I don’t remember much about my primary school days but I do recall standing up in front of the class and giving an illustrated talk about Anne Boleyn to my bemused classmates and teacher. I think I might have been about seven. I was obsessed with Anne Boleyn even then. My mother was a Jean Plaidy fan and she was remarkably open minded about letting me read anything on her shelves. I was a voracious reader who sucked up words without worrying whether I understood them or not. I recall loving Plaidy’s Murder Most Royal then, it was the inspiration for my lurid show and tell, and I love it now.
First published in 1949 Murder Most Royal was just one of the two hundred novels that Eleanor Hibbert, Plaidy’s real name, was to write in her lifetime. Hibbert (1906 – 1993) also wrote as Philippa Carr, Victoria Holt, Eleanor Burford (her maiden name), Elbur Ford, Kathleen Kellow and Ellalice Tate. Hibbert sold over 200 million books during her publishing career and wrote religiously for five hours a day, seven days a week. She prided herself on her historical research.There are over seventy Jean Plaidy novels and I can’t think of a better way to while away a rainy Sunday afternoon than curled up in a comfy chair reading one of them. Murder Most Royal romps along at a spectacular pace and opens with this charming vignette of a seven year old Anne.“This was a very lovely little girl, tall for her age. Beautifully proportioned and slender; her hair was dark, long and silky, her skin warm and olive, her most arresting feature her large, long-lashed eyes. She was a precocious little girl, the most brilliant little girl it had ever been Simonette’s good fortune to teach…”.
I think I liked Plaidy’s young Anne because she was a clever brunette plagued by a prettier blonde sister but I do wonder what my seven-year old self made of some of the more lurid passages.
“She lay naked in her bed, and seeing her thus he was speechless, nerveless, fearful of his own emotion; until his passion rushed forth and he kissed her white body in something approaching a frenzy.
“She thought: I have nothing to fear. If he was eager before, he will be doubly eager now. And, as she lay crushed by his great weight, felling his joy, his ecstasy, she laughed inwardly and gladly, because now she knew there was to be no more wavering and she, being herself, would pursue this thing to the end.”