Claire is angry – watch out! Claire has got her soap box in hand and is about to get on to her high horse and is writing in the third person so something must have really ‘got her goat’, as they say in England.

OK, so back to first person… I am soooooo annoyed. Eliza (thank you, Eliza!) has just pointed out the absolutely ridiculous blurb that goes with Josephine Wilkinson’s latest book, “Anne Boleyn: The Young Queen to Be”, which says, and I quote:-

“Anne Boleyn is perhaps the most engaging of Henry VIII’s Queens. For her he would divorce his wife of some twenty years standing, he would take on the might of the Roman Church and the Holy Roman Empire; he would even alienate his own people in order to win her favour and, eventually, her hand.

But before Henry came into her life Anne Boleyn had already wandered down love’s winding path. She had learned its twists and turns during her youth spent at the courts of the Low Countries and France, where she had been sent as a result of her scandalous behaviour with her father’s butler and chaplain. Here her education had been directed by two of the strongest women of the age – and one of the weakest.”

Now, I’ve put the annoying bit in bold, just in case you missed it or are new to The AB Files and don’t know that I get annoyed by myths and pure poppycock. Before I go into detail regarding this myth, I want to make it clear that I have no problem with Josephine Wilkinson at all, I think she is an extremely good historian, but it is the publisher’s blurb that lets her down with this book. I remember reading the blurb for her last book, “The Early Loves of Anne Boleyn”, which, funnily enough, is exactly the same as this book, and being put off it. Fortunately, I did go on and read “The Early Loves”, which is a very interesting book, and Wilkinson says quite clearly on page 34 of the hardback version that Nicholas Sander’s tale of Anne being sent away at the age of 15 because she had fooled around with her father’s chaplain and butler “is untrue”. It is dealt with, and refuted, in one paragraph, yet this salacious myth is included in the publisher’s blurb and makes it sound like Wilkinson believes it and is claiming that it is the reason Anne was sent to the Continent – face palm, bang head on brick wall, put head in gas oven… Grrrr!!! It really makes me mad.

The story of Anne Boleyn, the butler and the chaplain comes from Nicholas Sander, a Catholic recusant during the reign of Anne’s daughter, Elizabeth I, who also described Anne as having six fingers, a protruding tooth and a large wen on her neck. In his work “Rise and Growth of the Anglican Schism”, Sander wrote:-

“At fifteen she sinned first with her father’s butler, and then with his chaplain, and forthwith was sent to France, and placed at the expense of the King, under the care of a certain nobleman not far from Brie. Soon afterwards she appeared at the French court where she was called the English mare, because of her shameless behaviour; and then the royal mule, when she became acquainted with the King of France.”

No other source backs up Sander’s story and we know that Anne was in the Low Countries before France and that the reason she was sent there was because of her intelligence and her father’s friendship with Margaret of Austria, not her inappropriate behaviour. Plus, she was 12 when she was sent abroad, not 15! I wonder if Sander is confusing Anne with her sister Mary, who Francis I allegedly nicknamed his “English Mare” and boasted about the amount of times he had ridden her.

I am incensed that this silly tale, which has no basis or foundation, is being used to sell this book, and I bet that Wilkinson disregards it as a myth anyway. Surely this type of blurb and publicity puts more people off than it attracts?? What do you think?

Rant over! Well, for now…

P.S. Sue has just drawn my attention to an interview I did with Josephine Wilkinson ages ago when her “The Early Loves of Anne Boleyn” was published:-

“Claire – The blurb on Amazon about your book mentions the Sander story about Anne being banished abroad for becoming entangled with her father’s chaplain and butler, do you think there is any truth in this?

Josephine – I don’t think there was any truth in it; Sander was a recusant Catholic living in exile. Whatever we might think of those who slander people who are in no position to fight back, we have to acknowledge that he had his own reasons for saying the things he did.”

So, don’t let the blurb put you off this book, I’m sure Wilkinson has not changed her mind about Sander!

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61 thoughts on “Anne Boleyn, the Butler, the Chaplain and other such Poppycock!”
  1. Well yes, Claire, actually I just recently read your Interview with Dr Josephine Wilkinson on October 26, 2009 about her book entitled ‘The Early Loves of Anne Boleyn’ and you asked her:

    Claire – The blurb on Amazon about your book mentions the Sander story about Anne being banished abroad for becoming entangled with her father’s chaplain and butler, do you think there is any truth in this?

    Josephine – I don’t think there was any truth in it; Sander was a recusant Catholic living in exile. Whatever we might think of those who slander people who are in no position to fight back, we have to acknowledge that he had his own reasons for saying the things he did.

    …so it looks like the publisher repeated the same blurb from that book. Shouldn’t Josephine be aware of this and have some input on what the publishers says about HER book??

    1. Yes, if I was Josephine I’d be going mad at them because surely the book is aimed at those who are interested in Anne Boleyn and those same people want the myths debunked not given credence.

  2. Totally agree Claire,
    Historic facts are not convenient enough for a good tag line.
    Such a pity.

  3. Thank you, Claire, for using again your soapbox, because the circumstances require it!!

    When I read the summary of the book the AB Files and you, Claire, were the first thoughts that came in my mind, because of the hard work you do to discover “the real truth about Anne”. And that’s why we should not let this malicious lies being spread, because there are people who actually believe them.

    As you mentioned in the facebook site, real history and Tudor lovers would be put off by these lies. It’s disappointing how editors change the authors’ views in their quest for more sales.

    1. And I forgot to mention that of course the author should not “pay” for the editors’ and publishers’ fault. Thank you for making clear that Josephine Wilkinson actually dismisses this slander as untrue.

  4. I love you! For this website and for your passion – especially your dedication to the truth that gets you worked up enough to go into third-person mode. I think everyone is allowed their soapbox moments, especially when they are as well informed as yours are. Thank you!! 🙂

  5. I love you on the soapbox, Claire. Do you mean to say this book, under a different title, is the same as the Early Loves of AB? I want to get the book but wanted to be clear about which was which, etc. Very strange that the publishers used that as a blurb–especially since it sounds to me like someone is getting Anne mixed up wtih her sister, Mary. Mary is the elder sister and much more likely to have experimented with the butler! Though I doubt that is true either. I’m sure they thought it sounded more tantalized to imply that Anne had been around the block a few times before she even arrived in ENgland. It’s unfortunate to mislead people. Oh well, I still would be very interested in the book 🙂

    1. I seem to live on my soapbox! I’m assuming that it’s different because of the title but the blurb being identical to the last one is very misleading. I can understand publishers wanting to make something sound interesting but if I was Josephine Wilkinson I would not be happy about the fact that the blurb may alienate many Tudor history lovers.

  6. Thank you so much for clearing this up, Claire! I was just planning to order this book on Amazon and then I saw this blurb, and I was so shocked because I have never heard anything like that! 😉 Thank you.
    Best wishes,

  7. Chill Claire, Go next door for a large wine and take Sir Tim with you.
    The publisher could not think of anything new to write.

    1. I’ve already done that, Morag, and it didn’t help!! You’re right, it’s a case of a publisher being rather lazy, which is a shame when this could be hailed as a really good book.

  8. Without letting the publisher off the hook, I have to add that I was given the jacket copy for every book I have ever written for my approval. This is standard procedure, as far as I know. So either Josephine was not paying attention, or she went along with this, or Amberly has very different policies from the four different publishing houses that I have dealt with. If so, they really need to hear from Josephine. Why, if she knows the blurb is misleading, didn’t she protest?

    1. That’s what I don’t understand because I actually asked Josephine about this myth when the blurb mentioned it on her last book and she was quite adamant about it being a myth. I don’t know Amberley’s policies but I can’t understand them using the same blurb twice either.

      1. I’m afraid that this is probably Josephine Wilkinson’s fault. The people who make these blurbs up never get it right, they are only interested in sensationalizing and selling books, and it’s up to the author to make sure his or her work is accurately represented. Even if for some reason it slipped by her with the first book (which is hard for me to believe), she had plenty of time to protest with this new one. I do wonder, too, whether this isn’t the same book, but re-titled. The fact that the blurb is the same is very suspicious. I too have read the earlier one–it’s sitting right here now beside me at my desk–and I’m going straight to amazon to see if there is any info on this.

        1. I couldn’t find anything to solve the mystery on Amazon and when I looked on Amberley it has both books listed with different ISBN number, titles and page numbers, so I assume they’re 2 different titles. If they’re the same then it really should be pointed out as people end up buying the book again, which is so annoying!

  9. I love it when you get on your soapbox!!!! Especially about debunking this stuff that we read and people actually believe! Thank you!!!! Don’t think I will be reading this book anytime soon!

    1. Thank you, I love being on it, it makes me feel so much taller!! Don’t let it put you off the book, I think it’s a case of the publisher being in the wrong with trying to publicise it.

  10. Okay, so I went to Amazon, and what is suspicious is that the bio note about the author doesn’t list the earlier book. Other than that, there is no info since the book isn’t out yet. But I find the following line in the Amazon blurb for the new book may be “informatiive”: “A well-loved area of English history, the Tudors have grown further in popularity due to the BBC TV show The Tudors whose the final 4th series has just run early in the spring reaching audiences of 3 million viewers in the UK and more in the USA.” It’s because of the show, in my opinion, that Bernard cranked out “Fatal Attractions” from what was essentially an obscure scholarly article. And it may be that because of the show they are re-issuing “The Early Loves” but with a new title. I may have to eat my words, of course, and it won’t be the first time I’m wrong about something. But putting everything together–the blurb, the fact that both titles essentially refer to the same period in Anne’s life, the lack of mention of the earlier book on the Amazon site–I have my suspicions.

  11. Just a brief addendum: the ISBN number doesn’t mean anything. They change the number even when a hardback is issued in a paperback. When my “Unbearable Weight” came out in a second edition (same title!) it had a different ISBN number.

    1. Susan, Amberley have confirmed that it is a re-issue of “The Early Loves of Anne Boleyn” and that the title has been changed because their marketing department were unhappy with the original title.

  12. Not only is the blurb inaccurate, it’s bad writing. I had to read all the way down to the quote from Sanders to find out whether the butler and the chaplain reference was to one man or two. Anyway, I think Anne of Cleves is the most engaging wife. I love her sturdy good humor and pragmatism. She had the perfect life – money, status,and independence. All she had to do was be willing to be set aside from a marriage to an obese, murderous, megalomaniac. Tough decision, but she had the strength of character of Brer Rabbit and let them throw her into the briar patch.

  13. Lacey Baldwin Smith’s 1961 classic on Katheryn Howard was originally titled ‘A Tudor Tragedy : the life and times of Catherine Howard’ but in recent years it was reprinted as ‘Catherine Howard :the Queen whose adulteries made a fool of Henry VIII’. Doesn’t have the same ring to it, in my humble opinion. I think that was Amberley as well.

    It’s the headless women on the covers that I cannot stand!

  14. let me get this straight – a catholic during QE 1’s reign says her mother messed around with the butler and the chaplin and had to be sent to France to learn more deviant ways? like he wouldn’t have an agenda to really implicate that QE was really not eligible to be queen because her mother slept around even if he has to slander his own religion (the catholic chaplin) to do it! I think the L must have fallen out of his last name! what became of slanderous mr sanders? did he flee to the continent to learn deviant ways to libel his queen and her mother?
    I do hate it when book jackets go off the deep end to sell a book!

  15. Wow, you really have had a good work out today, getting up and down on that soap box Claire I bet you’re exhausted, ha ha. Good for you though. A bit of an oversight of the authoress, I think, letting her book be introduced by such a non-sensical statement such as that….anyway I hope you have cooled down a bit now, and managed to enjoy the 4th of July celebrations, mine you no need for fireworks with you about today 🙂 Hope all you ladies and gents on the sight have a great day too. Happy Independence Day.

  16. Unfortunately Claire, sex and scandal sell in this age. And who is going to sue the publisher for libel? Henry? Anne? The Boleyn family?

    Since you’ve already read this book, and know that Dr. Wilkinson has her facts straight, calling for a boycott of this particular book would be unfair to her.

    Instead, send your sizzling rant to the publisher that they have done Dr. Wilkinson, a respected historian, a TERRIBLE disservice by printing such “poppycock” on the cover of her book.

    I’ve read some DUMB blurbs on books in my time, that the author had no control over, and this keeps up that idiotic tradition.

    1. I would have thought that an author would have a say, as Susan Bordo says above every book that she has had published the book jacket is sent for approval, and it is up to her to make sure her book is represented correctly…. but who knows maybe this publishing house has different ways. The blurb has made it sound like a trashy novel. And I dont think Claire or anyone else has suggested the book be boycotted.

      1. It’s hard to know what the truth is in this situation regarding the book cover and author control but, as Dawn says, in no way was I suggesting a boycott as it is my feeling that Josephine Wilkinson had nothing to do with the blurb, particularly as she only mentioned it in passing in the book and very quickly said it was nonsense.

      2. I misspoke – about a boycott. Usually, folks who are enthusiasts about whatever subject, who feel their beloved subject was misrepresented, they boycott or call for a boycott for such a thing. Claire is NOT calling for a boycott, and she is right not to do so, especially since she knows the author does not endorse the information contained in this blurb.

        What I meant was that yes, Claire (and anyone else who feels so strongly) should send an e mail to the publisher expressing their disappointment in such a blurb, but not encourage (fellow enthusiasts) or threaten (the publishers) with a boycott, since it would be unfair to the author.

        Though you do make an interesting point – Ms. Bordo DOES have say over the jacket copy on her books, including any blurbs, but that might be the difference between her publisher and Dr. Wilkinson’s.

        Again, the difference might be that someone copied and pasted the offending blurb on at the last second, trying for a little sensationalism. A few years ago, a studio in Hollywood was caught, red-handed, making up positive critical reviews, which they tacked onto movie posters, in order to encourage people to see the movie, based on the positive reviews. Maybe that happened in this case?

  17. I think it is not uncommon for publishers to reissue books when they want to tap into current trends–in this case, “Tudormania” caused by the series (whose multitudinous inaccuracies get me on my soapbox, but that’s another story).

    Alas, I fear that Philippa Gregory’s salacious take on Anne is responsible for a great deal of this; it seems to have become almost obligatory for popular takes on Anne since the unfortunate appearance of The Other Boleyn Girl to include one or more of the following elements: a) deformed fetus; b) transgressive sex, including incest; c) her brother being gay (b + c are not mutually exclusive). If we can throw in six fingers on one of Anne’s hands, so much the better.

    I do get tired of the misogynist overtones of all of this, so bravo for getting on the soapbox, Claire.

  18. The answer is quite simple – just avoid all books published by Amberley as they are all rubbish, cobbled together rather hastily to a market. Do any of Amberley writers do orginal research? I don’t think so…………….

    1. Eminent historian, David Loades, has actually moved to Amberley so I don’t think the authors should be punished for bad marketing. I take your point about some of the authors churning books out at quite a rate but I wonder if that is pressure from the publisher rather than them themselves.

      1. This an old book of David Loades, one that was published years ago! (Not a new work). Amberley just rehashes old works, in my opinion but I fail to see how authors would not take an interest in how their works are marketed, especially when it is their literary reputations at stake. However, it appears several of them are only interested in taking the King’s shilling. I remember years ago, when Eric Ive’s biography of Anne was published, it was a specialised and scholarly work and very expensive (about £25.00) and aimed very specifically at academic markets.

        (Bit of a storm in a tea cup as this information on this book has been on the web, to my knowledge for a few weeks.)

        1. The Henry VIII one that has just come out is new, David Loades was commissioned by Amberley to write it and explains that in his introduction. It’s a huge biography, nothing like his old shorter book on Henry.
          Yes, this info has been on the web for weeks, and in fact over a year because the book is actually a re-issue of Wilkinson’s “The Early Loves”, but it is causing a stir right now and so that’s why I have written about it. I’ve received quite a few emails from people who have seen the book on Amazon who are asking me if the story about Anne being banished to France is right and it is easier to answer it in a post rather than send lots and lots of emails. These myths need challenging.

  19. Claire, I’ve been told by several authors that they get no control over their covers, and this may well extend to what publishers choose to have descriptions or quotations as well. Ann Rule, the great US true crime writer had to fight her publishers to take the sexy laced boots off a depiction of one of the victims on the cover of “Green River Running Red” about Gary Ridgway and the young girl prostitutes he murdered. So instead they used a high heel strapped shoe! They can’t win.

  20. Dearest Claire,

    I so adore you and look forward to your articles. . . your passion and energy is very enviable and quite contagious! Thank you for standing up and taking your place on the soapbox! I so look forward to meeting you one day.

  21. To be fair though, the author does get to see the blurb before it’s printed. Quite a long time before it’s printed and any strenuous objections are noted. Although, maybe that’s different at Amberley?

    Obviously, given my own interpretation on Anne’s youth, I’m even less inclined to believe the chaplain story. I say “believe,” as if it’s worthy of credence! Along with the buck teeth, multiple warts, sallow skin, extra fingers and extra nipples.

  22. The publisher wouldn’t have had the information to write without the author providing it.
    Historical fiction is one thing, but character defamation based on unfounded rumors is another. Anne Boleyn was not guilty of the charges against her in 1536 and it is just as unlikely that she was involved with anyone as a young teen either in England or abroad. Look at the letter sent to Thomas Boleyn from Archduchess Margaret of Austria in 1513, that speaks loudly of her character, as does the lack of rumors from other sources.
    Supporting you on the soapbox Claire!

  23. Claire the Truth Seeker! Stay on your soapbox; it is the proper place for you! In fact, it should be one of gold! Those of us who do not have the means or time to do the research are relying on you to do it for us!! Especially those of us across the pond, thousands of miles from all the places that was a part of Anne’s life. Without you, we would have to wait and wait and wait for new theories, new finds, and new authors and books. Now we have an advocate doing all the leg work for us and all we have to do is log in! Hooray for you and Sir Tim!!

  24. This isn’t just the paperback version of ‘The Early Loves of Anne Boleyn’ is it? I have that and the blurb is exactly the same so I’m wondering if they just altered the tagline for the paperback. I also see that on Amazons UK site ‘Anne Boleyn: The Young Queen To be’ is only available in paperback, whereas if it was a whole new book they usually release it as a hardback first.

    1. I’ve checked with Amberley and they say it is a re-issue of “The Early Loves” and that they changed the name because they were unhappy with the original title. I find it annoying when they change titles without warning people because it means that people end up buying two copies of the same book.

      1. Does it say on the Amazon listing or the book its self that this is a re issue formerly under another title….because if it doesnt I would have thought that was a form of mis-representation, its conning people into thinking that it is a newly written novel when it isnt. If you are browsing in a book shop you will know near enough instantly whether or not you have read the book without buying, if you buy through mail order you dont have that option, you have to rely on the blurb and title. Then on receiving the book you are going to be so disappointed and peed off that you have bought the same book twice,and all the hassel of getting your money back, returning it probably at your expense and nothing to read!! Dont know about the rest of you, but to me it seems that this could be deemed as unfair trading, and illegal…..

  25. I totally agree with you Claire. It’s so wrong when people change history around just to sell books or because they dont like somthing that happen.The sad thing is it’s going on right now in the states by the right wing so sad.

  26. I’m sorry to say that taking gross liberties with historical facts has not been helped at all by the dreadful TV series ‘The Tudors’. Authors and Producers now think that just about anything can be justified in the cause of entertainment. They just bleat on about Artistic Licence.

  27. Thank goodness there are people like you are not afraid to point out the lazy editors in this world. I never heard such rot and I do mean that. Thank goodness we have YOU. Keep up the points and we’ll help you on your soapbox. Have a COOL ONE and keep us aware of these blurbs. Cheers.

  28. I’m really enjoying this conversation. Just a few additional comments: I think it’s a very different thing to reprint a 1961 book with a new title, and to reprint one that is still very current with a new title. (But then, we don’t know yet whether this is the case with this book! I don’t want to perpetuate any false rumors, the situation has just raised my suspicions) Re. publisher’s control over covers: My experience–and it is with four different publishers–is that an author may have to fight for something, but we ARE consulted at some point about jacket copy and cover. However, my last published book was in 2004, and it may be that the economic situation has made some publishing houses more “ruthless” since then. If so, it’s a bad state of affairs. These books are our children, and for them to go out into the world dressed in a sl*tty or messy fashion without our permission isn’t right!! I for one have always insisted on having a major say in what my books look like and how they are advertised, and I’ve always found the publishers very obliging! In the case of a mega best-seller like Anne Rule, I’m sure that they are much more insistent on what they think will make the most money. But I’m not in that category, so perhaps they feel that they have less “investment”) In any case, I’m really glad that “Claire the truth-seeker” is on this case!!!

  29. Anne Boleyn with the butler and the chaplain in the marmalade cupboard 😉

    tehee sorry, just could’nt resist it *giggle*

  30. Claire,

    I completely understand your frustration…. a few days ago when you posted about the OCMOA and how they are telling people that visit their museum that C of A died in Spain and not England! I was livid…I emailed them and told them that they should be ashamed….their is no debate about where she died and that being in their position, they are required to get it right! Not only that but, it was embarrassing to me being a museum in my country completely slaughtering English history which I hold so dear! – I then asked them what their exhibit has to say about Anne Boleyn?? What? “that she hid her lover/brother in a cupboard in her chamber and as she carefully turned the handle with her six fingers and tilted her head to peek inside, the huge growth on her neck got in the way??” I mean REALLY??
    I told my father-in-law about it and he also confirmed that is was poppycock…(my father-in-law is English – born in a village called,”Crawlingdown”…he says its in Surrey but very-very close to Suffolk)….I can not stand it when I see things like this…and espeacially about my Anne…I mean its been 475 years since her death and people are still, excuse my language, but crapping on her name! Enough is enough already!

  31. who the hell wrote this disgusting fiction again? Maby they should read a history book first and then attempt to go on a writing career, close as I can tell this is a bbk not to be read and should not be written it is byond fiction it’s crap……

    1. Hi Suzanne,
      I think you’ve misunderstood my post – the book is not claiming that Anne slept with her family’s butler and chaplain, the author actually mentions that claim by Nicholas Sander and then states that it is untrue. It is a non-fiction book and is very interesting so please do not let the publisher’s very inaccurate blurb put you off the book.

  32. Thanks for getting on your Soapbox, Claire! I don’t blame you for being angry.

    “It’s the headless women on the covers that I cannot stand!”

    Oh, this has been bothering me for *years*! Talk about objectification of women! So many of the old 1960’s and 1970’s covers of the Jean Plaidy, Norah Lofts, etc. covers of my novels of Anne are so superior to the republished ones they have now. Why do they think people aren’t interested mostly in faces? Or are they just plain lazy??? *sigh* Ok, getting off *my* soapbox now, lol.

    Gareth, always nice to read your comments! (When is your book coming out, btw? Looking forward to it showing up here in the US.) I think you and I are the only ones left who believe in a D.O.B. of 1507 for Anne, but I don’t care. I’ve yet to read anything that makes me change my mind about it.

    “Anne Boleyn Shoves Her Butler and Chaplain in the Cupboard”…news at 11!

    Sorry….. 😉

  33. hi claire,

    Can you recommend the best new books about Anne? I already have several books but, as you yourself know, One can never get enough!!!!!

  34. Hi, my name is Stephanie and I have found this most interesting. If possible could anyone pass on to me any details they find during the research of this period about my ancestor ? He was Rev John Matchet, private chaplain to Matthew Parker. Thank you in anticipation.

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