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Windsor Castle by William Harrison Ainsworth

Windsor Castle (1842)

by William Harrison Ainsworth

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A terrific historical Gothic novel, interrupted by a long history (interesting, but out of place) of Windsor Castle. ( )
  Georges_T._Dodds | Mar 30, 2013 |
Windsor Castle

This novel by Ainsworth, the fourth of his I have read, centres around Henry VIII's divorce from Catherine of Aragon and the rise, and in the last section, the fall of Anne Boleyn. The situations are as contrived and somewhat fanciful as ever, though with magnificently readable dialogue. There are some great scenes - such as a fictional one between Catherine of Aragon who, after her fall, enters the Castle in disguise and tries to warn Henry not to abandon her for Anne, then has a confrontation with her rival in Henry's sight - and some great scenes in the final section where Anne falls prey to Henry's infatuation with Jane Seymour. This is mostly good stuff (though it plays a little fast and loose with historical facts). There are also two other major plot strands which interweave with the historical one, one involving the local ghost Herne the Hunter who is supposed to haunt Windsor Great Park, and the other around a maiden Mabel Lyndwood, who is the object of desire of most of the male characters, including Herne and even the King himself, who is temporarily distracted from Anne Boleyn by this maiden. The strands got a little confusing at times, but this was mostly lightweight and enjoyable. In the middle of the novel, there is a Victor Hugo-style digression giving a lengthy history of Windsor Castle from its earliest days to contemporary times (i.e. the 1840s), including even a gushing tribute by the author to the then youthful Queen Victoria whom he says he has seen from a distance at the Castle. This section took up fully 10% of the book and jarred with the storylines - it would have been better as an appendix. ( )
  john257hopper | Jan 26, 2013 |
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In the twentieth year of the reign of the right high and puissant King Henry the Eighth, namely, in 1529, on the twenty-first of April, and on one of the loveliest evenings that ever fell on the loveliest district in England, a fair youth, having somewhat the appearance of a page, was leaning over the terrace-wall on the north side of Windsor Castle, and gazing at the magnificent scene before him.
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