, who was carrying a Bible written in English and entitled the Word of Truth. Truth presented the Bible to the Queen, who kissed it and laid it on her breast to the cheers of the crowd. The task ahead of her was presented in the final pageant, with Elizabeth portrayed as Deborah, the Old Testament prophet, who rescued the House of Israel and then went on to rule for 40 years.

For her part, Elizabeth committed herself wholly to the Lord Mayor and the people of London during the day's activities, pledging:

And whereas your request is that I should continue your good lady and be Queen, be ye ensured that I will be as good unto you as ever Queen was unto her people. No will in me can lack, neither do I trust shall there lack any power. And persuade yourselves that for the safety and quietness of you all I will not spare if need be to spend my blood. God thank you all.

Elizabeth excelled in the starring role in such spectacles, managing gracefully to combine the dignity and grandeur of her position with a common touch that allowed the public to warm to her. The procession was basically a popularity contest and it was a resounding public relations success for the new queen.

Elizabeth's Coronation
The actual coronation took place the following day, Sunday 15 January 1559, in Westminster Abbey. The ritual itself was a clever compromise between the Catholic practices that existed and the Protestant ones that she intended to introduce. She was crowned in Latin by a Catholic bishop but parts of the service that followed were read twice – in Latin and English. The changes in the service were a portent of the religious settlement to come and symbolic of her 'make-haste-slowly' approach to introducing change. She emerged from the ceremony to greet her adoring fans wearing a big smile, her crown and carrying the orb and sceptre of her new office.

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

Monday, January 10, 2011

Mary Boleyn: By Alison Weir

One of my favorite historians and authors is Alison Weir whom I discovered by accident back in the 1990's when I read, 'The Six Wives of Henry VIII' simply for pleasure then later for a college history class. Thus, she started me on my road to historical biographies!

When perusing the author's website, I found some information on her upcoming historical biography. However, I found three different titles for it! The subject of the biography is Mary Boleyn best known as 'The Other Boleyn Girl' and as the sister to Anne Boleyn:

Title 1 taken from Alison Weir's site herself: "Mary Boleyn: "The Great and Infamous Whore",
Title 2 taken from "Mary Boleyn: The Truth About Mary Boleyn" Publisher: Jonathan Cape (6 Oct 2011).
Title 3 taken from "Mary Boleyn: The Mistress of Kings" Publisher: Ballantine Books (October 4, 2011).


In this book, the first full-scale, in-depth biography of Henry VIII's famous mistress, Mary Boleyn, the sister of Anne, his second queen, Alison Weir explodes much of the mythology that surrounds Mary Boleyn and uncovers the truth about one of the most misunderstood figures of the Tudor age. Her extensive, forensic research has facilitated a new portrayal, in which she reveals, for example:

* The probable nature of the relationship between the Boleyn sisters.

* New evidence about the reputation of Mary's mother, Elizabeth
Howard, who was rumoured to have been an early mistress of
Henry VIII.

* Why we do not know what Mary looked like.
The portrait above, right, might, just possibly, be a likeness.

* The truth about Mary's much-vaunted notoriety at the French
court, and her relations with King Francois I.

* What happened to Mary after she left the French court.

* Mary's role at the English court.

* Why Mary's first husband, William Carey, was not an insignificant
and complacent nobody, as is often claimed.

* The less-than-romantic truth about how Mary became Henry VIII's
mistress, and when.

* The truth about Mary's reputation in England, and why
Henry's queen, Katherine of Aragon, did not complain about her
being his mistress.

* New evidence that has a strong bearing upon the paternity of
Mary's two Carey children, whom many people believe were
fathered by the King.

* Evidence to show that Henry VIII had more than one bastard child.

* When Mary's affair with Henry VIII probably ended.

* How Mary was treated, and regarded, by her family.

* Where Mary lived after her disastrous second marriage to William
Stafford and their banishment from court.

* Why there is barely a mention of Mary at the time of Anne Boleyn's
fall in 1536.

* How Anne's daughter, the future Elizabeth I, may have been
helped to regard her executed mother in a sympathetic light.

* The truth about Mary's tenure of Rochford Hall, where she is
said to have lived for the last years of her life.

* The truth about Mary's reputation.


Mary Boleyn has gone down in history as a 'great and infamous whore'. She was the mistress of two kings, Francois I of France and Henry VIII of England, and sister to Anne Boleyn, Henry VIII`s second wife. She may secretly have borne Henry a child. It was because of his adultery with Mary that his marriage to Anne was declared invalid. It is not hard to see how this tangled web of covert relationships has given rise to rumours and myths that have been embroidered over the centuries, and particularly in recent years, so that the truth about Mary has become obscured. In all my years of writing women's histories, I have never tackled a subject who has been so romanticised, mythologised and misrepresented.

Everyone knows Henry VIII as the King who married six times. His matrimonial adventures have been a source of enduring fascination for centuries, and the interest shows no sign of abating. Yet comparatively little is known or understood about Henry`s extra-marital adventures, and most people have the wrong idea about the woman who is now the most famous of his mistresses, Mary Boleyn. Was she really a 'great and infamous whore' with a notorious reputation? Is it true that Henry VIII was the father of her children? I am often asked these and numerous other questions about Mary, and am constantly being made aware, not only of various misconceptions that are accepted as facts by many, but also of the views of many others who are well-informed on the subject and are wondering why Mary Boleyn is so misrepresented. It is for these reasons - and because I have done a lot of unpublished research on her over four decades - that I have written a biography of Mary.

Mary Boleyn represents only one short episode in Henry VIII`s chequered love life; all we can say with certainty is that she was his mistress for a short period while he was married to his first wife, Katherine of Aragon. Mary`s true historical significance - and importance - lies in the implications of her royal affair for her more celebrated sister, Anne Boleyn.

My interest in Mary, and my research, goes back to the 1960s, when she was regarded as little more than a footnote to history. Since then, I have written about her briefly in three books, 'The Six Wives of Henry VIII', 'Henry VIII: King and Court' and 'The Lady in the Tower: The Fall of Anne Boleyn', while my unpublished research comes from my extensive original version of 'The Six Wives of Henry VIII', completed in 1974.

There is no escaping the fact that an air of mystery pervades every aspect of Mary Boleyn`s life. There is so much that we don`t know about her, and only so much we can infer from the scant sources that have survived. She is in the shadow of her famous sister in more than one way.

It is the persistence of the mythology surrounding Mary Boleyn that has been the most disconcerting aspect of my research. For much of what we might read about Mary, even in history books, should be treated with caution, based as it is on false assumptions and what might be termed 'urban myths'. For this reason, this book is not only a biography but also a historiography of Mary Boleyn.

What follows is a tale that has never fully been told, a rigorous assessment of what we know - and don't know - about Mary Boleyn, which hopefully will enrich our understanding of this much–misrepresented lady and her relations with Henry VIII.

Another piece of Alison Weir information obtained from her website is based on a UK television appearance she did in November 2010 on a show called, 'The Book Show (The Write Place).
However, the video would not play in the states so instead I have a written transcript in Alison Weir's own words that I hope you find as enjoyable as I have.

Historian Alison Weir reveals secrets of her writing process and ornaments and pictures that provide inspiration...

'I’m sitting in my house in Carshalton in Surrey; it’s a lovely peaceful place in which to work. It’s wonderful to have a room like this as for the first time I have all my books in one place. This is my history library, all the books are filed around the room in chronological order and most of them are history books about the British monarchy. Reference books are by my desk, behind there are art books, costume books, records – I’m a collector of rock music and memorabilia - and DVDs and videos. This is not just a library this is a family room, and I have to say there is a lot of competition for using it.

Around the room are many pictures and ornaments, nearly all of them have some sentimental or historical significance for me. For example, statues of the six wives of Henry VIII, people might think they’re rather twee, but I think they’re lovely. Pictures of my children are around; a portrait of my daughter, the six wives of Henry the VIII on Royal Dalton plates. The relief of Richard III up there reminds me of a lovely outing to Middleham Castle in Yorkshire, I’m passionately interested in that particular period; I wrote a book on the princes in the tower. Everywhere I look in this room there’s probably a story behind every object.

I’ve been doing historical projects for many years now, this is the first and it is the one I am often asked about. It is a biography of Anne Boleyn and it was written when I was 15 and some of it is based on original sources. It was all written by hand, some of the pictures are now coming out, that’s one of the four penny postcards National Portrait Gallery. There’s an appendix with a letter from Anne Boleyn to Henry VIII in 1527, and from Anne to Wolsey, I even did an index. Certainly not suitable for publication.

I work rather differently now from the way I used to. This book ‘Katherine Swynford’ came out in 2007 and these two lever arch files are the research for it. There are reams and reams all under date heading, so it’s roughly researched into draft and that was normal for any book that I wrote. A very good historian friend of mine said to me ‘why do you do your books that way? I do my books in a different way. I write a skeleton outline of the story and I do it on a word processor and I add in research and build it that way.’ And since then that’s the way I do my history books.

When I’m writing, I’m gone, I’m absolutely lost in it. The world disappears and I live it, I’m there and I’m involved in it; I’m on a journey with my subject and it’s literally going into the unknown.’

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

Sunday, January 2, 2011

My Favorite Novels of 2010

Here are my top favorite reads of 2010 with a book cover and brief synopsis in no particular order:

Having fictionalized Elizabeth Woodville in The White Queen (2009), royal chronicler Gregory now turns to Henry VIII's other indomitable grandmother. The opposite of her alluring Yorkist rival, plain Lancastrian heiress Margaret Beaufort grows up knowing women are useful only for bearing sons, but divine visions grant her an unwavering conviction about her future greatness. At age 12, she weds Lancastrian warrior Edmund Tudor and pours her ambition into his posthumous son, Henry. Constantly separated from her beloved child after her second marriage to a pacifist knight, her frustrations are palpably felt; she later brokers her own union with a crafty turncoat who may be the key to her hopes. While England seethes with discord during the turbulent Wars of the Roses, Margaret's transformation from powerless innocent to political mastermind progresses believably as rival heirs to England's throne are killed in battle, executed, or deliberately eliminated. With constant pronouncements about Margaret's God-given destiny, the approach isn't exactly subtle, but Gregory's vivid, confident storytelling makes this devout and ruthlessly determined woman a worthy heroine for her time.

Byatt's overstuffed latest wanders from Victorian 1895 through the end of WWI, alighting on subjects as diverse as puppetry, socialism, women's suffrage and the Boer War, and suffers from an unaccountably large cast. The narrative centers on two deeply troubled families of the British artistic intelligentsia: the Fludds and the Wellwoods. Olive Wellwood, the matriarch, is an author of children's books, and their darkness hints at hidden family miseries. The Fludds' secrets are never completely exposed, but the suicidal fits of the father, a celebrated potter, and the disengaged sadness of the mother and children add up to a chilling family history. Byatt's interest in these artists lies with the pain their work indirectly causes their loved ones and the darkness their creations conceal and reveal. The other strongest thread in the story is sex; though the characters' social consciences tend toward the progressive, each of the characters' liaisons are damaging, turning high-minded talk into sinister predation. The novel's moments of magic and humanity, malignant as they may be, are too often interrupted by information dumps that show off Byatt's extensive research. Buried somewhere in here is a fine novel.

What would you do if you caught your sister in bed with your husband? Chances are at the very least you'd nix your relationship with both of them and run as far away as you could get--especially if the story is going to be plastered all over the tabloids. This is exactly what Hollywood mogul Blythe Stowe does. She heads to England and the Cornish Coast. There she steeps herself in Daphne du Maurier's wonderful novels, finds love with an Englishman, and discovers family secrets that have been long concealed.

When bestselling author Carrie McClelland visits the windswept ruins of Slains Castle, she is enchanted by the stark and beautiful Scottish landscape. The area is strangely familiar to her but she puts aside her faint sense of unease to begin her new novel, using the castle as her setting, and one of her own ancestors, Sophia, as her heroine. Then Carrie realises her writing is taking on a life of its own and the lines between fact and fiction become increasingly blurred. As Sophia's memories draw Carrie more deeply into the intrigue of 1708, she discovers a captivating love story lost in time. After three hundred years, Sophia's Secret must be told.

When art student Claude Monet glimpses a fetching girl at the train station en route to Paris, it is, as they say, love at first sight. When he tracks Camille Doncieux down months later and convinces her to become his model, it is an embarrassment of riches. The two become lovers, but because starving artists have always been deemed poor husband material, Camille’s family mightily objects to the affair, just as Monet’s father vehemently opposes his son’s career. The couple finds solace in the company of Monet’s fellow aspiring painters: Renoir, Pissaro, and Bazille chief among them. While commercial and critical success elude him, Monet’s love for Camille eventually succumbs to the forces of physical and financial ruin. The connection between artist and muse potentially offers a rich trove for authors, and Cowell mines the tempestuous relationship of Monet and his romantic and artistic inspiration with a nimble and discerning command as she indelibly evokes the lush demimonde of nineteenth-century Paris.

One of the greatest loves of all time-between Elizabeth I and Robert Dudley-comes to life in this vivid novel. They were playmates as children, impetuous lovers as adults-and for thirty years were the center of each others' lives. Astute to the dangers of choosing any one man, the Virgin Queen could never give her "Sweet Robin" what he wanted most-marriage- yet she insisted he stay close by her side. Possessive and jealous, their love survived quarrels, his two disastrous marriages to other women, her constant flirtations, and political machinations with foreign princes. His Last Letter tells the story of this great love... and especially of the last three years Elizabeth and Dudley spent together, the most dangerous of her rule, when their passion was tempered by a bittersweet recognition of all that they shared-and all that would remain unfulfilled.

The episodic story takes place during a single day each year for two decades in the lives of Dex and Em. Dexter, the louche public school boy, and Emma, the brainy Yorkshire lass, meet the day they graduate from university in 1988 and run circles around one another for the next 20 years. Dex becomes a TV presenter whose life of sex, booze, and drugs spins out of control, while Em dully slogs her way through awful jobs before becoming the author of young adult books. They each take other lovers and spouses, but they cannot really live without each other.

Ancient secrets buried deep in Glastonbury’s past.
And one woman’s quest to finally set them free.
Cambridge present day: Following the death of her mother, Abi Rutherford receives a mysterious bequest – a misshapen sphere of crystal known as the Serpent’s Stone which seems to hold echoes of concealed mysteries, long covered up by the church.
Western England 25AD: A stranger has come to the chilly Somerset wetlands, with a story of hope and reconciliation. But he is being followed by powerful forces, determined that he will not undermine Roman rule in Britain.
What connects these ancient events and Abi’s gift? And why do so many people seem desperate to hide the truth?
A strange shadow has fallen across the centuries, and a woman is in fear of her life. But is it danger that awaits her, or the final truth so long whispered across the echoes of time?

The largely unknown story of female Renaissance painter Sofonisba Anguissola (c. 1532–1625) is beautifully imagined here in YA novelist Cullen's sparkling adult debut. In a page-turning tale that brings to life the undercurrent of political, romantic, and interfamily rivalries in the court of Spanish King Felipe II, the author shines a light on Sofonisba, who is brought under the tutelage of Michelangelo and later appointed as a lady-in-waiting for the king's 14-year-old wife, Elisabeth, to whom she becomes a close confidante. The author offers an intriguing vision of what life was like for women of different economic and political stations at that time, and she also takes care to not short-shrift the specifics of Sofonisba's art and methods. Cullen has found a winning subject in Sofonisba, whose broken heart as a young woman colors her perceptions and judgment about the queen and her imperious husband, as well as the young Elizabeth's attraction to the king's brother, and Elizabeth's odd relationship with the king's son from his first marriage. Ongoing references to the Spanish Inquisition and the life of the controversial Michelangelo add depth to this rich story.

Renaissance Juliet is an 18-year-old Florentine, the educated daughter of Capello Capelletti, a silk trader whose business foibles have led him to promise his daughter to his would-be partner, Jacopo Strozzi. At a party celebrating her best friend Lucrezia's betrothal, Juliet meets Romeo Monticecco, who reveals that he snuck in hoping to smooth over an old feud. The two are immediately smitten with one another, and their secret courtship ensures. Shakespeare is a tough act to follow, and Maxwell falters with both her flowery writing style (This woman, this earthly angel—perhaps 'Goddess' suited her more) and her hyperbolic, black-and-white characters. Jacopo, for instance, is not only boring and physically grotesque, he's also the embodiment of evil. In contrast, Romeo is respectful and appreciative of women, great in the sack, and wise beyond his years. The story unfolds as the play does, but Maxwell's tweaks amount to a disappointing attempt to fix what isn't broken.

Thank you for stopping by. Please feel free to leave a comment or a question or just give your opinion on any of my favorite reads. Have you read any of them, enjoyed them or even hated any?

A book review of The Ghost Ship by Kate Mosse

New York Times  bestselling author Kate Mosse returns with  The Ghost Ship , a sweeping historical epic of adventure on the high seas. The B...