Anne Boleyn and the Lady in the Garter image: The Arguments

Phew! It’s been an exciting few days! My scheduled work has gone out of the window and I’ve been debating a 16th-century image and doing research related to it. Schedule be gone! This is much more exciting!

If you’ve missed it all, this story all started on Tuesday 25th April when art historian and author Roland Hui published an article on his Tudor Faces blog. He gave it the title “Anne Boleyn as ‘The Lady of the Garter’: A Rediscovered Image of Henry VIII’s Second Queen” and it was about an image in the Black Book of the Garter from St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle, which dates to 1534. Roland was not claiming to have discovered it or to have even discovered a link between this image and Anne Boleyn, he was bringing the link to our attention. And boy did it get our attention!

In his article, Roland argued the case for the image being of Anne Boleyn. The article was then shared around and yesterday an article was published by an R. E. Bruyère, a pseudonym, on the site disputing Roland’s theory and saying in no uncertain terms that the image “simply cannot” be of Anne Boleyn, no question. This then caused all kinds of debate, on here and on Facebook, and those with expertise like Teri Fitzgerald (who you may remember did wonderful research on a miniature of Gregory Cromwell) and Lucy Churchill (who has done work on the 1534 Anne Boleyn medal and the significance of the King’s College Chapel choir screen) chimed in and gave their opinions. Then I published my article giving an update and giving details of the difference of opinion and then Roland published an article as a rebuttal of Bruyère’s views… Phew! Are you keeping up?


I decided to write this article to bring together ALL of the opinions, comments etc. and giving you all the links for further reading, and also giving you my thoughts for what they are worth. So let’s get on with it.

Arguments for the image being Anne Boleyn

Those made by Roland:

  1. The sitter is wearing a large circular pendant with the letters A and R in gold. These stand for Anna Regina, Anne the Queen.
  2. The queen of the image and her attendants are all wearing fashions of the Tudor court, in particular of the 1530s.
  3. Lucas Horenbout “was following an artistic convention of contemporizing the past (as in seen in numerous works of art of the Middle Ages and of the Renaissance where historical and Biblical figures are shown in modernized clothes and settings)” and paying tribute to Anne Boleyn by having her stand in for Queen Philippa. He does ths with Henry VIII, having him stand in for Henry V in the book.
  4. Although the image “is admittedly disappointing in its blandness”, the facial features do fit with the 1534 medal, the locket image and the B pendant portraits of Anne.

Those made by others:

  1. Lucy Churchill pointed out the imperial crown which is displayed above the hood and notes that this crown was used by Henry and Anne in the King’s College Chapel choir screen, which was also created at this time, and Anne is depicted wearing it in the illustrated seating plan of her coronation feast. Lucy says that the use of the imperial crown in the Black Book image “demonstrates Henry’s increasing bid during the 1530s to claim precedent for the English king’s absolute power within the realm, including total authority over the Church in England, in defiance of the Church of Rome. As his anointed queen Anne shared this God-given right, and so would the child that she was carrying when this illustration was made.”
  2. A number of people in comments have noted the sitter’s swollen belly and linked this with Anne Boleyn being recorded as being pregnant in 1534 and how the couple were obviously hoping for a son this time around. Lucy Churchill noted “I don’t think it’s an accident that Anne’s body is shown seated in the wide-legged posture that emphasises the curve of her belly. This pose was commonly used in medieval and renaissance images of the Virgin Mary, a visual allusion which would not have been lost on contemporary audiences.”
  3. Lucy, myself and others have noted that the Anne Boleyn medal also dates to 1534 and that it has AR for “Anna Regina” on it. It also depicts Anne wearing a gable hood.

Arguments against this image being Anne Boleyn

Those made by R.E. Bruyère:

  1. “The king paid for all images of Anne to be removed from all palaces and hunting lodges, whether these images were stained-glass, carved wood, or painted depictions” and so this image would not have survived if it was of Anne.
  2. That 1534 was not a triumphant year for Anne Boleyn, with her failed pregnancy, and that “Henry was willing to stray from Anne’s bed instead of being solely devoted to Anne” so “there is no reason to believe he would request that she be depicted in the Liber Niger”.
  3. The illumination is “simply the Lady of the Garter” and there is no record of Henry VIII appointing a Lady of the Garter.
  4. The woman depicted is a blonde and Horenbout was known for his accuracy, yet Anne was known for having dark hair.
  5. The AR on the pendant could stand for “Anglia/Angliae Regina” and “could simply be to identify the Lady of the Garter as a Queen of England, as opposed to Fortune, the Virgin Mary, or any other number of allegorical or religious women seen during the Tudor period as having dominion over men’s lives.”
  6. The image could be of Jane Seymour or Anne of Cleves because Horenbout did not die until 1544 and the book was not started and finished in 1534.
  7. That there is no connection between Horenbout and Anne Boleyn, whereas he painted Jane Seymour and his sister had a connection with Anne of Cleves.

I haven’t seen any other arguments against this being Anne Boleyn.

A rebuttal of Bruyère’s arguments

Those made here and on Facebook yesterday.

  1. I noted that although Henry VIII may have ordered the removal of some images and objects associated with Anne that many did in fact survive: the 1534 medal, the HA motifs at Hampton Court Palace, various pieces linked to her in Henry VIII’s inventory, the choir screen that Lucy mentioned, the coronation seating plan Lucy mentioned… and so on.
  2. Lucy, Conor Byre, myself and others pointed out that it cannot be said that 1534 was not a triumphant year when Anne was recorded as being pregnant for the second time. The 1534 medal was commissioned to honour her so why not this image? Conor sees it as “a portrayal of hope, a wish for the future, a longing for a male heir with which to secure the disputed succession” and writes that “The portrait testifies to the closeness and love between Henry and Anne as they looked to the future and hoped for a son to join their daughter in the nursery.”
  3. Henry VIII may not have appointed a Lady of the Garter but this image was supposed to represent Philippa of Hainault anyway, it was just paying tribute to the present queen consort, i.e. Anne, by depicting her, like Henry VIII as Henry V.
  4. The image does not depict a blonde woman, the image does not show any hair at all. As I pointed out yesterday, the gable hood hid the wearer’s hair and it is the band of the hood that you see in the image. You can see this when you zoom in on the image and I showed a gallery of portraits and sketches of women wearing a gable hood to show the band.
  5. As I said in yesterday’s article, with reference to “AR” and it being “Anglia Regina”: “I’ve never come across any of Henry VIII’s queen consorts using “AR” to stand for that. From what I have seen, they used their first initial and then “R” for “Regina” (AR, KR etc.) and the king used “HR” for Henry/Henricus Rex. I’ve seen medieval kings use Rex Anglicus so wouldn’t it be more natural for it to be Regina Anglica/Anglia/Angliae, so RA, like “Katerina Regina Anglia & Francia”? I’ve only ever seen Anglia/Angliae Regina used in a longer title, not as a stand-alone title or intials, e.g. “Dei gratia Angliæ, Franciæ & Hiberniæ Regina, fidei defensor…”.” Anne Boleyn Files visitor Charlene commented “I don’t think it’s Angliae Regina, if only because Henry VIII’s coins from 1536-1537 still have his title as “Rex Angliae et Franciae”. (As they should; in Latin adjectives not denotiing size or quantity are supposed to follow the noun.) It’s only when he makes himself King of Ireland in 1542 that the “Rex” gets shuffled to the end; after that, one could wonder if “Angliae Regina” was possible, but not before, and not while Henry was calling himself “Rex Angliae”.
  6. Regarding the image being Jane Seymour or Anne of Cleves, comments have included ones pointing out that the French style (French hoods) was not popular while Jane was queen, yet the women depicted in this image are wearing French hoods. Conor Byrne and Anne Boleyn Files follower Christine both mentioned how it could not be Anne of Cleves when, as Conor says, “she was essentially in disgrace with her husband from the moment they met in December 1539”.
  7. Regarding Lucas Horenbout and Anne Boleyn, back in 2011 I shared an article written by Roland Hui about two Horenbout miniatures and how they might be Mary Boleyn and Thomas Boleyn. In that article, he puts forward idea that Thomas Boleyn may well have had links to Horenbout and may even have acted as a patron to Horenbout and his family.

Rebuttal arguments made by Roland Hui:

  1. Roland gives examples of emblems and ciphers that survived Henry VIII’s ‘purge”.
  2. Roland notes that Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn were still being described as “merry” in 1535 and concludes that “until that fateful spring, Anne, the King’s ‘dear and entirely beloved wife’ sat enthroned presiding over her court, just as she did in the Black Book of the Garter.”
  3. While none of Henry’s queen consorts were elected Ladies of the Garter, Roland notes once more that the illustration is meant to represent Queen Philippa and that “Anne was included to represent her; the same way Henry VIII stood in for Henry V in Horenbout’s rendition of ‘Henricus Quintus'”.
  4. Roland points out that the sitter is not blonde and that it is the band of the hood that can be seen and that this was probably “rich cloth of gold matching the Lady’s dress”.
  5. Regarding the “AR” being for “Anglia Regina” – Roland notes that as the sitter is depicted with an imperial crown on her head and with a sceptre, that “there was no reason for Horenbout to state the obvious by having her wear a jewel saying she is ‘Queen of England’.” He goes on to say that an image of Fortune “would have appeared with appropriate iconography (such as a revolving wheel of fortune with figures rising and falling according to their destinies) implying who she was” and that an image of the Virgin Mary would not have been attended upon by Tudor courtiers, but by angels and saints.
  6. Regarding the image being Anne of Cleves – By Anne of Cleves’ time as queen, the gable hood was not in fashion and, as already said, Henry VIII “loathed her at first sight” making Anne of Cleves “a most unlikely candidate”.

So where does this leave us?

Well, I’d love to know your thoughts on this image and the arguments for and against it. I spent a fair time yesterday chatting with Lucy Churchill and Teri Fitzgerald about this image and my chats with them and my consideration of Roland’s points lead me to believe that this image is depicting Anne Boleyn in the role of Philippa of Hainault as Lady of the Garter. Both Lucy and Teri agree with Roland and I don’t find R.E. Bruyère’s counter arguments at all compelling.

There, I’ve said it! Roland, you win!

By the way, as Roland noted, he is not the first to link this image to Anne Boleyn. In his “Notes on several of the Portraits described in the preceding Memoir, and on some others of the like character”, George Scharf, the Director of the National Portrait Gallery, writes in a footnote about the 1534 medal “The letters AR. likewise appear in gold on a black medallion hanging round the neck of an enthroned Queen, attended by a herald, councillor and ladies, on a highly finished initial letter, page 20, of the Black Book belonging to the Order of the Garter at Windsor. The date on the illuminated border of the first page of the volume is 1534, and corresponds exactly with the period of Anne Boleyne. There is not much character in her countenance, but, nevertheless, it deserves mention in a collection of notes such as the present.” So Scharf believed it to be Anne too.

What will happen now? Will Bruyère publish again? Will someone else get involved? Will I ever get my other work done?… Who knows?

Links for further reading

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23 thoughts on “Anne Boleyn and the Lady in the Garter image: The Arguments”
  1. As Roland notes, the facial shape of the queen does resemble Anne Boleyn, she has a long oval face there are more convincing arguments for this being Anne than any other queen of Henry’s.

  2. Anne was indeed pregnant for a second time in 1534 and she is described as having “a goodly belly” in July 1534, so Henry and Anne were looking forward to a fine son later that Summer. The woman is wearing cloth of gold, only worn by a King or Queen and only on ceremonial occasions. Anne had already had one live birth and conceived possibly as soon as Henry took up normal sexual relations with her again, possibly being pregnant by Christmas 1533 or the New Year 1534. This shows she was triumphant as she was clearly fertile. Henry always slept with someone else if his Queen was pregnant, that was expected, but he was always noted as being merry with Anne. Ity ridiculous to say that because Henry Viii ordered all of these images destroyed that they were. Elizabeth I ordered a statue of the the Virgin Mary, which escaped the earlier destructive iconoclastic activity destroyed in the Church at Great Budworth but it was later found hidden in a silver casket and buried and restored to the Church. Numerous works of art believed destroyed over the years have turned up and been authenticated. As Claire points out in Hampton Court the arms of Queen Anne under her gate are clearly visible. Missels and rosaries were ordered destroyed but hundreds of people kept hold of them. Besides, this isn’t an official portrait of Anne Boleyn, it is in the Black Book and is made to look as a blank canvas, it can be any lady you wish. It could easily have been overlooked. A medal survived. Henry’s letters survived. Anne’s prayer book and her inspiration in his Book of Hours survived. Any of the other early portraits, the Holbein for example could be authentic, but ideas about Henry’s orders prevent them from being identified as Anne. How do we know Henry Viii gave this order? What evidence proves this or is this another myth? What contemporary sources say Henry gave these orders? All these historians say Henry said this, but I would like to know the source please. If the book portrait was done in 1534, who else would Henry order to be placed as Queen Philippa but his Queen? Nobody else would be logical. Jane Seymour may be an alternative, but then it would be made in 1537. The Lady has red gold hair. Anne Boleyn is more likely to have had red or brown hair than black hair and the description dark is a late and very vague description. Anne could easily be The Lady.

    1. I too question the so-called official purge of all-things-Anne after her death. Besides her emblems still existing at Hampton Court and at King’s College, Cambridge, they are also found at St. Jame’s Palace. These are rarely mentioned because the palace is off limits to the public.

      Bruyere (and Alison Weir in her book ‘The Lady in the Tower’) refers to the removal of a stained glass of St. Anne from the chapel at Hampton Court in the fall of 1536 as an example of the purposeful eradication of Anne Boleyn. However, are we certain it was because of its supposed association to the disgraced ex-Queen? The glass might simply have been removed because it was in a dilapidated state.

      1. Roland, I agree that this so-called purge of everything associated with Anne Boleyn is a myth. Bruyère’s claim is completely without foundation: a fabrication as is the author’s name. The queen depicted wearing a medallion inscribed AR in the Black Book of the Garter in 1534 could only be Anne Boleyn (Anna Regina): she has a long, oval face with a pointed chin, and she is clearly pregnant.

      2. I did a talk a few years ago when I was running the Anne Boleyn Fellowship on Anne Boleyn artefacts and I went through Henry VIII’s inventory and there are so many things linked to Anne and her family, plus the medal, Books of Hours, Bible, books and manuscripts like Le Pasteur Evangelique and the Ecclesiaste…

        1. In a documentary about them I am certain they showed two gifts Henry and Anne had exchanged, one was a small manicure set Anne had given Henry with a toothpick, ear cleaning device, nail clippers and a few others, all in gold. You can’t simply airbrush someone from history as important as a Queen of England, bits of them will resurface somewhere. Thanks for your work and articles on this Roland and of course Claire for bringing us these things.

        2. Thanks for the link, the clock is spectacular. Yes, I think it was in the shape of a whistle and the toothpick was tiny. Shame if it can’t be proven to link. Oh well, they don’t always get stuff right in documentary films. Have you ever heard of the Marie Antoinette, Claire, the most complicated watch/small clock ever made, completed after her death. Nicholas Parsons travelled around the world aged 91_on its trail and back to Paris were it has returned home to see it. Equisit work, so much gold and gems and so complicated. Yet its quite small, but such an achievement. It was on BBC Four about a month ago.

        3. Henry also bought Anne a beautiful black silk nightgown but where is it now, it’s her clothes that intrigue me, were they simply burnt on Henrys orders, I’m sure I saw once in a picture a gown she wore which is on display in some stately home, we could determine then how tall she actually was.

      3. ?? Where are emblems belonging to Anne Boleyn found at St. James Palace??

        In the Chapel Royal, there are ‘H A’ initials, but my understanding is the ‘A’ referred to Anne of Cleves, for whom H8 had the chapel embellished prior to their disastrous marriage.

        1. I don’t know about St James’s Palace and I didn’t see any in the chapel royal but I did see the ones in the great hall and the gateway.

        2. About the Anne Boleyn emblems at St. Jame’s, H.M. Colvin (‘The History of the King’s Works’, vol. 4, part 2, 1982, pp. 26-27) says:

          ‘At St. Jame’s, Henry’s marriage with Anne Boleyn is still commemorated on the doorways to the turrets of the gatehouse’.

    1. Here’s the bit I found in Strickland (Volume 2 of her Lives of the Queens of England):

      “A traditionary anecdote of Anne Boleyn, attested by the preservation of a curious contemporary trinket, has been communicated by a clergyman in whose family it has been handed down from generation to generation. The trinket is a small golden etui, about an inch, is richly chased, and in the form of a pistol, the barrel serving the purpose of a whistle, and enclosing a set of toothpicks, round the handle a serpent is coiled. This is asserted to have been given by the unfortunate queen, on the morning of her execution, to the officer on guard, Captain Gwyn, in token of her sense of his respectful conduct towards her. On presenting it, she told him “it was the first token the king gave her,” bidding the officer observe, “that a serpent formed part of the device, and a serpent,” she said, “the giver had proved to her.” In corroboration of this curious incident, there is evidence that there was a Captain Gwyn, a man of considerable property in Swansea, in the service of Henry VIII.” (Strickland, Lives of the Queens of England Vol II, p265)

      Eric Ives, however, writes that there is no contemporary evidence of Anne giving anyone gifts on the scaffold “which must cast doubt on the pendant supposedly given to a Captain Gwyn.” (Ives, p407). There is also no record of Anne possessing such an item.

      1. Yes, unfortunately, the whistle being Anne’s rests only upon tradition. And I can’t imagine Anne saying such a thing to this Captain Gwyn person (who probably never actually existed), whatever her private feelings about Henry VIII might have been just before her execution.

        Hever Castle owns a lute that was supposedly Anne’s. But I think this too is suspect.

  3. Wow, this is fascinating stuff!! Well-done! Loved all the various positions but I agree…I think it is she!

  4. My understanding is that when Lord Astor acquired Hever Castle in the early 20th century, he went went treasure hunting for Boleyn artefacts to fill up the house. Unfortunately, I think a large number of them are dubious.

  5. I agree that the image is of Anne Boleyn. And in addition to the points mentioned by Claire and others, I would also like to direct your attention to her eyes, which are very dark or black – just like Anne’s eyes were. And that was unique amongst Henry’s queens.

  6. This is all so interesting like a good mystery! I tend to think it is Anne because of her rather pregnant look and the placement of her hand as most mothers-to-be have the habit of putting a protective hand over the belly. When I first saw it I thought it was done with fibers rather than paint. It has a tapestry look to it. The paint looks chalky and the gold motifs coming down at the sides of her head are very uneven which makes me wonder if it was done with some haste. Fascinating!

  7. Definitely Anne … pregnant at the right time, the AR medallion, long oval face, dark eyes, full chin and resemblance to the only definite portrait of the same era, 1534 pregnancy (damaged coin). Also, Anne was dark, but her hair may not have been – case in point is the image in Elizabeth’s ring…us it may have been part of the hood as mentioned here by others.

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