On her web site, Susan Bordo says that her goal in writing The Creation of Anne Boleyn: A New Look at England’s Most Notorious Queen was to delve into the question of why Anne Boleyn and her story continue to fascinate new generations. What was so special about her that Henry VIII risked everything to have her? Continue reading
Historical accuracy in the media means a lot to me; I’ve been a history nut for as long as I can remember. I love historical fiction, and as my profile says, I love visiting places where the history is palpable around me. Hever Castle in Kent, England, is just such a place.
I’ve been watching The Tudors series on Netflix this summer, and its treatment of Anne Boleyn during the first season was less than historically accurate. Natalie Dormer was enchanting and heart-breaking in the tragic role of Anne Boleyn; in this article she discusses creating her character for The Tudors. As Natalie worked with the writers, her second-season Anne became more dimensional and more accurate. I have always been fascinated with Anne Boleyn and have eagerly awaited my opportunities to walk in her shoes (and I did walk in the ones that went to the Tower, if I may be a little irreverent about a very sad story). When we planned our trip to southeast England, one of my first goals was to visit Hever Castle, Anne’s childhood home. Of course, we have to put that in the terms that a girl born c1501 would understand; she was shipped off in 1513 to learn how to be a courtier in the Netherlands, France, and eventually back in England. Her “childhood” was over at about age twelve and she became a skilled member of court, rarely returning to Hever. If you don’t know what happened to Anne Boleyn and her family, I suggest that you start by reading one of the many excellent historical fiction novels. My current favorites are by Hilary Mantel.
When you enter Hever Castle’s park, you are greeted by a beautifully manicured topiary garden. Your first view of the castle is of its 13th Century gatehouse and walled bailey. According to Hever Castle’s web site, “In the early 1500s the Bullen [Boleyn] family bought the castle and added a Tudor dwelling within the walls and so it became the childhood home of its most famous inhabitant, Anne Boleyn. It later passed into the ownership of Henry’s fourth wife, Anne of Cleves. From 1557 onwards the Castle was owned by a number of families including the Waldegraves, the Humfreys and the Meade Waldos. Finally, in 1903, William Waldorf Astor invested time, money and imagination in restoring the Castle, building the ‘Tudor Village’ and creating the gardens and lake.” That brings us to today’s Hever Castle and our visit there in 2011. At the end of the topiary garden, you are welcomed across the drawbridge by interpreters. Dressed in period costumes, they help bring you back to the early 1500s. Once you enter the courtyard, you can see the Tudor wattle and daub structure that was built inside the stone bailey. As it is with most old homes, they wouldn’t let me take interior photos, but much of the house is as it was restored by William Waldorf Astor. It is a comfortable and elegant early 20th century English manor home — except that it was the home of one of the richest men in the world. Every detail, every piece of paneling, every fireplace, and every window speaks of the people who previously inhabited this home and of Astor’s dream of bringing Hever back to life. I spent an hour in the museum area talking to the guide about Anne Boleyn’s artifacts, including the prayer book that she took to the Tower with her, which have been purchased at auction and are kept at Hever. I walked up the small spiral staircase that led to Anne’s childhood room; I truly walked in her footsteps. Astor used Hever Castle as a place to entertain friends and business contacts; he added on exact Tudor-style extensions to the original castle which are now used as a conference center and a bed and breakfast. Although we didn’t end up staying on the property, I would recommend it to any die-hard Tudor history buff. In addition to the new accommodation wings, Astor also built a large Italian-style garden in which to show off his collection of statuary. It was raining by the time we got to the garden, but it was well worth the inconvenience of walking around in the rain.
I’ve always thought that Anne has been misjudged and reviled because her story was engineered, written, and then told by men. It wasn’t HERstory, it was HIStory. Anne Boleyn’s life is a warning to guard the rights as modern women that many women before us have struggled to achieve. Recent events here in the United States show us that 500 years later, women can still be made second-class citizens by the swift stroke of a vote.
Anne’s role as a religious reformer also cannot be ignored. She and Henry had different goals when they broke away from the Catholic church. While the story of the birth of the Church of England is one that can be read in countless books, we were privileged to be at the Globe Theater for a rehearsal of Anne Boleyn, a play about Anne’s role in the Reformation.
Hever Castle is an easy drive in the countryside outside of London and I highly recommend visiting. As with most English castles turned tourist attractions, there is an informal restaurant and other things to do beyond soaking up the history; there is even a jousting tournament in the summer!
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Since it’s Saturday and we’re midway through the 31-Day Challenge, I thought it was time for a little reflection about all those photos that we take on vacation.
There are good ones…
and there are bad ones.
There are the ones that I should have erased from my digital camera as soon as they were taken …
and there are the funny photos that it’s quite probable only you and a few select friends would even laugh at.
and the ubiquitous photos of flowers that when separated from their context, look just like the other flower photos I took.
So — what do you do with all of those photographs? In my house, we have a relatively healthy competition over whose photos are the best. We each keep photo files on our computers and historically haven’t been very good about sharing. This year was a breakthrough, though. As soon as we got home from England, we created a Snapfish hard cover scrapbook of our vacation photos. Husband went through all of the photos and pared them down to about 250 out of about 2,000 photos we took. Then we imported them into the Snapfish program and created our book. The fact that we had a 50% off coupon that was expiring provided motivation and created momentum to get the job done, and I’m glad we did this. It’s a lot easier to take a photo book to a party than to take my computer and hook it all up for people to view on a small screen.
I think I may be addicted to these photo books. I used to try to scrapbook my vacations and events, and even though I have friends who regularly have scrapbooking parties and encourage me to share their scrapbooking habit, I just bought materials and never used them. I also think that in the long term goal of getting rid of things, these relatively small mementos of vacations are more likely to be cherished and revisited over the years.
What do you do with your photos? Do you still have hard copy prints in the envelopes from twenty years ago? What will your children do with your photos? I hope that the fate of your vacation and family stories won’t lie on the floor of a closet in a deserted home, as my next door neighbors’ are. When both parents passed away, the kids left all the slides and photos in the house they let go to foreclosure. It breaks my heart.
Although not a vacation photo, I thought I’d share a precious personal photo with you. My cousin and her mom (my mother’s sister) recently broke up their scrapbooks and sent me the photos that were of me and my family. I’ve never seen this photo before, but my forehead still bears the scar that resulted from the injury that is pictured in the photo. Thanks to the thoughtfulness of my cousin, I now have a totally cute picture of me with my band-aid.