Sunday, 25 August 2013

An article on the Boleyns for Eile


The new Irish magazine Eile, written, created and compiled by young Irish journalists, has very kindly asked me to write a few articles for them and here is one I wrote for one of their back issues. The article was called Was it a gay lobby that cost Anne Boleyn her life?
 
This article is copyrighted.

Two reviews from the archives


From the archives of History Today, two reviews of biographies of two of history's unluckiest queens - Anne Boleyn and Marie-Antoinette of France. Dr. Susan Walter Schmid reviews G.W. Bernard's 2010 biography of Boleyn, Fatal Attractions, taking particular issue with Bernard's comparisons between Anne Boleyn and the late Princess Diana and his use of extant translation of Lancelot de Carles's poem about Boleyn's downfall in 1536.
 
One wants to ask immediately: Why would Anne have become an adulteress? In a curiously presentist observation Bernard would have us believe that because of Princess Diana, moderns may not find it so hard to believe a queen would commit adultery (p. 156). Presentism occurs when we allow ourselves to interpret past people or events based only on our modern values and concepts. Granted, it is difficult to avoid; after all, the present is what we know best, but a historian simply must not fall into this trap. What an increasingly unhappy princess in the twentieth century did cannot automatically tell us anything about what a not necessarily unhappy queen in the sixteenth century might have done. Although there were some suggestions that Henry had a mistress while married to Anne, what she might have done in response must be understood in sixteenth-century terms, not those of today.


Meanwhile, John Rogister, author of Louis XV and the Parlement of Paris, 1737 - 1755, offers a generally positive review of Lady Antonia Fraser's 2002 biography of Marie-Antoinette, The Journey.
 
This absorbing and well-illustrated book is full of sharp insights about Marie Antoinette, her relationship with the handsome Swedish nobleman, Count Ferson (her romantic knight), her loyalty to those she loved. Georgiana, the Duchess of Devonshire, gave an apt description of the Queen facing her accusers: how, even when confronted with a disgusting allegation extracted from her impressionable seven-year-old son, ‘her answers, her cleverness and greatness of mind’ shone through.

 
Both reviews contain very good accounts of Anne and Marie-Antoinette's historical significance. The review of Anne Boleyn: Fatal Attractions is accessible here and Marie Antoinette: The Journey's is here.

Monday, 19 August 2013

Anne Boleyn's last secret


Leanda de Lisle, whose biography of the Grey sisters is one of my favourite reads, along with her wonderful account of the final years of Elizabeth I, has sent me a link to her new article in The Spectator about the execution of Anne Boleyn and her theory that the sword used to kill the queen probably had far less to do with the French aristocracy than most people suppose. You can read Leanda's post here and it's a fantastic read.

Leanda's new book, Tudor: The Family Story, is published in the UK on August 29th.

Thursday, 8 August 2013

Three's a crowd

A brief and hopefully fun look at some of the English royal family's most famous and controversial paramours. Eleven people who made royal marriages "a bit crowded."
 
Rosamund de Clifford, nicknamed “Fair Rosamund” because of her gorgeous good-looks, she was a merchant’s daughter who became the longest-lasting mistress of King Henry II, the relentlessly ambitious monarch who ruled a vast European empire between 1154 and 1189. Henry’s marriage to the glamorous Eleanor of Aquitaine broke down during Rosamund’s time as his mistress, leading to rumours that the Queen had been driven mad by jealousy of her younger rival and even tried to poison her. Stories later circulated that Henry had hidden his adulterous love interest in a manor house surrounded by an impenetrable maze to save her from his wife’s wrath. Most of these stories were nonsense, however, and it was politics that prompted Eleanor to betray her husband during the rebellions against him. Enshrined in legend as the archetypal fair yet fallen woman, Rosamund later repented of her adultery with the King and retreated to a community of nuns living near Oxford. She died of natural causes in her late twenties.

Piers Gaveston, Earl of Cornwall was a spectacularly handsome young man who captured the heart of the future King Edward II. Edward’s elderly father took a dim view of his son’s romantic proclivities and banished Gaveston, only to relent in the face of entreaties from the prince’s stepmother, Queen Marguerite, who was moved by the young men’s plight. When Edward became king in 1307, his obsessive love for Gaveston alienated many members of the nobility when Gaveston was elevated to the position of Earl of Cornwall, a title formerly reserved mainly for members of the royal family. Whether Edward and Piers were ever lovers in the fullest sense of the word is still debated, but it seems overwhelmingly likely that they were. Regardless of the exact nature of their relationship, Piers was inextricably linked in aristocratic minds to Edward’s drive towards absolutism and to weaken the King he was kidnapped and murdered in 1312.


Jane Shore was actually christened Elizabeth and like Rosamund de Clifford, she was a merchant’s daughter. From an early age she apparently mimicked the behaviour of her father’s wealthy patrons meaning that later in life she could pass for an aristocrat or a member of the gentry. Her prettiness and poise brought her to the attention of the womanising King Edward IV, who was already married to the spectacularly beautiful Elizabeth Woodville. Jane was said to be witty and charming, but she did herself no favours by also carrying on an affair with the King’s stepson, the Marquess of Dorset, and with Lord Hastings. When Edward died in 1483, Dorset was executed by the new monarch Richard III who also arranged for Jane to be paraded through the streets of London as penance for her promiscuity and then had her detained at Ludgate prison. Irrepressible to the end, she caught the attention of a solicitor, who married her and provided her with a comfortable lifestyle to the end of her days.

Sunday, 4 August 2013

The Ring of the Heavens: Marie-Antoinette's jewellery


Tea at Trianon has a profile and link to this beautiful ring, which once belonged to Marie-Antoinette.
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