Find out more about author Claire Ridgway in this Q&A session…

Why the fascination with Anne Boleyn?

I first became interested in Anne Boleyn when I did a project on Henry VIII and his six wives when I was 11 years old. I just couldn’t believe that a King had been married six times and that he’d executed two of his wives! I re-visited Henry and his reign in A’ Level History and at university when I studied the Reformation, and it was always something that really interested me.

It wasn’t until January 2009, though, that I became completely gripped by Anne’s story and had to research it in more depth. That’s when I had an incredibly vivid dream. I was a member of the crowd at Anne Boleyn’s execution and I knew beyond a shadow of the doubt that she was innocent. I wanted to stop the execution but I was rooted to the spot and my mouth was like sandpaper. I couldn’t scream, I couldn’t move, there was nothing I could do. As the executioner swung his sword I woke up in a cold sweat and shook my husband, Tim, awake, telling him that he had to design a website for me. I even told him the name of the website – The Anne Boleyn Files. I think the name must have come from The X Files and their tagline: The truth is out there. I knew that my mission was to research Anne Boleyn, to get to the truth about her story and then to share it with others.

What made you decide to write about the fall of Anne Boleyn?

The tragedy of Anne Boleyn’s story and the myths surrounding it are what draw many people to Anne Boleyn. She suffered a huge miscarriage of justice, yet went to her death with amazing courage and dignity. The chain of events that led to her brutal death intrigues me and I wanted to share with readers what exactly happened in April and May 1536, as opposed to how it’s all presented in fiction and on TV.

How is your book different to other books on Anne Boleyn?

The Fall of Anne Boleyn: A Countdown is written in a diary format: counting down, a day at a time, to the 19th May. I wanted to write a book that was easily digestible and that people could dip into and easily find out what was happening on a specific date. My mission has always been to write the “real truth” about Anne, so it is based on primary sources and is fully referenced.

What is your average day like?

My three children have all left for school by 8.50am so I get on with work then. My day consists of handling admin for The Anne Boleyn Files site, answering emails, writing my “on this day in history” posts for The Anne Boleyn Files Facebook page and then researching for articles or for the book projects I’m working on. Two of my children get back from school at 2pm, so I’ll take an hour lunch then and as soon as they start their homework I get back to my research and writing. We’ll break for an evening meal and then I spend time with Tim and my children. Depending on how my research is going, I’ll either get back to work once the children are in bed or I’ll veg out in front of the TV or a good book.

Where do you write?

Tim and I both work from home and we share a work space. He’ll sit at one end of the table and I’ll sit at the other, in easy reach of my book-case and files.

Which historians do you admire?

Professor Eric Ives is my favourite historian. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting him twice and he is so passionate about Anne Boleyn and his book is so well referenced – perfect for a researcher. Other historians I like and admire are Suzannah Lipscomb, John Guy, Julia Fox, Linda Porter and Leanda de Lisle.

What is it about Anne Boleyn which intrigues you?

I think it’s the mystery that surrounds her and the fact that she wasn’t the usual submissive Tudor wife and was willing to be herself, whatever the cost. The Boleyn family, as a whole, are very important to me. They have all been so badly maligned that myth has become fact. We have Thomas the pimp, Elizabeth with the “dubious reputation”, Mary the mistress of two kings, Anne the bi*** and witch, George the wife-beating, homosexual rapist, and Jane the jealous, spiteful woman who betrayed them all. It’s time to debunk these myths and educate people about who they really were and what the evidence says about them.

Is there anything about Anne that frustrates you or disappoints you?

Yes, I hate not knowing what she looked like! I imagine her to look like the Hever portrait, the one where she is holding a rose, but none of the portraits we have of her are contemporary. I also would love to know what George looked like and to be able to read his poetry.

When you’re not reading about Tudor history, what do you read?

I am a complete bookworm. I devour anything and everything! My favourite authors include Jane Austen, George Eliot, D H Lawrence, Jodi Picoult, Colin Dexter, Patricia Cornwell, C J Sansom, J K Rowling (who doesn’t love Harry Potter?!), Victoria Hislop, Charlaine Harris and Joanne Fluke.

One Response to “Q & A with Claire”

  1. Annie says:

    it also deeply upsets me that no contemporary pictures exist 🙁

    but how amazing you had a dream you were at her execution!

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