Myths surrounding Anne Boleyn : Immoral temptress?

Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn by Arthur Hopkins c. 1860's-1870

When Henry VIII noticed Anne Boleyn in 1526, he didn’t wanted her to become his wife and queen. He simply desired Anne as his mistress. The king offered her a title of Maîtresse-en-titre, this title was very famous in France and meant that woman who had such a title was a chief mistress of a sovereign, and she had her own privileges like her own apartments, servants, etc. Although Henry VIII had many mistresses, he never actually had a maîtresse-en-titre and this title was offered only to Anne Boleyn. But Anne refused. Why would any woman refuse the king of England? Well perhaps Anne thought that if she refuse, then Henry will give up and find a new mistress. But perhaps, which is more likely, Anne learned from her sister’s example ; Mary Boleyn was Henry VIII’s mistress for few years, she gave birth to two children during affair with the king but in the end Henry casted her aside.

Anne’s refusal really made Henry VIII want her even more.  What was so special about Anne Boleyn? When she came back from France in 1522, she was considered a Frenchwoman – she was elegant, well-spoken and gracious. Although she was not a typical blue-eyed ‘English Rose’ with pale skin and blonde hair, she caught the attention of male courtiers and soon became very popular. She was a dramatic brunette with olive skin and enchanting black eyes, even French King called her a ‘Venus’ and Venus was synonym of beauty.

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“Elizabeth of York” by Amy Licence

When I first heard that there will be a new biography of Elizabeth of York, I was truly ecstatic because I always wanted to learn more about the woman who gave birth to Henry VIII. I enjoyed Amy Licence’s first book, ‘In Bed With the Tudors’ and I was really happy to receive Amy Licence’s newest book from Amberley Publishing.

Elizabeth of York was a daughter of Elizabeth Woodville, the first-born English queen consort. While her mother was perceived as a social-climber and was unpopular among her contemporaries, Elizabeth of York was less controversial. She was humble and beloved by people because she endured many tribulations during her life. She was born a royal princess but when her father died she was deemed a bastard. As a teenager she fled to sanctuary with her mother and sisters and when she finally emerged from seclusion in 1484, she found herself being admired by her own uncle, Richard III (or at least this is what the contemporary rumours were saying). She was also the sister of two Princes in the Tower whose fate remains unknown. When Richard III was killed at the Battle of Bosworth, Elizabeth married Henry Tudor and became a mother of the new dynasty.

This book is a fascinating glimpse into the life of Elizabeth of York. Amy Licence combed obscure sources for hitherto unknown insights and has written them into a cohesive history. The daily reality of Elizabeth of York is portrayed very well: everything is described so vividly that I could almost see what Elizabeth saw and heard, tasted, smelt. I learned a great deal of interesting details from this queen’s life. Who knew that she was involved in designing the royal gardens or that she gave money in return for presents of apples and oranges? My favourite part of the book was chapter entitled ‘A Year in the Life, 1502-3′ where Elizabeth’s expenses are outlined and discussed. What a great insight into her life! Plus I really loved the selection of pictures for this book.

Amy Licence is an historian of women’s lives in the medieval and early modern period and it really shows in the way she has dealt with her subject. She was very enthusiastic and sympathetic towards Elizabeth of York and managed to bring Elizabeth back to life, showing us the world the first Tudor queen consort lived in. What I really enjoyed about this book is that it tells you the story of a Elizabeth from a completely different angle: there are so many interesting details from every-day life at court and from the history of women, that it is really hard to put this book down. Amy Licence’s books are like a breath of fresh air, and I am definitely going to read everything and anything from this author. I highly recommended this book for all Tudor enthusiasts.

Thank you for a great read, Amberley Publishing!

The books I’ve recently read

Today I would like to bring two books to your attention: “Jane Seymour” and “Henry VIII” by David Loades. Both books were sent to me by the wonderful staff at Amberley Publishing. Thank you for the great read!


Jane Seymour is an interesting character because she is remembered chiefly as Henry VIII’s most beloved wife who gave him a son. Considering that Henry’s two previous wives were abandoned due to the inability of having a male child, Jane is the one who succeeded where her predecessors (and successors) have failed. Unfortunately, Jane Seymour died shortly after the birth and we don’t know if she would have become more powerful or decisive had she survived.

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Q&A with Robert Parry

Today I’m posting Q&A with Robert Parry, author of “The Arrow Chest” and “The Virgin and the Crab”. Enjoy!

1)   Welcome to Queen Anne Boleyn Website! Could you share with us a little about yourself and your background?

I am an English writer of English historical fiction. My work spans the Tudor, Georgian and Victorian eras – but I like to explore the whole area of dreams and the unconscious as well as the facts and events of history. What people thought and imagined is every bit as important, I feel, as what they actually did – and so I try to convey this aspect of the past as much as possible in my stories.

2)   I have finished “The Arrow Chest” and I was impressed with your style of writing and ability of blending histories. How did you get an idea of writing about Anne Boleyn’s story set in Victorian background?

There are already so many novels and films about Anne Boleyn that I wanted to come up with something fresh.  And because I wanted to explore the psychological and emotional dynamics between the characters that surrounded her during her tragically short life I decided to loosen up and move the whole story forward into a different era. Victorian Gothic (19th century) is a perfect place to put Henry VIII and Anne because the Victorian age has lots of parallels to that of the Tudor periods. There were powerful men – ‘kings’ in their own right. There were beautiful elegant women, and there were the fabulous poets and painters of the Pre-Raphaelite movement. So it was not difficult to find placements for Anne, Henry and for Thomas Wyatt in that kind of environment. But it was also a suitable match because it was a time which underwent its own very powerful crisis of faith and identity – similar to that experienced at the time of the Reformation of the 16th century. The Victorians had the advent of Darwin’s theory of evolution, and the threat this held for the established Church. The horrors of Anne’s execution and the sinister plots that festered in the background at the time of her fall also fit perfectly into a Gothic setting. The author and reader are then both liberated in a sense to explore and speculate about what might really have taken place, not in a sense of dry facts and events, but on a deeper, more fundamental level of raw emotion.

3)  Amos and Daphne are linked to Thomas Wyatt and Anne Boleyn; are they also a combination of other historical figures?

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“Le temps viendra” by Emily Pooley, the creator of Anne Boleyn’s waxwork

Today we have a guest post by Emily Pooley, creator of Anne Boleyn’s beautiful wax work that is currently on display at Hever Castle. Emily kindly agreed to write an article about her interest in Anne Boleyn and how this wonderful wax figure was made. Enjoy!

Le temps viendra.

– by Emily Pooley, technical and special effects artist for television, film and live events.

At this moment, I am sipping a cup of tea looking out of my parent’s office window to the bottom of garden where I would sit for hours with my best friend Holly, patiently carving sticks into stakes -ready for our first encounter with vampires on our next trip to the woods down the road. Buffy the Vampire Slayer was an idol of ours you see – 6:30pm, BBC2, telly on full volume for the intro music. We would train for hours, using the swing as an assault course, passing levels that we would invent.. preparing ourselves. When we created a sufficiently sharp point.. off we went. Deep into the woods.

What, I hear you cry, has this got to do with Anne Boleyn? Buffy was my first encounter with a strong and independent female role model. We were inspired and empowered enough to come face-to-face with a pointy-toothed demon and fight to the death. Of course, there was never any real threat and I have since been dragged kicking and screaming into the serious world of adulthood.. and I found myself looking to a real lady for inspiration, with an incredibly powerful story.

When our GCSE exams were over (finding that miraculously my method of cramming in as much research into the night before actually worked) it was time to plan ahead – what on earth was I going to do!? Like a large number of girls my age, my first port of call was: Vet. But after spending a long week of work experience at a veterinary clinic, clearing up ‘presents’ from the animals as they called it, the reality of work really set in. Don’t worry, Anne is near – ‘le temps viendra’ people!

I sat at home flicking through prospectuses for colleges deflated and racking my brains. This was interrupted by my weekly unmissable dose of Doctor Who. Again, full volume for the intro. Next came Doctor Who confidential on BBC Three courtesy of our brand new digibox, where Neill Gorton talked through the creation of one of his prosthetic monster make-ups. It suddenly dawned on me that people actually made a living out of making these things! This would be the programme that would set me on a path to a career in special effects in television and film.

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Review of “The Arrow Chest” by Robert Parry

“London, 1876. The painter Amos Roselli is in love with his life-long friend and model, the beautiful Daphne – and she with him – until one day she is discovered by another man, a powerful and wealthy industrialist. What will happen when Daphne realises she has sacrificed her happiness to a loveless marriage? What will happen when the artist realises he has lost his most cherished source of inspiration? And how will they negotiate the ever-increasing frequency of strange and bizarre events that seem to be driving them inexorably towards self-destruction. Here, amid the extravagant Neo-Gothic culture of Victorian England, the iconic poem ‘The Lady of Shalott’ blends with mysterious and ghostly glimpses of Tudor history. Romantic, atmospheric and deeply dark.”

Captivating. Mysterious. Delightful.

I was lucky to receive my copy of “The Arrow Chest” from Robert Parry himself (signed!) and I was not disappointed. I started reading immediately when I received it and – it was a magnificent read! The whole story is set in Victorian England, but there are glimpses on Tudor era – and that was what caught my attention.

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Interview with D.L. Bogdan, author of “The Sumerton Women”

I am happy to post my interview with D.L. Bogdan, author of “The Sumerton Women”, “Secrets at the Tudor Court” and “Rivals in the Tudor court”. “The Sumerton Women” launches today , so on this occasion I had a little talk with D.L. Bogdan. Enjoy!

Q : Welcome to Queen Anne Boleyn Website! Could you share with us a little about yourself and your background?

A : I am the proud wife of a very handsome retired US Navy Chief, and together we have a blended family of four, making our home in central WI.  I also am a trained pianist and vocalist—though I admit, much of that training was set aside when I discovered Janis Joplin, classic rock, and show tunes.  I still love to play and sing a very eclectic variety of music, however, and it is a great twin outlet to my writing.  I come from a strongly Chicagoan background and am the first of my family to be born in Wisconsin.  If you are not familiar with the area, there is a great rivalry between WI and its neighboring state of IL, so I have had to swear allegiance to both football teams—the Bears and the Packers!  It may just start a war yet . . .

 Q : I loved the characters and the storyline in “The Sumerton Women”. Are those characters based on real people/events?  

A : Most of the characters in THE SUMERTON WOMEN are of my own creation.  There are some, as I call them, “guest appearances” by historical figures, most prominently the Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Cranmer.  The events that drive the conflict in the novel, such as the British Reformation and the ups and downs in Henry VIII’s and Edward VI’s England, are real.

 Q : When and how characters from your book became real in your imagination? When did you decide you will write this novel? 

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Review: “The Sumerton Women” by D.L. Bogdan

The Sumerton Women

I was lucky enough to receive signed copy of D.L. Bogdan’s “Sumerton Women” before the novel’s release date (24 April 2012) and today I am going to post my review. Here is book’s description from Amazon:

“Orphaned at age eight, Lady Cecily Burkhart becomes the ward of Harold Pierce, Earl of Sumerton. Lord Hal and his wife, Lady Grace, welcome sweet-natured Cecily as one of their own. With Brey, their young son, Cecily develops an easy friendship. But their daughter, Mirabella, is consumed by her religious vocation – and by her devotion to Father Alec Cahill, the family priest and tutor. As Henry VIII’s obsession with Anne Boleyn leads to violent religious upheaval, Mirabella is robbed of her calling and the future Cecily dreamed of is ripped away in turn. Cecily struggles to hold together the fractured household while she and Father Alec grapple with a dangerous mutual attraction. Plagued with jealousy, Mirabella unleashes a tumultuous chain of events that threatens to destroy everyone around her, even as the kingdom is torn apart…”

Hm, where do I start? First of all – “The Sumerton Women” is now officially my favourite historical novel so far. It has everything – great storyline, vivid characters and historical background.

Lady Cecily Burkhart’s parents died due to Sweating Sickness that ravaged England in 1527. Orphaned as an eight-year-old girl, Cecily becomes ward to the Pierce family. Although Cecily grieves after her beloved parents, she quickly adapts to new environment and she grows to love her new family. She becomes a spark of sunshine in Pierce’s life, and although at the beginning they seem a happy family, Cecily slowly discovers their dark and painful secrets.

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Anne Boleyn and witchcraft

Helena Bonham Carter as Anne Boleyn

The anniversary of Anne Boleyn’s death is approaching so I’ve decided to take a closer look on events that occurred before Anne’s death. One of the most popular myths about Henry VIII’s second wife is her alleged involvement with witchcraft.

It all started with Imperial ambassador’s report. Eustace Chapuys, always ready to report anything that about Anne Boleyn, wrote that Henry VIII told one of his courtiers that he;

‘made this marriage seduced and constrained by sortileges and for this reason he held the said marriage void and that God had demonstrated this in not allowing them to have male heirs and that he considered that he could take another.’

How Chapuys did come to such knowledge? Henry VIII’s  first cousin,  Marquis of Exeter who was in touch with ambassador, reported that the king confided this information in one of his courtiers. What was the meaning of the king’s words? It is all dependant if we are reading it in original language in which Chapuys reported them. Eric Ives wonders;

“Thus, did Henry use the term ‘sortilege’, or was the word provided en route? Even if Henry did use the noun, since its primary English meaning was ‘divination’ and since Henry spoke in the same breath of male heirs, the simple construction is that he was referring to the premarital predictions that union with Anne would produce sons”. (p. 298)

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Why was Anne Boleyn buried in an arrow chest?

Anne Boleyn's resting place

Anne Boleyn was executed on 19 May 1536. Although the executioner from Calais was ordered even before she was tried and found guilty, no one took care of a proper burial for Anne Boleyn. After she was decapitated with a French sword, her distressed ladies wrapped the late queen’s head and body into a cloth and buried her in an arrow chest within the walls of St. Peter Ad Vincula chapel.

But why was Anne Boleyn buried in an arrow chest?

During her time as Henry VIII fiancée, Anne Boleyn was showered with magnificent gifts. As Retha M. Warnicke wrote in her book:

“Throughout 1530 Henry continued to purchase gifts for her, often for her amusement, as, for example, a shaft, bows, arrows and a shooting glove in May. Archery was a sport she seems to have especially enjoyed, since additional bows were obtained for her. “(p. 96)

Henry VIII loved hunting and Anne Boleyn shared his passion. But Henry loved hunting also in a symbolic meaning – he loved to chase the ladies of the court. And he chased Anne Boleyn for almost a year before she finally surrendered, and agreed to become his wife. For the whole year the king was “stricken with the dart of love”.

Henry’s love for Anne Boleyn caused him many frustrations.  He was consumed with passion that was fuelled with Anne’s refusal.  He wanted her and no other woman. But she was playing him to her own advantage, or perhaps she hoped that the king will soon forget about her and find a new mistress. In any case, even when Anne withdrew herself from the court life, the king was eager to have her. In one of his letters he wrote:

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