Why are readers insatiable when it comes to the Tudor period?
It’s probably the most dramatic period in our history, with vivid, strong personalities. A king with six wives, two of whom were executed? You couldn’t make it up! The Tudor period is the first one for which we have a rich visual record, with the growth of portraiture, and detailed sources on the private lives of kings and queens. This was an age that witnessed a growth in diplomacy and the spread of the printed word. With Henry VIII’s matrimonial problems at the forefront of affairs, the royal marriage became a subject of legitimate public interest, with no detail too trivial to escape notice.
What do you think was and still is the lure of Anne Boleyn?
Again, her story is very dramatic, and controversy rages as to what she was really like. She can be all things to all people: romantic heroine, religious reformer, vindictive marriage breaker, political operator, tragic victim or desperate adulteress. Even though she has been dead for the best part of five centuries, she still attracts controversy.
Who is your favourite of Henry VIII’s queens and why?
I find Anne Boleyn the most fascinating, but my favourite is Katherine of Aragon, whose integrity and staunch moral principles I so much admire. I named my daughter after her.
I’ve read that you have researched the lives of all the medieval queens of England, what drew you to this period?
I’m just interested in the lives of medieval women, particularly queens, who led such ritualised and circumscribed lives. The histories of most medieval queens are obscured by romantic myths, and I want to get beyond that.
Do you prefer to write non-fiction or historical fiction?
I see myself primarily as a historian, but I very much enjoy writing historical fiction. I want to strike a blow for authenticity!
If you could ask any historical personality a question, what would it be and who would you ask?
Well, Anne, did you do it?