In the footsteps of Elizabeth I and Anne Boleyn
An escorted tour led by Alison Weir
Join Alison Weir as she retraces the steps of Gloriana, England’s great Queen Elizabeth I, on a historical tour that embraces many of the glories and splendours of Tudor England. Start your journey with three nights at Hever Castle, once the home of Elizabeth’s mother, Anne Boleyn, and enjoy a sumptuous banquet in the Castle Dining Hall. Another link with Anne is Blickling Hall, her probable birthplace, and the Tower of London, where Anne and Elizabeth were both imprisoned. Tour Hatfield House and see the remaining wing of the Old Palace, where Elizabeth spent much of her childhood and youth. Visit Hampton Court, the most magnificent of the Tudor Palaces, and learn about the life of Elizabeth’s court. Follow Elizabeth on progress at Norwich, and at Kenilworth Castle, where her favourite, Robert Dudley, laid on the famous ‘Princely Pleasures’ for her in 1575. Visit the great Elizabethan courtier houses: Burghley House, built by William Cecil, the Queen’s chief minister, and Penshurst Place, the beautiful home of the poet-soldier Sir Philip Sidney. See the embroideries of Elizabeth’s rival, Mary, Queen of Scots at Oxburgh Hall, and discover the perils of being a Catholic in the time a Protestant queen at Harvington Hall. Enjoy talks on the Virgin Queen and her world by Alison and other expert historians, including Sarah Gristwood, author of Elizabeth and Leicester, who received much praise on 2011’s Tudor Treasures Tour, and professional guided tours at the various sites, with a few surprises along the way! Stay in luxury hotels, be wined and dined by your hosts, and sit back and relax as your coach takes you back in time on a memorable tour of Elizabethan England – the Golden Age of Gloriana.
9 nights from 13th to 22nd September 2012:
3 nights Hever Castle, Kent
2 nights Sprowston Manor Hotel, Norwich
2 nights Coombe Abbey, near Coventry
2 nights The Bloomsbury Hotel, London
Hever Castle (staying 3 nights at the castle)
Hampton Court Palace
Blickling Hall and Salle Church
Norwich (free time)
Stamford (free time)
The Tower of London
Farewell Dinner Cruise on the River Thames in London
PRAISE FOR THE GLORIANA TOUR, SEPTEMBER 2012:
"Thank you SO much Alison; it was excellent all the way around."
"Alison, you are brilliant, passionate and wonderful. What a privilege and joy this has been."
"It was marvellous meeting you. Thank you for all the fabulous gifts, and a truly unforgettable trip."
"Alison is more than an historian, she is a walking encyclopedia. Many of us possess passion for Elizabeth I, the Tudors or other epochs in English History and know a few facts; never have I seen someone pull facts, figures and stories out as if they were all neatly filed! Better than that is the fact that Alison was the first to say that new discoveries can alter her amazingly thorough research. She is a seeker of truth! (Truly Arthurian!) To find all of this in an easygoing, down-to-earth, friendly person was the icing on the cake. Alison is a national treasure. I awoke thinking how wonderful it would be to still be basking in the glow of intellectual stimulation (such lively discussions on the bus!), glorious buildings filled with the spirits of amazing characters, lush accommodations where the ‘inner princess’ can feel at home, terrific like-minded travelling companions and someone to take care of everything (as Alison, Sarah, Siobhan, John and Jo did soooo well)….boy, do I miss it! Travelling with Alison is to touch the 16th century."
"What a delightful idea you had to take us all back into history with you. I had a wonderful time, and am going home with tons of new stories to share."
"I cannot begin to tell you how much I LOVED Gloriana and all you wonderful, beautiful ladies... and John. Without question one of the highlights of my life.
Thank you Alison for all your tireless work. You and Sarah (LOVE that voice!!!) and Siobhan made history come alive!!"
"I, too, send my thanks to all for making our nine days together pure magic. At this point, I am suffering from severe "Gloriana" withdrawal. Although I am physically sitting in my office sipping my Starbucks, my head and heart are still firmly immersed in "Princely Pleasures", hides, and Amy Robsart's mysterious death. Thank you Alison and Siobhan for bringing the 16th century so vividly to life -- and to John and Jo for easing our time travels with gracious efficiency. Without question, when I look back over my life experiences, memories of "Gloriana" will be amongst the most precious."
"Words can't say how wonderful this trip was. Thanks to all who made it possible, those who travelled and were good company, John and Jo for making the trains run on time, and Alison and Siobhan for their passion and presentations."
"I want to thank you for a very wonderful trip, you all offered us such a wonderful experience and were so gracious and hospitable, I was left with the best possible impression of British people. I hope that I can do another tour some other time!"
"Alison, we really had such a wonderful time. Many thanks to you, Siobhan, Sarah, John, and Jo for bringing us a fantastic, fascinating, one-of-a-kind experience! Now, about Mary, Queen of Scots..."
"Alison, you gave us such a wonderful experience. I've been interested/fascinated with Anne Boleyn since I was fifteen. To have walked in her footsteps, to spend time with fellow history geeks, but most of all to know the care and thought that went into the planning of this trip truly makes it the trip of a lifetime for me (and I'm sure with all of the others on the trip.) Words could never express how much I enjoyed myself! Plus spending time with someone whose books I've read and thoroughly enjoyed, that was also a tremendous treat!"
"Alison!!!!!! It was simply the most wonderful trip!!! The trip of a LIFETIME! I can't wait to do the Mary Queen of Scots tour, I've already myself to the waiting list. Thanks again for such a wonderful tour and all the presents and all the hard work you put into it."
"I had so much fun on the tour, and your books have meant so much to me. You are a special lady!"
"Thank you everyone for a series of historical, hysterical, and extraordinary experiences."
"I am finding it a little hard to settle back in to real life. I actually cried on the plane coming home because it had to end. I enjoyed meeting all of you so much. How wonderful it is to meet people who have the same appreciation for Ellizabeth and the Tudors as I do. I think I made some true friends, and hope to see the group together again in the future. Thanks to Alison, Siobahn, John and Jo for taking such good care of us. You made this the Trip of a Lifetime!!!"
"The tour was filled with magic moments. From the detailed knowledge of Alison, Siobhan, Sarah and the other historians to the flawlessly executed logistics by John and Jo to the pure pleasure of meeting and getting to know each, it was a trip full of joy. I too was a little sad at the end and I found myself thinking of many of you and the moments we shared during my remaining three days in London."
"This was truly the trip of a lifetime! I have never had a vacation before where I really did not want to go home at the end . . . until this one!"
"I can’t complain about a single thing. It was truly the time of my life."
"Siobhan was right when she told me last December that we guests would be great friends by the end of the trip. Thank you Alison, Siobhan and guest historians for your knowledge and passion for medieval England. You brought the stories and characters back to life! I'm so happy to have found a group of people who share the same enthusiasm for this time in history. Thank you John and Jo for your tireless work. The logistics were absolutely flawless. You took the worry out of traveling to and in a foreign country by myself. Thank you guests, my new friends, for your many kindnesses. I so enjoyed meeting and talking with you all! And thank you again Alison and Siobhan for your vision of creating such a specialized tour. Honestly, this was a dream come true for me. Back in 2008 when I decided I wanted to visit all the places I had read about, I thought there was no way I'd be able to see all these places or how I'd get there. You took care of it all in one fell swoop and with such first class accommodations! It all was absolutely perfect."
"I don't need to repeat how wonderful the trip was and how often I catch myself thinking about those moments and places. INCREDIBLE! Thank you Alison, Siobhan, John, Joe and Sarah. You were fantastic!"
"It was a lovely time. Wonderful group of people, lots of laughs and lots of learning. Thank you Alison, Siobhan, John, Jo, Sarah, and everyone who worked hard so we could have fun."
"I'm staying in the 1500's. I am. I am. Thank you everyone for a series of historical, hysterical, and extraordinary experiences."
"I want to say what a glorious time I had on our Gloriana tour! Didn't we get the treat seeing the UK at its best, following a royal wedding, the diamond jubilee and the Olympics? I have to say the British people were some of the nicest and gracious hosts, from the waiters to the salesmen to the hotel staff to our own very special tour personnel. Alison, I've been a fan of your books for many years. To meet you is a treat, but to go on a tour of Anne Boleyn and Elizabeth sites was truly a dream come true. Your down-to-earth manner and the thought and care that you put into the planning of this trip made it truly spectacular. And I'm always going to remember you walking with your bag handing out goodies to all of us spoiled kids like you were Father Christmas himself. So many books and treats, it's overwhelming! Siobhan, I so enjoyed getting to meet you and to learn in-depth about Tudor history. Thank you for your kind nature and for all of the research and time you put into preparing lecture materials for our bus lessons. John and Jo, you had perhaps the hardest job of all, to make sure we were where we were supposed to be at all times. Mark and Frank were two of the most patient coach drivers I've ever seen in my life. Mark actually went to the store when we were touring Kenilworth and bought my sister cold medicine when she was down and out. Now that is above and beyond the call of duty! Having Sarah along was a little extra spark of enthusiasm (not that Alison or Siobhan needed it) that just made those debates and discussions a history geek's fantasy come true. That Richard III debate is definitely one of the highlights of my trip. I also loved Chris Skidmore's talk on Amy Robsart's death. To my fellow travellers, I hope that we see each other again on the Mary, Qeen of Scots tour. It was wonderful to meet new friends. I think I'm finally ready to jump back into my regular life. It was so hard because I'm still looking for some VIP treatment. You all spoiled us rotten, but gave us the trip and experience of a lifetime. I truly hope to see you all again in Scotland in 2014. God bless you all!"
"Others have very eloquently stated the obvious, that this was a very special trip indeed and I concur ten-thousand fold. It is a special surprise when one’s (high) expectations are not only met but surpassed! I feel like I have been to “Elizabeth I ..’mecca’”! I so miss the feeling of privilege by having every wish and need handled before even expressed! I have taken many tours to different wonderful places with top notch companies that performed well. Never have I felt so happy with the entire process….from Alison (this is understatement), and Siobhan (a real Tudor lady), Sarah (I loved the discussions), John and Jo (both so lovely)… but it was a joy to be with everyone in the group. Everyone was great."
"This was as close to going back to the time of Elizabeth I as could be. Atmospheric and beautiful surroundings, intellectual stimulation, great care for guests… enthusiasm and professionalism at its zenith. Worth every farthing!"
"I wanted to thank you again for just a really wonderful experience. My mom and I had a fantastic time."
"The entire trip was just lovely. Of course, the intellectual stimulation was so fun. It was a joy to be on the trip! You made it easy for me to be happy! I am still awaiting the rest of my spirit to return from England…"
"Siobhan, thanks for all your help on the tour, finding me a place to sit and answering all my questions. Your lectures on the bus were fabulous and I always enjoyed them. You looked stunning in your beautiful costume, which I’d been looking forward to seeing. Thanks for making the tour so interesting and enjoyable for me."
"When you treat people like they are VIPS, what can you say, we just want more!! You guys seriously take the cake as far as running a tour group. I could never tell you all how wonderful that experience was."
"Siobhan, you, Alison, John, and Jo made everything work effortlessly, and your own amazing amount of knowledge greatly contributed to the success of the tour. AWT provides a top quality product, and I look forward to future tours with you."
"Alison, just wanted to tell you how much I enjoyed the Gloriana tour. You did such a great job in devising the itinerary, and your command of your subject is astounding. I was already a big fan from your books, but now I am truly in awe! Your entire team made the tour function effortlessly. I appreciated the talks (and books!) provided by the guest historians, and really loved meeting Sarah Gristwood."
"Excellent. The Gloriana Tour will always be amongst my most precious memories. It far exceeded my expectations in every way. Hever was extraordinary. My room was literally jaw-dropping. I loved that it didn’t feel like a hotel at all, but rather… at home with the Boleyns. The historical experience was A+, the talks and seminars were excellent and I find it difficult to rate them individually. Alison and Siobhan’s knowledge and passion are truly extraordinary and I feel blessed to have been able to listen and, hopefully, absorb their knowledge. Sarah was an amazing addition and the energetic debates were a high point – both enlightening and entertaining. Congratulations to all on a job well done."
"The AWT staff are outstanding – charming, helpful, and efficient. I loved this tour and would do little to change it. It was wonderful to be with a group of people with a shared interest, and to be led by experts in the field. I really appreciate the opportunity to hear lectures by a variety of historians. It is so enriching to meet the authors of books that you have read and admired. I enjoyed the many group dinners on the tour, both for the good food and the opportunity to get to know the AWT staff members as well as fellow guests on the tour. As many people have commented, this was the trip of a lifetime. I never thought I would get to see so many of the places about which I have read for so many years. I am really looking forward to future tours."
"I loved every moment of the tour and after filling in all the boxes on the feedback form I thought I would simply say “excellent” to all of them and send you this email. The tour was most beautifully organised and I must congratulate you all."
"Yes, I know we paid for the tour, but it was so unbelievably wonderful - I still can't quite believe what a great time we had. It was just incredible! We had the best time - it truly was the trip of a lifetime. Thanks again for making our trip so very lovely and fun and informative."
"You will just never really understand how much I LOVED, LOVED, LOVED that trip. I have wanted to go to England my entire life and to actually see the things that I've read about for the last forty years was just.. .indescribable and amazing. I know we PAID for it, but THANK YOU AGAIN so much for making it so interesting and so much fun. You are just a fun, fun, interesting person and so knowledgeable.... and so sweet and such a good Santa Claus."
ONE GUEST'S EXPERIENCE:
"One of the most fabulous trips of my life began with a tiny notice in the book section of the Boston Sunday Globe, last January (2012), announcing "ALISON WEIR TOURS" with her website, www.alisonweirtours.com. Recognizing the name of one of my very favorite British royal authors and historians, I was immediately intrigued. Following up, I was informed that the tour was already sold out, but due to the cancellation of two people, I was shortly granted a place.
The tour was called "GLORIANA: IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF QUEEN ELIZABETH I AND ANNE BOLEYN" - two of my favorite people in history. The title alone was one I couldn't resist, and after an interesting summer of Tudor reading, from a booklist sent by Alison Weir herself, I flew to London.
The GLORIANA TOUR began with a welcome luncheon at the Bloomsbury Hotel, where I met Alison Weir for the first time, a very charming woman, with an effusive, out-going manner, who knows EVERYTHING Tudor! At each luncheon place were gifts from her - (the first of many gifts that we were to receive during the tour) - one of her books, and a stained glass Tudor rose ornament. Afterwards, our luxury motor coach took us to Hever Castle in Kent, home of Anne Boleyn, where Henry VIII courted her. Lord Astor renovated the old castle in the 1900s, adding a wing of accomm¬odation, of which we had exclusive use for three nights.
That evening we enjoyed a drinks reception in one of the Tudor rooms, greeted by ladies in Tudor costume, and observed by a fairly benign Henry VIII from his portrait on the wall. A gala dinner was served in the Great Hall, with Tudor music, and one of the twenty-three lectures we were given on the tour by Alison or her colleagues, or one of the several authors who gave us their newest books, signed. Every woman received a replica of Anne Boleyn's neck-lace - the one she is seen wearing in her portraits: a pearl circlet, with a pendant initial "B", from which dangle more pearls. We all immediately put them on! I've been wearing mine Before dinner we had a private guided tour of the castle (no tourists but us!), where we saw authentic portraits of Anne and Henry, and in a glass case Anne's small prayerbook, with words that she had written in it. '
In the following days, we visited Penshurst .-Place, which has a perfectly preserved medieval hall from 1340, and is the home of the Sidney family, whose ancestor was the Elizabethan courtier-poet Sir Philip Sidney, born in the house; Salle Church, burial place of Boleyn ancestors, with an ancient brass of Anne's great-grandfather, Sir Geoffrey Boleyn, in the nave; the lovely old church, turning golden-red in the sunset as we left, has reputedly experienced ghost sightings, namely a white hare which dashed through the church, supposedly the spirit of Anne Boleyn; Blickling Hall, believed to be the birthplace of Anne; Burghley House, England's largest and grandest Elizabethan house, built by William Cecil, 1st Lord Burghley and Secretary of State to Elizabeth I for 40 years; Hatfield House, a Jacobean house built by Robert Cecil, son of William, who also served the Queen; Elizabeth spent her childhood years here; I was able to see the Great Hall in the Old Palace, where the young Queen held her first Council of State after her accession to the throne in 1558; Harvington Hall, a Tudor manor house known for its seven priests' holes; the fabulous ruins of Kenilworth Castle, where the Virgin Queen was entertained by Robert Dudley, the man she might have married; and of course, Hampton Court, where we spent a whole day seeing the huge Tudor kitchens and the beautiful blue and gold chapel No Tudor stone was left unturned, thanks to Alison!
Our final day was given to the Tower of London, admiring the crown jewels in the newly renovated Jewel House, seeking Anne Boleyn's grave in St. Peter ad Vincula (now we know she is NOT in the grave where they say she is, according to Alison!) We gazed at Traitors' gate, through which many condemned souls came to meet their ghastly fate. The execution site, always thronged by tourists, has been completely re-modeled, and is now a modern large glass circle, with a cushion-like center, representing the site. The Jewel House, also newly renovated, had no queue, fortunately, so we went in at leisure, on our own, and could take our time seeing the crowns, swords, and plate, and also films of the Coronation of June 2, 1953. We did the Tower Walk along the ramparts, from one tower into another, overlooking the Thames, and with displays in each. In the Beauchamp Tower are fascinating inscriptions and initials on the walls, carved by various prisoners. We could make out "IANE", for Lady Jane Grey, queen of nine days, executed by Queen Mary.
That evening, for our final event of the tour, we enjoyed a night-time dinner cruise on the Thames, and each lady received a lovely bottle of Queen Elizabeth's scent in a purple velvet bag, with the original recipe engraved on the bottle. Truly an unforgettable trip with excellent authors and lecturers, wonderful sights, 4* hotels (one was an old abbey), superb meals, interesting people - and not a drop of rain for the whole nine days!"
"This is by far the most organised, helpful and friendly tour I have ever been on. Thank you all so much."
"Never before had I experienced such great pre-tour care. Siobhan, John and Alison offered very informative and personal help."
"I would love to take all of Alison’s tours. I am fascinated by her depth of knowledge and her down-to-earth demeanor. The attention to detail in smoothing out the path ahead for everyone on the tour did not go unnoticed, John. And it helped so much in making the “Gloriana” so fabulous. I am very lucky indeed."
ON PROGRESS WITH HENRY VIII AND AUTHOR ALISON WEIR
by Jean Newman Glock, Director, Global Relations, Connoisseur Travel
(From Huff Post Travel, 28th October 2010
Henry VIII has always fascinated the American public and never more so than following the Showtime miniseries, The Tudors, starring Jonathan Rhys Meyers. Filled with lots of drama, quasi-historical accuracy, six wives, great costumes and, yes, soft-porn, this miniseries reignited interest in all things Tudor. While it was airing, I attended a book signing with noted author and historian, Alison Weir, introduced myself and asked if she would consider joining a Smithsonian tour if we created one around Tudor history. To my great surprise, she was not only interested, but helped plan the entire tour and used her connections to offer very exclusive access at every famous site.
After the first "Tudor Treasures" tour, Alison decided that in addition to her very prolific publishing schedule, she also wanted to start her own tour company. Thus was born Alison Weir Tours. I have had the pleasure of joining two of her tours.
Henry VIII used to move his court in "Progresses" every summer, to inspect his realm and to avoid sewage problems and plague. So what is it like joining a modern day progress with one of the leading historic authors of our day?
Travel is about access and when you are with Alison and her team your access to the leading authorities in the field and at the sites is unparalleled. Everyone had read all of Alison's books, but the talks and commentary offered extra insight and depth. Discussions went beyond the facts including issues of historical debate and describing the actual craft of writing and researching the Tudor period. Did you know that almost all the primary documents from this period have been digitized and are available online? That it was the growth of literacy and portraiture that give us such a clear picture of the Tudor period?
Many of her fellow authors dropped in for chats. One of the most memorable was Dr. Kate Williams, who discussed her biography of Emma Hamilton. We were on a bus winding through the streets of London hearing about Emma throwing her "heaving breasts" at Admiral Nelson when we were surrounded by thousands of naked bicycle riders joining the "Naked Bicycle Ride." Off period for Tudor, but Henry would have approved. I understand that for the The Wives of Henry VIII tour, next year, Dr. David Starkey will be joining the group at Hever.
Alison's carefully planned itineraries focused on historic hotels as well as sites. Staying in Hever Castle, Anne Boleyn's childhood home was one such hotel. No ghosts were sighted, but dining in the Tudor dining room while Alison explained the foods and dining of the period was transporting. Touring the State Apartments and gardens of Hampton Court Palace with Alison and Siobhan Clarke, from the Historic Royal Palaces team, again took our small group behind the scenes and into the period.
At the Tower of London, as soon as the Head Yeoman Warder recognized Alison, we were ushered into the cell of Sir Thomas More, usually closed to the public. At Harvington Hall, a remarkable Elizabethan home little changed from Tudor times, we met with Michael Hodgetts, the director, and were allowed to crawl into the "priest holes." These are very small enclosures hidden in the house to hide visiting priests in Catholic homes when government troops might drop in searching for closet Catholics. Each day was filled with access I never imagined was available. Every member of each tour now counts Alison and her author friends as their close friends. In all my years of travel I have never experienced this level of access to scholars, sites and documents.
The tour ended with Alison telling us a little about the research for her most recent book -- "Mary Boleyn-the Great and Infamous Whore." Yes, there is a recurring Tudor theme that perhaps Showtime and Mr. Rhys Meyers did not entirely incorrectly portray.