Discussion Questions – The Boleyn Bride by Emily Purdy


 

  1. 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?
boleyn-bride-by-emily-purdy
The Boleyn Bride by Emily Purdy

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.

  1. 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”

Spotlight – Elizabeth Boleyn


Name: Elizabeth Boleyn (nee Howard)

Title/s: Lady Boleyn / Lady Rochford / Countess of Wiltshire & Ormond

Birth / Death: c.1480 – 3 April 1538

Spouse: Thomas Boleyn, Earl of Wiltshire & Ormond c.1477-1539

Children: Mary Stafford c.1499-1543 / Anne Boleyn c.1501-1536 / George Boleyn, Viscount Rochford c.1504-1536

Parents: Thomas Howard, 2nd Duke of Norfolk 1443-1524 & Elizabeth Tilney c.1444-1497

Siblings: Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk 1473-1554 / Edward Howard c.1476-1513 / Edmund Howard c.1478-1539 / John Howard c.1482-1503 / Henry Howard / Charles Howard c.1483-1512 / Henry Howard the Younger / Richard Howard c.1487-1517 / Muriel Grey, Viscountess Lisle 1486-1512 (full siblings) / William Howard, 1st Baron Howard c.1510-1573 / Thomas Howard 1511-1537 / Richard Howard ?-1517 / Dorothy Stanley, Countess of Derby c.1511-? / Anne de Vere, Countess of Oxford 1518-1558 / Catherine Daubeney, Countess of Bridgewater c.1499-1548 / Elizabeth Radclyffe, Countess of Sussex c.1500-1534 Continue reading “Spotlight – Elizabeth Boleyn”

Meaning of Tudor Names


  • Anne

    Anne of Cleves by Hans Holbein 1539
    Anne of Cleves by Hans Holbein 1539
Anne Boleyn Hever Castle Portrait
Anne Boleyn Hever Castle Portrait

Anne Boleyn, Anne of Cleves

French form of ‘Anna’. ‘Anna’ is a form of Channah used in Greek and Latin. In Hebrew it means ‘favour’ or ‘grace’. It was a popular name in the Byzantine Empire, and was later used to honour Saint Anna, mother of the Virgin Mary. In Anne Boleyn’s coronation procession, there was a pageant showing her as the mother of the Virgin Mary, but it boded ill, as Mary only gave birth to a girl, and not the son Anne Boleyn desperately wanted and needed to give Henry VIII. In the end, Anne only gave birth to a girl. Anne of Cleves was shown favour after she accepted the end of her marriage to Henry VIII – instead of execution as Anne Boleyn had, Anne of Cleves was accepted as the king’s sister, and outlived him. Partly this was because of her having a standing similar to that of Katherine of Aragon – she had powerful relatives who would probably have avenged her death.   Continue reading “Meaning of Tudor Names”