Anne Boleyn Artefacts – A Journey through her Books

It is a myth that Henry VIII destroyed everything Anne Boleyn-related, and thank goodness!

There are actually a whole host of artefacts that have links to Anne Boleyn, Queen of a Thousand Days, and my very favourites have to be her books and manuscripts.

Let me introduce you to a few of them in this video (transcript below)…

Me holding the books of hours:

By the way, Kate McCaffrey, a curator at Hever Castle, has done some wonderful research into the provenance of one of Anne Boleyn’s Books of Hours and you can find out more at


In the recent Q&A sessions I did for the anniversary of Queen Anne Boleyn’s execution, I was asked what objects we still have today that are linked to Anne Boleyn, and it inspired me to put this video series together to introduce you to some of them.

As I’m a bookworm, I thought I’d start with books and manuscripts that are linked to Anne Boleyn. This is not an exhaustive list, but rather me picking my favourites, the ones I find really interesting. For more on books linked to Anne, I’d recommend James Carley’s book “The Books of King Henry VIII and his Wives” as he did thorough research into the inventory taken after Henry VIII’s death in 1547 and found many that could be linked to Anne.

My very favourites have to be Anne Boleyn’s Books of Hours. There are three linked to Anne, two in the collection of Hever Castle and one in the British Library. I was lucky enough to hold the two at Hever and that was a dream come true, I’ll share the link to the video Tim filmed of me holding them at Hever, but let me tell you a bit more about them.

The first was made in Bruges in around 1450, and bears the inscription ” Le temps viendra”, “the time will come”, and Anne’s signature, “Je anne Boleyn”, beneath a miniature of the Last Judgement. There is also a drawing of an astrolabe or armillary sphere, a symbol of time.

We don’t know what Anne meant by this inscription, perhaps it had religious significance to her, we just don’t know.
The second Book of Hours dates from around 1528 and bears the inscription:
“remember me when you do pray, that hope doth lead from day to day – anne Boleyn”

These books are my very favourite Anne artefacts because they’re objects that Anne would have used daily and numerous times a day too. Books of Hours are prayer books. They were used to pray the canonical hours during the day and would also contain a calendar of important feast days, extracts from the gospels and certain psalms. These books would have been dear to Anne and her DNA must be all over them.
The British Library Book of Hours, which dates to around 1500 and was made in Bruges, has inscriptions by Anne and Henry VIII, and they seem to have used it to exchange messages. Henry wrote in French what translates to:
“If you remember my love in your prayers as strongly as I adore you, I shall hardly be forgotten, for I am yours. Henry R. forever.”
and Anne replied in English under the miniature of the Annunciation (the angel telling the Virgin Mary that she would have a son):
“By daily proof you shall me find, To be to you both loving and kind”.

My second favourite has to be a copy of French reformer Jacques Lefèvre d’Etaples’ religious work, Les Epistres or The Epistles and Gospels for the Fifty-two Weeks of the Year, with the commentary translated into English. It was prepared for Anne by her brother, George Boleyn, Lord Rochford. In a dedicatory letter, George refers to Anne as Lady Marchioness of Pembroke, so perhaps it was a gift after she was made marchioness in September 1532.

The reason I love this manuscript is because it was a gift from George to Anne and because it has this dedicatory letter from brother to sister. It reads:

“To the right honourable lady, the Lady Marchioness of Pembroke, her most loving and friendly brother sendeth greetings.
Our friendly dealings, with so divers and sundry benefits, besides the perpetual bond of blood, have so often bound me, Madam, inwardly to love you, that in every of them I must perforce become your debtor for want of power, but nothing of my good will. And were it not that by experience your gentleness is daily proved, your meek fashion often times put into use, I might well despair in myself, studying to acquit your deserts towards me, or embolden myself with so poor a thing to present to you. But, knowing these perfectly to reign in you with more, I have been so bold to send unto you, not jewels or gold, whereof you have plenty, not pearl or rich stones, whereof you have enough, but a rude translation of a well-willer, a goodly matter meanly handled, most humbly desiring you with favour to weigh the weakness of my dull wit, and patiently to pardon where any fault is, always considering that by your commandment I have adventured to do this, without the which it had not been in me to have performed it. But that hath had power to make me pass my wit, which like as in this I have been ready to fulfil, so in all other things at all times I shall be ready to obey, praying him on whom this book treats, to grant you many years to his pleasure and shortly to increase in heart’s ease with honour.”

What an insight into their relationship and shared faith! I love it.

It wasn’t the only translation George gave Anne. He also gave her The Ecclesiaste, the book of Ecclesiastes which had been translated into French by Lefèvre with an English translation of German theologian and reformer Johannes Brenz’s commentary. The manuscript of that features a beautiful illumination of Anne’s falcon badge
Clare Cherry and I go into detail on these works in our book “George Boleyn: Tudor Poet, Courtier and Diplomat”, if you want to know more about them.

Another book that is linked to Anne is the Wyatt Prayer Book or psalter, which is described as “a Manuscript Book of Prayers in a Binding of Gold Enamelled, said to have been given by Queen Anne Boleyn to a lady of the Wyatt Family”. The legend or tradition behind this prayer book is that Anne presented her ladies with miniature prayer books or psalters and that this particular prayer book was given, by Anne Boleyn, on the scaffold to a member of the Wyatt family, traditionally thought to have been Lady Margaret Lee, sister of Thomas Wyatt.

Historian Eric Ives stated that although such books were very fashionable at the time, there are no contemporary accounts of Anne Boleyn giving out gifts on the scaffold and George Wyatt, Thomas Wyatt’s grandson makes no mention of this story or of Lady Lee having been present at Anne’s execution. Oh well. You can find out more about the prayer book in an article I wrote on The Anne Boleyn Files website. I’ll share a link in the description.
I like the mystery surrounding that one!

Then we have Anne Boleyn’s songbook. This book is manuscript 1070 in the collection of the Royal College of Music, and is described as “an early 16th-century choir book containing 39 Latin motets and 3 French chansons by Franco-Flemish composers. Evidence suggests that it was prepared for Anne Boleyn.”

However, opinion is divided over whether it was prepared for Anne, whether it was actually prepared initially for Marguerite d’Angoulême and passed on to Anne, or whether Anne did in fact compose some of the music herself. Whatever the truth of the matter, the book is definitely linked to Anne Boleyn because her name can be found in the book and one composition depicts a falcon, used by Anne as her badge, pecking at a pomegranate, the badge of Catherine of Aragon.

Back in 2015, the Alamire Choir performed some songs from this songbook and I’ll share a link to a video of them performing one of them for you.

Other books linked to Anne are a copy of Clement Marot’s Le Pasteur Evangelique, which features Anne’s arms as queen, and a copy of Jacques Lefèvre d’Etaples’ translation of the Bible into French which has a HA monogram on its cover for Henry and Anne.

It’s wonderful that these texts have survived, isn’t it? Do watch the video of me holding the books at Hever. It was an experience I will never ever forget, a very emotional one.

The Wyatt Prayer Book –
The Alamire Choir –

Book recommendations:
“The Books of King Henry VIII and his Wives” by James Carley
“George Boleyn: Tudor Poet, Courtier and Diplomat” by Clare Cherry and Claire Ridgway

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One thought on “Anne Boleyn Artefacts – A Journey through her Books”
  1. I must admit Claire, I was looking at the beautiful tapestries behind you and Owen more than the books on display, but we are indeed fortunate to have these treasures that Anne once possessed and you are blessed to be able to hold them, they are all important but to me the book of hours does stand out, because we have her writing in it, to imagine the queen actually turning the pages in this precious relic with her long fingered hands and sitting down at her table and deftly writing in it, the little paragraph she wrote to the king which reads more like a poem, turning the pages whilst maybe looking out through the window as the sun streamed in, Kent in her day was much more rural, indeed all of England was, and Hever must have looked even more enchanting then, then it does today although Lord Astor did spend a fortune on it, but before the age of travel it must had an almost fairytale look to it, I saw Tracy Borman on tv visiting Hever and she also was allowed to hold Anne’s book of hours, I loved the ‘I Anne Boleyn’ that she wrote in it, as if she was declaring that she knew she was deigned for greatness, but how would she have known? Did she really practice witchcraft ? But no she was known for her piety and those who go over to satan are not pious, along with it’s connections to Anne are the other people who also wrote in it, your book on Hever also is a treasure and seeing these videos makes me want to go back and visit her again, it is there I feel, we truly do have a connection to the doomed queen as it was her much loved family home, and I’m sure her spirit does linger there from time to time,

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