I am psyched and honoured to be the kick-off point for the Anne Boleyn Collection book tour! My friend Claire Ridgway has just published her first book, The Anne Boleyn Collection, and she’s whisking around cyberspace this week answering your questions, chatting in interviews, and giving away signed copies of her hot new book and other Tudor-y goodies.
Anyone who sent me questions for Claire is eligible to win a signed copy of the book PLUS another surprise! The winner will be announced on Friday. For now, sit back and enjoy reading this Q & A as Claire tackles some of your questions …
Q: Do you think Henry ever regretted what happened to Anne (and her family) and do you think he suffered from some sort of mental illness? There were so many heads rolling that he had to have had some regrets. Even his good “friends” were subject to the hatchet! — Cathy
Claire: It is tempting to believe that Henry was mentally ill or that he suffered some kind of brain damage as a result of his jousting accident, but I don’t believe that his behaviour was down to illness or injury. In my opinion, Henry had always had that side to him. We have to remember that his father had come to the throne through challenging the king and defeating him in battle, so there were those who believed that the Tudors were usurpers. Henry VIII had to put forward a strong and dominant image; he had to tackle any challenges quickly and brutally.
As for Anne Boleyn’s fall, I do think that, in private, Henry must have regretted it. I just can’t see how you can go from loving someone so passionately to having them executed without feeling remorse at some point.
Q: Why did so many of his wives lose so many babies so young? — Fran
Claire: I think the miscarriages and stillbirths were simply a sign of the times. They were just unlucky. There are a multitude of reasons for miscarriage, stillbirths and infant mortality, and Catherine and Anne were living in times when antenatal and postnatal care were pretty basic, infections were rife and good hygiene was not a priority. Even today, many women experience miscarriage after miscarriage with no real medical reason for them, and infant mortality rates are high in developing countries. Pregnancy and childbirth are still dangerous for both mother and baby.
Q: We know Henry VIII’s height but what about his wives? It helps put it all into perspective. –Karissa
Claire: I’m not sure of their exact heights but Anne Boleyn was described as being of middling stature, Chapuys described Jane Seymour as of “middle stature”, Catherine Howard was supposed to be plump and petite, Anne of Cleves was described by Marillac (the French ambassador) as tall and I read that Catherine Parr’s tomb suggested a height of around 5’2”. I’ve read that Catherine of Aragon was short but I’m not sure of the source for that.
In his report of his examination of the remains thought to have been of Anne Boleyn, Dr Mouat noted that she was about 5′ to 5′ 3” in height.
Q: I know this question sounds blokie, sorry about that, but was Anne sexually trained like Nell Gwynne was? I ask because she spent time in France (where it was much more sexually outgoing) and she kept Henry dangling for so long, I just wondered how she did it. — Simon
Claire: There is no evidence that Anne was sexually trained or that she had any kind of sexual experience before Henry VIII. The French court may have had a reputation but Anne’s mistress, Queen Claude, was known for her moral and virtuous household and would have expected her ladies to guard their reputations. We just don’t know how far Anne let Henry go before they consummated their relationship in late 1532 but neither would have wanted to risk an illegitimate child and Anne wanted to keep her virtue intact.
Q: I am always curious to know if there is any evidence to what type of relationship that Anne had with her sister Mary? Did they even like each other? — The Tudor Cafe
Claire: We just don’t know the details of their relationship. If we take 1499/1500 as a birthdate for Mary and 1501 for Anne then they were obviously close in age and spent their childhood together. They were separated when Anne went to the Low Countries in 1513 but would have met again in France in 1514 when they served Mary Tudor temporarily. We don’t know what happened to Mary when Mary Tudor returned to England in 1515. It could be that she also returned to England leaving Anne in France, but the sisters met again at court in 1522.
Mary was chosen to accompany Anne and Henry VIII on their trip to Calais in 1532 and attended Anne at her coronation in 1533, so the sisters must surely have been close at that point. Obviously, Mary was banished from court in 1534 after her secret marriage to William Stafford without Anne’s permission, and we don’t know if the sisters were ever reconciled.
Q: I would like to know about Anne’s relationship with her mother. You hear so much about her father and his influence, but where was mom through all of Anne’s challenges? — Claudia
Claire: Anne’s mother, Elizabeth Boleyn (née Howard), acted as Anne’s chaperone during Anne and Henry’s courtship so she was right there with her daughter. Elizabeth also attended her pregnant daughter at her coronation in 1533, riding in one of the carriages in the procession.
Anne’s love for her mother is again shown in words she spoke to Sir William Kingston at her arrival at the Tower after her arrest on the 2nd May 1536: “O, my mother, [thou wilt die with] sorow” LP x.793 So I think the two women were very close and I’m sure that Anne would have confided in Elizabeth during those years of waiting.
Q: I think that Margaret of Austria and Marguerite of Navarre are strong intelligent fascinating women . Which one of these women made a stronger impact on Anne’s view of religion and role of women in politics/govt? — Rebecca H.
Claire: Tough one! I think that Anne’s short time at the highly-cultured court of Margaret of Austria showed her that a woman could be powerful and also gave her her love of art, illuminated manuscripts and music. She also learned about the tradition of courtly love there. Her time there, and her time with Queen Claude, would have prepared her for running her own household.
We don’t know the extent of Anne’s relationship with Marguerite of Navarre but I suspect that Marguerite’s passion for Reform and her belief in having a personal relationship with God had an impact on Anne. Marguerite never separated herself from Rome, she was passionate about reform within the Catholic Church, and the same can be said of Anne. Anne’s ‘flavour’ of Reform was definitely more French than German and Anne’s links with protégés of Marguerite’s, men like Clément Marot and Nicholas Bourbon, and books printed under Marguerite’s patronage, show how similar the women were in their religious outlook. Historian James Carley sees Marguerite as “an intellectual model” for Anne and I have to agree.
Q: When you were doing your research for your books…what is the favourite/most exciting thing that you uncovered/found that you didn’t know before you started? — Heather
Claire: Another tough one because there have been so many! Recently, I think it’s been Thomas Boleyn’s links with Reformers. Often, Thomas Boleyn is seen as a political animal who was only interested in religion in a political way, and even as a man who did not agree with George and Anne’s reformist beliefs, but it’s just not true. Eric Ives mentions correspondence between Thomas Boleyn and Thomas Tebold so I started digging into this relationship. In an index of Kent wills, Tebold is listed as a vicar, scholar and godson of Thomas Boleyn, and Ives writes of how Thomas Boleyn supported Tebold’s travels around Europe.
We know from letters that Tebold sent Boleyn a copy of an epistle by French Reformer, Clément Marot, who had been forced to flee France due to his religious views and it appears that a Reformist printer, Reyner Wolf, acted as a go between for their correspondence – very cloak and dagger! Anyway, it made me realise that Thomas Boleyn was risking his reputation and his life by corresponding with Reformists like this so his faith was real.
Q: What was the first book or movie that got you so interested in the Tudor era, specifically Anne Boleyn? — Rebecca A.
Claire: I first got interested in Anne Boleyn at school when I did a project on Henry and his six wives when I was 11, but it was watching “The Tudors” which I think must have sparked off the dream I had about Anne’s execution. That very vivid dream then led me to set up The Anne Boleyn Files to share my research.
Q: Henry VIII supposedly destroyed all portraits of Anne Boleyn. Do you think one will ever be discovered that he possibly missed? I know we have the NPG one, the coin with her image and the miniature in Elizabeth I’s ring, I’m talking about a real portrait done at the time she was Queen. — Lois
Claire: I believe that there is still one in existence in a private collection. Eric Ives writes of how a full-length portrait is known to have been in the possession of Lord Lumley in 1590 and existed as late as 1773.
Q: At the end of the day, are you convinced that Henry married Anne out of love? If so, what evidence (in your mind) supports this? Furthermore, are you convinced that Anne was Henry’s true and only love? — Lynn
Claire: Yes, I am 100% sure that Henry VIII married Anne Boleyn out of love. I don’t think he would have been willing to move heaven and earth to marry Anne if he hadn’t loved her. The couple had to wait around 7 years to be together properly and faced a great deal of opposition, so I feel that it was more than infatuation.
Henry spoke of Jane being his true wife and I’m sure he loved her, particularly as she gave him the greates gift of all, a son, but I don’t think he loved her in the same passionate and intensive way that he loved Anne Boleyn. Perhaps it was just a different kind of love. Nobody knows exactly how Henry felt so it is hard to say and we have to respect Henry’s words on the matter. I believe that he loved each of his wives, except Anne of Cleves, and probably loved his mistresses too.
Q: Is there one historian that you actually follow or take advice from and why that person? And is there one particular place you have visited that makes you sit down and reflect on Anne Boleyn’s life and just takes your breath away? — Darlene
Claire: Eric Ives is my favourite historian. I love his book on Anne Boleyn and have had the pleasure of grilling him about her on a couple of occasions! He has so much knowledge and his book on Anne is excellent – my favourite. What I love about his work is that he fully references it so that the reader can look up the sources and then make up their own mind.
I was moved visiting Anne Boleyn’s resting place at the Chapel of St Peter ad Vincula but it’s Hever Castle that takes my breath away. Just being there and knowing that it was Anne’s childhood home is a very special feeling. When I’ve run tours there, everyone comments on how magical it is and how at home you feel there.
Q: Do you think that Henry really believed that Anne had been unfaithful with 5 men or was that just a pretext for him to get out of the marriage? — Eliza
Claire: I go round and round in circles trying to figure out what Henry VIII’s role was in Anne’s downfall and what he actually believed. I can’t see how he could have believed it of Anne or of the men involved, men like Norris and George Boleyn who were very close friends of his. When I read of his reaction to news of Catherine Howard’s colourful past – how he wouldn’t believe it and wanted an investigation to clear her name and then how he cried like a baby when it was all proved true – and compare it to the indifference he seemed to show at the allegations concerning Anne, then I can only assume that he knew full well that Anne was not guilty. Cromwell was offering him the chance to get what he wanted, a new start and the possibility of having a son and heir, and he took it.
Q: Do you believe that Anne loved Henry or was it all politics? — Nora
Claire: I don’t think politics came into it as there’s no way that Anne could have known that she’d ever be queen. When Anne refused to be sexually involved with Henry VIII it was surely more likely that he would have moved on to an easier conquest rather than waiting for her and going through what he did to have her. I don’t think Anne loved Henry right from the start, but he was a good-looking, charming and intelligent man, and the two of them had lots in common so I think attraction turned to love quite quickly.
Q: What is your next academic or writing project going to focus on? — Robert
Claire: I’m finishing a book on Anne Boleyn’s fall at the moment.
Q: History likes to blame the infamous Lady Rochford for the fall of George Boleyn. Who really brought up the bogus charges that Anne Boleyn and her brother George committed incest? — Adriane
Claire: I don’t believe that Jane Boleyn, Lady Rochford, has anything to do with the claim of incest. I think that the “one woman” referred to by George Boleyn at his trial was Elizabeth Browne, Countess of Worcester, who accused the Queen of adultery and incest in an argument with her brother, Sir Anthony Browne, over her own misconduct. If she really did say that, I believe it was simply an attempt to justify her own behaviour and to deflect the attention away from her.
Q: Despite her brief time with Elizabeth, what do you think was Anne’s influence (or lack thereof) on Elizabeth as an adult and what do you think the adult Elizabeth thought of her mother? — Kerry
Claire: I believe that in charging her chaplain, Matthew Parker, with the care of Elizabeth if anything happened to her, Anne was actually ensuring that Elizabeth would have the support she needed to be a great woman. Parker was a member of a group of Cambridge men which included the likes of William Cecil and John Dee, men who would be important and influential in Elizabeth’s reign.
Elizabeth’s pre-accession household consisted of many Boleyn relatives so I’m sure that they would have spoken to her about her mother, and she was also close to her Carey cousins during her reign. Elizabeth’s coronation drew on elements from her mother’s coronation and she wore a locket ring containing an image of her mother so her mother was definitely important to her. I think the writings of John Foxe and William Latymer in Elizabeth I’s reign would echo Elizabeth’s belief in her mother’s innocence.
** Thanks so much to Claire for taking the time to answer these questions! You can find her complete book tour schedule here. Remember to check in this Friday, 9 March, when I will announce the winner of Claire’s signed book AND a special surprise!