Sunday 6 October 2013

In the Footsteps of Anne Boleyn.

In the Footsteps of Anne Boleyn
Sarah Morris and Natalie Grueninger
Amberley Publishing
15 September, 2013
ISBN 978-1-4456-0782-6


Anne Boleyn remains one of the most controversial and thought-provoking figures of Henry VIII’s court. As a sophisticated beauty, her rise to fame ruffled many feathers amongst the supporters of Catherine of Aragon and challenged the expectations of queenship. The tempestuous marriage that followed, the birth of her daughter and her shocking death at the hands of her husband, on blatantly trumped-up charges, have rightly earned her a following dedicated to studying her life and defending her name. Many good books have been published on Anne in recent years; biographies, novels and studies of the way she has been portrayed in popular culture but this is the practical guide that the Queen’s devotees have been waiting for. With Morris’s and Grueninger’s meticulous research in your hands, it is possible to step even closer to the real Anne Boleyn.

Taking a biographical approach, this book walks the reader gently through the differing locations of Anne’s life. Following the authors’ lead, it allows you to become fully immersed in what survives of the England she knew as well as recreating a sense of it in the past. Including maps and visitors’ information, it is easy to plan your own itinerary from these pages, as the authors literally tell you where to park and how far to walk, what to see and where to go next. They share their own experiences of meeting people along the way; what to see, where to eat and where to stay; and they prove to be considerate, informed and dedicated guides. Plus, the authors repeatedly go off the beaten track to explore less well known locations, beyond the usual Castles associated with Anne and Henry. Their own extensive travels give the text an immediacy and accessibility often lacking in more academic studies, all the more remarkable for Grueninger being based in Australia. Most of all, this book sings with the passion of its writers; just within the first few pages you can feel how much they both enjoyed researching and writing it.

If you can’t get to England or undertake the full Anne experience, this book also allows you to travel from the comfort of your armchair. The level of detail given of the buildings, surroundings and objects is vivid enough to be pictured, and provokes the reader to want to find out more. The very useful section on the Boleyn treasures includes websites and information about how to access these manuscripts and images; it would form an excellent basis for readers to take their enjoyment of Anne further. The authors use a wealth of primary sources to vividly recreate Anne’s world through the eyes of her contemporaries, in letters, records and accounts as well as drawing on the work of more recent historians. Plus there are two very full sections of images, many previously unpublished, from the authors’ own collections. It is usefully divided into small sections, with easily navigable headings, making it an ideal book to dip in and out of, a veritable Aladdin’s cave of gems about Anne. I particularly enjoyed the section about the progress of 1535, as an area often explored in less detail.

It is hard to find anything new on Anne these days, however In the Footsteps of Anne Boleyn fills a definite gap in the market. It provides the reader with a different kind of Anne experience, facilitating a greater sense of ownership of the Queen and her life, making more of a direct personal connection between reader and subject. And you couldn’t hope for better guides than Morris and Grueninger. If you have any interest in Anne Boleyn at all, you will not regret buying this stunning new book.


If you enjoyed In the Footsteps of Anne Boleyn, you may also enjoy these other new additions:

The Anne Boleyn Papers
Elizabeth Norton
Amberley, August 2013

The Anne Boleyn Collection II: Anne Boleyn and the Boleyn Family.
 Claire Ridgeway
Createspace, September 2013

The Creation of Anne Boleyn.
Susan Bordo
UK edition, Oneworld, January 2014


1 comment:

  1. Great review. I'm definitely putting this on my Christmas wish list!