Since a new book by Sylwia Zupanec1 is claiming that there is new evidence to prove that “Anne Boleyn simply could not have had served Margaret of Austria [or] the Queen Claude”, and I’ve been asked my thoughts on it, I wanted to share why I believe that Anne did serve them and what evidence there is to back up my views.
Evidence for Anne Boleyn being sent to Margaret of Austria’s Court
The first piece of evidence is an extract from Margaret of Austria’s letter to Thomas Boleyn in which she thanks him for entrusting her with his daughter:
“J’ai reçeu vostre lettre par l’escuyer Bouton qui m’a présenté vostre fille que m’a esté la très bien-venue, et espère la traicter de sorte que aurez cause vous en contenter; du moings tiens que à vostre retour ne fauldra aultre truchement entre vous et moi que elle; et la treuvc si bien adressée et si plaisante suivant son josne eaige, que je suis plus tenu à vous de la m’avoir envoyée que vous à moi.”2
Translation from Eric Ives’ “The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn”:
“I have received your letter by the Esquire [Claude] Bouton who has presented your daughter to me, who is very welcome, and I am confident of being able to deal with her in a way which will give you satisfaction, so that on your return the two of us will need no intermediary other than she. I find her so bright and pleasant for her young age that I am more beholden to you for sending her to me than you are to me.”3
This extract appears in the note section of “Correspondance de l’empereur Maximilien Ier et de Marguerite d’Autriche, sa fille, Gouvernante de Pays-Bas, de 1507 à 1519, Tome Second”. Although Sylwia Zupanec argues that “this letter is undated and does not even mention Anne Boleyn or her father by name”, it is an extract from a letter written by Margaret of Austria to Thomas Boleyn and quite clearly mentions “votre fille”, “your daughter”. Although, as Hugh Paget4 points out, the full letter is now not traceable in the Lille Archives, the editor of the 1839 edition of “”Correspondance de l’empereur Maximilien Ier et de Marguerite d’Autriche, sa fille, Gouvernante de Pays-Bas, de 1507 à 1519” quite clearly refers to the extract being part of a letter from Margaret to Thomas Boleyn. He does not cast any doubt on who the letter was written to, so the original letter must have been clearly marked and obvious from the rest of the content that it was from Margaret to Thomas.
The editor of “Correspondance de l’empereur Maximilien Ier…” refers to Anne Boleyn’s name being mentioned on a list of eighteen “filles d’honneur” who served Margaret. The reference given is “Chronique métrique de Chastellain et de Molinet: avec des notices sur ces auteurs et des remarques sur le texte corrigé” and the name “Bullan” does appear on this list, although there is no first name given:
“Aultre plat pour les filles d’honneur et aultres femmes ordonnés par Madame de manger avec elles que sont XVIII, assavoir:-
Mesdames de Verneul, Waldich, Reynenebourg, Bréderode, d’Aultroy, Hallewyn, Rosimbos, Longueval, Bullan, les II filles Neufville, Saillant, Middelbourg, Cerf, Barbe Lallemand et la mère.”5
Another piece of evidence to support the theory that Anne Boleyn was sent to Margaret’s court is Anne’s letter to her father. The original French can be read in the appendix of Philip W. Sergeant’s “The Life of Anne Boleyn”6 and also viewed at https://www.theanneboleynfiles.com/advent2011/page9.php, but here is Sergeant’s translation:
“Sir, – I understand by your letter that you desire that I shall be a worthy woman when I come to the Court and you inform me that the Queen will take the trouble to converse with me, which rejoices me much to think of talking with a person so wise and worthy. This will make me have greater desire to continue to speak French well and also spell, especially because you have so enjoined it on me, and with my own hand I inform you that I will observe it the best I can. Sir, I beg you to excuse me if my letter is badly written, for I assure you that the orthography is from my own understanding alone, while the others were only written by my hand, and Semmonet tells me the letter but waits so that I may do it myself, for fear that it shall not be known unless I acquaint you, and I pray you that the light of [?] may not be allowed to drive away the will which you say you have to help me, for it seems to me that you are sure [??] you can, if you please, make me a declaration of your word, and concerning me be certain that there shall be neither [??] nor ingratitude which might check or efface my affection, which is determined to [?] as much unless it shall please you to order me, and I promise you that my love is based on such great strength that it will never grow less, and I will make an end to my [?] after having commended myself right humbly to your good grace.
Written at [?Veure] by
Your very humble and very obedient daughter,
Anna de Boullan.”
There have been various theories as to where Anne was writing the letter from, with some arguing that the word “Veure” was actually Hever, or that it meant the fifth hour (5 o’clock), but Hugh Paget argued that it was “the French version of the name of the royal park at Brussels”, the place where Margaret of Austria visited during the summer months. Sylwia Zupanec dismisses this idea but Margaret’s father, Maximilian I, signed various letters from “au Château de la Veuren” and referred to “nostre chasteaul de La Veuren”, “our castle of La Veuren”, in a letter written to Margaret in June 1512. In a time with no standardized spelling, Anne could well have been referring to “Veuren” when she wrote “Veure” or may well have missed the “n” off the end.
In her letter, Anne also referred to “Semmonet”, who was quite clearly helping her with her French” and, as Eric Ives points out, Symmonet was a member of “the ducal household”. We know this because there are various mentions of “Symmonet” in the correspondence of Emperor Maximilian and Margaret of Austria.7 I can’t believe that this is a coincidence.
The final piece of evidence for Anne Boleyn being at the court of Margaret of Austria is Thomas Boleyn’s letter to Margaret of Austria recalling his daughter, written from Greenwich on 14th August 1514:
“Ma treschiere et tres redoubtee dame dans sy humble cuer quil mest possible a votre bonne grace me recommande. II vous playra a savoir comment la seur du Roy mon maistre madame marie Reyne fyancee de France ma requyse davoir avecques elle ma fille la petitte Boulain laquelle ma tresredoubtee dame est a present avecques vous en votre court a laquelle requeste je nay peult ne sceut refuzer nullement sy est ma tresredoubtee dame que je vous supplie treshumblement quil vous plaise de donner et octroyer congiet a ma fille de povoir retourner pardevers moy avecques mes gens lesquelz jay envoyet devers vous a ceste cause ma tresredoubte dame je me tiens fort obligiet envers votre bonne grace a cause de la grant honneur que fait aves a ma fille et que ne mest possible a desservir devers votre bonne grace non obstant que je ne dezire aultre chose synon queje vous puisse faire auleun service agreable ce que jespere de faire encores cy en apros au plaisir de dieu auquel je prie ma tresredoubtee dame quil vous doinst lentier accomplissement de vos nobles et bon dcsirs escript desoubz mon signe manuel a la court royalle de Grynewiths en engleterre, le xiiii jour daoust anno xv et xiiii.
Votre treshumble serviteur, Sr Thomas Boleyn.”8
You may not understand the French, but Thomas Boleyn is asking Margaret to release his daughter, “la petitte Boulain”, into the care of the escort he had sent so that she could return to England to accompany Mary Tudor, the sister of Henry VIII, who was due to leave for France to marry Louis XII. Sylwia Zupanec dismisses this letter as evidence of Anne serving Margaret, saying “there is neither reference to Anne nor there is the date of this letter. We do not even know if this letter is authentic.” I cannot see who else Thomas Boleyn could have been referring to when he writes of “ma fille la petitte Boulain”, “my daughter the little Boleyn”, and the letter is dated (14th August 1514 from Greenwich”. Furthermore, there has never been any doubt cast on the authenticity of the letter.
Another thing that suggests that Anne Boleyn knew Margaret of Austria was Anne’s use of the motto “Ainsi sera, groigne qui groigne” (Let them grumble, that is how it is going to be) which, as Eric Ives and Joanna Denny point out, was a play on Margaret of Austria’s motto “Groigne qui groigne, Vive Bourgogne!” (Grudge who Grudges, Long Live Burgundy). Why would Anne make use of a motto of a woman she’d never met and whose court she never attended? (Thanks to Olivia Peyton for reminding me of that).
Evidence for Anne Boleyn serving Queen Claude of France
Sylwia Zupanec dismisses the traditional view that Anne Boleyn served Queen Claude of France by arguing that the household lists of Queen Claude make no mention of either Boleyn girl, Anne or Mary, and that “the Boleyn sisters were probably confused with “Anne de Boulogne” and “Magdaleine de Boulogne” who were in the Queen Claude’s household from 1509″. She even doubts that Anne served Mary Tudor. Zupanec believes that Anne was sent by Thomas Boleyn to relatives in Briis-sous-Forges because “she may have indeed been guilty of some kind of a scandal”, as Nicholas Sander believed.
Regardless of whether or not Anne’s name appears in Queen Claude’s household lists and whether or not she has been confused with other women, there is plenty of other evidence to back up the view that Anne served Mary Tudor then Queen Claude:
- A “Madamoyselle Boleyne” is in the list of “gentlemen and ladies retained by the King (Louis XII.) to do service to the Queen”:
“Le conte de Nonshere,” Dr. Denton, almoner, Mr. Richard Blounte, “escuyer descuyerie,” the sons of Lord Roos, Lord Cobham, and Mr. Seymour, “enfans d’honneur”; Evrard, brother of the Marquis, Arthur Polle, brother of Lord Montague, Le Poulayn, “pannetiers échansons et valetz trenchans”; Francis Buddis, usher of the chamber, Maistre Guillaume, physician, Henry Calays, “varlet des robes,” Rob. Wast. Mesdemoiselles Grey (sister of the Marquis), Mary Finis (daughter of Lord Dacres), Elizabeth (sister of Lord Grey), Madamoyselle Boleyne, Maistres Anne Jenyngham, “femme de chambre,” and Jeanne Barnesse, “chamberiere.” Signed by Louis XII.”9
This obviously could have been Mary Boleyn, Anne’s sister, so is not complete evidence.
- Francis I reported on 22nd January 1522 that “Mr. Boullan”‘s daughter had been recalled from the French court:
“I think it very strange that this treaty of Bruges was concealed from me, and also the powder and balls which are going to Antwerp;—that his subjects go and take the Emperor’s pay;—that the English scholars at Paris have returned home, and also the daughter of Mr. Boullan, while ships were being made at Dover, and musters taken in England, the rumor being that it was to make war on France.”10
This must have been Anne because Mary was already in England at this time.
- The Imperial ambassadors reported to Charles V in January 1522 “that Boleyn’s daughter, who was in the service of the French queen, had been called home” and that “The cardinal said that he himself was responsible for her recall, because he intended, by her marriage, to pacify certain quarrels and litigation between Boleyn and other English nobles.”11 In other words, Anne had been recalled from France to marry James Butler.
- Renée of France, Duchess of Ferrara and sister of Queen Claude, told Nicholas Throckmorton in Elizabeth I’s reign “There was another cause which worked in her a goodwill towards the Queen; there was an old acquaintance between the Queen’s mother and her, when the former was one of the maids-of-honour of the Duchess’s sister, Queen Claude.”12
- Lancelot de Carles, in his poem about Anne Boleyn’s execution, “De la Royne d’Angleterre”, wrote:
“Or, Monseigneur, je croy que bien savez
Et des longtemps la congnoissance avez
Que Anne Boullant premierement sortit
De ce pays, quant Marye en partit
Pour s’en aller trouver le Roy en France,
Pour accomplir des deux Roys l’alliance.”
or “My lord, I am well aware that you know and have known for a long time that Anne Boullant first came from this country when Mary [Tudor] left to go to join the king [Louis XII] in France to bring about the alliance of the two sovereigns.” He went on to say:
“Apres que fut Marye revenue
En ce pays, elle fut retenue
Par Claude, qui Royne apres succedda”13
or “After Mary returned to her country, she was retained by Claude, the Queen who succeeded her”.
Renée of France, sister of Queen Claude, and Lancelot de Carles, secretary to the French ambassador, were in positions to know whether or not Anne served Queen Claude and there was no reason for them to lie.
I really cannot see there being any reason to doubt that Anne was sent to Margaret of Austria’s court and that she went on to serve Queen Claude of France. There is certainly more evidence for that idea than there is for the view that Anne was sent to relatives in France after being involved in some kind of sexual scandal in England. Zupanec’s book does not contain any new evidence, as far as I can see. Zupanec is reinterpreting evidence used by the likes of Eric Ives, David Starkey, Retha Warnicke and myself and that is not quite the same in my opinion. I also do not agree with her conclusion that “Anne from her contemporary sources is seductive, vindictive, and manipulative woman who uses her influence on the king, and pays the ultimate price for marrying him” and that she was “a scandalous social climber” but everyone is entitled to their opinion and I do enjoy debating these types of things.
Thank you to Clare Cherry for helping me research this article, you’re a star!
Note on New Evidence
Gareth Russell has written an article on Is there anything new to say about Anne Boleyn?, which is an interesting read. New evidence can be found, as in the case of Steven Gunn discovering the coroner’s report into Amy Robsart’s death, and I would love for there to be new discoveries concerning Anne but I can’t say I’m at all hopeful. Parts of her life will always be a mystery, I feel.
Notes and Sources
- The Daring Truth About Anne Boleyn, Sylwia Zupanec, various pages from Kindle version
- Correspondance de l’empereur Maximilien Ier et de Marguerite d’Autriche, sa fille, Gouvernante de Pays-Bas, de 1507 à 1519, Tome Second, p461 Note 2
- The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn, Eric Ives, p19
- The Youth of Anne Boleyn, Hugh Paget, Bulletin of the Institute of Historical Research
- Chronique métrique de Chastellain et de Molinet: avec des notices sur ces auteurs et des remarques sur le texte corrigé, p154
- The Life of Anne Boleyn, Philip W. Sergeant, Appendix D, p308
- For example 25th May 1510
- The Manuscripts of J. Eliot Hodgkin, Fifteenth Report, Appendix, Part II, page 30
- LP i. 3357
- LP iii. 1994 Francis I to La Batie and Poillot, end Jan 1522
- Calendar of State Papers, Spain: Further Supplement to Volumes 1 and 2: Documents from Archives in Vienna, page 30, 17 January 1522, The Ambassadors in England to Charles V
- Calendar of State Papers Foreign, Elizabeth, Volume 3: 1560-1561, 870 (p489-90)
- De la Royne d’Angleterre, Lancelot de Carles, lines 37-42 and 49-51 on pages 233 and 234 of “La Grande Bretagne devant L’Opinion Français Depuis La Guerre de Cent Ans Jusqu’a la Fin du XVI Siècle”, Georges Ascoli