Monday, 22 October 2007

The Tudors

The Tudors, a swashbuckling TV take on Henry VIII's court produced by an American film company is gathering pace. So starved of historical drama are we, that the historical inconsistencies and the soap opera style still have us glued to the set.

But don't let this lull you into disdain, many North Americans may have an ersatz view of merry olde England but some of them are a great deal more au fait with our history than we are. Some of their historical novelists – those whose blogs I read - or fans of the genre have a breadth of knowledge of our kings and queens that quite put me to shame.

The only thing I remember with clarity is what happened to his wives, helped by the old rhyme: divorced, beheaded, died; divorced, beheaded, survived. I have to check with the trusty Pears encyclopaedia if I'm to be sure of my kings and my dates but these guys can reel them off without pausing for breath.

A sense of the past surrounds us to such an extent in Britain – architecture, landscape, names, traditions – and is so much part of our daily lives that we don't recognise, appreciate or cherish it as much as some of our American cousins do. Living in west Kent, so close to the environs of London, we're surrounded by reminders of the Tudors and we take it all for granted.

At Lullingstone Castle in Eynsford, the young King Henry VIII often visited his friend Sir John Peche who had built the original Manor House there. They jousted together on the ground outside the gatehouse, where an area was raised so that spectators had a better view. Sir John remained a friend and accompanied Henry to the Field of the Cloth of Gold in 1520.

When Henry rode out to Eynsford from London he could ride on with ease to Knole in Sevenoaks. Knole had been built by the Archbishop of Canterbury and in 1538 the house was given to Henry VIII. Elizabeth I gave it in turn to the Robert Dudley and then to the Sackvilles in 1566.

Nearby was Penshurst Place: Sir Philip Sidney, the Elizabethan poet and courtier, inherited this lovely estate in 1552. Built of mellow sandstone with crenellated towers, mullioned windows, tall chimneys and ancient doorways it's everyone's idea of a Tudor manor house. As beautiful today as it was then, even the medieval structure of the gardens Sir Philip laid out are still clearly visible.

But it was Knole's deer park of over 1000 acres that was the most popular place to hunt and it was at another property a short ride away that Henry took his hunting to another level: hunting that was to produce the future Queen Elizabeth I. Ann Boleyn was born in Hever Castle - another romantic medieval house - but spent most of her childhood at court in France.

When Anne became a lady-in-waiting to Queen Catherine of Aragon she attracted Henry's attention: absenting herself from court she stayed at her family hunting lodge, Hever, and it was to there that he pursued her. After her marriage to Henry in 1533 and subsequent death Henry gave Hever to his fourth wife, Anne of Cleves.

However, over a number of years Hever fell into disrepair and in 1903 was bought by the millionaire, William Waldorf Astor. And this knight in shining armour who restored Hever Castle with imagination and a great deal of money was – wait for it – an American. So I think that an American TV serial about the Tudors can be allowed a little licence if it gives us all a bit of fun and entertainment.


Book Note: There are so many good novels about the Tudor era but Philippa Gregory's The Other Boleyn Girl is about Anne's sister, Mary, and its an interesting view of the court at the time.


Carla said...

I always thought Anne was buried in the Tower of London. Did someone move her body back to Hever?

Lucy said...

Once again I'm indebted to Carla for her unerring eye and for keeping me on my toes: it�s Anne�s father, Thomas, who is buried in Hever Church.

I will copy out 100 times, "I shall not write my blog when I am either in a tearing hurry, over-tired or when my judgement is clouded by one too many alcoholic drinks."

This could work but, then again, I might never hear from Carla again. Let�s just leave it at, "Will try not to write my blog when over-stretched: corrections welcomed."

Carla said...

Giggle. Blogs have something of the informal quality of a conversation, I think, a bit like meeting up with friends after work to chat about something interesting. I couldn't remember whether Anne had been moved at a later date or not, so I asked, and you answered. Great stuff :-)

Lucy said...

Hi Anne, thank you for contacting me from the States. I'm sorry you had difficulty finding my novel, A Little Blue Jacket, at Gatwick airport: it is available in the UK from WHSmiths, Borders, Waterstones and independent bookshops but maybe they had sold out! If they're out of stock they can get it within 24 hours.

In the States it can be obtained from Barnes & Noble website, AbeBooks and Amazon: just quote the isbn number 978 09551000 48 although in the USA I think it might end 46?

Someone tells me that books ordered from the German Amazon site don't incur postage costs: worth investigating.

You may not have the novel, Anne, but it's so nice that you're visiting my blog: thank you. You can always mail me confidentially at any time on