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Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Guest Post: Writing The Boleyn Bride by Brandy Purdy

Writing The Boleyn Bride was a challenge, but that’s one of the things I like best about writing, I constantly push myself, take chances, and try to produce a book that isn’t cookie cutter.

Elizabeth Howard, the woman who became Anne Boleyn’s mother, is something of an enigma; she’s one of the less documented figures in the whole Tudor pageant. There are no portraits, diaries, or personal letters to give us even a tiny glimpse of her personality, only reports that she was very beautiful, and a few rumors hinting at unchaste behavior, and a possible dalliance with the king in his youth, dredged up during the whole Anne and Henry divorce drama. Given the timing it’s very possible these stories might have been purely malicious invention. There’s also a poem written by John Skelton likening Elizabeth to the “False Cressida” a beautiful woman who swore love and fidelity to one man only to embrace another. In those days to compare a woman to Cressida was the same as saying she was wanton and deceitful. It makes one wonder what skeletons might have been lurking in Elizabeth Boleyn’s closet.

I’m always drawn to the lost figures of history, the ones who have been reduced by the passage of time to just names upon a page, people like Piers Gaveston, Amy Robsart, and Jane Boleyn. I like the challenge of trying to give them their voice back even if it is only in the pages of a novel.

When I sat down and thought about how I was going to portray Elizabeth Boleyn, the thing I felt most keenly was her absence, and I decided to draw on that, to portray her as not only physically absent but emotionally absent as well. Her children, Mary, George, and Anne, are such intriguing individuals each in their own right, I wanted to show how having such a mother might have affected their development, if it made them stronger or weaker, and what they might have inherited from her. Even at the height of Anne’s fame, when she was poised to defy all the odds and become queen, her mother remained absent, only putting in an occasional appearance to act as chaperone or attend an important event.

I also wanted to explore vanity and pride, self-absorption, and the obsession with physical beauty, and how a person who lives only for these things can end up with nothing. They may have everything in terms of looks, money, and luxurious trappings only to discover that none of it really matters, as Elizabeth Boleyn does when her family’s fortune takes a fatal plunge.

I would like to emphasize that my portrayal of Elizabeth Boleyn’s personality is entirely fictional, she might have been the most loving of mothers and a victim of slander, but history has left writers, whether they be novelists or biographers, little to work with. I hope readers will enjoy peeping through the window my words have created into this vain and haughty beauty’s world.

At sixteen, Elizabeth Howard envisions a glorious life for herself as lady-in-waiting to the future queen, Catherine of Aragon. But when she is forced to marry Thomas Boleyn, a wealthy commoner, Elizabeth is left to stagnate in the countryside while her detested husband pursues his ambitions. There, she raises golden girl Mary, moody George, and ugly duckling Anne—while staving off boredom with a string of admirers. Until Henry VIII takes the throne. . .

When Thomas finally brings his highborn wife to London, Elizabeth indulges in lavish diversions and dalliances—and catches the lusty king's eye. But those who enjoy Henry's fickle favor must also guard against his wrath. For while her husband's machinations bring Elizabeth and her children to the pinnacle of power, the distance to the scaffold is but a short one—and the Boleyn family's fortune may be turning. . .

Brandy Purdy (Emily Purdy in the UK) is the author of the historical novels THE CONFESSION OF PIERS GAVESTON, THE BOLEYN WIFE (THE TUDOR WIFE), THE TUDOR THRONE (MARY & ELIZABETH), THE QUEEN’S PLEASURE (A COURT AFFAIR), and THE QUEEN’S RIVALS (THE FALLEN QUEEN). An ardent book lover since early childhood, she first became interested in history at the age of nine or ten years old when she read a book of ghost stories which contained a chapter about Anne Boleyn haunting the Tower of London. Visit her website at, you can also follow her, and her cat Tabby, via her blog at where she posts updates about her work and weekly book reviews.