by Robert Parry
Thank you Vera for mentioning my new novel here today.
The title The Arrow Chest comes from the item in which Anne Boleyn’s body was placed after her execution in 1536. It was made of elm wood and was of a length which would accommodate long-bow staves as well as arrows – just sufficient for a headless body, therefore. The elm chest itself was then placed beneath the floor of the Chapel of St Peters ad Vincula in the Tower of London and forgotten for centuries until, during a major renovation of the building in 1876, the skeletal remains were unearthed. How extraordinary! To treat a former Queen of England thus, in such a cruel and undignified manner, remains one of the most curious incidents in the brief, doomed marriage of Anne Boleyn to England’s Henry VIII. It also raises some disturbing questions.
How could a king go from being passionately in love with his queen, which Henry most certainly was during their courtship and early marriage, to a state of such hatred and vengefulness, and in such a short space of time? What happened during the three short years of their marriage to lead to such a dreadful conclusion, to mark the passing of someone who had, after all, helped to inspire an entire revolution within the religious establishment in Tudor England – a Reformation that was achieved only at tremendous cost in human suffering and the most dreadful damage to the nation’s architectural and artistic heritage? Could there in fact have been more to it than meets the eye?
Like many a romantic tragedy, the relationship between Henry and Anne was affected by a love triangle. The gifted and handsome poet and courtier Sir Thomas Wyatt is significant in this sense. He and Anne might well have been childhood sweethearts, and he was certainly considered by Henry to be a rival for Anne’s affections at one stage.
The Arrow Chest is a novel that allows us to speculate on what might have happened within this intriguing tangle of emotions, but it does so not by describing events in Tudor England but by fast-forwarding the whole story to the Victorian age and to the gorgeous, extravagant neo-Gothic culture of 19th century England. Not so bizarre as it sounds. The 19th century was, in fact, a period which had many parallels with Tudor times. The Victorian age produced some very powerful men, ‘kings’ in their own right. It also produced all those wonderful poets and painters of the Pre-Raphaelite movement. And it also had its very own crises in faith, of course, with the advent of Darwinian evolution and the threat this held for the established Church of the time.
[amazonify]1452801142[/amazonify]Much of Thomas Wyatt’s poetry draws upon the symbolism of the hunt as a metaphor for courtship and sexual desire – while the bow of Cupid with his arrows of love puts in an appearance quite frequently, as well. When we realise this, it suddenly seems a little more logical that Anne would be placed in an arrow chest at the end of her life. Perhaps it was a statement of policy rather than an accident of history. Who knows! To paraphrase the Victorian astronomer Sir Arthur Eddington (when referring to the universe): history is not only stranger than we imagine, it is possibly stranger than we can imagine.
My novel begins in 1876, the year in which the remains of Anne Boleyn came to light during a renovation of the Chapel of St Peters ad Vincula in the Tower of London. It is a Tudor story – only moved forward a few centuries in time.
I have 1 copy of The Arrow Chest to give away!
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This giveaway is open internationally! Deadline to enter is midnight on January 30th.
Giveaway copy is provided free of any obligation by Robert Parry. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.