Monday, December 31, 2012

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Confessions' Anniversary Give-Away!!!

Hello everyone!
The first anniversary of Confessions is coming up in exactly one month! To celebrate our first year of all things Anne I am hosting a give-away. All you need to do is comment with your email address on this post to enter. To recieve additional entries, refer a friend to follow the blog and list their name in a second comment. You will recieve 1 entry for every friend who becomes a follower.
The winner of our give-away will recieve a paperback copy of The Love Letters of Henry VIII to Anne Boleyn. Thanks for an amazing first year! Happy following and good luck!!

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Anne Boleyn's Book of Hours Podcast

Hello All,
There was such a positive response to the first Anne Boleyn podcast I posted that I hunted up another. The subject of this podcast is Anne Boleyn's Book of Hours and it is an interview with the curator of the British National Libraries, Scott McKendrick. A Book of Hours is a personal prayer devotional that was popular amongst high-born, religious minded nobles. They were popular from the thirteenth century until the Reformation and were so named because they contained the short prayers said to the Virgin Mary that were read during eight fixed hours during the day. Not only is Anne's copy beautiful, but it reveals a very personal look at the relationship between Anne and Henry as it contains their personal notes to each other written in the margins and on the inside covers. The book is currently housed at Hever Castle, the childhood home of Anne. It is one of the few remaining posessions of Queen Anne as most were destroyed by her enemies following her execution. Click here for the audio.

Imagery of Anne's Book of Hours
Courtesy of the British Library Board

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Read of the Week

This week I enjoyed Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel. It was an interesting book, told from the perspective of Thomas Cromwell, very uncommon amongst novels about Anne Boleyn. Mantel humanizes familiar characters and makes them seem refreshed and alive. Her descriptions of King Henry's rages, conniving court politics and Jane Seymour's frigid and dull personality are so incredibly vivid that you can easily get lost in the story. Even while lost in the narrative, I found myself disagreeing with the author that Cromwell implicates many of Anne's alleged lovers in his quest for revenge for their role in and mocking of the fall of his former master Cardinal Wolsey, though the angle is interesting to consider. My one complaint with the book is the portrayal of Anne. She is painted as uncaringly ambitious and overly haughty. She was undoubtedly ambitious and haughty, but her more endearing characteristics were completely ignored. Although this portrayal could be intentional, Mantel might've been trying to help readers understand not only the mind-set of Cromwell, but also the Tudor theological idea that women were offensive to God due to original sin. Be aware that the author holds a very favorable, almost hero-like view of Cromwell which makes her seriously consider some of the adultery rumors that directly led to Anne's fall,  in spite of the fact that most historians now agree she was innocent.  Despite this, the book is incredibly well researched and written. Absent from it are the overt creative liberties taken by some historical novelists. Pick it up today, you won't be disappointed.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Christmas at the Tudor Court

Christmas in Tudor England was very different from the celebration we know. For the four weeks leading up to Christmas Day, people would fast in observation of Advent. The twelve days of Christmas began on Christmas day and lasted through January 6th, the eve of the Epiphany for Catholics and Anglicans. On the day of Epiphany there was much celebration, music and feasting.

The Yule Log was an important part of Tudor Christmas celebrations. A family would bring in a log decorated with ribbons and place it in their hearth on Christmas Eve. The large log would burn through the twelve days and ashes of the log were kept to throw on next year's fire for good luck.

Gifts were exchanged on New Year's Day, not Christmas and they had very real political meaning and implication. Rich, gold gifts were often given to court favorites including the King's children, wives, nobility and council members. If a high-born man was left out of this gift giving it could be a sign of disfavor with the royal family. In 1532, in the height of King Henry's divorce drama, he famously rejected a diamond encrusted cup from Catherine of Aragon while accepting a beautifully adorned clock from Anne Boleyn.

 The royal cooks baked a silver coin into the Christmas cake and whoever found it was the appointed "Lord of Misrule". The Lord of Misrule was a commoner who supervised the celebrations of the Twelve Days encouraging entertainment and revelry as well as received lavish gifts and the favor of the royals.

Plow (Plough) Monday was the official end of the twelve days of Christmas named such because it was the time when those who lives on the land returned to plowing.  Wassailing and caroling were also important traditions though we know less about how they worked because they were outlawed in the midst of Edwardian religious reform.

Christmas in Tudor England was based around religion and less materialistic than the way we experience it. Debate about how it should be celebrated in post-reformation England would dominate political conversation for years to come.
Clock given to King Henry VIII by Anne Boleyn
New Year's 1532

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The "Lovers" of Anne Boleyn

When Anne was faced with accusations of adultery and incest, many high ranking, powerful men were implicated. Each man was accused of having a sexual relationship with the Queen which was considered high treason, a crime punishable by death. In this post I decided to give you a peek into each man's life; what did he do for a living? How did he know the Queen? What was the evidence against him? And finally, what legacy did he leave behind?

Mark Smeaton was a Flemish musician; a social climber who was born very low. Due to his talents as musician (he could play the lute, virginals, and violin as well as being renowned for his beautiful voice) he became part of Cardinal Wolsey's choir. Following the fall of Wolsey, Smeaton was employed as a musician in the household of the King. At some point Anne became aware of his musical talent and requested he be transferred to her household where he received better pay at behest of the Queen who was a great patroness of the arts. Mark became implicated in the scandal after the Queen found him standing in her presence chamber looking very sad. Anne would later confess that when she asked him why he looked so sad he answered saying it was no matter, to which Anne replied "You may not look to have me speak to you as I should do to a nobleman, because you are an inferior person..." Seeing the truth in her reply, Smeaton miserably answered, "No, no Madam. A look sufficeth, this fare you well..." This seemingly harmless interaction was quickly reported to Cromwell who twisted and distorted the conversation to seem as if it were a lovers' quarrel. Smeaton was arrested on May Day and sent to the Tower for questioning. It is widely believed that he was tortured or blackmailed, under extreme duress he admitted to having sexual encounters with the Queen on May 13, 1535 at Greenwich. This is impossible seeing as how primary source records place the Queen and her household at Richmond during this time. Smeaton's trial took place at Westminster Hall on May 12, 1536. The only evidence against him was the aforementioned conversation with Anne and his own coerced confession. He was convicted unanimously and was beheaded shortly after. His body was buried with another accused lover, Sir William Brereton. Smeaton had no wife or children.

Sir William Brereton was born to a Cheshire landowning family, but as the sixth son had almost no chance of an inheritance, thus he made his way to court to rise in power there. He quickly made friends and was elevated to Groom of the King's Household by 1524, a prestigious appointment. In return for his work, Brereton was granted lands in Cheshire and the Welsh Marches. He was not well associated with the Queen but was implicated in Smeaton's confession. His sex with Anne supposedly took  place on November 27, 1533. Again, this accusation is extremely unlikely given that Elizabeth was born in early September and during this historical period women often remained in seclusion until their churching ceremony which took place 8-10 weeks after the birth of their child, meaning Anne would likely have still been in seclusion. Respected historian, Eric Ives suggests that Brereton was thrown into the plot because he was causing troubles in the Welsh Marches, where he was pushing for localized government; an action that would have severely undermined the King's, and thus Cromwell's, power there. Brereton went to the scaffold professing his innocence. Most historians, myself included, see Brereton as collateral damage when Cromwell moved against Anne and the powerful Boleyn faction. He was in his early fifties and left behind several heirs who were unlucky in that his estates were confiscated by the Crown.

Sir Henry Norris came to court as a young man, hoping to polish his skills as a courtier. He also quickly ascended in court politics, serving in many positions before being named Groom of the Stool in 1526 which required him to oversee all of the men serving as Gentleman of the Privy Chamber. At the time of his death Eric Ives believed Norris may have been the King's closest friend and confidant. In addition to his close relationship with the King, Norris was also very close to Anne. He was a known member of her faction who rigorously supported her attempts to wield domestic and international political power. He was also vocal about his disapproval of the handling of monies from the monastic dissolution, as was Anne. This brought him into direct opposition with Cromwell who was pocketing a vast sum of this currency. Norris, because of his close relationship with both Anne and the King in addition to his outspoken opposition of Cromwell's monastic policy was implicated in the scandal. He was accused of having sex with the Queen on October 12, 1533 and again in early November. Once again, this is almost certainly untrue because Anne would have still be in purda. Norris and the other defendants, were not granted legal counsel, nor were they allowed to hear the evidence against them prior to their trial. He was convicted and sentenced to being drawn and quartered, a sentence that was commuted to beheading because of his service to the Crown. On May 17, he was executed. Henry Norris left behind a wife and son, who were vocal about their belief in his innocence for many years to come.

Sir Francis Weston was the first and only son of a gentry family from Surrey. At age 15 (1526) court records list him as a page for the King. In 1532 records show his elevation to a Gentlemen of the Privy Chamber, an appointment that would have allowed him generous access to the King. Financial records shows the King paying debts to Weston for beating him at tennis and dice, he seemed to be making his way into the King's inner circle despite his humble beginnings and young age. In 1530 he married Anne Pickering and they soon had a young son and heir which Weston named Henry in honor of the reigning King. Weston would have been familiar with Queen Anne due primarily to his duties to the King. When he was indicted and arrested in May 1536 there was no evidence against him, except for Smeaton naming him in his confession. The prosecutors did not even present a date for his supposed sexual liaisons with the Queen, but it did accuse him of plotting the King's death. When he was executed Weston was only twenty-five years old and left behind his wife and young son.

George Boleyn is perhaps the most notorious of the men accused of sexual relationships with Anne because he was her brother. According to George Cavendish, Boleyn was about 27 when he gained his place on the Privy Council, he was riding the coattails of Anne's rise to favor. His father had been a long serving ambassador for the King and thus the Boleyn family became favorites of the King making them wealthy and powerful.  He attended college at the University of Oxford, where he never fully matriculated but took advantage of learning.George was well educated, he spoke four languages and was known for his wit and charm, much like his sister Anne. George was married to Jane Parker sometime in 1525, yet was still known for his womanizing, both Wolsey and Thomas Wyatt wrote of it. Most courtiers admit that Anne and George were exceptionally close, with one lady claiming that Anne admitted him an undue hours. Yet, this closeness cannot possibly be construed as incest of which he was later accused. George and Anne mostly spent time together in her large chamber designed for visitors and in the view of her ladies. Even Eustace Chapuys, who was no friend to the Boleyns said he condemned on merely a presumption. George may not have been guilty of incest but he did have substantial power as brother in law to the ruling monarch and member of the Privy Council. Boleyn would have had the ear of the King on important matters such as religion, international politics and domestic policy. This power would have been envied by Thomas Cromwell who sought to consolidate his power over the Crown. George was also indicted on charges of claiming Elizabeth was not the King's daughter because he was in fact impotent. This is highly unlikely as well because it would have served him no purpose to dispute the paternal DNA of Elizabeth who was his niece and the only legitimate heir to the throne. George was unanimously convicted of adultery, incest and untruths against his majesty. He was beheaded on May 17th with the other victims of Cromwell and Henry's scheming despite the lack of evidence. He left behind a wife and the remainder of his Boleyn family who would never again rise to power.        

With the deaths of Smeaton, Brereton, Norris, Weston and George Boleyn, Cromwell efficiently rid himself many men who were vying for power and wealth at Henry VIII's court. In one fell swoop he secured his own power and position while opening up the King to a third marriage, one which he sought to control. The men who lost their lives in May 1536 were, in my opinion, not only innocent of the charges against them but their deaths served as nothing more than a means for Cromwell to assure his own power and privilege at Henry's court.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Secret Diary of Anne Boleyn Give-Away

Author Robin Maxwell is celebrating the fifteenth anniversary and twenty-fourth printing of her novel The Secret Diary of Anne Boleyn by giving away a copy and a lovely, leather bound journal. The contest link directs you to the author's facebook page where you will be instructed to "Like" the page and input some contact information. You MUST have a facebook profile to enter the contest! Click here for the link and good luck!


The Prize!!!

Anne Boleyn Pod-Cast

Hey all! Enclosed is a link to a great pod-cast entitled Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn: Clothing, Courtship and Consequences by Professor Maria Hayward. Click here for the audio! Give it a listen and let me know what you think!



Monday, December 17, 2012

Plurrimi Laetissima: Anne and Public Perception

     As I watched a rerun of The Tudors episode depicting Anne's coronation parade through London, I was interested in how the screenwriters portrayed the event. Citizens stood at the sides of the road glaring and refusing to remove their hats as Anne's carriage passed. Some authors have gone as far as to say that people threw food and hurled curses at her during her procession. Is this true? Were the citizens of England disgusted by their new queen and her "usurpation" of the throne? In this post we will look at the primary source evidence of Anne's coronation day, her interactions with the public and whether or not she really was Plurrimi Laetissima (the most happy)
      It is a very common misconception that Anne was widely disliked. In fact Thomas Cranmer wrote that " she came along the City, were shewn many costly pageants from which children sang to her and tossed flowers..." Historian Joanna Denny says that "The banks of the Thames outside the palace were lined with crowds eagers to see their new queen..."

  Anne was especially loved amongst the people of London who had becoming increasingly inclined towards Evangelicalism following persecution at the hands of Thomas More. London was the hub of new religious learning and Anne patronized many of the men promoting Protestant doctrine. Many religious books were dedicated to her including a book by Erasmus whom called her "...the most gracious and virtuous..."While the people of London were saddened by the divorce of Henry and Catherine, who's piety was reknowned and admired, but they understood the need for a male heir. Primogeniture, or the inheritance of all property and titles by a first born son, was still the standard of that time period. There was much fear amongst the people of England that if Mary (Catherine's daughter) were to inherit that she would marry a foreign monarch who would rule and subject England to outside power.

     One group amongst whom Anne was unpopular were the nobility who remained Catholic and thus staunch supporters of Catherine and Mary. This hatred was grounded not only in her usurpation of the throne, but also the deep changes made to religious life in England. Anne was a figurehead for Evangelicals to rally around and she imposed her ideas on the women in her households, some of whom were opposed to them. These Catholics found allies in the long rebellious north of England and in the ambassadors of France and England. Conspiracy and hatred towards Anne simmered amongst these groups for many years and when she spoke those famous Latin words "Plurrimi Laetissima" she may not have enjoyed the complete happiness she had hoped to portray.
      Anne's generosity and the birth of her daughter Elizabeth were celebrated across London. The common people often spoke of the monies she donated to charitable causes (an enormous sum at 1,500 GBP/year) and how she wished to build educational institutions across England. Her popularity rose the longer she was reigned and by the time her execution was ordered, the gentry were appalled that Henry would dispose of another wife. These rumors of deep hate against Anne are merely that, rumors. She was liked and her appeal and the number of people who love her continues to grow as the truth about her is researched and exposed.

Anne Coronation Procession
Thomas Welter circa 1880


Monday, November 26, 2012

Read of the Week

Every once in a while I take a break from the believable historical  fiction writers and piles of biographies that cover my desk and read something outrageous and fun. This week that was The Secret History of Elizabeth Tudor, Vampire Slayer. The book is written as if it is a secret diary of Elizabeth coming into her own as a slayer following her coronation. It contains many of the actual players in Elizabeth's court including William Cecil and Robert Dudley; but puts a spin on the characters and their roles in her life. The plot of the book is very interesting, Elizabeth must choose between fighting a powerful vampire King and joining him as an undead queen who will rule England together. It is a fun, fast read but obviously take it for what it is a sci-fi book set in Tudor England that lacks grounded facts and often strays from period language structure and social norms.

"...and I have a little neck..."

I happened upon this letter while reading a book by Eric Ives. It is a letter from Sir W. Kingston, who was the Constable of the Tower at the time of Anne's death to Thomas Cromwell. It is dated May 19th, 1536 and it references Anne's state of mind as her execution approached.

This morning she sent for me, that I might be with her at such time as she received the good Lord, to the intent I should hear her speak as touching her innocency alway [sic] to be clear. And in the writing of this she sent for me, and at my coming she said, "Mr. Kingston, I hear I shall not die afore noon, and I am very sorry therefore, for I thought to be dead by this time and past my pain ". I told her it should be no pain, it was so little. And then she said, "I heard say the executioner was very good, and I have a little neck", and then put her hands about it, laughing heartily. I have seen many men and also women executed, and that they have been in great sorrow, and to my knowledge this lady has much joy in death. Sir, her almoner is continually with her, and had been since two o'clock after midnight.

What do you think followers? Did Anne have "...much joy in death..." or were her words and actions a manifestation of fear?

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

This Day in Tudor History

On this day in Tudor history in 1559 Lady Frances Grey, Duchess of Suffolk died. Lady Grey was the mother of nine day queen Jane Grey and the daughter of Mary Tudor and Charles Brandon. The duchess is not a character I am extrememly familiar with but I greatly enjoyed reading this post on her at the Anne Boleyn Files. It is interesting and references her life as a mother and courtier! Check it out today!

Lady Frances Grey (Nee Brandon)
Circa 1552
Artist Unknown

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The {Tuth} About Thomas Boleyn

         Hollywood and most historical novelists would have us believe that Thomas Boleyn, father of Anne, was a ruthless, unloving man who cared only for the advancement of his career. He is portrayed in "The Other Boleyn Girl" and "The Tudors" as a man who felt no love towards his children, nor remorse when his scheming led to their downfall. Is this image accurate? Was he a man with no concern for his childrens' wellbeing? In this article we will explore the nature of Thomas Boleyn's rise to power and his interactions with his children to uncover who the "real" Boleyn patriarch was.
     Thomas Boleyn was born in 1477, probably at Hever Castle. He rose quickly in court politics serving in positions such as Controller of the Household, the King's Treasurer and Knight Bearer at Prince Henry's funeral. Thomas married well to Elizabeth Howard, sponsored the Christening of the Duke of Orleans and was knighted before the age of thirty. He was liked by the French royal family, whom he served as the English ambassador to and trusted by the both Wolsey and Henry VIII with sensitive diplomatic missions.
      He was desribed as "...timid..." and "...not of a war-like disposition" by his brother in law, the Duke of Norfolk. There is also evidence that Henry had to intervene with the Boleyns to provide a more comfortable life-style for Mary Boleyn following the death of her husband William Carey. It is safe to assume that this lack of financial support was a direct effect of Mary's scandalous affair with the King, which contrary to popular belief, made the Boleyns disliked by many at court. Not only did Thomas and his household distance themselves from Mary following her extra-marital relationship with Henry, but according to historian William Dean, Thomas also tried to dissuade Henry from his intended marriage to Anne.
      Popular culture paints a picture of Thomas Boleyn as cunning and cruel; an unrelenting self-promoter who cared nothing for his children or their futures. Thomas Boleyn was already a trusted and close advisor prior to the 1522 sexual relationship of Mary and King Henry, suggesting that his favor was due more to his own actions and qualifications than the preferment of his daughters. It is obvious that while there might have been some perks to having his daughters be high in the King's favor, it was also an expensive and precarious position to be in, one a timid man would not have enjoyed.
    Like many Tudor characters, we may never know the absolute truth about Thomas Boleyn and how was acted as a father, but that does not mean that we should let the novelists and screen-writers formulate our ideas about him. I encourage an open-mind and research as opposed to unfounded condemnation.

Portrait thought to be Thomas Boleyn. Circa 1525.
Lucas Hornebolte

Zoho Chat Capability

Hey Followers!
I am excited to announce the addition of Zoho chat to Confessions. Here you can interact with other followers and myself to ask all your burning Anne Boleyn questions! Give it a try today!


A Writer's Block

Hello followers!
You have undoubtedly noticed my absense from Confessions for over three weeks. I have been suffering from an intense writer's block, due in part to being ill and not having the energy to access information to write about. I apologize for this delay; today have served as an inspiration and I have several posts already planned! Enjoy!


Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The Haunting of Anne Boleyn

In honor of Halloween please enjoy this BBC video on the haunting of London by Anne Boleyn's ghost!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The Remains of Richard III

BBC has spoken to several MPs and confirmed that if the remains discovered at Greyfriars Abbey are that of King Richard III, who died a gruesome death at the Battle of Bosworth Field, they will not be reinterred at their original resting place but moved to Leicester Catherdral where the late King would recieve a funeral and reburial at the government's expense. For the whole story click here.

Read of the Week

This week I read Elizabeth I: Struggle for the Throne by David Starkey. It is a great book which explores her life from birth to accession and how the events of those years formed her opinions and beliefs. It touches on the controversial subject of sexual abuse at the hands of Thomas Seymour, the influence of Kateryn Parr and other reformers in her life as well as her own sexuality. However, readers should be aware that Starkey leans very pro-Elizabeth, justifying every action she makes, however heinous. He always presents some of his assertions as proven fact. Despite these short-comings I really enjoyed this book and it helped me to understand Anne's daughter on a much deeper level. Pick up a copy today and enjoy!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Blog Construction

Hello Followers,
Please excuse the mistakes and awkward layout in my posts these next few days.  I am currently working to correct some HtML issues that have cropped up in my layout and continue to corrupt the posts' look and readability.


Anne's Last Message to Henry: Fact or Fiction?

There is a well known historical rumor that Anne Boleyn sent Henry VIII one last message pleading her case prior to her May 1536 execution. According to historian Richard Baker Anne paused on her march to the scaffold to tell one of the King’s messengers, “Commend me to the king, and tell him, that he hath ever been constant in his course of advancing me: from a private gentlewoman he made me a marchioness, and from a marchioness a queen; and now, that he hath left no higher degree of earthly honour, he intend to crown my innocence with the glory of martyrdom.”

Reformation author Gilbert Burnet has Anne penning the letter to him the night before her execution using similar words while protesting her innocence and encouraging the king to care for her daughter. Biographer of English queens, Agnes Strickland also asserts that Anne uttered these words calling them “…her last message to the King...”

So let’s examine the evidence; it would seem given the number of secondary sources citing the message that it might be true. This is FALSE. The sources all in fact cite each other, none of which are contemporary accounts.  The towers yeoman warders never recorded Anne sending a message to the King which would have been a gross error in their careful documentation of Anne’s time there. There is also no reliable account of Anne pausing to send a message on her way to the scaffold, which certainly would have been noted. There is absolutely no primary source evidence which proves this theory.
The Execution of Anne Boleyn
by Jan Lukyen c.1670
John Foxe, Tudor martyrologist would lead us to believe that Anne died a martyr, however I do not view the situation this way and it is unlikely that she would have either. Martyrs, in the traditional definition, were people who were put to death rather than renounce their deeply held religious values. As we have already explored here, while Anne’s fall was indeed colored by religious issues she was not a woman accused of heresy nor was she subjected to questioning regarding her faith. The plot against her was multi-faceted and complex. The sources that cite her referring to herself as a martyr all have Protestant leanings in their writing, which explains their inclination to view Anne as the hero and sacrificial lamb of the early Protestant movement in England. Having Anne view herself as a martyr and proclaim herself thus, would serve to further their religious agenda.
As lovers of history, in its wholesome truth, we must value facts. In this case I would call this rumor a myth due to the lack of contemporary, objective sources citing Anne’s last message to the King.

Sources: The Cronikille of Anne Boleyn, The History of the Reformation of the Church, The L&P of Henry VIII, Tudor Era Religiosity and the British National Archives.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Hawking in Tudor England

I have spent most of the last three days in the field, hunting for whitetail deer. Hunting is a sport that was very popular in the Tudor period and one Anne enjoyed greatly. However, missing from the Tudor version of the hunt is bright orange, centerfire rifles and camo. In it's place were long dresses, hawks and fast  horses. The video below shows examples of hawking, which was the most popular way to hunt for small game including rabbits and birds. Check it out!

Friday, October 5, 2012

Anne Boleyn's Appearance

One of the questions I am often asked is, "What did Anne look like?"  You may have all noticed that the portraiture of Anne on this blog is vast and highly different. This is due to the fact that there are no contemporary likenesses of her as they were destroyed in the wake of her execution. However, we do have some primary source evidence regarding her looks. The following desciptions are of those who viewed Anne personally:

"[She is] beautiful with an elegant figure"
             -Sir Lancelot de Carles
"[She is] not one of the handsomest women in the world; she is of middling stature, swarthy complexion, long neck, wide mouth, a bosom not much raised and eyes which are black beautiful."
             -Francesco Sanuto, Venetian Diplomat at the Tudor court

There has been much debate over the above sketch, made circa 1530 and whether or not it depicts Anne. It was done by celebrated Tudor artist Hans Holbein the Younger who was familiar with Anne through his artwork done for her coronation celebrations. However, despite being titled Ana Bollein Queen, it is has been proven that the writing was done well after the sketch was originally produced. We also have to wonder about the thickness of her neck. One thing quite agreed on by Tudor sources was that Anne has a long slender neck and high cheek bones. This sketch shows a woman with significant swelling in her face and neck. She also appears to be wearing a night gown with a fur trimmed robe over the top. We know from desciptions of Anne's wardrobe that she was very fashion forward and aware of her appearance so I doubt she would have allowed herself to be portrayed in such a way.
The next portrait which is identified as the "Most excellent Princesse <sic> Anne Boleyn" shares facial similarities with the Holbein sketch including the double chin and swollen neck. However is one were to closely examine the portrait you would notice the similarties between it and authenticated portraits of Jane Seymour. The plain face with rounded features and heavy garments are more in line with what we know of Queen Jane rather than Queen Anne. The only real identifying feature in the work is the iconic AB brooch pinned to the front of the sitter's dress.

The Nidd Hall Miniature

The next piece of evidence we must consider is the famed Elizabeth I ring which housed a picture of her mother. (see my post on the ring here)Inside the ring are miniatures of both Elizabeth and Anne. Art historians has decided that the image inside most closely resembles the portrait below which is housed at the National Portrait Gallery.
The NPG Image

Another factor which seeks to authenticate this version of Anne is the almost exact replica which hangs at Hever House. The clothing is quite similar, the B necklace is depicted in the same way, and the French hood which Anne was known to favor is present is both works. The only large differences being the single rose held in Anne's right hand.

The Hever Castle Portrait
Celebrated historian Eric Ives would call her face " of character, not of beauty..."
We may never know exactly what Anne looked like unless a deeply buried, contemporary portrait of her exists. I however, based on the evidence, believe that the NPG image most closely resembles Anne Boleyn. What is your favorite depiction followers?

Sources: The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn, The Lady in the Tower, NPG, Tudor Imagery Archives and The Six Wives of Henry VIII.

Read of the Week

This week I indugled in another Phillipa Gregory novel, these books are like brain candy for me! What I really love about Gregory is her ability to blend historical fact with enticing fiction; The Lady of the Rivers was no exception. This book follows the life of Jacquetta Bedford, a long time supporter of the house of Lancaster during the War of Roses. Jacquetta served as the primary lady in waiting to Margaret of Anjou during her controversial reign. Her devotion never wavered until by chance her daughter Elizabeth would put her close to the York claimaints. This book blends the interesting mix of magic and Catholic mysticism that made up religion in the time period. If you enjoyed the White Queen, its predecessor will not disappoint! Enjoy!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Henry VIII Meme

Hello followers!
A fellow historian sent me this image and I have been pondering about whether or not to use it on this blog for a while. The caption incites many questions: Did Henry only create a new church for the pupose of getting a divorce? Was he wholly responsible for Anne's death. Instead of weighing in myself, I want to hear your thoughts! Happy commenting!

Monday, October 1, 2012

Anne's Grave Slideshow

Happy October fellow Anne Boleyn enthusiasts!
I have located another video I think you all might like. It has a series of photos of St. Peter Ad Vincula, Anne's grave marker and the tower where she was executed. It was produced by Claire Ridgway of The Anne Boleyn Files. Enjoy!

Friday, September 28, 2012

Loving Mom or Distant Lady Mother: The Bond Between Anne and Elizabeth

It has long been discussed by Tudor historians what the relationship would have been like between Anne and her daughter Elizabeth. Due to practices instituted by Margaret Beaufort, Countess of Derby and paternal grandmother to Henry VIII, royal children where not raised at court. Justifiable fears of sickness (crowd disease was rampant due to lack of adequate latrines and cleaning practices) and a courtly lack of morals kept the heirs of Henry sequestered in great country houses. At these manors, the children were raised by teams of servants whose duties ranged from wetnurses and cradle rockers to academic tutors and dance instructors.
Because of this imposed practice, Elizabeth spent her first three years at Hatfield House, a country estate about twenty miles north of London. Anne would have seen Elizabeth only on great occassions when children were welcome at court such as Christmas and when the royal couple was on Summer Progress. Some writers have suggested that the situation equates to a lack of concern for the child on the part of Anne. We know, however, that Anne was raised in a similar situation, with her parents constantly away at court while she was grew up with her siblings at Hever, so this distance would not only have been required but would have seemed quite normal to the Queen. When I explored this claim, I found many signs that Anne was indeed a loving mother despite that physical distance between her and her daughter. Anne's account books showed that despite a healthy budget provided by the King to purchase clothing for Elizabeth, Anne often sent ribbons and lace to adorn the child's clothing that she personally chose.There is also a receipt for "several lengths" of orange silk (a rare and expensive color)  embroidered with Anne's royal badge in gold thread. Anne sent the cloth to Elizabeth for it to be sewn into a new dress. While hunting, Anne often sent choice cuts of venison and other animals to Hatfield and hand-picked several of the servants who made up Elizabeth's household including Kat Ashley (who would become Elizabeth's lifelong friend and confidante), the Ladies Bryan  and Shelton amongst others. Anne even chose to often sit in on the betrothal discussions for Elizabeth, an action unheard of in this time period.
All of these actions constitute what I would interpret as a great interest in her daughter's life and a healthy level of affection for her given the social constraints of Tudor England. I would surmise that Anne loved Elizabeth and went above and  beyond the normal motherly duties of this time period to express that love. For anyone to assume/express that Anne did not care for Elizabeth would expose their inherrent lack of knowledge and understanding of the social context and practices of Henry the Eighth's court.

Love Triangle

Hello followers,
I recently found this portrait on another Tudor history blog I read. The art shows the love traingle between Anne, Catherine of Aragon and Henry VIII. It definitely portrays Catherine and old and unhappy while Anne is young and haughty. What do you think of Henry's expression?

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The Search for Richard III: Remains Finally Discovered?

Richard III was the last of the ambititous York brothers (Edward, George and Richard) who ruled England following the Battle of Towton. Richard was struck down in battle at Bosworth Field after ruling only 2 years. Following the battle, which was to be the most decisive in the War of Roses, his body was interred at the Greyfriars Abbey in Leicester. Richard was the last English king to die in battle and the only king to die directly of battle inflicted wounds since Harold II in 1066 who died at the Battle of Hastings while fighting Norman invaders. Until recently the burial site was unknown due to subsequent development at Leicester. For a little of six weeks the University of Leicester has been excavating sites to determine the whereabouts of Richard's body and it may have been found! Watch the video below for details on the excavation and why experts believe these may indeed be the remains of the last Plantagenet king!

In Memory of Eric Ives

Good morning followers,
I am sad to report that this morning the family of well known, beloved Anne Boleyn historian Eric Ives confirmed that he passed on yesterday morning following a severe stroke. Ives wrote many books and articles on Anne Boleyn and was an incredible asset to our modern research and understanding on Tudor England. My prayers and thoughts go out to his family during this sad time. Rest in peace Dr. Ives.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Divorced, Beheaded, Died? The Postpartum Care of Jane Seymour

After thoroughly diving into Catherine and Anne's lives my research has taken an unexpected turn; to Jane Seymour. As I began reading about her life, I found myself conforming to the popular opinions of her as the spineless, pushover wife. As an Anne addict, I also could not help but think of her as a mortal enemy. While reading a master's thesis on Jane's involvement in the fall of Anne Boleyn, the author broached an interesting topic, she accused Henry and his physicians of negligence in Jane's post pregnancy care which resulted in her premature death. Intrigued by the idea, I began looking into it. Jane's pregnancy was announced in February 1537. It is recorded by court doctors that her pregnancy was easy, Jane suffered from almost no morning sickness. Despite her easy pregnancy, Jane's labor would be far from simple. Edward's delivery took two full days and three nights, with the long-awaited heir making him apprearance in the world early on the morning of October 12. He was named after Edward the Confessor, whose feast day was the following day. Following her long labor and delivery, Jane was able to sit and greet guests before the Edward's christening on October 15, but it was evident she was not well. Two days later, the Queen's health had deteriorated so drastically that she was administered her Last Rites by her personal confessor. On October 24, 1537Jane Seymour expired. So what caused her demise? Is Henry and/or his physician to blame? Using the Letters and Papers of Henry VIII, as well as numerous books on Jane and information on renaissance medicine I have explored the pregnancy, labor and post-partum health of Henry's third queen.
Jane was a young, presumably healthy woman. At the time of Edward's birth she was twenty-eight years old and as a wealthy member of the nobility she would not have suffered from the malnutrition that often causes pregnancy issues and was common amongst the lower class, in fact she was often referred to a "plump" As we have already discovered her pregnancy was easy but labor was difficult. It is safe to assume that this drawn-out delivery was as a result of a badly positioned baby. The uterus is the muscle used to deliver a baby and it would have become seriously strained given the length of labor Jane experienced. In a normal pregnancy, where the baby is not breeched, the usterus expels the placenta and other post natal bodily fluids. Given the exhausted state of Jane's uterus it might have been incapable of ridding itself of these fluids. If the fluids were retained, they would begin to decay quickly causing an infection in the body. Jane's immune system and overall health would have been compromised due to the labor, rendering her unable to fight infection. Further damage to her health would have been caused by the dirty hands, rags and tools used on her body. Little was known about hygiene and microbiology in this time period so hand washing and sterilizing was not a priority nor was there an effective treatment for infections. Historian Alison Weir claims Jane died from puerperal fever due to an infection contracted when her perineum tore. Because Queens were not examined closely by physicians and vaginal inspections were completely forbidden, we will never know what caused Jane's infection. However, we can be sure it was an infection because her doctors recorded her having "bloody flux" and heart arithmeas, sure signs of septicemia. Jane's doctors did what they could to keep her comfortable including trying to control her fevers, encouraging her to take fluids and rest as much as possible. So were they or Henry responsible for her death? My conclusion is no, social rules and medicinal treatment of the time period failed Queen Jane, not her husband. The rate of maternal mortality was very high because of the lack of infection treatments. Jane's death was unavoidable given the level of medical knowledge and intervention of the period.

Sources: NIH, The Six Wives of Henry VIII, Jane Seymour: A Biography, Puerperal Fever and Medicine in the Middle Ages, Female Mortality in Tudor England.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Read of the Week

Over the past week I have been diving into a biography of Henry VIII's wives entitled The Wives of Henry VIII by Antonia Frasier. This book was really interesting because it  attempts, in 450 pages, to chronicle the lives of six complex historical figures. You can tell where Frasier's interests lie in that she spent significantly more time on Anne Boleyn and Kateryn Parr than any of the other women. Catherine of Aragon's role inthe government was downplayed and her work on Anne of Cleves and Katherine Howard lacked the biographical elements she included for the other four. Despite the compression of some wives' lives in the work it was a great book! I greatly appreciated how she focused on the scholarship of Catherine of Aragon, something largely ignored by historians who cast her as the pious, overly devout wife. Even though I was disappointed by the lack of background on Katherine's Howard's life prior to her royal marriage, I loved how she explored her naivete and how her spoiled upbringing contributed to her fatal indiscretions. I found the section on Kateryn Parr so enlightening, it explores her religious reformation, her intelligence (which were both profound) and how she influenced the ideology of Elizabeth I. I would recommend this book only if your interest in the wives runs very deep because several parts of the book would be hard to understand if you do not have a lot of background information.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Happy Birthday Elizabeth I

On this day in history 1533 Anne Boleyn gave birth to Princess Elizabeth. Despite not being the longed for son, Elizabeth was adored by both of her parents. She would grow to become one of the most educated women of her time. Elizabeth spoke six languages, wrote in beautiful script and was infamous for her ability to talk, while actually saying nothing. Henry's fears about Anne not giving him an heir who was capable of ruling were unfounded because Anne's daughter is the most celebrated monarch of England. She led England into the golden years of learning, commerce and naval dominance.
Happy 479th Birthday Elizabeth!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Noli me Tangere: The Relationship of Anne Boleyn and Thomas Wyatt

I have long pondered the relationship between Anne and Thomas Wyatt. History would tell us that he was the elder brother of one of Anne's good friends, Anne Wyatt. The Wyatt family estate was not far from the Boleyn ancestral home, Hever. We can assume that as neighbors, Anne and Thomas would have been familiar with each other but not that they were close. Anne left England (Ca. 1513/4) at a very young age to serve in the house of Margaret of Austria who praised Anne's intelligence and piety. Although there is no record, we can assume that Thomas would have been fostered by a powerful family closer to court and the King's favor, as was tradition during the period. Anne lived abroad for many years returning to England in 1523. Once at court she immediately attracted attention from the men of court. One was even quoted as calling her a ..."rare beauty with a soul of gold..." Wyatt's descendant George would later write of his grandfather's attraction to Anne in his biography Anne Boleigne saying, "he was surprised by the sight thereof..." Despite the attentions foisted upon Anne, we only know of one serious relationship, that of Anne and Henry Percy. The two wished to be married, an action undermined by Cardinal Wolsey who accused Anne of reaching too high in her marital ambitions. Facing the King's displeasure and a possible dent in her sterling reputation, Anne retreated to Hever. There was no chance of a romance blooming between Wyatt and Anne during her "exile" because court records confirm that Wyatt was away at court serving as the King's clerk of jewels. Anne returned to court, becoming almost instantly the object of Henry's affections.
Anne was an extremely intelligent, observant woman. She realized how quickly the King's favor and her own head could be lost. I am certain that she would not have risked the King's love and her life to pursue an affiar with the lower born Wyatt. Wyatt's own poetry suggests that there was a lack of interest on Anne's part:
Whoso list to hunt, I know where is an hind,
But as for me, hélas, I may no more.
The vain travail hath wearied me so sore,
I am of them that farthest cometh behind.
Yet may I by no means my wearied mind
Draw from the deer, but as she fleeth afore
Fainting I follow. I leave off therefore,
Sithens in a net I seek to hold the wind.
Who list her hunt, I put him out of doubt,
As well as I may spend his time in vain.
And graven with diamonds in letters plain
There is written, her fair neck round about:
Noli me tangere, for Caesar's I am,
And wild for to hold, though I seem tame.
We may never know the true extent of the relationship between Anne and Thomas. I believe that while they may have had a flirtation prior to her marriage and coronation, Thomas was nothing more than a distant admirer afterward. Anne was known for her beauty, intelligence and wit which was sure to inspire admiration amongst the men of the court. Courtly devotion stemming from the unmarried men of the Tudor court and directed at the Queen was not uncommon; poets and musicians often praised Catherine of Aragon's piety and beauty (including her hair and face) prior to her fall from grace.
 In my opinion Thomas Wyatt represents nothing more than a case of unrequited love, as primary sources offer no other evidence. The innocence of their interaction is also suggested by the fact that Wyatt survived the execution of Anne's supposed lovers. What do you think followers? Does the poem suggest more than a trivial flirtation? I would love to hear your thoughts!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Anne's Final Pregnancy

   Lately, I have had many inquiries about the reproductive history of Anne Boleyn. Thanks in large part to the novel The Other Boleyn Girl by Phillipa Gregory and the subsequent Hollywood film there is a general consensus that Anne Boleyn suffered a miscarriage in which the fetus had severe abnormalities and as result Henry decided to seperate himself from her. As a historian who is greatly interested in the fall of Anne Boleyn I have explored the possibility that this is true and how it may have effected her decline in power and influence over Henry VIII. First, let us examine the root of the myth (yes, I said myth). Author Retha Warnicke is one of the first respectable historians to perpetuate this rumor. On January 29, 1536, just days after Henry suffered a near fatal fall during a jousting match, Anne went into pre-term labor and bore a stillborn son. She was cared for by a royal doctor and several midwives, there is no primary source evidence that supports the child being abnormal in any way.

    Warnicke support the theory that Anne’s miscarriage must have been abnormal saying, “Her fall was almost certainly triggered by the nature of the miscarriage she was to suffer in late January, for there is no evidence that she had been in any personal or political danger [prior]…”*

   We know this statement is misleading; careful examination of primary sources show us that Chapuys had written to Charles V speaking of the King’s new love interest Jane Seymour more than three months prior to Anne’s miscarriage. In the letter, Chapuys reveals that Henry had been wooing Jane with expensive gifts and paying her a lot of attention. It also becomes apparent through the use of these documents that the rumors regarding the Queen’s allegedly malformed fetus were not evident until almost thirty years after her death. The tales of Anne’s reproductive woes, physical deformities and witchcraft were spread by Roman priests, especially Nicholas Sander, as they sought to undermine Elizabeth’s claim to the English throne. Despite the lack of evidence for fetal abnormalities, I believe that Anne’s miscarriage damaged her relationship with Henry. She had miscarried several time, causing him to question her ability to provide him with a legitimate heir. She had also had heated confrontation with his trusted advisor Thomas Cromwell, resulting in the loss of him as her ally. Henry’s marriage to Anne had caused significant political tension between England and the other Catholic countries on the continent, but especially the Holy Roman Empire. The pregnancy shook Henry’s faith in Anne, but it was not the moment he decided to put her aside in favor of another woman. There were many factors, political, religious and familial that contributed to Anne’s fall and there is no evidence other than conjecture that Henry decided to bring charges against Anne for miscarrying a malformed child.

*Excerpt taken from The Rise and Fall of Anne Boleyn: Family Politics in the Court of Henry VIII


Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Read of the Week

 This week I greatly enjoyed The Red Queen by Phillipa Gregory. The novel chronicles the life and rise of Margaret Beaufort, mother of Henry VII. The book showed a side of Margaret rarely seen, the author portrays her as an unloved and overly pious young woman who thinks only of the power of her family and of putting her son Henry Tudor on the throne. It is a fascinating, fictional look at Margaret's complex life that is definitely worth a read!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Confessions on Twitter

Hey followers!
You can now follow us on Twitter @QueenAnneAddict. Use the hashtags #ABconfessions and/or #AnneBoleynLove to associate your tweet! Help "Confessions" trend!!!!!

Hever Castle Slide Show

Hey all,
While searching for some information on Hever Castle, I came across this slideshow of photos on a blog called All Things Royal. The author visited Hever and took some amazing photos. Check it out:

**Note: Owner maintains all rights and priviledges to photographs. No infringement is intended.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The Tudor Claim to the Throne

Hey all,
I was recently asked by a follower how the Tudor line had a claim to the English throne. The House of the Plantagenets had two cadet lines, York and Lancaster. The Lancaster line was directly descended from John of Gaunt (founder of the Royal House) while York was descended through his younger brother. Margaret Beaufort was the last true heir of the Lancastrian line, she was married at twelve to Edmund Tudor who died young. Her son Henry Tudor had his claim to the throne through his mother. Henry Tudor would become Henry VII of England following the defeat of the Yorks and death of Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth Field. Edward, the Earl of Warwick was nephew to the York king Richard III and had a strong claim to the throne. When Henry VII had him executed in 1499 the House of York went extinct in the male line ensuring that the Tudors were secure in their newfound power. Check out the graphic below for details on the family tree:
Image courtesy of the British Royal Family.

Monday, July 23, 2012

The Anne Boleyn Files Contest

Hey readers,
I recently reviewed the book The Secret Keeper: An Novel of Kateryn Parr. The author Sandra Byrd is having a contest on The Anne Boleyn Files, all you have to do is read her guest post and comment on it. You will be entered to win some beautiful Anne Boleyn earrings, a replica of a set used on the set of the Tudors. Check it out and enter yourselves @

Good luck fellow Anne addicts!


Thursday, July 19, 2012

Read of the Week

This week I chose a novel by Phillipa Gregory for review. The Constant Princess is a historical fiction book about Catherine of Aragon. It is really interesting and presents a narrative where Catherine and Arthur were very much in love, consummated their marriage and planned a bright future for England. In the book the death of Arthur devastates Catherine but she knows she must follow through on her deathbed promise to Arthur to marry his brother and carry out their plans for Britain. It is a really interesting take on Catherine's life and was fun to read. I would suggest it!

Monday, July 16, 2012

Elizabeth I's Ring

Around 1575 Elizabeth I had this ring created by her personal jeweler.  It is solid gold, covered with mother of pearl and encrusted with precious jewels. A hidden clasp opens the locket ring to reveal a portrait of Anne Boleyn on one side and Elizabeth herself on the other.

The ring could have had many meanings. It could have served to remind Elizabeth that one wrong step in royal politics could cost your life or it may mean that Elizabeth thought about her mother much more than she ever let on. Whatever the meaning behind the ring, it is beautiful and thought provoking. The ring was given to the Home family by King James I, the family donated it to the Trustees of Chequers house, the country residence of the Prime Minister. It was recently on display at the Greenwich Museum, which was its first public display. What do you think readers?

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Elizabeth, the Promiscuous Queen?

I was asked by a friend the other day about Elizabeth's reputation. According to him, his world history instructor taught that Elizabeth slept around, refused to marry and was known as being a loose woman. Despite the instructor's claims there is no evidence that Elizabeth died anything but a virgin, as she claimed for her entire life. Many foreign ambassadors questioned Elizabeth's ladies regarding her sexual behavior because they hoped to make a solid marriage between the royals of their respective countries and Elizabeth, if she was not a virgin, such a marriage would be impossible. This questioning never revealed anything scandalous. We also must ask ourselves how Elizabeth would have had the opportunity to have a relationship without the knowledge of her advisers. She was constantly surrounded by either political advisers or ladies in waiting, if she was having an illicit relationship it would have become public knowledge quickly. Elizabeth chose not to marry a foreign royal as it would have opened up England to foreign power. For Elizabeth this was not an option; her father had fought for years to eliminate the intrusion of the Papacy into England's self determination.
Historians have long questioned why Elizabeth would not then have married an Englishmen and eliminated the risk of foreign influence. It is widely recorded that Elizabeth had favorites amongst her male courtiers, including Robert Dudley. I personally believe that Elizabeth has equated marriage with danger to her health and heart, both natural and manmade. Elizabeth had watched her mother and stepmothers be beheaded and beheaded at the whim of her father. She was present at the deaths of both Jane Seymour and Kateryn Parr as a result of child bed fever.
If she did indeed make the decision not to marry because of the risks to her emotions and physical wellbeing, why did she choose not to have a relationship? The answer, I think, is quite simple. Although primitive contraception did exist, such as the use of animal gut as a barrier method, there is still the possibility that Elizabeth could have become pregnant if she was engaged in sex acts. Would she have taken the risk of having a child outside of wedlock? It is very doubtful. It would have undermined her authority with her advisers and subjects, many who already questioned her right to govern England. Elizabeth's decision to remain unmarried was not a popular one, but one she felt important to the stability of the crown. This choice spurred many rumors regarding her sexuality because during this era women were regarded as being first and foremost, wives and mothers. That, paired with the fact that she was the daughter of Anne Boleyn, whom many remembered (Falsely)  as an adultress and whore, meant that there were many preconceived notions about her sexuality. Given all of my reading and researching on Elizabeth, I would argue that she died the virgin queen, married only to England. Stay tuned for my post in a few days on my theory regarding sexual abuse of Elizabeth by Thomas Seymour.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The Burial Site of Anne Boleyn

Following her execution, Anne's body was placed in a chest that had once contained bow staves and buried without fanfare at St. Peter ad Vincula at the Tower of London, in a communal grave with other execution victims. The place believed to be her grave (under the chancel floor stones) is now marked by a memorial stone. There has however been some skepticism about whether or not it is Anne's remains under the marker. Tudor historian Alison Weir writes, "...we can be almost certain that Anne’s memorial stone does not mark the last resting place of her actual remains, and that she lies beneath Lady Rochford’s memorial" (The Lady in the Tower Pg. 345)
During the victorian era, the remains of Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard were discovered during renovations to the chapel. According to Antonia Fraser, their bones were discovered  under the paved area in the chapel chancel and were then reburied in proper coffins within the crypt which you can visit today. Dr. Mouat who handled the remains described the body of Anne as follows:
The bones found in the place where Queen Anne is said to have been buried are certainly those of a female in the prime of life, all perfectly consolidated and symmetrical and belong to the same person. The bones of the head indicate a well-formed round skull, with an intellectual forehead, straight orbital ridge, large eyes, oval face, and rather square full chin. The remains of the vertebra and the bones of the lower limbs indicate a well-formed woman of middle height with a short and slender neck. The ribs shew [sic] depth and roundness of chest. The hand and feet bones indicate delicate and well-shaped hands and feet, with tapering fingers and a narrow foot. (Source: Notices of the Historic Burials in the Chapel of St. Peter ad Vincula in the Tower of London With an Account of the Discovery of the Supposed Remains of Queen Anne Boleyn by John Murray)
The body is also said to have been a woman aged between twenty-five and thirty. This is too young to be Anne who was most likely born in 1501 and executed in 1536, while Jane was born no later than 1512 which means the body would be within the age range of Jane's years.
We may never know the truth of who lies beneath Anne Boleyn's grave marker, yet I tend to agree with Weir's argument regarding the location of Anne's bones. I base my assertions on several pieces of evidence. First is the description of Anne's body by Dr. Mouat, Anne was often described as having (and can be seen in the known portraits of her) to have a small pointed chin, not a full square one. She also is reported by many at court, in surviving documents, to have a long, slender neck not a short one, while surviving portraits of Jane Boleyn show her with a full, square chin and short neck.  Secondly is the recorded statement by John Stowe, Tudor court chronicler, which states " There lieth before the high altar in St. Peter's church, two dukes between two queens" The bones buried her were identified as a small woman between the ages of nineteen and twenty-three (obviously belonging to Catherine Howard) and a larger framed woman somewhere between thirty and forty (probably Anne Boleyn)This statement and the forensic evidence would support the theory that Anne was buried next to her brother under the marker of Lady Rochford while Jane Boleyn occupies the space beneath Anne's memorial.

Anne's grave marker

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Anne Boleyn, the play

Hey all! My penpal in England recently saw this play at the Globe Theater and encouraged me to watch the trailer! It looks amazing; take a peek!

Monday, July 9, 2012

Women in History

Hello followers,
Today I was reflecting about my history degree and the amazing friends who made it so much fun to study the past. These are my two good friends Hannah and Rashelle, both incredible, beautiful female historians. Together with our generation of historians, we are working to break the mold of historian stereotypes and inform the public about the importance of historical knowledge. We all have our own interests and strengths, they make me hopeful that we can overcome the challenges faced by teaching and learning history in our modern times. 

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Confessions of a "Super Fan"?

Hey followers!
I recently recieved an email from a great new site I'm following entitled The Boleyn Project. Several master's degree students are making video interviews of scholars, researchers and fans of Anne Boleyn to glean vast opinions on her. In her interview, historian Alison Weir (author of The Lady in the Tower and many other Tudor history books) stated that "virtual fan clubs on the internet" are "obsessive" and "have gone too far from objective research", and that an emotional engagement with an historical character "can distort your view" (See the video above for the full interview)
I think Weir's views are somewhat distorted; as a historian and super fan of Anne I am definitely emotionally engaged in her life. This engagement constitutes more than superficial interest, it makes me want to read more, the research deeper and to question everything I see or hear about her. Despite my admiration of her, I still recognize Anne's inherent faults, which are entirely human. What do you think? Can super fans be objective?

Thursday, July 5, 2012

George Boleyn and Questions of Sexuality

I have once again received a query regarding my post. Emilie asked about the nature of Jane and George Boleyn's marriage, saying from her readings she assumed that they had a strained relationship due to George's homosexuality. I have decided to weigh in on what I think regarding these rumors:

The idea that George Boleyn was a homosexual comes from respected Tudor historian Retha Warnicke. Her theory has led many people to believe in the unhappy union between George and Jane and shaped the Hollywood portrayal of George in TV series and movies such as The Tudors.  Retha M. Warnicke based her thesis on three pieces of evidence:

1)  George Cavendish’s ‘Metrical Visions’: In his writings, Cavendish described George Boleyn’s ‘unlawful lechery’ that suggests that young Boleyn committed a grave sin; but was homosexuality one of them? The answer is no. While it is highly possible that George Boleyn was unfaithful to his wife (quite common for this time period) and that he had many extramarital affairs, but there is no mention of him being a homosexual in this primary source writing. In the 16th century every sin, no matter the size or scope, was considered as a great offense against God, be it theft, sodomy or envy. It is safe to assume that as a human George Boleyn committed some sins (adultery is a possibility) but there is no specific mention of homosexual behavior. What makes for very interesting reading is Cavendish’s description of George Boleyn as a womanizer (A fact Retha fails to take into account):

“I forced widows, maidens I did deflower. All was one to me, I spared none at all, My appetite was all women to devour, My study was both day and hour.”

2)   George Boleyn’s last words: Warnicke argues that in his last words, George confessed that he was a sodomite. Yet, I would argue that George’s last speech differed very little from any other scaffold speech of the time; he simply admitted that he was a sinner, like all people, and that he deserved to die, a common phrase during the era. Perhaps he meant that he did not lead a chaste life, but it is a stretch to say that his words make any remark about his sexual orientation. (For a full text version of George's last words, please see my post on the Execution of George Boleyn and Anne's Other "Lovers" available here)

3)   Retha M. Warnicke states that George Boleyn had an affair with Mark Smeaton, Anne's favored court musician because at some point in time they both had access to the same book. This, again I believe is a very weak point to base an argument on. George Boleyn was known as a man of reform ideals and he often was in possession of books deemed heretical by Church leaders. Mark and George both having access to the same book could merely suggest that Mark, much like the Boleyns, was interested in new learning and perhaps George lent him the work.

In all of my research about the Boleyns, I have never come across anything that would lead me to assert that George was a homosexual. I believe he was powerful and rich and that he used these assets to his best advantage, be it through the obtaining of banned books or vast sexual liaisons. Rumors regarding his sexuality are very recent and unfounded. George serves as another example of a reputation ruined by historical sensationalism and the modern portrayal of him does not serve his memory justice. Thank you for all the great inquiries lately!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

An Inquiry into Jane Boleyn, Viscountess Rochford

I have been asked by a regular site contributor to speculate on why Jane Boleyn, Lady Rochford, was spared during the investigations and subsequent executions of several Boleyn family members. First of all, I want to clarify that these are merely my conclusions and cannot be taken as fact.
So to begin, if you have read my post on the religious nature of Anne's fall you will notice that Anne and Cromwell had had a falling out over the use of monastic funds. Anne wanted to see the money used for charitable purposes while Cromwell was using it to fill the King's coffers and enrich himself. Anne's family, whose ancestral seat was in Norfolk, were known for their reformation ideals especially her brother who has been cast by some historians as a reformist book smuggler. In fact, it is recorded that George was the one who first put the heretical book The Obedience of a Christian Man into Anne's hands. The book had a significant impact on Henry's religious thought. Not only was George influential in religious ways, he was also a close advisor of the King and a member of the Privy Council. The same can be said of Anne's father Thomas Boleyn. I would speculate that Cromwell had a large part in the set-up and carrying out of the trials of Anne and George. Furthermore, I would argue that Cromwell sought to do away with them because of the drastic influence they had over the King, religiously and when it came to international/domestic affairs,  which undermined his own power and authority. Thomas, who was also imprisoned, was not executed but so shamed by the incidents that he never returned to court. His influence over Henry was ended as swiftly as if he had died. Jane, in direct contrast to members of her family, did not share the same influence over the King. She was merely a lady in waiting. Cromwell, I believe, would not have seen fit to implicate her because it served no purpose for him. Several site has claimed there is evidence that Jane gave testimony against Anne and George which is why she was spared. Again, as I have stated, there is no evidence to support this claim. Trial records do not indicate that she was ever involved. Some sites also claim that she gave a scaffold confession of her involvement in their downfall, this is again untrue. Below is the text of her last words:

“ [I]committed many sins against God from my youth upwards and have offended the king’s royal Majesty very dangerously, so my punishment is just and deserved. I am justly condemned by the laws of this realm and by Parliament. All of you who watch me die should learn from my example and change your own lives. You must gladly obey the king in all things, for he us a just and godly prince. I pray for his preservation and beseech you all to do the same. I now entrust my soul to God and pray for his mercy.”

The sins against the King's majesty of course refer to her being an accomplice to Katherine Howard's affair with Thomas Culpepper. As you can clearly see, she never mentions George or Anne. Jane Boleyn is a polarizing and controversial character in the Tudor era. The myths about her person have blackened her historical reputation and made her an easy target for misplaced hate. It is our job as lovers of history to dig and find the truth regarding events and people as well as to never accept legend or myth as fact. For more information on Jane Boleyn, Viscountess Rochford please read a great book entitled The Infamous Lady Rochford by Julia Fox. I hope this post has been informative and answered many of your questions!