Skip to content

The Searchers

October 17, 2012

Most of the search results that lead people here are for book titles and authors, as well as searches for various Tudor-era people. Sometimes, though, the search strings get a little more detailed and interesting, and on the off-chance that any of those searchers ever find their way back here, I wanted to answer a few of them.

the uncommon marriage script peter albery

The Uncommon Marriage was a novel, and not a script as such. However, Albery seems to have written his novel after writing a a play called not The Uncommon Marriage but Anne Boleyn — it premiered at the Birmingham Repertory Theatre on 15 May 1956, and featured among others Bernard Hepton as Thomas More and a very young (and good-looking) Albert Finney as George Boleyn. That’s all I know about it, so if you do happen to find a copy of the play, I would appreciate it very much if you left me a comment about it, because I’ve been looking and nobody seems to have a copy of it anywhere. I’m not sure it was even published, though since it seems like any play which saw even one performance has a little orange-covered booklet somewhere, I do hope it’s out there.

anne boleyn, the colors of her livary

Blue and purple. It sounds like a unattractive combination now, but of course tastes change and so do shades of colour. Lady Lisle’s dress in Anne’s livery, which she only got to wear for about six weeks, must have been something to behold.

george boleyn cruel
george boleyn, rapist
[I get variations on this one quite often]

I wonder about the apostrophe on the second one — it makes “rapist” sound like something that would be listed on George’s business card. George Boleyn’s cruelty or lack thereof is impossible to establish at this date, although it’s unlikely that the type of people who found success at Henry’s court were notably kind individuals. The very recent trend of portraying George Boleyn in a negative light seems to have found its apotheosis in The Tudors which I haven’t seen much of, but apparently in that series, he’s having a homosexual affair with Mark Smeaton, rapes his wife on their wedding night and slaps her around afterwards. No book or play that I’ve read goes this far — there are several which portray George as latently or actively homosexual, at least once he’s willing to rape Mark Smeaton, and he hates Jane almost all of the time, but I can’t think of one who beat anyone up. (The Mark Smeaton ambiguous/possibly rape situation appears in The Boleyn Wife, 2007). George’s weirdest non-televised wedding night has to be in The Uncommon Marriage where persons unknown conceal a sack with a broomstick and black cat under his and Jane’s bed; inside is also a note saying “For The Witch” meaning Jane. Over George’s protest, Jane tosses the cat out the fifth-storey window (they’re in a castle) and kills it. George unsurprisingly finds his ardor a bit dampened after this.

The rape accusation was not, surprisingly, invented by the producers of the television show, though the grounds are flimsy enough. Alison Weir, a popular historian, cites George Cavendish’s lines “I forced widows, maidens I did deflower” as being a strong indication that George Boleyn was a rapist. Considering Cavendish’s position as a largely hostile witness and his writing from hindsight, this doesn’t come close to proving anything, as numerous people have pointed out, and I think Weir made a mistake in giving the lines so much importance. However, I don’t think they’re entirely without significance — Cavendish has all of Anne’s supposed lovers “confess” to being guilty, and quite a few of his speakers confess to debauched and lecherous lives (including Lady Rochford later on) but George is the only one who’s said to have “forced” anyone. Of course, that could be the incest charge at work as well — anyone who could do that would have to be a very nasty character. However, I don’t think the very slight trend of turning George into a rapist has much to do with him personally; I think it’s more a feature of a modern historical-writing fiction trend wherein ambiguous and/or doomed characters are firmly stamped as Bad (and therefore OK to execute) by doing something really egregious, and often that something is rape. George Boleyn isn’t the only one to have gotten this treatment; Guildford Dudley, husband of Jane Grey, has received it as well, and Henry Norris came close in At The Mercy Of The Queen (2012) where he doesn’t quite manage to rape Madge but makes it clear that he would, so we don’t need to feel too bad as he’s hauled off to his doom.

mademoiselle boleyn is a bad book

If you’re looking for agreement on the internet, well, I agree.

anne of cleves got fat and ate garlic

When? Chapuys writes that she had become much stouter a couple of years after arriving in England, and in his inimitable way also passed on gossip that she was pregnant. He doesn’t say anything about garlic. If you’re talking about before she arrived in England, then what you need is a copy of The Dogsbody Papers, in which we’re told the tale of Princess Anne of Cleves, young, beautiful and enchanting, who was so horrified at the idea of marrying Henry VIII that she padded her clothes, chewed garlic, and generally made herself as repulsive as she could so that he would pension her off, after which she took a more congenial lover and lived happily ever after. It isn’t true, but it should have been. She also deliberately uglies herself up The Boleyn Wife, but the version in The Dogsbody Papers is more entertaining.

write a diary entry as though you are anne boleyn the night before her execution

This has the scent of a homework assignment, but fortunately there are lots of novels which have the framing device of Anne’s being in the Tower and writing her apologia there (click on the “Last Night In The Tower” tag). What she seems really to have been doing is praying with her almoner from 2 AM onward in preparation for the life to come, but even if she had been writing it’s hard to believe she could have turned out enough manuscript for 300 printed pages in the space of twelve hours. I understand why writers use that device, but still, that’s a lot of writing, even if you don’t need any sleep.

what is the anne boleyn treatment from the queen?

“The Anne Boleyn treatment” sounds like it could be either slang for beheading or some sort of spa offering. Probably the former. If you’re asking how Anne Boleyn was treated by Catherine of Aragon, well, a few novels recycle the story where Catherine forces her to play cards to expose her sixth finger. As she’s unlikely to have possessed a sixth finger, this probably didn’t happen. Otherwise, Catherine’s attitude in fiction (and, it seems, in fact) could be summarized in three words: Dignity, always dignity.
She never cracks, certainly not where Anne could see her. So at least in the venue I’m familiar with, Anne Boleyn’s treatment by the queen would have been remarkable in its lack of remarkableness.

From → Essays

  1. The play Anne Boleyn by Peter Albery was published in a periodical called “Plays of the Year”, v. 14, 1955-56, p. [333]-445. It looks like there are copies at Harvard, Purdue, University of Maine at Orono, Harry Ransom Center, University of Toronto, and a ton of British libraries. Here’s a link to the WorldCat record for the play itself; if you search WorldCat by title and author you’ll also pull up records for the periodical:

    • sonetka permalink

      Thank you so much! I and my blog are in your debt. I’m looking forward to seeing how it compares to the novel (especially as Jane Boleyn isn’t in the cast list and she plays a HUGE part in the novel; maybe she’ll be a malign offstage presence, like in Rebecca? My inner nerd cannot wait to find out).

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: