Alison Weir will teach a writing workshop on Historical Fiction
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Hever Castle, Kent, England – Anne Boleyn’s Childhood Home November 21-28 2012 Abroad Writers Program
My bedroom, Daffodil, is on the cover of the brochure, the double bed with a canopy – and featured in the Hever Castle history book available to all guests. Daffodil a sumptuous and elegant room, with a door latch and a real key; each detail designed to elicit the feeling of royal opulence.
I’ve been home for almost two weeks, and I can shut my eyes and feel the firm warmth of their down comforter, the starched sheets and the exuberant suds of their body wash. I know I didn’t stay in the Castle proper: I know I stayed in a wing designed for guests, a rambling warren-like extravaganza of 1905 Astor-built plush and posh: a mixture of styles: Tudor, Edwardian and Victorian, but a the orchids on the conference table were real, from the Hever gardens.
The wait staff, with spotless white gloves, served us Thanksgiving dinner in the Great Hall. Other meals were as sumptuous, served in a fireplace lit room with silver candelabras entwined with season’s greens. Quail eggs, poached eggs; they served eggs to me over-easy, with a smile at my Americanism.
The writer’s workshop was as rich and delightful as the surroundings. Through the leaded glass we heard geese honking, the moat pool directly outside, like glass mirror reflected our white hot writing; our scribbled words and worked dialogue. We pushed, shoved and moved those sentences. We earned our character development, and the trips to the silver and crystal ladies cloak room.
I am back stateside for two weeks have already read three of Alison Weir’s books on the history of England from that period. She lectured twice, as smooth as if she were gossiping about the affair at the office cooler, a piece of gossip alive, in the political arena three hundred years later.
In the castle I sense the treachery, the sensuality and shrewish nature of Anne Boleyn. When I am reading Ms. Weir’s pages I cast my memory to the small upstairs room that had been Anne’s during her youth, a room she most likely shared with her sister, not the only thing those two women shared.
So, while I was treated like a princess, thankfully my days did not end in the Tower waiting for a swordsman imported from France.
But my writing workshops with Robert Olen Butler, Paul Harding, and Alex Shoumatoff, did end, and reluctantly I turned in my key and folded notebook my pages.
If I work really hard, I have sufficient material to keep me going for at least a year. If I remember Robert’s advice, to forget everything I learned, I still have sufficient molten lava for a good short story, and Paul suggests we press our characters so they earn the right on the page. Alex hopes we praise the world, sing songs of diversity, and he gave me a nickname, Moxie Mary.
I can be a writer with social consciousness. I can find my true story. I can return to Hever Castle in the spring, perhaps, when the flowers are budding and the romance is in bloom. I can be a princess and I will ask for the Daffodil room again.
Mary Pauer –email@example.com
“There was more to the story of Anne Boleyn than sex and murder.”
This is the message that acclaimed historian Eric Ives hopes to convey to an audience of Tudor fans when he takes centre stage at Hever Castle this November.
The man who first drew attention in the 1970s and 1980s to the importance of Henry VIII’s second wife, still believes Anne was so significant to Henry VIII’s story that the debate about her importance “will run and run”.
When Eric first set out his arguments more than 30 years ago, he knew there had been no academic study of her since 1884.
He first set out the premise that Anne was much more important than previously thought.
And his work called into question the way political power operated.
In the face of continuing discussion about Anne’s marriage, alleged adultery, and fertility, Eric believes his view of her is unlikely to alter.
“I don’t expect to change my picture of her unless and until more documentation is discovered,” he says.
“The only new item of importance is a reconstruction of the 1534 portrait medal – the single contemporary likeness of Anne to have survived.”
The lecture series to be staged by Abroad Writers Conference at Hever this November will include a talk by Alison Weir on Anne’s sister Mary, who was Henry VIII’s mistress.
Eric’s view of the relationship between the two sisters is that there was probably tension between them.
He has previously written: “Mary should have been under no illusions.
“As early as November 1530, the king had given Anne £20 to redeem a jewel Mary possessed, presumably one he had given her.
“Anne, the wife, wanted no-one to remember Mary, the mistress.”
Speaking to Abroad ahead of the Hever conference, Eric said: “Mary’s affair with Henry may have been over before Anne returned from France at the end of 1521.
“But I think that the repossession of the jewel and Anne’s response to Mary’s remarriage do reflect tension between the sisters and suggest that when Anne became Henry’s intended wife and queen, she was concerned to put distance between herself and Mary, the ex-mistress.”
Hever Castle is famous for being the childhood home of Anne Boleyn and Tudor fans flock to the Kent attraction to walk in the famous woman’s footsteps.
One of the stories told locally is that Henry VIII used to visit Anne at Hever, and Kent was where much of their courtship took place.
Unfortunately for Tudor fans, Eric has investigated these theories and says: “I can find no evidence at all to substantiate any of these stories.”
But his interest is not so much in Anne and Henry’s romance, as the influence on Anne of the French Reformist Movement.
The historian has written extensively about Anne’s taste for French religious literature.
He has looked at her enduring interest in the writings of Jacques Lefevre (1455-1536), a French humanist, theologian and translator whose scholarship stimulated scriptural studies during the Protestant Reformation.
In the early 1500s, Lefevre published his Psalterium quintuplex (five Latin versions of the Psalms), a work which has been interpreted as embodying doctrines of the Reformation and is believed to have had some influence on Martin Luther.
Lefevre later focused on using the vernacular for religious works and translated the whole Bible into French.
So if there was one question Eric could ask Anne Boleyn now, it would be this.
“You cherished the books of Jacques Lefevre. Did you ever meet him?”
And further to that, if there was one question he could have answered about Anne, it would be how her story with Henry began.
“Why did she take the crucial step of sleeping with Henry in November 1532?” Eric asks. “Was it her idea, Henry’s idea or a joint decision?”
History fans will be able to hear Eric’s latest insights into England’s famous queen on 26 November.
A percentage of funds raised from Eric’s lecture will go to the YMCA.
For further details, see our booking information page.
Anne Boleyn, the second wife of Henry VIII, lived in France from 1514 to 1521. During her teenage years in France, Anne was at the center of the French Reformist Movement.
She lived in the court of Queen Claude of France, where religious emphasis was on reform.
This is historian Eric Ives’s view of those early years: “In the court of Queen Claude of France where Anne served between 1514 and 1521, as [Louis] de Brun has told us, Anne’s taste was for religious literature in French.
Claude’s household was much influenced by reform (as also the entourage of her sister-in-law Marguerite of Navarre).
The leading figure in the reform was Jacques Lefevre d’Etaples. His Commentary on the epistles of St Paul, published in 1512, abandoned the established way of interpreting scripture through allegory, tropology and analogy in favor of the literal sense understood through the guidance of the Holy Spirit. In successive works he moved steadily to the conviction that for a Christian the Bible was the only authority, not scripture as interpreted by the faith of the Church……..Lefevre taught justification by faith long before Luther. His 1512 commentary on St Paul’s Epistle to the Romans explicitly stated that it is impossible for men ‘to be saved of themselves and their good works’. Human effort has no part in justification”.
‘A deeper understanding’
Eric believes that Anne embraced the reformist spirit and transformed herself and possibly even had a conversion experience. She had a faith that was Bible-centered and made a special study of the Epistles of St Paul and was familiar with the doctrine of justification by faith.
Jacques Lefevre (1455-1536), was an ordained priest who studied at the University of Paris and later taught philosophy and mathematics.
After spending many years traveling in Italy, he began editing and commenting on works of Aristotle.
In 1509, Jacques published The Fivefold Psalter (Quincuplex Psalterium). He printed four translations of the Psalms side by side with a fifth column that was his own interpretation of the Latin version that was referenced to a Hebrew text – the first Bible translation in more than a 1,000 years.
In 1512, he produced A Commentary on the Epistles of St Paul, a version Lefevre based on the original Greek text and editorial material.
Lefevre’s comments in both the Fivefold Psalter and Commentary were a radical interpretation of the Bible and Rome.
He had a passion for the classics like other 16th Century humanists, who did not want to accept interpretations that were handed down to them by medieval scholars. They wanted to read and interpret the originals.
Instead of interpreting scripture in the established way through allegory, metaphor and mystical means, Lefevre searched for the literal meaning, taking a new realistic approach that was based on a deeper understanding through spiritual guidance versus surface interpretations.
Protected from hostility
According to Eric Ives: “Lefevre moved steadily to the conviction that for a Christian the Bible was the only authority, a position which reformers would call sola scripture [scripture alone].”
In 1524, Lefevre published the Psalms in French “so that men and women who speak and understand this language might be able to pray to God with greater devotion and feeling”.
However, in 1525/6 Bible translations became illegal in France.
Afterwards, he moved his publications to Antwerp to publish the entire Old Testament in 1528.
In England, there was a prohibition on vernacular scriptures in English. Men and women were not allowed free access to the Bible, but only the interpretations of the Bible given by the Church. Books were not readily available in the market place until 1530.
In France, Lefevre incurred much hostility but was protected by Francis I the king of France and his sister Marguerite d’Angouleme.
Lefevre manuscripts illegal
Eric Ives says, “It can hardly be accidental that among her [Anne’s] surviving books is a personal manuscript text of Lefevre’s Epitres et evangiles pour les cinquante et demux sepmaines de I’an, each passage accompanied by an explanatory homily.
The homilies were reformed, through and through: ‘not a father of the Church, not a holy exegete, not a doctor [of the Church] is mentioned. [Lefevre] makes an absolute distinction between the Bible and tradition.
“The Paris theologians claimed to find 48 errors in the book, most of them damnable heresies, including justification by faith alone and a denial that good works are necessary for salvation.
“Anne’s own manuscript retains the Bible readings in French but the commentary is in English. Professionally copied and illuminated, it had been translated by her brother George, Lord Rochford, and was presented to Anne in the autumn or winter of 1532-3.
“George was a keen reformer – Chapuys hated being escorted by him because he insisted on discussing religion – and the dedication specifically says that he was responding to a ‘commandment’ from Anne. What is more, the actual copy of the 1530-2 Alencon edition, which George used for the translation, is known to have been already available at court.
Thus for Anne to call for an additional copy and a personal one at that, must mean that the Epistres et evangiles had a special significance for her.
Even more lavish was her manuscript copy of a French reformist commentary on the Old Testament book of Eccleistes. It was again a French/English hybrid attributable to Rochford, and justification by faith comes through loud and clear.”
In 1521, Anne Boleyn returned to England, after her time as a lady-in-waiting for Claude, Queen of France. What a change it must have been for her, after being in the center of the reformist movement in France.
In England, reformist manuscripts were blocked and burned by the church and the only way to purchased them was through smugglers. Suddenly, Anne was faced with the realization that her beloved Lefevre manuscripts were illegal and that she could be arrested and killed because of her beliefs.
Hear Eric talk about his research by joining Abroad Writers’ Conference at Hever this autumn. See our booking information for ticket details.
Best-selling UK historian Alison Weir will begin the Abroad Writers’ Conference lecture series at Hever Castle this November, with a talk based on her book Mary Boleyn: The Mistress of Kings.
The lecture starts at 18:00 GMT and 20% of our profits will go to local Kent charity, Hospice in the Weald.
Mary Boleyn has gone down in history as the “great and infamous whore”. She was the mistress of two kings, Francis I of France and Henry VIII of England, and sister to Anne Boleyn, Henry VIII’s second wife.
But in her book, Alison Weir explodes much of the mythology that surrounds Mary Boleyn by carrying out extensive, forensic research to facilitate a new portrayal.
‘Forced to be mistress’
She has concluded that the paternity of Mary’s two children can now be established, thanks to new and overlooked evidence and one was almost certainly fathered by Henry VIII.
Her research has also focused on the relationship between the two sisters, showing how Mary, as the elder of the Boleyn sisters, was soon overshadowed by the more accomplished Anne, and how Mary was more beautiful than Anne, although there is no authentic portrait.
Alison has discovered that contrary to popular belief, Mary did not gain a notorious reputation at the French court, and she probably spent ten years of her life living abroad. But at some stage in her life, Henry VIII forced Mary to become his mistress. However, there is evidence to suggest when their affair began.
Her astonishing and riveting book argues that Mary was entirely undeserving of her reputation as a great and infamous whore, or the calumny that was later heaped upon her, and also shows that Mary’s story had a happy ending and that she was by far the luckiest of the Boleyns.
Hear Alison talk about her research by joining us at Hever this autumn. See our booking information for ticket details.
There is no substitute for travelling to a place of history and seeing it with your own eyes if you want to understand the past, historian Sarah Gristwood says.
Writers will walk in the footsteps of the Tudors at Hever Castle this autumn and hear a series of talks about the castle’s famous residents – Anne and Mary Boleyn – and Anne’s daughter, Queen Elizabeth I.
But what people get from the experience of standing where they stood has nothing to do with “vibes” or “atmosphere”, Sarah says.
“We’re not talking about anything as abstruse as vibrations and even atmosphere may well have changed over the centuries. But some things don’t change – like the very lie of the land. You can see how history worked itself out much more clearly.”
Hever Castle is famous for being the childhood home of Anne Boleyn, and Sarah’s lecture, given with fellow historian Alison Weir, will offer an insight into the lives of both Anne and Elizabeth I.
Anne was the second wife of King Henry VIII. Their marriage in 1533 led him to break with the Roman Catholic church and bring about the English Reformation. But Henry’s ultimate aim was to father a legitimate male heir to the throne.
In the year she married, Anne gave birth to Queen Elizabeth I. But a year later, she had a miscarriage, and two years after that she gave birth to a stillborn male child. In 1536, she was committed to the Tower of London on a charge of adultery and even incest and was beheaded 17 days later.
Sarah says: “The whore and the virgin are two popular perceptions of Anne and her daughter.
“Alison and I will be asking how much truth there is in the legends, and how much these two very famous women really had in common – what legacy Anne bequeathed to her daughter.”
Both Anne and Elizabeth captured people’s fascination at the time they lived and in the present day and Sarah explains their enduring fascination.
“I think part of Anne’s fascination is that she was a great self-inventor; a not particularly beautiful girl who managed to make herself one of the great romantic prizes – something that was also true of Elizabeth in a way,” Sarah says.
“That, and the fact that opinions about her – even during her own lifetime – varied so wildly.”
Sarah’s view is that while Anne Boleyn suffered a horrendous early death, she only made a trade-off that many men have been prepared to make right through the centuries.
If she could say one thing to the young Anne, it would not necessarily be “don’t do it – don’t marry Henry”.
“Anne suffered a horrendous early death but she had won the highest rank and changed the future of her country,” says the best-selling Tudor biographer, journalist and royal commentator
“And, had she known it, she had given birth to a monarch who would be perhaps the greatest in Britain’s history.”
The Abroad Writers’ Conference lecture series at Hever will begin on 21 November, when Alison Weir will give a talk about Mary Boleyn, based on her best-selling book, Mary Boleyn: The Mistress of Kings.
The author and historian will look at the tangled web of relationships that developed between Henry VIII and the two Boleyn sisters – one his wife and the other his mistress.
Alison’s work has led to her exploding much of the mythology surrounding Mary Boleyn.
She has also presented compelling new evidence that almost conclusively determines the paternity of Mary’s two eldest children.
The lecture by both Sarah and Alison will take place on 22 November and will be followed by a special Thanksgiving dinner.
A while ago, we wrote our Hever Castle writing conference would be a first for us on many levels – our first conference in a castle, our first conference in autumn, and the first time we have combined history with literature.
But there’s another first for us. We are opening our doors to the public.
In the past, we met dozens of fellow writing types at our workshop events. But this time we hope to meet hundreds, because we are also staging a series of lectures.
Dress up, come and have dinner with us and a glass of wine, hear our speakers, get your book signed, meet like-minded writers and have a chat with our experts.
They will be talking about the Tudors – particularly Anne Boleyn who lived at Hever Castle – the state of publishing today, literature and journalism for our time, along with the art of simply putting words together and crafting your stories. If you’ve been following our blog, you’ll already know some of our speakers.
Here are the details of our lecture evenings. Each dinner will raise money for a locally-based charity. Those organisations will receive 20% of our profits.
21 November – Historian Alison Weir, in support of Hospice in the Weald
22 November – Historians Alison Weir & Sarah Gristwood, in aid of Kent Air Ambulance (This lecture is followed by a special Thanksgiving dinner)
23 November – Pulitzer prize winning author Paul Harding, in aid of Action for Children
24 November – Pulitzer winning author Robert Olen Butler in support of the Dogs Trust
25 November – Vanity Fair contributing editor Alex Shoumatoff, in aid of WWF
26 November – Historian Eric Ives in aid of the YMCA
27 November – Pulitzer prize winner Edward Humes in support of the Wildwood Trust
Tickets are £115 or $184.00 for one lecture and dinner with wine.
So the question we’re asking is how do we feel about rules? Not just rules to live by but also rules to write by. And do we follow them or not?
This year, we have given the Abroad conference a theme. Controversy.
But here is how we got there.
We planned our conference during two summer holidays in Kent, before we finally decided to go with it and book Hever Castle. We chilled, drank coffee, ate fish and chips on the Dungeness coast, and talked for days. We paid a visit to Hever and nearby Penshurst Place. We wanted to seek out the Tudors, particularly Anne Boleyn. We watched The Other Boleyn Girl, which was filmed extensively in Kent. We also paid a trip to Down House, and walked in the footsteps of Charles Darwin. We thought about Anne Boleyn’s controversial death. We chatted about Darwin’s controversial life. And that’s when we decided we really had a thing about people who break the rules.
Our take on controversy is that it is about allowing change to happen. And it is about how to bring about change when change is needed. We also think there is important controversy and fake controversy. For instance, gossip about sex, nudity and celebrity body fat doesn’t really unsettle us. But when we look at the work of world-changing writers, like Darwin, we see they have challenged our preconceptions, questioned what we accept, sometimes taken huge personal and professional risks, and forced us to think about life in a different way.
And so when we put the conference together, we wanted to help writers producing literature at a time when all the publishing rules are changing. And the tutors we found who could do that include two Pulitzer Prize winners, Robert Olen Butler and Edward Humes, and Alex Shoumatoff, contributing editor of Vanity Fair. Over the next months, we’ll be chatting to them and blogging about their work. Oh, and watch our Twitter feed. If you’re in the middle of a story, a novel or that piece of earth-shattering journalism, we have asked them for some #writetips to help everyone move forwards.
(BTW Here’s a must-read for anyone with a passion for Darwin and evolution. It’s by one of our tutors, Edward Humes, and it’s called Monkey Girl: Evolution, Education, Religion & the Battle for America’s Soul.)
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