New literary festival at Blickling Hall will open the book on Anne Boleyn

When discussing Anne Boleyn historians may well lose their head when assessing her religious fervour, ambition, intelligence and fidelity.

But one important part of her history they can agree on relates to her Norfolk roots, which lead back to Blickling Hall.

And in celebration of her connection to the county National Trust staff from the imposing manor house are now preparing to host a four-day festival dedicated to all things Anne - including holding a midnight vigil to spot her headless ghost, which is said to haunt Blickling. The literary festival will also feature talks, discussions and keynote speeches from a number of acclaimed historians and novelists, as well as performances and displays from costumiers and musicians and even a church service that will be attended by a real-life 'Anne'.

Costume historian Molly Housego will join the congregation dressed as the queen and after the service explain how she would have dressed for a day at court.

She said: 'It's wonderful to be able to celebrate a very prominent well-known person who had associations with the county. I think it's interesting to explore exactly what she would have worn down to the underpants - or lack thereof. Everybody wears clothes so it's something people can immediately relate to and transfer that understanding into something that would be worn by somebody 500 years ago.'

The festival will open on Thursday May 17 with an examination of the Boleyns at Blickling from Elizabeth Griffiths of Exeter University who will be followed later on by best-selling novelist and historian Alison Weir, who will discuss her book Mary Boleyn: The Great and Infamous Whore.

The evening will end with a keynote address from Eric Ives, Emeritus Professor of English History at the University of Birmingham, and author of the definitive Anne Boleyn biography, The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn.

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Talks will continue on the Friday with George Bernard, Professor of Early Modern History at Southampton University and author of Fatal Attractions, who will present his controversial theory that Anne Boleyn was so desperate to provide Henry VIII with a male heir that she did, in fact, commit adultery.

On the Saturday - the anniversary of her execution - things will get a little spooky when historian Neil Storey tells a selection of spine-chilling tales about Norfolk's ghosts before leading the audience outside to watch for Anne's headless spectre as it makes its way back to her birthplace.

Mr Storey, who has been leading ghost talks at Blickling for five years, said: 'It's not a paranormal night per se, although strange dots do appear on the photographs. It's an opportunity to talk ghosts sensibly, but in the tradition of telling a good ghost story.

'It's a great privilege to be there.'

Before the ghost stories, prayers will be said for Anne at St Andrew's church, speaker Alison Weir will present her analysis of the queen's last days and historian Suzannah Lipscomb will discuss Henry VIII's mental breakdown in 1536.

The festival will close on the Sunday with a high tea during which four acclaimed historians will switch among the tables of guests to discuss Anne's life.

? Fore more details and ticket prices of the various events taking place during the festival visit www.boleynfestival.co.uk or email blickling@nationaltrust.org.uk. For tickets call 01263 738030 or 0844 8004308.

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