Words fail me (that’s rather unusual!) because as I sit here in my room I’m struggling with how to get across to you the magic of today… I’ll try…
Sunshine and showers were forecast for today but the rain held off until a few minutes ago, as I’m on my way to bed, so we were able to fully enjoy our day at Hever Castle. After breakfast, we had a private guided tour of the castle before it opened to the public. Tim and I have done this tour on a few occasions but never have we been shown things like the light switches which William Waldorf Astor hid behind the Tudor style panelling – clever! After the tour, some of us walked up to St Peter’s Church to pay our respects to Thomas Boleyn and the Boleyn child buried there, while others chose to enjoy the gardens and the gift shop.
We met again for a buffet lunch – hard to find room for it after a full English breakfast! – and then had free time to enjoy the castle and gardens before our talk from Anna Spender, the Hever historian. Anna was excellent, she spoke about Anne Boleyn’s links to Hever and primary sources which are evidence of the time she spent here, including the love letters which Henry VIII wrote to her at Hever and reports of her returning to Hever at various points, for example when the Papal legate, Cardinal Campeggio, came to England. What I found really interesting was the evidence that Anne of Cleves had spent time at Hever, contrary to what many people say. We don’t just have the letter she wrote to Mary I, where she refers to her “poor” house at Hever, the German archives also contain letters written by Anne to her brother from Hever regarding her love of the local honey!
After Anna’s talk, we had more free time to soak up the magic of the castle and grounds, and you really cannot get enough of Hever – the rose gardens, the lake, the Italian gardens, the maze, the Anne Boleyn walk, the castle itself… it’s amazing and everyone fell in love with it. We then had the wonderful treat of dining in the main castle dining room and having Professor Eric Ives join us for dinner. Eric was very shocked to learn that we all view him as a bit of a celebrity, but was pleased to know that we all think of him like a film star! Dinner was followed by a talk and slide show from Eric, which we all thoroughly enjoyed. There’s no-one better to talk on Anne and he did her real justice. His love for her, his passion for his subject, shone through and we all went away happy, with our books signed too and photos with the man himself. When I say that many of us were walking on air, I’m not exaggerating.
Well, perhaps, I haven’t struggled for words after all, but I still don’t think I’ve really conveyed the magic of today. We’ve all fallen under Hever’s spell and we all feel much closer to Anne Boleyn, the woman that has brought this group together and formed a bond between us. Incredible!