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!