Claire Interviewed about The Anne Boleyn Files and Anne Boleyn ‘Fans’

Back in April, I was interviewed for a documentary by Charli Burden and Kathryn Dowling, two MA Broadcast Journalism students. I was asked about how The Anne Boleyn Files started and also whether I saw The Anne Boleyn Files site as a ‘fan club’.

Charli and Kathryn had previously interviewed Alison Weir who had said that “virtual fan clubs on the internet” are “obsessive” and “have gone too far from objective research”, and that an emotional engagement with an historical character “can distort your view”, so they wanted to hear how I viewed my website.

Here are clips from my interview:


I do not believe that an emotional engagement with an historical character necessarily distorts your view. Eric Ives has written about how Anne Boleyn was the third woman in his life after his wife and daughter, and when he spoke to our group on one of our tours he told us to shut him up when we’d had enough because he could talk about Anne “until the cows came home”. Passion and emotion do not equal bias or distortion. For me, my passion for the subject means that I try harder to get to the truth of the matter, it’s what motivates me to spend endless hours researching. Without passion, history is a rather dead subject, don’t you think?

Of course, some people take things to extremes and see historical characters as modern day celebrities and make life decisions based on how they think that person would have lived their life, but then there are always extremes and everybody is entitled to their views anyway and who am I to tell someone how to live their life?

You can see Charli and Kathryn’s interviews with Alison Weir, Philippa Gregory and some Anne Boleyn ‘super fans’ on their project website The Boleyn Project

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32 thoughts on “Claire Interviewed about The Anne Boleyn Files and Anne Boleyn ‘Fans’”
  1. I doubt the average person interested in any historical person or even or even a certain time in history would be obsessive. Unless you are independently wealthy and have lots of time to research history, your day to day chores and job will stop you from becoming obsessive. I enjoy studying history and this site has really made me question how do I think I know an event or character. The bias of individuals, the circumstances under which an event happened, and its relation to other events has broadened my view and made me question how I know what I know. I have enjoyed learning about Anne’s family, what evidence does exist to support ideas, and what has been a biased source of information. I have also begun to realize that when in doubt, it seems that many authors seem to rely more on the negative views of a person than giving them the benefit of the doubt. George Boleyn is a good example of someone who seems to have a lot of negative things said about him when there is no historical records to back that view with. Jane Boleyn has had the same thing happen to her. This site has really helped me to understand how s biased view can be repeated many times until someone digs a bit further into the issue and finds the reason for that view. Now I know why many people believed that Anne had six fingers and gave birth to a deformed baby.

  2. Interesting clips of all these folks. I was most surprised at the young girls who really have become fans of Anne in a deep way. Makes me very happy this site is here, separating fact from fiction. Thanks for the clips–you came off very well, Claire!

    1. Thank you, Anne! It was fun. Charli and Kathryn flew out to us in Spain and stayed overnight so we also had lots of off-camera discussions about Anne.

  3. People can, and do, use the internet to feed fantasies and obsessions. But I think The Anne Boleyn Files is different in some very significant ways. Most importantly, I have never seen a site so dedicated to the ideal of responsible historiography and the reality of painstaking fact-checking. In addition, differences of opinion and high-quality, informed discussion of the issues at stake are encouraged. There are great debates in these comments!

    Actually, I have to say I find Weir’s remarks about lack of historical objectivity a bit ironic, given that her own methods of research, based on what I’ve seen, do not usually rise to the standards demonstrated on this site.

    1. Tamar, how very much I agree with you cannot be found! I also agree with Ann Barhill as she tells how little girls, etc. Tamar, you hit the nail on the head. No, Anne did not bring about the Reformation on her own, and, of course a man was involved, and he was King Henry VIIII, and I write books and have written papers on all of this, and they are too long to explain here. The Reformation…

      I stopped at 57 seconds with PG, and then put myself through more torture and had to control my temper, as at 57 seconds “heiress” was enough for me. I did watch the whole thing once I got myself together, and watched the video as humor, as most of us on this site know that PG is a joke. She doesn’t write historical fiction, she lies about her credentials, but if she can create and interest in Anne Boleyn and this site, then that’s okay with me. I hate to say it and be honest, but I find her as nothing but a “joke.”

      My surprise was Weir! I know I have mentioned about her sources being questioned and proven to be plagarized, etc. I know that in the past I have made no more comment on her books since Claire brings her up, oh, more than, let’s say twice, in the last few years. Out of respect, I haven’t mentioned anything about her. I will now. First, let me give her the same things I said about PG, “…if she can create and interest in Anne Boleyn and this site, then that’s okay with me.” In college, we were instructed very quickly how Weir was not a good source for paper, and then I learned about her plagarizing sources, that’ low. On the graduate level, and post-graduate level her name would have no way of coming up.

      She is right in her version of things, if one wants to see it that way, but it was not that way at all, and I know that she was asked to give more annotations with her books, and she fed something such as her publisher would not allow it. Well, I would suppose not, since she was found by scholars of plagarizing her sources, and that looking for her own might involve just little bit of work, etc. My other question would be as to why she just didn’t change publishers? She’s well know, etc. Or does she and/or agent have a contract with this publisher? If she thinks what she says in the video, why did she write so much on the subject?

      I am also glad that I don’t see any books of hers advertised on this site, too.

      Thank you so very much, Claire, as this was very enlightening! WilesWales

      1. Hi WilesWales,
        I don’t agree with various points that Alison Weir has raised in these videos and in her books, and I have highlighted inaccuracies in the books of Philippa Gregory, but that doesn’t mean that I have a problem with them on a personal level. I don’t agree with G W Bernard either, but it doesn’t mean that I dislike him.

        I do advertise Alison Weir’s books as they are very useful as sources and I use them as secondary sources. I respect her as an author. I also own quite a few of Philippa Gregory’s books, I simply have issues with some of her author’s notes sections.

        I really don’t want me disagreeing with a point raised by Alison Weir to turn into an “author bashing” session. You have accused Philippa Gregory of lying about her credentials and Alison Weir of plagiarism, which are quite serious accusations. Obviously you are entitled to your opinions but I think it is dangerous to accuse people of things online like this. I know that feelings run high when people disagree with authors and feel passionate about history, but I want The Anne Boleyn Files to be about accuracy and “responsible historiography”, as Tamar said, rather than attacking authors and historians. I hope you understand.

        1. Thank you, Claire, I just got a little carried away at as my thoughts were with you and your more than hard work. I have made references to Weir in the past, but I got a little carried away, and I didn’t mean to be “author bashing.” That is not at all what I intended, and I remember teh G W Bernard articles and your defense, which was great stuff! It also got a lot of attention as welll.

          You’re entirely correct in that those were serious accusations, but I’ve mentioned them in a round about way in comments in the past. I must apologize as my blood was up in defending you when I know how very hard you have worked wth primary sources, translated others, and referred to secondary soucrs, etc. I must apologize for that as well.

          I will do most desparately make “The Anne Boleyn Files” to be about “accuracy and ‘responsible historiography’.” I will not participate in the amateur way I talked about the authors and historians, too.

          I do Queen Anne to be defended, and I was just way too emphatice and it got personal feelings about you and the site a litel too much. Thank you, WilesWales

    2. Thank you, Tamar. I love what I do and am obsessed with history, but I don’t think what I do on here is “dangerous” or that this site is a fan club with people fawning over Anne. I too love all the debates we have in the comments and also on the forum, it would be a boring world if we all agreed on things.

  4. Every one has, and are entitled to an opinion or a point of view, which is arrived at by their life experiences; we might not agree, but it makes sense to the person who makes them or believe them. Let’s face it, controversy and different opinions help us define our own beliefs. We should respect others’ opinions, that is what’s keeping Anne’s memory alive, and we would not be here were it not for those different opinions.
    But I’m allowing myself a few,well arched eyebrows raises, and eye poppings at some of PG’s and AW’s comments. I liked Claire’s and Susan Bordo’s interviews best. They’re fresh and humble. AW: Call me an obsessed fan, I don’t give a bishop’s hat!! The more I know, the more I realize I don’t know. Lisa Davis’ post is very articulate, I second her post.

    1. Ha! I liked “I don’t give a bishop’s hat!” Books wouldn’t sell, museums and historic sites wouldn’t get visitors, and historical blogs wouldn’t get visitors if there weren’t ‘fans’, and I don’t see anything wrong in being passionate about a subject.

    2. Thank you NanBoleyn, that has been my motto for years, “the more I know the more I realize I don’t know.” Thank you, and I will focus on that in the future! Thank you, WilesWales

  5. Dear NanBoleyn,

    If I had read your comments above before writing my comment, I was going to include something of what you say, but I couldn’t figure out where to put it in or if it would make my comment to lengthy. LOL!

    I agree more than 100% with what you say, and love the “..few,well arched eyebrows raises, and eye poppings at some of PG’s and AW’s comments.” That about says it all! Claire has even used her as back up, and tried to promote her books that are out on this site. If Claire does it out of what you say she is more than the word magnanimous has taken a higher meanng, and I haven’t been informed of it yet! Thank you, WilesWales

  6. You know, after that last Mary Boleyn book I don’t know about objective research on the parts of some…but really what is obsession? Are not all great historians, musicians, athletes, etc. obsessed with something more or less? It’s the passion behind their “obsession” that leads them to greatness. Without passion would we have say Olympic gymnasts? The other side of the coin is that you could say they are obsessed with perfection and their sport as it consumes their lives, but what amazing things come out of it. Greatness and madness are only seperated by a thin line, if obsession is madness and most great geniuses such as Poe and Van Gogh are mad then I will take obsession over passionless research. I love your research, it’s your passion that drives you to find out so much about Anne and I have learned so much from you that I would never have thought of otherwise. It was after reading things on your website that I really started thinking about questioning what I read and investigating for myself the contradictions in different historical accounts of things. I think your research is pretty objective, you know that Anne was no angel or devil, you give the facts and seperate your opinion from it. There is nothing wrong with having an opinion, I think you are one of the few writers who bothers to clarify the difference between the two and does not make blanket statements. I enjoy Weir’s books, but I don’t aqree with what she said. Keep it going Claire, your website is awesome and has brought exposure to many different aspects of a fascinating historical character.

    1. I too enjoy Weir’s books but, as I said to WilesWales, I don’t agree with everything she says. I too have learned to question everything I read and to make use of the Notes and Bibliography sections in books to find out what the author was basing his/her theory on.

      I agree with you about passion, it’s definitely what drives me to get lost in my research and to write my articles and books. Passion = motivation.

      Thank you for your very kind words, I’m glad that people enjoy using The Anne Boleyn Files as much as I love running it.

  7. To have an emotional engagement with an historical character is a great education, as long as it is an all round ‘warts an’ all’ view. As you have Claire, Ives and other good historians
    It is when that attachment is based purely on the positive or the negative that I agree with Alison Weir, the characters do become distorted by those who see them in these singular ways. You see this at the time of Anne’s execution, with those who ‘appear out of the woodwork’ and post derogatory remarks about Anne, give Claire a hard time about her support of Anne and take this as a personal insult.
    Its the team Katherine. v. team Anne thing, or M.Q.of Scots. v. Elizabeth, based on some peoples onesided attachment and personal convictions, not the whole picture, and not the whole truth either. It does seem to come across as slighly obsessional, and a bit scary too, to me anyway.

  8. Thank you Claire for posting the information. Although I have only been reading this website for about 4 months, I don’t find it full of any” obessive” fans, but people interested in the Tudors, and in Anne Boleyn’s life in particular.I have found your books and articles well researched and written, and I love having a forum where I can write about the topic for the day.

    Right now, I am teaching a summer course on medieval and renaissance literature in England, and I love to teach from a contextual approach, and your information on this age has been immensely helpful, so thank you. Students love to see history fleshed out and this website does just that. After all, if we don’t add the human element to our study of history, what will we learn from it?

    Thanks for putting this website together.

  9. Claire ,That was very well said,this site is not a fan club and I do not think if it were you would have even half thepeople on this site,it is a very wondrefull site ,you have made for all,that want the learning experience,of all who lived in the days of Queen Anne Boleyn ,and all who were invovled in this historic,part of time, a journney back. We are all apart of history since you were born,as you live ,when you die and after.Weather just a common person ,or a wealthy person,movie star, or a Queen/King we are all apart of history ,like it or not ,but it is what we leave behind good or bad. Baroness.

    1. Thanks, Baroness, I wouldn’t call it a fan club either, but I guess that I don’t have a problem with it being one anyway. I would call it a site for Tudor history lovers, rather than ‘fans’.

      1. ClaireI ,am not saying the AB friends are’nt fans ,we are !all very serious Queen Anne histroy buffs,I come across so many people, that think it’s boaring or were a bunch of snobs,or they hate Queen Anne ,True Queen. I wish more people could open there, God given minds, maybe it’s just not there cup of tea . And I am a fan of yours Claire/Queen Anne and all who fromed histroy as we know now. Can’t wait for your next book ,and thats why I think your work is the greatest,research . THX Baroness x

  10. The words that spring to mind when listening to the Weir interview is don’t bite the hand that feeds you. No one likes being patronised.

      1. Thank you, Claire, and I agree, and next time I see an article lke this I wiil use the “24 hour” rule! I would say some other things, but you have made me realize that when the temper goes up, then site back and think…Your saying this is just what the doctor ordered. I have been a professor in some time, so my reading of “peer reviewed” has not been as much as I used to be able to go to the libarary and read a lot, but those articles are not on the net, as they are fee-based. Thank you, WilesWales

    1. Yes, I thought the same thing. Telling a large portion of your public that they should run away and play and seems a bit shortsighted.

  11. I found this really intresting and very much enjoyed what you had to say Clare.

    I have read both Alison Weir’s 6 Wives and David Starkey’s 6 Wives and must say that I found the latter a better read and much more informative then the formers to be honset.

    Ms Weir I found came across as quite dismissive of “fan” sites and if I may say more than a little condesending that said she has her point of view as much as the rest of us do, personally I disagree with quite a few things in her books but that may just be me!

    I find that by reading a wide range of books about Anne I have come to a better understanding of not only her but of the times she lived in, the courts she served at and the one she came to be queen of.

    We are all passionate about Anne for a number of reasons and we will defend her BECAUSE we are passionate

    When I was at secondary school (all girls Catholic school taught by nuns) one of the nuns said to us during an RE lesson that to have faith we must constantly question what we are taught to understand better our faith and the only way to learn is to question and to research and to read as much as we could to learn what we needed to know………….it’s something that I’ve carried with me into my adult life……..I question, I read, I research as much as i can (time allowing with a husband and nearly 5 year old and a home to run) so that I can argue my point with knowlege………:)

  12. I think that both Gregory and Weir sounded a bit full of themselves. Do they not themselves have an “obession” if they continue to write book after book about the Tudors? It was really condescending in my opinion and makes me reconsider reading their books. As much as I disagree with Gregory’s research and claim of being a historian, she can weave quite a tale and I eat them up when they come out so I don’t like to bash her, but it’s a bit offending the way she was talking. And Weir sounds like she feels threatened or something. Just really off putting on both accounts. Claire, you were excellent as always 🙂 and I’m getting really excited for Bardo’s book! On that note, I’m an AB fangirl and proud of it, I don’t care who calls me obsessive!

  13. In a way, and correct me if I’m wrong, I see Anne Boleyn and Henry VIII determination to have her as the centerpiece of a great many historical happenings.
    Consider: if the reformation hadn’t occurred the puritans wouldn’t have had the courage to board the Mayflower to express their religious freedom.
    The US wouldn’t exist.
    Granted some would view that as a good thing, but due to that, the church was no longer the center of everyday life. Secular law wouldn’t have come up, the Magna Carta wouldn’t have been written, the spaniards would have had complete control of the new world, its all interconnected. Obviously there’s more, but you get the gist.
    All because Anne wouldn’t give it and Henry wouldn’t take no for an answer.
    History is so cool.

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