Today is another first for my Unblog: A GUEST! For those thinking I have an ego fixation, I've decided to throw you off the trail. What better way then inviting the fabulous Jennifer Wilson, my Crooked Cat sister?
Jennifer is celebrating the one year anniversary of her own book baby: Kindred Spirits: Tower of London. She's also a very accomplished professional in her field of study, and I certainly admire her tenacity and strength. To celebrate, the book is on sale for .99/99p. (So what are you waiting for? Scoop it up, folks!)
For today's Unblog, I've asked Jennifer to share her thoughts on a woman from Kindred Spirits, Anne Boleyn, and she's done a marvellous job. So read on, friends. Let's celebrate how far women have come, and how much we have stayed the same--tenacious spirits, kindred sisters.
Hi Joy, thanks for hosting me today, and for posing some really thought-provoking questions for me to get my teeth into. Forgive me if I’ve gone on a bit!
You asked me what drew me to Anne Boleyn and her story, and honestly, up until some years back, I wasn’t remotely interested in the Tudors, but I was given The Other Boleyn Girl by a friend, and was instantly hooked.
I wouldn’t necessarily say I like Anne, but I certainly admire her. She was definitely a strong woman, in a time when women typically didn’t ‘do’ strong, or at least, only within a very narrow band of freedom. Some of the powerful ones got to choose their way in life, but realistically, somebody of Anne’s status should have been married off in her late teens / early twenties, had her children, and settled down to a life of relative anonymity, even if she’d stayed at court.
Even when you threw the character that was Henry VIII into the mix, most people would have assumed she’d have taken the same ‘deal’ as her sister Mary – become his mistress for a couple of months, even a year or two, and then be married off to some willing courtier. I think it’s her determination to break the mould, and be something a bit different, which attracts so many people to Anne’s story, and even if you ignore the various characterisations of her (and I’ve read some in which she’s absolutely vile, so single-minded and obsessed with power), you get a strong sense of somebody with ambition, and a desire to improve her lot in life.
That in itself took a lot in a period and society where moving out of your ‘place’ was almost unheard of. Tudor England was the start of people improving their lot by merit (Wolsey and Cromwell being prime examples, but having the starting advantage of being men), and only a generation back, another commoner had become Queen, but who would have thought it would happen again so quickly (and so frequently, even within the one reign)? So when you talk about whether a person’s fate was determined by gender, I think it was, but also by class. In general, where you were born, was where you stayed...
Thankfully, that is now, mostly, behind us. It would be wrong (and ignorant) to say that everything is perfect, but in comparison, you cannot deny that it’s a vast improvement. Last month, a female colleague and I were doing surveys down on the rocky shoreline, driving a truck along country roads, shingle and beach tracks, and when we logged in at site for our induction, not one person batted an eyelid. And yet we still hear about imbalances in pay levels, so we’ve clearly got a way to go in some fields.
But back to Anne. I once wrote a short story, trying to mirror Henry, Catherine and Anne’s love story in modern times, placing Henry as a CEO, torn between wife and ambitious mistress, and I’ve read one or two others which have done a similar thing. I don’t think it’s far from the truth. She was very well-educated (compared to other women of her time of course, but also compared to quite a few men), and had strong opinions as a result. I can genuinely see her climbing the ladder in whatever career she chose, and carefully building a fortune to support her in her later years. Having said that, I’m not sure what sort of manager she would make – there’s plenty evidence of a quick temper, which wouldn’t go down well with the modern workforce.
I don’t know much about Anna Wintour, Vogue’s editor-in-chief, and I am absolutely NOT saying that there are similarities in terms of a quick temper and associated insults or murder allegations, but when I think about Anne Boleyn in a modern working environment, she’s the person who comes to mind. She’s clearly driven in her work, and has made it to the top of her game. She’s also followed closely in terms of her fashion choices (Anne’s French style was commented on, and followed by some of her ladies), and through her support, can bring about great success for particular designers.
So that’s the sort of person I think Anne would be today – at the top of whichever field she chose to be in, and, one would hope, not a victim to the pure chance of what gender her child came out as! I think that, as much as anything else, was her downfall. Just think how different things might have been for England (and subsequently Britain), if Elizabeth I had instead been Edward VI – presumably no sickly boy-king, and probably no Bloody Mary I. Definitely an interesting thing to consider!
As for your final question, what would I chat to Anne about over a glass of wine; I would really like to know whether she truly ever loved Henry VIII and whether she regretted missing out on marrying Henry Percy. Life as Duchess of Northumberland might not have been quite as grand as being Queen of England, but she’d probably have survived a bit longer! Having said that, she probably wouldn’t have made quite the same impression on history, so maybe that would be the best question to ask – which choices would she make, if she could do it all again?
Kindred Spirits: Tower of London
A King, three Queens, a handful of nobles and a host of former courtiers…
In the Tower of London, the dead outnumber the living, with the likes of Tudor Queens Anne Boleyn and Katherine Howard rubbing shoulders with one man who has made his way back from his place of death at Bosworth Field to discover the truth about the disappearance of his famous nephews.
Amidst the chaos of daily life, with political and personal tensions running high, Richard III takes control, as each ghostly resident looks for their own peace in the former palace – where privacy was always a limited luxury.
With so many characters haunting the Tower of London, will they all find the calm they crave?
Jennifer is a marine biologist by training, who developed an equal passion for history whilst stalking Mary, Queen of Scots of childhood holidays (she since moved on to Richard III). She completed her BSc and MSc at the University of Hull, and has worked as a marine environmental consultant since graduating.
Enrolling on an adult education workshop on her return to the north-east reignited Jennifer’s pastime of creative writing, and she has been filling notebooks ever since. In 2014, Jennifer won the Story Tyne short story competition, and also continues to work on developing her poetic voice, reading at a number of events, and with several pieces available online. Her debut novel Kindred Spirits: Tower of London was published by Crooked Cat Publishing in October 2015.
Kindred Spirits: Tower of London, Amazon link: http://authl.it/B016TRKU2A
What's an Unblog?
I've been told that blogs need to be updated regularly and consistently. So let's be clear: this is not a blog.