I was pleased to be on BBC2's Newsnight on 21 January 2015 with Anthony Beevor, discussing the first episode of the BBC drama, 'Wolf Hall'. I was quoted on the programme's website and Twitter feed: 'Historian Alison Weir on Wolf Hall "For me it's not the Cromwell I know from the historical sources" #newsnight'. It was great drama, though, and Mark Rylance was exceptional. According to the Daily Telegraph, Damian Lewis read some of my books when preparing to play Henry VIII.
RED ROSE CHAIN
In February 2015 Red Rose Chain, who enthralled me in 2013 with their wonderful play, Fallen In Love: The Secret Heart of Anne Boleyn, put on a stunning new production, Progress, about Elizabeth I, which I had highly recommended!
It’s the summer of 1561. Among the bustling Tudor streets the countdown is on to transform the town just days before the visit of a lifetime – when Queen Elizabeth I will arrive in Ipswich on a “Progress”, heralding a new dawn of hope and tolerance. Peter Moone, a tailor, is rehearsing a group of locals into a play to be performed for the Queen. Court intrigue, scandal and passion, set against the harsh backdrop of the story of the Ipswich martyrs and all based on factual accounts of real events, create a gripping story as tragic and comic as true life itself. Progress is a play about Ipswich, for anyone who would like to know why our town really is an extraordinary place. Specially written for the opening of The Avenue Theatre, Progress is the eagerly awaited follow up to Joanna Carrick’s critically acclaimed play ‘Fallen In Love’ which followed the rise and fall of Anne Boleyn, performed to audiences in Ipswich and at The Tower of London in 2013, which the Telegraph hailed as “a real coup”, adding “fail to answer this summons to the Tower at your peril”.
Here I am with playwright Joanna Carrick, the entire cast and historian Siobhan Clarke after a stunning performance!
I should like to pay a warm tribute to the late Paul Sidey (seen here above right at Kensington Palace with the 'History Girls' - Tracy Borman, me, Kate Williams and Sarah Gristwood). He was our editor for The Ring and the Crown. Paul had a distinguished career in publishing , working first at Penguin and then at Hutchinson. He was a wonderful man who wore his learning lightly, a convivial companion and a valued and loyal friend. I am only one among many who will sorely miss him. My thoughts are with his lovely wife Marianne and his family.
I was interviewed on BBC Radio Leicester in August 2014 about the forthcoming reburial of Richard III, and the form that reburial should take. For discussions on that, please visit my Facebook page.
WHY MARGARET DOUGLAS?
Royal Tudor blood ran in her veins. Her mother was a queen, and she herself was the granddaughter, niece, cousin and grandmother of monarchs, and some thought that she should be queen of England. Beautiful and tempestuous, she defied her uncle, Henry VIII, and created scandal by indulging in two illicit affairs. She was forgiven, however, and served four of Henry’s wives. She was fortunate too in that the marriage arranged for her turned into a love match. A born political intriguer, she was imprisoned in the Tower of London on several occasions, notably for helping to bring about one of the most notorious royal marriages of the sixteenth century. Yet it brought her only tragedy. Her son and her husband were brutally murdered, and there would be rumours that in the end she herself was poisoned. She warred with two queens, Mary of Scotland and Elizabeth of England, and plotted with the renowned Bess of Hardwick. A brave survivor, she was instrumental in securing the Stuart succession to the throne of England for her grandson. Lady Margaret Douglas, Countess of Lennox, was a prominent and important figure in Tudor England, and yet for a long time she was largely forgotten and overlooked. Her story deserves to be better known.
Back in 1974 I did a lot of research on Margaret Douglas, and over the years it often occurred to me that I should do something with it, but other projects intervened. In 2013 I was debating what to choose as a subject for the last book on my current non-fiction contract. I wanted to write about one of the Tudor women, but most of them have been 'done to death', as it were, by biographers (including me). I would have written about the Brandon sisters, Frances and Eleanor, but Nicola Tallis, a brilliant young historian who works with me on my tours, has now written a biography of Frances Brandon. So I decided to revisit my research on Margaret Douglas and write a biography, which I 'sold' to my commissioning editor after a five-minute spiel over lunch. I'm excited to be working on such a wonderful project and have already come up with some new insights. Is the portrait above Margaret? Wait and see!
SIX TUDOR QUEENS
I am now working on a completely revised, re-researched and expanded version of The Six Wives of Henry VIII, for publication in the U.K in at a future date.
When the original version of this book first appeared in 1991, there had been no serious collective biography since 1905 when M. A. S. Hume's The Wives of Henry VIII was published. Since then, Antonia Fraser, David Starkey and David Loades have all written books on the six wives, and there have been numerous individual biographies, notably by Giles Tremlett, Eric Ives, Susan James and Linda Porter. Each has contributed greatly to our understanding of the subject. I myself have done much further research in the twenty-three years since my own book was completed, and this long-overdue revised and rewritten version incorporates the newer findings. The 1991 edition was adapted from my original manuscript of 1974, which ran to 1024 single-spaced pages. Much of necessity was cut, a lot of it original source material, but a considerable amount of that has been restored to this new edition. Back in 1990, it was felt by my publishers that notes and references were not appropriate in a ‘popular’ history book – instead I was to indicate the sources in the text. Fortunately the original notes and references survive, and they have been restored here. It was also felt that the bibliography should be in narrative form, but for ease of reference I have now converted it into the more conventional list. It is a huge pleasure revisiting this book and my original manuscript. Already new perspectives are emerging.
My interview with Susan Cahill for Talking Books at Newstalk, Ireland, will be broadcast on 2nd February. Susan kindly observed, "I have to say she was super. What a wonderful lady. Thanks so much. Really good and well written read…. makes most of the academic historians look jaded and stuffy!!!"
WRITING HISTORICAL FICTION
I am one of several historical novelists who have contributed articles for this very entertaining, informative and useful guide for writers written and compiled by Celia Brayfield and Duncan Sprott.
Here is an article about my forthcoming biopraphy of Margaret Douglas:
QUEEN ANNE BOLEYN HISTORICAL WRITERS
Queen Anne Boleyn Historical Writers is a website developed for historical, biographical and fiction writers, poets and bloggers to showcase their work. I was recently interviewed for the site, and you can read the transcript here:
Hay Festival 2013: Blame Henry VIII for public fascination with royal family
Henry VIII is responsible for the public and the media’s fascination with the private lives of the royal family, especially the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, according to a leading historical novelist. Alison Weir, one of the bestselling female historians in Britain, said that the marriage failures of Henry VIII taught us to be legitimately fascinated by the sex lives of royalty. Alison said that the marriage failures of Henry VIII taught us to be legitimately fascinated by the sex lives of royalty.
(By Harry Wallop, and Gaby Wood)
02 Jun 2013
Alison Weir, one of the bestselling female historians in Britain, said that the marriage failures of Henry VIII taught us to be legitimately fascinated by the sex lives of royalty.
“It is part of a tradition. It is in the national consciousness that we are concerned. As soon as they [the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge] got married, we started speculating about a baby. We are jumping back on a traditional bandwagon of being fascinated about royal marriage and reproduction. It is very invasive, but it is proper. The interest in royalty’s sex lives and marriages was legitimate because they produced heirs to the throne”.
Her comments came after the historical novelist Hilary Mantel attracted criticism for saying the duchess was perceived in the media as a “shop-window mannequin”, whose only purpose was to breed.
Ms Weir, who has written a series of history books as well as novels set in the Tudor period, was speaking at the Telegraph Hay Festival.
(Please note that I also deplored the intrusion of the foreign media in taking photographs of a scantily-clad Duchess of Cambridge. I do not wish to be seen as endorsing this intrusion.)
9th May 2013: Henry VIII: The King and His Court (published 2001) is currently number 6 in the New York Times e-book bestseller lists!
19th February: I was approached to write an article for The Daily Telegraph on Hilary Mantel's comments on the Duchess of Cambridge. It is based on Mantel's lecture, not news coverage. You can read it online at:
Following the announcement that the bones discovered in Leicester are indeed Richard III's remains, I appeared on Radio 4's PM Programme with Steven Berkoff, to discuss the implications of the announcement. You can listen to the programme here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01qdtq4. It's the last item.
My article on Richard III and the Princes in the Tower can be read on the Books pages, under The Princes in the Tower (Read More). My view on recent developments is as follows:
"While the finding of his remains is an incredible achievement, it's time to distance ourselves from the outpouring of ill-informed sentiment over Richard III, and look objectively at what the historical sources tell us. There is compelling circumstantial evidence that he ordered the murder of the Princes in the Tower, and incontrovertible hard evidence that he committed acts of tyranny. He was not popular. Any support he had was eroded by rumours that he had done away with the Princes, for which cause he lost the hearts of his subjects. He should be buried at York, where he wished to be buried, with dignity, and without fanfare. He intended to remarry, so it is doubtful that he would have been laid to rest beside his wife, Anne Neville, in Westminster Abbey. According him the honour of a state funeral would amount to official endorsement of the revisionist view of him, and that would deeply concern many serious historians. Let us press instead for a new examination of the bones thought to be those of the Princes in Westminster Abbey."
I was delighted to have been asked to write the Foreward to The Tudor Child, a stunning new book by Jane Huggett and Ninya Mikhaila, edited by Jane Malcolm Davies. Those who have read The Tudor Tailor will know that they have a treat in store! The Tudor Child is another feast of fascinating information and wonderful pictures, a stunning combination of original research and practical application.It stands as a major source book for historians and costume designers alike, and hopefully will be enormously influential. I could not recommend it highly enough.
I SPOKE ABOUT HENRY VIII ON ABC RADIO AUSTRALIA'S 'OVERNIGHTS' PROGRAMME AT 5.20pm ON 10 DECEMBER 2012.
I WISH TO EXPRESS MY SADNESS AT THE PASSING OF PROFESSOR ERIC IVES.
He was one of our greatest Tudor historians. I feel privileged to have known him, and to have benefitted from his wisdom and knowledge. I send my deepest condolences to his family. The picture above was taken in May at the Boleyn festival at Blickling Hall, and shows me and Eric with Emma Fuery, one of the Tudor Roses.
AN UNKNOWN PORTRAIT OF KATHERINE PARR
My findings on the above portrait were revealed in a presentation during the Katherine Parr Quincentenary Festival at Sudeley Castle in May.
THE BOLEYN FESTIVAL AT BLICKLING HALL
I am trying to come down to earth after a wonderful four days. I've enjoyed having the benefit of so much brilliant scholarship - dinner with Professor Eric Ives was a particular treat - and meeting so many friendly and interesting people. There was a great buzz to this festival, and I'd like to express my thanks to the lovely staff at Blickling Hall and the organiser, Carole Richmond, for everything they did to make me so welcome. There were so many highlights: hosting the literary tea with Sarah Gristwood, Suzannah Dunn and Harriet Castor; listening to Neil Storey's engrossing ghost talk; admiring Molly Housego's unparalleled Tudor costume - what an amazing Anne Boleyn she makes; watching her disappear down the blackness of the drive at midnight on 19th May; meeting David Loades, one of our greatest historians, and receiving his new book, Mary Rose; hearing Nicola Shulman's ground-breaking revelations about Thomas Wyatt; meeting Natalie Grueninger and Sarah Morris and hearing about their forthcoming book on Anne Boleyn; meeting Lauren Mackay, an expert on the Boleyn men, who is working on a biography of Chapuys; reading Anne Boleyn's scaffold speech during choral evensong in Norwich Cathedral, and attending prayers for Anne in Blickling Church. It's been an unforgettable experience, and I felt privileged to have been there.
Another version of the 'MARY BOLEYN' portrait has been brought to my notice. Please go to the Books pages for more information!
My article about Mary Boleyn appeared in the 24th November edition of The Daily Telegraph. The correct text of this article will appear on this website soon.
I was a guest on Sky Arts' "THE BOOK SHOW" with Mariella Frostrupp at 8pm on 24th November. Also appearing were Ken Livingstone and Benjamin Zephaniah.
I was among the guests on B.B.C. Radio 4's "START THE WEEK" with Andrew Marr on Monday, 14th November. Also appearing were Peter Englund, Boris Johnson and Norman Davies.
My ghost story, The Anniversary, was included in The Best Little Book Club in Town, a paperback anthology of short stories published by Orion Books in association with Woman and Home magazine. For every copy sold, £1 goes to Breast Cancer Care.
U.S. RADIO INTERVIEWS
I discussed MARY BOLEYN on National Public Radio's "TALK OF THE NATION". Here is a link to the segment: http://www.npr.org/2011/10/12/141276812/mary-the-great-and-infamous-other-boleyn
I was interviewed on Wisconsin Public Radio's programme, "TO THE BEST OF OUR KNOWLEDGE". Here is a link to the interview: http://ttbook.org/book/alison-weir-mary-boleyn-was-she-failure
LISTENING BOOKS MINI LIBRARY INITIATIVE
Listening Books provide audiobooks for people who find it difficult to read due to illness or disability through an online and postal service. They are launching a brand new project this September and I wish to lend my support to it, as they have many of my books in their library. Through this new project, they are expanding their service to offer audiobook mini libraries to hospices throughout the U.K.. The mini libraries are completely free of charge to the hospices, and comprise a fantastic range of fiction and non-fiction titles by bestselling authors and the biggest names in the publishing world. Listening Books are creating a web page about their hospice project, so anyone who is interested in supporting it can find out more at http://www.listening-books.org.uk/hospice-project.aspx.
VISIT TO THE ISLE OF MAN, DECEMBER 2010
I visited the Isle of Man for an event in support of the Isle of Man Fund for the Blind. Listen to my interview with Geraldine Jamison (above right) at http://www.manxradio.com/blog.aspx?id=49543&blogid=14864.
The report below is from the Isle of Man Examiner, 21st December 2010.
'THE BOOK SHOW' ON SKY ARTS
I was filmed in her library at home, where I work, for 'The Write Place' feature for The Book Show on Sky Arts, which was broadcast on 18th November 2010. You can read a transcript below.
Historian Alison Weir reveals secrets of her writing process and ornaments and pictures that provide inspiration...
'I’m sitting in my house in Carshalton in Surrey; it’s a lovely peaceful place in which to work. It’s wonderful to have a room like this, as for the first time I have all my books in one place. This is my history library, all the books are filed around the room in chronological order and most of them are history books about the British monarchy. Reference books are by my desk, behind there are art books, costume books, records – I’m a collector of rock music and memorabilia - and DVDs and videos. This is not just a library, it's a family room, and I have to say there is a lot of competition for using it.
Around the room are many pictures and ornaments, nearly all of them have some sentimental or historical significance for me. For example, statues of the six wives of Henry VIII: people might think they’re rather twee, but I think they’re lovely. Pictures of my children are all around; there's a portrait of my mother at 19, and the six wives of Henry VIII on Royal Doulton plates. The relief of Richard III up there reminds me of a lovely outing to Middleham Castle in Yorkshire, I’m passionately interested in that particular period; I wrote a book on the Princes in the Tower. Everywhere I look in this room there’s probably a story behind every object.
I’ve been doing historical projects for many years now, this is the first (see photo above) and it is one I am often asked about. It is a biography of Anne Boleyn and it was written when I was 15; some of it is based on original sources. It was all written by hand; some pictures are now falling out - that’s one of the old fourpenny postcards from the National Portrait Gallery. There’s an appendix with a letter said to be from Anne Boleyn to Henry VIII, and from Anne to Wolsey. I even did an index. But it's certainly not suitable for publication!
I work rather differently now from the way I used to. My book Katherine Swynford came out in 2007 and these two lever arch files are the research for it. There are reams and reams all under date headings, so it’s roughly researched into draft and that used to be normal for any book that I wrote. Sarah Gristwood, a very good historian friend of mine said to me, ‘Why do you do your books that way? I do my books in a different way. I write a skeleton outline of the story on a word processor and add in research, and build it that way.’ And since then that’s the way I do my history books.
When I’m writing, I’m gone, I’m absolutely lost in it. The world disappears and I live it, I’m there and I’m involved in it; I’m on a journey with my subject and it’s literally going into the unknown.'
I support local libraries!!
Libraries are wonderful places. They are the gateway not only to learning but also to endless hours of pleasurable discovery and exciting ventures into other worlds. Whem I was a teenager at the City of London School for Girls, I spent every available minute in the school's excellent library, absorbed in historical research. (I should add - or perhaps I shouldn't - that I was often meant to be doing something else at the time!) In my leisure time, I would ferret away for hours in my local reference libraries and was forever borrowing huge piles of books. Nowadays, my children are amused to hear how their eccentric mother spent her youth. 'You spent the Sixties in a library??' my daughter asks, laughing. But it was wonderful, every minute of it. Because, for me, libraries opened the door to the past. And the last laugh is mine, because all those years of research and detective work led to my becoming a published author and historian. Queen Elizabeth's motto was carpe diem - seize the day. We all have the privilege of access to libraries, many with state-of-the-art facilities. My advice to you is to use them, and use them well, because not only will you assuredly reap the benefits in the future, but you will also be helping to preserve our libraries for future generations.
4TH MARCH 2010, WORLD BOOK DAY
My Quick Reads book, Traitors of the Tower, was published, and in the morning I did an event with adult learners at Foyles in the Westfield Centre, Shepherd's Bush, which was attended by H.R.H. The Duchess of Cornwall. In the afternoon, I attended a reception hosted by Sarah Brown at 10 Downing Street, for those involved in Quick Reads and other literacy initiatives.
I recorded several interviews at the National Gallery about Paul Delaroche's depiction of the execution of Lady Jane Grey. You may have seen me talking about the picture on BBC 4 and BBC Worldwide news, and you can catch up with my interview on Woman's Hour at http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/womanshour/01/2010_08_tue.shtml
THE BOOK SHOW (SKY ARTS)
I formally opened the restored Elizabethan Smythe Barn at Westenhanger Castle in Kent, and would like to bring this little-known gem of a castle to the notice of anyone with an interest in Rosamund de Clifford, Henry VIII, Elizabeth I and the Jamestown settlement in Virginia, USA.
WOMAN AND HOME
I published one of her ghost stories, Anniversary, in the August 2009 edition of Woman and Home. You can read it on the Miscellany page.
AN EXCITING DISCOVERY!
In the June 2008 issue of BBC History Magazine, you can read how I and Tracy Borman discovered an unknown portrait of Elizabeth I as princess, a rare find indeed!
The full text of my original paper on this portrait can be read on the Read More... page linked to Children of England in the new Books pages.