Norah Lofts (1904 – 1983) was born in Shipdham, Norfolk and wrote over fifty historical novels, many of them best-sellers. She wrote a well-received non-fiction account of Anne Boleyn but it is her novel The Concubine which has earned her a place in the Alternative A-Z.
Lofts starts her fictional account of Anne’s life at Blickling in October 1523 where Anne has been banished after Wolsey’s intervention in her love-match with Lord Percy. Lofts has Anne vowing revenge on the Cardinal who has separated her from the man she loves and in an intriguing bit of wordplay has Anne discussing childhood witchcraft games with her maidservant Emma Arnett.
“We just named the laurel leaf” Emma tells Anne,” and pricked along the veins, and then kept it next our skin till it was cooked, as we called it. When it was cooked all the prick-holes were brown. Then we buried it and said, ’Within nine days, as this leaf rots so will you,’ and said the name of the person we meant.”
“Of course, it was all nonsense, and the idea that she could injure the Cardinal in any way, by means natural or supernatural, was really as absurd as the idea that she could destroy his great palace of York House with her embroidery tools. Quite, quite absurd to think about. It was as though a ray of light had been let into the little stone prison where her thoughts went round and round; a sinister light concentrated upon a laurel leaf upon whose glossy green surface the brown edged holes spelled out the name of Thomas Wolsey.”
Before we leave The Concubine I have to share this wonderful cover image for the book by Fred Pfeiffer, a New York artist and illustrator. It carries the strap line:
“A king discarded his wife, defied the Pope and destroyed his friend for The Concubine”.
I think we can see where the costume designers for The Tudors might have found some inspiration.