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Original Essays | September 15, 2014

Lois Leveen: IMG Forsooth Me Not: Shakespeare, Juliet, Her Nurse, and a Novel



There's this writer, William Shakespeare. Perhaps you've heard of him. He wrote this play, Romeo and Juliet. Maybe you've heard of it as well. It's... Continue »
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    Juliet's Nurse

    Lois Leveen 9781476757445

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The Other Boleyn Girl

by

The Other Boleyn Girl Cover

 

 

Excerpt

Spring 1521

I could hear a roll of muffled drums. But I could see nothing but the lacing on the bodice of the lady standing in front of me, blocking my view of the scaffold. I had been at this court for more than a year and attended hundreds of festivities; but never before one like this.

By stepping to one side a little and craning my neck, I could see the condemned man, accompanied by his priest, walk slowly from the Tower toward the green where the wooden platform was waiting, the block of wood placed center stage, the executioner dressed all ready for work in his shirtsleeves with a black hood over his head. It looked more like a masque than a real event, and I watched it as if it were a court entertainment. The king, seated on his throne, looked distracted, as if he was running through his speech of forgiveness in his head. Behind him stood my husband of one year, William Carey, my brother, George, and my father, Sir Thomas Boleyn, all looking grave. I wriggled my toes inside my silk slippers and wished the king would hurry up and grant clemency so that we could all go to breakfast. I was only thirteen years old, I was always hungry.

The Duke of Buckinghamshire, far away on the scaffold, put off his thick coat. He was close enough kin for me to call him uncle. He had come to my wedding and given me a gilt bracelet. My father told me that he had offended the king a dozen ways: he had royal blood in his veins and he kept too large a retinue of armed men for the comfort of a king not yet wholly secure on his throne; worst of all he was supposed to have said that the king had no son and heir now, could get no son and heir, and that he would likely die without a son to succeed him to the throne.

Such a thought must not be said out loud. The king, the court, the whole country knew that a boy must be born to the queen, and born soon. To suggest otherwise was to take the first step on the path that led to the wooden steps of the scaffold which the duke, my uncle, now climbed, firmly and without fear. A good courtier never refers to any unpalatable truths. The life of a court should always be merry.

Uncle Stafford came to the front of the stage to say his final words. I was too far from him to hear, and in any case I was watching the king, waiting for his cue to step forward and offer the royal pardon. This man standing on the scaffold, in the sunlight of the early morning, had been the king's partner at tennis, his rival on the jousting field, his friend at a hundred bouts of drinking and gambling, they had been comrades since the king was a boy. The king was teaching him a lesson, a powerful public lesson, and then he would forgive him and we could all go to breakfast.

The little faraway figure turned to his confessor. He bowed his head for a blessing and kissed the rosary. He knelt before the block and clasped it in both hands. I wondered what it must

be like, to put one's cheek to the smooth waxed wood, to smell the warm wind coming off the river, to hear, overhead, the cry of seagulls. Even knowing as he did that this was a masque and not the real thing, it must be odd for Uncle to put his head down and know that the executioner was standing behind.

The executioner raised his ax. I looked toward the king. He was leaving his intervention very late. I glanced back at the stage. My uncle, head down, flung wide his arms, a sign of his consent, the signal that the ax could fall. I looked back to the king, he must rise to his feet now. But he still sat, his handsome face grim. And while I was still looking toward him there was another roll of drums, suddenly silenced, and then the thud of the ax, first once, then again and a third time: a sound as domestic as chopping wood. Disbelievingly, I saw the head of my uncle bounce into the straw and a scarlet gush of blood from the strangely stumpy neck. The black-hooded axman put the great stained ax to one side and lifted the head by the thick curly hair, so that we could all see the strange mask-like thing: black with the blindfold from forehead to nose, and the teeth bared in a last defiant grin.

The king rose slowly from his seat and I thought, childishly, "Dear God, how awfully embarrassing this is going to be. He has left it too late. It has all gone wrong. He forgot to speak in time."

But I was wrong. He did not leave it too late, he did not forget. He wanted my uncle to die before the court so that everybody might know that there was only one king, and that was Henry. There could be only one king, and that was Henry. And there would be a son born to this king — and even to suggest otherwise meant a shameful death.

The court returned quietly to Westminster Palace in three barges, rowed up the river. The men on the riverbank pulled off their hats and kneeled as the royal barge went swiftly past with a flurry of pennants and a glimpse of rich cloth. I was in the second barge with the ladies of the court, the queen's barge. My mother was seated near me. In a rare moment of interest she glanced at me and remarked, "You're very pale, Mary, are you feeling sick?"

"I didn't think he would be executed," I said. "I thought the king would forgive him."

My mother leaned forward so that her mouth was at my ear and no one could have heard us over the creaking of the boat and the beat of the rowers' drum. "Then you are a fool," she said shortly. "And a fool to remark it. Watch and learn, Mary. There is no room for mistakes at court."

Copyright © 2001 by Philippa Gregory Ltd.

What Our Readers Are Saying

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Average customer rating based on 6 comments:

bookgirl94, January 11, 2011 (view all comments by bookgirl94)
One of my favorite books! It completely brought to life the life of Anne Boleyn and Mary and Henry the 8th!
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WooWoMom, January 6, 2011 (view all comments by WooWoMom)
The best book I read in years. It brought to life the history of the Tutor era.
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Linda Douville, May 27, 2007 (view all comments by Linda Douville)
A well-written novel providing an interesting perspective on the richness of English history during the reign of Henry VIII. Unlike the somewhat expected dryness of historical novels, Ms. Gregory's dialogue transforms this first in this series into a pageturner, and reads more like a mystery with an intriguing plot.
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(20 of 37 readers found this comment helpful)
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Product Details

ISBN:
9780743227445
Author:
Gregory, Philippa
Publisher:
Touchstone Books
Author:
Philippa Gregory
Author:
Paul, Fiona
Author:
Patrick, J. Nelle
Location:
New York
Subject:
Historical
Subject:
Great britain
Subject:
History
Subject:
Historical - General
Subject:
Romance - Historical
Subject:
Mistresses
Subject:
Biographical fiction
Subject:
General Fiction
Subject:
General Fiction
Subject:
Henry
Subject:
Fiction : Historical - General
Subject:
Literature-A to Z
Subject:
Love & Romance
Subject:
Fairy Tales & Folklore / Country & Ethnic
Subject:
Phillippa; Phillipa; Anne Boleyn; Mary Boleyn; Henry VIII; The Tudors; The Tudor Court; Sisters; Sister Story; Rivals; The Wives of Henry VIII; Beheading; Scandal; England; Catherine of Aragon; George Boleyn; Political Intrigue; Court Life; Courtly Love
Subject:
Phillippa; Phillipa; Anne Boleyn; Mary Boleyn; Henry VIII; The Tudors; The Tudor Court; Sisters; Sister Story; Rivals; The Wives of Henry VIII; Beheading; Scandal; England; Catherine of Aragon; George Boleyn; Political Intrigue; Court Life; Courtly Love;
Subject:
Phillippa; Phillipa; Anne Boleyn; Mary Boleyn; Henry VIII; The Tudors; The Tudor Court; Sisters; Sister Story; Rivals; The Wives of Henry VIII; Beheading; Scandal; England; Catherine of Aragon; George Boleyn; Political Intrigue; Court Life; Courtly Love;
Subject:
Phillippa; Phillipa; Anne Boleyn; Mary Boleyn; Henry VIII; The Tudors; The Tudor Court; Sisters; Sister Story; Rivals; The Wives of Henry VIII; Beheading; Scandal; England; Catherine of Aragon; George Boleyn; Political Intrigue; Court Life; Courtly Love;
Subject:
Phillippa; Phillipa; Anne Boleyn; Mary Boleyn; Henry VIII; The Tudors; The Tudor Court; Sisters; Sister Story; Rivals; The Wives of Henry VIII; Beheading; Scandal; England; Catherine of Aragon; George Boleyn; Political Intrigue; Court Life; Courtly Love;
Subject:
Phillippa; Phillipa; Anne Boleyn; Mary Boleyn; Henry VIII; The Tudors; The Tudor Court; Sisters; Sister Story; Rivals; The Wives of Henry VIII; Beheading; Scandal; England; Catherine of Aragon; George Boleyn; Political Intrigue; Court Life; Courtly Love;
Copyright:
Edition Number:
1st Touchstone ed.
Edition Description:
B102
Series:
Secrets of the Eternal Rose
Series Volume:
1625-C
Publication Date:
June 2002
Binding:
TRADE PAPER
Grade Level:
from 9
Language:
English
Pages:
672
Dimensions:
8.25 x 5.5 in 1 lb
Age Level:
from 14

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The Other Boleyn Girl Used Trade Paper
0 stars - 0 reviews
$1.95 In Stock
Product details 672 pages Touchstone Books - English 9780743227445 Reviews:
"Review" by , "Rather than settling for a picturesque rendering of court life, Gregory conveys its claustrophobic, all-consuming nature with consummate skill."
"Synopsis" by ,
An epic romance with glittering magical elements, TSARINA is swirling with beautiful prose, stark Russian contrasts, and lavish visuals perfect for fans of Libba Bray's A Great and Terrible Beauty.

Romanov Russia is churning with rebellion.

But Natalya holds a secret.

It hums in her hands and warms her fingers with its magic,

with the mystic power pulsing at its center—

the power to protect the Tsars true love.

It is the secret of the Constellation Egg,

Will it keep her safe?

"Synopsis" by ,
In Renaissance Italy, love, lust, intrigue and secret societies converge to stunning results!

In the second in the stunning Secrets of the Eternal Rose series, Cassandra Caravello is trying to forget Falco, the wild artist who ran off with her heart, as she grows closer to her strong, steady fiancé, Luca. But Luca seems to have his own secrets. When he’s arrested by soldiers in the middle of the night, Cass’s life is once again thrown into chaos. She must save Luca, and that means finding the Book of the Eternal Rose—the only evidence that will prove he’s innocent.

So begins her journey to Florence, a city haunted by whispers of vampirism, secret soirees and clandestine meetings of the Order of the Eternal Rose. And home to Falco, who is working for the Order’s eerily stunning leader, the Belladonna herself.

Can Cass trust her heart to lead her to the truth this time?

Nothing is as it seems in this seductive thriller, where the truth may be the deadliest poison of all.

Another sensual edge-of-your-seat romance thriller that's just as alluring Venom. This historical romantic mystery is perfect for fans of Philippa Gregory's The Other Boleyn Girl, Anna Godbersen's The Luxe, Libba Bray's A Great and Terrible Beauty and Cecily Von Ziegesar's Gossip Girl.

Praise for Venom:

"Deftly balancing beauty and death, Venom renders the canals of renaissance Venice frightening and irresistible in a sensual tale where no one can be trusted and passions kill." --Andrea Cremer, New York Times bestselling author of the Nightshade series

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