On my history trail, I have recently made the journey I have wanted to make for a long time
– to Hever Castle, the childhood home of Anne Boleyn.
To enhance this trip with books as I an prone to do 😉 I read two books – one fact and one fiction, each of them playing their part in the great historical literary trail:
Alison Weir – The lady in the Tower. The Fall of Anne Boleyn
Alison Weir’s books really add to my understanding in a way that other books don’t as much. This was a fascinating read and clear and interesting all throughout. I thought I knew quite a bit about Anne Boleyn but boy how wrong was I?
Most of us will know that she was beheaded for failing to produce a male heir – but I discovered a whole new hidden side and many hidden depths to Anne and her story, making me want to get to know even more about her.
Weir is a very thorough but very clear researcher, and she presents what could be confusing information in a very easy to read and very enjoyable narrative. I got a sense of Anne’s family, their motivations, their background and lots lots more.
The history just leaps off the page and I read, fascinated with Anne and the clever way the author leads us through what we thought we knew but manages to make it all sound new and fresh.
FICTION – Phillipa Gregory – The other Boleyn Girl
This is a story about Anne Boleyn, the notorious woman who charmed Henry VIII into divorcing his wife, break from the Catholic Church in Rome, and marry her. But the book is not told through her point of view, but through the eyes of her sister, Mary. The portrayal of the family at Hever castle is again of interest and the trials and tribulations of not only Anne’s but Mary’s growing up and their involvement with the court and King Henry VIII is very well done. Of course, some events are elaborated or fabricated for the book as they were for the film, but Hever castle is a character in this book in its own right and explains what Anne must have experienced when she lived there with her domineering family.
My TRIP TO HEVER CASTLE
All of this led me to visit Hever Castle – the childhood home of Anne Boleyn. I can’t describe how I felt when I walked through the doors and wandered in the gardens as I imagined Anne Boleyn having been in these actual places many many years ago. Words can’t do my emotions justice. I am so fascinated by her and her role in history that it was a real insight and privilege to visit such a well preserved castle.
The gardens are beautiful and the whole place has an eerie presence to it as modern day visitor mull around the stunning grounds and castle, mingling with the ghostly figures of the turbulent past. I found it haunting in a surreal way as the pictures seemed to whisper to me as I passed by. If only walls could talk is a phrase that has never been more true.
And then I saw her, amongst all the pictures of her and her signature in the prayer books, I swear I saw Anne herself out in the garden through the ornate windows. And I imagine that she would have turned and smiled at all the visitors inside unaware that she was witnessing her own popularity and fascination which is still very much in evidence.
I wonder what Anne would have made of all the attention still heaped on her. What I do know is that it was a shame she lead such a turbulent life and only hope that she would have appreciated at least some of the beauty of Hever and its surroundings.
Visit the castle’s website here: http://www.hevercastle.co.uk/