A mock-up of Anne Boleyn and Purkoy
A mock-up of Anne Boleyn and Purkoy
I’m feeling a bit ‘fragile’ today after taking our elderly cat (about 19 years old!) to the vet’s last night to be put down. I know it was the best thing to do because Poppy had kidney failure and was going downhill rapidly, but it’s a heartbreaking decision to have to make. Anyway, it made me think about Anne Boleyn losing her little dog Purkoy, and the grief she must have felt at losing her little canine friend.

Anne Boleyn had a lapdog called Purkoy, which came from the French ‘pourquoi’, meaning ‘why?’. The little dog was originally given to Sir Francis Bryan, Anne’s cousin, by Lady Lisle as a New Year’s gift. She’d given the dog to Bryan on the advice of John Husee because the Lisles needed Bryan’s help. Lady Lisle had obviously been fond of Purkoy, but she had to follow Husee’s advice:

“But madam, there is no remedy, your ladyship must needs depart with your little Purkoy, the which I knew well shall grive your ladyship not a little.”1

However, Bryan ended up passing the gift on to the queen. He wrote to Lord Lisle on 20th January 1534 asking him to thank his wife for the gift but explaining what had happened:

“…it may please your Lordship to give her hearty thanks on my behalf for her little dog, which was so proper and so well liked by the Queen that it remained not above an hour in my hands but that her Grace took it from me.”2

Unfortunately, Anne’s beloved Purkoy was killed in an accident just a few months later. Thomas Broke wrote to Lady Lisle on 18th December 1534, advising her on gifts for the Queen and passing on the advice of Margery Horsman, one of the Queen’s ladies:

“Also she saith that the Queen’s Grace setteth much store by a pretty dog, and her Grace delighted so much in little Purkoy that after he was dead of a fall there durst nobody tell her Grace of it, till it pleased the King’s Highness to tell her Grace of it.”3

He went on to advise that Anne preferred a male dog to a female. It is not known what kind of dog Purkoy was, but perhaps a toy spaniel or toy poodle. Anne obviously loved her little dog and it must have been hard for her to cope with the idea of her beloved pet being killed in such a tragic accident. She must have been devastated.

Anne Boleyn also had a greyhound. Although it is often said that her greyhound was called Urian and was given to her by Urian Brereton, brother of William Brereton, I have found no evidence of this. In Henry VIII’s Privy Purse Expenses, there is a record of a farmer being paid 10 shillings for a cow which had been killed by two greyhounds, one belonging to Urian Brereton and the other belonging to Anne:

“Itm the same daye paied for A Cowe that Uryren a Breretons greyhounde and my ladye Annes killed – x s.” 25 September 15304

Although this could be read as one of the greyhounds being called “Urian”, but belonging to the Brereton’s, there were definitely two dogs involved and I’m not sure that Urian Brereton or William Brereton would have called their dog “Urian”. It is more likely that “Uryren a Breretons greyhounde” means “Urian Brereton’s greyhound’. I am convinced that the cow was killed by two greyhounds, both unnamed: one belonging to Urian Brereton and the other belonging to Anne Boleyn.

Notes and Sources

  1. Lisle Letters, Volume 2, p21-22, letter 109
  2. Ibid., p30, letter 114
  3. Ibid., p331, letter 299a
  4. The Privy Purse Expenses of Henry VIII, p74

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