Okay, this will be the last Anne Boleyn–oriented post for a while, I swear. I can’t help it; when May comes around I keep getting email notifications about the anniversary of her death and I just get the itch to read about her all over again. I began with the “Anne Boleyn Bible,” as it is affectionately nicknamed: Eric Ives’s The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn. Then I finally bought In the Footsteps of Anne Boleyn, a fan-written, exhaustive account of all the places Anne would have visited in her lifetime, a list that takes 287 pages to explain and describe. The result is nothing short of mesmerizing.
A couple years ago I visited the UK on a study abroad trip and visited Anne’s memorial in the Tower of London, then I went to Hampton Court Palace and snapped pictures of the artifacts on the ceiling of the “Anne Boleyn Gateway” and then I took a solitary trip to the idyllic Hever Castle where Anne spent her childhood and I thought I had seen, if not all of it, then most of it. Oh, how wrong I was (photos below of my trip!).
Authors Natalie Grueninger (@OnTheTudorTrail) and Sarah Morris visited something like 75 locations during their Anne Boleyn Grand Tour and took it upon themselves to write an extremely well-researched book about these places that is one part guidebook and one part ode to Anne. The authors take extensive pains to delineate exactly which parts of British castles/palaces/houses are contemporary to Anne’s time, deconstructing each site wing by wing.
Excerpted from the entry to Richmond Palace:
“Richmond Palace in Surrey…was also well known to Anne Boleyn, as it provided an opulent backdrop for a pivotal moment in her life, one that would establish Lady Anne as much more than a passing fancy….Approaching the house from the river, Anne would have seen the elegant facade of the royal apartments rising from the banks of the Thames…All that is now left to see of Richmond Palace, where a young lady once outplayed a cardinal, is the main gateway and part of the outer range facing the green.” (68-69)
They intersperse the entries with historical background (in wonderfully chronological order) and emotion-filled conjectures about what Anne would have seen, where she would have walked, how she would have felt. And though it falls slightly into sentimentalism at times, suspending my inner critic allows me to imagine Tudor England as it would have looked to a young Anne, an Anne as Marchioness, as Queen, and finally, as a condemned traitor awaiting her death. The result is both informative and slightly chilling. It’s…real.
One of the authors, Natalie Grueninger, runs a fabulous website called On The Tudor Trail, “a website dedicated to documenting historic sites and buildings associated with Anne Boleyn and sharing information about the life and times of Henry VIII’s second wife.” Definitely check it out! Get the book on Wordery.com at this link.
A few photos from my own meager Anne Boleyn tour: