Sunday, June 28, 2009

On This Day in Tudor History:

On June 28th, 1491 Henry Tudor was born at Greenwich Palace, the second son of King Henry VII and Elizabeth of York. As such, Henry was never supposed to take the throne, but was destined for a life in the church until the death of his older brother and heir to the Tudor Dynasty, Arthur, in 1502. Henry succeeded his father to the throne in 1509 as Henry VIII.

This is Henry's 518th birthday.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

"The Tudors" Star Arrested...Again

Amidst all of the tragic news about celebrity today, one story concerning a star of The Tudors seemed to sneak through unnoticed...

Jonathan Rhys Meyers fell off the wagon again and was arrested after attacking several people at Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris. The 31-year-old, who plays King Henry VIII in The Tudors, was allegedly drunk when he launched the assault in front of astonished onlookers.
"He was like a man possessed," said a witness. "He'd been drinking heavily while waiting for a flight home from France. He got into an argument with bar staff who refused to serve him any more. There was some pushing and shoving, and when a waiter intervened he was punched full in the face.
"There were further attacks on other airport employees. Rhys Meyers was shouting things like 'I'll kill you all' at the top of his voice.
"Everyone recognised him as the guy who plays Henry VIII. When the police turned up he was handcuffed and pushed on to the ground.
"He was insulting the police and saying he could buy himself out of any problems, even throwing money on the ground so as to prove how much he was worth."
The assault took place in Le Quotidien bar in terminal 2F at Charles de Gaulle airport on Saturday afternoon.
A spokesman for Paris police said Rhys Meyers was held for three hours so as to "sober up".
He was then bailed to appear before magistrates on charges of "willful violence, outrage, hitting and threatening death."
Rhys Meyers was previously arrested for being drunk and disorderly at Dublin airport in November 2007, and then went into a rehabilatation centre. He reportedly entered rehab again in 2009.
A spokesman for Rhys Meyers said he had no comment.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

On this day in Tudor History:

June 24, 1509 Henry Tudor was crowned King Henry VIII of England, France and Lord of Ireland while his new wife, Catherine of Aragon was crowned queen consort at Westminster Abbey. Henry was the second Tudor monarch in the dynasty, which reigned until his daughter, Elizabeth I's death in 1603.

In a modern twist, the Historic Royal Palaces "Tweeted" as Henry VIII throughout the day yesterday, giving observations from each point in his coronation.
The celebrations and observances of the 500th anniversary of Henry VIII's accession continue throughout the rest of the year.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Tower of London Slideshow

I traveled to England last month and I'm finally getting around to organizing the photos. Here's a slideshow from the Tower of London...

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Hampton Court Palace Slideshow

Slideshow of my visit to Hampton Court Palace in May 2009...

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Celebration of Henry VIII's Accession takes to the Thames

Actors representing Henry VIII and his first wife Catherine of Aragon boarded the royal shallop 'Jubilant' at the Tower of London to travel to Hampton Court Palace in celebration of the 500th anniversary of Henry's accession to the throne. The journey upstream took them past the scene of Henry VIII's actual coronation and banquet at Westminster 500 years ago. The 'Jubilant' was built in 2002 (thus the Elizabeth Rex II flags). The Thames River Pageant lasted 4.5 hours.

Hever Castle and Kent Slideshow

Slideshow of my visit to Hever Castle and scenes from my stay in Kent...

Understanding Queen Elizabeth I

One of the reasons I feel so drawn to Anne Boleyn is because I understand her. I get her. I read biography after biography and always come to the same conclusion: had I lived in 16th century England or France, I would have been a lot like her. Yes, faults and all. (On a silly note, I have long suspected that Anne was a Gemini although we have no record of her birthdate. Recently, I read one book that confirmed that she must have been born in late May, early June.) I don't mean for this to be some sort of tribute to me, but I have often been complemented on attributes with which Anne is credited. I have long been praised for my wit, charm, cleverness and my best friend would certainly say my self-confidence and fearlessness. Hell, I made a career out of all of that in radio and TV!
I am in no way "beautiful" but I am attractive. Yes, even though I do not see myself as beautiful, I can still be quite vain. I am not above flirting to get what I want and that has sometimes led to trouble.
On an even more negative side, I have certainly had my moments of haughtiness and many have suffered my quick temper over the years. Sadly, my first reaction to stress or a grave situation can often be panic or irrational behavior. But it passes quickly. All of this adds up to understanding Anne's behavior and reactions to her life. I can see myself in her. Which is funny considering how often she is explained as an enigma or seeming to be very contrary.

Prior to learning about Anne, I had long been a fan of her daughter, Queen Elizabeth I. This is the perfect person with whom to contrast my feelings about Anne. I do not understand this woman very well at all. That's not to say that I don't "know" very much about her. I have read almost as much about Elizabeth as I have about her mother, Anne but I do not get that sense of "understanding" when I read about her decisions, comments and exploits. There are a variety of events in Elizabeth's life I do not quite understand, but none more than her attitude (or lack of) toward her tragic mother and her barbaric father.

It is often reported that Elizabeth made mention of her mother, Anne Boleyn, only once or maybe twice in her lifetime. She wore a locket ring which had her initial "E" outside and portraits of her mother and herself inside facing each other but she never discussed her nor did she ever reveal any true feelings on her mother's execution when she was only three years old. Granted, she wouldn't have much memory to draw upon but surely she deeply felt the loss?
Perhaps she spoke to close friends but they never betrayed her confidence? But even this I doubt because there are no stories of it and I think that would have been quite noteworthy.
Indeed, what's noteworthy is the lack of any stories. And this I just cannot fathom. My mother was the most imperfect soul whom I still love and miss more than words can describe. Despite her faults, I would defend her to my death.

Did no one ever ask her about her mother? Did she lash out at them or simply not reply at all?
By contrast, there is the intense respect and admiration Elizabeth always showed for her father, Henry VIII - the very man who had her mother killed!? It baffles me!

As Elizabeth grew up, she was often in the company of people who liked her mother - although they probably didn't admit this openly. Did no one try to communicate to Elizabeth her mother's deep love for her? How was this received?

Upon her accession to the throne, Mary I, daughter of Henry and Katherine of Aragon, went back and had her parents marriage validated and her bastardy erased. Elizabeth made no such moves, despite her exact same status. There is speculation by historians that Elizabeth did not follow in Mary's footsteps because this would have put into question her legitimacy and claim to the throne. Understandable - to an extent.

Wasn't her claim and legitimacy already questionable with the validation of Mary's parents' marriage? There were already many other "legitimate" claimants to the throne, couldn't she have helped her cause by validating her parents' marriage? Most of all, why didn't she have her mother's Act of Attainder reversed or thrown out?

Elizabeth - it is written - concerned herself only with the future, not with the past. Again, this is where we differ dramatically because my past colors my present and future, irrevocably. In her present and future were men whom she loved. Here again, we appear to have something in common: our desire to never marry and be treated badly by a man. But I simply can't relate to Elizabeth's suffering traitorous, vainglorious fools like the Earl of Essex. Robert Dudley, I'll give her because they shared so much from childhood. But Essex was just a glory-hound who loved nothing about her but her crown. It is said she had such vanity that she would entertains affection and attention from such fools as long as they showed devotion. Well, I can tell you that I may like the attention for a short time, but they would be out of my sight the moment they behaved the way the did toward her!!!

I will continue to read and research Elizabeth and I have the utmost respect for her work as Queen of England but like her sister Mary, I may never understand this woman as I feel I understand Anne.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Addition to The Tudors Season 4

Actor David O'Hara will join "The Tudors" for the fourth and final season on Showtime. O'Hara plays the Earl of Surrey, the son and heir of the Duke of Norfolk. According to the press release, he is the arrogant but sensitive scion of an ancient family.
You may recognize O'Hara from a couple of his previous projects in which he worked with other Tudors' actors like as Donnchadh (King of Ireland) in Tristan+Isolde (in which he starred alongside Henry Cavill and Jamie King) and as Sean Kelly in The Matchmaker (as Maria Doyle Kennedy's brother).

A little background on Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey: He was the son of Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk and that makes him Anne Boleyn's first cousin. Although historically he accompanied Anne and Henry VIII on their trip to France to formally present Anne to Francois I as the future Queen of England, the series The Tudors has not introduced him before now. It should be interesting to see how Michael Hirst writes Surrey into the show seeing as they have written-out his closest family and friends. His father, the Duke of Norfolk, played by Henry Czerny in season one has been greatly missed since not returning. Personally, I would have loved to have seen his crucial part in Anne's downfall and execution. Hirst could have played out the dramatic moment that Norfolk was forced to condemn his own niece and nephew to death.

As for his friends, after Anne's beheading at the end of season two, we saw no more of poet Thomas Wyatt, played by the adorable Jamie Thomas King even though his life was spared and he was released from the Tower. Surrey was a contemporary of Wyatt and shares with him the title of "Father of the English Sonnet." Surrey's closest friend growing up was Henry Fitzroy, whom Hirst chose to kill-off at a historically inaccurate age in season one.

The Tudors is currently shooting in Ireland.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Digging-up Dirt on Anne Boleyn?

As I visit various other Tudor and Anne Boleyn dedicated blogs and sites one of the topics which is raised quite often is the exhumation of those who were executed and buried in the Chapel of St. Peter ad Vincula.

In 1876, Queen Victoria authorized restoration of the chapel and in doing so, the builders exhumed the remains of some of those buried just beneath the floor. Afterward, reinterring the remains in a place more difficult to reach (as protection from grave robbers). Here is a description from a Tower heritage website:

Many of those who died in the Tower or perished on the scaffold were buried here, often with no marker. Identification was therefore difficult when the chapel floor was lifted and the bones exhumed. Those remains found in the nave were reburied in the crypt, while those of people of distinction known to have been buried in the chancel - Anne Boleyn, Katherine Howard, Lady Jane Grey and the Dukes of Northumberland and Somerset among others - were replaced there beneath marble paving giving their names and armorial bearings.

Upon examination of the remains, conclusions were drawn by extremely crude means. Scientists in 1876 certainly didn't have the forensic tools we have today. Their description of one of the skeletons claimed it to belong to a beheaded woman, a delicate frame of middling stature (approximately 5'3" - that was considered middle height in the 16th century) with proportionate limbs and small, tapering hands and feet. There is NO mention of a sixth finger. That's it. That's the extent of the review of forensic evidence.

This is a major disappointment to me.

There are many lively debates and discussions on other sites about whether or not to re-exhume Anne (and others) to have the remains extensively tested with the advanced forensic tools we have now. In order to open the graves again and do anything with the remains, permission from Queen Elizabeth II (or the sovereign) is needed. There are excellent arguments for both sides of this debate, however, I fall on the side of those in favor of another exhumation.

Plainly put: when Anne Boleyn was crowned Queen of England, she gave up privacy - even in death. Her person, her body, her daughter, her life were no longer hers, they belonged to England.
I understand that for many this may be a sensitive, spiritual or even religious topic. Some see the stirring of her bones to be an invasion and would prefer to allow Anne to finally rest in peace. I do not disagree. I pray that Anne's soul found peace and that whatever came after death is - for her - paradise. However, I do not believe that this, in any way, is impacted by her remains here on this earth. That body was just a vessel to display her unparalleled intellect, wit, humor, cunning, talents and fascinating spirit to the world and worlds to come. That body has been put through execution, unceremonious burial in an arrow chest, exhumation and then thrown together with the bones of other so-called traitors. Has this changed our love or fascination with Anne Boleyn over the past 500 years? No. Nor will exhuming and testing her skeleton change the way we feel.

It could, however, answer questions and give us still more insight into a woman who is such an enigma.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

(Bloody) Mary

Good Morning! I always did like starting a Saturday morning with a Bloody Mary! (Okay, not the drink this time) I finally finished reading The Children of Henry VIII last night and like most of Alison Weir's books I thoroughly enjoyed it. The book I read just before it, Six WIves by David Starkey, was a bit dry and repetitive in comparison. As much as I love reading about the wives, Starkey's style left me wanting so I turned back to Weir.

I admit, I have little interest in Henry VIII's son by Jane Seymour, Edward VI, but I am still curious about Mary and Lady Jane Grey. Weir's book chronicled Lady Jane's pathetic 9 days as queen but didn't delve very deeply into her abusive family life or her relationship with her husband, Guilford Dudley. Clearly, I must now buy the books on Jane. However, Weir did go into great detail on the reign of Mary I.

Certainly, I will have to read accounts by other historians, but I was left with such a terrible dislike of Mary. Now, I wasn't the most objective reader to begin - being such a fan of Anne Boleyn - but I was open to learning about Mary's good qualities or noble deeds as Queen of England. I was to be disappointed. Perhaps it is not right for me to judge a woman's devotion to her religion especially more than 400 years ago. But as I read about other women of the time who seem to be able to weigh their faith with common sense I can't help but feel that Mary was weak and used her Catholicism not as a comfort, but as a crutch. By the end of her life, she was attending mass nine times a day! How can you get anything else done?

According to Weir, with each tragedy that befell her and her country (phantom pregnancy, famine, etc...) she stepped up the burning of heretics (Protestants). The number of burnings in her short reign in comparison to the rest of the Tudor Dynasty is staggering. But Mary continually felt that G-d was showing his displeasure on her because she was not doing enough to root-out heresy. Even when she was advised to be more merciful by her husband Philip II, Pole and Gardiner she refused to listen. When it came to G-d and Catholicism, she was fanatical.

I must say that I was disappointed that Mary showed little of the strength of her mother or her father. She was descended from two of the bravest lines of princes in the history of the world and she couldn't pluck up the strength to properly reign over England when her husband left the country?!?! I may not be a big fan of hers, but I expected to read about her tenacity, not her pathetic weeping and inability to function without a man who neither loved her nor wanted to even be near her or her country.
Perhaps I seem harsh, but this is a woman who didn't marry until she was nearly 40 years old. More than that, this is a queen! She knew that this was her calling but seemed to shrink from the task.

To be fair, I will read further and perhaps I will find something to like about Mary Tudor.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Stylewatch: Anne Boleyn's look is HOT!

Seems as though I was a bit ahead of my time last year when I began incorporating elements of Anne Boleyn's style into my own. Of course, I used Halloween 2008 as the perfect cover for dressing in full Anne costume (even getting long dark hair extensions!) and then keeping some of the look for many months after.
I only had the hair removed in March because it was beginning to tangle - it still looked HOT! Oh, and I never went for the severe middle part - trust me, we're all better off.

Just months after my style shift, Anne Boleyn's look began hitting the runways - as interpreted by the top designers.

From Female First UK:
Anne Boleyn is making a fashion comeback this season, as Tudor style takes over the beauty world.
John Rocha was one of the first to sample this look on his catwalk for London Fashion Week, so expect it to go mainstream any day now.

The large furry headband look may not be at the top of your fashion hot list at the minute, but come early autumn they will likely be everywhere.

Other Tudor-styles that are set to be massive in the beauty world next season include the loose chignon hairstyle, fixed in place with a pearl hair net and severe centre partings.

See full article here: Beauty Buzz: Anne Boleyn Hair

And another cool article on Tudor Fashion: The New York Times.

The Tudors: Season 3

(Attention: If you are in the UK, this post may contain spoilers!)

I was looking through some of the posts on the Showtime website about season three of The Tudors and decided I wanted to post my opinions here. Anyone with even a remote knowledge of me and my life knows my love of the show The Tudors. I have had the utmost respect for writer/producer Michael Hirst ever since I first laid eyes on his movie, Elizabeth. The fact that he writes every single word of the show - in an age of teams of writers for reality TV shows - leaves me completely in awe. In fact, I credit Michael Hirst with my newly launched passion for Anne Boleyn and Tudor History. (More on that in another post)

Throughout seasons one and two of The Tudors, I would awake early every Sunday, make myself a vanilla cappuccino and watch the new episode of The Tudors a whole week early On Demand. I could hardly wait for my Sunday ritual! Then I would watch the current week's episode (which I'd already viewed last Sunday morning) that night and every night it was on after. Really! I loved the show THAT much! And I was NEVER disappointed. Merely hearing the theme song gave me goosebumps In fact, it's my ringtone! In contrast: during season three, there were Sunday nights I didn't even remember to switch over to Showtime until The Tudors was already on.

I must admit that I went into it with slightly lowered expectations. My love for actress Natalie Dormer and her insanely brilliant portrayal of Anne Boleyn could only set me up for disappointment in a season after her execution. Unfortunately, Natalie/Anne's absence left a vacuum which could not be filled, even with a new and improved Jane Seymour.
Casting directors replaced season 2's Jane, Anita Briem, with Annabelle Wallis, but never announced why. Although I didn't dislike Anita as much as other viewers, given more lines in the season finale, her accent began to reveal itself as sounding too Scottish. Not that it mattered much, as Hirst had Queen Jane dead very early in season 3. He had to, because the season was only 8 episodes instead of the previous ten.

Jane v. Jane

For me, the biggest complaint with season 3 was the focus on the Pilgrimage of Grace, the rebels and random violence instead of the character studies I enjoyed so much in seasons 1 & 2. In fairness, history doesn't lend itself to the same examinations of Jane Seymour, Anne of Cleves and Katherine Howard as it does to Anne Boleyn and Catherine of Aragon. However, this was where I would have loved to see Hirst take dramatic license and look deeper into the ladies' relationships with Henry and his courtiers.

Bottom line: I was disappointed in season 3 and I do not have the highest hopes for season 4, unless Michael Hirst goes back to the formula he used to make seasons 1 & 2 so compelling.

Season 4 will also be the final season of The Tudors. This is also a travesty, as I believe that Hirst and company have chosen a great actress in Sarah Bolger as Mary Tudor and could easily move forward in the Tudor Dynasty while regaining some of that dramatic magic I grew to love and look forward to every Sunday.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Thoughts on Hever

I was looking back through my photos of Hever Castle and felt the need to blog about a few things I found there which disappointed me. There is so much rich, colorful history behind this castle that they can be in no shortage of things to exhibit to visitors. Besides Anne and Mary Boleyn having grown up at Hever, there are always Henry VIII's visits, Anne of Cleves, other relics of the 16th century and those of the life of former owner, William Waldorf Astor. Not to mention, Anne was mother to Elizabeth I and there is no lack of items from her reign.

Yet those in charge of running the castle have chosen to exhibit a portrait of Mary I in the Staircase Gallery adjacent to that of Anne's daughter, Elizabeth. Besides the animosity between Anne and Mary during Anne's lifetime, there is also the uneasy history of Mary and Elizabeth. Mary came very close - on more than one occasion - to ordering Elizabeth's execution. I found it completely inappropriate that there be a portrait of her in Anne's home.

Once I got my dander up about this, I felt a bit put-out by the portrait and representations of Jane Seymour there as well. Even Catherine of Aragon's portrait probably does not belong! Upstairs in the Long Gallery, there is a display of six mannequins to portray all six of Henry's wives. This didn't bother me quite as much. It is fine to see history represented and the key figures involved, but not individual portraits hung in remembrance of women who brought the house's inhabitants such pain!

Tell me what you think!
Have you ever been to Hever and if so, did these portraits bother you at all?
Do you think it's good that they include portraits of those who influenced Anne and her family?

Take a Tudor Flyover

This is too cool! I must thank Lara at for posting this on her site...

The Smithsonian Channel HD has a series called Skyview which takes you on a "flyover" of famous and historical places. There is a video of "Tudors from the Air" and "Hampton Court Palace". They are both under 2 minutes, but so beautiful - especially if you have not yet visited these places in person. Enjoy!

Tudors From the Air

Hampton Court Palace Skyview

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Upcoming Tudor Events (in England)

One of my favorite Tudor historians, Alison Weir, is participating in some incredible events this fall and next spring. Kinda wishing I didn't already take my trip to England!

On September 9, 2009:
In order to launch her new book, The Lady in the Tower: The Fall of Anne Boleyn, Alison will accompany visitors on a tour of The Tower of London, walking the route that Anne strode to the Queen's Apartments. Then she will join author Tracy Borman for a presentation called "The Whore and the Virgin," along with drinks, canapes and a book signing session.
Then the ladies will escort visitors on tours of the Queen's Apartments and the Tower Green where Anne was executed.
Tickets will be available through the Historical Royal Palaces.

And the biggie...


In the Spring of 2010, Alison will be Study Leader on a tour of Tudor England organised by The Smithsonian Institute in Washington D.C. Details are as follows:

A Tudor Tapestry
11 Days - April 6-16, 2010

Tudor England - the England of Henry VIII, Elizabeth I and William Shakespeare -comes alive as best-selling author Alison Weir and other historical experts escort you on a journey into the past. At Windsor Castle and Hampton Court, major exhibitions mark the 500th anniversary of Henry VIII’s accession to the throne. At the Tower of London, learn about Arbella Stuart's famous and daring escape and see the spot where Anne Boleyn and other Tudor victims were beheaded. Enjoy special tours of castles steeped in Tudor history, as Hever, Leeds and Sudeley, as well as Eltham Palace and Acton Court. In Portsmouth, home to the Royal Navy, view the remains of Henry VIII’s flagship, The Mary Rose, and visit Winchester, where Mary Tudor married Philip of Spain.

Alison Weir will accompany the tour and her lively narratives will help bring to life the dramatic lives of the Tudors.
Meet historians Sarah Gristwood, Tracy Borman, and Kate Williams, who together with Alison Weir, form The History Girls, who have created events for BBC radio and are currently developing a major television series.
Enjoy connoisseur tours and private openings at historic castles and gardens.
Take private tours of two major exhibitions dedicated to Henry VIII’s Quincentenary.

April 6: Depart US for London.

April 7: London.
Arrive in London this morning and check into the centrally located Hotel Rubens in St James’s. Gather for a welcome reception and introductory talk on the Tudors by Alison Weir.

April 8: Westminster Abbey/Tower of London.
Take a short walk to Westminster Abbey, which houses the tombs of Henry VII, Elizabeth of York, Anne of Cleves, Edward VI, Mary I, Elizabeth I and Mary, Queen of Scots. At the Tower of London , hear about Arbella Stuart’s daring escape from the Tower, and see where Anne Boleyn was beheaded. This evening’s presentation by Alison Weir and Tracy Borman is entitled The Whore and the Virgin: Anne Boleyn and Elizabeth I.

April 9: Winchester/Portsmouth.
Journey south to Portsmouth , home to the British Royal Navy, via Winchester . Visit the cathedral where Mary I married Philip of Spain and see Wolvesey Castle where they enjoyed their wedding breakfast. At the Portsmouth Royal Dockyards, visit Henry VIII’s flagship, the Mary Rose and learn about life in the Tudor navy. On the return journey, listen to a talk on The Virgin Queen: Aspects of Elizabeth.

April 10: Leeds Castle/Hever Castle.
Today discover two beautiful castles in the Kent countryside. Leeds Castle was the dower property of medieval queens and was owned by Henry VIII. At Hever Castle , former home of Anne Boleyn, view the many Tudor items on display and wander through the gardens. This evening, Alison Weir will talk about The Six Wives of Henry VIII.

April 11: Eltham Palace.
Time at leisure before traveling to Eltham Palace , where Henry VIII spent much of his childhood. Admire the medieval great hall and archaeological remains in the gardens. Henry VIII: King and Court is the title of Alison’s talk this evening.

April 12: Sudeley Castle/Acton Court.
Journey west to Gloucestershire and see Sudeley Castle , the last home and burial place of Katherine Parr. After lunch in Winchcombe, take a private tour of the well-preserved Acton Court, visited by Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn. Enjoy an elegant dinner at historic Thornbury Castle tonight. Overnight at The Close Hotel, Tetbury.

April 13: Kenilworth/Stratford-upon-Avon.
Elizabeth I visited the Earl of Leicester at Kenilworth Castle in 1575 for nineteen days of pageantry, the magnificent “Princely Pleasures”. Visit the extensive ruins and Leicester 's newly recreated garden. Spend the afternoon at Shakespeare's Stratford-upon-Avon, where you can visit houses associated with him before continuing to Anne Hathaway's Cottage, the home of his wife. Return to The Close Hotel and listen to Sarah Gristwood’s talk on Elizabeth and Leicester.

April 14: Windsor Castle.
Alison Weir will guide you through the special exhibition commemorating Henry VIII's quincentenary. After lunch, take a guided tour of the State Apartments and St George’s Chapel where Henry VIII is buried, then enjoy some free time to explore the castle and town. During this evening's talk, Deadly Rivals: Treason, Intrigue and Threats to the Tudor Throne, five historians will give engaging presentations.

April 15: Hampton Court.
Spend a full day at delightful Hampton Court Palace on the River Thames. Siobhan Clarke is your authentically-costumed Tudor guide, and will lead you on a fascinating tour of the palace. Visit the Henry VIII Heads and Hearts exhibition, see the gardens or get lost in the maze! This evening, enjoy a lively debate, with audience participation, on Dramatising the Tudors. Our guest speakers will discuss the merits – or otherwise – of films and TV series on the Tudor period. A light-hearted Tudor quiz follows a festive farewell dinner.

April 16: Return to the US

The Rubens Hotel is an elegant four-star hotel in the heart of London.

Set in the delightful Cotswolds market town of Tetbury, the boutique Close Hotel was originally built during the reign of Henry VIII. Rooms are individually furnished and comfortable. There is a charming garden restaurant with an original Adam ceiling and views of the walled garden.

This tour, inclusive of return air fares, costs from $5,695 per person.

Anyone wishing to book a place must first become a member of The Smithsonian Institute. Anyone can become a member, and it costs from $26. This can be arranged at the time of booking. Cause $5,695 DOESN'T INCLUDE MEMBERSHIP!?!?

The website is Tour details will appear there shortly.
The phone number to call (202) 349-0677


I just did one of the most irresponsible things I've done since I stopped "experimenting" with drugs in college. Despite being unemployed and having no idea whatsoever what I will do next with my life, I took a trip to England.
Although it's something I've long wanted to do, if I gave myself any time to really think about taking an expensive trip while I'm living on savings, I doubt I would find it a very good idea. So, at the height of my doubts, I went online and bought the non-refundable tickets.

Ever since I was a little girl, I've loved everything British. My best friend's mom is British and she helped to strengthen that love and curiosity. I will never forget getting up with her family at 5 AM to watch the wedding of Princess Diana and Prince Charles. I've been filled to the gills with tea for the past 35 years and I'm finally ready to see where it all comes from!!! (Well, okay, the tea doesn't come from there - I meant the custom!)
I was, for many years before her death, a huge fan of Princess Diana. Her shortcomings and faults only made me respect her more over the years. My love of reading led me to a love of Jane Austen in my 20's. Shakespeare has always sparked my imagination and romantic side. But few things have captured my imagination the way Michael Hirst's movies about Elizabeth I and his series "The Tudors" have. These have led me to my unending curiosity about Anne Boleyn. I have now read every reputable biography on Anne, the other wives of Henry VIII and his children. After all this reading and viewing, the only logical next step was to GO TO ENGLAND!

For me, it was primarily a Tudor tour of England. Although the focus of my trip started with Hever, Anne's family castle, my itinerary began in London - specifically to visit the Tower on the anniversary of Anne Boleyn's execution, May 19th. There are currently a ton of exhibitions celebrating Henry's accession to the throne 500 years ago and I bought a pass to all the Historic Royal Palaces. Five days in the city, then it's on to Kent to pay my respects at the Boleyn's ancestral home and home of Henry's 4th wife, Anne of Cleves.

In order to really experience England, I think it's important to get out of London and see the countryside. What better way than to stay at a manor house in the English countryside?! Thanks to my lack of job and shortage of cash, I will be staying at a cheap hotel in London and a B&B in Kent. What better way to start my new Tudors blog than to chronicle my dream-trip to England?

Monday, June 8, 2009

Leave it to Hever Part II

Being the reason I wanted to come to England, Hever certainly deserves more than one measly post!
Plus, I just have too many photos that will sit forever in iPhoto with no one to see them but I.
As I mentioned, I was able to get away from the crowds and children by walking in the Italian Garden. Because it was only May, many of the flowers and roses were not yet in full bloom but the garden was still lovely.

I was able to further escape the crowds, indeed I was completely alone, when I found a path that led to the outskirts of the property. Along this path was the "Blue Garden" which I could see - even out of season - would be remarkably striking in bloom.In a recent Google search, I found another blogger who had taken this exact same photo (above). I thought this very strange since I saw no other visitors there and have never seen another photo or mention of this place at Hever.
The outside path had several inclines made only of rocks and slate with a brook with waterfalls running alongside.
And finally, the Rhododendron Walk which leads back to the castle.

There were many things I saw at Hever which stirred emotions that no one else would understand without a study of Anne Boleyn's life. To most, this would be nothing but a photo of a honeysuckle but to me, I immediately see the tester on which Anne embroidered her initials with Henry's intertwined with honeysuckle. Who knows, perhaps this very bush was the inspiration?

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Leave it to Hever

The day had finally arrived. Tuesday, May 26th was not only my 41st birthday but it was also the day I planned to visit Anne Boleyn's family home at Hever Castle. Truthfully, it was my desire to see Hever that inspired this whole trip. I had originally only planned to stay in Kent but then figured if I could afford the stay in London, I should do that as well.
This was my birthday gift to myself. Well, the whole trip is... but specifically, going to spend the day at Hever. When I came down for breakfast, Lynn and the other B&B guest, Jacquelyn had placed cards and small gifts by my place setting.
Despite the sweet start to the day, the weather wasn't looking very encouraging. Tuesday started out as a dark, damp, cloudy, rainy day in Kent. I was so incredibly relaxed by this time, I wasn't even upset about it. I would simply go to Hever Wednesday. I couldn't be bothered with being bothered. After a late morning nap, I soaked in a lovely bubble bath using one of my birthday gifts. By the time I was dressed and made-up, the sun had broken through the clouds and it had turned into a beautiful day.

A quick taxi ride to the hamlet of Hever and I was ready to come face-to-face with Anne Boleyn and her family home. I walked through the gatehouse and purchased my tickets, then made my way down the hill toward the castle. At first glance, I could only think that it was a very small castle. There are also extensive grounds which include a Yew Maze and Italian Garden. But I couldn't wait, I had to see the actual home where Anne Boleyn grew-up first.
The castle is double moated, the second you cross by wooden drawbridge which replaced the original stone. This leads to a portcullis - so popular in the 13th century, when Hever was built.

This leads into a small, open-air courtyard and new entrance added to the castle by Thomas Boleyn (Anne's father) and built completely in the Tudor style in 1509.

So this was not the original entrance. Thomas Boleyn added this attachment as a type of hallway or foyer on the ground floor and a long gallery upstairs which now displays portraits of Anne's daughter Queen Elizabeth I and other cool relics.
I saw the most famous and recognizable portrait of Anne Boleyn in the National Portrait Gallery, but my favorite portraits of Anne are housed at Hever. One is very similar to that famed sitting with the French Hood and black gown but Anne looks younger and prettier.

I've never been one of those people who thought Anne was ugly but in this portrait, I find her truly beautiful.
Then there were the portraits of both "Bullen" sisters representing both were very young and both wearing the "old fashioned" Gable Hoods.

These portraits of Anne (left) and Mary (below) were clearly meant to represent their youth although no portraits painted during Anne's lifetime survive. I believe (with no evidence) that they were probably meant to portray the girls at 12 or 13 years old, perhaps just before Anne was sent to be a fille d'honneur in the court of Archduchess Margaret and then went with Mary to serve the French Court?

A teeny, tiny staircase carved into the stone of a wall led to a small room with one window which served as both Anne and Mary's bedroom. (Told ya this was a tiny castle! Sisters in a noble family had to share a room.) In the room is a carved wooden bedstead that I was very anxious to finally see in person. To my disappointment, it was pretty obvious that this was never at the head of the bed in which Anne Boleyn slept. (Despite the words actually carved into the wood proclaiming it was!) Even the guide book for the castle says the wood has been dated to Victorian times - not Tudor.
After Henry executed Anne Bolyen and her father died 2 years later, Hever reverted to the crown. Henry then gave the castle to Anne of Cleves in her divorce settlement and her initials and profile remain in some rooms.
After the house tour, I took a stroll in the gardens. I tried to imagine Anne taking the fresh air but I knew that what I was seeing was planted centuries after Anne's life. Except when I looked back upon the castle from the gardens. I stuck mainly to the gardens close to the castle first before venturing out into the Italian garden and sculpture garden and to the lake.

One of my favorite things about the garden was that it wasn't nearly as crowded as the tiny castle. We were a little too cramped in some of the rooms and there were a few too many children touching things and running around. But the gardens were open and clear. Hidden among the bushes and secret paths were an unusual set of chess pieces carved out of bushes surrounding a brass astrolab.
Anne used an astrolab in her signature when she was being courted by Henry VIII. Could it be?
The gardens were a great place to play amateur photographer...

And then more to see and photograph at the lake...

I fell in love... with a little family of swans. Once again, memories of Henry and Anne...

Although these two had far better luck with childbearing...