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.