A Gift Fit for a King – Anne Boleyn’s New Year Gift to Henry VIII

Posted By on December 22, 2010

Anne Boleyn's Gift to Henry VIII, a table fountain designed by Holbein

Giving gifts at Christmas is a relatively modern phenomenon, even here in Spain the gifts come from the Three Kings on the eve of Epiphany rather than from Santa on Christmas Eve. In Tudor times, gifts were given at New Year and I thought you might be interested in the following:-

January 1533 (the same month that Anne and Henry secretly married)

“Warrant under the King’s sign manual to Cromwell, master of the Jewels, to deliver to the lady of Pembroke [Anne Boleyn] these parcels of gilt plate, late of Sir Henry Guldeford, controller of the Household :—2 gilt pots with round knobs behind the lids, which came to Sir Henry as executor to Sir William Compton, weighing 133 oz. ; a pair of gilt flagons with the arms of France, 147 oz. ; 6 gilt bowls without a cover, 200½oz. ; 3 gilt salts with a cover of Parres touch,” which belonged to Sir Will. Compton, 77 oz. ; 12 gilt spoons with demi-knops at the end, 18 oz. ; a pair of parcel-gilt pots, 99½ oz. ; another, 97¾ oz. ; another, 71 oz. ; 6 parcel-gilt bowls without cover, 199¼ oz. ; the cover of the same, 19¾ oz. ; a basin and ewer, parcel-gilt, 77 oz. ; another basin and ewer, parcel-gilt, 64 oz. ; 11 white spoons with roses at the ends, 20¼ oz. ; 4 candles, white, with high sockets, 86½ oz. ; “a round bason of silver for a chamber, and a silver pot to the same, weighing together 138½ oz.” ; and a chafing dish, parcel-gilt, 39¾ oz. “And that ye make entry of the foresaid parcels of plate into our book of Extra for the rather noticing the same hereafter.” Greenwich, 1 Jan. 24 Hen. VIII.”1

Wow, Henry was spoiling Anne wasn’t he, although I think I might have preferred jewels to gilt and silver bowls!

January 1534, Queen Anne Boleyn’s gift to Henry VIII

“By the Queen. A goodly gilt bason, having a rail or board of gold in the midst of the brim, garnished with rubies and pearls, wherein standeth a fountain, also having a rail of gold about it garnished with diamonds; out thereof issueth water, at the teats of three naked women standing at the foot of the same fountain.”2

Anne Boleyn commissioned this silver-gilt table fountain, which Eric Ives describes as “a pumped device which circulated rosewater into a basin so that diners could rinse their hands”, from Hans Holbein, the famous Renaissance artist who designed the Mount Parnassus display for Anne’s coronation, jewellery and silver work for her, and who may also have painted “The Ambassadors” at her request. Looking at Holbein’s sketch for the table fountain, it is clear that it was an incredibly beautiful gift.

I love reading through Letters and Papers and getting this insight into the lives of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn!

What are you hoping that Santa will bring you this Christmas?

Click here to find out more about Anne Boleyn and Hans Holbein.

Notes and Sources

  1. LP vi. 6
  2. LP vii. 9

19 thoughts on “A Gift Fit for a King – Anne Boleyn’s New Year Gift to Henry VIII”

  1. Merry Christmas, Claire, to you and your family! Thank you for your lovely articles, I really appreciate your effort to do so much research for every topic! And as Henry used to spoil us with gifts, you spoil us with interesting information about our favorite historical characters.

  2. oops, correction – as Henry used to spoil Anne with gifts 🙂

  3. Lauren says:

    I wish that this extravagance in gift giving was still in practice today. After all, who would not adore three naked women with their teats spouting water? LOL It always amazes me the creativity and artistic ability of the time. It makes me feel very proud of Anne.

  4. Lynski46157 says:

    Merry Christmas, Claire from all your Tudorphile friends worldwide! Thanks for feeding my addiction for information on the Tudor’s.

  5. Carly says:

    I guess a Target gift card was out of the question.

    Merry Christmas! I’m so glad that I found this informative and entertaining website.

  6. Lynski46157 says:

    oooh, bad grammar! Tudors, not Tudor’s. Shame on me!

  7. Anne Barnhill says:

    Merry Christmas to you Claire and all of yours! I hope this next year is your best yet! 🙂
    I find it very interesting that in a way, Henry is “re-gifting” stuff to Anne that had belonged to someone else–typical easy shopping for a male! But Anne’s gift was specifically designed for Henry with a lot of thought and message–fertility for one. It’s the same at my house–I take hours trying to find just the right gift and my hubby shops in about 10 minutes! The more things change, the more they stay the same.

  8. Jeane Westin says:

    Merry Christmas and a very Happy and successful New Year to you, Claire, and to all the Anne Boleyn and Elizabeth files supporters. What a fun place to visit almost every morning!

    Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all…

    Jeane Westin
    The Queen’s Lady Spy, Penquin/NAL, TBA 2012
    His Last Letter, Penguin/NAL, Aug 2010
    The Virgin’s Daughters, Penguin/NAL, Aug 2009

  9. David says:

    Merry Christmas Claire to you and your family. Thank you for all the educating articles you give to us regarding our favorite family, “The Tudors.” Henry was a giving person when he wanted to be but could it be that he gave expensive gifts to make up for what he himself could not give to his relationships? We know that Henry had issues which are not at all uncommon even into families today. He certainly had the means to give material gifts but I think he had trouble giving of himself in all ways except the physical where we know only to well that he had no problem with. Nor did his cronies have trouble in this area. Anyway,…..It will not be a white Christmas here in the Pacific Northwest of the United States, however it will be a special day with family which is what Linda and I hope will be the same with you there in Spain. We will be chatting again in the new year of 2011, which is also the year we return to England………

  10. Jeffrey says:

    May you and yours experience a bright, happy and most joyous holiday season…to be carried through the new year.

    These wishes, from Los Angeles, California

  11. Lauren says:

    Merry Christmas, Claire – great article, by the way!!!! xxxx

  12. Kim Kloes says:

    So he basically gave her serving ware? Is that what all
    this gilt stuff is? I guess that puts a whole new spin on serving
    pieces. I also find it interesting, like someone else commented,
    that Henry “regifted” these things to Anne. All the work and effort
    you put into this blog is very much appreciated! Merry Christmas

  13. Ceri C says:

    I think “regifting” was a common practice at court.
    Elizabeth certainly did the same and plate was a favourite gift. I
    think, however, it shows that Henry was very conventional and
    showed liitle imagination in passing on his collection to

  14. Ceri C says:

    Oh – and a Merry Christmas to you Claire and to all

  15. Wendy says:

    Happy Christmas Claire! Thanks for bringing us all together. 🙂

  16. Ann says:

    Happy Christmas Claire!! Thank you so much for the articles you do. I look forward to them in my email box. Have a great day!

  17. Denise says:

    Claire, I found this site by following a link at another MB I belong to and I’ve spent the better part of my free time this weekend happily going through this website. I’ve since bookmarked it and will very much enjoy going through everything on it over time.

    Just wanted to wish the Best of the Holidays to you and yours, as well the best of the New Year.

    And w/the First Period Intermission now being over, it’s back I go to the TV and living and dying w/Team Canada in the Quarter Final Game at the World Jr Hockey Championships in Buffalo, NY.

    Happy New Year and thank you so much for such a wonderful site!!! :o)

  18. lisaannejane says:

    I love Carly’s idea of a Target gift card ROTFL! I can just it: To the Marquis of Pembroke, a beautiful red shiny card which fits into the palm of one’s hand, to be used as Her Grace doth pleased for the purchase of various items of clothing, household treasures, and many food items for the coming year.

    1. Denise says:

      ROTFLOL!! Priceless lisaannejane!! I can just see that in my mind’s eye too. Thanks for the chuckle. 🙂

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