Monday, 2 March 2015

TO WULF HALL



BBC production of Wolf Hall
Claire Foy as Anne Boleyn, Damien Lewis as Henry VIII

Life often does not go according to dreams - or plans, no matter who that we are.

Losing friends and loved ones, or having a serious illness serves to remind us how precious that each moment is and how, whatever our own personal circumstances we need to make the most of what we have and enjoy the good times.

It is a new year and time has flown by once again, including Christmas, while I recovered from illness. I was born with an immune disorder which was not correctly diagnosed until adulthood by which time it had left me with permanent damage. It is why I took early retirement from my corporate employment, and began to turn my leisure activity of collecting and selling vintage items into my full time job. I often struggle to make plans for the future, near or far. Deadlines spin past while I rest and I worry about the inconvenience to others when I must cancel an event or meeting. I acutely feel the distress that not being quite well causes to those close to me. Even a slight cold can keep me from doing anything for several days.


our woodland themed Christmas tree 

I love celebrating the seasons and I managed to get the Christmas tree up and the cottage decorated before taking to my bed. We have three different size and shape faux trees which we alternate. I love the scent of real trees, which reminds me of the pine forests of my childhood but I have always felt a close bond to trees and feel guilty that they must die so we can decorate our homes for a few weeks. I fully understand why so many people chose to have a real tree at Christmas, it is an age old tradition to bring greenery into the home in winter. I have a live tree in the garden which we decorate with fairy lights, but indoors I use trees which have been made of wrapped paper, painted sticks or driftwood.  When we lived in the big house we had all three trees up on December 1st. Wherever that I live I always have one tree, even a tiny one,  with animal decorations only. Sometimes I use fantasy ornaments which I call 'The Bestiary Tree'. This year I did a woodland theme on a prelit berry tree with deer, owl and bear ornaments.


One of my collection of Tudor houses
 
The decorations did not come down until end of January because I was still so ill. I was sad to miss the celebrations of Christmas and New Year but the green baubles and fairy lights cheered the cottage.

Feverish, in my dreams I wandered in the woods and encountered all kinds of beasts.

Grimms Fairy Tales illustration by Vladimir Stankovic

It was a good excuse to catch up on books. I spent it re-reading books which seemed to compliment one another, Grimms Fairy Tales, and Wolf Hall / Bring Up The Bodies.


I have always felt as if I belonged in the past and none more so than in Tudor times and architecture. When I moved to England I relished visiting, and lingering, in Tudor and Elizabethan buildings and gardens.  My family were not close, scattered across America, and none of us had much knowledge of our family history. That is until my Aunt Grace began to write a book about it and she sent me a copy of some of the pages of her manuscript to ask if I would be able to visit locations in England where our ancestors had lived and take some photographs for her. It was an eerie moment when I read the paragraph that proclaimed that my Mother's family were descended from Henry VIII through Mary Boleyn, that other Boleyn girl, sister of ill fated Anne. That Mary's two children were borne of the King, and not her husband William Carey has never been proven, but the idea continues to intrigue historians and often surfaces in novels and films. The Carey's were a large dynasty, we have a very many relatives out there somewhere!

Mary Carey (nee Boleyn) played by Charity Wakefield
 in the BBC production of Wolf Hall

The Carey family had a long link to British royalty, over the years being in and out of favour, beheaded or bequested lavish properties only to have them snatched away in the following generation. One of the sons, probably fleeing further loss of fortunes and their head fled to America and any titles and lands which were once associated with them were lost from them forever.

It was with renewed interest that I read about and visited Tudor locations. In a final twist to the personal connections to me when I met my future husband his Mother ran a hotel in a property which had been built by members of the Carey family. Once upon a time they owned the fairytale like village of Cockington and Torre Abbey which were nearby.

Torre Abbey, Devon, once home to the Carey family.

When Hilary Mantel's book Wolf Hall came out I was living in a remotely located rambling Devon long house with several feral cats and one tame kitten for company.



 My husband worked near London during the week and travelled a lot abroad. Without distractions of set meal times or human company I was able to give my uninterrupted attention to reading Wolf Hall.

a Devon Long house
As anyone who has read it will know, it is a heavy book. I could not put it down once began and for three days and late nights I read on bewitched by it's astonishing power. Often repulsed but unable to look away. I awoke one morning after a particularly fitful night of phantoms to find that I had fallen asleep, open book and snarling cats playing by my side.



We often had power cuts, but this did not stop me reading - the candle light added to the atmosphere wrought by Hilary's vision and skill.



I had read enough real history not to have harboured any romantic pretensions of Tudor times but Wolf Hall plunged me directly into the dangerous and dark (but lustrously bejewelled) world, making the day to day risks of ordinary folk and Lords and Ladies very real. It was a scary time to live, extremely so for any common folk but also if you lived in the circle of the court.

BBC production of Wolf Hall
The Masque
And, it could be said that if you didn't then you did not really live at all. Like a moth to flame, such was (and still is) the power and attraction of Kings in general, and Henry and his court.


BBC production Wolf Hall
Damien Lewis as Henry VIII
 
When we left Devon and our much loved ancient cottage I felt as if I was leaving Wolf Hall behind too. But then I found it again in the area in which we now live as the real Wulfhall was nearby as are several places which Henry visited.  “…we shall visit the Seymours.’  He writes it down.  Early September. Five days.  Wolf Hall.”


Often when historical novels are brought to film they are unable to capture the essence of the book and the better the book the worse the film. I was thrilled to hear that Wolf Hall would be filmed by the BBC. The production has not disappointed. The cast are superb, even though perhaps one or two of the ladies playing the parts are a little prettier than the real women were. It has fully imparted the spirit of the book, and that is the hardest thing to convey. It shows us the lavish clothes the court wore, the jewels and the splendid dwellings, while all the time a foreboding feeling lurks in the shadows. And many shadows there are. I think using period locations rather than studio sets has made all the difference. Some complained about how dark it has been shot, as Director Peter Kosminsky used candlelight in the night scenes, but it just takes me back to when I was reading it, in the beamed cottage by candlelight. The book was astonishing, and so is the film production.

The many stunning locations used for Wolf Hall are well worth a visit and most are open to the public. One of my favourites is the National Trust owned Lacock Abbey in Wiltshire which
stands in for Wolf Hall, home of the Seymour family and where Henry meets Jane while at a hunting party (the real Wolf Hall sadly fell into disrepair and the last of it was pulled down). Laycock Abbey itself has a long and interesting history, founded in the 13th century as an Augustinian nunnery. After Henry had dissolution the monasteries he sold Lacock Abbey to one of his courtiers, Sir William Sharington, who developed it as his family home.

The medieval cloisters of Lacock Abbey were used for the interiors of Wolf Hall. The Great Hall was also used to portray Henry VIII’s bedroom and a banquet room at his lodgings in Calais before he married Anne.

Lacock Abbey in Wiltshire


Cranford, Harry Potter and The Other Boleyn Girl were also shot at Lacock Abbey.


Why 'Wolf Hall'? The Seymour family seat was named with a nod to the Latin saying 'homo homini lupus est': ‘man is a wolf to man’. It is appropriate. Like the Boleyns the Seymours were a family bent on power and more than willing to sacrifice their own to get what they wanted. In part 6, chapter I of Wolf Hall Thomas Cromwell recalls the phrase whilst reflecting on the Duke of Norfolk's hounding of Cardinal Wolsey.

There is no surviving picture of Wolf Hall as King Henry saw it. Wulfhall was a medieval manor house, most likely timber framed with a double courtyard and a tower (which was demolished in 1569), a long gallery and a chapel. Wulfhall was "derelict and abandoned after 1571" as the family had moved out to nearby Tottenham Park. It was used as servant accommodation until seriously reduced in size in the 1660s and finally demolished in 1723.  Some ruins survived until the beginning of the 20th century, but nothing now remains of the once great house. The famous barn, where King Henry and Queen Jane supposedly celebrated their marriage, burnt down in the 1920s. After Queen Jane died, Henry visited the house again in 1539 – and on that occasion Wolf Hall’s great barn (with an inside space 172 feet long by 26 feet wide) was decorated for a banquet. You can pass the spot where Wulfhall was, and a farm of the same name lies near the road.


Hilary in an interview says this about the title and the writing of the book, "The title arrived before a word was written: Wolf Hall, besides being the home of the Seymour family, seemed an apt name for wherever Henry's court resided. But I had no idea what the book would be like, how it would sound. I could see it, rather than hear it: a slow swirling backdrop of jewelled black and gold, a dark glitter at the corner of my eye. I woke one morning with some words in my head: "So now get up." It took a while to work out that this was not an order to get the day under way. It was the first sentence of my novel."

I am not here to judge those times, or anyone who lived in them. There was not a lot of freedom whether you were Catholic or Protestant, and just one of the many shocking aspects of life then is that the common people could have no access to the Bible because it was written in Latin, and translation to English was punishable by death. It always saddens me that so many wondrous architectural treasures were destroyed when Henry dissolved the monasteries, but the church at that time was all powerful and a lot of ordinary people must have felt abandoned by them. 

The story of Anne Boleyn will forever fascinate people, and it is a sad tale to be sure. That these two people who created the greatest British monarch in Elizabeth I could not have known what their union had forged.

A Tudor Princess by L.M Mackenzie


The final scene of the BBC production of Wolf Hall is extremely moving. The often sharp, pouting and spoiled Anne reduced to shivering in the cold giving her death speech. Was she guilty of all accused? Very unlikely.




Credits: BBC/COMPANY PRODUCTIONS LTD throughout for images from their production of Wolf Hall.

44 comments:

  1. I haven't read the book as to be honest I'm a bit of a lazy trout when it comes to reading, but I was absolutely transfixed by the series. I though the use of candle light was one of the things that made it seem so legitimate - and I remember hearing somewhere how long it took the production company to decide the best sort of candles to use so as to not create soot marks! Did you see the interview with the director and Mark Rylance after the final show? They were talking about how much people were claiming Hilary Mantel had taken massive liberties with the storyline - and yet she actually spent five years researching it. Surely that amount of dedication must allow a little interpretation? Landmark stuff though! Like you I would loved to have lived in those times but only if it could be guaranteed that I would be healthy and happy! So sorry to hear you have been ill but what a great outlook you have - listening to your body and appreciating the good times - something so many of us forget to do. The longhouse sounds like the perfect place to snuggle up with a book - I hope you have found a similar corner in your present home. Hope you are keeping well x Jane

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    1. Jane, The series closely followed the book, picking the dialogue from the page. I did catch the interview with Mark and Peter and found it quite interesting. I hope all is well with you, must pop over and catch up! x

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  2. Oh, I saw the movie about Anne Boleyn - what a fascinating story. You are so right. Still have goosebumps when I think of it. So I have to read the book to. Thank you for the fantastic advice.
    Have a wonderful time and all my best from Austria
    Elisabeth

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    1. Wonderful to hear from you Elisabeth! It's a large book and I hope you enjoy it. x

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  3. So sad to hear about your illness, unfortunately I do suffer from something very similar. my heart is with you!

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    1. Oh no! I am so sorry that you too are unwell. I hope it does not cause you much distress x

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  4. Hello Minerva, so sorry to hear you've been unwell. I did wonder where you had gotten to. I haven't read the book but I did watch the series on TV. How fascinating to find out you are related to Henry VIII - albeit a distant one! I find ancestry extremely interesting too. Hope you have a lovely week. Sharon

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    1. Great to hear from you Sharon - I hope you are enjoying life. Catch up with you soon. x

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  5. Dear Minerva,

    Sorry to hear about your illness. I understand it's something you have to live with and hope you can keep it under control. I sincerely hope it will! Sorry to hear you have been unwell.

    I enjoyed reading about your ancestry. Like Sharon I find it interesting as well! Part of my family originally came from Austria. Ha, ha, imagine me being a 'relative' of Heidi ;-)

    Hope you have a lovely week!

    Madelief x

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    1. Madelief, So lovely to hear from you! Thank you for kind comments. Ancestry is interesting. You and Heidi? That made me smile. x

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  6. Dearest Minerva,
    Well, I too understand the life with auto immune disease... Since January of 2010 my planning for special festivities has been thrown off so many times when I became paralyzed in that month. Several surprises and planning a Christmas open house or whatever got often thwarted. But I still keep my website for sales and life goes on.
    Funny, today I also posted about my French Connection, the book that I got about our family tree from 1560 on.
    Sending you hugs and best wishes!
    Mariette

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    1. Dear Mariette, I am so sorry to hear of your health problem! I do hope that you are okay. I must read about your family tree, this sounds fascinating. Hugs to you too my friend. x

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  7. Sorry to hear about your illness, I do hope you can keep it under control and continue to live a happy, cat-filled life!
    I haven't seen Wolf Hall but I loved the book. I saw a clip of Anna Boleyn's execution on Googlebox of all places and it looked wonderfully atmospheric. xxx

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    1. Vix, Thank you for the kind comments. I hope you get to see all of Wolf Hall. x

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  8. Sorry to hear you were so ill over christmas, you did well to get your trees decorated, they sound wonderful! I love to read Grimms Fairy tales, it's great to be transported to another world isn't it?

    Jess x

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    1. Jess, I love books, especially Grimms. Such magical portals to places we can only dreams of. x

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  9. Oh, I have to have that book! My husband is from Nottingham and his mother got me reading about English history years ago. I've become an English history fiend! I hope that series is on BBC America...

    Stay well and warm!

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    1. Ha ha! I can just see you being a history fiend! Do find the books, they are a long read but well worth it. x

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  10. Wow, how fascinating to find you were descended through Mary! I would love to visit all those places!

    I had autoimmune troubles a few years ago which luckily are currently in remission! I know that feeling of not being able to do anything!

    Your decorations look and sound so lovely!

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    1. Laura, I am glad to hear that you are better now. Thank you for the kind comments. x

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  11. I too love the English countryside and the little villages where the time stood still. I also love London and never miss to stay there for a day when I am in England.

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  12. It was lovely to hear from you, but on visiting here I am saddened to learn that you have been feeling so unwell during the winter months. I sincerely hope that the warmer weather will be more favourable to you and your health problems.
    How exquisitely you have wound up the series that has glued those of us who love history to our TV screens over the past weeks. What a capricious character Thomas Cromwell was and how wonderfully he was portrayed by Mark Rylance. I am going back now to re-read your brilliant post.

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    1. Rosemary, So nice to hear from you, and thank you for the kind comments. Yes, Thomas was wonderfully played by Mark Rylance. I found the series really moving. x

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  13. Oh my, what a magnificent post! First off, I am hoping that you are better now and feeling more like yourself.
    Now, you must know that I find your family history incredibly interesting!! And I can't thank you enough for telling me about Wolf Hall!! That Damian Lewis, the same actor who played Lt. Winters in Band of Brothers also playing Henry VIII. (I know he is Scottish.) My stars, what an actor!!
    You might tell from my blog that I am crazy about England! :-)

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    1. Kay, I am crazy about England too, and feel very lucky to live here. x

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  14. Oh! And I meant to say that my husband has an autoimmune disease, Celiac disease. He has had this since he was about 2 years old. He was in and out of the Great Ormond Street Hospital in London as a child. He credits the care he received there to saving his life. Now, he also has a blood disorder, his blood is too thick. Both of these causes great fatigue. Fatigue is something that very few understand. So, if you feel that you need rest, TAKE it!
    There, free medical advice for you! Take care. xx

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    1. Kay, I am so sorry about your husband being unwell. Celiac is a serious disorder, and can cause other complications as well. I hope he is able to manage this. Thank you again for stopping by to see us. x

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  15. I am so sorry you have been so ill over Christmas. I battle with Fibromyalgia and hate the waste of time when I just have to rest some days. Thank you for this interesting post. I loved the series and when I have forgotten it a little I will turn to the books. I do hope the forthcoming Spring helps your health. Jane xx

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  16. Hi Dear,
    it's me again. Would like to thank you for your lovely visit. Wonderful to have you around!
    All my best do you and happy spring
    Elisabeth

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    1. Thank you Elisabeth - happy spring to you also! x

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  17. To struggle with chronic illness can bring one down, to earth or into a pit. I know about it.

    Oh, how wonderful it would be to walk thru those halls.

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  18. I am sorry to hear you have not been well, my dear. I have a sister, and a very good friend whom both contracted Lyme Disease; my sister was diagnosed with it five years ago, and still fights it to this day; my other friend contracted Lyme in her mountain home just last fall, and is going through anti-biotics and feels horrible most of the time. And another very dear friend of mine, has Lupus, which never goes away. Brave ladies all of you! I am inclined to believe I may have a form of Chronic Fatigue Symdrome, as I always need twelve hours of rest, or I feel 'dead' for the rest of the day.
    Life is strange at best.
    Thank you for your lovely portrayal of 'Wolf Hall'. I am kind of surprised it is not spelled 'Wulf' as in Beowulf. it would sound more British! I will have to find the book and the movie.
    I just recently read 'Jane Eyre', then 'Pride and Prejudice' ; and of course before that 'The Lord of the Rings' series including 'The Hobbit'. Now I am reading 'The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland.' If I get away from reading fantasy for very long, I find that something is 'missing' from my life as I am a very whimsical person.
    Maybe Jim Carey is related to you? That would be interesting.
    I would rather be ill and in England, than to be ill and in the United States. So much more ancient and mysterious things to see and relate to.
    Eat well, stay warm, and give my regards to your cats! I too love black cats!
    hugs,
    Teresa in California

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    1. Teresa, How wonderful to hear from you again! I have missed friends on blogger. I am sad that both you and your sister and friends have been unwell. I hope you both are better soon. Yes, Wolf Hall is often spelt Wulf Hall, these names change through the centuries and old English is not used so much today for place names. Like you, I always have a book at hand. I will catch up with you soon! x

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  19. This is a wonderful description of Wolf Hall and the times of Henry VIII. I read Wolf Hall, The Other Boleyn Girl, and a nonfiction book about the Wives of Henry VIII, fascinating. How intriguing to be related to the Carey family, and to see many of the homes and estates. I hope you are in great good health.

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    1. Thank you for visiting us Terra. I love reading about Tudor times too, whether a history book or historial fiction. Thank you for your wishes on my health. x

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  20. Sorry to hear about your disease by nature and having been ill all the winter period. Medieval period was a dark time in any countries, but it seems to me there have been different kinds of fears and terrors in each historical period, though I’m so happy to be born in this time. I have thought original book is one thing and film or TV drama is another and know characters shine more in the book, but I have resorted to only films regarding period story. In English history, the time of Henry VIII is the most interesting to me. Your decorations are lovely, I like put animals on Christmas tree.

    The weather is changeable. Stay warm and take care of yourself.

    Yoko

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    1. So lovely to hear from you Yoko! Yes, I agree, these ties were hard and brutal in ever country. I usually believe that characters in a book shine better than on screen, but this production of Wolf Hall is as good as the book I think. take care, x

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  21. This was so enjoyable to read LeeAnn. I love anything English and was so interested in reading about your Carey connections as I am from a tiny town in Idaho named Carey. Named for the family that founded it. All of my ancestors are from England as well, so I enjoyed this very much. I can't wait to see Wolf Hall. I haven't read the book, but I watch anything I can put out by the BBC.

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    1. Thank you for finding us June. How interesting about your family, and the town you live in. The Carey family settled in several places in the US. I hope you get to see Wolf Hall. x

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  22. I thoroughly enjoyed this post. I loved Wolf Hall (you've made me want to read it again) and all of your illustrations are fascinating. I can't wait to see it on BBC--I think they are showing it here in April.

    I'm so sorry about your illness and that you've been having a rough time. Thank you for putting together this lovely post. I hope you're feeling better. xo, Jen

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    1. Hello Jen, Lovely to hear from you. I hope you get to see Wolf Hall, it is a spectacle to be sure. I hope all is well with you. x

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  23. OOo I will have to watch for Wolf Hall! And I'm sorry about your struggles with illness. Glad you are able to find beauty in life despite this.

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