Eric Ives: An Obituary by Someone He Inspired

Oct3,2012 #Eric Ives

On 25th September 2012, the history world lost one of its finest, Professor Eric Ives. He was aged 81 and died after suffering a severe stroke. He will be sadly missed by his family, Sue and John, by his church, by his friends and peers, and by the history world.

Eric Ives was a brilliant historian, an excellent lecturer and professor, an engaging speaker and preacher, and also a lovely man. I could tell you of all his achievements, for example, being awarded the OBE by the Queen, but I want this to be a personal memorial from someone he helped and inspired. Without his work on Anne Boleyn, I don’t believe I’d be doing what I do on a daily basis.

I was lucky enough to meet Professor Ives on two occasions and to have also corresponded with him. I remember asking him if he’d be willing to talk with Leanda de Lisle about Lady Jane Grey on our 2011 Executed Queens Tour. I really wanted him to talk about Anne Boleyn but as he’d just written about Jane I thought he’d want to do that. I remember him saying, “Are you sure you wouldn’t prefer me to talk about Anne Boleyn?” and the feeling of pure joy I felt at that moment. He told me of how he never passed up an opportunity of talking about Anne and would be delighted to do it in Anne’s home, Hever Castle. He joined us in toasting Anne’s life on 19th May at Hever and accepted me (and a few others) completely grilling him about Anne’s fall over dinner! He then completely captivated his audience when he got up to speak. We all laughed when he told us that we’d need to signal when we’d had enough of him because he “could talk about Anne until the cows came home”! We never did signal.

Even though it was late when he finished, he signed people’s books, chatted with our group and also gave his contact details to a couple of our group who wanted advice on their history studies. He was humble, giving and approachable, but what struck us all was his passion for Anne and the excitement that you could hear in his voice as he spoke about her. His enthusiasm is just as evident in his book, The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn, which I call my “Anne Boleyn Bible” because it really is the go-to book on Anne, written by a man who spent decades researching her life. I would say that Professor Ives is the one responsible for rehabilitating Anne Boleyn and doing it in a way which is accessible by all, student or reader.

I also remember Professor Ives telling me how he came to Anne’s story. He was actually researching the career of Sir William Brereton, as part of his research into historical law, when he found that Brereton was one of the men executed for alleged adultery with Anne Boleyn. This meant, of course, that he needed to research the fall of Anne Boleyn and that’s when Anne’s story grabbed him. Like many of us, he got ‘hooked’ on Anne Boleyn and he explains this in his preface to The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn; he says “”I have sometimes described Anne Boleyn as the third woman in my life, after my immediate family, and it is true that once she interests you, fascination grows, as it did for men at the time”. I’m sure his words will resonate with many people who read this post and use this site. There is just something about Anne.

It wasn’t Professor Ives who ignited my own passion for Anne, but his work has played a  part in keeping it burning and helping me to carry out my own research and write my own books. He didn’t stop writing about Anne and researching her when his biography of her was first published in 1986, he carried on and produced a new and revised edition in 2004, after debating various aspects of her life with historians like G W Bernard and Retha Warnicke. He has also written a multitude of articles on Anne, all of which I use on a regular basis. One of the things I value about his work is his accuracy and his referencing. He backed up everything he said with primary sources and told the reader exactly where to find that source – brilliant!

When he suffered his stroke, Professor Ives was still researching and writing. He had recently published “The Reformation Experience”, which I highly recommend, and it is sad to think that it’s his last. The world could have done with more of his work. I know, however, that those he taught and those he inspired will carry on his legacy.

On the day he died, Professor Ives was due to speak to our group at Hever. Instead, the group raised a glass at Hever Castle and toasted him. I know he would have been moved by that and what could be more appropriate than remembering him in the home of the Queen he was so fascinated by?

I know I haven’t mentioned all of his work, such as his work on Lady Jane Grey, his incredible career and his many achievements – you can read that on wikipedia or in an official obituary –  but I wanted to write about the Eric Ives I knew and what his life and work meant, and still mean, to me. He was a brilliant historian, a great writer, a captivating speaker and a true gentleman with a big heart, and he was also someone I admired hugely. Meeting him and discussing Anne Boleyn with him was one of the highlights of my life and a real honour. I will miss him.


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35 thoughts on “Eric Ives: An Obituary by Someone He Inspired”
  1. “He was a brilliant historian, a great writer, a captivating speaker and a true gentleman with a big heart, and he was also someone I admired hugely.”
    I couldn’t agree more.

  2. Well said. One of my biggest regrets is that I never got to him. I would love hear his chat’s he is having with Queen Anne!!!

  3. Great you could meet him! I am very grateful to him for the Lady Jane Grey book, which is terrific and, as you say, is immensely useful too (referencing etc.). I do love that photo above!

  4. This is beautiful, Claire. I used Ives’s biography for an important essay I had to write, it was a valuable source and the tutor recommended it above all others. I liked the fairness and the way he wrote, and hope to read the entire biography (though it’s hard to find). It is sad that he has gone but he has left a wonderful legacy.

  5. The world … especially the world of Tudor scholarship … is better for Ives. Thank you for posting this, Claire.

  6. A heart-felt Obituary Claire.
    He left us all a great legacy in his work, and will always be remember because of it.
    He and Anne have gained a form of immortality in a sense, through each other, the one will always be associated with each other after all the work he did on her life, her fall and her death. May they both rest in peace together.

  7. A wonderful obituary for Eric. I doubt I will read a better one. It really is rather amazing that your group were drinking to Eric at Hever on the day he died. Very moving

    1. Thank you, Leanda, it means a lot to me to know that you thought it was ok. It is so hard to put in words just what a brilliant man Eric was. I wanted to get across how he wasn’t just an excellent historian, but a lovely man too.

  8. Well said Claire! I so would have loved to meet him. I remember hearing a famous author’s daughter speak after her mother’s death – When asked what she had to remember her by, she said the most important legacy her mother left were her books.
    For those if us who are ”Anne Fans” – the same came be said about Eric Ives. The fact that he seems to have been a lovely man, generous in spirit and scholarship, make me think even more fondly of him.

  9. Very moving Claire. I would have loved to have met such a great man. He left us his legacy in his books and work. R.I.P Eric Ives you will be surely missed.

  10. Very moving obituary to a wonderful man. Good Job Claire!! It brought a tear to my eye. Eric was not just a biographer of Anne but a fan. He did such an amazing job with his books and put so much passion in them. He was the one historian who really knows what it feels like for us to be moved and fascinated by her. He will be truly missed.

  11. Very moving obituary! My thoughts and prayers go out to his family during this time. I had the pleasure of reading one of his books on Anne Boleyn and found it very fascinating! He seemed to be a man with a passion for writting about her and he will be missed not only by this family and friends, but by the entire writting world. God has truly welcomed another angel. God Bless to his family.

  12. A wonderful tribute Claire! I remember listening to him speak on the Executed Queen’s Tour and being sad when he stopped! I could’ve listened to him talk about Anne for hours! Thank you for all you’ve done Sir Ives, you were AMAZING!

  13. What a beautiful tribute…I am sorry that I never had the chance to meet him, but so grateful that we can continue to learn from his brilliant work.

  14. A lovely and personal tribute. I’m so glad that you were all able to raise a glass to Eric Ives at Hever Castle, I’m sure he would have been there with you in spirit :>)

  15. This is lovely, Claire. I have tears in my eyes, especially after reading about your group’s toast to him at Hever. Thank you Professor Ives for further igniting my historical flame.

  16. Claire,This is a very sad time,as the world has lost a great Historian ,with that said it is great to know that Eric Ives work will live on. R I P Eric Ives.

  17. What a lovely tribute, Claire. The world is the poorer for him not being with us. I so wish I could have met him. Thank you for this tribute.

  18. I actually did not know of his passing until today. I am majoring in History and my professor advised me to read his book on Anne. I was actually trying to find a way to write Mr. Ives on his great work, and thank him for helping me to better understand her life. I’m sad that I was too late to find this all out. What a great writer, and I wish I could have had to honor in meeting and speaking with him.

  19. How I would have loved to hear him speak on Anne; he will be missed by so many people. At 81, he had lived a long life and one that was filled with passion and love; the rest of us should be so lucky. I know he is rejoicing in finally knowing the entire story of Anne’s life – from her.

  20. Eric Ives lived a long life full of love and passion. I am sure he is now rejoicing in knowing the entire story of Anne’s life – from her.

  21. Eric Ives was not only accurate in his writings but had the ability to make history come alive for so many of us! His ability to make the pages reach out and grab you into the adventure of someone’s life is such a rare gift. How many of us have sat through multiple classes with very intelligent professors and walked away with nothing more than facts having to be remembered for an exam then later forgotten? How fortunate that you were able to speak with him Claire!

  22. Professor Ives – I am a young American with an undergraduate degree in history. I created my own concentration in Tudor England, in part because of the influence of your work on me. Your biography of Anne Boleyn was the first serious book on Tudor England that I read. Your reassessment of the Jane Grey debacle served as the cornerstone for my thesis, for which I received top marks. Two years ago, starry-eyed, I wrote you a quick e-mail to thank you for your work and got a kind and encouraging response. You will be missed. <3

  23. Claire,I have not been getting any AB Files on line??This was about the last one is there a problem with e-mail?? Also I ask if you are having a Halloween Contest??If so please let me know,if not can you mail me resent mail??THX Baroness Von Reis

    1. Hi Baroness,
      Do you mean by email? I had a crazy week last week as I had to dash back to the UK for a few days for a family funeral and I’ve also been checking through the last edits for my book. Sorry about that. I’m going to be sending an email out today.
      No Halloween contest this year as we’ve just had a competition and giveaway, sorry about that.

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