Welcome to British Isles Friday! British Isles Friday is a weekly event for sharing all things British and Irish — reviews, photos, opinions, trip reports, guides, links, resources, personal stories, interviews, and research posts. Join us each Friday to link your British and Irish themed content and to see what others have to share. The link list is at the bottom of this post. Pour a cup of tea or lift a pint and join our link party!
Last week, I reviewed Enchantment by Katherine May. Heather reviewed Cassandra in Reverse, an intriguing time-travel novel. Tina read her first book by Jo Spain. She enjoyed Dirty Little Secrets, set in rural Ireland, enough to look for more books by the same author. Susan found both drama and humor in The Rachel Incident by Caroline O’Donoghue.
Tuesday will mark the 491st anniversary of the secret marriage between Anne Boleyn and Henry VIII, King of England on 14 November 1532. I observed the occasion by watching The Boleyns, streamed with PBS Passport (a benefit of my membership to my local PBS station).
At first, I thought The Boleyns was a drama, but it turned out to be a documentary. Many of the scenes feature actors. They read from the letters that still exist to this day. In between the scenes, we here from several experts. There are three episodes, each a bit over 50 minutes long.
Here is one of the experts talking about the filming locations at Hever Castle:
I knew the rough outline of the story. King Henry wanted to marry Anne Boleyn due to both an infatuation and a desire for a male heir. His first wife, Catherine of Aragon, was naturally opposed to the plan. So was the Catholic Church. Eventually, the King declared himself head of the Church of England and dispensed with his inconvenient first marriage.
Anne Boleyn became the King’s second wife, officially, in 1533 and was crowned Queen of England on 1 June 1533. Her reign lasted less than three years and ended in her tragic execution.
I learned a lot more details from The Boleyns. One thing that took me by surprise was that Anne and her brother were George were proponents of religious reform, on its own merits, before there were benefits to be gained for Anne from separating from the Catholic Church.
More generally, I was surprised to learn about an epidemic called the Sweating sickness. It sounds horrible. Healthy adults could get sick in the morning and be dead by nightfall. The sweating sickness seems to have entered the world in 1485 and caused several waves of illness before it disappeared completely in 1551. To this day, we don’t have a good modern medical explanation.
The best scenes, for me, were filmed at Hever Castle & Gardens, the Boleyn family home. The historic buildings and grounds are open to visitors in Kent. Check out how magical it looks at Christmas!