|Education||City of London School for Girls|
|Alma mater||University of North London|
|Genre|| History |
|Subject||Primarily English royalty|
Alison Weir is a British author and public historian. She primarily writes about the history of English royal women and families, in the form of biographies that explore their historical setting. She has also written numerous works of historical fiction.
Her first work, Britain's Royal Families published 1989, was a genealogical overview of the British royal family. She subsequently wrote biographies of Eleanor of Aquitaine, Isabella of France, Katherine Swynford, Elizabeth of York, and the Princes in the Tower. Other focuses have included Henry VIII and his family and England's Medieval Queens. Weir has published historical overviews of the Wars of the Roses and royal weddings, as well as historical fiction novels on English queens, including each wife of Henry VIII.
Weir was born in 1951 and brought up in Westminster, London. She has been married to Rankin Weir since 1972,and now lives in Surrey. She described her mother as "a genuinely good person with heaps of integrity, strength of character, humour and wisdom, and has overcome life’s trials with commendable fortitude."
Weir recalls how, at the age of fourteen, she read Lozania Prole's Henry's Golden Queen, a "really trashy" novel about the life of Katherine of Aragon. She then became interested in the field of history.
She was educated at City of London School for Girls and North Western Polytechnic, becoming a history teacher. She opted to abandon teaching as a career after a disillusion with "trendy teaching methods", so she worked as a civil servant, and later as a housewife and mother. Between 1991 and 1997, she ran a school for children with learning difficulties.
—Alison Weir on her writing career
In the 1970s, Weir spent four years researching and writing a biography of the six wives of Henry VIII. Her work was deemed too long by publishers, and was consequently rejected. A revised version would be published in 1991 as her second book, The Six Wives of Henry VIII. In 1981, she wrote a book on Jane Seymour, which was again rejected by publishers, this time because it was too short. Weir finally became a published author in 1989 with Britain's Royal Families, a compilation of genealogical information about the British Royal Family. She had revised the work eight times over a twenty-two-year period, and decided that it might be "of interest to others". After organising it into chronological order, The Bodley Head agreed to publish it.
Weir would not start writing full-time until the late 1990s. While running the school for children with learning difficulties, she published the non-fiction works The Princes in the Tower (1992), Lancaster and York: The Wars of the Roses (1995), and Children of England: The Heirs of King Henry VIII (1996). Now writing books full-time, she produced Elizabeth the Queen (1998) (published in America as The Life of Elizabeth I), Eleanor of Aquitaine: By the Wrath of God, Queen of England (1999), Henry VIII: The King and His Court (2001), Mary, Queen of Scots and the Murder of Lord Darnley (2003), and Isabella: She-Wolf of France, Queen of England (2005). Katherine Swynford: The Story of John of Gaunt and his Scandalous Duchess followed in 2007, and The Lady in The Tower: The Fall of Anne Boleyn in 2009. Traitors of the Tower came out in 2010. The following year, she completed The Ring and the Crown: A History of Royal Weddings and Mary Boleyn: The Mistress of Kings, the first full non-fiction biography of Mary Boleyn, sister of Anne Boleyn.In 2013 she published Elizabeth of York – A Tudor Queen and Her World, a biography on Elizabeth of York, mother of Henry VIII. Weir has written two books on England's Medieval Queens: Queens of Conquest published in 2017 and Queens of the Crusades, published 5 November 2020 by Random House.
Many of Weir's works deal with the Tudor period, which she considers "the most dramatic period in our history, with vivid, strong personalities... The Tudor period is the first one for which we have a rich visual record, with the growth of portraiture, and detailed sources on the private lives of kings and queens. This was an age that witnessed a growth in diplomacy and the spread of the printed word."
Weir wrote historical novels while a teenager,and her novel in the genre of historical fiction, Innocent Traitor , based on the life of Lady Jane Grey, was published in 2006. When researching Eleanor of Aquitaine, Weir realised that it would "be very liberating to write a novel in which I could write what I wanted while keeping to the facts". She decided to make Jane Grey her focus because she "didn't have a very long life and there wasn't a great deal of material". She found the transition to fiction easy, explaining, "Every book is a learning curve, and you have to keep an open mind. I am sometimes asked to cut back on the historical facts in my novels, and there have been disagreements over whether they obstruct the narrative, but I do hold out for the history whenever I can."
Her second novel is The Lady Elizabeth, which deals with the life of Queen Elizabeth I before her ascent to the throne. It was published in 2008 in the United Kingdom and United States. Her next novel, The Captive Queen, was released in the summer of 2010. Its subject, Eleanor of Aquitaine, had been the subject of a non-fiction biography by Weir in 1999.
Traitors of the Tower is a novella written by Weir and published on World Book Day 2010. Working with Quick Reads and Skillswise, Weir has recorded the first chapter as a taster and introduction to get people back into the habit of reading.Weir published The Marriage Game, a historical novel featuring Elizabeth I and Robert Dudley, 1st Earl of Leicester, in June 2014.
In May 2016 her novel Katherine of Aragon, The True Queen was published,the first of a six-book series on the theme of Six Tudor Queens, each covering one of Henry VIII's six wives. The final novel in the series, Katharine Parr, The Sixth Wife is due to be published in May 2021.
Weir's writings have been described as being in the genre of popular history, [ citation needed ] according to one source, popular history "seeks to inform and entertain a large general audience... Dramatic storytelling often prevails over analysis, style over substance, simplicity over complexity, and grand generalization over careful qualification." Weir argues that "history is not the sole preserve of academics, although I have the utmost respect for those historians who undertake new research and contribute something new to our knowledge. History belongs to us all, and it can be accessed by us all. And if writing it in a way that is accessible and entertaining, as well as conscientiously researched, can be described as popular, then, yes, I am a popular historian, and am proud and happy to be one." Kathryn Hughes, writing in The Guardian , said of Weir's popular historian label, "To describe her as a popular historian would be to state a literal truth – her chunky explorations of Britain's early modern past sell in the kind of multiples that others can only dream of."an area that sometimes attracts criticism from academia;
Reviews of Weir's works have been mixed. The Independent said of The Lady in the Tower that "it is testament to Weir's artfulness and elegance as a writer that The Lady in the Tower remains fresh and suspenseful, even though the reader knows what's coming."On the other hand, Diarmaid MacCulloch, in a review of Henry VIII: King and Court, called it "a great pudding of a book, which will do no harm to those who choose to read it. Detail is here in plenty, but Tudor England is more than royal wardrobe lists, palaces and sexual intrigue." The Globe and Mail , reviewing the novel, The Captive Queen, said that she had "skillfully imagined royal lives" in previous works, "but her style here is marred by less than subtle characterizations and some seriously cheesy writing", while The Washington Post said of the same book, "12th-century France could be the dark side of the moon for all we learn about it by the end of this book."
Weir lives in Surrey with her husband and two sons.She has called "Mrs Ellen", a fictional character from her novel about Jane Grey, most like her own personality, commenting that, "As I was writing the book, my maternal side was projected into this character."
Weir is a supporter of the renovation of Northampton Castle, explaining that the estate is a "historic site of prime importance; it would be tragic if it were to be lost forever. I applaud the work of the Friends of Northampton Castle in lobbying for its excavation and for the regeneration of the area that would surely follow."
Jane Seymour, also known as Jane Semel, was Queen of England from 1536 to 1537 as the third wife of King Henry VIII. She succeeded Anne Boleyn as queen consort following the latter's execution in May 1536. She died of postnatal complications less than two weeks after the birth of her only child, a son who became King Edward VI. She was the only wife of the King to receive a queen's funeral, and his only consort to be buried beside him in St George's Chapel, Windsor Castle.
Catherine Parr, sometimes alternatively spelled Katherine, Katheryn, Kateryn or Katharine, was Queen of England and Ireland (1543–47) as the last of the six wives of King Henry VIII, and the final queen consort of the House of Tudor. She married him on 12 July 1543, and outlived him by a year and eight months. With four husbands, she is the most-married English queen. She was the first woman to publish under her own name in English in England.
Philippa Gregory is an English historical novelist who has been publishing since 1987. The best known of her works is The Other Boleyn Girl (2001), which in 2002 won the Romantic Novel of the Year Award from the Romantic Novelists' Association and has been adapted into two separate films.
Jane Boleyn, Viscountess Rochford, was the wife of the Viscount Rochford, brother of Anne Boleyn, the second wife of King Henry VIII. Jane had been a member of the household of Henry's first wife, Catherine of Aragon. It is possible that she played a role in the judgments against, and subsequent executions of, her husband and Anne Boleyn. She was later a lady-in-waiting to Henry's third and fourth wives, and then to his fifth wife, Catherine Howard, with whom she was executed.
Elizabeth Boleyn, Countess of Wiltshire was an English noblewoman, noted for being the mother of Anne Boleyn and as such the maternal grandmother of Elizabeth I of England. The eldest daughter of Thomas Howard, 2nd Duke of Norfolk and his first wife Elizabeth Tilney, she married Thomas Boleyn sometime in the later 15th century. Elizabeth became Viscountess Rochford in 1525 when her husband was elevated to the peerage, subsequently becoming Countess of Ormond in 1527 and Countess of Wiltshire in 1529.
Catherine Carey, after her marriage Catherine Knollys and later known as both Lady Knollys and Dame Catherine Knollys,, was chief Lady of the Bedchamber to Queen Elizabeth I, who was her first cousin.
William Carey was a courtier and favourite of King Henry VIII of England. He served the king as a Gentleman of the Privy chamber, and Esquire of the Body to the King. His wife, Mary Boleyn, is known to history as a mistress of King Henry VIII and the sister of Henry's second wife, Anne Boleyn.
Doomed Queen Anne is a young-adult historical novel about Anne Boleyn by Carolyn Meyer. It is the third book in the Young Royals series. Other books are Mary, Bloody Mary, Beware, Princess Elizabeth and Patience, Princess Catherine. The book was originally published in the U.S. in 2002 by Harcourt/Gulliver Books.
Innocent Traitor: A Novel of Lady Jane Grey is a historical novel by Alison Weir, published in 2007. It is the story of Lady Jane Grey, who was Queen of England for nine days in 1553. Previously known for her non-fiction publications, Innocent Traitor was Weir's first work of fiction; she later spoke of its impact on her, saying she "learned so much from the editorial process about the writing and craft of fiction."
Margaret Shelton was the sister of Mary Shelton, and was once thought to be a mistress of Henry VIII of England.
Henry VIII and his reign have been depicted in art, film, literature, music, opera, plays, and television
Mary I of England has been depicted in popular culture a number of times.
Anne Boleyn, the second wife of King Henry VIII of England, has inspired or been mentioned in numerous artistic and cultural works. The following lists cover various media, enduring works of high art, and recent representations in popular culture, film and fiction. The entries represent portrayals that a reader has a reasonable chance of encountering, rather than a complete catalogue. Anne Boleyn was the second wife of Henry VIII and was the mother of Elizabeth I.
Anne Shelton née Boleyn was the elder sister of Thomas Boleyn, 1st Earl of Wiltshire, and an aunt of his daughter, Queen Anne Boleyn, the second wife of King Henry VIII.
Mary Boleyn, also known as Lady Mary, was the sister of English queen consort Anne Boleyn, whose family enjoyed considerable influence during the reign of King Henry VIII.
Elizabeth Tilney, Countess of Surrey was an English heiress and lady-in-waiting to two queens. She became the first wife of Thomas Howard, Earl of Surrey.
Mary Shelton was one of the contributors to the Devonshire manuscript. Either she or her sister Madge Shelton may have been a mistress of King Henry VIII.
Catherine Howard was Queen of England from 1540 until 1541 as the fifth wife of Henry VIII. She was the daughter of Lord Edmund Howard and Joyce Culpeper, cousin to Anne Boleyn, and niece to Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk. Thomas Howard was a prominent politician at Henry's court, and he secured her a place in the household of Henry's fourth wife, Anne of Cleves, where she caught the King's interest. She married him on 28 July 1540 at Oatlands Palace in Surrey, just 19 days after the annulment of his marriage to Anne. He was 49, and she was still a teenager, at about 17 years old.
The Mistresses of Henry VIII included many notable women between 1509 and 1536. They have been the subject of biographies, novels and films.
Catherine of Aragon was Queen of England from June 1509 until May 1533 as the first wife of King Henry VIII. She has been portrayed in film, television, plays, novels, songs, poems, and other creative forms many times, and as a result, she has stayed very much in popular memory.