The next part in my Anne Boleyn’s Life series…
As I mentioned in my article Anne Boleyn and the French Court 1514-1521, Anne Boleyn was recalled from France in late 1521. We don’t know when she arrived back in England or when she arrived at Henry VIII’s court, but she was there by 4th March 1522.*
How do we know that?
Well, because her name appears on a list of ladies who took part in the Shrove Tuesday “Château Vert” pageant at Wolsey’s palace, York Place. Here is chronicler Edward Hall’s account of the pageant:
“On shrouetewesdaie at night, thesaid Cardinall to the kyng and ambassadors made another supper, and after supper thei came into a great chamber hanged with Arras, and there was a clothe of estate, and many braunches, and on euery braunche. xxxii. torchettes of waxe, and in the nether ende of thesame chamber was a castle, in which was a principall Tower, in which was a Cresset burning: and two other lesse Towers stode on euery side, warded and embattailed, and on euery Tower was a banner, one banner was of iii. rent hartes, the other was a ladies hand gripyng a mans harte, the third banner was a ladies hand turnyng a mannes hart: this castle was kept with ladies of straunge names, the first Beautie, the second Honor, the third Perseueraunce, the fourth Kyndnes, the fifth Constance, the sixte Bountie, the seuenthe Mercie, and the eight Pitie: these eight ladies had Millian gounes of white sattin, euery Lady had her name embraudered with golde, on their heddes calles, and Millein bonettes of gold, with Iwelles. Vnder nethe the basse fortresse of the castle were other eight ladies, whose names were, Dangier, Disdain, Gelousie, Vnkyndenes, Scorne, Malebouche, Straungenes, these ladies were tired like to women of
Then entered eight Lordes in clothe of golde cappes and all, and great mantell clokes of blewe sattin, these lordes were named. Amorus, Noblenes, Youth, Attendaunce, Loyaltie, Pleasure, Gentlenes, and Libertie, the kyng was chief of this compaignie, this compaignie was led by one all in crimosin sattin with burnyng flames of gold, called Ardent Desire, whiche so moued the Ladies to geue ouer the Castle, but Scorne and Disdain saied they would holde the place, then Desire saied the ladies should be wonne and came and encoraged the knightes, then the lordes ranne to the castle, (at whiche tyme without was shot a greate peale of gunnes) and the ladies defended the castle with Rose water and Comfittes and the lordes threwe in Dates and Orenges, and other fruites made for pleasure but
at the last the place was wonne, but Lady Scorne and her compaignie stubbernely defended them with boows and balles, till they were driuen out of the place and fled. Then the lordes toke the ladies of honor as prisoners by the handes, and brought them doune, and daunced together verie pleasauntly, which much pleased the straungers, and when thei had daunced their fill, then all these disuisered themselfes and wer knowen: and then was there a costly banket […]”1
The ladies dressed in satin, who were in the castle, were Beauty, Honour, Perseverance, Kindness, Constance, Bounty, Mercy and Pity, the virtues held high in chivalric tradition. The King’s sister, Mary Tudor, Queen of France, played Beauty; the Countess of Devonshire played Honour; Jane Parker (later Boleyn) played Constancy; Mary Boleyn played Kindness, Anne Boleyn played Perseverance, and other ladies included Mistresses Browne and Dannet.2 Hall describes how each lady had her name (or virtue) embroidered on her dress in gold and how they wore cauls and gold Milan bonnets decorated with jewels. These ladies were guarded by eight women dressed as Indian woman and called Danger, Disdain, Jealousy Unkindness, Scorn, Malebouche (evil tongue/mouth or Sharp Tongue) and Strangeness. The castle was “attacked” by men named Amorous, Nobleness, Youth, Attendance, Loyalty, Pleasure, Gentleness and Liberty, with the King leading the attack. Ardent Desire then asked the Virtues to come down from their towers but Scorn and Disdain told him that “they would holde the place”, so the men attacked the castle throwing dates, oranges “and other fruites made for pleasure” at it. The ladies defended the castle with rose water and sweetmeats, and although Lady Scorn and her company tried to defend themselves, they were forced to flee and the lords took the Virtues by the hand and led them out of the castle to dance. As Eric Ives writes, “Female coldness having fled before masculine ardour, the warm and soft qualities were taken prisoner.”3
After dancing, the lords and ladies unmasked themselves and then enjoyed a lavish banquet.
This pageant was brought to life beautifully in Showtime’s The Tudors series and used as the moment that Henry VIII falls in love with Anne Boleyn, or perhaps lust! We see Thomas Boleyn paying Master Cornish – William Cornish, who was the master of the chorister in the Chapel Royal at the time and who, Eric Ives believes, was “the author, designer and producer of the whole affair” and we are led to believe that Boleyn paid Cornish to make sure that the King was sent to rescue Anne so that he noticed her. In reality, we have no evidence that Henry VIII even noticed Anne Boleyn at this pageant, and no evidence that her family did anything to push her in front of the King.
So, when did Henry VIII become attracted to Anne Boleyn?
Well, you can read the various theories in my article Henry VIII Falls in Love with Anne Boleyn, but the first real evidence we have is Henry’s application to the Pope in August 1527 for a dispensation to marry again and to cover the impediment of “affinity arising from illicit intercourse in whatever degree, even the first”, i.e. to marry a woman who was closely related to someone Henry VIII had previously slept with.4
Notes and Sources
*Eric Ives dates the Shrovetide celebrations as starting on 1st March 1522, hence my original dating of this event to 1st, but I’ve since found that the pageant actually took place on 4th March. Edward Hall has an entry for 3rd March and then his account of the pageant.
- Hall’s Chronicle, p631
- Ives, Eric (2004) The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn, p37; Harris, Barbara J. (2002) English Aristocratic Women 1450-1550, p235
- Ibid., p38
- Ansgar Kelly, Henry (2004) The Matrimonial Trials of Henry VIII, p47