December 6, 2013

Tudor Book Blog Review: 'In the Footsteps of Anne Boleyn'

I am pleased to be reviewing In the Footsteps of Anne Boleyn by Sarah Morris and Natalie Grueninger today on the Tudor Book Blog, as part of their Virtual Book Tour. This nifty handbook to Anne Boleyn locations grabbed my attention from the first entry. The book is organized in chronological order, covering Anne Boleyn’s:

  • Early Life (including locations in France where Anne spend part of her childhood/teen years)
  • The Courting Years
  • Anne the Queen
  • The 1535 Progress

and ends with a section on Boleyn Treasures. The authors were kind enough to discuss some of these treasures further in a special post here.

The chronological order appeals to me, as I have a running timeline in my head and tend to keep track of facts that way.

Each entry has a quote of some kind, many from contemporary Tudor sources, to start you off. One of my favorites was for Hampton Court Palace. Of course, I am slightly biased as Hampton Court is probably my favorite place on earth. The quote reads:

“This is the most splendid and magnificent royal palace that may be found in England or indeed in any other kingdom. – Jacob Rathgeb, 1592.”

I couldn't agree more!

Windsor Castle as it probably appeared in Tudor times.
Each entry is then followed by a brief history of the place, from its initial building to what remains of it today. Sub sections explaining Anne’s connection generally make up the bulk of each entry, detailing how Anne would have used or known each location. For example, the entry on Windsor Castle, where Anne spent a great deal of time, breaks down into specific rooms. Thus, when one is visiting a location, they can take this book as a guide and find these Tudor-connections that may not be in the average Guide Book. Though Windsor, for example, has changed drastically over the years, the book takes you on a tour of the modern setting, pointing out where Tudor locations once were and how they have been transformed into what they are today. Though much has changed since then, one can use their imagination, and the bits and pieces that survive, to envision how the place would have looked when Anne was there.

Another section that I enjoyed within each entry is the “Authors’ Favorites.” Taking Windsor as my example again, the author discusses one of the most important events of Anne’s life; her elevation as Marquess of Pembroke, which happened at Windsor in 1532. The authors layout where this event happened, and how you can (at least somewhat) stand where Anne once stood, imagining what she might have felt that day.

Each entry ends with a “Visitor Information” section, outlining how one can visit each location, and some of the interesting things one can do there.

Hampton Court Palace
Many locations discussed in the book no longer exist, sadly. However, the authors have researched and discovered a plethora of information about these sites, including any archaeological finds in the area, and information on what the buildings would have looked like. Greenwich Palace is a good example of this. Sadly, this favorite Tudor palace no longer exists. It witnessed many historical events, including the birth of Elizabeth I. Though it no longer stands, the authors are able to give us insight into its remains, archaeological finds at the site, and tidbits of history.

My only gripe with the book is that it does not have an index in the back for quick reference. One must skim the Table of Contents to find particular entries. It isn’t a major problem, just takes a few seconds longer to find things. However, this is honestly the only complaint I have! The ‘Further Reading’ section, however, is a great resource for those who are looking for both primary and secondary sources. I particularly liked the recommended guide books listed in this section.

One of my favorite sections of the book covered the Tower of London. The Tower is not an easy site to visit, as it is a maze of buildings from various time periods. As someone who knows a bit about Tudor history, I found I still got confused while roaming about, and missed a few key places I had hoped to see! This book, which walks you through the grounds, will keep that from happening next time. The most fascinating part of the Tower entry included "Myths" about Anne Boleyn at the Tower, including where she stayed, where she was executed, and the events surrounding her time there. The details and research that went into this book are proven with each entry, causing me to be unable to put it down!

This is one of the most interesting and original Tudor books I've read, and deserves the full Five Tudor Roses!

I thoroughly enjoyed reading about places I have visited, imagining myself back there and confirming in my mind what I thought I saw (for example, the ceilings of the "Wolsey Rooms" at Hampton Court), but that the guidebooks didn't really cover. I discovered many new tidbits that I did not know before, and discovered many new places I hope to visit in the future. I will certainly be packing this book, using it to plan my itinerary, and taking it with me to each Tudor place I visit in the future! This is a must read for those who are planning to travel to Tudor-related locations, or who are interested in the history of the locations surrounding Anne Boleyn.

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