Well, this is my one hundredth blog post. I have blogged on all sorts of stuff over the last year and a bit: writing, books, popular culture, the 70s and 80s, Feminism, my town. And often I just randomly mind-dump.
Today’s post has a little of most of these things.
I am waiting for my copy of Hilary Mantel’s Bring up the Bodies, the follow-up novel to the astounding Booker winning Wolf Hall. Both novels deal with the story of Thomas Cromwell, aka Alistair Campbell with an Axe (I blogged about this some time ago.).
Wolf Hall finished with Anne Boleyn in the ascendancy at court; we all know what her fate will be in this second novel. Not good.
Anne Boleyn, Henry VIII’s second wife, must be one of the best known female historical figures, with so many films made and books written about her. She has intrigued and fascinated generations.
I was in London recently with my daughter for a hospital appointment. Afterwards, as a ‘treat’, I dragged her to the National Portrait Gallery, knowing she would eventually appreciate seeing the Tudor portraits. The iconic Anne Boleyn painting wasn’t there. It has been undergoing urgent restoration but the upshot of this is that it is now believed to have been painted shortly after Anne’s death, so is probably a good likeness.
As for Anne herself, she remains an enigma. She was undoubtedly charismatic, intelligent and ambitious with great faith and courage. But she was also fighting for her life, knowing she held a precarious position, used and manipulated by the men around her. It is remarkable that we are still intrigued with Anne Boleyn’s story hundreds of years later. I can’t wait to read Mantel’s fictionalised version of events.
But for me, I will always think of her as she was in the film Anne of the Thousand Days (1969) which I saw as a child on the telly in the 70s. Richard Burton was a superb, yet obvious choice for King Henry, but I was really moved by Genevieve Bujold in the title role. I loved the premise – sadly untrue – that Anne made a last minute deal with Henry who came to visit her in the Tower: her life in exchange for her daughter Elizabeth to hold her claim to the throne. The tragic irony is that Henry’s overwhelming desire for a son was completely misplaced. His younger daughter Elizabeth was to become one of England’s greatest, longest-reigning monarchs.
If you watch this clip of the execution scene, you will notice her look at Cromwell (played by Greek-Canadian actor John Colicos of Star Trek fame), right before the French executioner does the bloody deed. And if you ever get the chance to watch the whole film, look out for Elizabeth Taylor in an uncredited cameo…