Interview: Natalie Grueninger of On the Tudor Trail

Every fan of Tudor history with an internet connection has probably browsed the blog On The Tudor Trail at least once or twice. The woman behind the blog, Natalie Grueninger, told me about her newest Tudor travel book, Discovering Tudor London. Thanks Natalie!

Tell us a little bit about your new book, Discovering Tudor London: A Journey Back in Time.

I’d love to! It’s a guide to the best of Tudor London, to sites built by and associated with the Tudors, and to the museums and galleries that house treasures from this fascinating period of history. It was published by The History Press and released just this week. There are 32 main locations included, all of which are in London and Greater London, with the exception of Hampton Court Palace. This exceptional and unrivalled Tudor time capsule is a must-see for all Tudor aficionados, hence why I decided to bend the rules a little and include it in my book.

Discovering Tudor London also features a Tudor timeline and introduction to Tudor London, and four suggested itineraries of varying lengths: 3 days, 5 days, 7 days and 10 days. A map to help you gauge distances accompanies the itineraries and an extensive range of illustrations, including photographs and paintings, complements the text.

 

This isn’t the first travel guide you’ve written. What’s one location that doesn’t get the attention from Tudor history fans that it deserves or one that regularly gets missed?

No it isn’t. My first book, In the Footsteps of Anne Boleyn, co-authored with Sarah Morris and published in the UK in 2013, is a comprehensive guide to over 75 sites associated with Anne Boleyn. We follow Anne’s story from her birthplace in Norfolk, to her family home in rural Kent and abroad to the glittering courts of Margaret of Austria and Queen Claude of France. Finally, returning to English shores to witness Anne’s meteoric rise to power and dramatic downfall, all through the lens of the great houses and palaces where this tantalising story played out.

The second book in the series, In the Footsteps of the Six Wives of Henry VIII, was published in the UK in 2016, and is a curated guide to sites associated with Henry VIII’s queen consorts. We decided to concentrate on the most interesting, controversial or revealing locations connected with each of the women. Like in my Tudor London guide, we focussed only on locations which are still standing and open to the public. In all, we covered around 70 historic sites.

One location that I don’t think gets the attention it deserves, is Acton Court in Bristol. The surviving wing of the Tudor house was built by Nicholas Poyntz to accommodate Henry VIII, who visited the house with Anne Boleyn while on his summer progress around the West Country in 1535. Visitors to the house today can see the suite of rooms where Henry presided over his travelling court, dined and slept, and even the very garderobe where the king relieved himself! Another of Acton Court’s highlights is a spectacular painted frieze that was likely originally designed by Hans Holbein.

Unlike countless other Tudor buildings, Acton Court has not been smothered by layers of Georgian and Victorian alterations, and so is free to speak to us of its Tudor past.

 

Say a history lover has time to visit three Tudor locations in London, which should those be and why?

I know that Hampton Court isn’t technically in London but it’s easily accessible from there and a must-see for any history lover. Why you ask? Well, more survives of Hampton Court Palace than of any other Tudor palace, the great hall is breathtaking and the beauty of the royal chapel unrivalled, not to mention the priceless artwork on display and the authentic costumed live interpretations that bring the palace’s history vividly to life. It is also a place that all the Tudor kings and queens and prominent personalities of the day would have known. Doesn’t get much better than that!

If said “history lover” hasn’t yet been to the Tower of London, then that’s my next pick. Begun in the reign of William the Conqueror and largely completed in the reign of Edward I, it has stood watch over the City of London for more than 900 years. Each of the Tudor monarchs rode in procession from the Tower to Westminster for their coronations, and many prominent personalities of the day, including Thomas More, Anne Boleyn, George Boleyn, Thomas Cromwell, Catherine Howard, Thomas Seymour and Lady Jane Grey spent time imprisoned there, before facing execution within the Tower complex or on nearby Tower Hill. Their mortal remains were later buried in the Tower’s chapel, where they remain to this day.

Lastly, I recommend that all history lovers visit Westminster Abbey where all of the crowned Tudor monarchs are buried, with the exception of one of the dynasty’s most colourful monarchs, Henry VIII, who’s buried in St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle, alongside his third wife, Jane Seymour. While there is much to see at Westminster Abbey, one of the Tudor highlights is the magnificent Lady Chapel, which Henry VII added to the abbey in the sixteenth century. It’s home to his splendid tomb, which he shares with his wife, Elizabeth of York. Interestingly, Anne of Cleves, perhaps Henry’s most overlooked queen, is the only one of his wives to be buried in Westminster Abbey.

Three lesser-known locations that I highly recommend you visit while in London are Sutton House, The London Charterhouse and The Museum of the Order of St John.

 

Tell us about your other publications!

Earlier this year, my Tudor colouring book for adults, Colouring History: The Tudors, was published in the UK! Kathryn Holeman, a very talented illustrator and dear friend, illustrated the book and I acted as a consultant during its production, researching all the images and providing suitable contemporary inspiration for Kathryn to base the drawings on. I also wrote the accompanying captions.

Since its release in May, we’ve received many lovely messages from people all over the world, including Australia, Mexico and India, telling us how much fun they’re having colouring Tudor history. What’s particularly wonderful is that we’re hearing from people of all ages and walks of life – from children who’ve “borrowed” mum or dad’s books, to people well into their 70’s who haven’t picked up a colouring pencil in decades. It truly gladdens my heart to see our book inspiring people to re-connect with their creative inner child, while nurturing their love of Tudor history.

 

Have any plans for any future books?

I sure do! I don’t think I’ll ever stop writing and creating, it’s what I love to do. At the moment, Kathryn and I are working on a proposal for a second book in the Colouring History series. I can’t say much more than that but I hope to have some very exciting news to share with you all very soon!

Natalie Grueninger is a researcher, writer and educator, living 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 life and times of Henry VIII’s second wife. 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. She also completed ‘Discovering Tudor London’, which was published in the UK by The History Press in August 2017.


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Jillianne Hamilton is a history enthusiast, author, graphic designer, paper crafter and artist living on Canada's beautiful east coast.

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