So, the BBC adaptation of Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall began last week. It has received favourable reviews for its interpretation of the books and its dedication to historical accuracy but in places it can be hard going for those unfamiliar with the books and/or history. Over the next few weeks, I will be explaining some of the history behind the series starting with Anne Boleyn’s accent.
During the first episode Anne (Claire Foy) alternated between an English accent and an affected French accent – with a pronounced ”Cremuel” for Cromwell. Anne left England for the Netherlands in 1513, when she was about 12 years old, and joined the household of Margaret of Austria. From there she was moved to France to wait on Mary Tudor who married Louis XII of France in the autumn of 1514. The marriage was short-lived and Mary returned to England in spring 1515 after her the death of her husband. Anne remained in France and joined the household of Claude, the new Queen of France. It would be nearly seven years before she returned to England, in 1521. Her time in France had given her an exoticism and polish that was unusual at the English court. To observers, her manners appeared French, she had a taste for Renaissance art and favoured French fashions. Historians believe that she would have adopted a French accent when it suited her to emphasise her continental education and uniqueness.