Elizabeth Boleyn readily admits that she is a vain woman. What do you think of her vanity and pride and the way they affect her thoughts and actions? Do you agree that she was raised to be this way or do you regard this as an excuse and her attitude as more of a personal failing? Does she remain you of the Tudor era equivalent of the mean, pretty, snobby girls everyone encounters in high school? What do you think of the way she treats people, like her maid Matilda, her husband, children, and the men she has affairs with? Near the end of this novel she describes her husband’s attitude toward people as “use and then lose” – he discards them when they are of no further profitable use to him. Though, as far as we know, no one has ever died as a result of Elizabeth’s behaviour, is this a case of the pot calling the kettle black?
I think that Elizabeth was raised to be vain and spoilt – she was a daughter of the Duke of Norfolk, one of the greatest and most powerful nobles in England, and she would have been raised to know and understand this. However, I think that you can change the way you were brought up, but Elizabeth shows no desire to do so. It is one of her failings that she sees the only improvement she can make to herself to be social improvement – she can’t see any personal improvement being necessary. I think she treats people more as stepping stones to advancement rather than people in their own right – except her husband, who she initially sees as a block to her social advancement. She sees Thomas Boleyn as not being good enough for the daughter of the Duke of Norfolk. I think Elizabeth and Thomas do treat people very similarly – Elizabeth uses people to help her social advancement and then discards them when they are of no use, in the same way that Thomas does.
Discuss the marriage and relationship between Elizabeth and Thomas Boleyn. Do you believe he deserves the contempt Elizabeth treats him with? She regards herself as superior, sneers when he changes the spelling of his name from Bullen to Boleyn, and rubs his family’s mercantile origins in his face whenever she has the chance. She glories in cheating on him with men of an even lower social status. What do you think of all this? How would you react, if you were in Thomas Bullen’s shoes, to a wife like Elizabeth?
I think that Thomas Boleyn was the archetypical man aiming for a higher social status – the Tudor court was full of them, and even outside the court, people were always aiming to better themselves. However, I think that, because Elizabeth was born into a well to-do family she was one of those who saw social advancement of the low classes (as she saw Thomas) to be silly. She believed, as many of the nobility did, that the country should be ruled by them and not by the “new men”, raised to the nobility by the likes of Henry VII and Henry VIII. Elizabeth enjoys rubbing Thomas’s nose in his origins I think because it establishes her as the primary partner in the relationship – she is of higher origins so should take the lead. I think she enjoys cheating on him with men of lower status because it emphasises Thomas’s own humble origins, and how far Elizabeth has to go to find someone lower than him. I think Thomas saw Elizabeth as his stepping stone to greater power. I think that, as long as she didn’t take lovers in public he didn’t really mind all that much. Continue reading “Discussion Questions – The Boleyn Bride by Emily Purdy”
Discuss the marriage of Robert Dudley and Amy Robsart. They married very young; both were only seventeen. Was their marriage doomed from the start? What, if anything, coujld they have done to save their marriage? Though our modern-day concept of domestic abuse did not exist in Tudor times, do you think Robert Dudley, as depicted in this novel, was an abusive husband? If you were a marriage counsellor and this couple were seated on your couch, what would you tell them?
I think that Robert and Amy’s marriage was doomed from the start because Robert’s love wasn’t love at all, but lust, whereas Amy’s was real. They were too young to really understand what they wanted and what it would mean in the long term. Amy was bound to get hurt as Robert’s ambition took control over his feelings. I think what would have been needed to save the marriage was a lack of ambition or an acceptance that marriages were generally not love matches, though the second was less likely. I think Robert Dudley was abusive towards Amy Robsart in an emotional way, not really physically. He pushed her aside and made it quite clear that he preferred someone else. I’d say that they needed to communicate more and come clear about their feelings and wants and needs, Amy in particular. I would also tell them that marriage should be for life and that even if you discover that you aren’t as well connected as you should be that there is always a way around it and that they shouldn’t give up too easily, as Robert does in this novel.
1. Discuss the childhoods of Mary and Elizabeth. How were they different? How were they alike? How did their relationships with their parents, the loss of their mothers, the alternating periods of being in and out of their father’s favour, and their father’s multiple marriages affect and influence the women they grew up to be?
Mary and Elizabeth had very different childhoods. Their mothers definitely affected them differently. For one, Mary was old enough to understand what was happening when her mother and father split when Henry was courting Anne Boleyn. When Anne fell from favour, Elizabeth wasn’t really old enough to understand what was happening. This created differences in how Mary and Elizabeth each treated their stepmothers. Elizabeth was more accepting, being younger and more easily influenced. Mary was very set in her ways, having been under her mother’s wing for her whole life, until they were forcibly split apart. Their childhoods were alike in that they were both raised in the royal court, but Mary was raised until she was a teenager in believing she was legitimate and would one day be Queen, whereas by the time Elizabeth was old enough to understand she was already illegitimate. The multiple marriages of Henry VIII affected Elizabeth more than Mary. It is my belief that Elizabeth’s experiences with her mother and stepmothers were a key reason why she didn’t marry. Continue reading “‘Mary and Elizabeth’ by Emily Purdy – Discussion Questions”
Discuss the roles guilt, jealousy, and vengeance play in the novel. How do these feelings affect and motivate Jane and influence the outcome of the story?
Jane is effectively guilty of the deaths of both Anne Boleyn and Katherine Howard. This is because she accused Anne, with George, of committing incest, and then turned on Katherine. She is also responsible for her own death as well as theirs. These actions were both to try and save herself. Jane also feels guilt over George’s death, as the charges were fabricated and it has been argued that she hoped George would save himself at Anne’s expense, and they could live happily together. It is this guilt that, in my opinion, leads to her aiding Katherine Howard in her trysts – she wanted someone to have what she couldn’t. Jane was jealous of her husband’s relationship with his sister, hence where the charge of incest derived from. Similarly to Jane, Anne was jealous of Henry’s relationships with other women. There is a further consequence of Jane assisting Katherine – she becomes jealous of Katherine’s happiness. Jane wanted vengeance on Anne for supposedly ruining her marriage, as George appeared to prefer Anne to Jane. Jane also wanted vengeance on Katherine for finding with Culpeper what she never had with George. Henry wanted vengeance on both Anne and Katherine for cheating on him and cuckolding him. Ultimately, it was only Henry who achieved vengeance, by executing the women, as Jane was ultimately also executed, and was miserable for her whole life. Continue reading “‘The Tudor Wife’ by Emily Purdy – Discussion Questions”