Friday 12 September 2014

Review: George Boleyn: Tudor Poet, Courtier and Diplomat.

Ridgway and Cherry’s new Boleyn book could just be George’s marvellous medicine.
George Boleyn has suffered from a bad press in certain quarters. Quite a lot of them in fact. In historical fiction and on TV, he seems to have been co-opted as the literary foil for his sister, from a reckless, hard-hearted homosexual to a ruthless adulterer  who sailed too close to the wind. The biographical spotlight has rarely fallen on him in his own right, overlooking him in a way that has allowed for his reinvention as part of the narrative arc of his famous sister. Of course there have been hostile historical accounts too, putting words into his mouth that have festered into facts down the centuries, until George Boleyn has become more of a literary convention than a real person.
This oversight is partly down to the lack of surviving material as, in the aftermath of the family’s fall in 1536, many of the traces of George’s life were probably destroyed. But it is also because no one has taken a dispassionate approach to analysing what remains. Until now. Claire Ridgway and Clare Cherry’s detailed and useful collaboration has explored this enigmatic man, shining light on areas such as his religion, politics and poetic work, that help reinstate George’s justifiable reputation as one of the most dazzling and talented members of Henry’s court.  The exploration of his role as a courtier and diplomat allows the reader to see the full extent of George’s influence on some of the most important events of his time: as a member of the Reformation Parliament, as Ambassador to France and advocate for royal supremacy, he served Henry’s interests on the international stage. This book presents a new George, a man whose abilities and talents deserve to be seen independently from his downfall.  Of course, though, it also explores in detail the most contentious issues of George’s life; his relationships with his sisters and wife, which reached their dramatic conclusion in May 1536.
George was a survivor. He came back from Wolsey’s attempted cull of Henry’s “minions” in 1525 and survived the dreaded sweating sickness in 1528, yet his closeness to his sister meant that he was sacrificed when Henry required her removal. Readers of Ridgway’s other books on Anne Boleyn and her blog and facebook page, "The Anne Boleyn Files," will be familiar with the accessible, inclusive style of her writing. You don’t have to know anything about George to enjoy this book, whilst those with a good grounding in his life will find themselves pleasantly surprised, perhaps even revising their opinions.  It is very hard to write a biography of a leading historical figure about whom little material survives. Ridgway and Cherry have filled out George’s life admirably and honestly, acknowledging the line between facts and reasonable supposition:  it is this ability to use relevant historical material sensitively that transforms dry biography into a readable and engaging life. An eminently useful and long overdue focus on one of the leading English figures of the 1530s.

Buy the book here:

Visit Claire Ridgway's blog here
And her facebook page here:

Claire is also launching a new Tudor Society. See her blog and page for details.


  1. Thank you for taking the time to review our book, Amy, and I'm thrilled that you enjoyed it. I love your comment "George's Marvellous Medicine"!

  2. Thank you for a lovely review, Amy. I'm so glad you enjoyed the book, and like Claire I too love the title. It was about time our boy had his share of the limelight.