If distance is no object, then I would start in Lincoln, which is my beloved home city and home to the world’s finest cathedral. I would journey on down through the south of England, over the channel and eventually reach Venice. Here I’d visit the Scuola Grande di San Rocco which houses the spectacular Tintoretto paintings showing the life of Christ, my favourite place on earth. It’s breathtaking. I have been many times and I never get bored. It makes my heart soar.
Would you make any special stops?
I would probably stop at Salisbury Cathedral because there is a spectacular tomb that I would love to see. It’s Helena Snakenborg. She was a favourite lady-in-waiting of Elizabeth I and and her daughter is the heroine of my novels, The King’s Witch trilogy, so it holds a special place in my heart as well.
Who would be your travelling companions?
I would take Thomas Cromwell, Anne Boleyn and her daughter Elizabeth. I would never lack conversation and diversion and it would make for quite an atmosphere, given that Anne and Cromwell were sworn enemies. Elizabeth has always been my number one historical heroine. She isn’t the sort of person I’d think might be a friend but it’s more that I admire her. She was an extraordinary woman and she confounded the stereotypes of female sovereigns.
You can transplant your favourite restaurant onto the route. What is it?
My favourite restaurant is the Taverna San Trovaso in Venice, very close to the Accademia. It’s amazing, it’s very rustic and I’d eat the polenta and squid and be in heaven.
Camp under the stars, or find a church hall to sleep in?
Definitely a church hall – I am a rubbish camper. I don’t fare well in rough conditions. I’m a complete wimp. Sleeping in a deserted church would be serene and peaceful.
Which books would you take?
I would take Miss Garnet’s Angel by Salley Vickers. It’s about an elderly lady who decides to retire in Venice and her story is interwoven with that of Tobias and the Archangel Gabriel, so you get passages from the Old Testament and then Miss Garnet’s story and eventually the two overlap in a surprising way. The description of Venice really brings the city, the sights, the tastes to life – I have never read anything so evocative. I’ve reread this lots in lockdown.
What Bible verse would you ponder as you walked?
It’s not a Bible verse but it’s Julian of Norwich: “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.” I just love it because I’m a worrier and this gives me peace.
You stop in a church. What’s your go-to prayer?
I think there’s a fairly well-known one, it’s the Serenity Prayer: “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.” I am a Christian, I used to go to church a lot when I was a child and I restarted when I worked for Historic Royal Palaces and I became a regular at the Chapel Royal at Hampton Court and then, in preparation for getting married in the Chapel in the Tower of London, I became part of the church community there. So it’s the most incredible place to worship and to get married.
It’s your turn to cook. What’s your speciality?
I am a baker rather than a cook. It’s my life ambition to go on Bake Off – I would love to be in that tent. I like the science and the precision of baking and I don’t have the flare to be a cook. I have two specialities – lemon drizzle cake and millionaire shortbread. They are both fairly straightforward bakes but I think I deserve a prize for both of those.
What’s the singalong to keep everyone’s spirits up?
I’m a big fan of the 1980s so any ’80s music ticks the box for me. Something has supplanted the ’80s in recent years: the musical Six about the six wives of Henry VIII. I’ve listened to that soundtrack about 120 times. It’s kind of Spice Girls meets the six wives. I’ve booked to see it for the fifth time when it opens in May.
You’re allowed one luxury in your bag. What is it?
It would be my Apple Watch. I am such a dinosaur with technology but my daughter bought me an Apple Watch for my birthday this year and I’m addicted to it and to meeting the fitness targets, in a very boring and sad way. If I haven’t done my steps, I take my dog Cromwell around the block – he’s named after Thomas, not Oliver. Also, think of the step count on a pilgrimage.
What would you most miss about ordinary life?
It would be Richmond Park. Walking the dog or cycling around ithas become a staple of my life in the last year. I’d miss the open land, seeing the deer, the different walks. I have yet to experience all of them.
What would you miss the least?
Emails. I hate emails. They stop me writing my books and I always feel like I’m massively behind with them.
Tracy Borman’s Crown and Sceptre: A New History of the British Monarchy (Hodder & Stoughton) will be published in November
This article appears in the May issue of the Catholic Herald. Subscribe now.