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Alison Weir

  • British historian
  • Born 1951

Alison Weir is a British writer of history books, and latterly historical novels, mostly in the form of biographies about British royalty.Her first published work, 1989's Britain's Royal Families, was a genealogical overview of the British royal family. She subsequently wrote biographies of Eleanor of Aquitaine, Isabella of France, Katherine Swynford, Elizabeth of York, and the Princes in the Tower. Other focuses have included Henry VIII of England and his wives and children, Mary Boleyn, Elizabeth I, and Mary, Queen of Scots.


In 1965, when I was fourteen, I read my first adult novel; it was a historical novel about Katherine of Aragon, and I could not put it down. When I finished it, I had to find out the true facts behind the story and if people really carried on like that in those days. So I began to read proper history books, and found that they did!




'Britain's Royal Families' became my first published book, in 1989, from The Bodley Head, and the rest of the story is - dare I say it? - history!




I feel very strongly that where the facts exist, a historical novelist should use them if they're writing about a person who really lived, because a lot of people come to history through historical novels. I did. And a lot of people want their history that way.




When I started researching history in the 1960s, a lot of women about whom I've subsequently written were actually footnotes to history. There was a perception that women weren't important. And it's true. Women were seen historically as far inferior to men.




History was a hobby for about, oh, 20 years before I got into print.




If people really want to know and learn from history, why do they want bad history? Why don't they want good history? Wouldn't you rather know the truth, rather than the legend?




Many people have told me that my books read like novels. Perhaps this is because, when I write, I feel I am really there, so strong is my feeling for my subject. On occasion, I have been so moved by the events I have been describing that I have felt like crying.




At school, up to the age of sixteen, I found history boring, for we were studying the Industrial Revolution, which was all about Acts, Trade Unions and the factory system, and I wanted to know about people, because it is people who make history.




The first Elizabeth film was an absolute travesty historically. It really was sloppy. Things like 'The Other Boleyn Girl' and 'The Tudors,' people's perception is distorted because of these. It matters to me as a historian, because I spend my life trying to get it right.




It gives me a huge buzz when people say they've enjoyed my books, because this grew out of a hobby, and it's an absolute passion, and it's lovely when I get feedback.




I love reading about the supernatural, and time-slip novels, and the mistress of both is Barbara Erskine.



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