Monday, December 31, 2012

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Confessions' Anniversary Give-Away!!!

Hello everyone!
The first anniversary of Confessions is coming up in exactly one month! To celebrate our first year of all things Anne I am hosting a give-away. All you need to do is comment with your email address on this post to enter. To recieve additional entries, refer a friend to follow the blog and list their name in a second comment. You will recieve 1 entry for every friend who becomes a follower.
The winner of our give-away will recieve a paperback copy of The Love Letters of Henry VIII to Anne Boleyn. Thanks for an amazing first year! Happy following and good luck!!

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Anne Boleyn's Book of Hours Podcast

Hello All,
There was such a positive response to the first Anne Boleyn podcast I posted that I hunted up another. The subject of this podcast is Anne Boleyn's Book of Hours and it is an interview with the curator of the British National Libraries, Scott McKendrick. A Book of Hours is a personal prayer devotional that was popular amongst high-born, religious minded nobles. They were popular from the thirteenth century until the Reformation and were so named because they contained the short prayers said to the Virgin Mary that were read during eight fixed hours during the day. Not only is Anne's copy beautiful, but it reveals a very personal look at the relationship between Anne and Henry as it contains their personal notes to each other written in the margins and on the inside covers. The book is currently housed at Hever Castle, the childhood home of Anne. It is one of the few remaining posessions of Queen Anne as most were destroyed by her enemies following her execution. Click here for the audio.

Imagery of Anne's Book of Hours
Courtesy of the British Library Board

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Read of the Week

This week I enjoyed Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel. It was an interesting book, told from the perspective of Thomas Cromwell, very uncommon amongst novels about Anne Boleyn. Mantel humanizes familiar characters and makes them seem refreshed and alive. Her descriptions of King Henry's rages, conniving court politics and Jane Seymour's frigid and dull personality are so incredibly vivid that you can easily get lost in the story. Even while lost in the narrative, I found myself disagreeing with the author that Cromwell implicates many of Anne's alleged lovers in his quest for revenge for their role in and mocking of the fall of his former master Cardinal Wolsey, though the angle is interesting to consider. My one complaint with the book is the portrayal of Anne. She is painted as uncaringly ambitious and overly haughty. She was undoubtedly ambitious and haughty, but her more endearing characteristics were completely ignored. Although this portrayal could be intentional, Mantel might've been trying to help readers understand not only the mind-set of Cromwell, but also the Tudor theological idea that women were offensive to God due to original sin. Be aware that the author holds a very favorable, almost hero-like view of Cromwell which makes her seriously consider some of the adultery rumors that directly led to Anne's fall,  in spite of the fact that most historians now agree she was innocent.  Despite this, the book is incredibly well researched and written. Absent from it are the overt creative liberties taken by some historical novelists. Pick it up today, you won't be disappointed.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Christmas at the Tudor Court

Christmas in Tudor England was very different from the celebration we know. For the four weeks leading up to Christmas Day, people would fast in observation of Advent. The twelve days of Christmas began on Christmas day and lasted through January 6th, the eve of the Epiphany for Catholics and Anglicans. On the day of Epiphany there was much celebration, music and feasting.

The Yule Log was an important part of Tudor Christmas celebrations. A family would bring in a log decorated with ribbons and place it in their hearth on Christmas Eve. The large log would burn through the twelve days and ashes of the log were kept to throw on next year's fire for good luck.

Gifts were exchanged on New Year's Day, not Christmas and they had very real political meaning and implication. Rich, gold gifts were often given to court favorites including the King's children, wives, nobility and council members. If a high-born man was left out of this gift giving it could be a sign of disfavor with the royal family. In 1532, in the height of King Henry's divorce drama, he famously rejected a diamond encrusted cup from Catherine of Aragon while accepting a beautifully adorned clock from Anne Boleyn.

 The royal cooks baked a silver coin into the Christmas cake and whoever found it was the appointed "Lord of Misrule". The Lord of Misrule was a commoner who supervised the celebrations of the Twelve Days encouraging entertainment and revelry as well as received lavish gifts and the favor of the royals.

Plow (Plough) Monday was the official end of the twelve days of Christmas named such because it was the time when those who lives on the land returned to plowing.  Wassailing and caroling were also important traditions though we know less about how they worked because they were outlawed in the midst of Edwardian religious reform.

Christmas in Tudor England was based around religion and less materialistic than the way we experience it. Debate about how it should be celebrated in post-reformation England would dominate political conversation for years to come.
Clock given to King Henry VIII by Anne Boleyn
New Year's 1532

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The "Lovers" of Anne Boleyn

When Anne was faced with accusations of adultery and incest, many high ranking, powerful men were implicated. Each man was accused of having a sexual relationship with the Queen which was considered high treason, a crime punishable by death. In this post I decided to give you a peek into each man's life; what did he do for a living? How did he know the Queen? What was the evidence against him? And finally, what legacy did he leave behind?

Mark Smeaton was a Flemish musician; a social climber who was born very low. Due to his talents as musician (he could play the lute, virginals, and violin as well as being renowned for his beautiful voice) he became part of Cardinal Wolsey's choir. Following the fall of Wolsey, Smeaton was employed as a musician in the household of the King. At some point Anne became aware of his musical talent and requested he be transferred to her household where he received better pay at behest of the Queen who was a great patroness of the arts. Mark became implicated in the scandal after the Queen found him standing in her presence chamber looking very sad. Anne would later confess that when she asked him why he looked so sad he answered saying it was no matter, to which Anne replied "You may not look to have me speak to you as I should do to a nobleman, because you are an inferior person..." Seeing the truth in her reply, Smeaton miserably answered, "No, no Madam. A look sufficeth, this fare you well..." This seemingly harmless interaction was quickly reported to Cromwell who twisted and distorted the conversation to seem as if it were a lovers' quarrel. Smeaton was arrested on May Day and sent to the Tower for questioning. It is widely believed that he was tortured or blackmailed, under extreme duress he admitted to having sexual encounters with the Queen on May 13, 1535 at Greenwich. This is impossible seeing as how primary source records place the Queen and her household at Richmond during this time. Smeaton's trial took place at Westminster Hall on May 12, 1536. The only evidence against him was the aforementioned conversation with Anne and his own coerced confession. He was convicted unanimously and was beheaded shortly after. His body was buried with another accused lover, Sir William Brereton. Smeaton had no wife or children.

Sir William Brereton was born to a Cheshire landowning family, but as the sixth son had almost no chance of an inheritance, thus he made his way to court to rise in power there. He quickly made friends and was elevated to Groom of the King's Household by 1524, a prestigious appointment. In return for his work, Brereton was granted lands in Cheshire and the Welsh Marches. He was not well associated with the Queen but was implicated in Smeaton's confession. His sex with Anne supposedly took  place on November 27, 1533. Again, this accusation is extremely unlikely given that Elizabeth was born in early September and during this historical period women often remained in seclusion until their churching ceremony which took place 8-10 weeks after the birth of their child, meaning Anne would likely have still been in seclusion. Respected historian, Eric Ives suggests that Brereton was thrown into the plot because he was causing troubles in the Welsh Marches, where he was pushing for localized government; an action that would have severely undermined the King's, and thus Cromwell's, power there. Brereton went to the scaffold professing his innocence. Most historians, myself included, see Brereton as collateral damage when Cromwell moved against Anne and the powerful Boleyn faction. He was in his early fifties and left behind several heirs who were unlucky in that his estates were confiscated by the Crown.

Sir Henry Norris came to court as a young man, hoping to polish his skills as a courtier. He also quickly ascended in court politics, serving in many positions before being named Groom of the Stool in 1526 which required him to oversee all of the men serving as Gentleman of the Privy Chamber. At the time of his death Eric Ives believed Norris may have been the King's closest friend and confidant. In addition to his close relationship with the King, Norris was also very close to Anne. He was a known member of her faction who rigorously supported her attempts to wield domestic and international political power. He was also vocal about his disapproval of the handling of monies from the monastic dissolution, as was Anne. This brought him into direct opposition with Cromwell who was pocketing a vast sum of this currency. Norris, because of his close relationship with both Anne and the King in addition to his outspoken opposition of Cromwell's monastic policy was implicated in the scandal. He was accused of having sex with the Queen on October 12, 1533 and again in early November. Once again, this is almost certainly untrue because Anne would have still be in purda. Norris and the other defendants, were not granted legal counsel, nor were they allowed to hear the evidence against them prior to their trial. He was convicted and sentenced to being drawn and quartered, a sentence that was commuted to beheading because of his service to the Crown. On May 17, he was executed. Henry Norris left behind a wife and son, who were vocal about their belief in his innocence for many years to come.

Sir Francis Weston was the first and only son of a gentry family from Surrey. At age 15 (1526) court records list him as a page for the King. In 1532 records show his elevation to a Gentlemen of the Privy Chamber, an appointment that would have allowed him generous access to the King. Financial records shows the King paying debts to Weston for beating him at tennis and dice, he seemed to be making his way into the King's inner circle despite his humble beginnings and young age. In 1530 he married Anne Pickering and they soon had a young son and heir which Weston named Henry in honor of the reigning King. Weston would have been familiar with Queen Anne due primarily to his duties to the King. When he was indicted and arrested in May 1536 there was no evidence against him, except for Smeaton naming him in his confession. The prosecutors did not even present a date for his supposed sexual liaisons with the Queen, but it did accuse him of plotting the King's death. When he was executed Weston was only twenty-five years old and left behind his wife and young son.

George Boleyn is perhaps the most notorious of the men accused of sexual relationships with Anne because he was her brother. According to George Cavendish, Boleyn was about 27 when he gained his place on the Privy Council, he was riding the coattails of Anne's rise to favor. His father had been a long serving ambassador for the King and thus the Boleyn family became favorites of the King making them wealthy and powerful.  He attended college at the University of Oxford, where he never fully matriculated but took advantage of learning.George was well educated, he spoke four languages and was known for his wit and charm, much like his sister Anne. George was married to Jane Parker sometime in 1525, yet was still known for his womanizing, both Wolsey and Thomas Wyatt wrote of it. Most courtiers admit that Anne and George were exceptionally close, with one lady claiming that Anne admitted him an undue hours. Yet, this closeness cannot possibly be construed as incest of which he was later accused. George and Anne mostly spent time together in her large chamber designed for visitors and in the view of her ladies. Even Eustace Chapuys, who was no friend to the Boleyns said he condemned on merely a presumption. George may not have been guilty of incest but he did have substantial power as brother in law to the ruling monarch and member of the Privy Council. Boleyn would have had the ear of the King on important matters such as religion, international politics and domestic policy. This power would have been envied by Thomas Cromwell who sought to consolidate his power over the Crown. George was also indicted on charges of claiming Elizabeth was not the King's daughter because he was in fact impotent. This is highly unlikely as well because it would have served him no purpose to dispute the paternal DNA of Elizabeth who was his niece and the only legitimate heir to the throne. George was unanimously convicted of adultery, incest and untruths against his majesty. He was beheaded on May 17th with the other victims of Cromwell and Henry's scheming despite the lack of evidence. He left behind a wife and the remainder of his Boleyn family who would never again rise to power.        

With the deaths of Smeaton, Brereton, Norris, Weston and George Boleyn, Cromwell efficiently rid himself many men who were vying for power and wealth at Henry VIII's court. In one fell swoop he secured his own power and position while opening up the King to a third marriage, one which he sought to control. The men who lost their lives in May 1536 were, in my opinion, not only innocent of the charges against them but their deaths served as nothing more than a means for Cromwell to assure his own power and privilege at Henry's court.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Secret Diary of Anne Boleyn Give-Away

Author Robin Maxwell is celebrating the fifteenth anniversary and twenty-fourth printing of her novel The Secret Diary of Anne Boleyn by giving away a copy and a lovely, leather bound journal. The contest link directs you to the author's facebook page where you will be instructed to "Like" the page and input some contact information. You MUST have a facebook profile to enter the contest! Click here for the link and good luck!


The Prize!!!

Anne Boleyn Pod-Cast

Hey all! Enclosed is a link to a great pod-cast entitled Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn: Clothing, Courtship and Consequences by Professor Maria Hayward. Click here for the audio! Give it a listen and let me know what you think!



Monday, December 17, 2012

Plurrimi Laetissima: Anne and Public Perception

     As I watched a rerun of The Tudors episode depicting Anne's coronation parade through London, I was interested in how the screenwriters portrayed the event. Citizens stood at the sides of the road glaring and refusing to remove their hats as Anne's carriage passed. Some authors have gone as far as to say that people threw food and hurled curses at her during her procession. Is this true? Were the citizens of England disgusted by their new queen and her "usurpation" of the throne? In this post we will look at the primary source evidence of Anne's coronation day, her interactions with the public and whether or not she really was Plurrimi Laetissima (the most happy)
      It is a very common misconception that Anne was widely disliked. In fact Thomas Cranmer wrote that " she came along the City, were shewn many costly pageants from which children sang to her and tossed flowers..." Historian Joanna Denny says that "The banks of the Thames outside the palace were lined with crowds eagers to see their new queen..."

  Anne was especially loved amongst the people of London who had becoming increasingly inclined towards Evangelicalism following persecution at the hands of Thomas More. London was the hub of new religious learning and Anne patronized many of the men promoting Protestant doctrine. Many religious books were dedicated to her including a book by Erasmus whom called her "...the most gracious and virtuous..."While the people of London were saddened by the divorce of Henry and Catherine, who's piety was reknowned and admired, but they understood the need for a male heir. Primogeniture, or the inheritance of all property and titles by a first born son, was still the standard of that time period. There was much fear amongst the people of England that if Mary (Catherine's daughter) were to inherit that she would marry a foreign monarch who would rule and subject England to outside power.

     One group amongst whom Anne was unpopular were the nobility who remained Catholic and thus staunch supporters of Catherine and Mary. This hatred was grounded not only in her usurpation of the throne, but also the deep changes made to religious life in England. Anne was a figurehead for Evangelicals to rally around and she imposed her ideas on the women in her households, some of whom were opposed to them. These Catholics found allies in the long rebellious north of England and in the ambassadors of France and England. Conspiracy and hatred towards Anne simmered amongst these groups for many years and when she spoke those famous Latin words "Plurrimi Laetissima" she may not have enjoyed the complete happiness she had hoped to portray.
      Anne's generosity and the birth of her daughter Elizabeth were celebrated across London. The common people often spoke of the monies she donated to charitable causes (an enormous sum at 1,500 GBP/year) and how she wished to build educational institutions across England. Her popularity rose the longer she was reigned and by the time her execution was ordered, the gentry were appalled that Henry would dispose of another wife. These rumors of deep hate against Anne are merely that, rumors. She was liked and her appeal and the number of people who love her continues to grow as the truth about her is researched and exposed.

Anne Coronation Procession
Thomas Welter circa 1880