Natalie Dormer as Anne BoleynOn the evening of Shrove Tuesday, 4th March 1522,* Anne Boleyn played the part of Perseverance at the pageant of “The Château Vert” at York Place, her first recorded public appearance at court since her return from France. Edward Hall records the pageant in his chronicle:

“On shrouetewesdaie at night, thesaid Cardinall to the kyng and ambassadors made another supper, and after supper thei came into a great chamber hanged with Arras, and there was a clothe of estate, and many braunches, and on euery braunche. xxxii. torchettes of waxe, and in the nether ende of thesame chamber was a castle, in which was a principall Tower, in which was a Cresset burning: and two other lesse Towers stode on euery side, warded
and embattailed, and on euery Tower was a banner, one banner was of iii. rent hartes, the other was a ladies hand gripyng a mans harte, the third banner was a ladies hand turnyng a mannes hart: this castle was kept with ladies of straunge names, the first Beautie, the second Honor, the third Perseueraunce, the fourth Kyndnes, the fifth Constance, the sixte Bountie, the seuenthe Mercie, and the eight Pitie: these eight ladies had Millian gounes of white sattin, euery Lady had her name embraudered with golde, on their heddes calles, and Millein bonettes of gold, with Iwelles. Vnder nethe the basse fortresse of the castle were other eight ladies, whose names were, Dangier, Disdain, Gelousie, Vnkyndenes, Scorne, Malebouche, Straungenes, these ladies were tired like to women of Inde.

Then entered eight Lordes in clothe of golde cappes and all, and great mantell clokes of blewe sattin, these lordes were named. Amorus, Noblenes, Youth, Attendance, Loyaltie, Pleasure, Gentlenes, and Libertie, the kyng was chief of this compaignie, this compainie was led by one all in crimosin sattin with burnyng flames of gold, called Ardent
Desire, whiche so moued the Ladies to geue ouer the Castle, but Scorne and Disdain saied they would holde the place, then Desire saied the ladies should be wonne and came and encoraged the knightes, then the lordes ranne to the castle, (at whiche tyme without was shot a greate peale of gunnes) and the ladies defended the castle with Rose water and Comfittes and the lordes threwe in Dates and Orenges, and other fruites made for pleasure but at the last the place was wonne, but Lady Scorne and her compaignie stubbernely defended them with boows and balles, till they were dnuen out of the place and fled. Then the lordes toke the ladies of honor as prisoners by the handes, and brought them doune, and daunced together verie pleasauntly, which much pleased the straungers, and when thei had
daunced their fill then all these disuisered themselfes and wer knowen: and then was there a costlv banket, and when all was done, the straungiers tooke their leaue of the king and the Cardinal and so departed into Flaunders, geuyng to the kyng muche commendacion.”

The King’s sister, Mary Tudor, Queen of France, played Beauty, the Countess of Devonshire played Honour, Jane Parker (later Boleyn) played Constancy, Mary Boleyn played Kindness and Anne Boleyn played Perseverance.

Wouldn’t you have loved to see this pageant?!

Although “The Tudors” series used this pageant as the event where Henry first laid eyes on Anne Boleyn, it is not known exactly when Henry noticed Anne at court and their relationship is usually dated to early 1526.

Tip: If you have trouble with the spelling in Hall’s account, just read it aloud.

It was also on this day that Henry VIII rode out at the Shrovetide joust with the motto “Elle mon Coeur a navera”, or “She has wounded my Heart”, and a picture of a wounded heart embroidered on the trappings of his horse. Although historians often connect this event to the start of Henry VIII’s relationship with Mary Boleyn, Anne Boleyn’s sister, there is no way of knowing who this motto was aimed at.


*Eric Ives dates the Shrovetide celebrations as starting on 1st March 1522, hence my original dating of this event to 1st, but I’ve since found that the pageant actually took place on 4th March. Edward Hall has an entry for 3rd March and then his account of the pageant.

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18 thoughts on “4th March 1522 – Anne Boleyn Plays Perseverance”
  1. It is hard to imagine Henry NOT noticing Anne as soon as she arrived in court. Despite some of her detractors, who likened her to Nanny McPhee (in modern parlance), she had to be at least attractive enough to have drawn Henry’s notice (she certainly had Henry Percy’s attention!) and then stolen his heart completely (inadvertently?) when he became aware of her wit, humor, sophistication, and charm.

  2. Anne has been described as both lovely and beautiful as well as unattractive and deformed depending on who was asked and their allegiances lie. It is also important to keep in mind that beauty is subjective, in the eye of the beholder and that the medieval standard of beauty differs far from our modern one. Based on history we can guess that she was likely not deformed or as unattractive as her detractors would have us believe. I personally think her physical attractiveness has little to do with anything and I will explain why.

    Let us say Anne was quite physically attractive and that is what first drew the King. Having a pretty face may open the door but having just a pretty face and nothing else will not keep you in the room. A pretty face with no character to back it becomes boring quickly, more so when the King had been repeated denied the physical relationship he obviously wanted.

    Let us now say that Anne was homely. So if it were not a pretty face that first attracted the King it had to be something else that made her stand out.

    By all accounts of Anne which I’ve read she was well educated, intelligent, witty, charming, strong, and self confident. I believe it is these qualities in her that made the King notice and desire her just as much, if not more so, than her physical beauty. (It can be hard to rectify that with the modern portrayals of Anne by such beauties as Natalie Dormer. For what King would not fall head over heals for a woman of wit, charm, intellect, piety, confidence and stunning beauty!) So personally I think the question of her beauty is a moot point. It may have opened a door but it wasn’t what kept her at the party!

    1. Hi, Debbie. From what I know of the Tudor age, it was the blonde, blue-eyed or green-eyed–well, anyway, “light-eyed”–women with “pale” (creamy?) skin who were generally believed to be great beauties–as you said, “taste” in what is beautiful is constantly changing. Her sister Mary and Jane Seymour were the “popular” ideas of beauty tin the England of the mid-1500’s. Anyway, Anne was dark-haired (a dark brunette or black, depending on whom you read) with “dark” eyes (some shade of brown?–btw, although I think Natalie Dormer did an amazing job as Anne in THE TUDORS,Ms. Dormer has blue eyes, which is not historical, but then again, Rhys-what’s his name is not a “carbon copy” of Henry VIII either, thought he also, I think, captured the essence of what we know of the man) and what is referred to by her detractors as “sallow” skin, which I think just means that she had an “olive” or “tanned” glow–like a brush of bronzer today.

    2. Debby,

      while i agree there must have been more that just a pretty face that kept the King so interested that he was enamored with her (reportedly) for the entire 6 years that he courted her before he was able to marry her, but i am not convinced that it was her wit, learning, and intelligence that is what kept him interested for so long.

      1.) from what we know about Henry’s other mistress’ qualities (and there were probably much fewer than The Tudors shows and what most people commonly believe since he was married so many times) but none of the rest of his dalliances and wives were known to be strong, independent, or all that educated. Here i believe you are mixing up what many people find attractive in women in modern times. The standard both of beauty and character were very different then and very few men would have relished a woman who was smart, educated, certainly strong will and independence would be a detriment and not a selling point, and based on Henry’s other woman folk (yes his last wife Catherine Parr was known to be quite intelligent, especially in matters of the new religion on which she wrote and published not one, but two books, but remember, her outspokeness on matters of religion and her love of debating matters of religion with him almost cost her the head she had too. In fact Henry had even signed the arrest warrant for her to be at least questioned if not tried, the only thing that saved her was that she found out about the warrant before it was able to be deliver and she only narrowly escaped by ingratiating and debasing herself, her intelligence, and telling him she was just a poor stupid woman who knew no better and that she only brought up such matters to be corrected by him who knew so much more that her and so that she might possibly gain some of his superior knowledge. It does not seem that he liked the intelligence and strength of her mind either.) It appears based on records of the other women that Henry was involved in that he was NOT attracted to these characteristics.

      I think what most likely held his attention and compelled him to go through so much trouble to get Anne Boleyn into he bed (he spent 6 years trying to get Catherine to agree to an annulment, put to death men who stood in his way, moved to what many considered heresy of the new religion which he was known to openly heartily disagree with along with his denigration and loathing of Luther, he had in the past published tracts on the evil of the new religion and was even named a Defender of the Faith by the Pope himself so ” tearing asunder of the seamless coat of St. Peter ” and separating England as a whole from the rest of Christendom and suffering of excommunication would only have been done in the most extreme of circumstance. I believe that Henry was driven by more than a liking of a woman of intelligence.

      Henry was known to be a very avid hunter, impeccable sportsman, and lets face it, an extremely selfish and spoiled child. He hated to love, both at the hunt and in any sort of competition from cards to the joust. What he wanted, he demanded to have and no one would have rest until he did. His principle advisor, Cardinal Wolsey spent an enormous fortune on the building of he grandest palace for himself, Hampton Court. But when Henry saw it and beheld that it was the newest, biggest, and most modern palace in the kingdom he had to have it for himself. Wolsey had no choice if he wanted to remain in favor but to hand it over to the King as a gift.

      Personally i believe that he didnt pursue Anne with such a vengeance for her modern qualities or beauty but more because he was denied somethings and for his compulsion of hunting. Anne supposedly denied him her sex claiming it to be her virtue to give to her husband and after she was soiled by the King then she would have no chance of a good marriage (the King’s previous lovers had been married off after he lost interest, but none of them were to all that high of a marriage and if Anne was anything she held a momentous ambition.)So not only was he denied her bed, but Katherine refused to step aside and allow Henry his hearts desire by marrying Anne. The he was denied his desire by Wolsey claiming he couldnt grand the annulment without the Pope’s agreement, then by the Papal Legate who traveled to England to hear the manner (Cardinal Campeggio also claimed to need the Pope’s expressed views before deciding), then by the Pope himself. I think he was these factors that drove Henry to continue after Anne with such fervor and for so long.

      Finally when he did get his hearts desire and was wedded to Anne three is evidence that within a single year he was already looking for a way to get rid of Anne because she was want to argue with him, not biddable enough, and did not demure just to give a few reasons. He probably only did not do away with her at that point because all of his advisors, even those who had been against the marriage to begin with thought that it would be a terrible move and give satisfaction to the rumors that he had married her not just for honorable reasons but because he was driven by lust and less savory motives (if begetting a legitimate son and the good of the realm was the only reason then he would have stayed married to her and continued to keep trying to have a son, she had only been able or even only could have been able to bear on child in that time and even with it being a girl that proved that she was fertile and that she should have been able to have a son just as easily). I believe it was the chase and his own desire to have anything he wanted and to get anything he was denied by any means necessary that had much more of an attraction to him that her wit and intelligence since those very same qualities were the complaints he had of her after marrying her and the fact that his next consort was overly demure and the next bride of his choice (Katherine Howard) was known to be quite young, naive and basically stupid.

      1. Hi, Cera,

        Great post, and totally agree with you!

        I have always been surprised at Anne’s promise to Henry that she would deliver him a son. For an intelligent woman, it was a foolish thing to say, although given her determination, chutzpah, and “perserverance,” I get it.

      2. Kathryn Howard was young, yes, possibly sixteen or seventeen at the time of her marriage, she may even have been naive, but she certainly wasn’t stupid. She was raised in the same type of household as many other noble young and even a number of her own relatives. There is no evidence to support ideas about her being stupid or uneducated. She was raised to marry well and run a large household. Her actions may be seen as foolish but that doesn’t make her stupid. See Gareth Russell. Young, Damned and Fair, the most detailed and scholarly biography of Kathryn around.

    3. Debbie, George Cavendish, who knew her and did not have a reason to like her – called her “gorgeous”. So there’s that. 😉

  3. I love all the games Henry obviously enjoyed playing–disguises, little plays, music. What a performer! I imagine Anne must have had some physical charms to have been selected to play a part at all since she was new at court. And I agree with Debbie, her looks may have gotten the first attention but there was a lot more to her than that. Plus, I do think she had sex appeal–and that is not about looks but something more…

    1. Certainly to be selected in such an extravagant production as described here, Anne would have had to measure-up in dancing ability, courtly manners, and attractiveness that would be appreciated by the King.

  4. “blewe sattin” – I do so love the spelling variations! I’m not sure why they tickle me so, but they do.

    And in the category of “Life Imitating Pageantry” I think most would agree, Anne Boleyn as the figure of Perseverance is the clear winner.

  5. Thank you for the article, I never knew that that particular part of ‘The Tudors’ was actually at least partly true. I also find it lovely that Anne played the part of Lady Perseverance – she certainly possessed that particular virtue 🙂

  6. Even though it doesn’t fit in this category, but I..well..there is a woman who keeps saying that she is Anne reincarnated. That’s nuts. She talks about her real birth date and all that stuff. Do you believe that?

  7. I would certainly love to see this pageant!! As well as Anne’s coronation later on.. Those spectacles must have been lavish and soo impressive!

  8. If this was her famous first public appearence in 1522, then how come she did not become his mistress until 1526?

  9. Clair,
    On this post you say that King Henry went to the Shrove joust on THIS day but in another post you said it was two days before?

    1. Sorry about the confusion, it’s due to different dates being mentioned in the primary sources – see the note in the article above.

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