Sunday, 8 August 2010

Further Thoughts on 'Anne Boleyn'

I was surprised that Brenton chose George Villiers, later the Duke of Buckingham, as the favourite of James 1st, instead of Robert Carr, who would have been the favourite at the time. The play covers James and Villiers meeting and the start of their relationship. At one point, James puts on Anne Boleyn's dress, dances with Villiers, and then kisses him on the lips. In the aftershow discussion, some of the audience made comparisons with other members of royalty. At one point, when Anne says she is Henry's 'true love', she uses the phrase 'the Queen of his heart', which reminded me, and others, of Princess Diana's desire to be the Queen of hearts, and Miranda Raison said this occurred to her. Another audience member remarked that James and George's relationship reminded him of Charles and Camilla - in being secretive -and also Edward II and his lover. I hoped he meant Piers! Although, the comparison of Charles and Camilla and Edward and Piers I find mind-boggling. Piers cared so much about his appearance and was complimented on his manners - erm, harldy much in common with Camilla. (I'm not a fan). Undoubtedly there were three people in Edward and Isabella's marriage, but the difference is that Charles could have married Camilla before Diana and didn't.

The comparison with James Ist and Robert Carr/George Villiers makes more sense, although James doesn't seem to have been as faithful to his favourites as Edward II. And what about James' Queen - Anne of Denmark? She was not as powerful as Isabella, but she seems happy to have tolerated James and his favourites, and went on to have many children with James. James' relationship with his favourites may have caused petty jealousies at court, but didn't really lead to any crisis. Scandal, yes - the infamous case of the murder of Thomas Overbury by Robert Carr and his wife Frances Howard. James survived it relatively unscathed, and both Carr and his wife, although convicted, were not executed. In my opinion, the majore difference is the role of the monarch and parliament, which had changed drastically since the reign of Edward II.

I will take this opportunity to recommend Anne Somerset's 'Unnatural Murder', about the Overbury case. It's a fascinating and riveting book about the scandal.

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