Welcome to the British Monarchy, blog Natalie! Tell us about yourself and what sparked your interest in the Tudors?
Thank you, Lee! I’m a born and bred Sydneysider – a first generation Aussie born to Uruguayan parents. For as long as I can remember, I have been drawn to the past and completely fascinated by stories of people who’ve walked this earth before me. My love for the Tudors, though, wasn’t ignited until my early 20’s, thanks to a wonderful novel by Robin Maxwell called ‘The Secret Diary of Anne Boleyn’. I felt an immediate connection with Anne, one that only continues to deepen and strengthen the more I learn about her.
A visit to the Tower of London on a very chilly November morning in 2000, followed by a walk around Hampton Court Palace, fuelled the fire sparked by Maxwell’s novel and awoke in me a curiosity that I’ve still not been able to satiate and don’t think I ever will.
These early experiences also began a lifelong passion for learning history on the very stage where it played out and led me to create, in 2009, On the Tudor Trail, a website dedicated to documenting historic sites associated with Anne Boleyn and sharing information about prominent Tudor personalities and daily life in sixteenth century England.
Alongside my work as a primary school teacher, I began to dedicate many hours and much energy to researching and writing about the Tudors, largely through the lens of the great houses, palaces and castles where their stories unfurled.
In 2013, my debut book, In the Footsteps of Anne Boleyn, co-authored with Sarah Morris, was published in the UK, followed by In the Footsteps of the Six Wives of Henry VIII, another collaboration between Sarah and myself, in March 2016.
In August 2017, my first solo book, Discovering Tudor London: A Journey Back in Time, was published in the UK by The History Press, followed by Colouring History: The Tudors and Colouring History: Tudor Queens and Consorts. The latter two are colouring books for grown-ups inspired by the Tudor dynasty and beautifully illustrated by Kathryn Holeman. They feature stunning drawings inspired by sixteenth-century paintings and manuscripts and make wonderful gifts for the history lover.
What inspired you to start your website On the Tudor Trail?
In early 2009, my sister and I began planning a trip to England to coincide with the 500th anniversary of Henry VIII’s accession. There were many wonderful events taking place across England and so we decided that we wanted to go on a Tudor pilgrimage of sorts. After scouring the internet for a list of places to visit, we quickly discovered that there were a handful of locations mentioned over and over. Despite being fabulous, must-visit historic sites, like Hampton Court Palace and Hever Castle, we knew that having ruled for over a century, a peripatetic court like that of the Tudor monarchs must have connections to hundreds of properties across the country. So, I began researching and following the Tudor Trail and publishing information on a blog called On the Tudor Trail, which over the last decade has evolved into a website that I’m very proud of. For a lover of Tudor history, I don’t think there’s anything greater or more powerful than standing on the very spot where the Tudors once stood. In that moment, only time separates us from them. I find this utterly spine-tingling and intriguing!
Another reason why I started my website, Facebook page and Twitter account, was to connect with like-minded people who share my love of Tudor history and I’ve certainly done that. While I absolutely love living in Sydney, the downside is that I don’t often meet people who share my interest in the Tudor era. In fact, when I tell people that I write about sixteenth-century England, I’m often met with blank stares, so the online Tudor community, of which I’ve been a proud member for almost a decade, has been a lifesaver.
You recently launched a Tudor podcast called ‘Talking Tudors’. Tell us about it.
I sure did! I published the introductory episode in mid-July and I’m utterly delighted at how well it’s been received. As the name suggests, in each episode I chat all things Tudor with celebrated authors, historians and other experts in the era.
Why did I choose to start a podcast? Well, the short answer is that I love to talk about the Tudors, and I’m always on the lookout for new ways to share my passion with others. I also believe in the power of good conversation and storytelling.
It’s my hope that through authentic and largely unscripted conversations with my knowledgeable guests, we’ll gain new insights into the period and deepen our understanding of the era, while also getting to know each other. While Tudor history is of course our main focus, I conclude all of my conversations by playing a game of ‘10 to Go’ with my guests. This involves asking ten random questions, purely for fun, like name a song that instantly lifts your mood or name three items on your bucket list.
I also ask each of my guests to leave us with a ‘Tudor Takeaway’, a little gem for us to explore after listening. This might be the name of a song for us to check out on YouTube, a great book to read or a website to visit.
Who is your favourite Tudor royal and why?
Unquestionably, Anne Boleyn. From the first moment that I heard her name, I felt a deep connection. Her fierce intelligence, complexity and bold personality inspire and captivate in equal measure.
She was an accomplished singer, dancer and musician; she spoke several languages and was skilled in the game of courtly love. Anne was courageous, witty, determined and an astute politician. She was a trend-setter and her sixteenth-century contemporaries often tried to emulate her innate sense of style. She was philanthropic, magnetic and inspired fierce loyalty. Anne was also very loyal and generous in return, often helping members of her family, her friends or others sympathetic to her cause. She was a patron of the arts and valued education.
She was, though, not perfect. Which of us is? On the flip side, she could be ruthless, calculating and unrelenting. She had a fiery temper and gave into bouts of ‘rashness’. As well as inspiring fierce loyalty, in some she inspired hatred.
This dichotomy coupled with her extraordinary story —her rise to fame from relative obscurity and her dramatic downfall—make her compelling and addictive.
The fact that so much about Anne is unknown, debated and controversial also captures the imagination. We just need to examine her downfall to see the power she wielded.
It was not sufficient to simply divorce her or let her live out her days in a nunnery. She had to be destroyed and her faction utterly annihilated.
In the end, Anne met her grisly fate with acceptance, elegance and courage. On the scaffold, she neither berated Henry nor spoke any words in her own defence. Queenly till the very end.
What are you currently reading?
I’m reading a biography of Henry VII by S.B. Chrimes, Bosworth: The Birth of the Tudors by Chris Skidmore and I’ve just started Lauren Mackay’s new biography of Thomas and George Boleyn, appropriately titled Among the Wolves of Court. I’m also listening to Wuthering Heights on Audible.
What was the last film you watched?
I watched Outlaw King, a film about Robert the Bruce available on Netflix. I’m not sure how historically accurate it is, but I enjoyed it despite some pretty grisly scenes.
What are three must-follow Instagram and Twitter accounts for history lovers?
Only 3! Well apart from your own wonderful accounts @britishmonarchy on Insta and @britishmonarc12 on Twitter, I highly recommend following @TheTTGuide, @TudorKingship and @AnneBoleynFiles on Twitter, as well as @society_anne, @molarchaeology and @viralhistory on Instagram.
What are some of your favourite historic sites to visit?
I love to visit places associated with the Tudors. Some of my favourites are: Hampton Court Palace, The Tower of London, Westminster Abbey, Hever Castle, Sudeley Castle, Haddon Hall, Acton Court, The Vyne, Thornbury Castle, Ludlow Castle, Dover Castle and Gainsborough Old Hall. If you’re ever in Spain, I also highly recommend the Alhambra, a palace and fortress complex in the city of Granada, where Katherine of Aragon spent the last two years of her life in Spain. It is utterly breathtaking!
I’m also a huge fan of museums and particularly love the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Museum of London, the Mary Rose Museum and the British Museum. The Met Museum in New York is also fabulous! I adore ancient churches too, like St Bartholomew the Great in London and Holy Trinity Church in York. Atmospheric ruins are also right up my alley – Middleham Castle, Minster Lovell Hall and St Mary’s Abbey in York to name but a few. I also adore visiting literary houses. On a recent trip to the USA, I had the great pleasure of visiting Louisa May Alcott’s Orchard House, the Emily Dickinson Museum and the Mark Twain House. Other favourites include Hill Top, Beatrix Potter’s 17th-century farmhouse in Cumbria and The Bronte Parsonage Museum in West Yorkshire. I’ll stop there because I could go on for days!
Natalie Grueninger is a researcher, writer and educator, who lives in Australia with her husband and two children. In 2009 she created On the Tudor Trail, a website dedicated to documenting historic sites and buildings associated with Anne Boleyn and sharing information about the Tudor monarchs and daily life in sixteenth century England. Natalie is fascinated by all aspects of life in Tudor England and has spent many years researching the period.
Her first non-fiction book, co-authored with Sarah Morris, ‘In the Footsteps of Anne Boleyn’, was published by Amberley Publishing in the UK in September 2013. Book number two in the series, ‘In the Footsteps of the Six Wives of Henry VIII’, was released in the UK in March 2016. In 2017, Natalie collaborated with illustrator Kathryn Holeman to create ‘Colouring History: The Tudors’, a unique and beautifully illustrated colouring book for grown-ups that features images and scenes inspired by the ever-fascinating Tudor dynasty. The second book in the series, ‘Colouring History: Tudor Queens and Consorts’, was released in May 2018. Natalie’s first solo book, ‘Discovering Tudor London’ was published in the UK by The History Press in August 2017.
Natalie is the host of ‘Talking Tudors’, a podcast for lovers of Tudor history.
Connect with Natalie:
Talking Tudors Podcast: https://talkingtudors.podbean.com