What do a pair of white stockings, a crucifix, a red wig, a Tudor-style bonnet, and a necklace with a ‘B’ pendant, have in common? In case you haven’t guessed, they are all props for Dr Tracy Borman’s fantastic new one-woman show ‘How to be a Good Monarch’. I attended the performance on Friday, 21st April, at Theatr Brycheiniog/Brecon Theatre and was delighted to see that Borman’s personality, so warm and engaging on the small screen, has transitioned superbly to the stage. During a two-hour show (with interval) she romped through her ten ‘Do’s’ and ‘Don’ts’ of advice to would-be-successful sovereigns, leaping back to the first recorded coronation of an English king (Edgar in 978), then forward to the last coronation in 1953 (which, if not a thousand years ago, certainly seems to belong to an era almost as distant). In between, she draws lessons from many of the monarchs who have graced, or disgraced, the throne since then – touching on the farce of William the Conqueror’s coronation, the untrustworthy nature of Bad King John, the rather embarrassing details of Henry VIII’s efforts at marital consummation with Anne of Cleves, and the rather more successful wedding-night of Queen Victoria, who purred satisfaction in her journal. We met Edward III and Henry V, saw the transition of Henry VII from generous victor of Bosworth, to depressed miser, and heard about what happens when monarchs put their hearts before their heads.
Throughout the evening, Borman’s deep knowledge of the history of the monarchs of England, and then of Great Britain, was apparent, yet she wears this knowledge lightly. She made some points that our new sovereign would do well to heed, but only in the most gentle and good-humoured way. Her own admiration for Elizabeth I, a queen she has studied and written about, was apparent, and one of the best moments in the whole show was a video clip of her being shown Elizabeth’s ring, with the double portrait of the queen and her mother, Anne Boleyn. The relationship between the two is the subject of Borman’s latest book (order here) and snippets of information were slipped into the show.
The evening was enjoyable and informative from start to finish, and I highly recommend attending. The full line up of dates is on Dr Borman’s website here
Tudor Times received a complimentary ticket to this performance.