QAB Interview: A British National Treasure, Alison Weir

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alison weir flowers (550x534)

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Queen Anne Boleyn Historical Writers is very humbled and honored that renowned historian and fiction writer Alison Weir again joins us here on the website. Today, in celebration of the release of Alison’s new novel The Marriage Game, a Novel of Queen Elizabeth I, we come together to discuss Elizabeth, Regina — in particular, the politics of her unending marriage negotiations and her relationship with Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester.

Alison, there are a few surprises in store for you, as well.  Enjoy!

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1. Alison, your novel The Marriage Game, a Novel of Queen Elizabeth I focuses concerted attention upon the plethora of marriage proposals and resulting negotiations matching the Queen of England with an assortment of highly placed European royalty and nobility. Just how big an influence did these proposals and resulting negotiations have upon Elizabethan politics and foreign policy?

I think they had a profound influence, because ultimately they kept foreign princes (who might have been hostile to England) friendly in anticipation of an alliance. They were also a highly useful political bargaining counter.

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Elizabeth_Dudley-Miniatures-300x187

2. Do you believe Elizabeth’s relationship with Robert Dudley in any way compromised foreign marriage negotiations?

Yes, undoubtedly. On several occasions foreign ambassadors and suitors came to believe that the Queen really did mean to marry Dudley, and that continuing negotiations would prove fruitless. Some were put off by scandalous gossip, or by Elizabeth flaunting her favour to Dudley. But in such cases she often had her own agenda, using the relationship to scupper unwelcome proposals.

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Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester
Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester

3. Most people think of Robert Dudley as Elizabeth’s lover and favorite. Also forefront in their minds is the controversy surrounding the death of his first wife. In truth, he was also exceptionally accomplished. Just how supportive was Robert Dudley towards Elizabeth in her queenship? Was his relationship with Elizabeth more a help or a hindrance?

In the earlier years of her reign Dudley was more of a hindrance, being unpopular with, and distrusted by, Elizabeth’s councillors and courtiers; they saw him as an unwelcome distraction from any marriage negotiations, and a man unsuited to be king, whose reputation might even topple Elizabeth from her throne if she wed him. But as the years went by, and the pressure on Elizabeth to marry grew ever greater, and Dudley forged better relations with her ministers, they came round to the view that marrying him would be better than not marrying at all. At that juncture the relationship was seen as almost beneficial.

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Alison, one of your biggest fans and founding member of QAB, Mercy Alicea Rivera, produced this video. She would like to share it with you in celebration of your new novel The Marriage Game, a Novel on Queen Elizabeth I. 

Note: Mercy owes none of the contents of this video.

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Elizabeth, Regina

4. Just because Elizabeth never married does not mean that she would not have liked to. What are your thoughts, Alison? Do you think Elizabeth wanted to remain single through her lifetime as is the common belief?

I think that she decided at a young age that she did not want to marry and never varied from that view. Psychological and political considerations always overruled any inclinations towards marriage that she fleetingly cherished. When it was too late to marry, I think she had some regrets, but that they too were fleeting.

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5. Elizabeth was eventually excommunicated from the Roman Catholic Church. How did this impact her ability to reign with tolerance towards her Roman Catholic subjects? How also did this impact her marriage possibilities with foreign royalty and nobility?

It had a devastating impact, because her personal inclination towards tolerance had to be sacrificed for the sake of her own security and that of the realm. All Catholics were now potential enemies of the state, and it was essential to crush any resistance or subversion on their part. Even so, the Papal Bull did not deter Catholic princes from seeking Elizabeth’s hand in marriage – witness the long courtship of the French Duke of Anjou. And after the Armada, even the Pope himself found words of praise for the Queen.

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Thomas Seymour, 1st Baron Seymour of Sudley
Thomas Seymour, 1st Baron Seymour of Sudley

6. Besides Robert Dudley, was there any other man Elizabeth truly loved?

I think that she may have had an adolescent infatuation for Thomas Seymour, and that she enjoyed flirting with, and the admiration of, courtiers like Christopher Hatton, Thomas Heneage and Walter Raleigh, but I think that Dudley was the great love of her life. After his death in 1588, his stepson Essex could not entirely replace him in her affections: she was much older now, and may have seen in Essex the son she had never had, as well as the flattering courtier, but that relationship was far more complex than the one she had had with Dudley, and seems to have been more about control on either side – and, of course, it ended in disaster with his execution.

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William Cecil, 1st Baron Burghley
William Cecil, 1st Baron Burghley

7. I love all the politicians, courtiers and clergy around the Tudor monarchs, so do tell me who do you think was the Tudor Era’s most effective all around servant to a Tudor Monarch — Thomas Wolsey, Thomas Cromwell, Edward Seymour, Thomas Cranmer, William Cecil, Francis Walsingham or someone else? Please explain why.

That is an impossible question! I would say that Cromwell and Cecil equally helped to build the political and religious establishment that we have in Britain today, but you might also say that Cranmer was instrumental in laying the foundations of the Church of England, and that Walsingham’s spy system saved Elizabethan England from disaster.

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Katherine Carey, Lady Knollys
Katherine Carey, Lady Knollys

8. Do you believe either or both of the children of Mary Boleyn were fathered by King Henry VIII?

There is convincing evidence that the elder, Katherine Carey, was fathered by the King, and good evidence to show that the younger, Henry Carey, was not. That evidence is discussed in depth in my biography of Mary Boleyn.

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9. Three of the members of QAB all independently asked me to inquire the same question from you. Given this coincidence, I am guessing many browsers would love to know also. Who is your favorite Tudor Era historical figure to write about in either fiction or non-fiction? Why?

Another difficult question! I cannot choose between Elizabeth I, Henry VIII or Anne Boleyn. All are strong, charismatic, well-documented figures who endlessly fascinate and intrigue me.

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Queen Anne Boleyn
Queen Anne Boleyn

10. Well Alison, this is Queenanneboleyn.com, so of course I must ask an Anne Boleyn related question. Beyond a physical resemblance, do you believe that Anne Boleyn had any real influence upon her daughter Elizabeth? If so, can you explain what that influence was?

I don’t think that she can have had many opportunities to influence her daughter while she was alive. Elizabeth was brought up in a separate household from the age of three months and Anne was only an occasional visitor. But there can be little doubt that Elizabeth came to admire her mother, whose initial pendant she can be seen wearing in the dynastic portrait of Henry VIII and his family at Hampton Court, and she may well have been influenced by what she learned of her mother’s commitment to the cause of reform.

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Alison, here is another video for you from Mercy in celebration of the release of your novel The Marriage Game, a Novel of Queen Elizabeth I.

Note: Mercy owns none of the contents of this video.
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11. Alison, tell us about the next Alison Weir Tour you are planning. I hear it has something to do with England’s great queens.

It’s an 11-night tour embracing many wonderful historic sites and places to stay, and it is themed on the story of England’s queens from the Norman Conquest of 1066 to the present day. I will lead the tour alongside historians Sarah Gristwood and Nicola Tallis, and we have booked no fewer than ten guest historians as speakers. The tour will run in June 2014, and places are nearly sold out.

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Margaret Douglas, Countess of Lennox
Margaret Douglas, Countess of Lennox

12. Are there any new projects you would like to tell members and browsers about?

I am at present working on a biography, The Princess of Scotland, about Margaret Douglas, Countess of Lennox, and – when I get time – rewriting my earlier book, The Six Wives of Henry VIII. As to future projects, I’m not allowed to say yet!

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Alison Weir is the United Kingdom’s most popular and best selling female historian. Alison’s first published work, Britain’s Royal Families, introduced the world to the now recognized genre of  “popular history”, and her sales tell the story. Readers purchased more than 2.3 million books, over 1,000,000 in the United Kingdom, and more than 1,300,000 books in the United States. Rich in detailed research, Alison’s engaging prose captured the interest and imaginations of countless people, instilling a love of history that influenced the career paths of historical fiction writers, historians and teachers, while also greatly increasing knowledge of medieval and early modern English and Welsh history among people throughout the world. For more information on Alison Weir, visit her website at http://alisonweir.org.uk/

TO PURCHASE THE MARRIAGE GAME, A NOVEL OF QUEEN ELIZABETH I IN THE UNITED KINGDOM, CLICK THE LINK BELOW!

The Marriage Game

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Beth von Staats

is the owner and administrator of QueenAnneBoleyn.com. The author of "Thomas Cranmer in a Nutshell", Beth specializes in writing magazine articles, online historical articles, short stories, and flash fiction.

9 Replies to “QAB Interview: A British National Treasure, Alison Weir

  1. What a wonderful interview! Alison, your books got me interested in history. I can not wait for The Marriage Game! Thank you for bringing history to life.

  2. “I would rather be a beggar and single than a queen and married.”

    You do me great honour, Lady Alison. Please do come to court again soon.

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