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Thursday, 12 September 2013

Anne Boleyn?

To unmask a long-standing deception is today my duty.

For years the National Trust has been luring a gullible public to visit 'Anne Boleyn's Seat', a purported statue of the ex-wife of Henry VIII, perched in a remote Yorkshire valley.  'Come and see Anne Boleyn,' says the Trust, 'and while you are here spend some money'.  And come they do, in their hundreds of thousands, spending millions.

The EDSRF has recently completed a research project in which some of my brightest PhD students tailed visitors to AB's Seat. The results make grim reading. Of the 2.3million who fell for the scam and paid the £5.00 entrance fee, less than 20% actually saw the statue, which is at least a mile from the main entrance to the site and atop a discouragingly steep, narrow, slippery and concealed path. Around 93% of the time of the average visitor was spent spending money. In order of popularity the transactions included:

Taking refreshments in of the many restaurants and team rooms peppering the site.
Purchasing plants.
Buying jigsaws, books, ceramics, and other souvenirs.
Booking themed Anne Boleyn holidays at the National Trust travel agency.
Having manicures, nails to be finished in the 'Tudor' style.
Consultations with the Trust's interior designers for the purchase of one of the new 'Stately Home' range of fitted kitchens.
The car valet service.
Test-driving new cars from any of the manufacturers in the Trust's affiliate co-marketing programme.

The National Trust is a noble institution, dedicated to the preservation of historic buildings that can provide beautiful backdrops to shops and cafes. But the noble aims of the organisation cannot justify deceptive marketing techniques, so I must today disabuse the public and denounce 'Anne Boleyn's Seat' as a shameful sham.

I need not labour you with the long and impressive list of qualifications that I might have cited to underline my authority on such matters, since the Boleyn fraud is so brazen that anyone with a mere PhD could spot it. Let me draw your attention to some of the more obvious signs from the photograph below.

As had Anne Boleyn, after her death, the statue has no head. So far so good for the Trust. But examining the statue more attentively reveals it has no legs either. While all of the reliable authorities agree that Boleyn was beheaded, none of them mentions that she was belegged, so where does that leave us?

The Trust argues that the loss of the legs may be some historic accident, or that the legs were never included, perhaps because the lady was shy about them, and left instructions for them to be omitted from any post-mortem depictions, or maybe the legs had to be left off to allow the statue to tuck under a low ceiling. Any number of reasons, they say, could justify the lack of limbs.

But equally, the absence of a head makes identification difficult. Convenient for the Trust, you might say; but let us take it as just a matter of probabilities. Anne Boleyn was one of many who have had the misfortune to suffer decapitation over the centuries. (Obviously I don't mean they were individually decapitated over centuries, it just sounds like that because of my poor sentence contstruction.) Who is to say that the statue is not one of those others: Catherine Howard perhaps, Anne's sister Jane, Margaret Pole, Lady Jane Grey, Martha of Aquitaine, The Five Witches of Eastwick, Agnes the Terrible, Lady Alice Lisle, The Mutiness of Colleraine, or Sir Walter Raleigh in drag even? Answer me that.

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