Tuesday, 19 May 2015

The Quest for Anne Boleyn

Judith Arnopp

Anne Boleyn

The true personality of Anne Boleyn was lost the moment the sword struck off her head.  After her death only the bravest, or most fool hardy spoke out in her defence. She was the subject of poems, histories, scandals, and it wasn’t until her daughter Elizabeth’s reign, twenty-two years after her execution, that it was safe to speak well of her again.
Recorded feelings among her contemporaries are mixed, John Hussey, a former supporter of Anne wrote, “...that which hath been done and committed by Anne the Queen...which is so abominable and detestable that I am ashamed that any good woman should give ear thereto.”
Sander, a Catholic priest and not an admirer of Anne, writing long after her death, published a scathing attack, describing her with witch-like features, and the child she lost in 1536 to be a “shapeless mass.”
At the time of her arrest Archbishop Cranmer wrote to the king of his shock and horror. As a friend
Thomas Cranmer
and supporter of the queen, he was clearly on edge and aware that should she fall, her supporters could be suspect too. It is interesting that he qualifies his condemnation of her with the little word, “if.”
If the reports of the Queen be true, they are only to her dishonor, not yours. I am clean amazed, for I had never better opinion of woman; but I think your Highness would not have gone so far if she had not been culpable. I was most bound to her of all creatures living, and therefore beg that I may, with your Grace’s favor, wish and pray that she may declare herself innocent. Yet if she be found guilty, I repute him not a faithful subject who would not wish her punished without mercy. And as I loved her not a little for the love which I judged her to bear towards God and His Gospel, so if she be proved culpable there is not one that loveth God and His Gospel that ever will favor her, but must hate her above all other”
Thomas Wyatt
A few were more outspoken in their support. Her long-time friend, and (some say) one-time sweetheart, Thomas Wyatt, made his feelings quite plain. “These bloody days have broken my heart.”
And even her enemy, the Spanish ambassador Eustace Chapuys, raised some doubt as to her guilt in his remark, "there are some who murmur at the mode of procedure against her and the others..."
During Elizabeth’s reign, the poet John Foxe included Anne in his Book of Martyrs, declaring that Elizabeth’s long reign was God’s way of testifying to her mother’s innocence.
Later historians and, more recently, novelists have taken Anne’s name and molded her into something unrecognisable, in some cases bordering on the inhuman. By the late nineteenth century her guilt was a bone of contention. In 1884 Friedmann’s,  Anne Boleyn: A Chapter of English History 1527-1536 the author places the blame squarely with Cromwell, seeing her downfall as a political coup. And Agnes Strickland, with supreme elegance, states quite plainly that Anne, “never incurred the crimes for which she was brought to the block.” Strickland denounces Henry as a “despot” in pursuit of an heir.
Similarly, the twentieth century did not find a resolution to the question of Anne’s character and, like Strickland, the leading Tudor historian A. F. Pollard regards Anne as a victim of Henry’s quest for an heir, although, instead of Cromwell, he cites Chapuys as being behind the initial rumours against her. 
Henry VIII
In the 1970’s Anne becomes the heroine of feminists and Anne Chapman, while agreeing that her failure to produce a son was the main reason for her fall, puts the blame squarely on Cromwell’s shoulders. In Chapman’s hands Anne is not so much a maligned innocent as a heroine, a tragic martyr flying the flag for the cause of feminism.
“In these conditions of capricious hatred and undeviating ruthlessness, Anne Boleyn lived, triumphed – and perished.”
As we approach the 1990’s Anne character changes once again in a study by Retha M. Warnicke, The Rise and Fall of Anne Boleyn: Family Politics at the Court of Henry VIII, in which she states Anne’s fall was due to her having given birth to a monster, a fetus so deformed as to suggest witchcraft. Warnicke argues that during the period in question doctors believed birth defects to be the result of sexual misconduct. This may well be true but charges of sexual misconduct, incest in particular, had long been used against women who stepped far enough from their prescribed role s to become a nuisance to their male contemporaries.
Thomas Cromwell
In her book published in 1995, Divorced, Beheaded, Survived, Karen Lindsey returns to the idea of Anne as a feminist icon, reconfirming that Anne’s failure to provide an heir caused her fall, but this time citing Cromwell as the main instigator of her arrest.
Today, the leading historian in Anne Boleyn studies is the late, great Eric Ives whose concise and in-depth research has, in my opinion, yet to be bettered. The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn provides a balanced opinion, citing not just Anne’s failure in childbirth  as the catalyst for her fall but extending her crimes to include meddling in politics and fervour for reform.

 Initially, the shared desire for reform brought Cromwell and Anne together but, where Cromwell wanted to bring down the church and enrich Henry’s coffers, Anne desired to restructure the existing church, iron out the rough edges, remove the wheat and throw away the chaff.
Ives also cites the Anglo-Imperial alliance, during which negotiations Henry and Chapuys fell out over Charles V's refusal to acknowledge Anne as queen. When Henry, quite typically, refused to back down Cromwell was unwilling to jeopardise his dealings with the Spanish ambassador and Ives says, “…Anne Boleyn had become a major threat to Thomas Cromwell…A hostile Anne threatened both his standing with the king and his key financial achievements…Despite the risk, despite all his past debts, Cromwell’s very survival no longer coincided with the survival of the queen. She must go.”
There are still those who persist in seeing Anne as she was originally personified and G. W. Bernard in his book Anne Boleyn: Fatal Attractions asserts that the accusations against Anne were all true and that, according to Tudor law, her death was deserved. Although he accepts that the accusations made against her, (mostly by clergy) could be the product of gossip, Bernard maintains that “Gossip is not necessarily false.”  The unfortunate death of Princess Diana in 1997 gave rise to all sorts of conspiracy theories, none of which have any real basis in fact. Royals will always be the focus for gossip and rumour, and since Anne's prominence in church reform made her some powerful enemies, it seems only fair to regard the charges laid against her with some suspicion.
When it comes to fiction, Anne’s reputation has suffered even more, and she appears either as a too-good-to-be-true heroine of all the virtues, or a depraved, incestuous, power-hungry mother of monsters. I think I have shown that opinion has been divided since the moment of her arrest and, considering the historical material available to novelists (as discussed above) there is little surprise that historical ‘truth’ (whatever that is) has been lost along the way. Readers of novels should always be aware of the distinction between historical fact, and historical fiction.
In my  novel, The Kiss of the Concubine, I have tried to keep my feet more firmly on the ground and find a middle way. Of course, there is no hope of ever knowing the ‘real’ Anne Boleyn, or categorically defining the reasons behind her fall, but it seems we never tire of trying.
In writing The Kiss of the Concubine, I have juggled with all these sources, wrestled with the conflicting opinions and applied some commonsense but, in the end, Anne tells her own story. I haven’t tried to purify or excuse her, and neither is she demonised. The voice that speaks from the pages of my novel comes from the inner ‘Anne;’ the hidden ‘self’ that nobody can ever really know. As human beings we always rationalise our own actions and justify even our cruelest moments, and maybe her proud, power-seeking ways were like a suit of armour, covering perceived inadequacies and protecting a vulnerable, ordinary woman, who just happened to attract the attentions of a king. 
If you read my novel, please remember it is fiction.
The Kiss of the Concubine kindle version is currently on an Amazon countdown special available here.
Watch a trailer of The Kiss of the Concubine here.

Illustrations from Wikimedia Commons.
Further Reading and works consulted: 

A.F.Pollard, Henry VIII, (London: Longmans,1905)
Agnes Strickland, Lives of the Queens of England, from the Norman Conquest, vol. 2 (London: George Bell & Sons,1882)
Alison Weir, The Lady in the Tower: The Fall of Anne Boleyn (Reading: Random House, 2009)
G.W. Bernard, Anne Boleyn: Fatal Attractions (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2010)
Greg Walker, “Rethinking the Fall of Anne Boleyn,” The Historical Journal 45, no.1 (March 2002)
Joanna Denny, Anne Boleyn (Chatham: Piatkus Books, 2007)
Karen Lindsey, Divorced, Beheaded, Survived: A Feminist Reinterpretation of the Wives of Henry VIII (Reading,MA: AddisonWesley,1995)
Paul Friedmann, Anne Boleyn: A Chapter of English History,15271536, vol.1 (London: MacMillan,1884)
Retha M. Warnicke, The Rise and Fall of Anne Boleyn: Family Politics at the Court of Henry VIII (New York: Cambridge UP, 1989)
Hester Chapman, The Challenge of Anne Boleyn (New York: Coward, McCann & Geoghegan, 1974)
Eric Ives, The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn: The Most Happy (Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2004)

Friday, 8 May 2015

The Super- Dooper 'Judith Arnopp' Giveaway!


Six years ago I published my first book Peaceweaver, the story of Eadgyth who was queen to both Gruffydd ap Llewellyn of Wales and Harold II of England. The few people who did read it left encouraging comments but it didn't make so much as a ripple in the literary world. There were times when I thought I might as well find a better way to make a living but something made me crack on with the second novel, The Forest Dwellers, the tale of a family of Saxons living under Norman oppression. This book also made little impact and neither did The Song of Heledd, my third attempt. I gained a few readers, had some nice reviews and emails but no real response to my hard efforts. Lots of emails said they loved my writing style and asked if I'd thought of writing anything 'Tudor.'
Since there was little to lose I decided to give it a go and The Winchester Goose was born. There is something about Joanie Toogood that brought out the best in me as a writer and connected with fans of historical fiction. The book didn't take the world by storm but my readership immediately expanded.
  I was spurred on to write The Kiss of the Concubine, a story of Anne Boleyn

I began to blog more and more, linking the blog to my books and sales doubled, followers doubled and my income happily increased. After Intractable Heart; the story of Katheryn Parr was published and an exhausting round of promotional blogging, it increased again and readers began contacting me to ask what my next would be about. 

When A Song of Sixpence, the story of Elizabeth of York and Perkin Warbeck was published there were so many pre-orders that it shot to the top of the kindle chart. The reviews and response is fabulous. I am not a household name and probably never will be but, as a self-published author, the loyalty and appreciation of my readers means much more than fame. My ever increasing readership enables me to earn a living from the thing I love, the thing I was born to do and I'd like to show my appreciation of that.
This week my followers on author page on Facebook topped 1000. My Twitter account is also well followed. Everyday my inbox has emails from happy readers. Usually they say something like. 'I bought one of your books. I couldn't put it down and I am just about to purchase your entire back catalogue.'  Those early books are now selling as quickly as my recent ones. Messages from my readers are like a pools win. There are still miles to travel and many hurdles ahead but I do hope you will all be there with me. I need your continued support.

Today I would like to thank you all by holding a Giveaway. All you have to do is leave a comment, either on this blog or on the facebook post  stating which of my books is your favourite and why, and which title you'd prefer if you are picked as winner.  If you haven't yet read one, say which one you'd like to start with. Remember to leave email details so I can contact you. Your name will go into a draw and the winner will receive the following. (See photograph at the top of this blog post).

A signed 'Judith Arnopp' title of your choice, (message personalised to your requirement.)
A mystery 'Judith Arnopp' title.
An Amazon gift voucher.
A selection of 'Judith Arnopp' merchandise.
And, because no book should be read without suitable refreshment, a bar of my favourite chocolate.

Good Luck Everybody!

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

'My Lovely Blog' Blog Hop

I’ve been invited by friend and fellow author Louise Turner to join the ‘my lovely blog’ series - which asks writers to answer a few questions about themselves under the six headings below.  You can check out Louise’s own excellent blog here. http://www.louiseturner.co.uk/louises-blog/

Me loving my cousin Sue
First memory

I remember being in my big pram in the hall waiting to go out with my mum. It is a very vague collage of scents and tastes and sounds. If I close my eyes I can see the light shining through the net curtains, taste the rusk I had for breakfast, hear my mother singing in the kitchen, and my big sisters cooing and fussing over me. They don’t do that now – lol.


There were lots of books in our house when I was small. I remember a colour picture book of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, and another picture book about Toys who came to life in the cupboard and had adventures – the pictures were fabulous, really vivid and detailed. This was combined with Winnie the Pooh, then Enid Blyton, Robert Louis Stephenson as I got a bit older. As a teenager I began to read historical fiction which has been my favourite genre ever since. When I began to write seriously it was the obvious genre choice for me. The author I most admire now is Hilary Mantel; I love the way you are in the room with her characters, part of their lives, the reader comes to understand them so much better. I also love the classics, going back to Chaucer because of the sense of the past they provide. Chaucer was the source for my Joanie Toogood when I wrote The Winchester Goose.
 Libraries or bookshops?

Bookshop in Much Wenlock UK
Both please. I use a library for research, my home is stuffed with books, mostly non-fiction but a good deal of fiction too. When I was a teenager I was in the library every weekend (I know, geeky). We need to save our libraries; it is short sighted to close them down. Books inform and shape people; education is the way forward and libraries are a source of free education accessible to everyone.  
I buy a lot of books, my shelves are bulging. I do use Amazon for convenience but still like to get lost in a book shop and can never help buying something. Bookshops are lovely. I love how they smell, how quiet they are. There is nothing like a bookshop for making you lose track of time. I hate shopping but bookshops are something else. Readers need them, writers need them, people who have yet to discover the joy of a good book need them, our children need them and booksellers need them – keep them open. Open more.


I was the first in my family to go to university but I didn’t go until I was forty.  I loved school but in the seventies working class girls were not encouraged to enter further education. We were pushed into becoming typists or shop assistance. Neither of those things were for me (although the touch typing comes in very handy.) I was married at eighteen and a mother by the time I was twenty. I have four lovely children and three step-children. I enjoyed bringing them up but when the youngest became more independent I was a little bit lost. With a friend’s encouragement I enrolled at the University of Wales and my life changed completely. I stayed there for six years, taking a BA in English and Creative Writing and an MA in Medieval Studies. It was a fabulous part of my life.


Tretower Court, Powys
It is something I’ve always done. Those infant school ‘news’ stories evolved into short stories, poems, romances. When I went to university my Creative Writing lecturer (playwright Dic Edwards) encouraged me to do more with it. It was hard going at first. I wrote a couple of novels that will forever remain in my bottom drawer and then Peaceweaver was published in 2009. Since then I’ve written seven and am now working on my eighth.
If I don’t do any writing for a while I get very cranky. I like to hide myself away, imagine myself in one of the lovely castles/manor houses that we've visited and the story just flows from that. The Tudor world is a comfortable place for me, far nicer than a modern shopping centre on a Saturday afternoon.

 What's your passion?

Me at Raglan Castle last year
Lots of things. History, writing, my husband John and our family, my garden, my new-born grandson, walking, castles, the environment, nature, animals, trees ...even my daft little dog. Sometimes I combine all those things like when we go to Raglan Tudor Weekend (May 24th -25th this year). I also like crafts, painting, photography, sewing and working with wool but, apart from my vast and lovely family, writing comes top. There is nothing like sitting down in the morning with a blank page and coming away at lunch time with the bones of a good story. I get to experience every medieval danger imaginable without actually coming to any harm – hopefully my readers do too. Writing historical fiction is, for me, escapism and I am so fortunate to earn a living indulging in my passion.

Now, I 'd better get back to it. Margaret Beaufort awaits!
Thanks for inviting me, Louise!  In my turn, I pass the baton on to two more historical novelists:  Sheila Dalton and Wendy Steele.

Judith Arnopp is the author of seven historical fiction novels, four set in the Tudor period and three in the Anglo-Saxon/early Medieval. She is currently working on the life of Margaret Beaufort. All are available in paperback and on kindle. Click here for more information.


Winnie the Pooh cover -  "WhenWeWereVeryYoung" by Source. Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:WhenWeWereVeryYoung.JPG#/media/File:WhenWeWereVeryYoung.JPG
Bookshop: "Bookshop in Much Wenlock" by MichaelMaggs - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Bookshop_in_Much_Wenlock.jpg#/media/File:Bookshop_in_Much_Wenlock.jpg
All other photographs copyright Judith Arnopp