All About Anne: Highlights of the 1st Anne Boleyn Experience

Last week, I had the joy of spending a week at Hever Castle for the first ever Anne Boleyn Experience. This amazing trip was put together by Claire Ridgway who has the most wonderful web-site called The Anne Boleyn Files. If you don't already know about the site, please do check it out. It's one of the best historical web-sites out there.  Over my years of traveling in England, I'd been to Hever Castle before, but staying there is an entirely different experience. I felt so close to Anne Boleyn, looking out my window in the morning, I could imagine her wandering the gardens, perhaps with her brother George, or with the King himself. When the final day came, I didn't want to leave. I'm sure there are scratch marks in the castle walls from where I clung for dear life.

Now that I've had a few days back in reality (I flew back to the States on Friday and spent the weekend in a jet-lagged coma watching the first series of Law and Order UK), I've had time to reflect on my time at Hever. Here are just a few highlights and photos from the trip. I'll have more when my pictures get developed. 

  • High up on the list has to be Claire and her husband Tim for putting together the trip which must have taken months of hard, hard work.
  • The staff at the Castle who couldn't have been nicer, especially Kevin on our last night there.
  • The Astor Wing of the Castle where we stayed which blends in so seemlessly with the castle that you wouldn't know that it was added when the Astor's bought the castle and restored it in 1903. There are 21 rooms of various sizes. I stayed in the Azalea Room which was a single.  My bed was adorable with a red canopy.
  • The food. Seems strange to be talking about the food but I can't tell you how many conferences I've been too where the vegetarians meals were barely edible. I've been given pasta slicked with oil and badly nuked vegetables or a badly nuked baked potato as my entrees.  The food was superb. My first night I had fresh ravioli with kale and spring peas. Another night we had the most delicious tomato soup, and then I had butternut squash risotto. I'm sorry that I didn't take pictures of the meals, especially the delicious desserts and the chocolates featuring Henry and his 6 wives. Every dinner was 3 courses, and wine was included.  Plus we were served breakfast every morning, and had vouchers for lunch for our days out.
  • Having dinner the second night in the Tudor Dining Room in the Castle. Yes, we ate in the Castle itself.

This was taken at dinner in the Tudor Dining Hall, I'm seated at the end of the table looking pensive

  • Being taken by the Chief Yeoman Warder into the Chapel of St. Peter ad Vincula at The Tower of London, who let us behind the rope at the altar to see exactly where Anne Boleyn is supposed to be buried. Her plaque is underneath the altar cloth, where she is buried next to her cousin Katherine Howard, and Jane Boleyn. At the end of the row is Lady Jane Grey. Claire placed roses from us at the site. The Yeoman Warder also told us that every year red roses are delivered by taxi to be placed on Anne's grave but no one knows who they come from. They've tried to find out but the trail has been well-hidden. Rumors are that it is one of Mary Boleyn's descendants. We also got to go down into the crypt to see where Sir Thomas More and Bishop Fisher are buried, and to see where George Boleyn might be buried.

  • Being able to wander into Hever Castle while it was open with our handy ticket. We also had a private tour before it opened to the public for the day.
  • Our lovely guest speakers, historian Elizabeth Norton and costumer Bess Chilver. I disagree with Elizabeth's theory that Jane Seymour was Henry's true love. I just think she died before he could get bored with her. And she gave him a son. Thanks to Bess, I now know exactly when into what a Tudor woman of the court would wear, down to her underwear. Anyone who has seen the episode of The Tudors in Season 3 where Katherine Howard just drops her dress on the ground without even unlacing it , should know that could never happen. Also actress, Annika Hammerton, who played one of Jane Seymour's ladies came to talk to us about what it as like to film The Tudors. She brought along two costumes that she had bought from the production of The Other Boleyn Girl with Natalile Portman and Scarlet Johanssen.
  • Books! Our goody bag included 10 books, Henry VIII's Mistresses by Kelly Hart, 3 of Elizabeth Norton's books, How Fat Was Henry VIII among others.
  • Having our own guide to take us around Hampton Court Palace and The Tower of London.
  • The people that I met. Spending 5 days talking about Anne Boleyn with 20 other knowledgeable people was heaven. And no one thought I was crazy for a change.

There weren't really any other than the tour was too short and my shower didn't work for two days.

Claire and Henry VIII

The trip was truly one of those trips that I will remember for the rest of my life.  I can't wait for next year!

Please check out The Anne Boleyn Files for Claire's daily journal and more photos from the trip.


May said…
This really sounded like a fabulous trip- even from far away, following what was happening on Claire's site was alot of fun.
Thanks so much for sharing your own experience. I am hoping to attend next year!
Oh my gosh! What fun!I LOVE reading about that time period, even though I have a teensy-weensy bit of trouble memorizing who was married to whom,etc...Sounds like a dream trip!
It was a dream trip. I'll have more photographs to post in the next few days.
Anonymous said…
I'm so glad that you enjoyed the tour, Elizabeth, it was great to finally meet you. Your vegetarian meals looked so tasty!
Sorry about the shower, I will put in a complaint about that.
I am so missing Hever, it was such an anticlimax to wake up the next day and not go for a walk in the gardens before breakkfast or to look at the castle - sob! I'm hoping to go on a day trip there in July with my kids so I'll say hello to it then from you xx
Bearded Lady said…
Thanks for the recap. I have never been to Hever. Last time I was in London, I begged to go to Hever but it is a bit of a drive and so little time...

I so want to go on this tour. I hope they have it again next year.

I remember last time that I went to the Tower the Yeoman talking about the mysterious roses that get delivered and I thought they were making it up. So there really is an unknown rose donor? So interesting.
Hi Bearded Lady. Yes, there really is an unknown rose donor. I will try and post a photo of them on the blog. They are beautiful and clearly expensive. Next year, there will be two tours, one in May and one in July. The details will be announced on The Anne Boleyn Files next Wednesday.

Claire, I have been in such a funk this week since I'm no longer at Hever. No swans on the front lawn, no beautiful roses to smell. It's such a magical place, I have to believe that the times that Anne spent there were happy times, even with Henry.
Sarah Johnson said…
This sounds like such an amazing tour, getting to stay on site and soak in all of the atmosphere. Thanks for posting about it!

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