Tag Archives: Tudors

The Secret Diary of Anne Boleyn by Robin Maxwell

The_Secret_Diary_of_Anne_Boleyn_15th_Anniversary-smTitle:  The Secret Diary of Anne Boleyn
Author:  Robin Maxwell
Historical Fiction

I am starting 2013 off right – two books featuring Anne Boleyn in one month.  I came to read The Secret Diary of Anne Boleyn by walking around Barnes & Noble aimlessly, consulting my GoodReads iPhone app for various titles about Anne Boleyn.  I chose this particular book out of the lineup, however, because I have a weakness for stories told through the medium of diary entries or letters.  I had a book by Jean Plaidy on order from the library that I knew would be coming in soon, so I wanted a book that I could consume in a rather short period of time.

The story is set during the early days in the reign of Elizabeth I.  Recently made queen, she is still learning the ropes in what it means to actually be Queen of England.  An old woman visits her with a precious gift – Anne Boleyn’s secret diary.  Elizabeth learns that this woman was with Anne in the Tower leading up to her execution and came to love the then-Queen very much.  By giving this diary to Elizabeth, this woman was fulfilling her last promise made to Anne Boleyn.

The majority of the novel is then told through Anne Boleyn’s diary entries.  For Elizabeth, this is the first time that she is truly getting to know her mother and she is warming to her memory while cooling to that of her father.  From the information in this diary, Elizabeth becomes equipped to “grow up” and to start making some real decisions for her own rule.

Overall, I enjoyed this book.  My main gripe was that the presence of Anne’s supposed sixth finger.  I feel rather protective of Anne Boleyn and do not believe that she had the sixth finger, so to see its rumor woven into this story was somewhat disappointing.  However, I reminded myself that this is a work of fiction.  I sucked it up and read on.

I also enjoyed reading a story about Elizabeth, as well, as I have yet to read any focusing on her life and reign.  It delights me to know that while Anne was only queen for 1,000 days and her end was wrought with scandal, lies, and betrayal, her daughter reigned over England for more than 40 years.

Here is a synopsis from Maxwell’s official site (linked to above):

One was queen for a thousand days;  one for over forty years.  Both were passionate, headstrong women, loved and hated by Henry VIII.  Yet until the discovery of the secret diary, Anne Boleyn and her daughter, Elizabeth I, had never really met.

Anne was the second of Henry’s six wives, doomed to be beloved, betrayed and beheaded. When Henry fell madly in love with her upon her return from an education at the lascivious  French court, he was already a married man. While his passion for Anne was great enough to rock the foundation of England and of all Christendom, in the end he forsook her for another love, schemed against her, and ultimately had her sentenced to death.  But unbeknownst to the king,  Anne had kept a  diary.

At the beginning of Elizabeth ‘s reign, it is pressed into her hands.  In reading it, the young queen discovers a great deal about her much-maligned mother:  Anne’s fierce determination, her hard-won knowledge about being a woman in a world ruled by despotic men, and her deep-seated love for the infant daughter taken from her shortly after her birth.

In journal’s pages, Elizabeth finds an echo of her own dramatic life as a passionate young woman at the center of England ‘s powerful male establishment, and with the knowledge gained from them, makes a resolution that will change the course of history.

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Filed under 2013, Anne Boleyn, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Robin Maxwell, Tudors, Women Writers

The Fall of Anne Boleyn: A Countdown

51+mE0mV0ML._AA300_Title:  The Fall of Anne Boleyn: A Countdown
Author:  Claire Ridgway
Author’s website:  The Anne Boleyn Files
Non-Fiction/History

In April of 2012, I read Ridgway’s other book on Anne Boleyn, The Anne Boleyn Collection, in order to grow my knowledge on the actual life and story of Anne Boleyn.  As a fan of Ridgway’s website, The Anne Boleyn Files, I had a feeling that I would enjoy her books, as well.  My inkling was spot-on.  So, naturally, I was ecstatic to learn that there were even more books coming out by her!

I decided to kick off 2013 with The Fall of Anne Boleyn because, really, it’s been far too long since my last Tudor read.  And while I have a few biographies sitting on my bookshelf waiting to be cracked open, I opted to revisit Ridgway’s personable and accessible writing style instead.  Similarly to The Anne Boleyn Collection, The Fall of Anne Boleyn, at times, reads like a conversation that the reader could be taking part in with the author.  I love that you don’t only get historical facts and excerpts from actual letters from the Tudor players, but you really get to share in Ridgway’s love of Anne Boleyn.

Another positive about Ridgway’s books is that she presents all sides.  She admits that it is difficult to decipher everything that really happened during this time, but instead of only presenting one view or one scenario, the reader has the opportunity to not only learn what Boleyn’s contemporaries thought and said (where primary resources still exist) but also what ideas historians have recorded, deduced, and proliferated since then.

My interest in Boleyn only grows the more that I learn about her.  She was a far cry from a witch or concubine as some believe(d) her to be.  Anne Boleyn was a woman who fought to gain her position.  She valued education, charity, and spiritual reform.  She believed in the validity of her ideas and, with her feisty nature, did not shy away from sharing them – even though she was a woman.

For anyone looking to learn more about Anne Boleyn, I highly recommend Claire Ridgway’s publications and website.  You will not be disappointed!

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Filed under 2013, Anne Boleyn, Biography, Favorites, Non-Fiction, Tudors

The Constant Princess by Philippa Gregory

Title: The Constant Princess
Author: Philippa Gregory
Length: 393 pages
Very enjoyable read!

Despite being an avid fan of Anne Boleyn, I have a soft spot for Katharine of Aragon.  How could you not?  Despite being a princess, she lived a pretty difficult and upsetting life, though – as I choose to believe (which I state because I have yet to read a 100% non-fiction account of her life) – managed to maintain dignity and courage throughout everything.

Before I realized that there could be an actually appropriate order to reading Philippa Gregor’s Tudor novels, I read The Other Boleyn Girl – mostly to feed my ever-growing fascination with Anne Boleyn.  Despite becoming somewhat annoyed with how Gregory portrayed Boleyn, I very much enjoyed her storytelling and set myself a goal of reading them all – except going back one book first, in order to read them in order (which you can reference in my previously posted author spotlight on Gregory).

A few weeks ago, I finally put The Constant Princess on order at the library, received my notification that it was in, and then devoured the novel in a week – despite the somewhat chaotic, consuming (yet good!) stuff going on right now.  Once again, there were some elements of the story that I didn’t feel too enthusiastic about, I continue to enjoy Gregory’s storytelling and will hold to my goal of reading the remainder Tudor novels she has written.

One part that I didn’t fully enjoy is the portrayal of Katharine’s relationship with Arthur.  Possibly because her story is so tragic, I prefer to believe that they didn’t have the opportunity to fall in love, consummate the marriage, and share their hopes and dreams for England with each other.  With that said, and totally ignoring what I’d like to personally believe was the reality, I thoroughly enjoyed their actual love story in the novel.  It is incredibly sweet and makes the remaining trials and tribulations of her life all the more sad.

The novel also paints more of a picture of King Henry VII and his mother than I’ve seen (so far), which was enjoyable to read.  We get to see Henry VIII as young Harry, completely spoilt, coddled, and somewhat jealous of his older brother.  The reader witnesses the ups and downs of the start of his marriage to Katharine and the ending bleeds a little into the events from the time of Anne Boleyn, but only enough to give you a taste for the drama to come in future novels.

So, once again, this is a book that I would recommend to anyone who is interested in the Tudors (though don’t expect this to be a bona fide history lesson) or just enjoys historical fiction, no matter the era.

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Filed under Historical Fiction, Philippa Gregory, Series, Tudors, Women Writers

The Anne Boleyn Collection by Claire Ridgway

Title: The Anne Boleyn Collection
Author: Claire Ridgway
The Anne Boleyn Files:  http://www.theanneboleynfiles.com/

Like Anne Boleyn?  Curious about the real Tudor history?  If so, then Claire Ridgway’s book, The Anne Boleyn Collection, and her site (The Anne Boleyn Files) should both be high on your list to check out.  As I’ve divulged in this blog, quite recently I became smitten with the tale of Anne Boleyn.  I will admit that my first draw was based on the fiction surrounding her life, but it really pushed me to seek out some sources for getting to the bottom of the reality — well, as much as we CAN get to the bottom of it.

One of the first websites that pulled up in my search was The Anne Boleyn Files –  a collection of thought-provoking and intriguing articles about various topics relevant to Anne Boleyn.  SO, when I discovered that the site’s maintainer, Claire Ridgway, came out with a book, I snapped it up immediately.

This first collection runs through Anne’s life from the beginning to the end.  There are a few articles about the OTHER players of the time – the OTHER wives of Henry VIII and the ladies in waiting who tended to Anne during her years in the King’s favor.  In addition to learning heaps about one of my favorite women from history, I thoroughly enjoyed reading something written by another woman who is equally as enthusiastic about her and her story.  In fact, most of the book reads like a conversation, so at times you feel as though you’re sitting across from Ridgway and she’s sharing some of her vast breadth of knowledge, passion, and opinions with you.

In other words – I highly recommend this collection AND that you check out her site!  Also – keep your eyes open for her upcoming release, The Fall of Anne Boleyn.

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Filed under Non-Fiction, Tudors

Katharine of Aragon (trilogy) by Jean Plaidy

Titles:  Katharine, The Virgin Widow; The Shadow of the Pomegranate; The King’s Secret Matter
 
Author:  Jean Plaidy
Length: 643 pages (all three books in one volume)
Highly Enjoyable!

As I have mentioned many times (most recently, perhaps, right before my vacation?), I am enthusiastic about Tudors history – both fictional and real, actual history.  To further feed this obsession, I scoured GoodReads for any and all books that I could find.  Not too far into my search, not surprisingly, I came across Jean Plaidy’s name and the seemingly never-ending list of titles.

The books that I wanted to start with are the three about Katharine of Aragon – Spanish Princess, English Queen, and the first lady unlucky enough to NOT provide Henry the VIII with a strapping young son.  While I know that the Showtime series isn’t the most historically accurate account out there, I was drawn to their portrayal of her and immediately felt some warmth towards her personality and story.  While I have yet to read an actual biography about her, the fictional accounts of her that I’ve encountered so far (The Other Boleyn Girl and these books by Jean Plaidy) paint her in a similar way to the show, leading me to believe that she truly was a kind-hearted, spiritual woman who commanded respect and honor.

Reading Plaidy’s novels felt like I was reading closer to an actual historical account of the happenings in the Tudor court than when reading The Other Boleyn Girl.  Because of this, while still enjoyable, it took a little longer to get through them.  There is a fair amount of dialogue and action, however, and the keeps the books an entertaining read.  And while the story is undoubtedly focused on Katharine of Aragon, she doesn’t hold back from sharing a glimpse into what King Henry VIII, Cardinal Wolsey, and the rest of the major players are up to, thinking, or plotting.

The version that I purchased (published by Three Rivers Press, featuring an awesome reading guide/questions) is the only version to contain the entire trilogy covering Queen Katharine’s story from her arrival in England from Spain in 1501 (to marry the young and sickly Prince Arthur) until her own heart breaking death on January 7th, 1536.  Let’s take a closer look at the three individual books in this volume….

Katharine, The Virgin Widow

IN THE ROYAL MARRIAGE MARKET 
THE INFANTA OF SPAIN WAS A TRUE PRIZE.

In the eyes of the world, Katharine of Aragon was a precious object to be disposed of for the glory of Spain. Her parents, Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand, send her to England to become the bride of Arthur, Prince of Wales.
But soon her frail husband was dead, and a fateful question loomed: Was the marriage consummated, as Katharine’s priest avowed, or was the young widow still a virgin? On that delicate point hinged Katharine’s–and England’s–future. Meanwhile, waiting in the wings was her willful, handsome brother-in-law, bold Prince Henry, who alone had the power to restore Katharine’s lost position.

Jean Plaidy’s narrative genius sparkles in this story of a remarkable royal marriage that inspired some of history’s bloodiest deeds . . . 

I struggled slightly to get into the first book, but, really, only because I needed to adjust to the third person narrative (I’m a sucker for first person…).  The story begins with an introduction to the children of King Henry VII and Elizabeth of York during a horrific scene in which the king’s best dogs fight lions to the death.  This scene, in all its gruesome detail, sets the reader up for the plight of anyone else’s wish (or bravery) placed against that of a king’s.  When the dogs win, they still lose because they dared stand up against the king of all animals.  It’s important for all to know, and heed, their place in the social order.

At the beginning of the stories, the children are awaiting (quite eagerly) the arrival of the Infanta from Spain – a young girl born from the honorable Queen Isabella and her consort, Ferdinand.  Briefly, upon arrival (and after settling in), Katharine grows accustomed to the young prince she is set to marry.  He’s kind, shy, faithful, and does not appear to have a cruel bone in his body.  Everything changes when he dies during an outbreak of the sweating disease, however.  This is when Katharine enters into the first troublesome period of her life.  Forced into living without any allowance, she stays in a house with her ladies in waiting and servants, unable to pay them and unable to leave to return to Spain.  Her future is full of uncertainty and relies upon the whims of a fickle and greedy King.

The novel ends with her marriage to King Henry VIII – as he apparently loves to go against the advice and demands of anyone else – for why should he listen to them? HE is the King of England.  In the final scenes of Katharine, the Virgin Widow it appears as though her fortune has changed and happier days lie ahead.  Little does she know…

 The Shadow of the Pomegranate

The marriage of Katharine of Aragon and King Henry VIII was a match made in heaven. But hardly were they wed when powerful people in Henry’s court started spinning webs of intrigue around the innocent royal pair.

King Henry VIII is still a young man.  He loves games, dressing up, and proving to his people that he loves them.  Some of actions seem brazen while all of actions seem highly juvenile.  Above all else, though, he yearns to have a son and is confidant that he and Queen Katharine will produce many.  Only time will tell, though, as their first child born is, in fact, a son, but dies only after a very short time of being alive.

As we all know now, they never have a son.  Instead they have a healthy, intelligent, and highly talented daughter Mary.  If only she were born a boy… is a thought that is repeated throughout this book.  Katharine, alone, seems to be able to find the tenderness in his eyes and is willing to see him with a greater filter of warmth than most others might be willing to.  Perhaps even greater to her love for him, however, she adores her daughter and is devoted to protecting her interests.

The second book also brings the rise of Cardinal Wolsey, who acts as a major influence in directing the course of the king’s life – all with the intent of progressing his own interests..  The second book also brings an increase in the tumult that is King Henry VIII’s moods.  His rage flares up and, once aggravated, seems to know no bounds.  The longer he goes without a son, or, as he sees it, a legitimate heir to the throne, the angrier and less reasonable he becomes.

By the end of the The Shadow of the Pomegranate (which, by the way, is Katharine’s symbol, which is representative of fertility – cruel irony) with the King’s infidelity becoming public knowledge and an accepted fact of how things are going to be.  Bessie Blount, his favored mistress in the court, produces him with a son, whom he names Henry Fitzroy.  The affair and child are both flaunted in front of Katharine, but she maintains composure and finds solace in the fact that she is the Queen of England, beloved of the people.

 The King’s Secret Matter

The personalities and intrigues of the English royal court are brought to vivid life in this tale of Katharine of Aragon, the first wife of Henry VIII. The twelve-year marriage of Henry and Katharine has declined from an idyllic union into an uneasy stalemate. The king’s love for his aging queen has grown cold, and he is angry with her failure to give him the heir to the throne he desperately wants. When the seductive Anne Boleyn arrives at court, the king is captivated by her dark beauty and bold spirit, and becomes obsessed with his desire to possess her. With his chief advisor, Cardinal Wolsey, the king devises a secret plot to declare the marriage with Katharine null and void. But Katharine refuses to surrender to his wishes and fights desperately to retain her title and safeguard her daughter, Mary. The ensuing power struggle is one of the turning points in English history, and these pages capture it in spellbinding detail.

We can all guess what happens in the third book,  The King’s Secret Matter, can’t we?  The state of Katharine’s life is in rapid decline.  The king barely visits her.  Her nephew, the emperor, constantly breaks promises with King Henry VIII, thus, creating a distaste for all thing Spanish in his eyes – his wife being one of those “things”.  There are countless women in court who jump at the chance to sleep with the King and he is more than happy to make their wildest dreams come true.

And, as in any royal story, people are unceasingly plotting, planning, and seeking ways to further their own interests, at no matter what cost to others.  Unfortunately, for Queen Katharine, there aren’t many in the court able to fight for her interests since her interests are contrary to the King’s.  And, in this book, he does not shy away from sending “traitors” to the chopping block.  By the final page, we have bid adieu to the majority of the original players and are faced with a new set taking center stage.  And at the very center of that stage is Anne Boleyn (or, as it appears the people of England call her, Nan Bullen).

Katharine, once a woman to know all of the comforts and honors of a Queen, dies in a dank, lonesome building, far away from her daughter, Mary.  Throughout all of her protestations against the King’s cry that their marriage was never valid, she cared most about preserving her daughter’s  honor, dignity, and name.

These books increased my admiration and love for Katharine of Aragon.  They also made me feel even more excited to learn more about this period of English history.  Additionally, I will also read more of Jean Plaidy’s novels.  Her writing is clean and leaves you feeling like you actually, possibly, learned something.

Are you interested in the Tudors?  Which authors do you prefer?

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Filed under Favorites, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Series, Tudors, Women Writers