Contributed by Natalie Sweet
Today in 1533, Anne Boleyn made her way from Greenwich to the Tower. Eustache Chapuys, ever the eyes and ears of the Tudor court, wrote to Charles V that,
“The Duke left two hours after I had returned, so that neither he nor his company, among which is the brother of the Lady, have delayed one day to see the triumph in which the Lady has today come from Greenwich to the Tower. She was accompanied by several bishops and lords, and innumerable people, in the form that other queens have been accustomed to be received ; and, whatever regret the King may have shown at the taking of the Queen’s barge, the Lady has made use of it in this triumph, and appropriated it to herself. God grant she may content herself with the said barge and the jewels and husband of the Queen, without attempting anything, as I have heretofore written, against the persons of the Queen and Princess. The said triumph consisted entirely in the multitude of those who took part in it, but all the people showed themselves as sorry as though it had been a funeral. I am told their indignation increases daily, and that they live in hope your Majesty will interfere. On Saturday the Lady will pass all through London and go to the King’s lodging, and on Sunday to Westminster, where the ceremony of the coronation will take place. London, 29 May 1533.” (Letters and Papers of Henry VIII)
Of this account, there has been some question as to Anne’s appropriation of Katherine of Aragon’s barge (in the above letter, the “Queen” is Katherine of Aragon – Chapuys would never call Anne the Queen while Katherine lived). Why would Anne take a second-hand barge? Some point out that it is Anne’s enemy, Chapuys, who reports this information. In the very same letter, he admitted to Charles that he had a “little dissembled with the Duke about the treatment of the said ladies, in accordance with your Majesty’s commands.” Even by Chapuys’s own admission, he lied (as directed) when it suited his goal of helping Katherine.
There are many reasons, however, to believe that Anne did indeed use the Queen’s barge. For one, as the new Queen, she would see it as being rightfully hers. As Chapuys mentions above, she received the Queen’s jewels, and all of the honors of state that went with her new title. Secondly, and perhaps most importantly, this was a way to remind those watching (whether they were noble or peasant) that she now occupied Katherine’s former position. She wore the Queen’s jewels, she rode in the Queen’s barge…to the common people, this would show that yes, indeed she is now Queen, and not just an impostor showered with fake gifts of authority. She took possession of those old items that marked her as legitimate.