Today, I’m thrilled to welcome best-selling author and Anne Boleyn expert extraordinaire, Claire Ridgway to my blog! Claire’s is the first in a series of interviews I recently conducted with a few luminaries of MadeGlobal Publishing. I will be posting them on Saturdays over the next coming weeks. To kick things off, Claire has very generously offered up her course on the Life of Anne Boleyn to one lucky reader! At the end of the article, I will include details on how to enter.
Photo of Claire and Adrienne at Hampton Court Palace courtesy of Tim Ridgway © 2016
Running a website, helping to grow MadeGlobal publishing, and researching for your own writing must make for a pretty busy life! What does a day-in-the-life of Claire Ridgway look like?
I’ll choose a typical Monday. Once my teenagers have left for school, I go for a run before starting my working day. First, I’ll catch up on some emails and then it’s down to making sure that any scheduled posts I’ve done for Monday morning have posted correctly. After that, it’s time for research for more articles for the Anne Boleyn Files and Tudor Society websites, and also for the weekly video talk I do for the Tudor Society. I also check my social media for messages, comments etc. I love interacting with my readers and followers, it’s lovely to get feedback on my work and to ‘talk Tudor’. I’m really trying to carve out time in my schedule at the moment to work on my book project, but life keeps getting in the way!
What would you say are the greatest challenges to running a website like The Anne Boleyn Files?
At the moment, it’s time. I’m involved with so many projects that some days I feel like I’m a juggler with an impossible number of balls in the air! I love what I do though and I wouldn’t have it any differently. Sometimes it gets tricky running an Anne Boleyn focused site when people have negative feelings towards Anne that are based on fiction or myths and find it hard when I challenge them or ask them what their opinion is based on. Most people are happy to hear another side, but others can get hostile.
What is it that drew you to Anne Boleyn?
I’d been interested in Henry VIII and his six wives since I did a project on them at school when I was eleven. I was intrigued by this larger than life character who had six wives and who executed two of them. However, I started researching Anne Boleyn following a dream I had about witnessing her execution and not being able to do anything to help her or save her. I knew she was innocent, but there was just nothing I could do. That started me on my path and I’ve never looked back. What draws me to Anne as a person is not only the tragedy of her end, the way she was framed, but the glimpses you get of her character in the historical sources. She said no to a king, for quite a while; she spoke her mind, albeit recklessly and spitefully at times; she had a strong, personal faith and put that faith into action; she took risks to help others; she was intelligent and witty; she was a woman who the king moved heaven and earth to be with – a fascinating character!
Are you interested in any other figures or historical eras?
Yes! In the Tudor period, I’m interested in the Wyatt family, the Cooke family and Elizabeth I. I’m very interested in the Reformation as a whole. I loved studying it at school and then university, examining all the different religious ideas that swept through Europe. I’m also interested in the Victorian era, both Queen Victoria and what it was like to live at that time.
If you would vanquish one rumour about Anne, which one would it be?
That she committed incest with her brother George. I hate that some people think that it was an obvious decision for her because she was desperate to provide the king with a son. Anne and George both had strong Christian faiths and there’s just no way that they would have jeopardised the fate of their eternal souls in such a way. It just doesn’t make sense.
You get the keys to the TARDIS, which one event in history do you visit?
Can’t I hop about and do a few?! Hmmm… tricky question. I think I’d either go and watch Anne Boleyn’s coronation procession and enjoy all the pageants, or be present while Anne, George and people like Thomas Wyatt sat chatting or playing cards. Can you imagine the witty conversation?
I’d love to be a fly on the wall during that time as well! I’m sure there would have been some very clever banter between the three of them! Part two of that question…If you could, do you change anything happening in that moment? Why or why not?
I think it would be wrong to mess with history because it would have so many consequences. If I was going back to change something then I’d go back to the 1521 and tell Thomas Boleyn not to send Anne to court to serve Catherine of Aragon. I’d be very tempted to keep her away from Henry VIII, but then there’d be no Elizabeth I, would there?
With some of the political leaders in the US being compared to men like Thomas Cromwell and Henry VIII, it seems like history is back in vogue. How do you think a good foundation of historical knowledge can help us understand the events occurring in our present world?
I think we can learn from the mistakes made by people in power in the past, we can learn from the horrors of the past and say “never again, and we can take inspiration from the actions of history’s heroes and heroines. But history shows us that mankind is always the same. R.G. Collingwood said “History is for human self-knowledge … the only clue to what man can do is what man has done. The value of history, then, is that it teaches us what man has done and thus what man is” and unfortunately history keeps repeating itself because man is man and there will always be dictators and people who use their positions of power to commit evil or to suppress others.
Anne Boleyn has been portrayed by many actresses over the years, which portrayal do you think has been truest to life? Are there any actresses out there who you would love to see play her?
I loved Genevieve Bujold as Anne Boleyn in “Anne of the Thousand Days” because she gave Anne the French ways that she was known for. I know “The Tudors” has been slated for its inaccuracies (very frustrating at times!) but I thought that Natalie Dormer did an excellent job. Her Anne was witty, intelligent, bitchy at times, but also so vulnerable. The scene when she’s imprisoned in the Tower and she’s sobbing her heart out because the men, including her brother, are being executed, is so poignant. I cried buckets!
I can’t think of an actress that is like the Anne I have in my head!
And finally, the question I ask everyone…If you could invite 5 people – living or dead – to a dinner party, who would you ask?
I’ve been asked this a few times and I always completely change my mind, plus I’d like a much bigger dinner party! I’d invite Anne and George Boleyn, Thomas Wyatt, Jesus Christ and Elizabeth I. Wyatt could entertain us all with his poetry, Anne and George could provide the witty conversation, Elizabeth I could regale us with stories from her court, and I’d grill Jesus about the Christian faith and how he feels about the world today.
That sounds like an amazing dinner party! Can I come along too?! Thank you so much for stopping by!
If you are interested in winning a copy of Claire’s wonderful Anne Boleyn course, please leave a comment below with your 5 dinner guests! The contest will be open until 12:00 am PST on Saturday, December 16th when the last interview in the series will be posted. Good Luck!
Claire Ridgway is the founder of The Anne Boleyn Files and Tudor Society websites. She has published eight Tudor history books, including The Fall of Anne Boleyn: A Countdown and The Anne Boleyn Collection, and is co-author of a biography of George Boleyn, Anne Boleyn’s brother. Claire has written many guest posts for Tudor history websites and blogs, and has also written for History of Royals magazine.
Claire has been researching Anne Boleyn and Tudor history full-time since February 2009 and enjoys sharing her research on the Anne Boleyn Files website and social media. She is currently working on two Anne Boleyn book projects and another on the fall of Catherine Howard. Claire can’t get enough of Tudor history!
You can find out more about Claire and her amazing books here