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Discussion Questions on The Lady in the Tower
December 3, 2009
5:25 pm
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Claire
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AB Files visitor, Louise, and I have been discussing various issues regarding this book:-

  1. Weir's sources – Historian John Guy was quite critical of Weir's sources in his review of the book – see http://entertainment.timesonli…..894033.ece – he criticises her for putting words into Chapuys's mouth regarding Jane Rochford giving evidence against Anne and George, and also says:

    “Confirmation of Weir’s line would appear to come when she claims that Jane, who was herself executed after Catherine Howard’s fall in 1542, confessed on the scaffold to falsely accusing her husband, George. But the speech Weir quotes is a forgery, the much later work of Gregorio Leti who (says historian Patrick Collinson after investigating many such stories) “invented some of his sources and made things up”. And when you check Weir’s reference (a daunting task in itself since her source citations are usually incomplete) it refers to quite a different version of Jane’s speech: utterly genuine, written by an eyewitness to her death and saying nothing of the kind.

    Weir makes much of the fact that Lord Herbert of Cherbury wrote in his Life and Reign of King Henry VIII in 1649 that “the wife of Lord Rochford [ie Jane] was a particular instrument in the death of Queen Anne”. She thinks he was quoting from a lost chronicle of Henry’s reign and cites the notes left by a late-17th-century don who’d been mugging up on Anne’s fall. But Weir is mistaken, although I had to go to Oxford to be sure. Like all good historians, the don cites his sources, so we know that he’d been reading a dozen or so works, among which were the now lost chronicle and Herbert’s own book. His note about Jane is taken from the latter — it even comes complete with the page number.”

  2. Weir seems to think that Henry VIII was as much a victim of Cromwell's scheming as Anne and the five men, in that he believed Cromwell. I to and fro on this point but I'm not sure that I can believe that Cromwell would plot against Anne and the men without consulting the King. Wouldn't he have been at risk of getting his head chopped off?

I do find it frustrating that Weir does not cite her sources accurately, e.g, she says \”LP\” but does not tell you where abouts in the Letters and Papers you will find the info. What do you all think?

I do love the book but it does have its shortcomings.

Debunking the myths about Anne Boleyn

December 4, 2009
4:17 pm
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Rochie
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I think some folks are being very harsh on Weir. If it is a genuine oversight on her part or error she will acknowledge it shortly. The pressure from publishers and literary agents to churn out yet another book at break-neck speed could also have something to do with this.

Whenever anybody manages to popularise a subject and bring history to the people, so to speak, they are always a target for the academics. Historical errors should be pointed out by fellow academics, yes – but surely this should be done in private, not in a national newspaper article for all to see. We all make mistakes. And people should think twice before casting the first stone.

December 5, 2009
9:36 am
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Claire
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I definitely cannot criticise Weir because obviously I use secondary sources a lot and could make huge mistakes if I use something that's wrong to rely on. I apologise if it looks like I'm having a dig at Alison, I'm not trying to and I respect her immensely and use her book so much (as you can tell), I just got frustrated with the source citations and the way that she does have a little bit of a dig at other historians e.g. Foxe and Warnicke. I think what's great about Alison is that she is a \”popular\” historian, in that she brings history to the masses rather than writing very academic style books which some people just would not pick up. If she can help bring Anne's true story to the general public then she deserves an award.

Regarding the errors, I think it must be so easy to do, to rely on the wrong source. Josephine Wilkinson told me about the famous example of the biography of Athenais de Montespan, whose author used what she thought to be an authentic diary of Louis XIV, only to find that it had been invented by a French academic. I guess that historians are only as good as the sources they use!

As you know, I've been criticised with the running of this site because it is not an academic site. I haven't got a PhD and I'm not a respected historian, just little old me trying to figure out the turth about Anne and other Tudor characters. So, I can sympathise with Weir, although I definitely could not be compared to her, she has so much knowledge.

I'm not sure about Guy's review. i think on the whole that it was a positive review of Weir's book and I don't think he was setting out to snipe at Weir, although perhaps he was tempted because he's married to Foxe and Weir wasn't very nice about her book. I think the book was excellent seeing as I think she wrote it in a year and that must have been an amazing amount of pressure. It is a shame that Guy pointed out the mistakes in a national newspaper but I guess that this is the purpose of reviews and the academic world seems to be like that.

Yes, I agree with you about the whole thinking twice about casting the first stone and removing the plank from one's own eye etc. and I apologise if I'm being like that.

Debunking the myths about Anne Boleyn

December 10, 2009
9:57 am
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Hannah
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I do like Alison Weir. Weir is not one of these historians who writes books purely to impress other historians, and as such they are interesting and entertaining reads (I wish she`d lay off the fiction, though!). Lancaster and York was a brilliant introduction to the Wars of the Roses, imo, and she is very knowledgeable. However, her incomplete sources are frustrating, and sometimes I feel she plucks theories out of thin air, eg pregnant Anne Boleyn (discussed in another thread, and to Weir`s credit, she has admitted she was wrong about that in The Lady In The Tower). There are others, but I`m not going to nitpick any more than I already have. On the whole, I don`t think Weir adds to the debate, but she does sum it up pretty well.

Be daly prove you shalle me fynde,nTo be to you bothe lovyng and kynde,

December 11, 2009
5:34 pm
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Claire
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I haven't read the Lancaster and York one, just her Elizabeth and Anne Boleyn ones. I haven't read her Six Wives one either, apart from reading extracts on Google Book Search, but I'm happy with the Starkey and Loades books on the Six Wives.

What other discussions can we have on The Lady in the Tower? Let's think up some questions.

Debunking the myths about Anne Boleyn

December 15, 2009
8:41 pm
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Rochie
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I\’ve just come back to this thread and oh dear, Claire, I wasn\’t referring to you as being \’harsh\’ and \’not casting the first stone\’ and all that – I meant the GUY guy going public in the newspaper. I have never known you to criticise anybody out of malice or spite. And you don\’t need to apologise to anybody, least of all me.
Hugs x

December 16, 2009
8:27 am
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Claire
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Bless you, Rochie! Hugs to you too! I sometimes worry that when I don\’t agree with an historian, when I\’m writing, that it could come across badly, you know like \”who is she to criticise\” because I haven\’t got a PhD etc. but I keep telling myself that we\’re all entitled to our owm points of view, particularly if we can use evidence to back up our theory.

Yes, an attack in a popular Sunday paper is not the nicest thing, it would make me cry!! I wonder if Weir bothers reading reviews or whether you perhaps have to develop a really thick skin when you are such a public figure. I do find at times that the \”academic\” world of history is very harsh and unfriendly.

Debunking the myths about Anne Boleyn

April 8, 2010
11:33 am
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Sharon
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I know I'm kind of late here, but I read Weir's Lady in the Tower a few months ago and loved it.  I love the way she writes…very easy to follow.  As to the referrals, I just check to see where the info came from.  I am not a historian, just a reader.  I would not know where to begin checking referrences. Maybe I'll pick that up by following this site.  All I know is, she brought Anne to life for me.  It was very entertaining.

I read Starkey and Ives and I enjoy them also.  Well, for the most part anyway.  Starkey is kind of tough on women sometimes.  With these two I find myself backtracking to read things over again because I didn't get it the first time.  I've read Somerset, Erickson, Fraser, Jenkins, George, and more.  But like I said I'm just a reader, not a college professor or a historian.  I read history because I love it. The easier the read, the more I learn.  I take something from every work I read.

April 10, 2010
3:04 am
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Claire
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I agree, Sharon, Weir's book was easy to follow and was interesting and she did bring Anne and the five men to life. I loved the fact that she concentrated on the fall and so gave lots of detail on that and also what happened afterwards, Anne's legacy and the men's families etc. A good fresh look at the events of 1536.

Weir's book is definitely one that is at the front of my bookcase where I can find it easily, along with Ives, Warnicke, Denny, Norton, Starkey and Loades. When I'm researching for an article I like to check out what all of the authors say about a particular event or subject and look at the evidence they present to back up their opinion. This can get tricky with Weir sometimes because it's hard to find her evidence but Ives makes it so easy, bless him!

Debunking the myths about Anne Boleyn

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