Welsh National Opera currently runs a Tudors season containing Donizetti's Anna Bolena. On Facebook there are pages called On the Tudor Trail and The Tudor Library, the latter listing over fifty current fiction and non-fiction titles about Henry Vlll's second wife, who died 477 years ago. Claire Ridgway runs a site called The Anne Boleyn Files which minutely examines every detail of Anne's brief and eventful life.
It is as if we still can't quite believe in that sequence of events from January to May 1536 that changed the world's view of Henry from handsome, golden, chivalric prince to bloated, bloodthirsty tyrant. As Hilary Mantel says, "we argue over her, we pity and admire and revile her, we reinvent her in every generation" (Guardian 11.5.2012)
(And I have just reinvented and killed her again in my latest novel).
Shown on BBC2 this May, The Last days of Anne Boleyn, presented by Dan Jones, pitted historians David Starkey and Susannah Lipscomb against novelists Hilary Mantel and Philippa Gregory. Anne was guilty as charged, she was totally innocent, she slept with her brother (Gregory), she swore before God on what she believed to be her last morning that she had done none of the things she was charged with (Mantel).
With such a wash of interest in the woman who was Queen for only three years, you would think it impossible for anyone to come up with a new angle but Sarah Morris and Natalie Grueninger have achieved it in their book In the Footsteps of Anne Boleyn. These are the writers who run the On the Tudor Trail page on Facebook, the latter also having a site with the same name and the former one for her own fiction and non-fiction writing on "England's most iconic Queen Consort."
Divided into sections Early Life; The Courting Years; Anne the Queen; The 1535 Progress; Boleyn Treasures, the book is meticulously researched and well illustrated, with a Boleyn Family Tree and six maps.
|After Hans Holbein|
The Tower of London features in Anne the Queen because the Queen's Lodgings in the Royal Palace (no longer extant) were completely re-decorated for Anne's Coronation. But in that same section, the writers dispel several myths about her execution, which didn't take place where the memorial now stands on Tower Green.
|The White Tower at the Tower of London.|
You can more easily imagine yourself in Anne's shoes at Hever Castle.
|Hever Castle, the Boleyns' family seat|
Anne went to Belgium when she was about twelve, to serve in the court of Margaret of Austria and was later in France, where as a teenager she learned to dance, to play musical instruments and generally behave like a Court lady. something that served her both well and badly later on in life.
The authors have tracked down all sorts of places associated with Anne Boleyn and visited most of them themselves, even though Grueninger lives in Australia. From Windsor to the Field of Cloth of Gold, Eltham Palace to Notre Dame, they have left no stone unturned in the search for locations where Anne is known or believed to have spent time. It is as thorough as it it is fascinating.
(I recommend reading this book alongside the late Eric Ives' excellent biography, The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn.)