Music and Richard III; Ian Churchward unites interests

Ian Churchward, who has a musical  background in groups such as Chapter 29, The Morrisons, Stone Reaction and The Psycho Daisies to mention but a few, has, as Theclock man legendary ten seconds Legendary Ten Seconds, found a way to incorporate not only his interest for history and Richard III into his music, but also to use it to support a scoliosis charity. 

When did your interest in Richard III start?

I  am not really sure. For almost as long as I can remember I have been interested in history. It was before the early 1990’s that I must have had an interest in Richard III because I remember visiting Middleham castle around about that time when I was on holiday in Yorkshire and it was one of the places I wanted to visit because of my interest in the period of the Wars of the Roses. Probably like most people it must have been whenever I first read about the mystery of the missing princes in the Tower of London. When I was a young boy one of my favourite books was a Ladybird children’s book about Warwick the Kingmaker. I didn’t really pursue my interest in English late 15th century history until I saw the documentary about the discovery of the grave of Richard III in the car park in Leicester a few years ago.

What gave you the idea to incorporate him and his times in your music?

It was after watching the documentary about the discovery of the grave of Richard III in the car park in Leicester a few years ago when it was first shown on English TV. I  was in the middle of composing a song with a friend. We had a good idea for a tune but no idea for the words and after watching the documentary I  decided to make the song idea into a song about Richard III. It started off as one song and then ended up with more songs than I could fit onto 3 albums.

GoldAngels paintingThe music you play, is it the same kind of music that would have been heard in the time of Richard himself?

I don’t think it is although it almost sounds like it could be. Some of the instrumentals sound like the kind of music that might have been heard during the Tudor period.  The songs on the Richard III albums are a bit like historical novels that have been written in the modern era. For instance the Sunne In Splendour novel by Sharon Penman takes you back in time so that you feel like you are in late 15th century England but the characters in the novel speak using modern English so that we can understand the story.  I have tried to make my music about Richard III sound like it is  taking you back in time by giving it a medieval flavour but to make it accessible I am using modern musical instruments.

How come you have dedicated yourself to supporting scoliosis issues?Loyualte final FRONT COVER

Because Richard III had scoliosis and so did a member of my family. I felt it was a good opportunity to help raise awareness of this medical condition and so I decided that I would donate a percentage of any profit to a scoliosis charity in the UK called S.A.U.K.

How has it been received?

The majority of the people who have purchased my music about Richard III appear to have enjoyed listening to the songs and the Richard III society have been supportive. I have been disappointed that the Leicester Richard III visitor centre, Bosworth Heritage Centre and the English Heritage shop in Middleham castle have not been prepared to sell my CDs in their shops.

Do you have plans for another album?

So far I have released 3 album about the life and times of Richard III. I  am currently in the middle of recording an album which will include songs about Richard III but will be less focused on his life and hopefully cover other aspects of the Wars of the Roses. I am hoping that the album will also include a song I have composed about a medieval re-enactment group and another one about the modern medieval fair that is held in Tewkesbury. I have so far composed 13 songs with lyrics and 6 instrumentals that could be used for the next album. I want to call the album Sunnes and Roses. A play on the famous band Guns and Roses. I got the idea from a website that is  called Sunnes and Roses.

The lyrics of one of the songs of Ians upcoming album;























Gold coin painting – Graham Moore

Loyaulte me lie cover – Red Fox Illustrations

Bringing history to life: Reenactment

There are several ways to get involved in history, and a more hands on one is to participate in historical reenactment. Here Tim Bedcote, who is a member of the reenactment group committed to the Wars of the Roses give an insight to what it´s like.

 Sometimes reenactment is confused with roleplaying. Would you care to explain the difference?

Live-action roleplaying (LARP) is like a dress-up version of Dungeons and Dragons – you have a named character that you play, in a game with winners and losers. In re-enactment it’s more like a theatrical scenario in which we present a battle, knowing in advance who wins and who loses (Richard III never gets to win Bosworth, however much most of the crowd there would like him to!). Of at least equal importance with the battle re-enactment for many of us is the living history aspect, when we demonstrate more everyday aspects of period life – carpentry, spinning, weaving and so forth, to small groups of Members of the Public (MOPs) wandering around the camps.

Battle_of_Tewkesbury_reenactment_-_clashWould you say reenactments play an important part in making people interested in, and understanding, history?

I hope so. While the battle event pulls in the big crowds, you are more likely to get through to people in one-to-one or small group chats in the living history camps. My personal ‘crusade’ is to restore respect to the common perception of medieval surgery, one person at a time. The best moments are when you hear MOPs saying things like “I never realised…” Then you know you’ve got through to people, and that may spark them to find out more.

What part does it play in your own interest in history?

I have always been more interested in the lives of ordinary people than in the “poshBattle_of_Tewkesbury_reenactment_-_holding_the_line soap opera” approach to history. I can never experience what it was like to be the king (or his lover, given some people’s obsessions), but I can gain insights into ordinary life. Many reenactors start off being attracted by the battles, but move away from the big spectaculars because they don’t offer an authentic ‘immersion’ experience.

The most exciting thing in re-enactment is the feeling sometimes known as ‘period rush’ – a euphoric experience almost like a drug high (I would imagine, not being a drug user myself), which comes from the feeling of being entirely immersed in the past an out of touch with any 21st century input. The first time I felt it was seeing my first arrow cloud going overhead; I had a wonderful moment of it at Bosworth last year when walking down from the visitor towards the authentic camp on the Friday night (before any public came in) the only thing visible was a whole sea of period tents. It gave a momentary appreciation of what a genuine medieval army camp would have looked like.

But that connection can come from simple things too – threading a bone needle, lighting a fire with a flint and steel, or sleeping on straw.

Does it ever happen that someone is actually injured during a reenacted battle?

Occasionally, but as a rule re-enacting is somewhat safer than rugby and a lot safer than riding a motorbike. When it does happen it’s almost always accident or misjudgement personally I’ve never ha anything worse than bruises. People who like injuring others and getting injured themselves tend to gravitate towards a full-contact medieval fighting sport called Battle of the Nations. Like LARPers, I wish them all the best in their chosen hobby, but it’s not for me.

Roman_cavalry_reenactment_Carnuntum_2008_15How much time does it take to be a good reenactor? Do you get together and practice for example the battle of Bosworth?

Off-season training is worthwhile if you’re going to do anything ‘enhanced’ like working with the horses (something that’s a big feature of Bosworth). Generally though it’s not something you ever ‘finish’ – every reenactor has goals of their own to achieve, kit they could improve or replace, skills they could acquire… the whole thing is gloriously open-ended like that. It’s always best to ‘start small’ and aim low with your first kit. I sometimes encounter people on FB history groups – usually women, for some reason – who express a desire to join a re-enactment group “as the queen, with lots of gorgeous gowns!”

Well, I’m sure you’d like to, but could you carry it off? Can you afford that sort of kit, or800px-Bataille_Waterloo_1815_reconstitution_2011_3 make it yourself? Can you afford, as starter kit, to have a fully-furnished pavilion with carpets and high-status furniture? Will you be bringing your own servants? Starting as a peasant woman is far more achievable.

My first kit was as a common archer (a role I am still happy to take on the battlefield), but as I have got more into living history my civilian kit has improved beyond peasant bowman to something more middle-class, with a chaperon and fur-trimmed robe (both of which I’ve made myself), demonstrating surgical instruments and the making of potions and ointments.

There’s one legendary guy within medieval re-enactment who did a complete pilgrimage to Canterbury last winter, who comes to events as a pedlar with his own cart. That’s ‘low status’ but he does it so well, and in such detail. I had a conversation with one lady who was keen to get into re-enactment and suggested that a really good role that nobody else was really doing in detail would be that of washerwoman. A good, knowledgeable washerwoman would be a better asset for any group than a poorly-researched queen.

Is re-enactment something which is growing in terms of people participating or forming groups of their own?

Reenactment covers so many periods and groups it’s very difficult to say for certain; some individuals and groups join and others drop out almost every season. but my perception is that for my period (Wars of the Roses) as a whole it’s not only expanding but getting better in quality. Re-enactment of any period tends to start off with homemade and adapted kit, but over the years craftsmen start researching the period kit and producing better items. I blush to think of the gear I wore in my first-ever c15th re-enactment 30 years ago! ‘Authenticity’ is less a goal at which you arrive than a philosophical or ideological approach to getting deeper and deeper into the period.


Images, in order, from Wikimedia Commons. Photographers name/Alias below

(included images are from different groups, reenacting different periods)

Battle of Tewkesbury – Antony Stanley

Roman cavalry reenactment – Matthias Kabel

Battle of Waterloo – Myrabella

Battle of Grunwald, Poland – Wojsyl


Interview with Amy Licence

Recently I reviewed Amy Licence book “Edward IV & Elizabeth Woodville – a trueAmy love story”, and now I have had the pleasure of asking her a few questions

 How did your interest in history start?

I don’t really remember a time before I was interested in history. It came from reading and visiting old castles with my parents. I do recall a book I got out of the library when I was about 5 or 6, about cavemen, and being so frustrated when I finished reading it, wanting to go back to the library and get another but the library was closed. By the time I was 14, I’d read all their Tudor books.

AmyAt what point did you realise it was primarily the women’s stories you wanted to highlight?

I’ve always been interested in looking at the women’s side of things; I remember reading biographies of men and spotting these fascinating figures in the margins and thinking that their stories deserved to be told in their own right. There were occasions too, when I thought some historians were unfair to women and I refused to accept their portrayals and interpretations of female motivation and actions. I think the salient moment, though, was when I became a mother, and began to see a discrepancy between my own experience and the way certain books portrayed and valued it. Then, I found that researching childbirth in the past opened up all sorts of other questions about gender relations that I wanted to pursue.

How important is history to C21st people and do you personally feel that lack of In bedknowledge influences the modern man?

I think history is important in ways that aren’t obvious. It’s important to learn about the past, so we can see the present in context and there’s always the old adage about us being doomed to repeat the past, but I think the lessons we learn are more subtle than that. Studying historical figures, particularly weighing conflicting sources and assessing bias, constantly reminds me there are more than one way of looking at something, that no one person is entirely “this” or “that.” When I’m trying to piece together the experience of someone living five centuries ago, at the remove of time and cultural distance, it makes me understand how difficult it is to interpret people from the outside and how they must be assessed within the mores of their own beliefs. This is so relevant to today, when we interact with people from different generations, countries and religions; these historical lessons are transferrable across other boundaries. This is the most valuable knowledge that comes from my work, studying the lives of people in the past.

sixWhat determines who you will be writing about when you prepare for a new book?

It’s a negotiation. Sometimes my publisher has something specific in mind they’d like me to do and sometimes I’m keen, or I might say that individual doesn’t particularly interest me. On other occasions, there will be something that I’m burning to write about and, so long as I submit a valid proposal, I’m lucky that my publisher usually agrees. Quite often an idea comes to me while writing a previous book and I want to follow that through but it demands a book of its own.

What will you be working on next?

I’m working on a biography of Catherine of Aragon for Amberley Publishing, as I want All about Richard IIIto set her in the context of a Renaissance, Humanist queen, not just a wife who failed to produce sons. I’m also continuing to write children’s books for MadeGlobal; my book on Henry VIII will be coming out with them soon.


Amy Licence is a historian, journalist and teacher who to date has published 10, soon to be 11, books on the history of late 15th and early 16th century, focusing on women´s history.

Published books: In Bed with the Tudors (2012), Elizabeth of York – the forgotten Tudor Queen (2013), Anne Neville – Richard III´s Tragic Queen (2013), Royal babies 1066-2013 (2013), Richard III: The Road to Leicester (2014), Cecily Neville – Mother of Kings (2014), The six wives and many mistresses of Henry VIII – the women´s stories (2014), Living in Squares, Loving in Triangles – The lives and loves of Virginia Wolf and the Blomsbury Group (2015), Edward IV & Elizabeth Woodville – a true love story (2016), Red Roses – Blanch of Gaunt to Margaret Beaufort (2016).

Amy Licence is also working on a book series for children; “All about..” featuring Richard III, Henry VII and Henry VIII

Interview with historian David Baldwin

David BaldwinHistorian and author David Baldwin has been kind enough to answer some questions of mine, for which I´m very grateful. As well as having written several interesting books, among those the book Lost Prince – the survival of Richard of York – of which I have written in an earlier post – he has spent many years as a lecturer at Leicester. David Baldwin is also a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society



Back in 1986 you wrote that Richard III was most likely buried in Grey Friars, and that we might see him found during the 21st century. What were your thoughts when his remains were discovered?

Surprise actually. I had supposed that an excavation would only be possible when a major redevelopment of the Grey Friars site was undertaken – to find Richard in the one small area in which it was possible to dig (the Social Services car park) was incredibly lucky. My main argument my 1986 article was that his ‘slight remains’ had not been exhumed and lost at the Dissolution of the Monasteries, and could, therefore still be discovered ‘at some time in the twenty-first century’.

Would you say that the work around the discovery of Richard III has in any way changed the way we view history, or how it will be dealt with in the future?

I don’t think there will be any fundamental change. We have learned much about Richard’s appearance, his medical conditions, and how he died, but no more about his character and intentions or what made him ‘tick’, as the expression has it. We must hope that new discoveries in archives will bring us closer to answering these questions in due course.

One of the biggest mysteries in English history – which you yourself has written about – is of courseElizabeth-david the princes Edward and Richard. Do you think anything would be put to rest if the bone fragments in Westminster Abbey were to be tested?

If the Plantagenet Y-chromosome could be extracted from remains preserved in Westminster Abbey there would be little doubt that they were the bones of the missing Princes. But we would still not know precisely when they died or by whose hand.

In your very fascinating book The Lost Prince: The survival of Richard of York you suggest that the youngest of Edward IV’s sons was brought to Colchester and lived out his life as a bricklayer; while you yourself say in the book that you´re not sure if it´s fact or fiction – do you personally think that is what might have happened?

Lost princeI’ve continued my research into this subject in the years since The Lost Prince was published, and have discovered other pieces of corroborative evidence. But it is unlikely that we will ever find definitive proof of what would have been a closely guarded secret even then.

What person would you really like to write about that you haven´t already, and why?

I’ve considered and abandoned a number of projects when it became apparent that not enough was known about them. Francis, Viscount Lovell, Richard III’s friend and chamberlain, has always been a particular interest of mine, but details of his life are thin on the ground.

Last but not least; your latest book ‘Henry VIII’s Last Love’ is about Katherine Willoughby. Would you like to say something about it?

Katherine is a fascinating character, but one who has been little noticed Henry´s last loveuntil now. At the age of 14 she was married to Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk, Henry VIII’s closest friend, and after Brandon died in 1545 it was rumoured that Henry meant to wed her himself.

A committed Protestant, she spent four years ‘on the run’ in Europe during Queen Mary’s reign, and after returning to England had an uneasy relationship with Queen Elizabeth whose attitude towards religion was more tolerant than her own. At one point she feared that Elizabeth was about to have her executed, but she survived to die in her bed. Her many letters  to William Cecil reveal a feisty character, outspoken and opinionated, often complaining, sometimes having to apologise for her intemperate words or for being slow to answer, and imbued by the single-minded conviction that her version of religion was the only one acceptable to God.



Books and other productions:

King Richard´s Grave in Leicester – Transactions of the Leicester Archaeological and Historical Society: 1986

Elizabeth Woodville, The History Press: 2004

The Kingmaker´s Sisters: Six Powerful Women in the Wars of the Roses, The History Press: 2006

Stoke Field: The Last Battle of the Wars of the Roses, Pen and Sword Books: 2006

The Lost Prince: The Survival of Richard of York, The History Press: 2007

Robin Hood: The English Outlaw Unmasked, Amberly Publishing: 2010

Richard III, Amberly Publishing: 2012

The Women of the Cousin´s War – with Philippa Gregory and Michael Jones, Simon & Schuster: 2012

The White Queen – What happened to the Princes in the Tower, BBC History, 9 August 2013

Richard III. The Leicester Connection. Pitkin 2013/2015

Henry VIII’s Last Love. The Extraordinary Life of Katherine Willoughby. Amberly Publishing: 2015







Phoenix Rising – interview with author Hunter S Jones

Deb JonesThere are many of us who absolutely love historical fiction, and as May can undoubtedly be said to be Anne Boleyn´s month, at least among those of us who harbour a passion for the Tudor-era. Just in time for the memorial of a very sad day. The author Hunter S Jones has woven a story around the last hours;

“PHOENIX RISING is the last hour of Anne Boleyn as told from the descendant of the astrologer/physician of King Henry VIII. She uses the ‘star map’ used by her ancestress to reveal the stories hidden in that hour. Characters include King Henry VIII, Anne Boleyn, Jane Seymour, Sir Francis Bryan, Thomas Cromwell, Ralph Sadler, Mary Tudor, Eustace Chapyus, Elizabeth Howard Boleyn, Elizabeth I and the Swordsman of Calais.”

On the day, the very anniversary of Anne Boleyn’s execution, you release your latest novel, Phoenix Rising, about her last hours in life. What led you to write this book?
–Thank you for asking, this is an excellent question. Tudor England is my passion. I love everything about it, the clothes, the stories, drama, intrigue, the beauty that offset the brutality…Tudor England was the theatre of life played until the very end. This era has all the good and bad that the human condition offers.
Anne Boleyn is an enigma. There are so many things we will never know for certain. I knew I wanted to do something so that she would die with hope, so that is woven throughout the storyline. I didn’t want to follow the rules of a traditional historical fiction story either. Even though I love reading them, I want a story that allowed us to glimpse inside the thought as of the main characters in Anne’s life at that one moment in time.

Do you feel that you “know” her better after having written this book than you did Before?
–Will anyone ever really know Anne Boleyn? I do believe that I understand her courage at the end of her life much phoenx risingbetter than before I wrote the story.

Has anything in your view of her changed during your work with the book?
–I admire her strength and spirit much more than before writing Phoenix Rising.

Is this a one-time occasion to write about a person living in the Tudor era, or have you gotten your appetite whetted, so to speak?
–Excellent question. I do not know the answer. This book took so much out of me emotionally. Can you imagine the interworking of a person’s mind before an execution? Once Phoenix Rising is launched, I’m going to take a while off and let my mind go free. You know, spend some time with family and friends and have some fun. There are a few stories in my head, but I’m in no hurry to write them. Not yet.

Many, many thanks for having me today! You can order Phoenix rising via this universal purchase link:
On 19 May the book is available worldwide via Amazon Kindle and in paperback.


Deb Hunter writes fiction as Hunter Jones or Hunter S. Jones. Her best-selling poetic romance novel, September Ends, won awards for Best Independently Published Novel and Best Romance, based on its unique blending of poetry and prose.

The Fortune Series received best-selling status on Amazon in the Cultural Heritage and Historical Fiction categories. She has been published by H3O Eco mag, LuxeCrush, Chattanooga Times-Free Press, and is now a freelance contributor for the Atlanta Journal Constitution. She has recently been accepted into the prestigious Rivendell Writers Colony. Her arts, music and culture blogs on are filled with eclectic stories regarding music, writing, the arts and climate awareness.  She lives in Atlanta, Georgia with her Scottish born husband. She graduated without honors from a university in Nashville, Tennessee but with a degree in History.

Follow her at:

Philippa Gregory – Queen of historical novels

A few days ago I announced an upcoming surprise interview, and here she is: well-established and much loved author and historian Philippa Gregory hardly needs an introduction. Through her novels both the court of Henry VIII and his daughter has been brought to life and over the last few years she has let us all get to know the main players during the Wars of the Roses through the book series “The cousin´s war”. Needless to say, I was more than delighted when she took the time to answer a few questions of mine


Philippa_gregory_2011Your books about the Cousins´ War and the Tudor court are immensely popular. What is it that makes events taking place at courts and in battlefields centuries ago so alluring?

It’s all very exciting (if you’re not actually there with a real risk of being beheaded)! History can be better than anything you can make up, and I think people particularly like that they are reading about something that actually happened. The period was also so significant to how our world has become what it is today – it marks the transition from the medieval to the modern period. When you read these stories you realise the small bits of chance which led to England being a Protestant country, not being ruled by Spain, forming a United Kingdom with Scotland and more than anything else creating an empire. All of us have a personal history which reflects these great events, and these events take us back to the medieval world.

While history in general tends to be the story of men, you have allowed a number of strong and fascinating women to come out from the shadows of time. Are the Middle Ages and the Tudor era exceptional in the number of women who were determined to shape their own lives against all odds, The other boleyn girlor do you believe they can be found in any period of time?

For years I have talked about the ‘exceptional’ women that I found in the historical record as a footnote or as a companion to male actions; but just recently I began to see that if I keep finding them they can’t really be exceptional – there are so many of them! There are many many powerful decisive active interesting women struggling with the times they were in, and their stories are sometimes to be found if the historian can be bothered to look, but sometimes they have almost disappeared. I don’t agree that ‘history in general tends to be the story of men’- I think we really have to examine this. English history as published up to 1950 was almost completely written by men (since women could not attend university until 1920)  and was almost exclusively about power and the levers of power – military and political history and the men (all men) who were generals and politicians. So while the world of the past is populated with men and women, all of them living their lives, taking decisions and acting on their circumstances, the history up to about 1950 studied only a few of them, mostly men. It was a huge breakthrough when historians started to look at the history of labouring people, common people, enslaved people and women. I think that when you look for the history of a group you will find it, and there are as great a proportion of active brave courageous women in the Tudor period as there is now. They didn’t have our opportunities, and they were often not acknowledged but I think the ability of women extends across time.

One of the biggest causes for under-reporting of women of ability is the disapproval of the society – so some powerful and able women conceal their activity (like mother of Henry VII, Margaret Beaufort in The Red Queen,) and some are reported very unjustly, like the so-called she-wolf, Margaret of Anjou. I see you ask about her below!

The white queenAt least three of these women, Margaret of Anjou, Margaret Beaufort and Elizabeth Woodville, have been portrayed rather unflatteringly both by their contemporaries and historians through the centuries. Do you believe that their reputation would have been different if they had been men?

Yes, absolutely – the criticism levelled at Margaret of Anjou and Elizabeth Woodville was unwomanly ambition. Once the society defines natural feminine behaviour in a very small compass, any woman who steps outside it is going to be criticised for being ‘unnatural’. Think of Lady Macbeth steeling herself for murder by praying ‘unsex me here’ as if women cannot commit murder. The chroniclers of the period were all educated by the misogynistic church, and very quick to detect the folly or wickedness of Eve.  Interestingly, Margaret Beaufort commissioned the historian of her son’s reign, Polydore Vergil and whitewashed her own reputation. We know that she was deeply involved in rebellion against Richard III but she ensured that his history blames the Duke of Buckingham for the rebellion and credits her son and Thomas Stanley for the alliance which won Bosworth. Margaret Beaufort rightly knew that you could not be a woman held in high regard if it looked like you fought for your place in the world. (Hilary Clinton knows this too)>

Is there a character, man or woman, in your books – and in history -, that you have become The red queenparticularly attached to while writing?

Many! I get attached to each one of my main characters during the research and writing process, as I try to get into their heads and their circumstances. Among my favourites are Katherine of Aragon, Elizabeth Woodville and Jacquetta of Luxembourg. They were each so courageous in forging their path. Katherine of Aragon stuck to her principles despite the cost, Jacquetta made her own marriage completely against the values of her class, and Elizabeth Woodville is just so charismatic with such an extraordinary story of love, ambition and survival. Currrently I am fascinated by the last wife of Henry VIII, Kateryn Parr as I am working on her now.

Just one last question, this one in regards to the adaptation of The White Queen for TV; the actor Aneurin Barnard has almost reached cult status for his portrayal of Richard III, not least for being so far removed from earlier interpretations. Is he, in appearance, how you imagined Richard while researching and writing?

Aneurin provided an excellent portrayal of Richard and I think matches the looks of the young Richard very well – although of course Richard ages a lot more during my books than can be shown in a TV show. I think his acting really captured the ambiguity of the character – a man that so many either love or hate. You struggle to tell what Aneurin as Richard is really thinking, and yet you sympathise so much with him. He’s a particularly nice man, he was so thrilled to be crowned king, I enjoyed the time I spent with him on set. I was so pleased to hear that he has been cast in War and Peace, I think he will be brilliant.


Interview with Claire Ridgway – Founder of The Anne Boleyn Files

As previously announced, Under Tudorrosen, which will be renamned Under The Tudor Rose, is changing the language of communication, and to inaugurate this, we start with and interview with Claire Ridgway, founder of The Anne Boleyn Files.

Claire Ridgway started out in education and freelance writing before she started the increasingly popular blog The Anne Boleyn Files that is dedicated to spreading information and debunking myths about this the second queen of Henry VIII.   Over the years Claire has released a number of successful and well received books, which will be listed below the interview, as well as founded The Tudor Association.

Claire September 2014When, and how, did your interest for Anne Boleyn start?

I’ve always been interested in Henry VIII and his Six Wives after I did a project on them at the age of 11. I was bemused by the fact that he had so many wives and that he had two of them executed. In January 2009 I had a vivid dream about being a spectator at Anne Boleyn’s execution. I don’t remember the details but I do remember the feeling of dread and helplessness I felt knowing that an innocent woman was going to her death and there was nothing I could do about it. I woke up with the name ”Anne Boleyn Files” on the tip of my tongue and feeling that I wanted to research her life and keep a journal on my research by blogging.

Why her?

It was her I dreamt about but I’ve always found her the most fascinating of Henry’s wives because of the love story with such a tragic end. Henry moved heaven and earth to be with her and then ended up killing her. I also find her faith interesting because French reformers rather than Luther influenced her. I have found it really interesting reading the religious texts she read and getting an insight into what she believed.

Have you ever had that moment when goose bumps appear from something you found out?

I get goose bumps more from viewing letters; manuscripts etc. that historical people owned or wrote. When I was researching and writing the George Boleyn biography, I felt quite emotional reading George’s letters and seeing images of the manuscripts he prepared for Anne. I’ve also had goose bumps visiting Hever, eating in the castle dining room where the Boleyns ate, and visiting the Tower of London, seeing the falcon stone carving and paying my respects at Anne Boleyn’s memorial tile.

How has your view on Anne changed over the years?anne-boleyn

I was brought up believing that Anne was a Protestant, but that isn’t strictly true. She was evangelical, but she could not be called Protestant, so my views on her faith have changed.

You have a large number of followers, what do you think fascinates people about Anne Boleyn, and maybe the whole Tudor family?

They are larger than life characters and their stories are better than any soap opera. I think Anne appeals to so many people because of how people see her as a feisty and quite ”modern” woman. I wouldn’t call her a feminist, but her strength of character definitely appeals to people, she was very different to the usual submissive Tudor wife.

Her story is also a tragic one, going from an amazing passionate love to being framed and ending her life on the scaffold. She is also the mother of Elizabeth I, that iconic queen so many people love.

Lastly; the eternal question: was Anne set up by Cromwell, did she bring about her own downfall or had Henry simply had enough?

We’ll never know for sure but my own view is that Henry had decided that his second marriage was as cursed as his first and that he put his need for a son first. I believe that he ordered Cromwell to do what was necessary to get rid of Anne and that Cromwell had to do his job as the King’s faithful servant. I also think that the incest charge was down to Henry VIII, I think he wanted to completely blacken Anne’s name and to pay her and George back for humiliating him, for joking about his poetry and for discussing his sexual prowess. That charge seems to me very personal, it smacks of revenge.









Claire was also involved in the English translation and editing of Edmond Bapst’s 19th century French biography of George Boleyn and Henry Howard, now available as TWO GENTLEMAN POETS AT THE COURT OF HENRY VIII.