I am taking over Casey’s rant today, to talk to you about historical fiction/romance and everything that is wrong with it.
Now before you go off on me about the above sentence, hear me out folks. I actually love historical romance/fiction. Confusing I know, but I really love it. Give me some corsets and slippers, a horse drawn coach, a time where everyone is ‘Lord’ or ‘Duchess’ or ‘Your Majesty’, any day. There’s nothing as magical and fairytale as that for me.
How can I love historical fiction and hate it all at the same time? I love it because the style of writing, the unique take on details and emotions, how it grabs me from the first sentence. The idea of castles and knights on horses captivate my imagination like nothing else. The tone of a historical romance novel is like nothing else out there. Also, because I am slightly obsessed with history. And that is why I also hate it. I know what is fact and what is fiction, and I know NOT to believe a word until I can prove it with multiple sources. Most people have never opened up an actual history book to find out what is real and so they believe every word. This is #1 on my list of why historical fiction is bad. Number #2, is that most historical fiction novels use rumors, hearsay and lies as their facts, carrying on stories that are not real and tarnishing people’s names hundreds of years later. It’s no wonder people have no clue about our history. They are taking historical fiction as fact!
To show you what I mean, I found this article, Bring Up the Bodies – The Facts Behind the Fiction, from one of my favorite historical sites The Anne Boleyn Files. This is only one book! One among hundreds just like it that is spreading filth and people believe it. Makes my stomach turn.
The sad part is it’s not just books, it’s also TV shows and movies. For instance The Tudors, which I love me some Tudors, is wrong on so many levels. It’s laughable. Most historians would rather watch Barney the purple dinosaur than The Tudors. It’s not just the picky things like the wrong hair colors (Catherine of Aragon had red hair and so did her daughter Mary I, not black). Major details were changed. Henry VIII was at least a decade older than Anne Boleyn, not the same age and they were married when he was in his 40s, 7 years after they began a relationship. Catherine of Aragon was only 5 years older than Henry, not the 12 year difference you see on the show. Henry doesn’t become old until the last season, which is not historically accurate, not to mention the real Henry was obese when he died. Remember Margaret, Henry VIII’s sister, who married the elderly Portuguese King then the hunky Charles Brandon? Did you know that’s completely wrong? Margaret on the Tudors is actually a combination of Henry VIII’s sisters Mary and Margaret, so viewers wouldn’t be confused with Mary I of England. Mary doesn’t marry a Portuguese King, she marries a French one, no she didn’t smother him and yes he was much older than she, 34 years older to be exact. She did marry Charles Brandon (oh and she wasn’t older than he was, as it shows, she was 19, he was 31!) without permission and they were banished from court. Henry Fitzroy, Henry VIII’s illegitimate child with Elizabeth ‘Bessie’ Blunt, dies a few months after Anne’s execution (he was a witness that day) not as a child. Cardinal Wolsey died of an illness while in route to answer charges of treason, not suicide while imprisoned. There is more, trust me. Even the movies Elizabeth and Elizabeth: The Golden Age, The Other Boleyn Girl (and the book it’s based on), etc are full of inaccuracies all for entertainment purposes. I could go on and on, truly, but I won’t.
What happened with The Tudors was dramatic and heartbreaking enough. There is no need to embellish just for the sake of entertainment. There is also no need, whatsoever, to use rumors or lies as facts. That gets me worked up the most. People still think Anne Boleyn committed the crimes she was accused of, when there was proof then that she was innocent (one fact for you, her executioner was summoned weeks before her trial, so it was a total hoax from the beginning), that she had six fingers and a wen (a gnarly looking cyst under the skin) under her chin etc., all because of historical fiction. And books like Bring up the Bodies, keep these lies going.
I’m not telling you to walk away from historical fiction/romance. I’m just saying, please for the love of all things holy, do not believe a word of it. Historical fiction is just that, fiction, and should be taken with a grain of salt.
If you do want the truth, check out books by Eric Ives (The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn, Lady Jane Grey, Henry VIII or The Reformation Experience) or the above mentioned website, and her sister site The Elizabeth Files, she has book reviews and tells you which ones stay true to history verses which ones are just for entertainment.