It takes only a passing mention of the ill-fated Anne Boleyn and I find myself stroking my neck in what is either a gesture of mute sympathy or one of abject fear.
Anne Boleyn’s neck was famously long and white, while mine is short and freckled. We don’t really have that much in common. Fortunately. However I was delighted when I found out that yesterday’s outing, as
planned and organised by the Eldest of the Darling Daughters, was to Hever Castle, the childhood home of Anne Boleyn. Here she grew up, here she learned her lessons, played games, read her Bible – hopefully without the faintest of misgivings for the
fate which lay in store for her.
Our party was made up of the Eldest of the Darling Daughters and her fella; his parents down from Oop North; the youngest of the
grand-daughters; plus Mr B and me. Sweet Sixteen had to stay behind as she is studying hard for her GCSEs, spending her day with her nose to the grindstone. Or, more likely, the computer. It occurred to me later, while we were on our guided tour of Hever
Castle, that she could have come along with us on the trip and counted it as History revision. Though this would depend on whether she is actually studying history, now I come to think of it.
When I say we had a “guided” tour, I am talking BYO – as in Bring Your Own, you understand. We had brought Eleanor (Sweet Sixteen’s younger sister, you may remember her on account of her
occasional guest blogs.) Eleanor is a veteran of at least three visits to Hever Castle, the most recent of which was apparently conducted in French. At least I think that’s what she said. Pourquoi? I nearly asked but didn’t.
As we walk from room to room, following the helpful arrows and taking care not to stray into the areas cordoned off with red rope, we ask: “So what are we looking for in here,
then, Elle?” and our Bring Your Own Guide invariably obliges, pointing out, for example, the copy of the silver clock which Henry VIII gave his doomed bride as a wedding gift. How could she have known, poor Anne of the long, white neck, that her clock
was already ticking? Eleanor shows us the display case holding the illuminated Book of Hours which the Doomed One took with her to the Tower and the block. “Are there any traces of blood?” Mr B asks her in a ghoulish voice. “Oh,
Grandad!” protests our Bring Your Own Guide. That will be a “no” then?
One room is decorated with portraits of Henry and all
six of his wives in order. Eleanor dances round the room, pointing out each one and chanting: “Divorced, Beheaded, Died, Divorced, Beheaded, Survived!” Even more exciting, in the Long Gallery there are life-size models of the six of them,
a sort of Unhappy Wives Gallery. We all look at Anne Boleyn’s long, white neck and shudder, silently.
I have to say that our Eleanor was endlessly
obliging - which is, indeed, a fine attribute in a Bring Your Own Guide.
Though it probably didn't do poor Anne Boleyn much good in the (not very) long run.