26 August 1533 – Anne Boleyn prepares for childbirth

Anne_Boleyn_by_Hans_Holbein_the_YoungerOn Tuesday 26th August 1533, Queen Anne Boleyn ‘took’ to her chamber to prepare for the birth of her first child, who would, of course, be the future Queen Elizabeth I.

Chronicler Edward Hall records that in the summer of 1533 “the kyng kept his progresse about London, because of the Quene”1 and we know from contemporary records that carpenters carried out work on Greenwich Palace to prepare the Queen’s chambers for her confinement. Eric Ives notes in his book on Anne that “details of the arrangements were handed on from one royal confinement to the next”2 with William Mountjoy, Catherine of Aragon’s lord chamberlain, writing to Thomas Cromwell on 24th July:

“I send you certain remembrances of things to be provided against the Queen’s taking her chamber, of which I had experience when I occupied the room.”3

On 19th August 1533, George Taylor, Anne Boleyn’s receiver general, wrote to Lady Lisle in Calais of the arrangements for the queen’s confinement:

“The King and Queen are in good health and merry. On Thursday next they will come by water from Windsor to Westminster, and on Tuesday following to Greenwich, where the Queen intends to take her chamber.”4

Anne did indeed take to her chamber on that Tuesday and you can read more about this in my article from 2013 – click here.

Notes and Sources

  1. Hall, Edward (1809) Hall’s chronicle: containing the history of England, during the reign of Henry the Fourth, and the succeeding monarchs, to the end of the reign of Henry the Eighth, in which are particularly described the manners and customs of those periods. Carefully collated with the editions of 1548 and 1550, J. Johnson, p. 805.
  2. Ives, Eric (2004) The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn, Wiley-Blackwell, p.184.
  3. Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, Volume VI, 890.
  4. Ibid., 1004.

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6 thoughts on “26 August 1533 – Anne Boleyn prepares for childbirth”
  1. Anne seemed to have been quite healthy during her pregnancy and she coped marvellously well during her coronation, she had to endure the hot summer months and presiding over the banquets and attending church, court functions etc, all the things queen consorts were expected to do and she was pregnant to, then she prepared for the lying in, this ceremony has an almost mystical air about it, an all woman’s domain in a beautiful chamber with all the luxuries you can imagine, beautiful hangings and gold and silver plates, elegant candles flickering in the dusk and the soft murmur of voices which barred men and even the King till the baby was born, the precautions they took to ensure the mother and baby were as comfortable as possible and had the very best care was wonderful. Anne must have felt both elated and frightened, everything was going well for her, then Elizabeth was born and she was healthy, I don’t believe Anne and Henry were too bothered about the sex of the child as she was strong and healthy and was proof that Anne could bear children, so more would follow, she had fallen pregnant easily and had recovered well though she did fall victim to an illness which they called at the time, white leg fever, possibly her legs swelled up due to circulation problems, maybe the birth caused varicose veins which are a problem, my mum after having my sister and me suffered from that, but Anne was up and about in a week or two and both she and the King made a right fuss of their new baby, there was no cloud on the horizon at this time yet Eric Ives did say that the birth of Elizabeth did undermine Anne’s position as she wasn’t the son Anne had promised Henry, at this moment in time though like all parents I believe the excitement of the new baby was enough for them both and they just enjoyed cooing over her in the cradle.

  2. The idea of being in a room with lovely comfortable tapestries, bedding, carpets, luxury covers and wine and spices, having your every wish attended to sounds great, the idea was to protect the mother and baby and ensure that she was well cared for, but the windows were also shut and covered, save one for air and light, which in the heat and humidity of what sounds like a hot August the room would be stuffy and shuffling. The fires were also lit. For s winter birth all this would be welcomed, but for a summer birth the mother must have been very glad when their confinement was over and they could escape from their womb like room. What did you do for exercise? Did these rooms have any outside door to the garden? Being so restricted, it’s a wonder that the poor mother did not develop a thrombosis through lack of exercise.

    1. Yes in the winter it would have been marvellously cosy but in the summer it must have been awful, however her ladies I should imagine would bathe her brow with damp cool linen and I should imagine she only wore very loose shift like garments, possibly it wasn’t as stifling as we imagine after all the castles and buildings they lived in were cold, not having central heating to warm up the stones and bricks, I don’t know about the queens bathing rituals but she possibly had nice long soaks in scented water whilst sipping wine,( I tend to do that myself as it’s extremely soothing) along with scented candles and the whole atmosphere has a very relaxing ambience about it, so I should imagine Anne and future queens of England had a very relaxing time when they took to their birthing chamber, apart from the fact that after several weeks of just being in women only company ennui would have set in, and Anne enjoyed male company so much she was lucky she only had two weeks of it.

      1. Hi Christine, yes it does have some appeal, yes, the buckles and buttons and stays were all loosened and all ornaments and belts or girdles removed to allow for a better birth and less restrictions. Anything that could get in the way was also removed and in the later stages women were open laced with huge bellies. You are not going to be shy in those days, but a month with a lot of female company, in one place, may be restful but it would drive me mad. The idea behind the birthing chamber and the withdrawal was quiet and to protect the mother from illness and noise and frightening visions which might harm the child, was quiet and warm and the rich tapestries had pictures to help with calm the mother. The colours are also relaxing so hopefully this gave the mother the best chance of a safe birth in the days when childbirth could claim the life of both mother and child. The mortality rates must have been high as a number of men married numerous times.

  3. I like the image you used for this post! I am of the opinion that this Holbein sketch was done of Anne in her chamber, before the birth of Elizabeth.

  4. It could well be Lesli, she looks likes she’s put on some weight her chin is quite fleshy, therefore it could well be painted when she was heavily pregnant.

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