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Jane, January, and Anne’s Downfall

A 19th century engraving titled "Anne Boleyn Receiving Proof of Henry's Passion for Jane Seymour"

Do note cite, quote, copy, or distribute without consent of author: Bordo@uky.edu.

Hilary Mantel’s prize-winning Wolf Hall ends portentously, with Cromwell and Henry about to embark, in September 1535, on a progress that would include a stop at Wolf Hall, home of John Seymour and his family.  Mantel chose the ending (and the title of her book), we can safely speculate, to mark the beginning of Anne’s final and fatal twist of bad luck, with Henry catching sight of Jane, John Seymour’s daughter.

Mantel’s is not the first or last depiction to imagine such a meeting—among the most well known, the BBC’s Six Wives of Henry VIII and Showtimes’ Tudors.  It’s one of those fictions that have endured across the centuries in our collective narrative of Anne’s fall.  But it’s very unlikely either that Henry saw Jane for the first time at Wolf Hall, for Jane had been one of Katherine of Aragon’s ladies, and then returned to court to be part of Anne Boleyn’s entourage in 1534, well before the Wolf Hall progress, or that anything momentous passed between them on that visit.  For one thing, Anne was with Henry.  For another, we don’t even know for sure if Jane was there.

The first clear mention of a relationship between Henry and Jane occurs in Chapuys’ February 17 (1536) letter to Charles, in which he wrote that Anne’s inability to bear male children was due to her  “defective constitution,” and that “the real cause” of her miscarriage of January 29 may have been the King’s “behavior toward a damsel of the Court, named Miss Seymour, to whom he has latterly made very valuable presents.”

February 1536.  If the king had begun seriously pursuing Jane in September of 1535, it’s highly unlikely that the gossip-hungry Chapuys—always ready to report any decline in Henry’s feelings for Anne—would have waited six months to report it to Charles.  It makes for a good story:  King’s declining passion for his first wife, her escalating jealousy and shrewishness, setting the stage for a tipping-point meeting between Henry and sweet, submissive Jane, providing the spark which turned the tinder of his marriage to Anne into a roaring, destructive fire.  But in fact, there seems to have been no single factor—certainly not Jane Seymour–that brought about the disastrous events of April-May 1536, but a combustion of court atmospherics, political maneuvering, and sheer bad luck.  What turned the cherished, hotly pursued consort into the lady in the tower, awaiting her execution, did not belong primarily to the realm of emotions, but to the gathering of a “perfect storm” of political, personal, and biological events, the absence of any one of which might have resulted in things turning out very differently for Anne.

The atmospherics included a strong political/religious “wing” of anti-Anne sentiment that was a powerful obstacle in the way of Anne’s acceptance by the (still largely Catholic) English people.  In gaining that acceptance—and with it some protection from the winds of shifting politics—Anne already had several strikes against her.  She had supplanted a beloved queen.  She was rumored to be “haughty” and suspiciously “French”–and even worse than that, a vocal, intellectual, “interfering” woman. Even those who shared her religious views, like Cromwell, had no scruples about spreading nasty rumors when it suited their purposes. For Anne’s reputation as a woman who simply would not behave as she should had created an atmosphere that did not incline men to be her protectors, but rather freed them to take the gloves off when fighting with her. “Had she been gracious and modest,” writes 19th century commentator James Froude, “she might have partially overcome the prejudice against her.” (P 384).  “Gracious and modest” seem like laudable qualities.  But what they meant in the context of the times and why Anne could never play the part is laid bare by David Loades: “Anne could not pretend to be a fool or a nonentity, and the self-effacement customary in a royal consort did not suit her style at all…In many ways her sharpness of perception and readiness of wit made her more suitable for the council chamber than for the boudoir.” (69) But women did not belong in the council chamber.

By 1536, Henry was also well aware that public opinion, especially after the executions of Bishop Fisher and Thomas More (for refusing to take the oath declaring Henry Supreme Head of the Church of England) was not exactly riding in his favor.

Besides anger over Fisher and More, who were generally admired, there was a growing public sentiment over the mistreatment of Katherine and Princess Mary, who Henry kept separated from each other, and treated like discarded limbs.  The abuse of Mary was especially acute, as she was forced to wait on her younger sister Elizabeth, and allowed no audience with the King, who had formerly been an affectionate father, so long as she refused to acknowledge Anne as Queen.  This she would not do, not even after Anne had personally offered her friendship and a home at court, on that one condition.  Despite a huge amount of evidence that Henry was in a rage over his daughter’s “obstinacy” and hardly required any goading to punish and humiliate her, Chapuys blamed her mistreatment entirely on Anne, whom he believed turned the King against Mary, and did all that he could to insure that every other person who would listen to him saw it that way.

Even those who knew better, like Thomas Cromwell, realized that blaming the King for Mary’s mistreatment could create a huge public relations disaster and encouraged Chapuys in his Anne-blaming.  As early as October of 1534, Chapuys had met with Cromwell, who reassured Chapuys of Henry’s “paternal affection” for Mary and claimed that he “loved her 100 times more than his last born” and that he and Chapuys ought to do all that they could to “soften and mend all matter relating to her,” for “in time everything would be set to rights.” Although I am often skeptical of Chapuys’ second and third-hand “intelligence,” the manipulative, self-serving speech he attributes to Cromwell has, to my ears, the ring of truth.  In it, Cromwell takes credit for paving the way to smoother relations between Henry and Charles, and assures Chapuys that the only obstacle standing between a renewed friendship between England and Spain was a “satisfactory settlement of all complaints” held by Mary and Katherine.   He ended, Chapuys reports, ”by saying in passing that it was perfectly true that great union and friendship existed now between France and England, but that I could guess the cause of it. He did not say more on this subject.  Your Majesty, by your great wisdom, will be able to judge what Cromwell’s last words meant.”

Of course, the “cause” that was implied here was Anne—who now was “hinted” by Cromwell as standing between the repair of relations between England and Spain, and in a double way:  First, because she was known to be a Francophile, who had been raised to be “more French than English,” but more important, because she was the obstacle standing in the way of reaching a “satisfactory settlement of all complaints” by Katherine and Mary.  Chapuys also took Cromwell as hinting “that there was some appearance of the King changing his love.”  He wasn’t sure whether to take this seriously—for Cromwell was quite capable of dissembling when it suited his purposes—but what seems crystal clear is that Cromwell was buttering Chapuys up, in the interests of Henry’s PR and future good relations with Charles, and that Anne was already being used by him to take the heat off Henry.

Why would Cromwell, who shared Anne’s religious proclivities, want to stir up the anti-Anne pot with Chapuys and Charles? After all, he had been chief engineer of the break with Rome and, as a reformist himself, had been Anne’s strongest ally at the start of her relationship with Henry.  At one point, it was generally believed that Anne had him “in her pocket” (or, as Chapuys later put it, was “Anne’s right hand.”) What had happened?  At this point, nothing of grave significance. But the two had a serious break brewing.  For although they may have shared the same “theory” of reform (although we don’t know for sure, as what became British Protestantism was only just evolving) they disagreed sharply on what should be done with the spoils of disbanded churches and monasteries.  From the beginning of his ascent to power—and among the reasons why he was able to keep the favor of the nobility, even after Wolsey was deposed—Cromwell “actively assisted the King in diverting revenues from the suppressed monasteries, originally granted to Wolsey’s two colleges, to the purses of Henry’s cronies at court.” (43, Hutchinson)  Anne, in contrast, favored using the funds to set up educational and charitable institutions, and was shocked to learn that the money was being diverted for private use.  This difference between them would not explode until April of 1536, but it seems that in sidling up to Chapuys, Cromwell was already preparing for the possibility that it might come to a show-down resulting in his own fall from favor, and he was seeking alliance with Chapuys to prepare for the need for a strike against Anne.

Cromwell was aware that developing a friendship with Chapuys was risky, but assessing the situation at the time, he wasn’t overly concerned. In June of 1535 he told Chapuys that if Anne knew how close he and Chapuys were, she would see Cromwell’s head off his shoulders.  At the time, Cromwell shrugged it off, telling Chapuys that “I trust so much on my master that I fancy she cannot do me any harm.” (Lion’s Court, 384)  But the differences between Anne and Cromwell were escalating—not just over the use of confiscated money but also over international alliances (Anne favored France, while Cromwell was beginning to lean toward some kind of accommodation with Charles) and the mere fact that Cromwell, in 1535, was already assessing his security relative to Anne’s displeasure with him suggests that he was aware that she could, under the right circumstances, be a danger to him—and was making preparations.

Cromwell also undoubtedly became aware, in the fall of that year, that a new family was rising in the king’s favor:  The Seymours.  Edward Seymour, who had hosted a visit from Henry to Wolf Hall in September, was becoming a special favorite.  Henry had always enjoyed the company of vital, masculine, young men (“thrusting, acquisitive and ambitious” is how Wilson describes them-p. 386, In The Lion’s Court), and as his own athleticism and sense of masculine potency declined, hobbled by leg ulcers and increasing obesity, he may have begun to live vicariously through them, “unconsciously sucking new life from their physical and mental vigor.” (Wilson, p. 385)  By 1535, Seymour’s circle—John Dudley, Thomas Wriosthesley, and Ralph Sadler—had come to serve this function for Henry.  They were also courting Cromwell, who they rightly saw as having the king’s ear and who was seemingly, at this point, the architect of England’s future.  They hated the Boleyns. And Edward Seymour had a sister.  Conveniently, she was in startling contrast to Anne: “fair, not dark; younger by seven or eight years; gentle rather than abrasive; of no great wit, against a mistress of repartee; a model of female self-effacement against a self-made woman.” (Ives, 302)

The gentle, self-effacing sister, however, probably would not have amounted to anything of significance were it not for the momentous events of January 1536.  On January 7, Katherine of Aragon had died, most likely of cancer of the heart (a real illness, but an apt bodily metaphor as well.) At the time, it was an enormous relief to both Anne and Henry.  For Anne, it meant that at last she was the only Queen of England.  And both of them hoped that Katherine’s death, removing the chief reason for the Emperor’s breach with Henry, would repair relations with Charles and tip the balance in England’s favor vis a vis Francis (who now would have to court Henry, in order to be sure England did not ally him with Charles.) “The next day”, Ives reports, “the king and queen appeared in joyful yellow from top to toe, and Elizabeth was triumphantly paraded to church. After dinner Henry went down to the Great Hall, where the ladies of the court were dancing, with his sixteen month old daughter in his arms, showing her off to one and another.”  Whether or not their yellow clothing was to mark their joy, as Ives says, or a sign of respect for the dead has been much debated.  But whatever the meaning of the color of their clothing, at this point, neither had a political reason to mourn Katherine’s death—and Henry, over the years of battle with Katherine, seems to have lost any trace of affection for her.

Chapuys, however, was horrified by their reaction, grief-stricken at having lost his longtime friend, whom he had comforted and championed over the years, and quickly began spreading rumors that Katherine had been poisoned by Anne.  But good news was to come a bit later that month, when Chapuys reported, third-hand as usual, that one of the King’s “principal courtiers” said that the King had confessed to another lady and her husband that “he had been seduced and forced into this second marriage by means of sortileges and charms, and that, owing to that, he held it as null.  God (he said) had well shown his displeasure at it by denying him male children.  He, therefore, considered that he could take a third wife, which he said he wished to do.”  Even Chapuys, ever alert to promising signs that Anne would be supplanted, finds this report “incredible.”  Anne was in her final month of pregnancy; how could the King be sure that God would not bless the marriage with a male heir this time around?  Was someone whispering in Henry’s ear, planting suggestions about Anne?

It seems that this is exactly what was happening.  By April 1st, Chapuys was writing to the Emperor, informing him that the king was “paying court” to Edward’s sister Jane, and that he had “heard” (from the Marchioness of Exeter) that Jane had been “well tutored and warned by those among this King’s couriers who hate the concubine, telling her not in any wise to give in to the King’s fancy unless he makes her his Queen, upon which the damsel is quite resolved.  She has likewise been advised to tell the King frankly, and without reserve, how much his subjects abominate the marriage contracted with the concubine, and that not one considers it legitimate.”  The Marchioness also requested, at this time, that Chapuys himself aid in whatever way he can in the “meritorious work” of removing Anne and thus, not only protecting Princess Mary from Anne’s evil plotting and ridding the country of the “heretical doctrines and practices” of “Lutheranism,” but “clearing the King from the taint of a most abominable and adulterous marriage.”

In the short space between Katherine’s death and Henry’s open courting of Jane, two events that proved disastrous to Anne had occurred.  These events were far more decisive to her future than any developing attraction of Henry for Jane.  First, on January 24, Henry had a bad jousting accident, which left him unconscious for two hours, and undoubtedly stirred up his anxiety about his own diminishing physical competence and reminded him of his mortality—something he had been trying to avoid all his life through a hypochondria bordering on obsession.  Then, on January 29th, Anne miscarried.   Although it was probably too early in the pregnancy for attendants to determine the sex of the child, which was described by Chapuys as a “shapeless mass of flesh,” it was reported by both Chapuys and Wriosthesley that it had been a male.  This was a “huge psychological blow” to Henry.  We only have Chapuys to rely on for details—“I see that God will not give me male children” he reports Henry as saying, and then ominously telling Anne that he would “speak to her” once she was up—but whether the quote is accurate or not, it makes sense that the loss of a potential heir, especially after at least one other miscarriage and his own recent brush with death, would have affected Henry deeply.  Anne, on her part, was distraught.  She appealed to Henry, telling him that the miscarriage was the result of shock over his accident, which is not improbable, although Chapuys, as mentioned earlier, believed it to be cause by her “defective constitution” and jealousy over Jane, to whom the king had been sending gifts, just as he had done in the early days of his courtship of Anne.

Whether through coaching or inspiration of her own, Jane refused the king’s gifts, saying that her greatest treasure was her honor, and that she would accept sovereigns from him “once God had sent her a good match.”  She may have not been of “great wit” but she (or her brother) knew that this would increase Henry’s ardor.  The refusal of sovereigns happened, however, only after Anne’s miscarriage, suggesting this was an event that emboldened Jane and her supporters.  For if Anne had produced a living son, all the rumblings about Anne, both at court and among the people, all the conniving of the Seymours, would have crashed against a brick wall.   But it was Anne’s disastrous luck that not only did she miscarry, but that it happened after Katherine died.  Initially, that death had been a cause for celebration.  What Anne did not take into account (or perhaps did, but had no reason to consider probable at this point) was that with Katherine’s death, Henry could have his marriage to Anne annulled, or invalidated in some other way, without having to deal with Katherine’s claims to the throne.  Fatally and without precedent, it was “the some other way” that prevailed.

There are a number of theories as to what allowed the unthinkable—the state-ordered execution of a Queen—to happen.  One theory, first advanced by Retha Warnicke and adopted by a number of novels and media depictions, is that the miscarried fetus was grossly deformed, which led to suspicions of witchcraft.  If Henry truly believed that Anne was guilty of witch-craft—which of course was a possibility in those times—he would have virtually no choice but to destroy her, as with anyone in league with Satan.  But although Henry complained, at one point, that he had been bewitched by Anne, that was a notion that, as in our own time, was freely bandied about in very loose, metaphorical manner.  It could mean simply “overcome beyond rationality by her charms” (as Chapuys himself means it early in Anne and Henry’s relationship, when he complained that the “accursed lady has so enchanted and bewitched him that he will not dare to do anything against her will.”) Moreover, none of the charges later leveled against Anne involved witchcraft, and there is no evidence that the fetus was deformed.

Another theory, which Alison Weir puts forward in The Six Wives of Henry VIII but revises in The Lady in the Tower, is that Henry, fed up with Anne, newly enamored of Jane, and eager “to rid himself” of his second wife but not knowing how, eagerly embraced Cromwell’s suggestion, in April, that he had information that Anne had engaged in adultery.  “Spurred by his passion for Jane, his need of the Spanish alliance, and his desire for vengeance against Anne, who had promised so much and failed to deliver,” he “accepted the allegations at face value, merely asking Cromwell to find evidence to support them.” (309) But even if we accept the idea that Henry would cynically encourage a plot designed to lead to Anne’s execution, and despite his flirtation with Jane and disappointment over the miscarriage, Henry did not behave, before Cromwell put the allegations before him, like someone looking to end his marriage.  Whatever he was feeling about Anne, recognition of his supremacy was still entwined with her, and even after the miscarriage, he was still working for imperial recognition of his marriage to “his beloved wife” Anne.  With Katherine gone, it seemed a real possibility.  And in fact, in March, the emperor offered, in return for the legitimation of Mary, imperial support for “the continuance of this last matrimony or otherwise,” as Henry wished (Ives 312).  The deal didn’t work out, due to Henry’s refusal to acknowledge that anything about his first marriage—including Mary—was legitimate.  He was utterly committed to maintaining his own absolute right to the organization of his domestic affairs, and that meant both recognition of Anne as lawful wife and Mary as bastard.

Most scholars nowadays (with a couple of exceptions whom I’ll discuss elsewhere) believe, following Eric Ives, that Thomas Cromwell orchestrated the plot against Anne, without Henry’s instigation or encouragement.  Things had been brewing dangerously between him and Anne for some time, and by April, she probably knew that he had become friends with the Seymours and had also been sidling up to Chapuys.  On April 2, Anne had dared to make a public declaration of her opposition to his policies by approving of a sermon written by her almoner, John Skip, in which he compared Cromwell to Haman, the evil, Old Testament councilor.  The specific spur for the sermon was proposed legislation to confiscate the wealth of smaller monasteries, which was awaiting Henry’s consent and against which Anne was trying to generate public sentiment.  But by then, the enmity between Anne and Cromwell had become more global than one piece of legislation.           Still, as he told Chapuys, Cromwell felt more or less secure in Henry’s favor until a crucial meeting between the Ambassador and the King on April 18th, in which Henry, who had seemed to be in favor of the reconciliation with Rome which Cromwell had been negotiating with Chapuys, now revealed his true hand, and refused any negotiation that included recognition of his first marriage and Mary’s inclusion in the line of succession.  Cromwell was aghast at Henry’s stubbornness, as he had been working hard toward the rapprochement with the emperor, burned his bridges with France, and (because of his relationship with Chapuys) with Anne and her faction as well. Earlier in the day, it had seemed that some kind of warming between Chapuys and Anne was being orchestrated. Chapuys had been invited to visit Anne and kiss her hand—which he declined to do—then, was obliged to bow to her when she was thrust in his path during church services.  Later, at dinner, Anne loudly made remarks critical of France, which were carried back to Chapuys. But when after dinner, Henry took Chapuys to a window enclosure in his own room for a private discussion, he made it clear that he wouldn’t give.

“Far from the issue of April 1536 being ‘When will Anne go and how?’” Ives writes, “Henry was exploiting his second marriage to force Europe to accept that he had been right all along.” (315) Cromwell was furious, humiliated, and fearful that he had unexpectedly found himself on the wrong side of Henry’s plans. In a letter to Charles, Chapuys wrote about the April 18 meeting, and what he wrote suggests that what was already on high heat between Cromwell and Anne was about to boil over.  Chapuys reports that one reason why he would not “kiss or speak to the Concubine” and “refused to visit her until I had spoken to the King,” was because he had been told by Cromwell that the “she devil” (Chapuys’ appellation, not Cromwell’s) “was not in favor with the King” and that “I should do well to wait till I had spoken to the King.” Chapuys, London, 24 April 1536 (Venice Archives).

With the king still pushing for her recognition, Anne must have felt deceptively safe. On April 24, Henry writes a letter to Richard Pate, his ambassador in Rome, and to Gardiner and Wallop, his envoys in France, referring to “the likelihood and appearance that God will send us heirs male [by] our most dear and most entirely beloved wife, the Queen.” But something has already begun to seem wrong to Anne, who seeks out her chaplain, Matthew Parker on the 26th, and asks him to take care of Elizabeth, should anything happen to her. And in the days that follow, Chapuys is clearly (and gleefully) aware that plots are being hatched against Anne. He writes to Charles that there is much covert discussion, at court, as to whether or not “the King could or could not abandon the said concubine,” and that Nicholas Carew is “daily conspiring” against Anne, “trying to convince Miss Seymour and her friends to accomplish her ruin. Indeed, only four days ago the said Carew and certain gentlemen of the King’s chamber sent word to the Princess to take courage, for very shortly her rival would be dismissed.” When the bishop of London, John Stokesley, expressed skepticism, “knowing well the King’s fickleness” and fearful that should Anne be restored to favor, he would be in danger, Chapuys reassures him that the King “would certainly desert his concubine.”

In fact, after the April 18th meeting, Cromwell, claiming illness, had gone underground to begin an intense “investigation” into Anne’s conduct.  On April 23, he emerged, and had an audience with Henry. We have no record of what was said.  But many scholars believe that the illness was a ruse, that during his retreat he carefully plotted Anne’s downfall, and that what he told the king on April 23 were the deadly rumors about Anne that eventually led to her arrest and trial. The king, however—perhaps dissembling for public consumption, or perhaps unconvinced by what Cromwell has told him—was still planning to take Anne with him to Calais on May 4th, after the May Day jousts, and was still pressing Charles to acknowledge the validity of his marriage to Anne.   Then, on April 30th, Cromwell and his colleagues lay all the charges before Henry, and court musician Mark Smeaton is arrested.

Anne had no idea that Cromwell and Henry, that day, were meeting to discuss the “evidence” that Anne had engaged in multiple adulteries and acts of treason. That evening, while Smeaton was being interrogated (and probably tortured), there was even a ball at court at which “the King treated Anne as normal.” He may have been awaiting Smeaton’s confession, which didn’t come for 24 hours, to feel fully justified in abandoning the show of dutiful husband.  Although we don’t know for sure what message was given to Henry during the May Day tournaments, it was probably word of Smeaton’s confession, for he immediately got up and left. Anne, who had been sitting at his side, would never see him again; the very next day, as her dinner was being served to her, she was arrested and conducted to the Tower.

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Myth-Buster #2: How Eustace Chapuys Shaped the Story of the Decline of Henry and Anne’s Marriage

Eustace Chapuys as portrayed by Irish actor Anthony Brophy on The Tudors

Most non-historians, before Showtimes’ The Tudors introduced him to popular audiences, had never heard of Eustace Chapuys.  Those who had certainly did not think of him as a prominent figure in Tudor history—not like Wolsey or Cromwell, for example. Yet, amazingly, especially in light of his undisguised hatred of Anne, Chapuys is the man who has most shaped our image of her.  He has done so not directly, but via the historians and novelists who have accepted his reports as “biased” but accurate, and hardened them, over time, into “history.”

Eustace Chapuys  was just 30 years old when, in 1529,  he was sent to replace Don Inigo de Mendoza as ambassador of Emperor Charles V  at the court of Henry VIII.  Mendoza was known to be “hot-tempered” and “indiscreet” (Mattingly, 178), and Chapuys, a legal scholar and humanist enthusiast, was thought to be a better choice for Henry’s court.  As ambassador, Chapuys was both representative of the Emperor to Henry, and the main source of information about Henry to the Emperor and other Spanish officials.  His lengthy, anecdote-filled letters home offer the single most continuous portrait of the sixteen crisis-ridden years in which he served in his position, and biographers have relied on him heavily in their attempts to create a coherent narrative about the divorce from Catherine, the role of Anne Boleyn, and her relationship with Henry.  It’s easy to see why.  Chapuys clearly loved to write, he did so often, and he had a taste for juicy detail.  But he also had a horse in the race, for the Emperor was Catherine’s nephew, and Chapuys was, despite his humanist training, fiercely pro-Catholic.  He also hated all things French, and later in his life would threaten to disinherit a niece who planned to marry a Frenchman. (Mattingly, 184).  It’s difficult to imagine someone who would be less disposed to the dissolution of Henry’s marriage to Catherine, and more opposed to the marriage of Henry and Anne Boleyn, who was both sympathetic to reformist ideas and “more French than a Frenchwoman born.”

But Chapuys wasn’t just “opposed.”  He despised Anne with a passion that he didn’t even try to disguise, disgustedly referring to her in his official communications as “the concubine” and “that whore”—or, with polite disdain, “The Lady.” Accordingly, Elizabeth was “the little bastard.” He accused Anne of plotting to murder Catherine and Mary—without a shred of proof beyond a few reported outbursts of Anne’s—and was the first to advance the argument that she was responsible for Henry’s “corruption.” (“It is this Anne,” Chapuys wrote, “who has put Henry in this perverse and wicked temper.” P. 484, Starkey)  Chapuys also took every opportunity to contrast “the people’s” hatred of Anne with their great love of Catherine.  When Henry had Katherine removed from court,

“All the neighborhood assembled to see her and pay her honor; and it is incredible what affection has been shown to her along the whole route.  Notwithstanding that it has been forbidden on pain of death to call her Queen, they shouted it out at the top of their voices, wishing her joy, repose, and prosperity, and confusion to her enemies.  They begged her with hot tears to set them to work and employ them in her service, as they were ready to die for the love of her.” (July 30, 1533)

The contrast is almost Hollywood-ready: the sullen, disrespectful observers of Anne’s procession; the cheering throngs, ready to die for their true Queen as she was led away from her rightful throne.

How accurate were Chapuys’ reports?  It’s almost impossible to say in the (many) cases in which he is the sole reporter of events.

Katherine of Aragon

But what is clear is that his interests were served by painting the worst picture possible of Anne, and that he worked hard to construct it.  He had an informal network of “conservative” (i.e. pro-Roman, pro-Katherine, pro-Imperial) nobles who would meet with him secretly to convey the latest anti-Anne gossip, which he then relayed to the Emperor as “word from a trustworthy source.”  And although there is no evidence that he played a direct role in the plot to charge Anne with treason, he “carefully watched all courtly signs of rejection leading up to her fall and exerted small pushes of encouragement, particularly with Cromwell.” (Lundell, p. 77), and declared it “wonderful” when she was arrested. (to Charles, May 2, 1536)  Chapuys was even willing to foment war between England and Spain if that was the only way to get Anne out of the picture and (as he saw it), keep Catharine and Mary out of harm’s way and restore relations between Henry and Rome:

“Englishmen, high and low,” he wrote to Charles, “desire your majesty to send an army to destroy the venomous influence of the Lady and her adherents, and reform the realm…When this accursed Anne has her foot in the stirrup, she will do the Queen and the Princess all the harm she can.  She boasts that she will have the Princess in her own train; one day, perhaps, she will poison her, or will marry her to some varlet, while the realm itself will be made over to heresy. “ (April 10, 1533)

Chapuys “bias” against Anne (if that mild word can do it justice) is obvious in every communication, from the very start of his service.  Even more strikingly, until Chapuys’s arrival, the Collected Letters and Papers of Henry VIII contain no seriously negative personal reports about Anne (beyond a few swipes at her appearance by Sanuto.)  As soon as Chapuys arrived, however, “Madam Anne” became “the concubine,” and everything that the pro-Catherine forces saw as dishonorable in Henry’s behavior became the fault of Anne’s “perverse and malicious nature.” (30th July, 1533.) “It is she who now rules over, and governs the nation; the King dares not contradict her,” he wrote to Charles in November of 1535—an extraordinary (and unbelievable) statement which paints the formidable Henry as nothing more than a pussy-whipped hubby.

It is Chapuys, too, who is largely responsible for our ideas about the decline of Anne and Henry’s relationship. In a letter of Sept 3, 1533—just a few days before Elizabeth was born, he reports how Anne, “full of jealousy, and not without cause, used some words to the King at which he was displeased, and told her she must shut her eyes, and endure as well as more worthy persons, and that she ought to know that it was in his power to humble her again in a moment more than he had exalted her.”  This speech has made its way into virtually every later biography, historical fiction, and film, probably due to its foreboding nature in light of later events, and because it signals such a startling turnaround in Henry’s treatment of Anne.  But irresistibly drama-friendly as it is, there’s little corroboration for it.  Chapuys never explains the “not without cause” nor how he happened to be present at this argument (if indeed he was; many of his reports are attributed to un-named sources.)  His real purpose in “reporting” the incident (which even he admitted was a “lover’s quarrel”) is revealed at the end of the letter, when he adds that “many who know the King’s disposition consider [such quarrels] a very favorable commencement for the recall of the Queen [Katherine]” Chapuys was always working this angle with Charles and, when he could, orchestrating anti-Anne sentiment and activity around Henry’s court.

It’s true that it was not uncommon for Henry to graze when his Queens were pregnant.  No-one knows for sure how many of these flirtations were innocent, “courtly” play, and how many were actual physical involvements. We do know that he had sexual mistresses when he was married to Katherine, and now that any motive to remain chaste for Anne was gone—he’d won the prize, and it was no longer necessary to play the devoted swain, or to avoid possible pregnancies with other women—why should it be any different?  But whether Henry’s affairs were physical or not, what seems hugely unlikely is that he would chastise Anne so harshly when she was so far along in her pregnancy, especially this long-awaited pregnancy, which all the stars and seers had predicted would result in a boy.  Even during her final pregnancy, when hopes were not nearly so high, he seems to have been careful with Anne.  When she purportedly caught the King with Jane Seymour on his knee and “flew into a frenzy,” the King, “seeing his wife hysterical and fearing for their child, sent Jane out of the room and hastened to placate Anne. ‘Peace be, sweetheart, and all shall go well with thee,’ he soothed.”  Although the reporters of this incident, too, are not very trustworthy (Weir says they came by way of a chain of reports, one passed on to the next, by various ladies at the court), this behavior sounds more like Henry’s modus operandi (utter some soothing words, then do what you want) than a king who would risk upsetting a very pregnant wife.

Will the real Eustace Chapuys please stand up?

It is Chapuys, too, who claimed, in a letter to Charles, that the birth of a daughter was “to the great regret both of him and the lady,” and filled Anne and Henry with nothing but “great disappointment and sorrow.” He goes on to write that “it must be concluded that God has entirely abandoned the king, and left him prey to his own misfortune, and to his obstinate blindness, that he may be punished and completely ruined.” This reported reaction, although challenged by historians, has been firmly installed—and embellished—in the popular mythology about Elizabeth’s birth, particularly in the novels.  Paul Rival: “A girl! …She heard the whispers of her attendants and Henry’s protests and thought to herself: ‘If only I could die!’” Nora Lofts:  “It was a girl…She knew she had failed, and willed herself away, welcoming the enveloping darkness.”(279) Philippa Gregory has an angry Anne pushing the baby away: “A daughter? What use is a daughter to me?” Anne of the Thousand Days depicts Henry as furious, at Elizabeth’s birth; The Tudors portrays him as cold and grim. But historians, too, have played their part, often taking it as highly significant that prepared documents, announcing the birth of a prince, were hastily altered with an added “s.”  Antonia Fraser says this “attests to the surprise and displeasure” caused by the birth.

Surprise, yes.  And undoubtedly, disappointment.  But was the birth of Elizabeth really the “heavy blow” that David Starkey claims? Eric Ives, the most careful of scholars, writes that there is “no evidence of the crushing psychological blow that some have supposed.” (184)  Anne had had a hard pregnancy, and “Henry’s predominant emotion was relief.”  In those days, merely to give birth to a healthy, living child was, after all, quite an accomplishment. What “The Tudors” has Henry saying is true to the material realities of the time: “This time a girl. But we are young and healthy and by the grace of God boys will follow.” But JRM say it with such a pinched look on his face, we take it as forced. The fact is that Anne having given birth to a healthy infant the first time around portended very well for the future, especially after Katherine’s many miscarriages.

Here again, we have to consider the original source.  In the same letter in which Chapuys tells Charles of Elizabeth’s birth, he reports that “the people” were “glad” that the King and Anne had a daughter rather than a son (which seems highly unlikely) and that “the new child is to be “called Mary, like the Princess; which title, I hear in many quarters, will be taken from the true princess and given to her.”  This (completely false) rumor pleases Chapuys enormously, for “defrauding the said Princess of her title” will “augment” the “indignation of the people, both small and great, which grows every day.”  This, of course, was an “indignation” that Chapuys tried to inflame every chance he got, for he was well aware (as he tells Charles in the same letter) that “it may cool in time, so that it should be used in season.”  It was also in his interests to convince Charles (who was Katherine’s nephew as well as the head of the Holy Roman Empire) that, despite appearances, getting rid of Anne was still a real possibility.  After Katherine died, his efforts to keep Katherine’s cause alive shifted to the restoration of Princess Mary’s claim to the throne, and his case against Anne became focused on her “plots” to murder Mary.  He was also an active and eager reporter—and possibly a participant—of later match-making between the King and Jane Seymour, who Chapuys knew would support Mary’s claim.  He is about as far from a reliable source on the activities of the ruling administration as Rush Limbaugh was when the Clintons were in power.

We must do more analytical “work” with the original documents than simply reporting what is recorded.

It’s particularly important, when dealing with a sequence of events that is not very well chronicled in the original documents but highly interpreted and dramatized both by historians and in pop culture, that we do more analytical “work” with the original documents than simply reporting what is recorded. The many reports that Henry and Anne were in trouble from the beginning of the marriage, for example, invariably turned out to be rumors which, by virtue of their vacillating nature, show how untrustworthy the reports of those who were eager to see Anne out of the picture were. In December 1533, Chapuys reported that despite the disappointment of Elizabeth’s birth, the King is “enthralled” with Anne; that “she has so enchanted and bewitched him that he will not dare say or do anything against her will and commands.”  (Chapuys, of course, isn’t happy about this, which is the most compelling reason for believing him here.  He was usually quick to report any loss of the king’s favor for Anne.) In September of 1534, Count Cifuentes wrote Charles that another ambassador had “heard in France that Ana Boulans had in some way or other incurred the Royal displeasure, and was rather in disgrace with the King, who was paying court to another lady.” By October 3, Cifuentes had corrected himself, writing that the idea that Anne and the King were on bad terms was “a hoax.” However, his colleague, Alferez must not have been aware of this recantation, because on Oct 18, he reported that “…the King no longer loved her as before.  The King, moreover, was paying court to another lady, and several lords in the kingdom were helping him that they might separate him from Anne’s company.”

But whether or not Henry was involved, relatively early on, with someone else (“Who was this new flame?” Ives asks, skeptically), the quarrels don’t appear to amount to anything until Jane Seymour enters the picture. Anne had her outbursts, Henry had his, but they had many more “merry” times, reported throughout the collected papers, and both had to have been well aware that no royal relationship could ride on the twists and turns of passion.  If that had been the case, Henry would have sought to divorce Katherine long before he did, instead of waiting until he had become convinced that she was no longer capable of providing an heir.  And kings—not even narcissistic Henry—didn’t get rid of Queens just because they had the occasional jealous outburst. Katherine, too, despite her reputation as the all-accepting, patient Griselda, had had her own vocal quarrels with the King, when he first began to seek the sexual company of other women.  It was to be expected, for everyone knew that women were weak and ruled by their passions.  But ultimately, once the shouting and weeping were over, the Queen was required to accept and obey.

This was hard for Anne.  Whatever the nature of her romantic or sexual feelings for Henry, Anne was used to being the pursued darling for six years, and now was expected to behave like a wife.  That included accepting his occasional flirtations, innocent and not, something she apparently found difficult to do.  She admitted this herself, in her speech at her trial in 1536: “I confess,” she said, “ I have had jealous fancies and suspicions of him, which I had not discretion enough, and wisdom, to conceal at all times.”  Whether her jealousy was because she was in love with Henry, or was fearful of being supplanted as Queen, or simply her pride rebelling, we don’t know.  But it led to a number of public quarrels, followed by amorous reconciliations  (“sunshine and storms” is how Ives describes the years between 1533-36,) both of which provided fodder for Anne’s enemies to paint a picture of her as shrewish, Henry as either hen-pecked or philandering depending on the weather, and the relationship tottering.

It was largely propaganda. If you put all the documentation of the “thousand days” that Henry and Anne were married in chronological order–—the letters, the gossip, the various ambassadors’ reports—it’s a script with a gaping hole if what you think you are reading is a love story in which declining passion and jealousy play the major role.  For there is no evidence that either of these, although they may have contributed, was the tipping point that turned Anne’s fate around.  What turned the cherished, hotly pursued consort into the lady in the tower, awaiting her execution, did not belong primarily to the realm of emotions, but to the gathering of a “perfect storm” of political, personal, and biological events, the absence of any one of which might have resulted in things turning out very differently for Anne.

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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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