I was watching one of the film adaptations of The Other Boleyn Girl, and when we came upon the scene where Mary gives birth to Henry VIII's bastard soI was watching one of the film adaptations of The Other Boleyn Girl, and when we came upon the scene where Mary gives birth to Henry VIII's bastard son, my husband turned to me and asked if it was based on fact. I've done a fair bit of reading on the Tudors, but after a while fiction and fact blend a little, so I could only respond with, "I don't think so. The only illegitimate child of Henry VIII that I know of was Henry Fitzroy."
In the end, that response didn't sit well with the librarian in me, and I decided now was the perfect time to tackle Alison Weir's biography of Mary Boleyn, which had been sitting on my "to read" shelf for some time. I'm a big fan of Weir's The Six Wives of Henry the VIII, and while I didn't expect to enjoy this book nearly as much, I thought I could learn a little bit more about the Tudor period and the characters involved in all the drama.
In the end, I have to agree with others' assessments that the existing information about Mary's life and her affair with Henry wasn't quite enough to fill out an entire book. Weir is very careful in her research, which I appreciate, but it also meant that she wasn't able to make the kind of conclusive statements that usually help move a narrative along. Much of the time was spent examining obscure resources and debating facts, and it never felt like Mary was fleshed out.
Nonetheless, Weir's study has encouraged me to view many of the sweeping conclusions made by other historians with a grain of salt. Their assumptions may have made the character of Mary more entertaining for their audiences, but ultimately they did the woman a disservice by misrepresenting who she really may have been. Personally, I'd rather have boring old facts any day, and save the embellished version for my fictional reading.
So did she bear a bastard son for King Henry? Well, true to the uncertainty of the sources, Weir concludes "maybe, but probably not." It's a little bit of a letdown after the emotion and intrigue of the movie version of events, but now I can use the information gleaned here to guide my own imagination in filling in the gaps. That's something, at least....more
If you take a look at my bookshelf, you'll see that I read a little bit of everything, but one of the tags that comes up frequently is "Tudors." I'veIf you take a look at my bookshelf, you'll see that I read a little bit of everything, but one of the tags that comes up frequently is "Tudors." I've read both fictional and factual works on that turbulent time period in England's history, but when "royalty" was the subject for my book discussion group, I decided to think outside the box. Enter: The Secret History of Elizabeth Tudor, Vampire Slayer. I was hoping for something a little irreverent, a little entertaining--sort of a Buffy the Vampire Slayer for the Tudor generation.
On the eve of Elizabeth's coronation, she is taken to the chapel where her mother is buried, and there she has a supernatural awakening of her latent vampire-fighting powers. As a result of this experience, she suddenly has heightened senses, and she can shoot deadly beams of white light at vampire opponents. As the story progresses, we learn that Elizabeth is descended from Arthur's contemporary, Morgaine le Fey, and that Morgaine was a vampire slayer. Morgaine's powers passed through Anne to Elizabeth, and now, in the time of England's most dire need, the queen is being made ready to fight Mordred, a thousand year old vampire who wants to align himself with the power of the British throne.
Sadly, I think this is a book that just took itself too seriously. The stilted "Elizabethan" language just makes the characters seem one-dimensional, and the whole set seems a little awkward. (Honestly, I've never been one for people throwing bolts of magical power at each other. The battles end up feeling so contrived, and I never get a sense of the danger that the protagonists are facing.) I found the reality of Elizabeth's life more interesting--and frightening--than this fictionalized version, and the real woman more fascinating than this queen who moonlights as a vampire slayer.
The ending is set up nicely for a sequel--in fact, nothing really gets resolved at all during the course of this book, which just made it all the more annoying to me. Maybe "Lucy Weston's" next effort will be better, but I don't think I'll be taking the time to read it.
One aside: I did crack a wry smile as I read the discussion questions at the end of the book, which I think were more in keeping with the tone this book should have had. My favorite is the first: "The Secret History of Elizabeth Tudor, Vampire Slayer reveals the hitherto hidden connections between the worlds of the Tudors and the Vampires. Were you surprised to discover that such connections exist? Does the involvement of paranormal forces help to explain how Elizabeth was able to reign so long and so successfully in a time of such danger?" Perhaps I'll ask this of my fellow book club members, and see what they have to say in response.