I am delighted to be hosting the third day of Adrienne Dillard’s book tour for her novel, The Raven’s Widow: A novel of Jane Boleyn. To mark the occasion, Adrienne has written a wonderful guest post about her recent visit to Hampton Court Palace.
I’m also excited to announce that thanks to the generosity of MadeGlobal Publishing, I have a copy of Adrienne’s book to give away! (See conditions of entry below).
The river was as calm as I had ever seen it. Ordinarily, the tide would have been wild by this time of year, and woe unto any man unfortunate enough to fall into the fierce currents of the Thames. Tonight the tides were still, and the surface of the water appeared glassy. When I peered down into the dark depths, I saw my tired, drawn face wavering in the reflection. I quickly turned away as I fought back a wave of nausea, frightened by the anguish I saw etched there.
“Only a few moments more my lady, the Tower is just ahead.”
Jane Parker never dreamed that her marriage into the Boleyn family would raise her star to such dizzying heights. Before long, she finds herself as trusted servant and confidante to her sister-in-law, Anne Boleyn; King Henry VIII’s second queen. On a gorgeous spring day, that golden era is cut short by the swing of a sword. Jane is unmoored by the tragic death of her husband, George, and her loss sets her on a reckless path that leads to her own imprisonment in the Tower of London. Surrounded by the remnants of her former life, Jane must come to terms with her actions. In the Tower, she will face up to who she really is and how everything went so wrong.
Conditions of Entry
For your chance to win a copy of The Raven’s Widow, you must be subscribed to On the Tudor Trail’s newsletter (if you are not already, sign up on our homepage where it says ‘Free Enewsletter Subscription’).
Then simply leave a comment after this post between now and 11 April 2017. Don’t forget to leave your name and a contact email. Please note that I have comment moderation activated and need to ‘approve’ comments before they appear. There is no need to submit your comment twice.
This giveaway is open internationally.
A winner will be selected randomly and contacted by email shortly after the competition closes. Please ensure you’ve added email@example.com to your address book to avoid missing my email.
Head over to MadeGlobal Publishing for your chance to win the following fantastic prize:
1) A kindle e-reader
2) A prize bundle consisting of a custom made Grandioso Pendant featuring the image from the cover of Adrienne’s book, plus a Henry VIII and Six Wives Drinks Charms set AND an Anne Boleyn & Henry VIII Scarf.
In the Footsteps of Jane Boleyn: Hampton Court Palace
By Adrienne Dillard
It’s been over six months now since I visited Henry VIII’s grand palace, but I still can’t get it out of my head. In fact, I’ve come to wonder if one ever quite does get the beauty and quiet majesty of Hampton Court out of their mind. As I reflect on that magical day last autumn when I finally found myself walking through the very same halls as Jane Boleyn, Lady Rochford, I’m starting to doubt that I ever will.
On a bright September morning fellow MadeGlobal author, Sandi Vasoli, her husband, Tom, and I hopped into the car with our friends, Catherine and David, and then headed out of the bustling city of London. We were packed in like sardines, but we didn’t care – we were going to see Hampton Court! David made me sit up front so I could get the whole England Experience…You know, riding on the wrong side of the road while I nearly jump out of my skin as we dodge traffic and pedestrians! The pace finally slowed once we got closer to the palace, where we were greeted by the resident deer as the car crept quietly through the estate. Having grown up in rural Montana, I was used to seeing these beautiful animals, but never quite so close. I just could not believe how tame they seemed! I was even more agog when I learned later that they were descendants of Henry VIII’s original herd.
By the time we got situated in the car park, the rest of the group had arrived, so we grabbed our tickets and headed to the main entrance. We were in for a treat that day…We had an extra special tour guide waiting for us in front of the rich red brick gatehouse: The Anne Boleyn Society founder, James Peacock! James works at Hampton Court and it became clear immediately that he was well-versed in its history. His commentary on all that we would see that day made the visit unforgettable.
Before we headed into Base Court, James led us through a vine covered arch into the gardens. As we made our way through the still lush landscape, he gave us the background on each section: what it is used for now, and what it used to be. I was taken aback when we walked through the area that had once been Henry VIII’s tiltyard. It was almost impossible to imagine what it looked like all those centuries ago, but when I concentrated really hard, I thought I heard the clang of steel and the thunder of hoof beats. Our group was a mixed bag of Brits and Americans (even an Aussie too!) so we had fun comparing the differences in our names for produce when we went through the Kitchen Garden. “Rocket? What’s that?” I asked with a laugh.
When we completed our circle through the gardens, James led us into Base Court, where I made a beeline straight for the centerpiece of the courtyard, the replica fountain from the Field of Cloth of Gold. Jane’s appearance at the event was one of the very first scenes I wrote in The Raven’s Widow and I’m still surprised my eyes didn’t bore holes into the painting I had spent hours studying to get the scene right. I was completely gobsmacked when I finally got to see the actual painting inside the palace, but the fountain was the perfect teaser. I quickly made myself comfortable next to the recumbent figure and mugged for the camera as I faked swiping the goblet from the seated figure. “A drink for me? You shouldn’t have!”
I’m sure I looked like the typical tourist, wandering around with my mouth hanging open and my eyes wide in awe when we finally entered the building. I kept pinching myself as we traipsed through the rooms where Henry and his court lived, convinced that it was all just a dream. We took our time, soaking up the portraiture and architecture, before heading to the royal apartments of a much later monarch, William III. To be quite honest, I’ve never been very interested in much of the post-Tudor history, so I expected that I wouldn’t enjoy this area as much. However, I found myself very much mistaken, and I have James Peacock to thank for it! The history lesson he gave was the perfect accompaniment to the magnificent tapestries and furnishings surrounding us. I found myself enraptured by his knowledge.
We passed by the Royal Chapel as we scurried to our next stop, lunch in the Privy Kitchen Café. Much tittering was heard as we all confirmed that we wanted to see it after we ate. It turned out to be worth the wait and then some. I didn’t know what to expect when I stepped through the humble doorway leading into the chapel, but I was completely unprepared for the gorgeous scene that awaited me. The first thing I noticed when I walked in was the brilliant gilded ceiling above me. It quite literally took my breath away. I stared at this marvel for at least five straight minutes, drinking in the glittering stars and intricate carvings; the king’s motto, Dieu et Mon Droit, highlighted against an electric blue background. A band of gold angels stared back at me from their perches high above. In the quiet I heard a whisper behind me. “You know this is where Catherine Carey died?” James confirmed. I felt goose bumps prick on my skin. Catherine’s final breaths weren’t taken in the chapel, of course, but it might have been where she murmured her last prayers. I muttered my own prayer for her and then moved towards the altar to light a candle.
I stayed in the chapel a little longer, gathering my thoughts, before going forward. I tried to picture both Catherine Carey and Jane Boleyn kneeling in prayer or celebrating mass in this very room. I thought of Thomas Cranmer sneaking his letter of accusations against Katherine Howard into the king’s pew. I closed my eyes and conjured up the scent of incense and the trilling voices of the choir boys. In those moments I was transported.
I hadn’t quite come down from my “history high” by the time we entered Henry VIII’s royal apartments, but I knew it was time to snap to attention. This was where the action I was going to write about happened, I needed to take notes! As you might expect, the great hall was awe-inspiring, but I was a bit surprised by how small it seemed. It was crazy to think of how many people would have been crammed into it during one of the king’s famous banquets. Even crazier to imagine how packed it would have been for the long-awaited heir’s baptism in 1537. An enormous set of tapestries depicting the Biblical story of Abraham dominates the room, and one can’t help but wonder how brilliant the colors were when it was created for the king. On the paneled wall just inside the room, I found one of the very last pieces of evidence still in existence of the falcon queen, Anne Boleyn. The letters H and A were entwined right above my head.
While Beth von Staats (of Queen Anne Boleyn Historical Writers) and I surveyed the scene from the two thrones at the head of the great table, a reenactor dressed as Lord Chancellor Thomas Wriotheseley breezed past us on his way to arrest the queen. The sight of this figure hurrying by made the events of 1541 seem all the more real; I kept that image in mind when we stepped out of the great hall and into the great watching chamber where Katherine Howard’s ladies were summoned to hear the news that the queen’s household was being disbanded. I felt a wave of sadness when I thought about Jane and Katherine, imprisoned somewhere nearby, while this was going on. I soberly wandered through the halls of the royal apartments, replaying the details in my head. I was so lost in thought that I completely missed the actual reenactment of the events going on inside the council chamber! I was devastated when I found out an hour later, but it’s kind of funny now that I think about it!
Having made our way through the royal apartments, we set a course for the one of the most popular exhibits at Hampton Court, the Tudor Kitchen. To my great pleasure, we were met by a glorious fire already roaring in the enormous fireplace. Of course we had to take our turns standing next to the spits to see just how blisteringly hot it would be to stand there all day turning the roast. Those poor servants really deserved their extra rations of beer! We marveled at the sheer size of the rooms and the way in which it was laid out for maximum efficiency. I loved the little arched ovens built into the walls.
Before we stumbled back out into the glaring sunlight, we took in the other amazing sights Hampton Court had to offer: the beautiful Georgian apartments, the fountain court, and the Cumberland Art Gallery. My favorite part of these three areas had to be Wolsey’s Closet. If we hadn’t gone into the art gallery, we would have missed it and the treasure that it contains. Hidden away in the dark-wood paneled room is one of the few remaining portraits of King Henry VIII painted during his lifetime. The saturated colors and details are so vivid you can almost see every brushstroke. It’s really quite extraordinary.
When the day finally came to an end, we headed back out to the car park and then piled into the car for the ride back to London. I was still giddy from finally seeing the place where my historical heroines had spent so much time, but I felt sad to leave it behind. I think I could spend hours just soaking up the memories of all that happened there in the last five centuries, both joyous and tragic. I can’t wait to go back and see it all again, and this time I’m going to actually see those gorgeous gardens!
Adrienne Dillard, author of “The Raven’s Widow: A Novel of Jane Boleyn” is a graduate with a Bachelor of Arts in Liberal Studies with emphasis in History from Montana State University-Northern. She has been an eager student of history for most of her life and has completed in-depth research on the American Revolutionary War time period in American History and the history and sinking of the Titanic. Her senior university capstone paper was on the discrepancies in passenger lists on the ill-fated liner and Adrienne was able to work with Philip Hind of Encyclopedia Titanica for much of her research on that subject. Her previous works include best-selling novel,“Cor Rotto: A Novel of Catherine Carey” and “Catherine Carey in a Nutshell” for MadeGlobal’s History in a Nutshell series. When she isn’t writing, Adrienne works as an administrative assistant in the financial services industry and enjoys spending time with her husband, Kyle, and son, Logan, at their home in the Pacific Northwest.
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