Wow! Wow! Wow! I think those words were being said a lot today as we were all wowed by the history and beauty of Hever Castle, which is where we are based for the Anne Boleyn Experience.
The Perfect Start to a Perfect Day
After breakfast (Full English Breakfast – yum!), some of us went and sat outside our wing (the Astor Wing) to enjoy the view. In one direction was the castle with its moat and in the other was the river with two swans sitting on the bank, I called them Anne and Henry. Idyllic just doesn’t describe how it was.
Hever Castle Tour
This morning we had a private tour of the main castle before it opened to the public, which was great because it was quiet and we could ask questions and thoroughly immerse ourselves in Anne’s world. To walk where Anne had once walked was an incredible experience and it was amazing to see her Books of Hours “in the flesh” and portraits like my favourite Anne portrait, the one where she is holding a rose. When David Starkey said that Hever had the best Tudor portrait gallery outside of the National Portrait Gallery, he really wasn’t joking – the whole Tudor dynasty are on the walls looking down at you!
After our tour we were free to go back into the castle to explore it at our leisure or to go round the gardens. As it was a beautiful sunny day, I chose the gardens and I was not disappointed – so many flowers and so much blossom, so colourful. I couldn’t help but pause a while and wonder if Henry had wooed Anne just where I was standing. Wow!
The Henry VIII Show
After a very tasty buffet lunch and more time to enjoy the castle and its grounds, we finally met Henry VIII! We enjoyed an informative and highly entertaining puppet show with Henry VIII, his six wives, Cromwell and Wolsey as its stars. John who played Henry was incredible. He looked the part, wearing an outift which was a replica from the famous Hans Holbein portrait, and his voice was rich, powerful and commanding. He WAS Henry, he just brought him to life. What was interesting is that as we saw Henry interact with each wife many of us commented on how it gave us a new understanding of how and why Henry acted as he did, some of us began to even feel a little sympathy!
After the amazing show, we had our photos taken posing with Henry and there were four of us who dressed up in our Tudor finery – it was really funny when members of the public started asking us to pose! We then had a Q&A session, which was brilliant because John has been researching the Tudor period for 40 years and is a great story teller too. There were four of us who dressed up in our Tudor finery and it was really funny when members of the public
Dinner at the Castle
Another treat today was having our dinner actually in the main castle dining room. The main part of this room had been roped off when we took the tour this morning, yet tonight we were actually allowed to sit at the dining tables and eat there – some of us actually had to pinch ourselves to make sure that we were not dreaming because to sit there and gaze at the huge Tudor tapestry, the portraits, the panelling, the huge fireplace and the Minstrels gallery, and be treated like Royalty, was a unique experience and one which will remain with me for the rest of my life. Anne must have eaten in that very room!
After dinner, we went through to the entrance hall for a talk and slideshow from Hever historian, Anna Spender. The talk was really interesting because Anna used primary sources to show the Boleyn family link to Hever – Henry’s love letters to Anne while she was at Hever, letters from amabassadors mentioning Anne having sweating sickness at Hever or hiding away at Hever to prevent gossip. Her talk was backed up with images of letters, documents and portraits. I was lucky enough to be seated by the portraits of Anne and Mary Boleyn and it was hard not to be distracted sometimes as they gazed down at me.
The Castle at Night
The Hever Castle staff are being amazing and I am so grateful already for all their help with the Anne Boleyn Experience. After our talk, they had arranged for us to go across the drawbridge and out of the castle to take photos of the castle lit up at night – atmospheric just doesn’t describe it well enough!
What an incredible day! You can see more of today’s photos at http://www.flickr.com/photos/theanneboleynfiles/sets/72157624090080910/ – Enjoy!