"Thank you Elizabeth for announcing my new novel here today.
Most enthusiasts of Tudor history know that Anne Boleyn was executed by Henry VIII in 1536, and some will also be aware that her body was placed in an arrow chest and buried without ceremony beneath the floor of the Tower of London Chapel. How peculiar! What a thing to happen! What an ignominious end to a glittering life – to be so abused, crammed into an old elm chest used for arrows and bow staves! It is just one final puzzle in a whole line of puzzles and unanswered questions concerning the life (and death) of this most intriguing of England’s Queens.
For quite some time now I have wanted to write a novel about Anne Boleyn and also about Thomas Wyatt (who might well have been her childhood sweetheart, and was certainly viewed by Henry as a rival for her affections in later life). Henry, in fact, makes the third corner of a very special love triangle: the perfect recipe for a story. But to flesh out the bare bones of an historical figure such as Anne Boleyn, of whom we know so very little, and to describe all the complex events that formed the backdrop to her tragic decline was simply never going to work, not for me, anyway -not if I was going to indulge in the degree of speculation I wanted to concerning the lives of those involved – real people, after all!
The solution was to fast-forward the whole story into the future, to a time a little closer to our own and to the wonderful, extravagant and exciting era known as Victorian Gothic. Not so bizarre as it sounds. In 19th century England we find a similar crisis in faith as was taking place in Tudor times, with the advent of Darwinian evolution threatening the established Church and its teachings. In 19th century Victorian England, we find plenty of powerful men at large, as well, ‘kings’ in their own right. And we also have the wonderful poets and painters of the Pre-Raphaelite movement. It seemed to me, therefore, to be the perfect environment in which to speculate on just what might have taken place between Henry, Anne and Tom Wyatt.
The significance of the Arrow Chest, meanwhile, becomes a little more clear when we view it as a symbol for something else, a statement of policy rather than an accident of history. And there are plenty of clues to this along the way. Why, for instance, does so much of the poetry of Thomas Wyatt make use of ‘the chase’ – of the hunt and the hunted as a metaphor for courtship and sexual desire? Why does it contain liberal references to the bow of Apollo, or to the love-arrows of Cupid? Why, at the time of Anne’s coronation, was the artist Hans Holbein commissioned to produce a tableau for the procession in which Henry is depicted as Apollo, the archer-God of poetry seated on a dais at Mount Parnassus surrounded by the Muses?
And, of course, the final question – why was Anne buried in that Arrow Chest? My novel begins in 1876, the year in which her remains came to light during a renovation of the Chapel of St Peters ad Vincula in the Tower of London. It is a Tudor story – only moved forward a few centuries in time."
Thank you so much Robert! I will be reviewing this novel shortly, so keep posted and be sure to get your copy!