Thursday, May 31, 2012

A BeingBess-Press Interview with Tudor Author Claire Ridgway!

Tudor author Claire Ridgway, 2012. Reproduced with permission.

I am delighted to welcome Claire Ridgway to BeingBess! Ms. Ridgway is an Anne Boleyn researcher, webmaster and a published author; She is currently on a book tour to promote her latest work, The Fall of Anne Boleyn: A Countdown.

The genius cover of Ms. Ridgway's latest; notice the powerful combination of Anne Boleyn's famous "B" necklace and the sword that ended her remarkable life. Reproduced with permission from Claire Ridgway.

Ms. Ridgway has graciously answered my questions about her book, her interest in Anne Boleyn and Elizabeth I, and her fantastic websites, The Anne Boleyn Files and The Elizabeth Files.

And on a personal note, I would like to share that Ms. Ridgway's work has positively impacted my life; her websites are the first that I frequented on a weekly basis. I credit them with galvanizing me to create my own online presence with which to share Elizabeth Tudor's story with the world. It is safe to say that without the inspiration of Elizabeth I herself (of course) and of Ms. Ridgway's respective sites, there would be no BeingBess!

After you read the interview, I hope you will take the time to comment. As always, I love to hear my readers thoughts and I know Ms. Ridgway values feedback as well. But in this case there is extra incentive to share your thoughts, as Ms. Ridgway will be choosing one comment at random before 12 PM on Sunday June 3rd to award this Rainbow Portrait inspired Elizabeth I necklace:

This could be yours...

This clever necklace allows you to carry with you the power of the great Tudor queen in a chic way! Ms. Ridgway has generously opened this contest to people of all countries and will ship the necklace to wherever on the globe the winner is!

~Without further ado, please enjoy my exclusive 
Q&A with author Claire Ridgway!~

A portrait of Queen Anne Boleyn currently hanging in Hever Castle, after a 1534 original. Anna Bolina Regina is depicted wearing her famous "B" necklace, sported today by Claire and other Anne Boleyn enthusiasts the world over. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

Q: You maintain two informative Tudor history websites, The Anne Boleyn Files and The Elizabeth Files. What first captivated you about the Tudor dynasty, and what about Anne Boleyn and Elizabeth I inspired you to educate others about them?

A: I first came across the Tudors when I was 11 years old and I think what grabbed my attention then was the fact that Henry VIII had gone through six wives and had two of them executed! It was shocking, yet it had really happened. Tudor history has all the ingredients of an addictive soap opera, but it's true, and I think the drama of it all captivated me You have these larger than life characters who made a real impact on England, but who also committed such brutal acts.
A composite image of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.
Anne Boleyn just grabbed me. Firstly, I was struck by the tragedy of her story, and then she just reeled me in. I became annoyed with how she was represented in fiction and on TV, as opposed to who she really was and what she did, and so I became committed to researching her and sharing what I found. She is still surrounded by myths and misconceptions so I present the facts and attempt to challenge these perceptions.
Elizabeth I, like her mother, is a fascinating and captivating historical figure. She described herself as “the lion's cub”, referring obviously to her father, Henry VIII, but she was also her mother's daughter in many ways. Elizabeth was the Queen of PR and propaganda, an intelligent woman who would not suffer fools gladly, a charming woman with wit and a magnetic personality, and a woman who rose above her past, and overcame the many challenges life threw at her in her youth, to become the iconic Gloriana and Virgin Queen. I know that many people challenge the idea that she heralded in a Golden Age, but she was an amazing monarch in a time when women just weren't meant to be in control.

Q: Visitors to The Anne Boleyn Files can sign up for a free "Welcome Pack" containing some primary sources and a recommended book list. What is your favorite biography of Anne Boleyn and why? And what is your favorite biography of Elizabeth I and why?
A: My favourite biography of Anne Boleyn is The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn by Eric Ives. It may be heavy going for people new to Tudor history, but it covers every aspect of Anne's life and is fully referenced.
My favourite biography of Elizabeth I is David Starkey's Elizabeth: The Struggle for the Throne. This book is on Elizabeth's early life, up until her accession, but it is incredibly detailed and highly readable. I've also enjoyed Alison Weir's biography and the ones by Anne Somerset and Alison Plowden.

Q: One of the best things about your sites is that not only are they content-rich, but they are further enhanced by the use of multimedia: a Tudor-themed product store, Amazon book-list widgets and more. How important do you think multimedia is for connecting to your readers and for teaching Tudor history?
A: Everything I have done is a result of people asking for it, so I've simply listened to what my visitors want. I think that is the key to having a successful blog. I've done videos, I do webinars for my Anne Boleyn Fellowship members, I use illustrations in blog posts, I added a forum, I reply to comments, I run competitions etc. and I think people like the community aspect of The Anne Boleyn Files and how it's become interactive, rather than being a static information site.
People learn in different ways - some people like to read, others like to listen and some are more visual and enjoy videos – I hope that presenting the information in different ways allows all visitors to learn about Anne and Elizabeth.
The Traitor's Gate at the Tower of London. Elizabeth I probably entered the Tower through this gate, though her mother, Anne, likely passed through the more distinguished Court Gate. One of these women would survive her imprisonment; the other was executed at the king's pleasure. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.
Q: You currently facilitate two exciting tours: The Executed Queens Tour and The Anne Boleyn Experience. What motivated you to undertake the project of developing, coordinating and running historical tours? I can imagine it is no easy feat! 
A: I kept being asked if there were any tours which focused on Anne Boleyn, so I researched and found that there weren't any. Tim and I then decided to organize one and that was the 2010 Anne Boleyn Experience. It was such a big hit that we decided to expand and add another tour in 2011, and that too was a hit. However, this year's tours are going to be our last, I think, because they take so much time to organize and I really need to prioritize my research and writing. I've loved doing them, though.

Q: You have written and published two books, The Anne Boleyn Collection: The Real Truth About the Tudors and The Fall of Anne Boleyn: A Countdown. How did the idea for these books come about? And what was the writing and publishing process like?
A: I have been researching Anne Boleyn for over three years now and have been working on a few different projects. What's funny is that The Anne Boleyn Collection was not one of those projects and was never meant to be! It came about because one of my regular visitors emailed me and asked me if I would consider publishing the most popular articles from The Anne Boleyn Files to celebrate our three year anniversary. I was unsure about it but I asked some other regular visitors what they thought and they all thought it was a fantastic idea. Tim (my techie husband) then found a way to list the articles by popularity, i.e. which had been commented on the most or shared the most, and then we compiled them, edited them, added some extra research and published them. I wasn't sure how the book would be received, being so different to other Tudor history books, and being a collection of articles rather than a flowing book, but people seem to like it and I'm happy.
The Fall of Anne Boleyn: A Countdown was one of my planned books. I felt that a countdown, a day at a time, to Anne Boleyn's execution showed just how fast things moved in spring 1536. Things went from Henry VIII tricking Chapuys into bowing to Anne and acknowledging her as queen on the 18th April 1536, to Anne being executed on 19th May 1536 and England having a new queen on 30th May 1536. I wanted to present information based on the primary sources but in an easy-to-read format, and I hope I've accomplished that.
The writing and publishing process has been quite a learning curve. Although I had an agent interested in one of my book projects, I decided to self-publish The Anne Boleyn Collection and The Fall of Anne Boleyn. Neither project would be seen as 'commercially viable' to a publisher and I also wanted control of when they were published and the retail price. I wanted my books to be read, so I wanted to keep the cost down for the reader. Obviously paperbacks have production costs and I have to cover those, but I have chosen to list my Kindle versions for a list price of $2.99 (under £2 in the UK) which I think is reasonable for an electronic book. It has been a challenge, as you have to find your own cover designer, copy-editor etc., but I've loved every moment of it.

Q: You are passionate about my two favorite historical figures, Elizabeth I and Anne Boleyn. Why do you think people should know, as your website taglines say, "The REAL TRUTH about Anne Boleyn...The Most Happy" and "The REAL TRUTH about Queen Elizabeth I" ?
A: Because myths, stereotypes and misconceptions have no place in history. Some of the myths are so prevalent in books and online that people simply accept them as the truth and don't think to challenge them. I have lost count of the amount of times that I've read that Anne Boleyn was charged with witchcraft. 

Q: On The Elizabeth Files, your readers can sign up for a free report, The Myths Surrounding Queen Elizabeth I. What is the most frustrating prevailing myth you encounter concerning Elizabeth I? And Anne Boleyn?
A: When the movie “Anonymous” came out I was inundated with emails regarding Elizabeth I having an illegitimate son by Robert Dudley and whenever a certain programme comes on the National Geographic Channel I receive emails about the Arthur Dudley myth or Elizabeth actually being a man!
Queen Elizabeth I painted from life, attributed to Zuccaro. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.
As far as Anne is concerned, I think the most prevalent ones, apart from the witchcraft charge, are that Anne was a Protestant, that her father used her to rise at court and that she was whore who used her sexual magnetism to lead Henry astray.

Q: Do you have a favorite quote from Elizabeth I or a favorite quote about her? And do you have a favorite quote of Anne Boleyn's or a favorite quote about her?
A: My favourite Elizabeth quotes are:
“And though you have had, and may have, many princes more mighty and wise sitting in this seat, yet you never had nor shall have, any that will be more careful and loving.” -From the Golden Speech, 1601.

“I know I have the body but of a weak and feeble woman; but I have the heart and stomach of a king, and of a king of England too, and think foul scorn that Parma or Spain, or any prince of Europe, should dare to invade the borders of my realm; to which rather than any dishonour shall grow by me, I myself will take up arms, I myself will be your general, judge, and rewarder of every one of your virtues in the field.” -From the Tilbury Speech, 1588.
An artist's representation of Queen Elizabeth I addressing her troops with her iconic Tilbury Speech. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.
For Anne Boleyn, I love the whole of her execution speech. I cannot read it without having the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end. I also love:
“She who has been the Queen of England on earth will today become a Queen in Heaven.” -Archbishop Cranmer, 19th May 1536.

“He's marrying the perfect wife for him [Jane Seymour], and he’s learned that he doesn't need an Anne Boleyn – another partner in crime to help him take over the world. He just needs a wonderful, supportive wife to take care of him when he comes home from a hard day beheading people.” -Actor Jonathan Rhys Meyers. 
I've always seen Anne as Henry's partner, rather than as the submissive Tudor wife, so I like the Jonathan Rhys Meyers one.

Q: What has been the most rewarding aspect for you of researching and educating others about Tudor history?
A: I love it when I receive emails from people who are relieved to finally find somewhere where they can talk Tudor without boring their friends and family. I know the feeling of having people's eyes glaze over when you start talking Tudor history and it is wonderful to find people who are interested in it as much as you are.
It's also very rewarding to be able to help students or people researching for a book, to be able to point them in the right direction for reputable sources and primary sources.

Q: Do you have any exciting new upcoming projects that you would like to share?
A: I'm working on a joint project (non Tudor history) with my husband, Tim, at the moment and that is due to be released in July. I'm also finishing up a Tudor themed project which I hope to release late summer/early autumn. It's more of a general Tudor history book and I will be sharing details a bit nearer the time.
The Chequers ring, the famous locket-ring commissioned and worn by Elizabeth I to commemorate her mother and unite the two as one (inside the "E" are two side-by-side portraits of Elizabeth I and Anne Boleyn). Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.
~Thank you for your time, Claire! 
It has been a privilege to interview someone as dedicated to Tudor history as you are! 
I wish you best of luck in your upcoming project, and I know I am not alone in saying that, 
"I cannot wait to hear more!"~

Visit The Anne Boleyn Files:
Visit The Elizabeth Files:
For More on The Fall of Anne Boleyn: A Countdown, click:

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Theatre Thursday: Macbeth, Merry Wives, and the Business of Bear-baiting

"They have me tied to the stake; I cannot fly, but bearlike I must stay and fight the course."-Macbeth
A page of Macbeth from Shakespeare's First Folio, 1625. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

This line from Shakespeare's Scottish tragedy Macbeth captures the dreadful feeling of one's futile resistance against a vicious attack. All of us can probably relate to this feeling, having experienced it at one point of our lives or another. The phrase "They have tied me to the stake" and "bearlike" allude to the popular Elizabethan entertainment of bear-baiting. 

Bear-beating was a spectator sport that was also considered a theatrical affair. This "sport" was one in which a poor bear was chained to a stake in the center of an arena; then, a pack of dogs was unleashed to attack the bear. Spectators had placed bets before the match on the eventual outcome: would the dogs tear the bear to shreds, or would the bear, though tethered, be victorious? Shakespeare not only referenced the sport in Macbeth, but also covered it in The Merry Wives of Windsor. In Windsor, the bear Sackerson is inspired by some of the actual bears that lived long enough to develop a fan-following all their own..

By modern standards, the entertainment of bear-baiting or it's other variant, bull-baiting, is repulsive. Anyone caught facilitating or attending a sport of this nature today (like modern dog-fighting rings) would be arrested and prosecuted for animal cruelty and illegal gambling. But in the seedy areas of Elizabethan London (and the not so seedy areas, mind you) this was just par for the course. Bear-baiting is one of the more problematic realities of Elizabethan history that I have had to come to terms with. I have been raised by my mother to defend those who cannot speak for themselves, be it animals or children. And however hard it may be for me to do so, I know that to be a good historian I must judge historical figures and cultures by the standards of their own time, not my own, in order to make an fair assessment. The Roman's had their Gladiator games, and the Elizabethan's had their bear-baiting.

An illustration of a bear garden and bull-baiting ring on the banks of the Thames in London, c. 1560. From Agas's Map of London. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

Queen Elizabeth herself is documented as having enjoyed the entertainment of bear-baiting on several occasions during her progresses, despite being particularly wary of any form of bloodshed in the political and military sectors of her world. Robert Dudley, the Earl of Leicester organized a bear-baiting, among many other over-the-top entertainments for Elizabeth when she visited him at his Kenilworth Castle in 1575. Coincidentally the Earl's crest was a bear and ragged staff, or a bear chained to a staff. 

A bear and ragged staff statue at Kenilworth Castle. The display is part of the recreated Elizabethan Gardens that Leicester assembled for Queen Elizabeth as a grand gesture for her visit to Kenilworth in 1575. Most historians agree that this was Leicester's last attempt to persuade Elizabeth I to marry him. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons courtesy Richard Croft. Image public domain.
There was no shame in participating in bear-baiting, and reputable figures in 16th and 17th century England owned and operated "bear gardens", the venue's in which the sport was held. Edward "Ned" Alleyn, who was one of the two most successful Elizabethan actors (along with Richard Burbage) went on to run a bear garden after his retirement from the stage. In the 17th century, he personally facilitated a bear-baiting for King James I.

A 17th century portrait of Edward Alleyn in old age. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.
Bear-baiting is tragically still in practice in many parts of the world today, from Pakistan to South Carolina in the United States. I find it necessary to include links (see below) that will provide you with more information on the sport, and how you can help to stop it. Be mindful that some of the images and video footage may be disturbing to younger readers.

From The World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA):

From The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS:

From The Alaska Wildlife Alliance:

Saturday, May 19, 2012

The 2012 Anniversary of the Execution of Anne Boleyn

A copy of a 1534 original painting of Queen Anne Boleyn, currently on display at the Boleyn family ancestral home, Hever Castle. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Common. Image public domain.
I believe that to admire Queen Elizabeth I is to admire her mother, Queen Anne Boleyn.
I have spent a lot of time in my life researching the fascinating, powerful and ever-enigmatic Anne Boleyn. On this May 19th, the anniversary of the day of her execution in 1536, I felt it fitting to remember the woman who gave birth to Elizabeth. We know that Elizabeth sought to understand and connect to the memory of her late mother (please see my article, Death Could Not Separate Them: How Elizabeth Connected to Her Deceased Mother).

The Chequers ring. This ring was commissioned by Queen Elizabeth I in 1575 and worn by her until her death in 1603. To learn why this unique piece of jewellery is one of the strongest pieces of evidence we have that prove Elizabeth I felt positively about her mother, please see my article Death Could Not Separate Them: How Elizabeth I Connected to Her Deceased Mother. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Common. Image public domain.

While historians Eric Ives and Alison Weir and David Starkey can illuminate you on the life of Anne Boleyn in print, there are some dedicated women with an online presence who I consider online authorities on Anne Boleyn, and who I encourage you to get familiar with: Claire Ridgway of the site The Anne Boleyn Files, and Natalie Grueninger of On The Tudor Trail (links below). Since they cover Anne Boleyn in depth on a daily basis, I will not try to re-invent the wheel here, but I do want to pay my respects...

Below is an excerpt from my Anne Boleyn article: A timeline of the catastrophic events leading up to Anne's execution after King Henry VIII jousting accident are as follows:

[EXCERPT BEGINS] -April 23rd, 1536 George Boleyn is under the impression he is to become a new Knight of the Garter. Upon arrival to the ceremony, he is publicly snubbed, being informed that Nicholas Carew would be taking his position.

-Bishop Gardiner, abroad in France, returns home when he is notified that King Henry is looking for a way out of his marriage. He is generally credited with suggesting the charge of adultery.

-On Monday, April 24th, On Henry’s orders, Cromwell assembles a court to investigate the matter of destroying the Boleyn faction. Henry Percy and Anne’s relationship is discussed in detail. Percy is ordered to testify that he and Anne had an understanding to marry, but Percy refuses to comply.

-On Wednesday, April 26th,Thomas Boleyn suspects something is afoot, and notifies Matthew Parker, Anne's chaplain, who in turn warns Queen Anne. Parker would later recount his grave worry for the queen to Nicholas Bacon in 1559 (Denny, 270).

-Anne hastily makes arrangements for her daughters care, obtaining promises from trusted friends to look after Elizabeth if anything should happen to her.

-On Thursday, April 27th Parliament is recalled.

-On Sunday, April 30th, Anne confronts Henry about the rumors surrounding their marriage, after he cancelled the couples trip to Calais. The reformer Alesius was present at this tragic confrontation, and later told the episode to her Queen Elizabeth:

Alas, I shall never forget the sorrow I felt when I saw the sainted Queen, your most religious mother, carrying you, still a baby, in her arms, and entreating the most serene King your father in Greenwich Palace, from the open window of which he was looking into the courtyard and she brought you to him. The faces and gestures of the speakers plainly showed the King was angry…

Knowing Henry Percy would not testify against Anne, and knowing Anne would never agree to a divorce, Cromwell began arresting various men who had had any acquaintance with the queen, to frame them for adultery. Mark Smeaton was the first to be arrested, and being low-born, was tortured. He is the only man to say he had illicit relations with Anne, and his claim is not to believed, given that it was extracted under torture.

Henry last saw Anne at the May Day tournament, when they sat together watching the joust. A message was passed to the king in the stands, and Henry called to his attendants, including Henry Norris, to leave with him immediately. Henry would promptly accuse Norris of an affair with his queen, and Norris would deny it, and defend the queen’s virtue, saying that he would fight any man who besmirched Anne’s honor (Denny, 273).

Several other unfortunate and innocent men were arrested, including Boleyn family friend Thomas Wyatt. Wyatt was fortunate enough to be released, and would later write a poem to honor both Queen Anne and the men accused of adultery.

A sketch by Holbein of Boleyn family friend and poet Sir Thomas Wyatt. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.
Anne was arrested and brought to the Tower of London by boat, entering through the Traitors Gate. Later, her daughter Elizabeth would have this same horrible experience, but thankfully with a very different outcome. According to her jailer, Anne declared “My God, bear witness there is no truth in these charges. I am as clear from the company of man as from sin.” Indeed, there was not, and it is only after Anne was in custody that Cromwell began fabricating the case against her (Denny, 277). All the men accused, save for Smeaton, denied any affair and regularly professed to their inquisitors Queen Anne’s impeccable virtue.

The Traitor's Gate at the Tower of London; both mother and daughter would share the same terrifying experience of being imprisoned in the Tower. One would survive; the other would not. While Elizabeth might have entered through the Traitor's Gate, her mother probably entered through the more distinguished Court Gate. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.
The English people were in shock-while they had always know their king was capable of great cruelty, they were stunned that he had turned on his wife so quickly, and that he had arrested 4 noblemen well known to be upstanding citizens. In addition to Smeaton, Anne was accused of adultery with Sir Henry Norris, the king’s good friend and her cousins intended, William Brereton, an evangelical who had given her her beloved greyhound, Urian, and Sir Francis Weston. Most shocking of all, Queen Anne was charged with sleeping with her own brother, due to the jealous, vindictive testimony of his wife, Jane Parker. While recent research has tried to vindicate Jane, she had a long history of petty behavior before this point, and I cannot be sympathetic to her. Later, she would be executed for aiding Anne’s cousin and Henry’s fifth wife, Katherine Howard secret rendezvous with various lovers. While Anne was innocent, Katherine Howard (and Jane) were not.

A sketch by Holbein, generally thought to be of Jane Parker, Lady Rochford. Jane was the wife of George Boleyn, and thus the sister-in-law of Queen Anne. Jane Parker was one of the key informants who provided (false) evidence against her. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

The Boleyn family friend, Archbishop Cranmer, hurried back to London, and wrote a very long and letter on Anne’s behalf to the king, saying “I am in such perplexity, that my mind is clearly amazed; for I never had better opinion in woman, than I had in her; which maketh me to think, that she not be culpable..” (Denny, 279)

A detail from a portrait of Thomas Cranmer. Image acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

Feeling that the end was near, Anne wrote one last letter to the king, to appeal for the mercy of the men that were taking the fall with her, and also for herself. The letter was written on May 6th, but never reached the king. It was found hidden away in Cromwell’s papers, years later. To read the entirety of this poised letter, which is a true testament to Anne’s intelligence, strength and bravery, read Denny’s chapter “Conspiracy”, pages 282-284.

 John Spelman, a judge in the court that tried the accused, later declared that the entire spectacle was ridiculous, and that ‘all the evidence was bawdry and lechery’. The court case and all its presented ‘evidence’ are detailed in full by Ives and Denny, and I would encourage my readers to investigate it, because it is so outlandish it is laughable.

After Smeaton, Norris, Brereton, and Weston were tried, George Boleyn stood before the court. George put up such a fight that his argument ‘crumbled the royal case to dust’. (Denny, 296) Still, the jury was rigged, and he was sentenced to die.

Anne was the last to stand trial, and also made a speech on May 15th, but hers was much more regal than her brother’s. Her powerful address moved the hall to silence, and some fought back tears. The Mayor of London declared “I can only observe one thing in this trial-the fixed resolution to get rid of the Queen at any price”. (Denny, 300) King Henry VIII cruelly had Henry Percy of Northumberland sit on the jury to pass sentence on the woman he loved.  Queen Anne was sentenced to death, by burning or beheading, at the kings pleasure. Mercifully, Anne was not to be burned. Percy was so overcome with emotions that he fainted, and had to be carried out. He would die a year later, almost bankrupt and leaving behind no children. While many have surmised that King Henry’s commissioning of a swordsman from France to do the dirty deed of beheading , instead of a traditional axeman, was a final act of charity, this is pure fantasy, as “…Henry must have requested that he set out for his journey long before thew jury had even given their verdict…”(Denny, 302)

Archbishop Cranmer made one final visit to his queen in the Tower,  but “the suggestion that he had come to hear her last confession and grant her absolution is an error made by Catholic writers, for evangelicals…do not believe in this ritual. As a believer, Anne would have made her own peace with God through the indwelling Holy Spirit." (Denny, 302)

Cranmer undoubtedly brought great comfort to Anne, but he also was forced to do the kings business. Killing Anne was not enough to make way for Jane; the king needed to disinherit Elizabeth with one swift move. Tragically, Anne was led to believe that if she signed the document that Cranmer had brought her, declaring Elizabeth illegitimate, that she would be allowed to leave the country peacefully with her daughter, and live out her days in a Protestant country. Anne, desperate and alone, felt great hope at the prospect of making a life for herself abroad, and raising her daughter to become a great and learned lady. She signed. After Cranmer’s visit, Anne was heard saying she would like to take Elizabeth to Antwerp (Denny, 306). This would never happen, but Elizabeth would, indeed, become a very great and learned queen.       

         After the executions of the innocent men and her brother, Anne was preparing to die. She had been informed that she would be dispatched from this world to the next at 9 in the morning, on May 18th. She dressed herself, said her prayers, and was ready to meet her fate, when she was then told that her execution was postponed. Any lesser woman would have been overcome with anxiety at the delay, but we know from those who were with her that she kept her cool, and even made a few jokes to lighten the mood.

When Anne finally mounted the scaffold on the 19th, there was no booing, or taunting from the crowd. Instead, there was a silence, signifying the shock and awe those in attendance felt at the execution of an innocent woman, their queen.  There was unrest in the city outside of the Tower green, and the queen’s jailer, Master Kingston even voiced fear to Cromwell of a rebellion (Denny, 313).

A detail from a portrait of Thomas Cromwell. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

Anne made a short speech, careful never to criticize the king, for “ This was no time to protest her innocence, she knew it was far too late for recriminations which could only endanger her daughter Elizabeth. In her last moments Anne’s sole concern was to depart this life with grace and forgiveness for those who had wronged her…” (Denny, 315) [EXCERPT ENDS]

The scaffold speech given by Queen Anne right before the French swordsman severed her "little neck", taking her head from her body and thus ending her most impressive life, was recorded by Tudor chronicler Edward Hall (c.1498-1547). His account of Anne's last words are the closest we will ever get to hearing them for ourselves:

"Good Christian people,
I am come hither to die, for according to the law, and by the law I am judged to die, and therefore I will speak nothing against it. I am come hither to accuse no man, nor to speak anything of that, whereof I am accused and condemned to die, but I pray God save the king and send him long to reign over you, for a gentler nor a more merciful prince was there never.
And to me he was ever a good, a gentle and sovereign lord. And if any person will meddle of my cause, I require them to judge the best. And thus I take my leave of the world and of you all, and I heartily desire you to pray for me. Oh Lord, have mercy on me; to God I commend my soul."

Anne handed her Book of Hours to Margaret Wyatt before placing her neck on the block. In the cover, Anne had written, “Remember me when you do pray, that hope doth lead from day to day.” Anne was then blindfolded and led to the block; before the swordsman took his swing, she repeated several times, "To Jesus Christ I commend my soul; Lord Jesu receive my soul."  

A portrait of Margaret Wyatt, Lady Lee c. 1540. By Hans Holbein. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.
The axe fell on her head and she was gone. There were no cheers, but there were cannons that announced to King Henry, far away and in the company of Jane Seymour, that he was free to wed, yet again. He would do so quickly, since he had made all his living children into bastards.

A portrait by Holbein of Anne Boleyn's short-lived successor, Queen Jane Seymour. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.
 The execution of Anne Boleyn was unprecedented; it was the first time a Queen of England had been disposed of in such a way; unfortunately, it would not be the last.

A plaque to commemorate the most notable executions that took place on the green in the Tower of London. Queen Anne Boleyn is listed first, and her equally unlucky cousin, Katherine Howard, is the third down on the list.

Anne had been sentenced to die for being found guilty of adultery, even though her marriage was annulled prior to her death; this meant that she was going to the block for violating her marriage vows, even though now legally she had never even been a wife. How did a woman found guilty of such frustrating trumped-up charges embody such grace and courage in her defeat? And how many of us can say that we would be able to remain so calm and collected if we were faced with the same situation (God forbid) ?

Rest in Peace, Queen Anne Boleyn. You are not forgotten.

Anne Boleyn, Queen of England 1533-1536.

For more on Anne Boleyn online, please visit:
The Anne Boleyn Files:

Thursday, May 17, 2012

On This Day in Elizabethan History: The Death of Archbishop of Canterbury Matthew Parker

A detail of a portrait of Queen Elizabeth I's Archbishop of Canterbury Matthew Parker. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.
 On this Day in Elizabethan History, Matthew Parker, Queen Elizabeth's first Archbishop of Canterbury died. Reformer Matthew Parker (1504-1575) had been entrusted by Queen Anne Boleyn to look out for the spiritual education of her young daughter Elizabeth, before she was executed on trumped-up charges on May 19th, 1536. And Parker would keep his pledge to the late Queen to guide Elizabeth in the ways of the Protestant faith. Elizabeth rewarded Parker for his loyalty to her mother's request by making him Archbishop of Canterbury in 1559. He would serve in this prestigious post until his death, when he was succeeded by Edmund Grindal.

Parker would be responsible for devising the 39 Articles of Faith, one of the three principles all bishops in the Elizabethan Church were expected to subscribe to and uphold (Please see my article Religious Policy under Elizabeth I for more information.)

The path to religious life for Matthew Parker began in 1522, when Parker attended Corpus Christi College, part of Cambridge University; he graduated in 1525. In April of 1527 he was ordained a deacon, and then subsequently a priest in June. In September of the same year he was elected a fellow of Corpus Christi College and began his Master's degree. Parker, an early Anglican reformer, spurned the then-powerful Cardinal Wolsey's support in favor of Anne Boleyn, the intellectual and increasingly influential love-interest of King Henry VIII. 
A 16th century portrait of King Henry VIII's "new man", Cardinal Thomas Wolsey. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

Anne had long been a supporter of Cambridge intellectuals, and when she became Queen of England, she made Parker her personal chaplain. Anne, who was an active supporter of the reform of the English Church herself, had great faith in Parker's abilities, and it was through her influence that he was made Dean of the College of Secular Canons in 1535.

A Tudor-era miniature of Anne Boleyn wearing her famous "B" necklace. Attributed to Hoskins. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.
Parker's royal patroness was executed in 1536; while many in the Boleyn faction were shunned after the Queen's death, Parker was not, which speaks to his level of religious talent, which the King found indispensable. In 1537, Parker was promoted Chaplain to King Henry VIII. Parker would enjoy a steady rise up the ecclesiastical ladder, accepting various prestigious positions. Then, in 1544 he was elected Master of his alma-mater, Corpus Christi College, and in 1545 he became the Vice-Chancellor.

A modern sign placed in memorial of some of the more famous individuals who lost their lives on the scaffold on Tower Green. Queen Anne Boleyn is the first listed. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.
 That same year, King Henry VIII's parliament passed an act that enabled an investigation of colleges and chantries. Parker was appointed as one of the commissioners for Cambridge, and it is his report that has been credited in saving the institution from being dissolved.

When Edward VI took the throne after his father, many members of the Church of England's clergy chose to take advantage of the institution of marriage. Though it had not yet been legalized by Parliament, it was no longer a felony and the future looked promising. In June of 1547, Parker married Margaret Harlestone, the daughter of a Norfolk squire. Margaret and Matthew had planned to wed since around 1540 (Strype's Life of Parker, 1711). During Kett's Rebellion, an Edwardian uprising over land based in his wife's home county, Parker preached in the rebel camp at Mousehold Hill, begging the rebels to disperse. His appeal was to no avail, but Parker's secretary Alexander Neville wrote one of the two eye-witness accounts of the failed rebellion per his master's instruction, published in Latin in 1575.

Detail from the allegorical painting Edward VI and the Pope. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.
 Parker would enjoy much favor in the brief reign of King Edward VI. The young King's uncle Lord Protector Edward Seymour, Duke of Somerset and John Dudley, the Earl of Northumberland (Robert Dudley's father) saw that he was promoted to various offices. But as was the case of so many who rose to prestige in Edward VI's time on the throne, the ascension of Mary Tudor changed everything.

A portrait of Queen Mary I of England, who earned the nickname "Bloody Mary" for her relentless persecution of English Protestants and the Marian burnings. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.
 Because Parker had been so closely associated with Northumberland, who attempted to usurp the English throne from Mary I and place his son Guilford and daughter-in-law Jane Grey on the throne (per Edward's change in the Succession), and because he was a married member of the clergy, he suffered under Mary's hand. 

A portrait of Jane Grey from the 1590's, after a lost original from the 1550's. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

Queen Mary took away Parker's lucrative deanery of Lincoln, which he had received in 1552, and his mastership of Corpus Christi College. While most who experienced the wrath of Mary I fled England for the Continent, establishing exiled English-Protestant communities abroad, Parker remained in England. He remarkably escaped the fate of his esteemed colleagues Archbishop Cranmer and Bishop Ridley and Bishop Latimer, who were burned at the stake.

An illustration of Bishop's Latimer and Ridley being burned at the stake, from John Foxe's Book of Martyrs. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.
Upon Elizabeth's ascension to the throne in 1558, she immediately identified Parker as her candidate for Archbishopric of Canterbury, though at first he modestly refused. On August 1, 1559 he was elected, and on December 19th, 1559 he was made Archbishop at Lambeth. Elizabeth's selection of Parker for Archbishop of Canterbury was political as well as personal. While Elizabeth rarely spoke of her mother, she did many things in plain sight to honor Queen Anne's memory; her promotion of Parker was to be the first of many. In the crucial months ahead, where Elizabeth would establish her policy on religion, she needed a temperate, hardworking man to help lay down her doctrine; Parker was that man. 

Still, there were points of religion on which Queen Elizabeth and Parker clashed. Parker was a family man, and Elizabeth was skeptical of the clergy's involvement in the institution of marriage. Once, when taking leave of Lambeth Palace, Elizabeth, in her typical wit, mused on how to bid Mrs. Margaret Parker adieu, saying, "Madam, I may not call you; mistress I am ashamed to call you, so I know not what to call you; but I thank you." (Palmer, 29)

Parker leaves behind a legacy as an honest and faithful servant God, and one of forefather's of the Protestant faith in England. He was also a steadfast, hardworking servant of the queen, undertaking considerable religious responsibilities which Elizabeth preferred to distance herself from. Parker's collection of 55 volumes of religious works, housed in the Parker Library at Corpus Christi, Cambridge, are a priceless resource to those who study Reformation and 16th century history.


Palmer, Michael. Reputations: Elizabeth I. The Bath Press, 1988. Print.

Denny, Joanna. Anne Boleyn: A New Life of England's Tragic Queen. Portrait, 2005. Print.

Life of Parker by John Strype, published 1711 and re-edited for Claredon Press in 1821. All three volumes are now available online HERE.

Monday, May 14, 2012

The Timeless Queen Elizabeth I Reincarnated in Banbury's New Mill Theatre Show!

A detail of The Coronation Portrait of Elizabeth I, depicting Elizabeth, aged 25. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

The new one-woman show I, Elizabeth premiering May 16th at 7:30 in The Mill Theatre in Banbury has caught our attention. Starring actress Rebecca Vaughn in a performance one reviewer says is "worthy of an Oscar", Vaughn, in first person narrative tells the story of Elizabeth I, incorporating the Tudor queen's own letters, speeches and quotes throughout. Vaughn imagines what Elizabeth's personal thoughts may have been on the issues she faced when she became queen at the age of 25, such as marriage, the cold war with Spain and religion.

As a first person interpreter of Elizabeth I, I would relish the chance to see Vaughn's celebrated performance as the illustrious queen. I also find it important to incorporate Elizabeth's actual words into my own performances to give them added authenticity (although I do not for a second delude myself into believing that any of my shows are professional theatre-worthy!) and I deem it necessary to make educated guesses as to what Elizabeth's inner-most thoughts might have been. I applaud Vaughn and The Mill Theatre for running this exciting show that tells Elizabeth's story in such a perspective.

The Banbury Guardian spoke with The Mill Theatre's program manager Deborah Clarke and did a lovely detailed write-up on the show; the article also features a stunning photo of Vaughn dressed as the young Elizabeth, seemingly deep in thought over an agonizing matter. Please read the article at the link included below.

And if anyone is fortunate enough to see the show, I would be interested to know what you thought of it! Living in America limits my ability to see such things :( Please comment below or email me at ERITudor(at)gmail(dot)com !



Thursday, May 3, 2012

Theatre Thursday: Shakespeare and Ovid

A modern interpretation, after the Roman style, of the poet Ovid. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons courtesy the artist, Aureola. Image public domain.

Shakespeare admired Ovid, (43 B.C.-17 A.D.) and he drew a great deal of inspiration from his body of work. Ovid's Metamorphoses was the work that Shakespeare appears to have studied the most; Metamorphoses was a collection of stories from the ancient Greek and Roman myths. The Elizabethan people regarded the knowledge and aesthetic of the classical world as a muse for art, theatre, literature, and even decorative etching on armor. 

The frontispiece of a 1567 edition of Ovid's Metamorphoses, translated from Latin into English by "Arthur Golding, gentleman." This page also prominently displays the heraldic bear and ragged staff of Robert Dudley, the Earl of Leicester. I have been unable to confirm with certainty that this work was commissioned by him, but all evidence would suggest that it probably was. If anyone has more information on this, please comment or email me! Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

Francis Meres was an Elizabethan author who received his M.A. at Oxford and wrote the Wits Treasury, which was a valuable compendium of information on Elizabethan poets. Wits Treasury is acknowledged in the Shakespeare circle as being the first account with  merit on on the early works of Shakespeare, even establishing some basic chronology of the publications of the works. Meres, who was well acquainted with Shakespeare's gift, compared the Bard's work to Ovid's, saying:

"The sweet witty soul of Ovid lives in mellifluous and honey-tongued Shakespeare."


Francis Meares, Alumni Cantabrigienses, (online edition) Cambridge University Press.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

May 2nd, 1536: The Arrest of Queen Anne Boleyn

This portrait of Anne Boleyn is probably a later copy of a 1534 original, and it now hangs in the ancestral Boleyn family home, Hever Castle. The Latin inscription above Anne says ANNA.BOLINA ANG.REGINA, or Anne Boleyn, Queen of England. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

Today in Tudor History, May 2nd, 1536, Anne Boleyn, Queen of England and mother of the future Queen Elizabeth I, was arrested on the orders of her husband, King Henry VIII.

To read a full report of the arrest that shocked Europe, please read the wonderful article To The Tower, written by Claire Ridgeway of the Anne Boleyn File's HERE.

To learn about Anne Boleyn's education and adolescence, please read Part 1 of 3 of my Anne Boleyn article, A Continental Education.

To learn about Anne's courtships, her time in service to Queen Catherine, and political intrigues, read Part 2 of 3 of my Anne Boleyn article, Anne Back in England.

To read about Anne Boleyn's triumph in becoming Queen of England, her accomplishments during her brief reign, her relationship with her only child, and her tragic downfall, read Part 3 of 3 of my Anne Boleyn article, An Honorary Man.

Today is a day of reverence in which we can all reflect on the beginning of the end of the ever-captivating Anne Boleyn.

A plaque to remember the most notable personages who died on the scaffold on the Tower green in the Tower of London; Queen Anne Boleyn is the first listed. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

On This Day in Elizabethan History: Pikemen Demonstrate for Queen Elizabeth

Happy May Day!

"Dancing Around the May-Pole"-A 1767 illustration from A Little Pretty Pocket Book for children. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

"They rose early to observe the rite of May"
-A Midsummer Night's Dream

On This Day in Elizabethan History, May Day in 1572, a band of London pikemen demonstrated their skill-at-arms for Queen Elizabeth I at Greenwich Palace.

An illustration of an officer of a unit of pikemen from Military Antiquities: Respecting the History of the English Army from Conquest to the Present Time by Francis Grose. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.