Lincolnshire Historian Tracy Borman
Growing up in Lincolnshire and returning to give a lecture at Bishop Grosseteste University this month, author, historian and Chief Curator for the Historic Royal Palaces Tracy Borman tells us why growing up in Lincoln inspired her to become a historian…
Britain as a whole prides itself on its heritage, but Lincolnshire specifically has a lot to brag about. With 440 Grade I listed buildings, 583 Grade II* listed buildings, Stamford’s Georgian architecture, Tattershall Castle, Belton House and of course the magnificent Lincoln Castle and Cathedral, to name just a few of the county’s superbly preserved historical buildings, it’s understandable how growing up in such a county can influence your life and spark an interest in history.
Tracy Borman is the Chief Curator for the Historic Royal Palaces, appearing on television and radio, and a regular contributor to the magazine BBC History. She’s also an author and will be launching her new book in June.
“I grew up in Scothern and my parents still live there,” says Tracy. “My sister and I would often visit Belton House, Tattershall Castle, Gainsborough Old Hall etc. I loved living in there. Lincoln Cathedral is the finest Cathedral in Europe and I lived next to it.”
“I decided to study – and eventually teach – history at the University of Hull and was awarded a PHD in 1997. When I returned home during summer break, I worked as a Victorian jailer at Lincoln Castle! I often volunteered at Grimsthorpe Castle too.”
Tracy is now the Chief Curator for the Historic Royal Palaces charity, that manages Hampton Court Palace, Tower of London, Kensington Palace, Kew Palace, Banqueting House, Whitehall and Hillsborough Castle. She’s also Chief Executive of the Heritage Education Trust, a charity that encourages children to visit and learn from historic properties through the Sandford Award scheme. She’s also worked for the Heritage Lottery Fund, The National Archives and English Heritage. Tracy used to be the Joint Chief Curator alongside Lucy Worsley, best known for her presenting and producing work on BBC Television series on historical topics and for her publications, most recently on Jane Austen and Lady Mary.
“Nowadays, half my time is spent curating for Historic Royal Palaces, primarily on my favourite era – the Tudors – and the other half is spent writing.”
“Curating is about researching the history of each individual building in the charity, and it’s definitely a historian’s dream job. I worked my way up by getting just any job in heritage in London and now I’m doing the job of my dreams.”
“The job also involves being responsible for everything from arranging exhibitions and refurbishments to lectures and tours.”
“The other half of my job has been more of a lifetime ambition. I wrote my first book in 2007 and I’m on my 10th book now. This year is set to be a very busy year; I’m releasing my very first novel in June and will be returning to Lincoln for the Book Festival to meet people and sign copies in September.”
“The book is called the King’s Witch and it’s about the gunpowder plot, a very different period in time to what I’m used to.”
“Writing a novel was a different experience too. I enjoyed it but I found it very difficult compared to writing non-fiction books. The King’s Witch is true in parts and it’s about a woman who really did exist in the court of James I, but we don’t know a lot about her.”
“I found it very fun to use my imagination to fill in the gaps, whereas usually I would be researching for hours to ensure every fact is correct.”
“I stuck to the facts where possible, and it was a lot harder than I thought; I had to think of a story that would be compelling to readers.”
“I’ve written non-fiction books before on witch hunts and trials throughout the centuries, and I’ve even produced a novel on the Belvoir witches from Lincolnshire, so this is where the inspiration came from.”
Tracy’s long list of titles include several about the Tudors; ‘The Private Lives of the Tudors: Uncovering the Secrets of Britain’s Greatest Dynasty,’ ‘Thomas Cromwell: The Hidden Story of Henry VIII’s Most Faithful Servant,’ and ‘Elizabeth’s Women: The Hidden Story of the Virgin Queen.’ This is Tracy’s bestselling book to date. Her other books include ‘Henrietta Howard: King’s Mistress, Queen’s Servant,’ ‘Matilda: Queen of the Conqueror,’ ‘Witches: A Tale of Sorcery, Scandal and Seduction,’ and the ‘Story of the Tower of London.’
The King’s Witch will be released in June, and Tracy will be coming to Lincolnshire to talk to people about it and launch it at the book festival in September. It’s the first of a trilogy and Tracy is working on the other two to be released next year. Although if you want to meet Tracy this month, she’s going to be giving a talk at the Bishop Grosseteste University on Elizabeth’s Women, The Hidden Story of the Virgin Queen. This talk, based on her book of the same title, will explore the fascinating relationships that Elizabeth I had with the women who influenced her most.
From her scandalous mother, Anne Boleyn, to her greatest rival, Mary Queen of Scots, and the ‘flouting wenches’ who served her at court, they show Elizabeth in a surprising new light. The talk is coming to the University on Thursday 31st May in the evening.
“I enjoy giving talks, especially about my favourite time in history, so I’m really looking forward to coming to Lincoln in May. I also studied in Lincoln, and still keep in touch with my A-Level history teacher from Yarborough School – now Lincoln Castle Academy.”
When she’s not curating documents and artefacts for the Historic Royal Palaces, writing novels or giving talks, Tracy spends time with her husband in London, whom she married in the Tower of London.
“I decided to get married in the Tower of London because I’m chief curator of the Historic Royal Palaces and since writing a book about Thomas Cromwell, I’ve become a bit obsessed by him.”
“He is buried in the Tower chapel. It’s a bit ghoulish but for someone who loves history, you can’t get much more historic than that.” There aren’t many locations in Britain, other than London, that rival Lincolnshire’s prolific heritage, so it comes as no surprise that the Chief Curator of Historic Royal Palaces originates here. We look forward to her return to the county with her talk at the Bishop Grosseteste University in May and her return in September to launch her new book and first ever novel, The King’s Witch.
For more information on Tracy Borman, her books and to discover where else she is giving tours in the UK, call 020 7471 7900 or visit the website www.tracyborman.co.uk.