Tag Archives: anne boleyn

Historical Reads: When Was Anne Boleyn born?

Anne Boleyn is one of the most famous figures in history, yet we don’t know much about her. One of the things we still ignore is her date of birth and how old she was when she was executed. Historians have been debating about it for ages and have put forward two dates: 1501 and 1507. If we believe the second date, then Anne Boleyn was 28 at the time of her death, while if we believe she born in 1501, then she died at 35, already past her childbearing years. There isn’t any definitive proof on which date is right yet, but both have valid arguments supporting them.

Gareth Russel, author of the Confessions of A Ci-Devant Blog, believes Anne was born in 1507. To quote:

Because if she was 28, as one of her stepdaughter’s ladies-in-waiting claimed, then the reasons behind her execution become infinitely more sinister – at 28, Anne Boleyn was still undeniably in her childbearing years. Yes, she would have been at the tail-end of them by Tudor standards, but she would have had at least four or five more years before she was considered infertile, and so the idea that it was just her “failure” to produce a son which led to her death in 1536 suddenly becomes a good deal less convincing and the idea that it was her husband who orchestrated her monstrously unfair death becomes infinitely more likely.

One question the 1501 side of the debate has never fully answered is the issue of Anne’s suitability to be the mother of the King’s children. In the half-decade-long battle with Rome between Henry’s proposal to Anne and their actual marriage, every conceivable objection was thrown up at Anne Boleyn by those who did not wish to see her become queen. And yet, Anne and Henry did not go through a marriage service until November 1532 and she did not give birth to their first child until September 1533. If she had been born in 1501, she would have been 32 years-old at the time she gave birth to Elizabeth – over-the-hill, by Tudor standards. Why did no-one highlight the fact that she was simply too old to be the mother of the next Heir to the Throne? Thirty-two was the age when Henry’s first wife, Katherine of Aragon, had gone through her last pregnancy and after that everyone assumed (rightly) that she would never fall pregnant again – why did no-one point out that the new Queen was going into labour for the first time at exactly the same age as the old “barren” Queen had gone through it for the last time?

Claire Ridgway, author of the Anne Boleyn Files website, examines, both dates, but she is more inclined to believe Anne was born in 1501. To quote:

Thomas Boleyn’s letter to Cromwell, dated July 1536 – In it, Thomas Boleyn refers to the financial hardship of the early years of his marriage, writing that his wife “brought me every year a child” LP xi.17 If we consider that the Boleyns married c1498/1499 then surely all five Boleyn children (Mary, Anne, George, Thomas and Henry) were born before 1505. Also, Thomas Boleyn became a wealthy man on the death of his father in 1505, so he must have been referring to Elizabeth’s pregnancies pre-1505.

A birth date of 1501 would make Anne around 35 years of age at her execution and it may explain why Henry VIII was worried that Anne could not give him a male heir and why he was so ready to replace her with the younger Jane Seymour. At 35, Anne was past her prime. Jane Seymour is thought to have been born around 1508, so if Anne was born in 1507, why would Henry replace her with someone just a year or so younger?

What do you think? I also believe the 1501 date, but Gareth Russel’s comments do make me think that 1507 is a more valid option that I initially assumed… I’m not entirely convinced of it yet though. Mmm..

Purkoy, Anne Boleyn's Beloved Dog

Anne Boleyn loved dogs. She doted on Purkoy, the little lapdog given her by Sir Francis Bryan, who had received it from Honour, Lady Lisle. When he brought him to court, the Queen fell in love with him straight away.

In a letter to Lady Lisle, Sir Francis explains: “…it may please your Lordship to give her hearty thanks on my behalf for her little dog, which was so proper and so well liked by the Queen that it remained not above an hour in my hands but that her Grace took it from me.”

Anne called the lapdog Purkoy, the old French phonetic spelling for ‘pourquoi’, which means ‘why?’. Could it be that the little dog had an inquisitive and curious nature? If so, Anne Boleyn must have found it very amusing.

As a royal pet, Purkoy was taken well care of. He would eat bread (the Tudors thought that kept dogs gentle) and bathe daily. Then, he would be perfumed too.

Sadly, this pampered existence didn’t last long. A few months later, in December 1534, Purkoy died in an accident. He “had fallen from a window”. No one, knowing how much the Queen loved Purkoy had the heart to tell her. The King had to break the news to her. She was inconsolable.

Further reading:
The Anne Boleyn Files

Book Reviews: Centuries Of Change, The French Executioner, My Days With Princess Grace Of Monaco, & Ellis Island

Hello everyone,

today I’m reviewing four history books, including one for children, and a novel with fantastical elements. Here we go:

Centuries of Change: Which Century Saw The Most Change? by Ian Mortimer
Which century saw the most change? The answer seems obvious. Pretty much all of us would answer the 20th, without giving it a second thought. Mortimer, though, gave it a lot of thought. Not so quick to dismiss all the other candidates as easily as most of us, he decided to investigate the major changes that occurred in the Western World in the last 1000 years, and only then come up with an answer. After explaining the criteria he used, he explores the changes that occurred in each century in the society, in the economy, and in the scientific and medical fields, and the impact they had on everyday life. For each century, he also selects the person who influenced change the most. Only then, he draws his conclusion on which century saw the most change. Finally, in the last section he reflects on the direction the Western World is heading to and which changes could happen in the not-so-distant future.
Not everyone will agree with Mortimer’s choices. Some will question his criteria, other his attempt, using Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and statistics, to quantify change, and other still will complain that what they consider major changes didn’t even make it into the book. It would have been impossible to write a book like this that pleased everyone, but still Centuries of Change is a very fascinating read that provides some interesting food for thought. There are a few sections which are a bit dry, but mostly, the book flows easily and is entertaining enough to keep your eyes glued to the page. I highly recommend it.
Available at: Amazon
Rating: 4/5

The French Executioner by C.C. Humphreys
History meets fantasy in The French Executioner, the tale of the man who cut off Anne Boleyn’s head (and, in this book, six fingered hand too). Before her execution, Anne asks the swordsman Jean Rombaud to bury her hand at a sacred crossroads, warning there will be those who will do anything to stop it. It’s a very dangerous mission, but Jean accepts. So starts an incredible journey that will take him across Europe to cities devastated by St Anthony’s Fire, wars, and apocalyptic Messiahs, and on board slave galleys.
It’s a very intriguing story and a very different take on the Tudors, but it took me several chapters to get into it. You see, I’m one of those annoying people who like their historical fiction novels to be as accurate as possible. There’s very little accurate here. But, as I kept on reading, I found something else. A quest. Magic. Improbable friends who meet and lose one another along the way. Wars and battles. Impossible odds. The French Executioner has all the ingredients of a great fantasy novel. But one that takes place in a 16th century Europe ravaged by religious wars and featuring real historical figures. The only thing that’s missing is dragons, but that would probably have been stretching fantasy a bit too far.
Once I started considering this as a fantasy novel with historical elements rather than the other way around, I enjoyed it a lot more. But I still have two problems with it. One: the author relies a bit too much on coincidences. Two: the story is way too long. There were several parts, especially towards the end, that lengthened the story unnecessarily without adding anything to it.
Despite these shortcomings, I loved The French Executioner. It may be far-fetched, but it is also action-packed, fast-moving, and full of interesting characters. I highly recommend it to both fans of history and fantasy.
Available at: Amazon
Rating: 3.5/5

My Days With Princess Grace Of Monaco by Joan Dale and Grace Dale
My Days With Princess Grace of Monaco is not your usual biography. I’m not sure it can be called a biography at all. Instead, it is an account of a beautiful friendship. Joan Dale met a young Princess Grace when she moved to France with her husband. Princess Grace had just married Prince Rainier and didn’t have many friends in her new country. So, she was very happy to find a young American couple who shared similar interests and whose kids were of similar ages to hers. The two couples became even closer when Joan’s husband Martin started working for the Prince. They dined together, vacationed together, and had their children schooled together. Joan attended all the beautiful society events and balls that took place in Monaco in the 1960s, and was also privy to what really went on during the crisis with France that nearly cost Prince Rainier his throne. Although Joan moved around a lot during her life, she always remained close to Grace. She was also invited to the last cruise the Grimaldi, minus Stephanie, took before Grace’s death.
Grace and her family lived a glamourous life, but were simple, down to earth people. Joan gives us glimpses of their more normal, private life, remembering when Prince Rainier made crepes in the kitchen or Grace exercised on the ship during her last cruise. It’s a charming portrait, and you almost feel like you are intruding. Yet, the Dales are very respectful of Grace and her family. They wanted to share another side of Grace the world had never seen, and setting the record straight on many lies still circulating. There is nothing sensational or too gossipy here.
The portrait of Grace that emerges from these pages is very flattering. Grace was a kind and compassionate woman, devoted to her family and adopted country. If I had to find a fault with this book is that the Dales praise her so much that, at times, it’s hard to believe Grace really was a human being. But I guess some people are so amazing that it is hard to find fault with them, and when we do, easily excuse them.
Beautifully written and illustrated with many private photos, My Days With Princess Grace Of Monaco are a must read for all fans of Grace Kelly, the Grimaldis, and royalty. Highly recommended.
Available at: Amazon
Rating: 4/5

Ellis Island by Molly Aloian
From 1892 to 1954, millions of people left their countries to start a new, better, life in North America. After facing a long sea journey, they would finally arrive at the Ellis Island Immigration Station in NYC.
Molly Aloian uses historical records, first hand accounts and pictures to teach children about this important part of American history. The book explains the reasons why many people felt like they had no choice but to emigrate, the hardships they faced both on their journeys and once in America, and what tests and medical examinations they had to pass before being allowed to enter their new country. Aloian also briefly discusses the other major immigration points in North America, such as Angel Island and Grosse-isle. Informative and entertaining, Ellis Island is a great way to introduce children to the complex topic of immigration.
Available at: Amazon
Rating: 4/5

Will you pick up any of these books, or already have?

Disclaimer: this book was sent by PR for consideration. In addition, this post contains affiliate links.

The Historical Gift Guide 2014

Hello everyone,

have you started your Christmas shopping yet? If you’re still looking for the perfect present for a history lover, check out these adorable gifts below:

Rancé Josephine Perfume (a blend of luscious fruits and exotic woods; $100.00)

Do you like these gifts?

Historical Reads: Anne Boleyn and Bloody Mary

Claire Ridgway, over at The Anne Boleyn Files, takes a close look at the relationship between Anne Boleyn and her step-daughter Mary. To quote:

There is evidence that Anne did try and forge a relationship with the defiant Mary. On one occasion in 1534, she visited Elizabeth’s household by herself and asked to see Mary. Anne offered to welcome Mary back at court and to help reconcile her with her father if Mary would accept her as queen. Mary’s impudent reply was that she knew of no queen apart from her mother but that she was pleased if the king’s mistress wanted to intercede on her behalf! How Anne must have wanted to slap her face! Anne id in fact try to reason with her, but to no avail.

At another time, according to “legend”, Anne and Mary were both in Eltham Palace chapel at the same time. According to the story, an attendant told Anne that Mary had acknowledged the Queen before leaving the chapel and Anne, embarrassed at not noticing and pleased that Mary acknowledged her, sent a message to Mary apologising for not noticing and saying that she desired this to be the start “of friendly correspondence”. Mary swiftly replied that she had knot acknowledged Anne and that the queen could not have sent her this message because it was from Lady Anne Boleyn, not Catherine! A spirited reply!

Anne tried again when when Catherine was dying. She asked Lady Shelton to tell Mary that the queen desired to be kind to Mary and when Catherine died Anne sent a further message saying that if Mary would obey the King she would find a second mother in Anne. Again, Mary did not take kindly to this and replied that she would obey her father only as far as her conscience would allow. I don’t think we can blame Anne for giving up at this point!

To read the entire post, click here.

Book Reviews: Napoleon, Wynfield's Kingdom, Did Victoria & Prince Albert Kill The Romanov Royal Family?, & It Happened On Broadway

Hello everyone,

are you ready for the first reviews of the year? Here we go:

Napoleon: A Life by Andrew Roberts
Love him or hate him, Napoleon was one of the greatest soldier-statesmen of all times. He was a successful general by age 24 and became an emperor at 35. A brilliant military genius who conquered half of Europe, he reformed the administration of his empire and gave its people laws that are, sometimes, still in place today. Obsessed with micromanaging, the multitasker Napoleon was very interested in the sciences and literature, and understood the importance of telling your own story. He was always very willing to forgive both his unfaithful wife, his incompetent brothers, and his betraying friends and colleagues.
This book, Napoleon: A Life is his ultimate biography. While doing his research, Roberts has visited fifty-three of Napoleon’s sixty battle sites, as well as other places associated with the French Emperor, including the far-away island of St Helena, where he was exiled. He was also able to take advantage of the recent publication of Napoleon’s thirty-three thousand letters, most of which had never been used before, and which give us a new understanding of his complex, multi-faceted personality. The book is decidedly pro-Napoleon. It is clear the author loves his subject, but not so much not to be able to see his mistakes and weaknesses. He criticizes him for it. Therefore, despite the bias, it offers a fascinating and accurate (at least as accurate as it can possibly be) portrayal of Napoleon.
Roberts has minutely and diligently done his research, and it shows in each page. The book is packed full of details, and constantly keeps throwing new information at you. This can sometimes make for some dry reading. Especially, if like me, you are more interested in the man behind the emperor rather than the soldier-statesman. A huge chunk of the book focuses on the military campaigns and wars Napoleon fought, while his personal life and his relationship with his wife and siblings take a back seat. But then, packing such an extraordinary life in just more than 800+ pages is no easy feat, and, all things considered, Roberts did it quite skilfully. Casual readers may find it difficult to get through some sections of it, but for any true Napoleon fan, this insightful biography is a must read.
Available at: Amazon
Rating: 4/5

Wynfield’s Kingdom by Marina Julia Neary
1830s Bermondsey, London’s most notorious slum. After losing his licence to practice medicine, the self professed misanthrope Dr. Thomas Grant opens a tavern in Bermondsey. Everything goes well until one day Wynfiled, a 10 year old orphan badly beaten-up, breaks into his tavern to seek refuge. Once his injuries are treated, Wynfield leades the doctor and police to another orphan, two year old Diana, who is so weak everyone despairs for her life. Diana makes it, but her health will always remain fragile. Her spirit, though, never recovers, and she perceives the world and everyone it bar Wynfield (the two have a complex and dysfunctional romantic relationship, full of love, jealousy, and even hate), as more hostile and evil than they are.
Wynfield, on the other hand, is a tragicomic figure. He knows life will never be easy for him and those in Bermonsdey, and he gets involved in some illegal activities, but his idealism, many talents, such as his knife-throwing and dancing abilities, and affable personality gain him friends and the title of “King of Bermondsey”. Despite his nickname, though, Wynfield is a staunch republican who reveres Victor Hugo. His political sympathies attract the attention of influential people who want to use him for their own agendas. Through them, Wynfield learns a few secrets about his past.
Wynfield’s Kingdom is a gripping and enthralling tale full of twists and turns. The author vividly brings to life the slums and its inhabitants, stripping all the romanticism from the Victorian era to reveal its darkest side, such as its high crime rate, the deep poverty, and the many orphans that roamed the streets of the capital. Yet, there is a sort of humour that permeates the whole novel, lightening the story somewhat. The impeccable attention to details is shown in the language too. The novel is written in a 19th century style, with characters talking like they would have at the time, giving the novel an old-fashioned vibe that, however, thanks to its humour and the witty dialogue. The novels flows easily and is a pleasure to read.
A dark novel with a Dickens vibe, Wynfield’s Kingdom features an engaging plot full of surprises, interesting and nuanced characters, witty dialogues, and a rich, vivid setting that evoke powerful emotions. Highly recommended.
Available at: Amazon
Rating: 4/5

Did Queen Victoria & Prince Albert Kill the Romanov Royal Family: How King Henry VIII breaking with Rome in the 16th Century ended the Russian Royals in the 20th Century by Nikola Vukoja
Who doesn’t know of the tragic fate of the Romanov family, the romantic love story of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, and the tumultuous relationship between Henry VIII and his second wife Anne Boleyn, who cost the latter her head? But what if all these stories were somehow linked and what if, hadn’t it been for Henry and Anne, Queen Victoria and Albert would haven’t been able to marry and, in turn, the Romanov family wouldn’t have lost their lives and throne?
It sounds like the plot of a fascinating historical novel, but it is actually the blurb of a non-fiction book. Actually, book is not the right word here. Did Queen Victoria & Prince Albert Kill the Romanov Royal Family is a very short work, and reads more like a short essay, or even just the proposal of a book, rather than a book.
The author doesn’t invent anything. All the facts, dates, names, events, people, and places are or were real. And the thesis that connects them all is very interesting. But pretty much anything can be linked to something else one way or another, which is why historical sources are needed to back up the claims. Unfortunately, Vukoya doesn’t provide any. She just explains her theory and leaves it at that. Because of that, it fails to fully convince.
Although I am unable to give this short work a positive rating, I wish the author expanded it. If it were longer and better documented, it would be a lot more interesting.
Available at: Amazon
Rating: 2/5

It Happened on Broadway: An Oral History of the Great White Way by Myrna Katz Frommer, Myrna Katz Frommer
Although I have never seen a musical or play on Broadway, it is one of the things on my bucket list. The theatre and its history has fascinated me ever since I was a little girl, so of course I couldn’t let this book pass me by.
It Happened on Broadway: An Oral History of the Great White Way is just that, an oral history. No, the paper edition doesn’t speak. That’d be quite disturbing! No, it’s an oral story because the recollections of the theater veterans such as Carol Channing, Hal Prince, and Donna McKechnie, aren’t woven into a seamless narrative, but quickly follow one other. Imagine a group of friends meeting up 20 years later for a reunion and each of them, in succession, start sharing his/her memories. Each chapter covers a different topic – their first steps in the industry, the choreography, the flops, etc – so each memory flows well into the next, avoiding confusion or random thoughts that may puzzle the reader.
The book offers a fascinating glimpse behind the scenes of Broadway during its beginnings, heyday, and decline, but, in my opinion, it has a major flaw. It doesn’t provide any background information. At the beginning, you can find very short biographies of the theater veterans who have shared their contributions, but there is no further information about the shows they have taken part in and the people they have worked with. As such, it presupposes the reader to be already familiar with several decades of Broadway history.
Because of this, it is difficult to say who this book is for. It will definitely make a charming addition to the library of every theatre lover, but the hard die fans may already be familiar with some of the anecdotes mentioned here. Casual reader, instead, will easily be frustrated by the lack of background information and having to google this show or that composer to have a better idea of what the veterans are talking about in the book. But if you love the theatre, it is certainly worth a look.
Available at: Amazon
Rating: 3/5

What do you think of these books?

Disclaimer: this book was sent by PR for consideration. In addition, this post contains affiliate links.

Historical Reads: Anne Boleyn Portraits – Which is the True Face of Anne Boleyn?

Anne Boleyn is one of the most important women in English history. She was the catalyst for the Reformation, which changed the history of the country forever. Yet, we know so little about her. We ignore her date of birth and who was really responsible for her death, and don’t even know what she looked like.

Some portraits and sketches that allegedly represent Anne Boleyn have emerged, but no one knows for sure which one, if any, is accurate. Over at The Anne Boleyn Files, Claire Ridgway examines them all and shares her own conclusions. To quote:

Argument for Holbein’s Sketch

In their article “An old tradition reasserted: Holbein’s portrait of Queen Anne Boleyn”, John Rowlands and David Starkey argue that the chalk drawing by Hans Holbein, inscribed “Anna Bollein Queen”, is the true face of Anne Boleyn. Rowlands and Starkey state that although this sketch has been rejected in the past by the likes of K T Parker, who argued that “the features show . .. no resemblance whatever with the well authenticated drawing of Anne Boleyn in Lord Bradford’s possession”, the Holbein drawing could be Anne because:-

  • It matches some contemporary descriptions of Anne Boleyn, e.g. a French account of Anne’s entry into London on the 31st May 1533 (her coronation) described her as scrofulous (scrofula is s form of tuberculosis affecting the lymph nodes, especially of the neck) and wearing a dress which was fastened high up on the throat to hide this swelling. Starkey and Rowlands note that “in the drawing her double chin is so pronounced as to suggest such a swelling of the throat glands, which is indeed partly hidden by a high neckline.”
  • The sitter’s dress – Rowlands and Starkey note that the sitter is in a state of undress and is just wearing a chemise with a furred nightgown and an undercap. They believe that “only a woman of the very highest rank could have taken such a liberty in court circles” and that it speaks of the “royalty” of the sitter.
  • The inscription “Anna Bollein Queen” – They state that, according to the Lumley Inventory, this inscription was “subscribed” by Sir John Cheke, Edward VI’s tutor and friend of William Butts, Henry VIII’s physician and a man whose patron was Anne Boleyn. Rowlands and Starkey write “Cheke must have known Anne, and most of those he lived and worked with at court would have known her too. Of all the identifications he made it seems inconceivable that he could have been mistaken about this one.”

Arguments Against Holbein’s Sketch

In his article “A Reassessment of Queen Anne Boleyn’s Portraiture”, Roland Hui argues that “it seems unlikely that Anne with her much commented upon sense of style would have permitted to be depicted as such” and that “to believe that Anne was goitrous (not to mention deformed by a large wart says the writer), one would also have to accept the ridiculous fiction that at her crowning she also wore a dress covered with a sinister motif of tongues pierced with nails ‘to show the treatment which those who spoke against her might expect.’ ” I have to agree with Hui, I cannot believe that a man like Henry VIII would wait 7 years and break with Rome for the woman pictured in that chalk sketch. I know that Anne was not a classic beauty but she was known for her magnetism and her style, which is sadly lacking in that sketch.

In “The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn”, Eric Ives points out that Sir John Cheke, who was said to have identified the sketch as Anne Boleyn, was incorrect in several of his identifications of other portraits, so “the Cheke story is suspect”. Ives also argues against the British museum Holbein sketch and the chalk drawing being Anne Boleyn because the portrait medal of 1534, the only contemporary likeness of Anne Boleyn, shows a long and oval face with high cheekbones, features that just aren’t there in the sketches.

To read the entire article, click here.

4 Tudor Blogs You Must Follow

The Tudors are one of the most fascinating dynasties in the history of England, if not Europe, and their popularity seems only to increase as time goes on. So, it’s no surprise that, in recent years, a plethora of blogs about the Tudors have sprung up left, right, and center. A lot of them, sadly, are updated only infrequently or not anymore. But there are others that are still going strong and have become important resources for all Tudor buffs. Here are my favourites:

In 2009, Claire Ridgeway had a very vivid dream about Anne Boleyn’s execution, which prompted her to research the life of this unfortunate Tudor Queen and spread the truth about her story. Thus, The Anne Boleyn Files, was born. But although the site is dedicated to Anne Boleyn, it also covers every aspect of Tudor history you could possibly think of. Claire debunks myths on Anne and her family, sheds light on life at the Tudor court, introduces us to members of the Boleyn and Tudor clans that have become mere footnotes in history, shares the latest news about all things Tudor and so much more! She has also written several books about Anne and is the co-author of a biography of George Boleyn, and sells, on her site, jewellery, clothes, and dolls, inspired by the Tudors.

It was the Tower of London that doomed her. After stepping through its gates on a cold winter’s morning in November 2000, Natalie, a researcher, educator, and writer living in Australia, became fascinated with the Tudors. Nine years later, she created On the Tudor Trail, “a website dedicated to documenting historic sites and buildings associated with Anne Boleyn and sharing information about the life and times of Henry VIII’s second wife”. Her blog is a treasure trove of information about the Tudor dynasty and life in England in the 16th century. Natalie is also the co-author of “In The Footsteps of Anne Boleyn” and is currently working on her second book, “In the Footsteps of the Six Wives of Henry VIII”, which is due in 2015. I can’t wait!

Sarah has always been fascinated by the incredible rise and tragic fall of Anne Boleyn, the woman for whom Henry VIII broke with the Church of Rome only to kill her several years later. So, it was only a matter of time before she created her own blog about this unfortunate Queen. On Anne Boleyn: From Queen To History Sarah shares her “thoughts and ramblings about Anne and Mary Boleyn and all things related to the reign of Henry VIII”, and reviews books about the Tudors. And she has many! Her posts are written in a colloquial but accurate manner that never fails to entertain and engage you.

Staunch protestant Edward VI couldn’t bear to be succeeded by his Catholic stepsister Mary and so changed the order of succession, bestowing the crown on Jane Grey, daughter of the Duke and Duchess of Suffolk, granddaughter of Mary Tudor and great niece of Henry VIII. Jane would reign for only 9 days before Mary took over and became Queen. Eventually, she was condemned to death for treason. Tamise became interested in her in 1994, but was frustrated by the lack of readily available books about this intriguing young woman so she created the Lady Jane Reference Guide to “provide a guide to the location of information about Lady Jane Grey, the nine days queen, including primary accounts, paintings, her own writings, legends, media representations and a general bibliography.” But on her blog you can also find lots of interesting articles about every aspect of the life of Lady Jane Grey, and much more.

What are your favourite Tudor blogs?

Movie Review: Anne Of The Thousand Days

For six years, this year, and this, and this, and this, I did not love him. And then I did. Then I was his. I can count the days I was his in hundreds. The days we bedded. Married. Were Happy. Bore Elizabeth. Hated. Lusted. Bore a dead child… which condemned me… to death. In all one thousand days. Just a thousand. Strange. And of those thousand, one when we were both in love, only one, when our loves met and overlapped and were both mine and his. And when I no longer hated him, he began to hate me. Except for that one day.

I’ve always been fascinated about Anne Boleyn and have been reading anything I could lay my hands on about her, but when it comes to movies, I tend to procrastinate. It took me almost 32 years to finally watch Anne Of The Thousand Days, the famous movie adapted from a Broadway play of the same name, and when I did, I was somewhat disappointed. It’s not bad at all, but I guess, after all the hype, I expected something different… better. I can see why the movie got mixed reviews when it came out because I have mixed feelings about it too.

Let’s start with the good. Richard Burton is the best Henry VIII I have ever seen. He just exudes the Tudor monarch from every pore. He perfectly portrays Henry’s obsessive lust for Anne, his desperate determination to have a son, and his tendency to blame others for his problems and justify his cruel actions towards them. Had they died his hair red, his transformation would have been complete.

Genevieve Bujold was equally good. Her Anne is fiery and beautiful, not afraid to speak her mind about what she thinks nor to fight for her rights and those of her daughter. You would have never guessed this was her first role in Englis. She is my second favourite Anne Boleyn after Anne Dormer, although that’s mostly because of limitations imposed by Bujold’s Anne by the script. Whereas Dormer played Anne in a mini series that allowed her character to develop and show all its facets, Bujould had only two hours and a half to portray Anne Boleyn.

Because of that, you don’t get to see the vivacious charms, quick wit, and gracefulness that so captivated men. Henry is already captivated by Anne when the movie starts, not giving the viewers any reason about what caught his eye about her other than her beauty. And Anne’s wit comes out only to rebuff Henry’s advances and makes fun of him, his clumsy attempts at courting her, and his failures to get his first marriage annulled. The movie doesn’t even show her interest in religious reform. It was Anne who gave Henry a book arguing for the supremacy of kings over Popes, but in the movie it’s actually Cromwell that points that out to him.

Anne Boleyn should be the star of the movie, and although she has many great lines, like the one mentioned at the top of this post, her portrayal only shows us some sides of her character. That’s why I felt that this movie was mostly about Henry VIII and his obsessive lust for Anne than Anne herself. Bujold’s performance, though, is too good to relegate her Anne in the background.

Because the movie “only” lasted almost two hours and a half, it is quite rushed. Some parts of the movie, such as that about the divorce proceedings, are too condensed, short, and, to someone who’s not familiar with the whole story, a little confusing too. There are also quite a lot of inaccuracies. While it’s perfectly normal and acceptable for liberties to be taken in movies, there are some of them that are harder for me to forgive. Two examples are Henry’s presence at Anne’s trial, during which he personally interrogates Mark Smeaton, and his last meeting with Anne while the jury is deliberating. In reality, once Anne was arrested, he never saw her again.

Overall, Anne Of The Thousand Days features brilliant actors that make their characters come to life again, beautiful costumes, and poignant quotes. But it is too rushed, takes too many liberties with history, and, most importantly, doesn’t portray all the complex facets of Anne’s personality that made her such a fascinating and charming woman and allowed her to both rise so high and fall so low.

Have you seen this movie? If so, what did you think of it?

Why Write A Novel About The Man Who Killed Anne Boleyn?

Many novels have been written about Anne Boleyn, but what of the executioner who took her life? C.C. Humphreys made him the protagonist of his novel, The French Executioner. Here, he explains why:


Where do the ideas for novels come from?

I remember exactly what I was doing when the idea for The French Executioner hit me like a bolt of lightning. I was working out.

I was living in Vancouver at the time. Making my living as an actor. I’d written a couple of plays. But my dream from childhood had always been to write historical fiction.

I wasn’t thinking of any of that, on that day in a gym in 1993. I was thinking about shoulder presses. Checking my form in the mirror.

This is what happened. (It also shows you the rather strange associations in my brain!)

I lift the weight bar.
Me, in my head. ‘God, I’ve got a long neck.’
Lower bar.
‘If I was ever executed,’ – Raise bar – ‘it would be a really easy shot for the ax.’
Lower bar.
‘Or the sword. Because, of course, Anne Boleyn was executed with a sword.’
Raise bar. Stop half way.
‘Anne Boleyn had six fingers on one hand.’

Flash! Boom! Put down bar before I drop it. It came together in my head, as one thing: the executioner, brought from France to do the deed, (I remembered that from school). Not just taking her head. Taking her hand as well, that infamous hand – and then the question all writers have to ask: what happened next?

I scurried to the library. Took out books. I knew it had to be a novel. I did some research, sketched a few ideas. But the problem was, I wasn’t a novelist. A play had seemed like a hill. A novel – well, it was a mountain, and I wasn’t ready to climb it. So I dreamed a while, then quietly put all my research, sketches, notes away.

But I never stopped thinking about it. The story kept coming and whenever I was in a second hand bookstore I’d study the history shelves and think: if ever I write that novel – which I probably never will – I’ll want… a battle at sea between slave galleys. So I’d buy a book on that subject, read it. Buy another, read it.

November 1999. Six years after being struck by lightning. I’m living back in England and I find a book on sixteenth century mercenaries – and I knew the novel I was never going to write would have mercenaries. Twenty pages in, I turn to my wife and say: “You know, I think I’m going to write that book.” And she replies, “It’s about bloody time.”

I wrote. The story, all that research, had stewed in my head for so long, it just poured out. Ten months and I was done. I wondered if it was any good. I sent it to an agent. She took me on and had it sold three months later.

I was a novelist after all.


The most notorious executioner of his time, Jean Rombaud is brought over from France by Henry VIII to behead the condemned Queen of England, Anne Boleyn. But on the eve of her execution, Rombaud is coaxed into a promise by the ill-fated queen to bury her six-fingered hand at a sacred crossroads.

Yet in a religious war-torn Europe, the hand of this infamous Protestant icon is such a powerful relic that many will kill for it…And so from a battle between slave galleys, to a black mass in a dungeon, to the fortress of an apocalyptic Messiah, Rombaud must travel to honor his vow.

The French Executioner can be purchased at Amazon UK, Amazon US, and Barnes & Noble.