Elizabeth I, Ermine Portrait by Nicholas Hilliard
Elizabeth I, Ermine Portrait by Nicholas Hilliard

On 7th September 1533, at three o’clock in the afternoon and less than two weeks after she had taken to her chamber, Henry VIII’s second wife, Anne Boleyn, gave birth to her first child at Greenwich Palace (Palace of Placentia). The baby was a daughter and was “a beautiful infant with natural coloring […] beautiful perfection”,1 and the couple named her Elizabeth.

Although the pregnancy appears to have been difficult at times, with Lancelot de Carles writing that the King even wished the baby dead because of the pain Anne suffered, the birth itself was “without trouble” and “without extreme distress”2 and although the baby was not the expected boy, the couple must have been relieved that they had a living child. Anne had had a letter prepared giving thanks to God for sending her “good speed, in the deliverance and bringing forth of a prince”, so an ‘s’ was added. The celebratory jousts for a prince were cancelled, for it was traditional for celebrations for the birth of a princess to be low-key, but a herald proclaimed the good news, the Chapel Royal choristers sang a Te Deum and a lavish christening was planned. The birth had shown that Anne could carry a baby to term so there was plenty to celebrate.

Of course, this baby girl would become Queen Elizabeth I, “Gloriana” and the “Virgin Queen” and you can read more about her reign and her achievements in an article I wrote on the Elizabeth Files – click here.

Click here to read more about Anne Boleyn the mother.


  1. Ascoli, Georges, La Grande-Bretagne Devant L’opinion Française Depuis La Guerre de Cent Ans Jusqu’à La Fin Du XVIe Siècle, 233–34, De la Royne d’Angleterre, Lancelot de Carles, lines 171 and 173. Translated by Susan Walters Schmid in “Anne Boleyn, Lancelot de Carle, and the Use of Documentary Evidence”, Dissertation, ARIZONA STATE UNIVERSITY, December 2009.
  2. Ibid., lines 157 and 169.

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6 thoughts on “7 September 1533 – Queen Anne Boleyn gives birth to a daughter”
  1. It’s good to see it pointed out that the celebratory jousts were cancelled not because the King was so disappointed that Elizabeth was not the expected boy, but that the joists were typical celebrations for the birth of a prince but not a princess. Similarly, it is often said while the baby was named for both of her grandmothers – Anne’s mother Elizabeth Howard Boleyn and Elizabeth of York, the long-deceased mother Henry worshipped – King Henry did not attend Elizabeth’s christening out of pique, when in fact it was not custom for parents to attend a royal christening; Henry did not attend Edward’s christening for the same reason.

    It shows how too often facts can be twisted to suit agendas. Elizabeth’s birth was celebrated with all due pomp and both parents were happy to have a healthy child, and had every expectation that she would be the first of several with the next child hopefully being the longed-for prince. To Henry and Anne, that she was born healthy was a sign that their marriage was blessed and they had done the right thing, no matter how opponents of the marriage wanted to imply otherwise.

  2. I am confident that the impression of Anne and Henry being disappointed with the fact that Elizabeth was not a boy comes from screen and drama. Henry and Anne doted on her, she was cared for and had all the honours of a treasured royal child, her own household, a splendid baptism, and Anne displayed Elizabeth on a cushion at her side when she took audiences. She had a good education, that more for a male than a woman, she was praised by her father and tutors, she inherited both sides of both parents, and she was so like Anne Boleyn that it was said Henry found looking at her hard to take. Elizabeth was given the classic Education of a prince, as Mary would have been given, and Holbein made many things for her birth and baptism. Even Henry expressed pride in Elizabeth. The fact that both parents had poured all of their hopes and dreams into this child being a son was bound to give them something of a shock when she emerged female. However, this initial feeling was soon dispersed by Elizabeth being healthy.

    1. One can be severely disappointed at the gender of a child and still come to love the child. I think it’s rather ridiculous to suggest that under those circumstances they were anything but disappointed.

      1. There is no evidence to support this idea, but it is not impossible. Any disappointment was quickly forgotten as both parents, especially Anne doted on Elizabeth and she was the King’s pride and joy, despite his later pretence that Elizabeth was anything but his. Anne brought the child to audiances, she had her next to her until the day that she was sent to her own establishment. Even then, evidence shows that Anne and Henry missed her and saw as much of her as possible. Henry probably gained a reality check, his education of his daughters belies any disappointment with their sex. Of course he felt that a son would follow, but the initial reaction was anything but disappointment.

  3. In Tudor times, people saw the hand of G-d behind events. A son would be taken as showing divine approval of Henry’s actions. That the first child was born healthy does give Anne a point over Katherine of Aragon (whose first pregnancy was a miscarriage), but the end result … a daughter each …was the same. Elizabeth’s birth did not provide the same evidence that a son would have provided that G-d approved of what Henry did so he could marry Anne.

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