About 2o years ago I read Alison Weir’s Six Wives of Henry VIII. I remember starting it, laying in my bed in my attic bedroom when it was snowing outside. I was immediately hooked on this saga of drama and the way lives could be forever changed because of the inability to bear a son. Little did I know that I would go through my own struggle to have a living child, in which I would identify more than I wanted to with Katherine of Aragon. I only knew that the stories touched me. Added to that, I was already immersing myself in the world of early English choral music thanks to my English Renaissance album by the King’s Singers, and I was set up for my lifelong passion.
I recently had the chance to interview Alison Weir for my podcast, and it was an extraordinary conversation for me. Below is the full interview, in which we talk about the way 16th century women are portrayed in popular culture, early feminism (Christina Pizan), the historical fiction of the 1950’s (Norah Lofts), and a teaser on new information she’s discovered about Anne Boleyn.
I’m particularly interested in this early feminist movement she referenced. Margaret of Austria, at whose court Anne Boleyn spent much of her time early on, had books by Christina Pizan in her library. Christina Pizan was arguably the first feminist writer, from the early 15th century, and one of her most famous books is about an allegorical city for women using examples of contributions that women have made to Western Civilization, and arguments that prove their equality to men. It’s tantalizing to think that Anne Boleyn might have read Christina, and been influenced by her in some small way.
I hope you enjoy listening to it as much as I enjoyed recording it.