Book Review: “The Final Year of Anne Boleyn” by Natalie Grueninger

61817724The world of someone close to a king, especially someone close to King Henry VIII, was full of hazards and great triumphs. All the glist and glamor of the Tudor court could not save them from the rage of the King. This could apply to anyone who fell during the reign of this infamous King, but none more so than his second wife and queen, Anne Boleyn. Much has been written about Anne Boleyn and her dramatic fall from grace, specifically the final month of her life, but what was she doing in her last year alive? Natalie Grueninger hopes to answer this question in her latest book, “The Final Year of Anne Boleyn.”

I want to thank Pen and Sword Books and NetGalley for sending me a copy of this book. I am always learning new facts about influential Tudors, like Anne Boleyn, so when I heard about this book, I knew it would be on my to-be-read pile.

We begin our journey to Anne’s demise with the court’s changes in 1535. There is still tons of support for Henry’s first wife, Katherine of Aragon, and her daughter Mary, even with the new Act of Respecting the Oath to the Succession, which proclaimed Princess Elizabeth as King Henry VIII’s heir, not Mary. Anne interacts with ambassadors from foreign lands, like Charles de Solier from France and Eustace Chapuys, the imperial ambassador.

My favorite part of this book is how much care Grueinger took in telling the story of Anne Boleyn’s final progress with Henry VIII. I have never read an account of this progress in the details Grueinger provided, including where she stayed and who served her at different royal houses. We also see how she dealt with the divide between Catholics and Protestants and how she relaxed in her downtime.

Grueninger examines Anne’s fall from grace and how it took place, starting with Henry’s dramatic fall from his horse and Anne’s tragic miscarriage of a son that would have secured her place on the throne. Here, we see the death of Katherine of Aragon and the rise of Jane Seymour. Emotions are running high, and rumors are flying all over Europe, so Grueninger takes the time to bust a few of these myths. Finally, we look at the show trials and the executions that sealed the fate of Anne Boleyn and the men associated with her.

Natalie Grueninger’s passion for telling the true story of Anne Boleyn is evident on every page of this book with the amount of research she poured into this subject. This book presents Anne Boleyn in a new sympathetic light, which any Tudor fan would appreciate. If you want a beautiful nonfiction book that examines the tragic fall of Anne Boleyn, I highly recommend you read “The Final Year of Anne Boleyn” by Natalie Grueninger.

Television Series Review: “The Six Wives of King Henry VIII”

81uwnQbeXvL._SY445_Many actors and actresses have portrayed the lives of Henry VIII and his six wives in modern films and dramas. When asking Tudor nerds which Henry VIII stood out the most, the most popular response is Keith Michell in the 1970s BBC series, “The Six Wives of King Henry VIII.” I had not heard about this series until I started “Adventures of a Tudor Nerd.” Many people have wanted me to watch the series solely for the performance of Keith Michell, so when a coworker allowed me to borrow her DVD copy of the series, I finally decided it was time to tackle this legendary series.

For those unfamiliar with the older Tudor dramas like this series, it should be noted that the focus is not on sex or bloody battles but on the relationships between Henry and his six wives. Therefore, the costumes and the scenery take a step back in quality that one would expect when compared with modern dramas. I think the English brides’ outfits are well done, but the native gowns for Katherine of Aragon and Anne of Cleves felt a bit off for me.

Keith Michell plays the titular king, but I will discuss his performance later. I want to look at the actresses who played Henry’s six wives. Each episode focuses on each wife’s story, how they became his wife, and how their story ended.

We begin with Katherine of Aragon, played by Annette Crosbie, who was the wife of Prince Arthur, but when he died, Katherine struggled to survive in a foreign land until it was decided that she would marry her former husband’s brother, Henry VIII. The couple seems to be in love until Katherine cannot deliver a son for the king, so he decides it’s time for a divorce, which we call The Great Matter. With Katherine out of royal favor, it is time for Henry’s second wife, Anne Boleyn, played by Dorothy Tutin, to make her appearance. When it comes to Anne Boleyn’s performances, I don’t know if I like Tutin’s portrayal; it just rubbed me the wrong way.

My favorite episode of this series was Jane Seymour, played by Anne Stallybrass, who shows a more complex side to Jane’s story. We see her interacting with the Seymour family and her desire to reunite Henry VIII and his daughter Mary. The way the episode was structured with Jane on her death bed and witnessing flashbacks to her time with Henry VIII, the issue of the Pilgrimage of Grace, and the birth of her beloved son Edward. With Jane’s death, we see the more human side of Henry as he is in deep mourning for his beloved queen.

It would be several years until he married again to Anne of Cleves to secure a German Protestant alliance. Anne of Cleves, played by Elvi Hale, is a young woman of average looks and very little money who wants to learn everything she can about England. I like how we are introduced to Hans Holbein in this episode and to see how Anne felt about her marriage and ultimate divorce from Henry VIII.

With the divorce of Anne of Cleves settled, Henry VIII turned his gaze on the young Catherine Howard, played by Angela Pleasence. Catherine is young, naive, and only concerned about being queen and having men fawn over her. It was interesting to see Catherine Howard as a nursemaid to the King and how angry he was with her uncle after her execution. Finally, we are introduced to Henry’s final wife, the devout reformer Catherine Parr, played by Rosalie Crutchley. We witness the end of the King’s reign and the rise of the Seymour family to help the young king Edward VI.

Of course, these stories could not be told without side characters like Thomas Wolsey, Thomas, and Edward Seymour, King Henry VII, Eustace Chapuys, Jane Boleyn, and Will Somers. I was a little surprised that they included torture scenes for Anne Askew and Mark Smeaton, especially since they did not show the execution scenes for Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard. Several small Easter eggs for Tudor fans sprinkled in are quite delightful to discover.

Now, it’s time to discuss the big guy, King Henry VIII, played masterfully by Keith Michell. Before watching this drama, I was only familiar with Keith Michell from his performances in Murder She Wrote and the episodes I would watch with my mom. We begin with Henry as a young king enchanted with Katherine of Aragon. They are madly in love, and it is hard to believe they would ever separate, but they eventually do when Anne Boleyn catches his eye.

Throughout this entire series, we see Michell’s acting range through the rapid emotional change of the king. One minute he could be lovey-dovey, the next raging mad, and then bawling his eyes out. What impressed me the most about Michell’s performance was how we saw Henry VIII’s size and shape change in each episode. As Tudor fans, we have screamed at the TV when we see modern adaptations of Henry VIII that do not meet our standards for what older Henry should look like. Michell exceeds all expectations and gives his audience one of the most believable King Henry VIII performances in modern history.

Overall, I found this a decent show where the political and romantic drama of the reign of King Henry VIII shines through the screen. The queens and the counselors did take a back seat to the titular king, but I did not mind that. If you want to watch a legendary series about the reign of King Henry VIII that does not have the sex and scandals of a modern drama, I highly recommend you watch the BBC series, “The Six Wives of King Henry VIII,” starring Keith Michell.

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Guest Post: “ Gertrude Courtenay: Forgotten Tudor Woman” by Sylvia Barbara Soberton

banner-blogtour1Today, I am pleased to welcome Sylvia Barbara Soberton back to discuss another forgotten Tudor woman, Gertrude Courtenay, who is the subject of her latest book, “The Forgotten Tudor Women: Gertrude Courtenay. Wife and Mother of the last Plantagenets”.

The biography of Gertrude Courtenay, Marchioness of Exeter, is the third volume in my best-selling series Forgotten Tudor Women. As the title of the series suggests, I am writing about the lesser-known women of the Tudor court. When I say “lesser-known”, I don’t mean that little is known about these women. Quite the contrary; they left an extraordinary trail of letters, papers, and documents and made their presence known to various chroniclers and ambassadors.

Why Gertrude, you may ask? Long story short: She was amazing! I wanted to write a biography of Gertrude for a very long time. Why was she so special?

Married to Henry VIII’s first cousin Henry Courtenay, Earl of Devon and then Marquis of Exeter, Gertrude was the wife and mother of the last Plantagenets at the Tudor court. Her husband, after whose noble title the Exeter Conspiracy is known today, was executed in 1538, and their son, Edward, spent fourteen years imprisoned in the Tower of London.

Gertrude was among the key political players of Henry VIII’s court during the infamous annulment, known as the Great Matter, commencing in 1527 and ending in 1533. A Catholic and staunch supporter of the King’s first wife, Katharine of Aragon, and their daughter, Princess Mary, Gertrude took an active part in the most turbulent events of Henry VIII’s political and private life. She was far from a passive observer, though. She exchanged letters with Eustace Chapuys, ambassador of the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, and even visited him in disguise when it was dangerous to become Henry VIII’s enemy. She gave ear to the Nun of Kent’s prophecies (for which the Nun was executed in 1534) and remained Katharine of Aragon’s supporter even after the Queen’s banishment.

Gertrude’s hatred of Anne Boleyn, the King’s second wife, and everything she stood for achieved epic proportions and made Gertrude’s support of Katharine and Mary even more resounding. It was Gertrude who took an active part in the fall of Anne Boleyn and the rise of Jane Seymour in May 1536. Godmother to two Tudor monarchs, Elizabeth I and Edward VI, Gertrude was prominent in court circles until her luck ran out when her husband was executed in December 1538. His crime was having a close friendship with Henry Pole, brother of Cardinal Reginald Pole, with whom he discussed politics. Although Henry Courtenay died on the scaffold and their son was imprisoned for fifteen years, Gertrude was released from the Tower of London and survived under the radar until Henry VIII’s elder daughter, Mary, ascended to the throne in 1553. Gertrude’s lifelong friendship with Mary was tested when the Queen rejected Gertrude’s son as a prospective husband.

Gertrude’s story had to be told, and I am overjoyed that I can introduce her to a wider audience.

book-cover-forgotten-3-kdp-uploadAbout the Book

Gertrude Courtenay led a dangerous life, both personally and politically. Daughter of a prominent courtier, she started her career as maid of honor and then lady-in-waiting to Katharine of Aragon, Henry VIII’s first wife.

She sided with the Queen during the Great Matter, as the divorce case between Henry VIII and Katharine of Aragon was then often known. A bitter enemy of the King’s second wife, Anne Boleyn, Gertrude, plotted and intrigued with Henry VIII’s enemies, brushing with treason on many occasions.

Wife and mother of the last Plantagenets of the Tudor court, Gertrude was an ambitious and formidable political player. The story of her life is a thrilling tale of love and loss, conspiracies and plots, treason and rebellion.

This is Gertrude’s story.

Book Review: “Inside the Tudor Court: Henry VIII and his Six Wives through the eyes of the Spanish Ambassador” by Lauren Mackay

25266205The story of King Henry VIII and his six wives has been regaled for centuries in different mediums. We love the marital problems of this one English king because of how much of an impact it made on all of Europe in the 16th century and beyond. Yet our love affair with the Tudor dynasty would not have gotten to the point that it is today without the tireless efforts of the ambassadors who went to England to report the news of the day to their respected kings and emperors. We tend to think that the ambassadors are better left in the shadows, working to promote peace between countries and report what was happening, but one man made a name for himself as an ambassador and transcended time. His name was Eustace Chapuys. His story and his mission are finally being told in Lauren Mackay’s brilliant debut book, “Inside the Tudor Court: Henry VIII and his Six Wives through the eyes of the Spanish Ambassador”.

I have heard about this book in the past and how much of an impact it has made in the Tudor community in the past. I have read Lauren Mackay’s two other books and I have enjoyed them thoroughly and so I really wanted to read this book.

To understand the man behind the now-infamous words about the Tudors, especially Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, we have to go back to Chapuys hometown of Annecy. It is here where we see the Chapuys family rise in prominence to the point where Eustace Chapuys was employed by the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V as the Spanish Ambassador to England. His main job was to report information back to Charles about the Henirican court as accurately as possible.

Chapuys started his job as ambassador at a critical junction in English history when Henry VIII was in the middle of his divorce from his first wife Katherine of Aragon in 1529. Chapuys admired Katherine of Aragon’s strength and worked tirelessly to protect her daughter Mary. Since Chapuys had a close connection to those who were essential in the Tudor court, he has given historians fabulous insights into these tumultuous times. It was really his relationship with Anne Boleyn which has caused a lot of controversy over the years and has blackened Chapuys’ name for centuries. Mackay has masterfully examined Chapuys’ correspondences to uncover the truth about how he felt about the Tudor court from 1529 until 1545.

You cannot separate Tudor history during the reign of Henry VIII and the works of Eustace Chapuys, which is why this biography and Mackay’s research are so essential in understanding the 16th century. It sheds new light on the stories of Henry VIII and the lives of his six wives; Katherine of Aragon, Anne Boleyn, Jane Seymour, Anne of Cleves, Catherine Howard, and Catherine Parr. Chapuys was not afraid to speak his mind and to share the rumors of the day, which gives us significant insight into how the royal family was perceived by their public, both the positive and the negative aspects.

Eustace Chapuys has been one of those ambassadors who we think we know, but do we really? Mackay has rescued the much-maligned messenger of Charles V and restored him to the glory that he so rightfully deserves. Chapuys’ story was hidden in plain sight, but it took an extraordinary historian to bring his story to the spotlight. If you think you know about Eustace Chapuys and the Henrician court, you need to read this sublime biography, “Inside the Tudor Court: Henry VIII and his Six Wives through the eyes of the Spanish Ambassador” by Lauren Mackay. It might change how you view the Tudor dynasty.

Guest Post: Was Katherine Howard Pregnant by Henry VIII in 1540? By Sylvia Barbara Soberton

Today, I would like to welcome Sylvia Barbara Soberton to my blog as part of the book tour to promote her latest book, “Medical Downfall of the Tudors”, which is available now.

In July 1540, Henry VIII annulled his fourth marriage to the German Anne of Cleves on the grounds of non-consummation and married his fifth wife, the teenaged Katherine Howard. Katherine’s exact age remains unknown, but there is no doubt that she was very young when she married the fifty-year-old King. People who saw her believed Katherine was in her teens. The anonymous author of the Spanish Henry VIII’s Chronicle remarked that Katherine “was not more than fifteen” at the time of her marriage. [1] Charles de Marillac, French ambassador at the Tudor court who knew Katherine, believed she was about eighteen when she married the King. All observers unanimously agreed that Katherine was a good-looking young lady. She was “more graceful and beautiful than any lady in the court” in the words of the anonymous Spanish chronicler and “rather graceful than beautiful, of short stature” according to de Marillac. [2]

Katherine Howard came to court at some point in late 1539 to serve as Anne of Cleves’s maid of honour and quickly caught the King’s attention. Their private wedding took place almost immediately after the annulment of Henry’s marriage to Anne of Cleves in July 1540. Henry VIII’s haste in marrying Katherine may be explained by the fact that Katherine was expecting his child. Historians usually don’t put much attention to the idea that Katherine was pregnant early in her marriage to Henry, although there’s compelling evidence that she indeed was.

In September 1540, the Venetian ambassador Francesco Contarini reported that “the new Queen Katherine is said for certain to be pregnant”. [3] Three months later, on 31 December 1540, the French ambassador Charles de Marillac saw Katherine and observed that she was “grosse”, stout. [4] The word “grosse” was used in French to describe a pregnant woman. [5] In April 1541, de Marillac continued to report about Katherine’s pregnancy, writing “that this Queen is thought to be with child, which would be a very great joy to this King, who, it seems, believes it, and intends, if it be found true, to have her crowned at Whitsuntide”. [6] According to this report, Katherine was pregnant and the King made plans to have her crowned on Whitsunday, the seventh Sunday after Easter. De Marillac reported that the preparations for her coronation were in full swing, which seems to prove the court was preparing for the coronation and then the christening of Katherine Howard’s child. Another ambassador, Eustace Chapuys, reported in November 1541 that during the last Lent—during the same period that de Marillac reported about Katherine’s pregnancy—there was “some presumption that she [the Queen] was in the family way [pregnant]”. [7]

Unfortunately, nothing further was reported of this pregnancy after Lent of 1541. Was it just a rumour? It is curious that three different ambassadors reported Katherine’s pregnancy and that Charles de Marillac described her as pregnant in late December 1540. I think this is no mere coincidence—these reports are evidence that the young Queen was expecting a child from September 1540 to April 1541. If this pregnancy was a mere rumour, would it really persist for seven months? Would de Marillac describe Katherine as “grosse”, visibly pregnant? I believe that Katherine was with child, but since no baby was born, she either miscarried or had a stillbirth. If she had a son, how different Katherine’s life would have been. The young Queen was accused of immoral living prior to her marriage to Henry VIII and adultery with courtier Thomas Culpeper. She was sentenced to death and executed on 13 February 1542.

References:
[1] M.S. Hume, The Spanish Chronicle, p. 75.
[2] Ibid. See also Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Volume 16, n. 12, for de Marillac’s comment.
[3] Calendar of State Papers Relating To English Affairs in the Archives of Venice, Volume 5, n. 226.
[4] Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, Volume 16, n. 373. See also Josephine Wilkinson’s Katherine Howard: The Tragic Story of Henry VIII’s Fifth Queen, pp. 107-108.
[5] William Cobbett, A New French and English Dictionary: In Two Parts, p. 245.
[6] Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, Volume 16, n. 712.
[7] Calendar of State Papers, Spain, Volume 6 Part 1, n. 204.

If you would like to purchase a copy of Sylvia Barbara Soberton’s latest book, “Medical Downfall of the Tudors”, follow this link: https://www.amazon.com/Medical-Downfall-Tudors-Reproduction-Succession-ebook/dp/B08L713HRD/ref=sr_1_1?crid=IC8X21PUSC9W&dchild=1&keywords=medical+downfall+of+the+tudors&qid=1603200026&sprefix=Medical+Down%2Caps%2C208&sr=8-1/