Category Archives: Anne and Elizabeth

Anne and Elizabeth: The Role of the Ladies Who Attended Anne

By Natalie Sweet

On August 19th, 1533, George Tayllour wrote to the Lady Lisle that,

“The King and Queen are in good health and merry. On Thursday next they will come by water from Windsor to Westminster, and on Tuesday following to Greenwich, where the Queen intends to take her chamber.” (Letters and Papers, Henry VIII)

The 19th being a Tuesday, Tayllour believed that Anne would begin her lying-in period on Tuesday, August 26th. The following weeks will be dedicated to the activities and decisions made concerning Elizabeth, but for now, let us consider the role that Anne’s ladies played, when after she “took her chamber,” the moment of Elizabeth’s birth arrived. For help in understanding a 16th century birth, I once again turn to Jacob Reuff’s (1500-1558) The Expert Midwife.

From The Expert Midwife

“…Midwives and other women which are present with pregnant and Laboring women, may mark and observe the true and proper pains, passions, and throngs of child birth, which indeed are no other thing, but the violence and strugglings of the Infant being come to perfection, with which he is driven, tossed and rolled hither and thither and cometh downward to the lower parts, that me might have passage to come forth into the light…

…let the Midwife know the time, and observe the true pains and dolours, also let her comfort and cheer up the laboring woman, and let her cheerfully exhort her to obey her Precepts and admonitions. Likewise let her give good exhortations to other women being present, especially to pour forth devout prayers to God, afterward to do their duties at once, as well as they are able…”

“the Midwife shall place one woman behind her back which may gently hold the laboring woman, taking her by both the arms, and if need be, the pains waxing grievous, and the woman laboring, may stroke and press down the womb, and may somewhat drive and depress the Infant downward. But let her place other two by her sides, which may both with good words encourage and comfort the laboring-woman, and also may be ready to help and put to their hand at any time…”

“Lastly, all these things thus prepared, let the Midwife instruct and encourage the party to her labor, to abide her pains with patience, and then gently apply her hand to the works as she ought…

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Anne and Elizabeth: Consulting the Stars for Elizabeth’s Birth

By: Natalie Sweet

As September 1533 approached, Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn expected that a prince would soon be born. Announcements of a prince’s arrival were drawn up ahead of time, but an extra “s” had to be added to Elizabeth’s birth announcement to proclaim the birth of a princess. Henry’s confidence was based on no less than an astrologer’s prediction that Anne would, in fact, give birth to a male child. Would either Henry or Anne have had any reason to doubt such a prediction?

Then, as now, astrologers were proven wrong. Fast-forward to daughter Elizabeth’s reign, and we can see how predictions by Nostradamus failed. Although he is popularly featured on History Channel documentaries today, many of Nostradamus’s predictions concerning Elizabeth failed to come true. His predictions, however, served a purpose: as Catherine de Medici’s astrologer, it was his job to develop predictions that suggested the downfall of her Tudor rival. Obviously, none of the dire predictions came true, but an early modern astrologer was as much a propagandist as he was a predictor of the future. Oftentimes, propaganda was more useful than a correct prediction, as it inspired well-timed fear in the enemy and hope amongst allies. Of course, the more accurate one’s astrologer was at making predictions, the more useful the propaganda was, but the creation of fear was a tremendous boon on its own account.

This is not to say that monarchs did not take their astrologer’s predictions to heart. That would be a mistake, and one that is easy to make in a modern era where astrology is often viewed as trickery. Astrology was not a con, nor was it incompatible with religion in the 16th century. Indeed, it was considered to be a way to understand God’s divine plan, and was viewed to be as grounded in science as that of the study of the changing seasons. For Henry and Anne, the astrologer’s prediction of a male child was one they could look favorably on.

That the astrologer predicted a boy should not have surprised Henry, Anne, or us – beyond the fact that the royal couple hoped for this prediction, the months that Henry persisted in the belief that a boy would be born was enough to buy him time and leverage with those he dealt with. It gave his proceedings against Catherine of Aragon and his marriage to Anne justification – any male (and the majority of females, too) in the early modern era would tell you that it was better to have a boy than it was to have a girl. They understood the urgency that accompanied the Tudor dynasty’s need for a male heir- and it was an urgency that had been granted a favorable verdict to the male party for generations before Henry VIII hit the scene. Read Chapuy’s or any other enemy’s report of Elizabeth’s arrival and the relief seems to drip from the pages – Henry has had another girl. Sure, the kid is healthy and this could indicate future healthy children will follow, but for now, it should be back to business as usual. Predictions could be made, but immediate results needed to follow.

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Anne and Elizabeth: “Playing Too Much the Queen” in the Victorian Era

By: Natalie Sweet

On the Victorian stage, playwright W.G. Hole’s Elizabeth I voiced her fear that she “play[ed] too much the queen,” and demanded of her suitor,  “do you still hold me a woman?”[1]  Indeed, her question was one that many Victorians grappled with in the late nineteenth century.  While their fondness for bestowing Elizabeth with majesty and imperial power undoubtedly arose from British eagerness to trace the history of its empire, the celebration of Elizabeth as the Virgin Queen presented problems for the Victorians who celebrated Queen Victoria’s motherhood.  Victorians questioned how Elizabeth reconciled herself to virginity while the nation’s survival depended on an heir.  In contrast to this, but in a similar vein, Victorians were also preoccupied with Elizabeth’s sexuality and the masculine qualities of her suitors.  The emergence of a “masculine” British empire also created questions about Elizabeth’s role in creating that empire.  Although a woman presided over their own enterprises, Victorians acknowledged that Elizabeth ruled over a much more dangerous world than their own, and thus she needed masculine qualities to survive.  All of these factors led to a paradox in how Elizabeth was portrayed in British popular culture.  She sometimes “play[ed] too much the queen” in a masculine manner, but at other times she played too much the naughty woman, too. For at least one Victorian author, the source of this problematic contradiction was her mother, Anne Boleyn.

Victorian authors overwhelmingly indicated their belief “that a strong modern England was rendered possible mainly by the boldness, astuteness, and activity of Elizabeth at the critical turning-point of European history.”[2]  As some modern scholars have suggested, Victorians were willing to portray a stronger image of Elizabeth in the late nineteenth century in order to rehabilitate Queen Victoria’s image.  The creation of “a strong modern England” could not have been possible without strong leadership, and luckily for the British, Elizabeth seemed to posses a sufficient amount of strength.  The complication of explaining how this extraordinary strength came from within a female who also possessed remarkable skills in coquetry, however, would take some effort on the part of (admittedly prudish) Victorian writers.

For example, Victorian author Michael Creighton reasoned that Elizabeth’s character was connected to her heredity.  He noted that her more cautionary and discreet qualities must have come from her grandfather, Henry VII, who for so long exercised prudence and weariness of others in order to keep the English throne.  From Henry VIII, he believed that Elizabeth “inherited the royal imperiousness and personal charm which always secured his popularity.”[3]  Creighton did not criticize these strong inherited qualities, and indeed equated them with masculine character.  However, he stated that Elizabeth’s bad qualities, “[h]er vanity, her unscrupulousness, her relentless and over bearing temper,” came from her mother, Anne Boleyn.[4]  This “coarse, ambitious and self-seeking woman” passed on all of her undesirable feminine traits to her daughter, “in whom they were modified by finer qualities and were curbed by a sense of duty.”[5]  In other words, Elizabeth’s feminine foibles were kept in check by the masculine command she inherited from her father and grandfather.

It is interesting that Creighton equated the poor qualities of Elizabeth with women, especially when one considers that her father, Henry VIII, could be described in much the same manner. However, although Creighton asserted that “Elizabeth always remained more truly the daughter of Anne Boleyn than of Henry VIII,” thus tying her identity more closely to a female identity rather than to a masculine, kingly one, Creighton believed that Elizabeth could not have been as great of a ruler if she had not inherited the qualities of “a coarse, ambitious and self-seeking woman.”[6]  Indeed, he asserted that there were “times when anyone, save Anne Boleyn’s daughter, would have been tempted to make terms” with the powers that threatened England’s security.[7]   Creighton’s consideration of Elizabeth’s heredity appears to be unique, but it is not a surprising explanation when one considers the late nineteenth-century Victorian fascination with heredity and eugenics.[8]  Yet, his argument is also a paradox.  While Creighton argued that her feminine traits interfered with strong, masculine leadership, he also asserted that her feminine cunning and stubbornness was what helped England to survive the turbulent sixteenth century.

[1] W.G. Hole, Queen Elizabeth: An Historical Drama in Four Acts (London: George Bell and Sons, 1904), 85.

[2] Hume, vi.

[3] Creighton, 4.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid, 197.

[8] For more on this topic, see the essays in Philippa Levine, ed., Gender and Empire (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007).

The above is taken from a paper titled “Sex, Masculinity, and the Virgin Queen: Victorian Views of Elizabeth I,” written by Natalie Sweet in 2009.

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Anne and Elizabeth: 17th Century Views

By Natalie Sweet

Just as in the Elizabethan era, opinions on Anne Boleyn in the seventeenth century were still heavily influenced by England’s religious climate and by opinions of Elizabeth I. After Elizabeth’s death, Englishmen largely welcomed the new Stuart monarchy. Many had secretly whispered that the Queen was too old, her court was too emasculated, and that her foreign wars were too costly for the English people. Thus, when James I (of England, VI of Scotland) ascended the throne in 1603, he was generally accepted, despite his Scottish background. As the years passed, however, Englishmen gradually grew more wary of their Stuart monarchs and of the possibility of their connection to Catholicism. Elizabeth’s popularity began to slowly rise once again in the 1620s. The arrival of the English Civil War at the mid-century both diminished and increased interest in Elizabeth: some wished to avoid discussion of the monarchy altogether, while other Englishmen idealized Elizabeth’s reign, proclaiming it a golden age where Queen and Parliament were harmoniously in-sync. The return of the monarchy insured that Elizabeth’s popularity did not wane. Indeed, it is clear from surviving records such as the famous Samuel Pepys diary that the memory of Elizabeth lived on. It is understandable that a favorable opinion of Elizabeth would inspire tolerant, if not pleasing, accounts of the famed Queen’s mother. Additionally, a positive portrayal of Anne was also aided by growing anti-Catholic and anti-foreign sentiment.

Below, we have an excerpt from The Character of Elizabeth, by Edmund Bohun and published in 1692. At the time, the Glorious Revolution had just passed, and William and Mary sat upon the throne. Describing Elizabeth as “the Greatest Princess that ever swayed this or any other Scepter,” Bohun dedicated his book to William in Mary in the hopes that they might be instructed by “[t]he Great Things she did, and the Ways, Means and Instruments she employed under her to bring them into Act” (pg. A3-A4).

The Birth and Parentage of Queen Elizabeth (modernized spelling applied)

Elizabeth, Queen of England, was born at Greenwich the 7th of September 1533. Her Father was Henry the VIIIth, Her Mother was the Lady Anne Boleyn the Daughter of Sir Thomas Boleyn, a Knight of great Estate and Esteem. After she came to wear the Royal Crown of England, She had a particular Affection for Greenwich, that Pleasant Seat upon the Thames, as for the place of Her Nativity: and upon that account, amongst many others, She preferred Her Palace there before all Her other Country Seats near London; as in truth it enjoys one of the Noblest, Prospects in the World, and an healthful, and a pleasing Air. From Her very Cradle She was exposed to the Hazards and Hardships of an unkind Fortune. Anne Boleyn, Her Mother, upon the Death of Queen Catherine, in the Year 1535, the 8th of January, was Arraigned for Treason; and in 1536, being Sentenced, was freed by Death from a bloody Marriage, the 19th of May. The Inveterate Malice of the Popish Clergy having ever since pursued this Match with the Reproaches as unlawful and void; because Queen Catherine his first Wife was then still living, and very much enraged at It, though to no purpose. Hereupon soon after a Parliament was summoned, which began the 8th of June; In which the Issue of both the King’s former Marriages was declared Illegitimate, and for ever excluded from claiming the Inheritance fo the Crown as the King’s Lawful Heirs by Lineal Descent; and the Attainder of Queen Anne, and her Complices, was Confirmed. So that by Authority of Parliament She stood wholly incapacitated as to the wearing the Crown of England. Her only Support in the mean time under all these Injuries and Afflictions was the Goodness of God.

As you can see, Anne is minimally noted, and at most she is titled with “Lady.” Yet, her downfall is tied to the “inveterate Malice of the Popish Clergy” and she “was freed by Death from a bloody Marriage.” The dates are terribly off, but the sentiment is positive: Anne is not a character to be reviled, but one to be treated with sympathy.

As Susan noted in a previous post, the same sentiments were true in other works produced during the time period. In 1682, John Bank’s “Vertue Betray’d” became one of the first popular plays to portray Anne as a tragic heroine: “In France at the time, a genre called “secret histories” was popular; one, by Madame D’aulnoy (who also wrote fairy tales) was the “secret history” of Elizabeth–which is actually mostly about Anne. Banks took several elements (such as the romance with Piercy) from Madame D’Aulnoy’s “secret history” to insure that the play had appeal to female audiences. Unlike D’Aulnoy’s novel, however, Banks’ play is clearly a salvo in the Protestant/Catholic culture wars. At the end of the play, Anne, hideously wronged, goes to her death in magnificent fashion, proclaiming to all the saints, cherubins and other martyrs in heaven that she is coming to them, and ending many long and lofty speeches with and an even loftier prediction of her daughter’s future–a seventeenth century version of the “Elizabeth Shall Be Queen” speech in “Anne of the Thousand Days”–and the death of Catholicism (the pope being the “holy tyrant” mentioned in the speech:

Thou, little child [meaning Elizabeth], shalt live to see thy mother’s wrongs o’re paid in many blessings on thy women’s state. From this dark calumny, in which I sit, as in a cloud; thou, like a star, shalt rise, and awe the Southern world: that holy tyrant, who grinds all Europe with the yoke of conscience, holding his feet upon the necks of kings; thou shalt destroy, and quite unloose his bonds, and lay the monster trembling at thy feet. When this shall come to pass, the world shall see they mother’s innocence revived in thee.”

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Anne and Elizabeth: Elizabethan Views

By Natalie Sweet

I can no longer think about the subject of how Elizabethans viewed Anne and Elizabeth without thinking of a cracked.com article that was posted in September of last year. Cracked.com is, at best, a highly off-kilter website (read: not for a younger audience), and the majority of its articles are done by freelance writers. One might read a terribly off-balanced fact sheet on Anne Boleyn penned by someone who had clearly just watched The Other Boleyn Girl, or one might read an article by an author who put serious (albeit, colorful) consideration into the topic. The latter was the case of an article I read in September 2010, titled “5 Fictional Stories You Were Taught in History Class.” The #1 myth, as chosen by the author, was “Anne Boleyn was a Deformed Freak.” While giving a brief overview of the Catholic-Protestant debate in England, the author explained that the lies about Anne’s appearance were a creation of Nicholas Sanders, a Catholic priest who realized that the best way to criticize Queen Elizabeth was to insult her mother, who had died nearly fifty years before Sanders wrote his book. The Rise and Growth of the Anglican Schism, so explained the author, might as well be titled The Rise and Growth of Your Mom, so to use a modern, turn-of-phrase insult.

What, however, does this have to do with what we know of Elizabethan views of Anne and Elizabeth? The point of discussing this article is to demonstrate that much of what we know about how Elizabethans viewed Anne is clouded by the propaganda of Elizabeth’s contemporaries, who were locked in the religious politics of Roman Catholic vs. Anglican vs. Puritan (vs. Puritan became a greater issue in the latter part of Elizabeth’s reign). For many Elizabethans, insulting or praising Anne was a way to either support or challenge the changes that had been brought to England first by the Reformation and later by Elizabeth. No one who liked the Anglican Church as it was, or who wished to remain in Elizabeth’s good graces, would have dared to question the validity of Anne’s position. To do so would call into question the legitimacy of Queen Elizabeth, and also the Church of which she was the governor. The only people of position who made such insults were those who boldly attacked England’s new religious policies. The majority of those Elizabethan who criticized Anne Boleyn, as it turned out, were criticizing Elizabeth.

Aside from books that had a clear religious or political agenda, it is difficult to find Elizabethan opinions on Anne. Certainly, opinions of Anne were more positive during the time of the Armada, when Elizabeth’s “pure” English bloodline was celebrated in the face of foreign threat. We do, however, have one Elizabethan account of Anne and Elizabeth that was not to be found in a political/religious tract. In her book The Heart and Stomach of a King: Elizabeth I and the Politics of Sex and Power, Carole Levin relates the following story:

“ Joan Notte had two dreams she thought important enough to share with the government.  In each of them a variety of beasts threaten both Elizabeth and Sir Robert Cecil.  In one of the dreams Anne Boleyn is also a character.  Joan Notte described how, although she had been dead for nearly seventy years “Queen Anne Boleyn…appeared warning Queen Elizabeth not to go further from London than St. James.” Joan Notte would never have even seen Anne Boleyn, who died long before Notte was born.  We do not know whether she had ever seen Elizabeth either, though she might well have; Notte had been to London during the last few years, and Elizabeth did go on progress throughout the countryside.  Of course, we can never know even with our own dreams why certain people and symbols appear, much less with the dream of a woman who lived hundreds of years earlier…So we might speculate as to why in Joan Notte’s dream it is Elizabeth’s mother rather than her father Henry VIII who comes back to deliver the warning.  Perhaps Joan Notte as a woman imagined that a mother would be the one to care most, even more than a father, over what happened to their child, especially a daughter as opposed to a son.  Or it may be that Anne Boleyn’s own spectacular and horrific death was so much a matter of public memory that any worry over the fate of Elizabeth would coalesce with the image of that ritualized slaughter, the beheading, of the earlier queen.  Joan Notte may have envisioned a connection between Anne Boleyn, a queen consort whose vulnerability was expressed by attacks on her sexual reputation and her inability to have a living son, and Elizabeth, queen regnant, who was called whore by some of her subjects and also had no heir of her body.  Anne Boleyn was killed by her husband, the man who had so desired her, written her impassioned love letters, and waited almost seven years to make her his queen.  Though over thirty years younger than the queen, Essex beseeched her favors by acting like a lover, and the rumors of sexual misconduct that had been circulating throughout the reign about Leicester and Hatton had their last appearance in whispers about Elizabeth and Essex.  Henry the king had had his wife Anne executed.  Essex might kill Elizabeth to become the king.  And why does Anne Boleyn warn her daughter not to leave the city?  The court near London was the center of power; for Elizabeth to leave, to abandon that power, would put her at terrible risk” (Levin, The Heart and Stomach of a King, 159-160).

Such an interesting account suggests that Anne existed very much in the minds, and even the dreams, of the English people during her daughter’s reign. Because of Elizabeth, Anne could be neither forgotten nor erased.

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Anne and Elizabeth: The Way to the Daughter’s Heart is Through…

By Natalie Sweet

In my last note, I suggested that Anne might have been discussed and commemorated by Elizabeth’s courtiers more than we now assume. I base this on two reasons: first, even if Anne was only occasionally mentioned in the official records of Elizabeth’s court, we have little knowledge of what was said in private. Certainly, Elizabeth was likely not effusive on the subject of Anne, but that does not mean that her mother was not occasionally mentioned. I also sometimes wonder if we do not put an unfair amount of emphasis on the lack of Elizabeth’s official mentions of Anne. Henry VIII did not gush about his mother in the official record, and neither did the majority of English monarchs who came before him. Anne’s position as a mother, after all, is special in our minds for the unique position that her daughter occupied as a female monarch and for the gruesome way that Anne met her end. Of course, the latter is an excellent reason for many not to mention Elizabeth’s mother, especially given the religious climate of the times, but I am not convinced that we should label it as a taboo subject among all of her courtiers.

My second reason is based on the number of Anne-related gifts that were given to Elizabeth while she was Queen. The most famous of these gifts is a ruby and diamond locket ring that contained both Elizabeth’s and Anne’s portraits.  The fact that Elizabeth wore the ring suggests a very personal commemoration of her mother. Just as interesting, however, is the possibility that the ring was given to her as a gift. In the National Maritime Museum catalogue entry for the ring, it notes that Edward Seymour, the Earl of Hertford, was the likely gift-giver (note that this Edward was the son of Edward Seymour who was a brother to Jane Seymour. Elizabeth recreated the son as an earl during her reign – his emblem, too, was a phoenix rising from the ashes).  That the ring was probably given to Elizabeth as a gift is a little known piece of information, but it is news that should not detract from its significance as an item. Indeed, the fact that Elizabeth wore it suggests that she both loved and respected her mother. The ring’s commemorative nature demonstrates that Elizabeth’s courtiers recognized and acted upon their knowledge of the Queen’s affection for Anne.

The ring was not the only Anne Boleyn-related item that Elizabeth was gifted. Within the Victoria and Albert collection, there is a linen napkins and a couple of tablecloths bearing Anne’s emblem that were presented to the Queen. Not all are available for viewing on the website, but you can read about and view the description of the napkin here: http://tiny.cc/re9qh

All of the Anne Boleyn-related gift giving suggests that Anne was not a taboo subject among Elizabeth’s courtiers. Indeed, these gifts were, like all gifts given to the Queen, bestowed with the purpose of honoring her and winning her favor. It seems that at least one courtier believed that the way to Elizabeth’s heart was through her mother.

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Anne and Elizabeth: What Do We Know of Elizabeth’s Thoughts of Anne?

By Natalie Sweet

Yesterday, we discussed what Elizabeth might have been told by others about Anne Boleyn. While it was clear that there were many who would not have passed on fond memories of Anne to Elizabeth, it was equally clear that there were those who probably shared positive recollections of the Queen. Among them was Matthew Parker, who Elizabeth appointed Archbishop of Canterbury. While on the throne, Elizabeth asked Parker to substantiate the validity of her parents’ marriage. In an excellent article at The Tudors Wiki, historian Nasim Tadghighi discusses both Elizabeth’s request of Parker and her earlier assertion to Venetian ambassadors in the 1550s that she was not “less legitimate than her Majesty, alleging in her own favour that her mother would never cohabit with the King unless by way of marriage, with the authority of the Church, and the intervention of the Primate of England” (Venetian Papers, Vol. VI). I highly suggest you read it here (http://tiny.cc/dta40) as it is an excellent article, but for immediate purposes, know that while Ms. Tadghighi concluded that Anne was a sensitive subject for Elizabeth, she also believed that Elizabeth viewed her mother in a positive light and remembered her in her own private way.

I agree with Ms. Tadghighi. Anne was a controversial subject that had to be treated carefully. I sometimes wonder, however, if she was discussed and remembered more often than we assume. The difficulty in determining this is due to the lack of sources we have on Elizabeth’s thoughts and actions concerning Anne. Elizabeth certainly had her own private tributes to her mother. What we know of some of them, however, is questionable. For instance, we can only surmise that Elizabeth’s translation of Marguerite of Navarre’s “Looking Glass of the Sinful Soul” was a tribute to Anne. There is also the claim that after Elizabeth was crowned with St. Edward’s Crown and then the Imperial Crown of England that she chose to wear the Queen Consort’s crown, the one that Anne was crowned with in her own coronation in 1533. However, the crown that Elizabeth chose to wear for a majority of the day could have alternately been one that we know was remodeled for the 1559 coronation.

Still, even if the above theories are someday proven to be complete bunk (and I doubt new evidence will ever arise to provide contradiction), we have many reasons to believe that Elizabeth did think lovingly of her mother. For one, Elizabeth was more than amply surrounded by her Boleyn relatives. She did not seek to deny them; indeed, if one looks at the Privy Chamber members who served during the middle part of her reign, eighteen out of twenty-five were related to Elizabeth through her mother.  Of course, this could have been a way for Elizabeth to build her own legitimacy. I would argue, however, that the favoritism she showed in one particular case demonstrates that she had a deeper than surface-level dedication to her Boleyn relatives. In the latter part of her reign, troubles with English colonization in Ireland abounded for a number of reasons, and are far too numerous to cover in-depth here. What is important for us to note is that Elizabeth favored her Butler relations in Ireland with a tenacity that bordered on imprudence. The Butlers, of course, were cousins to Elizabeth through her grandfather, Thomas Boleyn.

Additionally, it has been noted that Elizabeth’s use of a phoenix rising out of the ashes might have been meant to symbolize her emergence out of the disaster that was her parents’ relationship. One also cannot forget that Elizabeth occasionally used Anne’s falcon badge as her own emblem. Indeed, it was an emblem that others gifted to the Queen, and it is to the subject of gifts that I will turn to in the next installment. Do not think that I have forgotten about the locket ring which held Anne’s image, either; it will be discussed tomorrow!

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Elizabeth and Anne Boleyn Anne and Elizabeth: As a Child, What was Elizabeth Told About Her Mother?

By Natalie Sweet

Turn on the final episode of Season 2 of The Tudors, and you will watch a very sad scene of a young Elizabeth realizing that her status in the world has fallen. As Lady Margaret Bryan reorganizes the household to accommodate Elizabeth’s new position in the world, she notes, “The world is a slippery place, my Lady. If you would take my advice, for what it’s worth, find a rich man to marry who is too stupid to know anything about politics. Then, perhaps, unless you die in childbirth, which is likely, or the plague, which is almost inevitable, then you’ll be happy.” Little Elizabeth looks studiously on, as if she takes every word to heart.

Whether or not Anne’s fate influenced Elizabeth’s later marriage decisions is difficult to confirm, although mere circumstance is more than enough in this case to suggest possibility. Just as intriguing, however, is the theorization of what young Elizabeth was told at her mother’s death. Certainly, in real life she realized that something momentous had occurred. Children much younger than the age of three realize when patterns are broken; for example, my seven-month-old son was one day completely perplexed when a stranger in the grocery store line would not return his eager little smile. He waved his hand, finally received their attention and smiled his biggest grin, and was disappointed to find the person resume their reading of a magazine. He crinkled his brow and looked at me as if to say, “What is up with HER?” Of course he expected the woman to open up when he grinned at her. He had never been in a social situation where everyone in the room did not fawn over him, let alone not smile.

Now, imagine you are a child of almost three, whose every cry, whim, and snuffle has been tended to without haste. You are addressed as “My Lady Princess,” and people acknowledge your presence when you enter a room with a special gesture that is reserved only for you. Suddenly, it is taken away, and it is connected with your mother’s prolonged absence. What do you make of that?

According to at least one account, Elizabeth viewed it with great perplexity. “How haps it governor,” it is claimed she asked Lady Bryan, “yesterday my lady Princess, today but my Lady Elizabeth?” The little girl likely learned very quickly that her mother was not to be spoken of, at least in the King’s presence. As quickly as possible, the King’s workmen set to the task of removing the intricately carved, painted, and embroidered “Hs” and “As” that had once been intertwined with one another throughout the royal households. Physical representations and reminders of Anne, if any existed, were removed. A few would survive, but a majority of the images that might have reminded Elizabeth of her parents’ former relationship were eradicated. What she had to remember of her mother came from the people who knew Anne, and what a motley crew they were! From Henry who declared he had been deceived and tempted by witchcraft, to Mary, the half-sister whose own mother was placed aside for Anne, to foreign envoys who would not give Elizabeth the time of day due to her bastard status, the little girl was certain to have been bombarded by negative representations of her mother. If she believed Anne to be a whore, temptress, witch, or worse, she certainly had a crowd to confirm the opinion.

But what of positive representations of Anne Boleyn? Within the Anglican Church, a person’s godparent was to see after the child’s spiritual well-being, to make certain that they were steadfastly raised in the ways of the faith. It was not just an honor to be named a godparent; it was a duty that was to be faithfully carried out should anything happen to the child’s parents. Elizabeth’s godparents were Thomas Cranmer and the Duchess of Norfolk. Certainly, Thomas Cranmer expressed his astonishment to Henry when Anne was brought up on charges of treason. In fact, as we have discussed in other notes, his expression of overt disbelief of the charges against Anne could be viewed as a roundabout way of criticizing what happened to her. Cranmer was in no position to publicly disagree with the King, but he did not have to trumpet his condemnation of Anne in the years after the fact, least of all in front of her daughter.

Likewise, in her final days Anne sought Matthew Parker to look after Elizabeth’s spiritual needs. Elizabeth evidently took his guidance to heart, as she sought him to become the Archbishop of Canterbury when she took to the throne. Parker was the type of moderate Elizabeth sought in her quest to find a middle-path in the Catholic-Protestant divide, but it is likely that Parker’s connection to her mother and to herself as a young girl played a role in her decision as well.

Religious instructors with a connection to Anne were not the only ones to surround Elizabeth in her formative years. Her governess, Katherine Ashley was married to Sir John Ashley, a cousin to Anne. He likely joined Elizabeth’s household before 1540, and could have provided a positive representation of Anne. Likewise, Elizabeth’s future stepmothers could possibly have provided positive representations of her mother. Anne of Cleves, who was Henry’s wife for only about half a year, had a great fondness for Elizabeth. Elizabeth possibly visited Anne of Cleves at the home she was given upon her escape from Henry – Hever Castle, the former home of Anne Boleyn. Being Anne Boleyn’s cousin, Katherine Howard also carried a close connection to Elizabeth’s mother. Their meetings were likely few and far between, and Katherine’s subsequent execution likely brought back old feelings of dread for Elizabeth, but for a short time, there was a possibility of a positive connection. Finally, there was Catherine Parr, the stepmother to whom Elizabeth gave a carefully composed translation of  Marguerite of Navarre’s “The Glasse of the Synnefull Soule.” Anne Boleyn, as many of you know, once served under Marguerite, and many scholars argue that the young English girl was greatly influenced by the influential Queen.

At this point in our series, the extent to which Elizabeth was influenced by both positive and negative accounts of Anne is still a bit of a mystery. We will tackle Elizabeth’s possible thoughts on Anne tomorrow. For Wednesday, I will put forth the theory that gifts given to Elizabeth when she was queen can tell us as much about Elizabeth’s thoughts on her mother as her actual words. On Thursday, we will look at Elizabethan views of Anne and Elizabeth, and we will spend the weekend looking at various images and pop-culture videos related to the pair. As always, be certain to add your thoughts about the relationships I discussed above. There are several other obvious connections to be made between Elizabeth and those who had a connection to Anne, but I would love to see and discuss the connections that we might make as a group! Share away!

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Anne and Elizabeth: August 7, 1533

The following post was originally shared on Susan Bordo’s Facebook page, The Creation of Anne Boleyn. By Natalie Sweet

On August 7, 1533, Anne Boleyn was a month away from giving birth to her first child, Elizabeth. While not the sought-after-prince Henry desired, Elizabeth would eventually become one of the most recognized monarchs in world history, the Queen for whom an entire era was named after.  What were Anne Boleyn’s thoughts concerning her daughter? What did she hope for her? These thoughts are somewhat easy to guess. Obviously, Anne felt a mother’s love for her daughter. Anne greatly loved her own mother, and surely hoped for a replication of the relationship with her own firstborn. Given her royal status, she would not have been allowed to be the hands-on parent that many women of lower stations in life were allowed to be at the time period. However, she undoubtedly would have looked to Elizabeth’s education, overseen her upbringing, and made important decisions about how she was to be raised. Her requests for frequent updates on Elizabeth indicate her loving concern and, had she lived, we can imagine her occupying the later role that Catherine Parr filled in Elizabeth’s life:  a willing nurturer who oversaw her young charge with fierce pride.

Anne, though, did not live to claim her motherly right.  She died before Elizabeth was three, and as a result the little girl’s life took on a hard edge that she need never have experienced. Declared a bastard, made contemptible for being the offspring of a whore and a witch, Elizabeth quickly learned the unforgiving nature of 16th century politics. How would this have affected her views of her mother? Would she have viewed Anne as a victim? Would she have believed the rumors and blamed her for her fate? Who surrounded the child to influence her opinion of her mother, and when she was Queen, what were her thoughts?

The above questions are just a few of the topics I will cover in the month-long lead-up to Elizabeth’s birthday. While Susan puts the finishing touches on her book, we will explore…

Elizabeth’s thoughts on Anne

Views of Elizabeth and Anne through the centuries

Preparing for Elizabeth’s birth

Pregnancy in the 16th century

The arrival of Elizabeth

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