The reader could be forgiven for assuming there is not enough left of George Boleyn to fill a book. After all his sister, the enigmatic Queen Anne Boleyn, has been the subject of centuries of debate, intense scrutiny and research. Even their eldest sister Mary, who left a single letter behind, is the subject of not one, but two biographies. The reader would also be forgiven for wondering what two historical researchers with a passion for Tudor history, one a first-time author, could offer us in regards to a man who lived in the shadow of his sisters for almost five centuries. What George Boleyn: Tudor Poet, Courtier & Diplomat offers us is not only an academic and exhaustive study of the life of George Boleyn, but a fascinating insight into the life of a courtier in the court of the notorious King Henry VIII.
The first part of this biography, Beginnings, introduces the reader to the Boleyn family history. This is particularly useful for two reasons, for despite several good studies on the subject, the Boleyn family are still popularly viewed as grubby grasping commoners, but it also launches us into the privileged environment that George Boleyn, last surviving son and apple of his parent’s eye, grew up in. From his first appearance at court as a ten year-old boy to an eighteen year-old man joining the court full time, we follow George’s early career at court through to his marriage to Jane Parker, his suffering from the deadly sweating sickness and King Henry VIII falling in love with Anne Boleyn, a relationship which would of course have a great impact on George’s life. Career and Influence follows George’s rise at court from a skilled courtier to a foreign diplomat, a man that King Henry VIII relied on for everything from diplomatic missions on the delicate subject of annulling his marriage to Katherine of Aragon and taking Anne Boleyn as his wife, to the purchasing of hawks for the King’s sport and meat for the King’s hounds. There is a particularly interesting chapter on the The League of Schmalkalden, and a much needed look at George’s evangelical views, for arguably it was George’s influence and close relationship with his sister Anne that helped spark the embers of the break with the Roman Catholic Church.
The reader may approach End of an Era with a heavy heart, for these chapters of course trace the fall George and his sister Anne Boleyn. It is in these closing chapters that we see even more of George Boleyn the man, through his actions during the fall of his sister, to what we can glean of his relationship with his wife to his powerful execution speech where he warned “not to trust in the vanity of the world”. The appendices include a chronology, George Boleyn’s poetry and scaffold speech, George Cavendish’s Metrical Visions, Sir Thomas Wyatt’s execution poetry and a thorough study of the Clonony Boleyn Girls and George Boleyn, Dean of Lichfield.
This biography is a true achievement, not only for the rigorous use of rarely seen or acknowledged contemporary documents, not only for the astonishing depth of research and authentic presentation of the career of George Boleyn, but for the fact that the authors do not become enthralled with their subject. For a man who was witty, charming and intelligent and who was ultimately unjustly murdered on the whim of a tyrant, George Boleyn can easily cut a rather romantic figure. What George Boleyn: Tudor Poet, Courtier & Diplomat does is not only present us with an illuminating study of a little known historical figure but also with a complex and convincing portrait of a man.
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Clare Cherry lives in Hampshire with her partner David. She works as a solicitor in Dorset, but has a passion for Tudor history and began researching the life of George Boleyn in 2006. She started corresponding with Claire Ridgway in late 2009, after meeting through The Anne Boleyn Files website, and the two Tudor enthusiasts became firm friends. Clare divides her time between the legal profession and researching Tudor history. Clare has written guest articles on George Boleyn for The Anne Boleyn Files, Nerdalicious.com.au, and author Susan Bordo’s The Creation of Anne Boleyn website.
Claire Ridgway is the author of the best-selling books ON THIS DAY IN TUDOR HISTORY, THE FALL OF ANNE BOLEYN: A COUNTDOWN, THE ANNE BOLEYN COLLECTION, and THE ANNE BOLEYN COLLECTION II, as well as INTERVIEWS WITH INDIE AUTHORS: TOP TIPS FROM SUCCESSFUL SELF-PUBLISHED AUTHORS. Claire was also involved in the English translation and editing of Edmond Bapst’s 19th century French biography of George Boleyn and Henry Howard, now available as TWO GENTLEMAN POETS AT THE COURT OF HENRY VIII.
Claire worked in education and freelance writing before creating The Anne Boleyn Files history website and becoming a full-time history researcher, blogger and author. The Anne Boleyn Files is known for its historical accuracy and Claire’s mission to get to the truth behind Anne Boleyn’s story. Her writing is easy-to-read and conversational, and readers often comment on how reading Claire’s books is like having a coffee with her and chatting about history.
George Boleyn: Tudor Poet, Courtier & Diplomat by Clare Cherry and Claire Ridgway, 2014
George Boleyn has gone down in history as being the brother of the ill-fated Queen Anne Boleyn, second wife of Henry VIII, and for being executed for treason, after being found guilty of incest and of conspiring to kill the King.
This biography allows George to step out of the shadows and brings him to life as a court poet, royal favourite, keen sportsman, talented diplomat and loyal brother. Clare Cherry and Claire Ridgway chart his life from his spectacular rise in the 1520s to his dramatic fall and tragic end in 1536.