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28 November 2011

History Does Not Repeat Itself; the Historians Repeat One Another

This afternoon, I found myself scanning Thursday's newspapers in search of stories about the research I've helped to promote, as I do most Mondays. We only get the broadsheets delivered and it's always interesting to see which stories some papers avoid and which ones are, in Private Eye's words, exclusive to all newspapers. By the time I've finished, I usually feel like I would have done really well on the BBC News's 7 Days quiz if only I'd read them earlier.

This is a long-winded way of justifying why I was reading Thursday's Daily Torygraph and why I found a short piece by Alison Weir, who is pimping her new book about Mary Boleyn (a review of the book will follow as soon as I've read it; it's still on my shelf at the moment). The story is hooked to the announcement that Hilary Mantel's sequel to Wolf Hall will be published next year, but Weir quickly gets on with dissing the rather cavalier approach to the truth and historical accuracy taken by the film of The Other Boleyn Girl and the now, fortunately, defunct TV show, The Tudors. She then asks:
What is it about the Tudors that we find so compelling? Easy to answer: they were the most charismatic and dynamic of monarchs, who ruled over an age of great change. A king with six wives, two of whom he beheaded? A young woman (Lady Jane Grey) executed after nine days on the throne? The first women to rule? You couldn’t make it up.
Not that that stopped the likes of The Tudors sexing it up to the max. I did used to enjoy The Tudors during the first season. I tried not to think about the inaccuracies and the campness of it all, but it was good fun and at least if people are watching this show, they might learn a tiny bit of history, which you can't say for the "structured reality" crap that seems to dominate most TV schedules. < /rant > The trouble with a Tudors TV programme is that when characters are popular, you can't exactly write the script to allow them to live on for another season; after the death of Anne Boleyn, The Tudors was hanging by a thin thread.

In her biography of Anne's older sister Mary, Weir, it seems, is on a mission to debunk some of the myths perpetuated by The Other Boleyn Girl, which will be interesting given how little information there is available about Mary. Weir writes biographies and historical fiction and I've enjoyed both genres, so I'm looking forward to her treatment of the elusive Mary Boleyn.

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