No. 1 Hotspot for History Junkies


“I’m something of an antiquarian,” says Matthew Shardlake of C.J. Sansom’s Shardlake Tudor-era mystery novels (which I will review once I’ve finished Book 4).

If you’re of the same human variety as myself, then you must experience the same symptoms. They include, but are not limited to:

  • increased heart rate at the smell of old books (though this could just mean you like treasures)
  • increased awareness of balance, should you trip over your own feet and smash into a shelf of vintage Coke bottles
  • asking your host how old a piece of furniture is before sitting on it
  • crying when you’re told a neighbour has thrown away an old item (even if everyone insists it was junk)
  • sneaking around the neighbourhood on garbage day, looking for old coffee tables, books, and maybe a hat box that might be sitting, ownerless, on the curb
  • hauling your family members into the woods because you found a dump from the fifties — nevermind broken glass and lead toys; you might find something good!
  •  the impulse to pull out the pair of cotton gloves you always carry with you when you approach a book published before the sixties

Well, I’m not the one looking though dumps in the middle of the woods, but I love old things. Mainly books and accessories (especially hats!), but I enjoy a nice old 7Up bottle and worn rocking chair once in a while.

So, it may not come as a surprise to you when I say that I’m slightly addicted to antique stores. Not only for the great opportunity to pick up some of Shakespeare’s plays and maybe find an older edition of Pride and Prejudice, but antique stores are full of royal history.

Newspapers and magazines are, generally, slapped hastily against a china dish or stacked sloppily behind a vase. You must search for them. They usually date from the time of Diana’s ‘wedding of the century’ and its aftermath, but I did once come across a number of papers covering the Queen’s 1959 tour of Canada (I regret not buying it now). 

While in Prince Edward Island last week (the reason for my lack of blogging), I had the opportunity to visit about half a dozen antique shops. Shakespeare, Christopher Marlowe, Jane Austen, Oscar Wilde, Charles Dickens, and the Bronte sisters adorned the shelves in both new and old editions of their classics. I also foundered across magazines featuring pre-married and married Princess Di, and in one of them, was startled to find a handsome four-page article on our very own Anne Boleyn (wife No.2 of Henry VIII, and easily the most controversial).

I thought it was interesting that Anne Boleyn should be featured in the same gossip magazine as Diana, who is said to be a direct descendant of Anne’s sister Mary (read Claire Ridgway’s guest article on Mary). All three women have been slandered, anglicized, and generally torn apart by both lovers, haters, sympathizers, and indifferent folks. The article itself appeared to be well-researched and pro-Anne, though I noticed the author went with the “Anne had four pregnancies” versus the more plausible “Anne had three pregnancies” (the letter, referencing what some believe to be a fourth child, also referenced a man who had been dead for some time, rendering it, basically, moot). 

It’s fascinating how Anne has survived the centuries and decades, and is still one of the most talked-about and debated Tudor figures. Will someone pick up Eric Ives’ account of her life in twenty, thirty, or a hundred years and be as pleasantly surprised as I was that people are still in love with this thoroughly engrossing woman?

Gosh, I love antique stores. You never know what you’re going to find! It’s like a treasure hunt, a delightful-smelling, educational, endorphin-stimulating treasure hunt! I get lost wondering the magnificent scented rooms, studying old paintings, and wishing I had more money to buy them! However, if I did buy every beautiful thing, I’d quickly have a house full of mathoms (the Hobbit word for something you have no immediate need for, but are unwilling to throw away)!!

The thing(s) I’d most like to find in an antique store are  first (or at least older) editions of Tolkien’s The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, and Lewis’s The Chronicles of Narnia. They would be placed in a glass box on my mantle (though I’d need to build a mantle first!) and treated with utmost care and love. If you ever come across such a find, please let me know!

Sorry, but I must post and run. I need to finish that Shardlake novel (I discovered them at the cottage we borrowed in PEI, and I borrowed them from the owner. Stay tuned for my review. I’m sure it’ll be glowing!) and finish Season 3 of The Tudors!

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