Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Read of the Week

This week I decided to review The Lady in the Tower: The Fall of Anne Boleyn by Alison Weir to accompany the podcast I posted earlier this week. It was book I greatly enjoyed. Despite only covering the last several days of her life, the book is over 300 pages. In this book you will discover Weir's theory for the downfall of Anne, that Cromwell was solely responsible for the plot against her and that Henry believed the charges of incest and adultery against her. I love the way this book does not romanticize Anne's last days, the book reads like a forensic report. Weir carefully examines each piece of evidence in Anne's case including the court records, personal letters and eye-witness accounts of the time. I do have certain issues with some of the evidence she presents; first of all that Anne miscarried a deformed fetus in late January 1536. There is absolutely no primary evidence of this, in fact Weir cites a modern author as her source for this information. I have deeply researched this topic and each author who writes that Anne carried a deformed baby cite each other as their source, with no credible beginning information. Secondly, Weir claims that Jane Boleyn testified against her husband and sister in law, accusing them of incest. This is an inaccurate claim. (To read my research regarding these claims click here.) Other than these inaccuracies, Weir's book is incredibly well written and fun to read. Despite knowing how the book will inevitably end, the writing is fresh and suspenseful. Pick it up today!

Monday, January 28, 2013

"The Lady in the Tower" Podcast

Hello readers,
I located another podcast for your listening enjoyment this week. This one is by renowned Tudor historical writer Alison Weir. In this podcast, Weir discusses the imprisonment and execution of Anne. Listening to this amazing podcast here at the British Libraries. This audio is a great companion to Weir's latest Anne themed book The Lady in the Tower. Happy Monday and enjoy!

Saturday, January 26, 2013

The Marriage of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn: The Controversy and Conception

Hello All,
I recently had a discussion with a fellow history enthusiast who was under the impression that Anne and Henry only married after she became pregnant and that the marriage was solely to deter any questions of legitimacy regarding Anne's future children. This has been a long debated question in Tudor history; when is the actual wedding date of Henry and Anne? Some historians believe it to be November 1532 while other argue it is January 1533. So when were the King and his lady-love married and why is this such a pressing question?

First of all, we must dispell the rumor that Henry only married Anne because she was pregnant. He had applied for a Papal dispensation in order to marry a woman whom he had had sexual relations with her close affinity. Of Henry's known mistresses, this dispensation could only apply to Anne, because Henry had a relationship with her sister Mary. This dispensation was filed for well before Anne's pregnancy. Secondly, during a planned trip to France Henry presented Anne as his betrothed. This was also before her pregnancy.

So then, let us discuss the two proposed marriage dates for Henry and Anne. Did the nuptials take place when the couple landed in Kent in November after visiting France or back in London in January? Historian Alison Weir writes that the couple was married on the 25th of January in the King's private chapel at Whitehall Palace and that this ceremony was their first and only marriage. Eric Ives, widely lauded as the Anne Boleyn expert of our times, however disagrees. He believes that the King and Anne were married in November and had already consummated their union. He bases his claim on the notations of the Tudor chronicler Edward Hall who wrote that the King and Anne were actually married on November 14, 1532 St. Erkenwald's Day in Kent and celebrated a sort of "vow renewal" in January.

So why the two wedding saga? We may never know for sure, but my theory is this; the couple was legally married in Kent in November. I base my assertion on the fact that Anne has maintained her virginity for so many years that she would not likely have given up her maidenhead when a wedding was so close. This first wedding was to assure Anne that her position as intended Queen was secure, hence she got what she wanted and Henry got what he had been waiting nearly seven years for. The second wedding had to take place in order to assure Henry's subjects that he was indeed married since the first ceremony had been very secretive. The second wedding would also have coincided with the discovery that Anne was pregnant with the couple's first child. Rumors of when the couple married became rampant during Elizabeth's reign, with people saying that they had never been legally married which would put Elizabeth's right to rule in question.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

On This Day in Tudor History

On January 24, 1536 Henry VIII took a serious fall from his horse during a jousting accident. The horse, a heavy breed designed for war, fell on top of him leaving him unconscious for an extended period of time. Imperial ambassador Eustace Chapuys who witnessed the fall reported to his master saying, "...the King being mounted on a great horse, to run at the lists, both fell so heavily that everyone thought it a miracle he were not killed..."  It was this accident, and the subsequent internal injuries that I believe led to Henry's mental and physical decline in the coming years. It was also a force in the decline of Henry and Anne's relationship. Upon hearing of the King's fall and subsequent inability to wake or speak Anne Boleyn went into pre-term labor delivering a male fetus of about four months gestation. Unsubstantiated claims have said the Queen cried and screamed saying "I miscarried of my savior.." Jousting, though dangerous, was considered a chivalrous sport, where noble men rode not only for honor but also the favor of high-born women and rich prizes.

Read of the Week

This week I gladly dove into Blood and Roses by Helen Castor, the second of her books I have loved. First of all let me say that Helen Castor truly is a master historian, bringing facts and people of the time to the forefront and presenting their stories in an incredible way. In her writing the most ordinary of days in Pre-Tudor England seem fascinating. Blood and Roses presents the life of the Paston family who lived during the tenuous, often violent period of the War of Roses. The time was highlighted by the largest mass slaughter of English nobility in history. This killing was at the hands of brothers, cousins and often former friends as the country divided over the question of who had a legitimate claim to the throne of England. Unlike many authors specializing in this time period, Castor focuses on the contributions of women. She follow Margaret Pastor as she outfits her family's tenants with armor and weaponry and oversees their brief training before marching out to take on a rival landowner who plans to lay siege to Margaret's family home at Gresham in the absence of her father-in law, husband and brothers. Outside of the every day lives of women during this time, Castor pays homage to the men who died defending the York or Lancaster claimants citing one battle where the snow was dyed red from the blood of thousands of dead on both sides. The author uses more primary source material than the reader can comprehend, relying on first-hand accounts of battles, property records, letters and other material to build a foundation for a not only incredibly well-written book, but one that is the pinnacle of historical integrity. This book is one I would happily recommend to you all.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Anne's Royal Rooms at the Tower

The following video shows the "royal apartments" where Anne would have stayed prior to her coronation and explores the quarters where she probably stayed in the days before her execution. Enjoy!

Reader Questions

"Though God cannot alter the past, Historians can"  -Samuel Butler

First of all I want to thank you all for the incredible questions I received from you this week via our new Contact Form. After reading your questions I was reminded of the Samuel Butler quote above. Most of the questions sent were about confusion and mistruths regarding the historical period, I hope I can answer them all sufficiently here:

Q: I [the sender] read that Jane Seymour was called the Protestant Queen, why? I was under the impression she was Catholic.

A: During the Edwardian period Jane Seymour was called the Protestant Queen because she was the mother of the King, who was pushing reform, and much movement towards Evangelism was made during the time she was Queen Consort. However, to assume that she herself was Protestant is wrong. She often met with the imperial ambassador and pushed Henry to renew his friendship with the Emperor. She also tried dutifully to preserve many of the religious houses that were being suppressed. There were also rumors abroad that she "favoured the old faith" We may never know the exact details of Jane's religious life but it is safe to say that she leaned towards traditional Catholicism.

Q: What happened to Mary Seymour, daughter of Queen Catherine Parr and Thomas Seymour?

A: Sadly, we do not know. Following the deaths of Kateryn and Thomas, she was left in the safe keeping of Katherine, duchess of Suffolk who found the monetary burden of caring for her an inconvenience. We know that she lived as of January 21, 1550 when Parliament removed that act of attainder from her name allowing her to inherit any surviving wealth of her parents but after that there is no record of the child. It is commonly believed that she died of some unknown childhood disease, although that lack of notation regarding the death of the "Queen's daughter" is interesting as noble, and most certainly quasi-royal, deaths were always recorded.

Q: Did the Pope really try to have Anne Boleyn murdered?

A: Interesting question, as far as we know, no. That does not mean there might not have been a secret plot though as the Papacy wielded great power and influence during this period. I believe what you are referencing are the scenes in The Tudors where William Brereton is commissioned directly by the Holy Father to assassinate Anne, this is a creative liberty taken by the screenwriters. William Brereton was never part of the clergy, in fact he was accused and convicted of having a sexual relationship with Anne and was beheaded with the other men (For more information see my post on Anne's Lovers here)

Friday, January 18, 2013

Read of the Week

Over the past couple of weeks I have been trudging through several Tudor books and recently finished Mistress Anne: The Exceptional Life of Anne Boleyn by Carolly Erickson. This is an older book written about Anne's life. It opens with her journey accompanying Mary Tudor on her voyage to become Queen of France. The book completely omits Anne's early life and implies that this is her first time abroad which is completely inaccurate. There are more inaccuracies that made this book almost unbearable for me to read. Ms. Erickson relies heavily on rumor in her writing, something a seasoned Anne historian will find frustrating. She asserts the rumors of Anne having a sixth finger and a large, disfiguring mole on her neck. We know from the Victorian excavation of St. Peter Ad Vincula that none of the women buried there had an extra finger. In fact, these myths were not perpetuated until the reign of Elizabeth I in an effort to undermine her claim to the throne by slandering her mother and accusing her of witchcraft. Erickson also takes extreme liberties in describing how Anne would have  felt and what she thought during certain events. As no autobiographical information exists to confirm her statements, I find them not only unnecessary but also misleading to the reader.This is not a book I would recommend for serious Anne enthusiasts as the inaccuracies overshadow any positive contributions Erickson might have made to the study and scholarship of Anne Boleyn.

This Day in Tudor History

On this day in history in 1486 Henry VII, father to Henry VIII wed Elizabeth of York. The marriage was one of convenience; Elizabeth was the eldest daughter of Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville. She was tremendously popular amongst the Yorkist supporters who might try to undermine the rule of Henry by reigniting the dynastic War of Roses. By uniting the former Yorkist princess and the Tudor King who was the leading male heir to the Lancastrian line it ensured a tenuous peace as their children would be the heirs of both houses. The union would produce Arthur, Prince of Wales and first husband of Catherine of Aragon, Margaret, Queen of Scots, Henry VIII, Elizabeth Tudor (died in infancy), Mary, Queen of France, Edmund Duke of Somerset (died at 15months), Edward Tudor (debated) and Katherine Tudor. Elizabeth died in 1503 as a result of post-partum complications as did her baby daughter Katherine. Henry would rule for six more years before taking ill and dying in the spring of 1509.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Collectanea Satis Copiosa

In an effort to gain the support of other monarchs and possibly convince the Pope of the validity of his case for annulment from Catherine of Aragon, Henry VIII and Thomas Cromwell dispatched diplomats to all of the major universities across Europe. Their mission was to present the King's evidence to the learned scholars at these colleges and determine their conclusions regarding Henry's marriage. In this video Tudor historian David Starkey discussed this collection of scholastic opinions in the work entitled the "Collection Most Abundant".


Monday, January 7, 2013

This Day in Tudor History

On this day in history 1536, Catherine of Aragon died. The first wife of Henry VIII and mother to future queen Mary I, Catherine was known for her piety, intelligence and apptitude for foreign affairs. She died at Kimbolton Castle where she had beem exiled after refusing to divorce Henry. Her body was examined post mortem and a large black growth was found on her heart. This growth was attributed to poisoning, but most modern medical experts believe it to be evidence of cancer. Catherine went to her death as a devout Catholic despite the winds of religious change and declared that she was Henry's lawful and true wife. She was fifty years old.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Elizabeth Boleyn Needlework

Below is a piece of needlework, thought to have been embroidered by Anne Boleyn's mother Lady Elizabeth Boleyn Countess of Wiltshire. The piece features a falcon, which was the symbol of Anne's personal badge, pecking at a pomegranate. The pomegranate was the insignia of Catherine of Aragon. The Latin surrounding the image reads "Ainsi Sera Groigne, Qvi Griogne" which roughly translates to "Let them grumble, this is how it is going to be"

What do you think followers? What does the piece say about Anne's family and their support of her usurpation?

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

The Unknown Tudors: A David Starkey Lecture

As many of you have probably noticed, David Starkey is one of my favorite Tudor era authors. I found these videos the other day regarding the reigns of both Edward and Mary Tudor. I have posted quite a bit about Elizabeth but have neglected to really post any information on her siblings. I hope you find them informative and enjoyable!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

The Shoes of Anne Boleyn?

A follower recently emailed me this photograph of a pair of shoes which the owners were claiming belonged to Anne Boleyn. I was fascinated by the prospect and began to research them. Below are my findings:

The family story goes as such; Nicholas Bristowe, a favored courtier of King was riding with Henry and Anne in Hertfordshire. When the group passed Ayot St. Lawrence (a grand estate), Bristowe admired it asking the King if he knew to whom it belonged. The King replied saying it was his, but he wished to gift it to Bristowe and his family. When Bristowe tactfully asked what evidence he should produce to prove the gift, the king gave him the hat he wore upon his head and asked Queen Anne for her slippers telling the Lord to bring them to London and he would receive the title deed. Since that point the hat and slippers have been part of the Bristowe family estate.
        *Using the British Archives I found that Bristowe was not actually granted the land at Ayot St. Lawrence until 1543, a full six years after the execution of Anne Boleyn. In fact, the crown had not even been in possession of the land until 1540 making it impossible for King Henry to gift it during the lifetime of Anne.
        *Equally convincing was an appraisal completed on the shoes by antiques experts at Christie's Auction House in England. The clothing appraisers there determined that the style and construction of the shoes placed their date of construction at or around 1630, nearly a century too late to belong to Queen Anne Boleyn.

Despite the fact that these shoes surely did not belong to Anne Boleyn they are still a great example of historical fashion in Stuart England, and were undoubtedly stunning when they were produced.