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:


  1. I'm loving each stop of the tour, and am beginning each day by reading the post :) First, I thought it was so touching to read how Claire inspired you to begin your blog on Elizabeth. The other thing I really related to here was the joy of finding a kindred spirit - someone whose eyes don't glaze over when the Tudors (or my favorite royal family, the Wittelsbachs) come up in conversation :)
    sjbraun at hotmail dot com

  2. I'm commenting on Lois Bateson who was unable to comment:
    I've just finished The Anne Boleyn Collection and loved it! Thank you soo much Claire for all you share with us. I already have The Fall of Anne Boleyn-The Countdown and it's next in line to read. Again, thanks Claire for the truth and your constant dedication. We definitely appreciate it. Love your web sites and all your work :) Great article x

  3. Thanks for yet another great interview! I share Claire's sentiment about finding a community of other Tudor history fans! I wrote my Junior-Year HS term paper on Henry VIII, and it was one of the few times I actually put any effort into what I turned in, only to receive a "C" on it! It also had a note in red on the corner that stated something to the effect of; "This subject bored me" !!! I was so angry and disappointed, that I showed my paper to another teacher and asked her to read it...she told me that it was well-done and she would have at least given me a "B" on it!!! So, I learned the hard way that not everyone enjoys my beloved Tudors! Thanks to all of you for the daily thought-provoking lessons and the beautiful pictures...Pamela

  4. I enjoyed the interview and especially liked the quotes about Anne Boleyn and Elizabeth. I am more familiar with Anne's story, since I am interested in her for 11-12 years now and I think it's time I discover more about her daughter, too!!

    1. forgot my e-mail! elizapol(at)hotmail(dot)com

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  6. This is a great interview - I love both of your sites and really enjoy the community aspect of the Anne Boleyn Files, as well as the competitions you hold! The Anne Boleyn Day competition was a great one, and I'm glad I participated! I read your blog everyday and learn a lot from it, which I incorporate into my own blog. Great job! :)

  7. Great interview, especially the pictures that you included in the article. I absolutely love Elizabeth and have followed your blog for quite a while now. Keep up the great work.

  8. These are all wonderful, heartfelt comments! I concur; the internet and social media handles have also afforded me the opportunities to connect with other Tudor and Elizabeth enthusiasts that I would not otherwise have the chance to meet. I value these relationships and I can tell that all of you do, too!

    Here are my responses to each of you:

    @girlsinwhitedresses Thank you for always reading Claire's interviews and for connecting to my personal story about how Claire's blogs have impacted my life :)

    @loisbateson via Claire Ridgway, I think you are absolutely right to praise Claire for her tireless quest for the truth about Anne Boleyn, and for sharing it with us all! We are all indebted to her knowledge!

    @Pamela it is always nice to hear from a young Tudor fan. Just a few years ago (okay, more than a few!) I, too was in HS and already deeply in love with the Tudors. Keep up your interest and research of the topic; If you are like me, it will be one of the most rewarding things that you ever do!

    @Eliza what a wonderful long-term interest you have in A.B. ! Let me know if there is anything you would like to know about Elizabeth I!
    My email is ERITudor (at) gmail (dot) com

    @Niki Incorvia Thank you for noticing my incorporation of Elizabeth I into the interview!

    @Stephanie Tracy Its so nice to see a familiar face from Twitter and the blog-o-sphere!

    @Bridgett Thank you for your praise of the photos (I have over 30 folders on my desktop of Tudor & Elizabethan images, divided by year, families, and themes, so I take great care in selecting appropriate pictures for each piece!) and also thank you for reading my blog long-term. It means the world to me! And btw, I love your gravatar! ;)


    Ashlie Jensen

  9. Thank you for the wonderful articles & pictures! I have been deeply interested in Elizabeth, Anne & all things Tudor for many years now so I'm thrilled to discover this Being Bess site. I'm looking forward to reading everything here. My email is Thanks again! Maddie

  10. This is an interesting interview, particularly the part about self-publishing and the challenges thereof.

  11. I thoroughly enjoyed reading the interview and I LOVE the websites! While my fascination with Anne Boleyn and the Tudor Dynasty started in my 20's it is a facination nontheless. The injustice that was so prevalent back then in some ways is still alive today: men are threatened by strong women! Queen Elizabeth had so much of Anne in her as far as I could see; which amazed me because Queen Anne was murdered when her daughter was so young! Anyways, I believe both Queen Anne and Queen Elizabeth would be proud and honored by these websites and your dedication to the truth!

  12. I found this interview informative. I am quickly becoming a huge fan of this time period.