Book Review: “Becoming Anne: Connections, Culture, Court” by Owen Emmerson and Kate McCaffrey

278021206_976866119687329_5395301118592288697_nWhen we study the past, the stories of queens often begin when they marry their prince or the king. We don’t see their formative years unless they are extraordinary. One of the more extraordinary queens in English history was Anne Boleyn, a woman who was able to capture the heart of King Henry VIII, divide her nation, and gave birth to the legendary Queen Elizabeth I. We all know how the story of Anne Boleyn ends, but how did she become the woman who would one day be Queen of England? Hever Castle currently has an exhibition about Anne Boleyn’s formative years. This corresponding book, “Becoming Anne: Connections, Culture, Court” by Owen Emmerson and Kate McCaffrey, gives readers an in-depth look into her early years.

“Becoming Anne: Connections, Culture, Court,” the exhibition to celebrate the 500th anniversary of Anne Boleyn’s debut at the English Court on March 4, 1522, is currently running at Hever Castle until November 9, 2022, for anyone interested in attending. For those who cannot participate in this exhibit, like me, “Becoming Anne: Connections, Culture, Court” by Owen Emmerson and Kate McCaffrey is perfect for celebrating this momentous event in Tudor history.

We begin our exploration of Anne Boleyn’s formative years by looking at how the Boleyn family rose to a prominent position at Henry VIII’s court. Thomas Boleyn rose through the ranks and married well to Lady Elizabeth Howard. The Boleyn children were given the best possible education to secure great marriages. Anne’s education inside England and throughout Europe defined her as a captivating figure in history. Her international education included stays at the court of Margaret of Austria in Mechelen, Queen Mary Tudor, and Queen Claude in France, Louise of Savoy, and Marguerite of Angouleme.

Emmerson and McCaffrey have written a book that combines the latest in Boleyn research from the top experts, including Lauren Mackay, Elizabeth Norton, Tracy Borman, and Claire Ridgway, to name a few. For a companion book for an exhibit about Anne Boleyn, I found this book informative and was complemented by the gorgeous images that the authors included. If you want a delightfully informative and beautifully illustrated book about Anne Boleyn’s formative years, I recommend reading “Becoming Anne: Connections, Culture, Court” by Owen Emmerson and Kate McCaffrey.

Book Review: “The Boleyns of Hever Castle” by Owen Emmerson and Claire Ridgway

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As history nerds, many have wondered what life might have been like during our favorite dynasties. What were castles like in their heydays? Though we might not have a time machine, we have rare chances to visit the actual castles that our favorite historical figures called home. One such place is the breathtaking home of the Boleyns, Hever Castle. Owen Emmerson and Claire Ridgway have combined their talents to create a beautiful book all about this magical place entitled “The Boleyns of Hever Castle.”

As someone who has never visited England before, Hever Castle is on my bucket list of Tudor places to visit. I have seen the gorgeous pictures and videos from those who have visited and get the exciting opportunity to work at Hever, like Owen Emmerson, the Assistant Curator and Castle historian at Hever. When I heard that Owen Emmerson and Claire Ridgway were writing this book together, I knew I had to read it.

Like any good tour guide, Emmerson and Ridgway paint a picture for their readers of what they might see when they visit the castle. As they explain, the castle has gone through a few renovations throughout the centuries, so they focus on areas that would have been familiar to the Boleyn family during their 77-year stay.

Of course, Emmerson and Ridgway take an in-depth look into the Boleyn family, how they became owners of this stately palace, and how the estate survived after the fall of the illustrious family. For those who know the story of the Boleyns, it is a delightful reminder of how important Hever was as their home when times got somewhat rocky at the court of Henry VIII. What I found most intriguing was how the castle and the legacy of the Boleyns survived because people like William Waldorf Astor and Queen Victoria had such a love for the Tudors and preserving the past.

It is not just the brilliant writing that tells the tale of Hever Castle in this clever book, and the photographs tell the other half of the story. Since Tudor fans may not have had a chance to visit, myself included, these pictures, sketches, and maps add another layer of enjoyment to this book. Full of fascinating facts, colorful photos, and rigorous research, “The Boleyns of Hever Castle” by Owen Emmerson and Claire Ridgway is an essential book for anyone who is a fan of the Boleyns and the Tudor dynasty.

Book Review: “The Anne Boleyn Collection II” by Claire Ridgway

18588008The Boleyn family have been viewed as social climbers, who only desired power and prestige, in history and novels for centuries; their fall from grace was due to their ambitions. But, is this true? Did Anne Boleyn’s family only care about getting to the top by any means necessary? Were they manipulative, cunning, and cruel like they have been portrayed in dramas and novels? Who were the Boleyns and why have they been so maligned in history? In her second book of this series, “The Anne Boleyn Collection II”, Claire Ridgway of The Anne Boleyn Files examines Anne Boleyn and the truth about her family.

After I had finished the first edition of “The Anne Boleyn Collection”, I did have a conversation with Claire Ridgway about the structure of her book. If you read my review about that particular book, I did have a slight issue with the blog article structure of the book. Claire Ridgway explained that it was intentional as these books are a collection of blog articles from The Anne Boleyn Files, which helped me while reading the second collection of articles.

In my opinion, Ridgway’s structure in this second collection is much better than the first collection. It reads like a book and it is in an order that makes sense. We start our journey with the origins of the Boleyn family, which was fascinating and very informative to read about the different theories of how this family rose to power. Then, it is all about Anne and her life and the myths around her. Compared to her previous book, I found this part well researched and I learned a lot. Anne Boleyn is not exactly my favorite wife of King Henry VIII, but I did feel sympathy for her, and I could see why so many people do defend her while reading about her in this book.

The last section of this book deals with Anne Boleyn’s immediate family. Her father Thomas Boleyn has been viewed as a “power-hungry pimp” who only cared about his position rather than his children, but Ridgway shows that this was not the case. Anne’s mother Elizabeth Boleyn has been a shadowy figure in the past, yet Ridgway dives to find out what kind of parent she was and the rumors around her. Was George Boleyn such a scandalous figure and what was his relationship with his wife Jane Boleyn like? What is the truth about Mary Boleyn’s story? And finally, Ridgway explores the big question about the Boleyns and their religious viewpoints.

This is my favorite book from The Anne Boleyn Collection series so far. Claire Ridgway’s research and writing style has improved significantly between the two books, and it shows. I did thoroughly enjoy this one and I wanted to do my own research into these topics after reading this book. I learned so much about the Boleyns that it made me realize that maybe they were not as bad as novels and dramas have portrayed them. If you think you know the Boleyns, I would suggest you read, “The Anne Boleyn Collection II” by Claire Ridgway. It may change your mind about how you view this hotly debated family of Anne Boleyn.