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On the Trail of a Tudor Expert!

An Interview with Natalie Grueninger

It is no secret that Tudor history is one of my absolute favourites. So I was beyond thrilled to be able to interview the fantastic Natalie Grueninger about her great work on the subject. 

On the Tudor Trail has been a massively important resource for budding historians, new enthusiasts and long time Tudor followers, where did your passion to do this idea start?

Thank you! I fell in love with the Tudors in my early 20s, but the idea for my website ‘On the Tudor Trail’ wasn’t sparked until late 2008, when my sister and I were planning a trip to England. There were lots of events planned to mark the 500th anniversary of Henry VIII’s accession and so we decided that it was the perfect year for our “Tudor pilgrimage”. Apart from attending some of the planned events, we wanted to walk in the footsteps of our historical heroine, Anne Boleyn, by visiting historic properties associated with her. We trawled the internet looking for a website that would provide us with a list of locations and also some information on the events that unfolded there. We found plenty of information on the major sites like Hampton Court Palace, Hever Castle and the Tower of London, but did not come across a website that had an extensive list and that documented lesser-known locations. At that moment, I decided to create my own! ‘On the Tudor Trail: Retracing the Steps of Anne Boleyn’ started as a place where I could write about historic sites with a connection to Anne and other Tudors, but it quickly evolved into something more. Author/historian interviews followed and it became a place for me to publish book reviews and my own articles on the period.


That passion and dedication has obviously continued to be a huge driving force! If you had to pick one of your personal favourite moments regarding your site, what would it be?

That’s tricky! It was very exciting to watch the readership grow and to connect with other people who shared my passion for Tudor history. But I think a major highlight was getting to interview historians whom I greatly admired, like Suzannah Lipscomb and Tracy Borman.

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Another amazing area of historical content you are involved in 'Talking Tudors' and you have had some fascinating conversations there. What are some of your highlights?

Again, it’s very difficult to choose highlights, because I’ve thoroughly enjoyed all 237 conversations! What does spring to mind, though, are the interviews that have led to very special friendships, which I deeply treasure.

I love the Tudor Film Club and have enjoyed listening to your takes on some of my favourite films of all time. I have a couple of 'guilty pleasures' which I know are totally inaccurate but I still watch them anyway. Which is your number one guilty pleasure that, although you know you shouldn't, you just totally love?

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Thank you! The Tudor Film Club is just one of the many perks of joining my Talking Tudors Patreon Community. Each month, I sit down with my dear friend Dr Owen Emmerson and review either a Tudor film or series. The last one we tackled was ‘Wolf Hall’, first broadcast on BBC Two in January 2015 and based on Hilary Mantel’s masterful novels. As for a ‘guilty pleasure’, I probably have to say ‘The Tudors’ television series, which stars Jonathan Rhys Meyers in the role of Henry VIII. Inaccurate on so many levels, but entertaining nonetheless. Moving away from Tudor history, my other guilty pleasure is the British paranormal TV series, Most Haunted! Who doesn’t love a good ghost story, right?

The first Tudor film I saw was, of course, Anne of the Thousand Days, which I am sure is a rite of passage for many Tudor enthusiasts. What was the first film or tv show you saw?

Sadly, I actually don’t remember! I think the film ‘Elizabeth’ starring Cate Blanchett was one of the first. I loved the fact that a fellow Aussie had the leading role. When it comes to books, though, my memory is better. My love of all things Anne Boleyn/Tudor was sparked by Robin Maxwell’s ‘A Secret Diary of Anne Boleyn’, first published in 1997. In fact, interviewing Robin for my website and later for my podcast definitely features among the list of highlights.

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Some of my favourite works you have created are the brilliant 'In the Footsteps' books with Sarah Morris and I would highly recommend them as a resource! While putting those books together, which parts did you find the most challenging, the most rewarding and why?

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The ‘In the Footsteps’ books hold a very special place in my heart. I suppose for me one of the most challenging parts was writing about places in England while living in Sydney. Luckily, I was able to venture across the seas on several research trips, but this obviously involved a lot of planning and a significant financial investment on my part, not to mention time away from my beloved family too. It was all worth it, though, because I thoroughly enjoyed working with Sarah, as we both share the same insatiable love and passion for telling the story of the Tudors through the lens of the great houses and palaces where their lives unfurled. It was also incredibly rewarding to create something that so many people around the world loved and still turn to when planning their own “Tudor pilgrimages”. It’s been more than 10 years since our first book, ‘In the Footsteps of Anne Boleyn’, was published and we still receive lovely feedback about it.

Your latest work 'The Final Year of Anne Boleyn' details the final period of Anne's life. I have read it twice and think it is incredible. What was the most emotionally challenging aspect of that book for you and did your research uncover anything that surprised you?

Thank you so much! I really did pour my heart and soul into this book for several years and am really proud of it. The most emotionally taxing part was investing myself completely in Anne’s story while knowing full well that I would not be able to save her in the end. Writing about her fall and execution broke my heart. There were days when the brutality and the injustice of it all literally left me flattened. I’m a highly sensitive person and so I knew that immersing myself in this chapter of Anne’s life would present its challenges, but I wasn’t prepared for just how much it would affect me. As for things that surprised me, there were many! One that I found deeply upsetting was the realisation that Henry VIII had pursued Anne’s death with the same vigour he’d once devoted to securing his marriage to her. After examining the evidence for myself, I’m convinced that Henry knew of his wife’s innocence but authorised her execution anyway.

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There has been so much written about Anne, both accurate and inaccurate that it must be frustrating challenging many of the age-old myths associated with her. Which myth or inaccuracy do you wish you could simply erase from existence and why?

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There are many! One that immediately springs to mind is this idea that Anne was not genuinely interested in religious reform, that this was simply a tool that she used to pave her way to the throne. This is completely and utterly inaccurate. Anne’s interest in reform predates her relationship with the king by around a decade! Anne was exposed to new religious ideas from an early age and her interest flourished during her time in service to Queen Claude, when she was surrounded by influential and highly intellectual women of a reformist bent. Another misconception is this notion that Anne woke up one day and decided to steal Henry from Katherine of Aragon, the woman her and her family had loyally served for years. The story is much more complex than this allows for.

Apart from our love of history, it seems another thing we share is our love of education. I often try to think of new ways to convey stories of the past to students who either struggle with or have very little interest in history. How vital do you think new methods of interpretation and engagement are when drawing in a new
audience and have there been any examples from your own career that you have seen that beautiful 'lightbulb' moment with a student?

I think it’s vital that we look for new ways to engage students, and, importantly, as there’s no one size fits all solution, teaching methods must always be tailored to and adapted for the individual students. Engagement, I think, is greatly increased when the educator is teaching a subject that they love and are deeply passionate about. Making history as hands-on as possible usually helps too. I’ve also witnessed those “lightbulb” moments happen when a student sees the relevance of learning about the past and is invited to be an active participant in the learning process.

Finally, I am an avid reader, follower and listener of all your works and always eager to see what you do next, what does 2024 have in store that you can share with us?

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Thank you for your support and interest! Well, there will be many new instalments of Talking Tudors. I’ll also be hosting a number of online courses and events, including a week-long exploration of Anne Boleyn’s downfall, which I’m co-presenting with Dr Owen Emmerson. At the end of March, I’ll also be launching next year’s ‘365 Days’ course. I can’t say too much at the moment, except that you won’t want to miss it! There will be a number of other exciting projects and collaborations throughout the year, which I’ll share in due course on my social media accounts and with my wonderful Patreon community.

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A Little Bit More About Natalie!

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Natalie Grueninger is an independent researcher who specialises in the life, reign and times of Queen Anne Boleyn. She’s authored and co-authored six books, including the ‘In the Footsteps’ series. Her latest book, ‘The Final Year of Anne Boleyn’, was published in November 2022. Natalie has written for a number of history magazines, including Inside History and Tudor Places, and runs the website She’s the creator and host of the popular ‘Talking Tudors’ podcast and the founder of Women’s History Circle, dedicated to amplifying women’s voices and promoting the work of women creatives with a passion for history. Natalie is deeply interested in the lives of medieval and Tudor women and in the networks which they built and used, especially those with other women. She’s an avid bibliophile and a lifelong learner. When not at her desk, she can often be found indulging in her insatiable passion for travel. Natalie lives in Sydney with her husband, two teenaged children and a cheeky cavoodle.

You can follow Natalie and all her amazing work at the links below!

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