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Anne Boleyn Questions – Did Anne Boleyn have six fingers?

Posted By on February 11, 2019

The question “Did Anne Boleyn have six fingers?” always makes me smile, although I know that the asker means six fingers on one hand!

The idea that Anne Boleyn had an extra finger is so prevalent. I see it coming up all the time on social media and it also appears in historical novels, as well as some non-fiction books.

In the latest instalment of my series answering Anne Boleyn Files followers questions on Anne and her family, I examine the origin of this idea and whether it has any basis in history. I do hope you’re enjoying these videos.

In the video, I also mention the idea that Anne Boleyn miscarried a deformed foetus in 1536. You can find out more about that myth in my video Did Anne Boleyn miscarry a deformed foetus? at https://youtu.be/bNb473eMt8U.

Note: Yes, for some unknown reason, I say 29 years instead of 49 years! I can’t even blame the birthday cava as I drank that later! Sorry!

If you’re interested in finding out more about the exhumation of Anne Boleyn’s remains at the Chapel of St Peter ad Vincula, you can read the following articles:

16 thoughts on “Anne Boleyn Questions – Did Anne Boleyn have six fingers?”

  1. Michael Wright says:

    Excellent. Thank you for addressing this. I really hate the damage that has been done and continues to be done to Anne’s reputation. It’s really disturbing that the Yeoman Warders at the tower repeat this stuff. I have no problem with tall tales that don’t hurt anyone but the fact that she is at rest right there and can’t defend herself is quite maddening. Thank you Claire for defending her.

  2. Christine says:

    An extra finger indeed stuff and nonsense! She had a tiny nail that was possibly a few cms in length, Sander really did spin a tale around Anne, any little blemish was magnified ten fold, I’m intrigued as to where the projecting tooth came from, he made her out to be gawky and blemished and yet, the line at the end is strange where he goes ‘she was handsome to look at with a pretty mouth, he is contradicting himself, the Yeoman Warders embroil somewhat as they are speaking to large crowds every day and drama is the essence of their story, the extra finger somehow adds to the magic, a young woman who managed to enchant a King and yet loses her head at the end, she is unusual not like other women, the extra finger therefore sets her apart from the ordinary, no one ever said Anne was sallow either yet dark haired people do have a darker skin tone than the fairer haired, they have the kind of skin which can tan easy and so she possibly had an olive like complexion she was no English rose, but darl and exotic with her French accent and easy ways, she had style and elegance no wonder she caused such a stir at court, I’m sure Anne lying in her grave hearing the Yeoman Warders chatter away about her sixth finger, smiles to herself and says ‘ if only you knew’!.

    1. Michael Wright says:

      I’m guessing he included the line ‘handsome to look at with a pretty mouth’ to make the rest of the garbage he was writing seem more plausible. Sadly it seems to have worked.

      1. Christine says:

        Yes your probably right Michael!

        1. Banditqueen says:

          Yes, she probably didn’t have a sixth finger as such but a spare nail is fact and is a genetic condition from a regressive gene. It was testified to by the grandson of Thomas Wyatt and by other descriptions. Dr Sander had a sister who had seen Anne Boleyn and others had passed down her description. It’s a condition known today and there is also another condition which shows as a growth or extra nail/accessory nail on the toes. It is common in Chinese and Armish communities. It’s a big difference though to having an accessory nail and having a sixth finger or toe. Dr Sander was definitely exaggerating. The bones identified as Anne’s may or may not be fully hers but I don’t recall a sixth finger. The only way we will know is if her remains are identified without any doubt with DNA and a full examination. Richard iii didn’t have a hunchback or withered arm, but he did have a very visible curved spine or scoliosis. This would have been visible at the time of his exposure after Bosworth, but certainly not under his clothes. Anne would be able to hide any small abnormalities with clothes and they can’t possibly have been enough to put Henry off her as she was still considered reasonably attractive, even if she did have an extra bit of nail or a tiny mole. She definitely didn’t have a wen or goitre. But we can’t really go by descriptions so many decades later, save were they are remarked on elsewhere by contemporary sources or other witnesses and we probably don’t know much about Anne’s looks that we can verify.

          We can pull an idea from various sources to tell us she was slender, of medium height, had beautiful eyes, a small mouth, a slender neck, had dark hair, but the colour appears to vary, brown, black, auburn, brunette, had a tiny mole which was hidden by her necklace, possibly, she was graceful and fashionable and she had a quick and intelligent whit. Anne was attractive because she was intelligent, well educated, a good dancer, enjoyed hunting, loved to make an entrance and take part in wonderful Court entertainment, she was a determined and confident woman, who yes, had a temper and could be jealous but who knew what she wanted. She was a good match for the King, interested in reform and theological debate, she had a genuine care for education and charity and she was annoyed when the monasteries were destroyed. She didn’t cope well with the pressure of having to be a baby breeding machine or if Henry had an affair, but there is independent evidence that she tried to do good as Queen. Henry was attracted to her for everything combined and she was also very sassy and fashionable. If she had a mole it must have been small and an accessory nail probably didn’t show very much. We can’t verify her image, but we have some clues, such as a Holbein sketch and a possible image of her in the Garter Book in 1534. Beyond that we can only guess if her familiar image is a true likeness.

        2. Banditqueen says:

          The Research was done by John Hoskins University and one of the seven original founders of the Amish had this extra finger or accessory nail which was the result of a regressive gene. Today there are operations to remove it, but there are rare conditions which pop up every so often that explains this extra nail. Perhaps Anne Boleyn had this regressive gene. She might not have had a sixth finger but a bit of an extra nail is possible and is described by George Wyatt, although not a contemporary writer and if the bones found under her stone are hers nothing was found wrong there either. There were no extra fingers there as myths have claimed. An extra arm was found with a mummy meant to be Nefetitti in 2013 but it belonged to an other mummy and had become mixed up. Actually the other mummy turned out to the a Queen, the older lady, the mother of a Queen. The bones in the Chapel at the Tower have in some cases moved with the floor, so even if an extra finger was found, which there wasn’t, there is another explanation until it is proven to belong to a body with scientific examination. There appears to be no problem with the hands of the skeleton identified as Anne Boleyn, so the description of her having slender and graceful hands is more likely.

  3. Christine says:

    Her daughter Elizabeth 1st did inherit her beautiful large heavy lidded eyes which must have made her appear striking against her white skin, she also inherited her oval face shape but I think that her face was a bit broader than her mother’s, who had rather high cheekbones, Henry V111 and Anne both had small mouths so it’s inevitable Elizabeths was too, I think Annes hair was a very dark brown I doubt if she had any red in it, her portrait at the NPG is confusing as there she is shown with light chestnut hair yet in the one by Hoskins she has almost black hair, none of these are contemporary of course except the sketch said to be of her, by Holbein and it’s a pity he did not colour it in, but the cap she is wearing covers her hair anyway, yes I remember watching the assessment of Richard 111’s bones and two of his arms were on a level with the other, so the withered arm was a myth but what was interesting was his pelvic bone which was wide like a woman’s, the doctor said that can happen in some males, getting back to Anne and her looks, yes she was just a delightful lively young woman dark of colouring and very graceful, intelligent and confident, she was no shrinking violet but as I said before, I’m interested as to where the buck tooth came from, it’s possible she had a protruding tooth under her top lip but was not really visible unless she laughed, opening her mouth wide, dentistry was not an art in Tudor times and there must have been lots of people with broken misshapen teeth, the common folk went to the blacksmith for tooth extraction – heavens, how many of us like going to the dentist today yet we have it easy compared to our Tudor and medieval ancestors, the mention of the tooth by Sander shows his very real ignorance as no one had perfect teeth then, unless someone was lucky to be blessed with a perfect straight set of pearlies, which would have been extremely rare, I’d like to see what Sander himself looked like I bet he was no oil painting himself!

    1. Michael Wright says:

      Elizabeth had long slender fingers that she was very proud of. Didn’t she attest that she inherited those from her mom?

      1. Christine says:

        Yes her fingers were very long and she was very proud of them, she used to display them to great effect, it’s possible she did inherit them from her mother but she never said so, she never spoke her name in public.

        1. Michael Wright says:

          Thank you for the clarification.

        2. Banditqueen says:

          I doubt very much she had a protruding tooth, that would have been noticeable. Lots of people have teeth which are not perfectly shaped, especially if you used a sixteenth century dentist, unless they have perfected modern veneers, but a protruding tooth sounds very obvious and uncomfortable. I really can’t imagine it being hidden or very attractive. No contemporary talks about a sticking out tooth and her lips are shown as small and round and quite full, not distorted by misshapen teeth. Her chin has a little dimple. As you say, Christine, her daughter had her eyes and long fingers which were attractive and they both knew how to use them. Elizabeth inherited the best of both of her parents and I really can’t see Henry marrying a woman with funny teeth and odd fingers and an obvious growth on her neck. Anne was no English rose, but she had a lot about her for him to find her attractive and to desire her with passion.

  4. Michael Wright says:

    The great thing about writing this description 49 years after Anne’s murder was there was virtually no one around to dispute it.

  5. Christine says:

    Yes and Weir states in her biography ‘Henry V111 King and Court’ that Henry was very fussy about teeth and bad breath anyway, possibly Anne from Cleves had bad breath as Henry said she had evil smells about her, this had led many to suppose he was referring to her body odour but it could be that she had halitosis?

    1. Michael Wright says:

      This is just my opinion but I don’t think those smells were from Anne. I think they were from Henry’s bad leg.

      1. Christine says:

        Urgh your probably right there !

        1. Banditqueen says:

          I think Henry was a picky person, but then again most people were and the woman who was going to be the mother of his heirs had to be more or less perfect, but not necessarily the most beautiful woman, but certainly a good looking and intelligent one. The odd mole, small and hidden wasn’t thought off as anything, but being covered in them or warts was associated with all kinds of superstitious stuff. Genital warts were associated with both sexual diseases and witchcraft and other lumps and marks on the body seen in the same way. Not that Anne had a sixth finger or a wen, which is a large or small encrusted tumour protruding on the skin or scalp, but if she did, then it could well be seen as certainly something which represented evil or the use of magic or a curse. Anne was described by Nicholas Sander as having a very large wen, which would be very visible. This is at best nonsense or at worst very much exaggerated as it would be impossible to hide. If she had one, then she had more. They are benign but never in isolation. They usually have to be removed as they become infected or they grow and become really annoying. Some we know today can become cancerous and have to be removed at once. Skin cancer has made them more common. I doubt Anne had such a thing and it would have been unsightly if she did over time. A mole on the other hand or tiny birth mark, unless it changed might remain small and hidden for many years, without any problems. I don’t think Anne wore high necked dresses especially, but they existed before she came along. If Anne wore more modest but fashionable clothing it was to remain modest as she was a virtuous woman. It was actually acceptable to show the top of the breasts as they are not sexual but a bit of ankle and beware of the lady. More virtuous woman wore higher dresses above the chest but the neck was often revealed with jewellery of course been worn. Lace sometimes covered the neck and shoulders. Unfortunately we don’t have any verifiable portraits of Anne Boleyn so we can’t be certain what her dresses were like but the ones we do have are probably fairly close. We do know Anne Boleyn owned a sexy black satin and silk nightgown which was revealing which Henry is reported to have given her, so here we have a clue that Henry was content to see Anne at her best and show her body off in private, that he wanted to see her in a sexy way, so he obviously wasn’t being put off by her. The woman was clearly attractive and Henry found her so for over seven years. He was burning with passion for her, he went on to marry her after they had slept together, so he still found her attractive having seen her naked and I don’t think they did it with the lights out. Even by candlelight he would see Anne as she was, nothing to hide and vice versa, so this is were wens and sixth fingers and fangs definitely go out of the window.

          Henry when it came to Anne of Cleves simply made a fool of himself, was too proud to admit it, was delusional about himself as he was no longer handsome and in his prime, was obese in the extreme, and the chemistry was never there. For some unknown reason he couldn’t or wouldn’t consummate the marriage and no, Anne wasn’t the one smells came from. It wasn’t Henry’s fault and I am sure he used oils and flowers to mask things, but Anne could not help but notice his leg. Henry made up his mind to end their marriage before it began and fortunately for both of them, Anne of Cleves was amenable, even though she wanted to be Queen and was upset that Henry wanted an annulment. Henry had his likes and dislikes and he definitely didn’t want wens, sixth fingers and protruding teeth, so we have to take such descriptions with a pinch of salt, even if there may be an explanation for part of them.

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