A Lovely "New" Portrait of Anne Boleyn


Some of you may remember how opposed I was to the “new portrait of Anne Boleyn” that surfaced a few months back. A new miniature portrait was brought to my attention via Facebook today, and I wanted to tell you why I think this one actually could be a portrait of Anne Boleyn, or at least a copy of a portrait of her.

    The owner of the portrait wrote in her post:
  Last year my husband purchased various snuff boxes etc at a local auction. In amongst them was a small portrait. I took the portrait out of its leather and velvet lined box and written on the back was written A Bo.... ( or A Bu....) and on the next line AD 1530. There is also a date at the bottom which appears to be 1796. I have been advised that it is probably not by a professional artist and that it is based on a print held by the British Museum from the early 1800's but it is dated earlier than that. It probably is based on another portrait. What there is no doubt of it is very similar to other supposed pictures of Anne Boleyn. Also, that in 1796, over 200 years ago, the artist probably believed this was Anne Boleyn?
    The date “1530″ on the rear was probably the artist’s guess as to the year the original image was created, but is probably just that - a guess. If the image does portray Anne in 1530, it would be two years before she married Henry VIII.

Unlike the portrait of Lady Bergavenny, the sitter in this portrait is wearing the appropriate clothing and jewelry for a woman of Anne Boleyn’s time-period and station. I would suggest that the date is closer to 1535 than 1530, though, simply because of the shortness of the lappets.

    The headdress closely resembles the one worn in Anne’s Nidd Hall and portrait medallion images.


    The lappets on the hood reach to about mouth-level which would be correct for the mid 1530s.

    The date on the back of the portrait is difficult to distinguish (at the bottom of the frame) but 1796 seems correct, stylistically speaking.


    As to what portrait the miniature may be based from, I suggest possibly this one by Jacobus Houbraken, 1738.


    But what makes it intriguing to me is that the Houbraken etching was supposedly done after a Holbein portrait. I’d like to fantasize that the artist was actually looking at the Holbein painting itself when they made this miniature copy, and not this etching! Could we possibly be getting glimpses of the lost full-length Holbein of the queen which was lost in the late 18th century?

    One last thing... Note the hair of the sitter. It’s the same shade as that seen in Elizabeth’s portrait ring of her mother.


    Yes, I’m still an advocate of the Anne Boleyn Was a Redhead school! And it’s interesting the artist would choose to give her hair this shade if they were simply inventing colors for the black-and-white etching above. More fuel for my fantasy that the artist actually saw the lost Holbein! StumbleUpon Share on Tumblr

Did the "Dogs Lick Henry's Blood" After His Funeral?

I recently came across an article which discusses this gruesome tale as one of the myths of Henry's death. For those of you needing a recap, the tale says that when Henry's coffin stayed overnight at Syon Abbey on its way to Henry VIII's funeral, it leaked a foul-smelling fluid on the floor, and a dog came to "lick Henry's blood," fulfilling a curse on the king invoked by a Friar Peto during the days of Anne Boleyn.

The author of the article noted that the source of this story was somewhat dubious. It was first written by Gilbert Burnet, whose work also gave rise to some of the other myths of Henry's reign, and then ghoulishly embellished by Agnes Strickland in the Victorian era.

The king being carried to Windsor to be buried, stood all night among the broken walls of Sion, and there the leaden coffin being cleft by the shaking of the carriage, the pavement of the church was wetted with Henry's blood. In the morning came plumbers to solder the coffin, under whose feet — I tremble while I write it  was suddenly seen a dog creeping, and licking up the king's blood. If you ask me how I know this, I answer, William Greville, who could scarcely drive away the dog, told me, and so did the plumber also.” 

It's probable elements of fiction got mixed into the tale, especially given its emotionally-satisfying and edifying morality tale ending, all tied up neatly in a supernatural bow with the ghostly dog.

But, as gross as it may be, it's highly probable Henry's coffin did leak, though I speculate that the "creeping" dog was probably an embellishment.

When Henry died on the 28th of January, the news was kept secret for several days while Edward Seymour, uncle of the minor prince who would inherit the throne, consolidated his power. Property and titles were parceled out to the other nobles on the council until they were satisfied and Seymour could ensure that his role of Lord Protector would be unchallenged.

Meals were delivered to the king's rooms as usual, and every appearance was kept up of the king being alive, but unwell.

On the 31st of January, the king's death was announced, and the embalmers were able to get to work.  It was likely an unpleasant task. Henry was over 300 lbs. when he died and had infected leg wounds. He may have also been suffering from renal or kidney failure, which would have created a backup of fluid in his system. And, after three days, the natural process of decomposition would have set in.

Without getting too graphic, Henry's unembalmed body was probably already leaking. It's something that modern embalmers have to deal with in preparing remains, and in the modern era, bodies are usually chemically preserved within 24 hours of death when being prepared for a funeral.

Tudor embalmers would remove the intestines, heart and lungs. (This task usually fell to a noble's chandler, or the person who was in charge of the household's candles and wax, because wax was heavily used during the process.) Human decomposition usually begins within the stomach/intestines because of the natural bacteria already present. The removed organs would be casketed or put in urns, often buried at other churches that were important to the deceased, or along the road to their final funeral destination.

The body cavity was stuffed with sawdust, spices, and herbs. Sometimes wax was poured inside. The body would be rubbed with perfumed salves and ointments, then wrapped in cerecloth - a heavy, waxed, canvas-like material. The bundle would then be encased in sheets of lead by the household's plumber.

The lead coffin was put inside a more ornate outer coffin made of wood, often embellished with fine fabrics and gilded nails. Atop the coffin, an effigy of the deceased would lie. It was made from wood or wax, and meant to look as much like the deceased as possible. Sometimes, a "death mask" was used to create it. Grease would be smeared over the dead person's face, and then it was coated with wet plaster. Once it hardened, they had a perfect mold.

The effigy would wear the clothing of the deceased. Eyes open, sometimes smiling, it would stand in the place of the body, which wouldn't be quite so presentable for the long duration of the lying-in-state period or Tudor funerals, which usually lasted about a month.

It was likely because of the delay between Henry's death and embalming that his burial occurred a rapid two weeks after his death. The famous overnight stay at Syon Abbey occurred on February 14 - five years (minus one day) after the beheading of Katheryn Howard.

The story's narrative asserts that the jostling of the road had caused a separation in the plates of the lead coffin, which is certainly a reasonable explanation, but it may also be that the separation was caused by an explosion of decomposition gasses built up inside the lead coffin. As to why no one heard it? In the latter scenario, the excuse of the jostling might have been given because no one wanted to admit they'd left the coffin in the chapel alone overnight without attendants/mourners praying 'round the clock by the side of the dead king.

It's unlikely that the matter below Henry's coffin was actually blood. More likely, the fluids were the products of decomposition, and could have been tinted from the perfumes and spices used in the embalming procedure. The smell would have been ghastly. It is possible that it could have attracted an animal. In the Tudor era, strays often wandered in and out of buildings, feasting on scraps that were disposed of poorly in those days before proper sanitation. But my guess is that the dog was an embellishment by those who wanted to portray Henry as wicked, and deserving of a gruesome end.

According to the story, the plumber shored up the leaking inner lead coffin. Henry was transported another eight miles to St. George's Chapel, Windsor, where his body was placed in what was intended to be a temporary vault until his grandiose tomb could be constructed. That never happened, and there he remains.

He lay undisturbed next to Jane Seymour for a hundred years until his vault was opened to hastily admit the remains of Charles I after his execution. The location was more or less forgotten until the Victorian era.

The explorers noted that Henry's exterior wood coffin was in fragments, and the inner lead coffin appeared as though it had been "beaten in with violence about the middle." Henry's skeleton - including his skull, since "traces of beard" are mentioned - was actually visible, which means the lead plates must have completely peeled away, or gaped substantially. Jane Seymour's coffin, to Henry's right, was in perfect shape.

Some speculate the damage was actually done when Charles I's coffin was shoved into the vault. But a 1721 account of Charles' burial says that a footsoldier had crept into Henry's vault before Charles was placed in side and had stolen one of Henry's bones by reaching through a hole in the coffin beneath the pall* that lay atop.(The fellow had intended to use it to fashion a knife handle.) So it appears the damage had already been done.

If the reason why Henry's coffin leaked was due to an explosion of decomposition gas, the force could have damaged his exterior coffin. The damage wouldn't have been immediately noticeable to onlookers, because it would have been hidden below the effigy and the fabric palls laid over the lid. Or, the damage could have been caused by the plumber, who had to open the exterior wood coffin to solder up the leaking lead plates. It could also have happened after its internment in the vault.

Considering the delay between death and embalming, I would say that some leakage of the coffin was more likely than not. Whether it was enough to pool below on the floor is another matter. And due to the damage on Henry's coffin itself, I'm pretty confident that there was an explosion of decomposition gasses, either before his funeral or after it was placed in the vault.

*The palls that had been described in the 1721 description appear to have vanished by 1813, because the description of the interior doesn't mention them, nor does the examination and sketch done in 1888. StumbleUpon Share on Tumblr

This is Not Anne Boleyn

This "new portrait of Anne Boleyn" has been making the rounds in social media, and now several news articles

It is not Anne Boleyn.

The picture you see above is a copy of a copy of a copy of a painting that used to be in the collection of Horace Walpole. He was given it by a woman of the court who identified if as Joan, Baroness Bagevenny. Walpole had no reason to doubt this identification, and added it to his collection. The painting was sold in the 1840s, and has apparently vanished from existence. (UPDATE: The painting has not vanished. It still exists and is in a private collection. Art historian Dr Bendor Grosvenor has examined the original painting years ago and searched it for any hint it can be connected to Anne Boleyn . Spoiler alert: He didn't find any.)

Now, a historian has identified it as being Anne Boleyn. But there are serious, serious problems with this identification, which I will break down here. Buckle up, campers, 'cause this is gonna be a long post.

First of all, the earliest sketch of the painting is this one from the Walpole collection. Looks a little different from the one above, even in the facial features.

You'll notice that the "R" insignia on the collar that caused so much excitement is nowhere to be found. That's because the original painting didn't have it, either, as shown in the catalog description of the painting when it went up for sale:

Here is another version of the same sketch.

The "R" insignias are the invention of the third sketch artist. They do not appear in the original sketch, nor in the painting upon which the sketches were based.

Now, on to the details. (I warned you this would be long.)

The style of the hood puts the image firmly in the early 1520s. The lappets in this image almost reach the woman's collarbone. In the 1530s, lappets were chin length (as you can see in Anne's portrait medal.)

Here is a Holbein sketch from the 1530s said to be Anne Boleyn. Note the lappets.

This is the Anne Boleyn Nidd Hall painting (sometimes said to be Jane Seymour re-purposed.)

Again, note the lappets.

They got shorter every year. By 1536, they were at mouth level.

 It was also fashionable in Anne's time for the veil to be pinned up to the side of the hood, as you can see in the medal. The sitter in the sketch has a veil hanging straight down. (Look at the portrait medal and see how the veil is clumped on the left side of the head. On Jane Seymour's sketch above, it's clumped on the right side.)

The gown itself dates more to the 1520s, as well. The neckline is square and not as low as the necklines in the 1530s. Compare the upper image to the images of  Jane and the Annes. The necklines in the 1530s had gone wider, making them more rectangular and revealing more of the shoulders. You can see a similar neckline in Mary Tudor's childhood portrait.

Anne Boleyn was known to be at the height of style and an innovator in fashion. She would not have worn something so out of date as queen.

Anne Boleyn was not rich enough in the early 1520s to afford the jewels the sitter wears, nor would she have been able to wear them due to the sumptuary laws. In the Hever/NPG portraits, Anne is wearing jewels more appropriate to her station.

Anne was either thirteen years old or twenty years old in 1520 (depending on the birth date you believe.) The sitter in the sketch is clearly a middle-aged woman, not a young girl.

Even the description of the painting says the sitter is a middle-aged woman.

The hood has the letter "I" and "A" repeated. The "I" initials are larger than the "A"s. This lady's given name started with an "I" or a "J." "A" was a secondary name, given less importance.

There is no way to explain the "I" insignias in the context of Anne Boleyn. 

Anne favored the HA cipher after her marriage. She and Henry put it on everything from her personal jewels to the buildings erected during her reign. If it wasn't "HA" it was "AR" or "ARS" for Anna Regina Sovereign. It's inexplicable for her to revert back to a simple "A" with no mention of her marriage or royal status - via crown jewels or other symbols - anywhere in the image. The sitter in the sketch is not royal. She's obviously rich and titled, but she has no indications of royalty whatsoever.

In twenty years of studying Tudor England, I have never heard of the carnation standing for "coronation" as Weir claims in the article. The carnation was a symbol of betrothal or marriage. (And Anne Boleyn certainly would not have had her coronation image painted wearing a headdress and gown almost thirteen years out of style.)

If this really was a coronation portrait, Anne would have worn some of the crown jewels, such as the “consort’s necklace” all of Henry’s queens after Anne are painted wearing.

She would have had “HA” in her headdress instead of just her maiden name. She could have been painted with the crown of St. Edward beside her as her daughter, Elizabeth, did.  She would have used the RAS (Regina Anna Soverign) insignia designed for her, or SOME reference to her royalty, not just her maiden name.

In the Nidd Hall painting, she's wearing the Consort's Necklace, plus three strands of pearls Jane Seymour is later seen wearing in the Dynasty portrait (obviously a royal set.) She also may be wearing the Consort's Necklace with a cross pendant in her portrait medallion... It's hard to tell.

But note the initials Anne chose as queen: AR. She signified her royalty in her post-marriage portraits.

Walpole had good reason to identify the painting with the Bergavenny family. Joan FitzAlan (the reported sitter) was the daughter of the Earl of Arundel (accounting for the "A"). She married the Baron of Bergavenny (the "B".) Her first name accounts for the "I" insiginas. The purpose of this image, whether or not it was painted after Joan's death, was to celebrate the uniting of those houses, Arundel and Bergavenny, and the woman who made it happen - Joan - by dint of her marriage. The design of the image itself screams its purpose.

Though Joan was deceased at the time this image was painted, but posthumous paintings were often done with the current fashions (see the painting of Mary Tudor with Charles Brandon for an example.)

I cannot say for certain the identification is correct and the sketch is Joan. But I'm willing to bet the farm it's not Anne Boleyn.

Read Dr. Bendor Grosvenor's blog article here.
Claire Ridgeway of the Anne Boleyn Files gives her opinion (and was kind enough to link my article!) StumbleUpon Share on Tumblr

Anne Boleyn's Final, Small, Strange Victory


Mid-April, 1536

image    Ambassador Eustace Chapuys had been at court since 1529, and had witnessed most of Henry VIII’s efforts to rid himself of Katharine of Aragon and marry Anne Boleyn. Chapuys was unabashedly on Katharine’s side, and he despised Anne. His vicious, unsubstantiated gossip and snide insinuations about Anne have wound their way into history, since his ambassadorial reports make up the backbone of many of the era’s histories.

    As late as 1536, Chapuys had never actually spoken to Anne, or interacted with her in any way. He avoided any contact with her, though he spent a great deal of time in his letters obsessing over her activities.

    In a letter to the Imperial court, dated April 21, Chapuys relates a strange set of incidents that occurred over the last month. At this point, he was unaware of the plot that was already underway, a plot that would end in Anne’s arrest and execution a little over a month later.

image    Chapuys met with Cromwell just after Easter to discuss the possibility of the King Henry reconciling with the pope, and the deteriorating situation in France. But more important to Chapuys - on a personal level - was the king’s reconciliation with his daughter, Mary, whom the king had treated with increasing cruelty for the girl’s refusal to accept herself as illegitimate and ineligible to inherit the throne.

    Cromwell went out of his way to show respect to Chapuys and the emperor he represented, kissing the letters Chapuys had brought him. Cromwell assured him matters would be settled all parties’ satisfaction in time, and the king was merely waiting for the right opportunity to “express his affection” for the princess. Neither Henry, nor his council, had any regard for France, he said, and they had more esteem for the least hair on the Emperor’s head than they did for King Francis and all of his people. Laying it on a bit thick, Cromwell was.

    The following Tuesday, Chapuys was brought to meet with the king and his council, and it seems to have been quite the occasion for him. Chapuys describes the congratulations and laudatory comments made by the council members, praising him for the work he had done on the reconciliation with the Emperor. George Boleyn, Lord Rochford, was one of those who came to greet him. Chapuys reluctantly liked “the Concubine’s brother,” in spite of himself. George had the same charm and intelligence as his sister, and was an outgoing fellow. But Chapuys was irritated that George couldn’t refrain from “Lutheran discussions” of the reformed faith he so ardently supported.

    Cromwell took Chapuys aside and said the king wanted him to go visit Anne and kiss her hand, something Chapuys had steadfastly avoided all of these years. The simple courtesy was an action fraught with political implications. If Chapuys bowed to Anne, he was acknowledging she was the Queen of England, and that meant Princess Mary was a bastard with no claim on the throne, a repudiation of the Emperor’s stance.

image    Chapuys tried to tactfully wriggle out of it, telling Cromwell it “wasn’t advisable” and begging him to give the king his apologetic excuses. Cromwell returned, saying the king had taken Chapuys’s refusal well enough and invited him to speak with the king after dinner. Chapuys must have breathed a sigh of relief. Diplomatic crisis averted.

    The king showed Chapuys exaggerated courtesy, which should have had Chapuys’s “spidey sense” tingling. The two of them had experienced tense relations in the past, at one point descending into a screaming match over Henry’s treatment of Katharine and Princess Mary. But Henry was now distancing himself from the French (Anne’s allies) and trying to begin repairing relations with the Emperor. Soon the “sticking point” - Anne herself - would be gone, though Chapuys did not yet know that.

    They had a brief conversation about what the Emperor was up to, and Henry said he hoped the Emperor would take his advice,
as that of a very old friend, good brother, and, as it were, a father, as he might understand by what I should tell him hereafter more at leisure. On this he said, Well, we should have leisure to discuss all matters.
image    Chapuys would have another opportunity to speak to the king soon, but right now, Henry had something planned.

    George Boleyn came right on schedule to escort Chapuys to mass, but he didn’t lead him down the usual path. Instead, he steered him right toward where Anne Boleyn was walking. Chapuys notes that this was all a set-up in his description of the events, but he was really rendered helpless to prevent it by etiquette.
I was conducted to mass by lord Rochford, the concubine's brother, and when the King came to the offering there was a great concourse of people partly to see how the concubine and I behaved to each other. She was courteous enough, for when I was behind the door by which she entered, she returned, merely to do me reverence as I did to her. [...] I am told the concubine asked the King why I did not enter there as the other ambassadors did, and the King replied that it was not without good reason.
    Chapuys had bowed to Anne and acknowledged her as queen. By extension, the Emperor himself had just acknowledged Anne. Much like Anne’s meeting with Francis at Calais when he tacitly acknowledged her as Henry’s consort, Anne had just been given the Emperor’s acknowledgement, as well.

    From her question to the king about why Chapuys had entered the way he did, it does not appear that Anne was in on this little plot. It should be noted, however, that she went out of her way to be polite to this man who had said so many hateful things about her, doubling back so that she could stop and bow to him. None would have blamed her if she had sailed right on past him without acknowledging his presence, but she made it a point to be courteous. He gave her the bare minimum of courtesy in return, a quick bow. He said not a word to her, nor offered to kiss her hand.

image   But the question is why this took place. Why did Henry feel the need to force this final little victory when he knew he would be killing her a month later? What petty thrill did he get from arranging this forced acknowledgement of the queen he would be so shortly disposing of?

   Chapuys spoke again with the king a bit later, but despite the congenial way the events had begun, it soon descended into heated bickering. Chapuys made his Emperor’s points in conversation with the king and then excused himself.
After which they talked together, while I conversed and made some acquaintance with the brother of the young lady to whom the King is now attached [Jane Seymour], always keeping an eye upon the gestures of the King and those with him. There seemed to be some dispute and considerable anger, as I thought, between the King and Cromwell; and after a considerable time Cromwell grumbling left the conference in the window where the King was, excusing himself that he was so very thirsty that he was quite exhausted, as he really was with pure vexation, and sat down upon a coffer out of sight of the King, where he sent for something to drink.

image    Cromwell spoke with Chapuys “confusedly and in anger” snapping out the king’s responses to Chapuys’s points, including the chilling remark that the Princess was Henry’s daughter and he would treat her as he saw fit and no one had the right to interfere.

    Cromwell also let Chapuys know there were dark currents stirring under the surface that Chapuys didn’t yet know about.
[T]elling me also that although he had always pretended that what he said to me was of his own suggestion, yet he had neither said nor done anything without express command from the King. On my asking him what could have made this variation in the King's will, he said he could not imagine what spirit it was [...] and he concluded that princes have spirits or properties which are hidden and unknown to all others. By which conversations Cromwell showed covertly his dissatisfaction at the strange contradictions of his master. [...]  [H]e told me that he who trusts in the word of princes, who say and unsay things, and promises himself anything from them, is not over wise, as he had found on Tuesday last[.]

image    After a beginning in which he was so excited by the progress he thought had occurred and the honors done to him, Chapuys ended this letter in despair, and suggested the Emperor might want to throw himself in with the French and the pope, declaring Henry excommunicate and unfit to rule, and that Mary was the rightful ruler of England, enforcing this edict by military force. Perhaps the threat of a gathering army might bring Henry to his senses.

    Chapuys’s next letter begins with saying Cromwell has taken to his bed “in sorrow” over the matter and has retreated to his chambers. Cromwell wasn’t weeping into his pillow in anguish over the state of political turmoil - he was using his illness as a cover for the secret work he was doing in setting up the prosecution of Anne and her “lovers.”

    Chapuys notes in his next letter that Princess Mary and her party were “jealous” over the fact Chapuys bowed to Anne, though he protests that he never kissed her hand, nor spoke to her.
Although I would not kiss or speak to the Concubine, the Princess and other good persons have been somewhat jealous at the mutual reverences required by politeness which were done at the church. I refused to visit her until I had spoken to the King. If I had seen any hope from the King's answer I would have offered not two but 100 candles to the shedevil, although another thing made me unwilling, viz., that I was told she was not in favor with the King; besides, Cromwell was quite of my opinion that I should do well to wait till I had spoken to the King.
       In light of the events shortly to come, Cromwell advising Chapuys to hold off on visiting Anne or giving her gifts is quite interesting. The king had made his point in regards to forcing the “acknowledgement.” No further courtesy to Anne was necessary.

     One month from the time Chapuys was writing these words, Anne would be languishing in the Tower, and the swordsman of Calais would already be on his way.

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Camilla Parker-Bowles is the Anne Boleyn of Our Age


    The marriage of Charles and Camilla has some striking similarities to the story of Anne Boleyn, and her public perception.


image~ Like Anne Boleyn, Camilla was the “other woman” luring the (future) king away from a princess who was beloved by the public.

~ Camilla is not conventionally beautiful, and her appearance has been mocked in the press. People could not understand what Henry saw in Anne Boleyn, either, because she was not beautiful by the standards of the era.

~ Camilla is a mere gentlewoman, as Anne was, rising above her station to capture the heart of a king. Marrying for such an ephemeral reason as “love” has always been suspect in royal circles.

~ Both women were blamed for the ill-treatment of their predecessors.

~ In both cases, the ex-wife clung to her old title, Diana keeping the title of “Princess” and Katharine refusing to surrender the title of Queen. In both cases, the public supported this usage.


~ Both women were the “scandal of Christendom.” Camilla is divorced; Anne had been pre-contracted, requiring a dispensation.

~ Both were the king’s “mistress” (though Anne refused to sleep with the king until they were lawfully wed.)

~ Both were called ugly names disparaging their chastity.

~ Camilla, like Anne, has fought an uphill battle to be recognized as her husband’s lawful consort. However graciously or charitably she behaves, there are many who will never accept nor “forgive” Camilla for usurping Diana’s place. Women were recorded as hating Anne, the “goggle-eyed whore” who made a mockery of the sacred vows of marriage.

image~ The prince’s “love letters” (phone calls) to Camilla were made public in order to humiliate them. The public salivated and snickered over their playful talk the same way they must have snickered over Henry wishing to kiss Anne’s “pretty dukkys.”

image~ The prince’s wedding to Camilla was low-key in contrast to the lavish spectacle of his wedding to Diana, the same as with Henry VIII.

~ Both of the ex-wives died not long after their divorce. In both cases, the surviving royals were criticized for not being respectful enough of the deceased. People still leave pomegranates on Katharine’s tomb, and visit the estate where Diana is buried.


    Fortunately, Charles already has his “heir and a spare” and doesn’t seem to be the head-chopping type. Camilla has a chance Anne Boleyn never had - to slowly win the public over and grow into her role as consort. Whether she will ever be the Queen of England remains to be seen, but it seems public perception of her is softening as time passes. Anne had only a scant three years. Her reign is mostly known from the “tabloids” of her day, and so we may never have a clear picture of what she was really like, and what she could have become had she survived Henry’s obsession.

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Did Elizabeth Inherit Anne Boleyn's Jewelry?

    There seems to be some misconceptions about the possible fate of Anne Boleyn's jewelry, and so I decided to update this article.

    Every queen had a selection of personal jewelry which was not part of the crown jewels. These personal jewels could include gifts from her husband during their marriage, or pieces she owned prior to her wedding. Anne's personal jewelry would not have been considered part of the crown jewels, even after her death and her husband's acquisition of her property.

    The crown jewels were a set of gems that were handed down from monarch to monarch. You can see the crown jewels of the Tudor era in the portraits of Henry's queens. The "consort's necklace" is a piece which seems to have been worn by each woman after Anne Boleyn, and it appears not to have been re-set for each queen as many gems were.

    Jane Seymour’s portrait is where it first turns up (though Anne may be wearing it in her portrait medallion with a cross pendant.)

    Katheryn Howard wears it next.


After that, Kateryn Parr wore it with a different pendant.

    A particularly fabulous gem might be added to the crown jewels, but that seems to have depended on the monarch who purchased it - whether he or she wanted to "gift" it to the crown - or how it was purchased (whether with the monarch's privy purse or with the funds of the crown.) The current queen, Elizabeth II, owns many fabulous gems - tiaras, and jewelry sets - that have been passed down through her family that are her personal property and not part of the crown jewels.

image    When a queen was widowed, she was expected to turn the crown jewels over to the woman who would take her place as consort, but not the gems that were her personal jewelry. Mary Tudor Brandon caused controversy when she absconded with part of the French crown jewels, including the famous Mirror of Naples, and gave it to her brother in a bid to win his forgiveness for remarrying a man of her own choosing. When King Francis asked for the jewel’s return, Henry argued that the Mirror had been a personal gift from the dead king to his sister, and was not part of the crown jewels.

image    Anne's famous initial pendants were an example of personal jewelry. Katharine of Aragon also had personal jewels that were not part of the collection she was forced to surrender to Anne Boleyn in 1532. Specifically, she left to her daughter in her will a "gold collar I brought out of Spain."

image    The initial pendants I’ve described Anne wearing in Under These Restless Skies are featured in portraits of Anne Boleyn or her daughter. Since no portraits from Anne's lifetime survive (with the possible exception of the Holbein sketch) it seems likely artists painted Anne wearing pieces of jewelry her daughter had inherited, or pieces that were remembered as belonging to her.

image    Everyone is familiar with the famous “B” pendant, but it appears Anne had several others. 

    “AB,” is pictured in one of her portraits, pinned to her bodice in the Nidd Hall portrait.

image    An “A” pendant is worn by Elizabeth in the Whitehall Family Group Portrait. (UPDATE: I have been informed that this pendant may have religious significance as opposed to signifying the name "Anne." The pendant may refer to Auspice Maria, or "under the protection of Mary." I need to do further research on this.)

image    Anne is also portrayed wearing an “HA” pendant, her initials entwined with Henry’s, a design known as a love knot. Holbein is recorded to have designed such a necklace for her; it's tempting to imagine this is similar to the one he created. Inventories also record Anne had items with the initials "RA" Regina Anna (Queen Anne) and a large array of rings, bracelets and other items with "HA" inscribed.

image   It should be noted that some historians now claim the Hoskins miniature, used as the "pattern" for portraits of Anne Boleyn, is actually of Mary Tudor Brandon. However, most nobles of the day did not identify themselves by their surname, but by their title. If Mary wore an initial pendant, it most likely would have had an "S" for Suffolk. Charles Brandon's next wife signed herself "Katherine Suffolk" in documents, just as Anne herself used the name "Anne Rochford" after her father was ennobled, as she signed herself in her only surviving letter to a woman friend, indicating the "B" portrait may portray Anne from a time before that date.

image    What happened to Anne Boleyn's initial pendants? After Anne died, they became Henry's property, both because he was her widower (though he'd had their marriage annulled) and because she was a convicted traitor. The pieces went into Henry's storage. Some of them were noted as still being in his inventories when he died, but not the initial pendants, so they must have been dispersed before his death. Nor do they turn up in the inventories of his queens.

image    At some point, Henry seems to have decided to pass the jewels on to Anne's daughter. They were not only an inheritance from her mother, but they were her Boleyn legacy.  Henry used his daughter Mary's obstinacy as an excuse not to give her the gold collar her mother had left her, but he had no such excuse in Elizabeth's case. Secondly, though he considered her a bastard, Elizabeth was a king's daughter and had to be groomed and bejeweled appropriately. Giving Elizabeth her mother's personal gems would be a cheap way of fitting her out according to her station. Some believe that Kateryn Parr may have intervened to urge him to give Elizabeth her mother's legacy.

    He doesn't seem to have minded her wearing them. Though he had initially tried to eradicate Anne's memory by destroying her portraitsrecords, and emblems, he passed on the gems as they were, not bothering with the expense of re-setting them before he had them given to Elizabeth. Elizabeth chose to wear the "A" pendant in the Whitehall family portrait. Perhaps Henry shrugged and said if she wanted to mark herself with the name of a traitor, it was no skin off his nose. She was a bastard ineligible for the throne anyway.

image    Elizabeth may have eventually had the "B" pendant remade into the one we see in her teenage portrait wearing the red gown. Historian Eric Ives notes that he three dangling pearls are nearly identical. Elizabeth is not recorded in her later years as wearing her mother's initial pendants. Perhaps by then she felt it impolitic to associate herself openly with Anne, though she may have worn a crown made for her mother for her coronation portrait, and had a ring made which contains an image of her mother.


image    So, what happened next? The Tudors were not as sentimental as we are about keeping inherited jewelry intact. Elizabeth would have done as most people and had the pieces re-made to suit the current fashion. Her mother's pearls may have joined the long ropes she wore looped across her bodices, and the gold may have been recast into brooches or rings.

    They would have gone to James I when Elizabeth died in 1603. His wife, Anne of Denmark, likely had the pieces melted down and re-set again, as was customary with monarchs. Most of the pieces in royal hands were sold off during the civil wars and the Commonwealth era. They disappear into the mists of history.

    It's thought that some of Anne Boleyn's pearls may survive today in the State crown of Queen Elizabeth II. However, the crown was made in the time of Queen Victoria, and there's no direct evidence that the pearls belonged to Anne Boleyn or her daughter. StumbleUpon Share on Tumblr