Anne Boleyn’s Influence on Elizabeth I – Part 2

Posted By on September 21, 2009

A young Elizabeth with her mother's dark eyes

A young Elizabeth with her mother's dark eyes

Just last week I wrote a post entitled “Anne Boleyn’s Influence on Elizabeth I” about Tracy Borman’s new book “Elizabeth’s Women: The Hidden Story of the Virgin Queen”, in which Borman puts forward the idea that Anne Boleyn had a far greater influence on her daughter Elizabeth I than has been previously thought.

Well, I felt I needed to write a “Part 2” after hearing an extract from Tracy Borman’s book on BBC Radio 4’s “Book of the Week” this morning. You can listen to a recording of it at the BBC Radio 4 Book of the Week website, but this article is a precis of it.

The extract read out was all about the influence that both Anne’s life and death had on Elizabeth, but it also has fascinating information about the tradition of confinement and what a confinement chamber contained – tapestries depicting romantic stories, thick carpets, blocked windows and keyholes to shut out the light, a baptismal font in case a baby was born ill, an oratory for prayer and two cradles: a grand, majestic, state cradle and a simpler, modest, wooden cradle. The room must have been so stifling!

The most important information that Borman conveys in this chapter though is what Anne was like as a mother.

Anne the Mother

As I have already said, Anne defied convention by insisting on breastfeeding her baby daughter but Anne was a “hands on” mother in other ways. Despite the disappointment and fear that Anne must have felt when she had given birth to a little girl, and not the promised mail heir, Anne did not let this affect her treatment of her daughter. Borman writes of how she shocked courtiers with her displays of motherly affection and the way she placed the infant Elizabeth on a cushion next to her throne.

Like any new mother, Anne doted on Elizabeth and showered her with gifts, and it must have been a blow to her when Elizabeth was sent to her own household at Hatfield at just 3 months of age. However, Anne ensured that Elizabeth was surrounded with trusted Boleyn relatives like Lady Bryan. When Elizabeth was summoned to back to court in January 1536 to help her parents celebrate the death of Catherine of Aragon, the main challenge to the legitimacy of their marriage, it is said that Henry proudly paraded his daughter in front of the court and how Anne must have enjoyed seeing her daughter again.

Tracy Borman then goes on to talk about the gradual decline of Henry and Anne’s marriage – Henry’s growing distaste for his wife, his infidelity, Anne’s miscarriages and Henry’s growing belief that God was offended by his marriage to Anne and so was withholding the male heir that Henry craved so much. As Henry spent more and more time with his new love, Jane Seymour, Borman talks of how Anne concentrated on ordering fine clothes for her daughter and when, in April 1536, Elizabeth came to visit her parents, Anne spent all her time with Elizabeth, playing with the toddler and dressing her up, bonding with the daughter who was kept away from her so much.

We all know how the story ends – how Cromwell conspires to bring about the fall of Anne, the woman who threatened his position at court and even his life, and the wife who had become so “irksome” to Henry. However, Borman tells a slightly different story about the events leading up to Anne’s arrest. In biographies like the one written by Eric Ives, we learn that Henry is sent a message at the May Day joust about Anne’s alleged infidelities and that he never sees Anne again, yet Borman suggests that Anne hears of the rumours of her alleged misconduct and, like in “The Tudors”, appeals to the King with Elizabeth in her arms. Her appeal, even with babe in arms, is not heard and Anne is tried and found guilty of all charges.

On 19th May 1536 a very brave and courageous woman climbed the scaffold. Anne Boleyn made a dignified speech in which she praised the King, an attempt probably to keep her daughter and other family members safe from the wrath of the King she knew so well. Anne was then executed by a French swordsman and buried in an arrow chest in the Chapel of St Peter ad Vincula, with other traitors.

Anne’s Legacy

As we know, Elizabeth I inherited many things from her mother. Although she had the Tudor red hair, her coal black eyes and swarthy skin were inherited from her mother and Borman lists the character traits that Elizabeth got from Anne: tenacity, charisma, self-discipline and also occasional cruelty and vindictiveness. However, the story of her mother’s life also deeply affected Elizabeth. Elizabeth I learned from her mother’s example that she should never put her trust in displays of love, that she should “guard her reputation fiercely” and that she should be as self-reliant as possible. Although Borman credits Anne’s life and death with making Elizabeth the “self-reliant, political pragmatist” that she was, this was also learned from other people in her life and experiences that she herself went through.

Tracy Borman believes that Anne had many qualities that would have made her a great queen, and I too believe this whole-heartedly, but she also had many flaws, “fatal flaws” as Borman calls them, and it was by recognising both her qualities and flaws that Elizabeth was able to become the amazing Queen that she became.

Further Reading

“Elizabeth’s Women: The Hidden Story of the Virgin Queen” by Tracy Borman
The Elizabeth Files – our sister site all about Elizabeth I.
“The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn” by Eric Ives – The best Anne Boleyn biography available.

New Henry VIII Resources Now Available

The latest Henry VIII talk is now available to listen to at the Historic Royal Palaces site. In this talk David Starkey considers how Henry VIII, arguably the world’s most famous king, has maintained his reputation for 500 years. Click here to listen to it.

Thanks to Anne Boleyn Files Visitor, Oraya, for pointing this one out. If you have been unable to use the National Archives to browse or order copies of documents pertaining to Henry VIII or Anne Boleyn and her trial, you can now access records online at – Click on the first link “Letters & Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII” and then you can search for “Anne Boleyn” or look at records for different dates. It’s a fantastic resource.

33 thoughts on “Anne Boleyn’s Influence on Elizabeth I – Part 2”

  1. Kimberly Eve says:

    Hello ABF,

    Well, this is a fabulous two part post and I must say my favorite of yours so far!
    I agree with Tracy Borman completely and have believed in Anne’s influence
    over Elizabeth for years now but I’m no historian!
    Seriously, just based on my research into the Tudor Dynasty and my studies
    during my college years, if you analyze the lives of certain Howard, Boleyn, and Tudor
    nobles the connection and influence of loved ones that have gone too soon still remains.
    Sorry, I could go on for ages about this but my point is that it is the remaining family members that are usually left to pick up the pieces and go on i.e. Mary Tudor, Elizabeth I, even James VI who later became James I of England.

    Thanks for a fascinating and interesting post!

  2. Claire says:

    Thank you so much, Kimberly, for your kind words. I can’t really take the credit as it is all based on the Tracy Borman interviews and snippets from her book. I know many people are of the opinion that Anne could not have influenced Elizabeth in any way because Elizabeth was only little when she died, but I think that is a bit short-sighted. We all inherit traits from our parents, whether we like it or not, and we are all affected by our childhoods and the stories we hear about our parents and family. We can’t deny our past and our history, although we can move on from it.
    Thanks for the support, Kimberly!

    1. Scarlet Rose says:

      Hi Claire, thanks for this website, I love reading everything here but there is one thing that has bothered me for a while now, did Elizabeth ever visit her mother’s grave? I know she was imprisoned in the Tower but was allowed to walk around the grounds so would she have been able to sneak into the chapel there? And when she became Queen would she have visited then? Elizabeth’s story is very sad that she never got to know her mother, and her father’s treatment of her was awful too.

  3. Kimberly Eve says:

    I wholeheartedly agree Claire. Just something I feel so passionate about!
    Just wanted to say well done in my own way! Keep up the great posts!

  4. Matterhorn says:

    This maternal affection was probably Anne’s nicest trait. I suppose then that scene in “Anne of the Thousand Days” where the Queen is playing with and doting on her daughter- just prior to being arrested- must be quite true to character. Do you think, by lavishing so much attention on Elizabeth she was also trying to change or influence other people’s attitudes towards her daughter (eg. building up the little girl’s image as the Princess and royal heir, to counteract those who did not accept her legitimacy etc.)?

  5. Claire says:

    Yes, it sounds like that scene in “Anne of the Thousand Days” and the scene where Anne is chasing Henry in “The Tudors” with Elizabeth in her arms are both true to life. I suppose she may have been trying to affect the way that people thought of Elizabeth and emphasising that she and Henry were happy with Elizabeth, but I think it was more likely the outpourings of a mother’s love.

  6. Matterhorn says:

    I didn’t mean to suggest that her love and displays of affection weren’t sincere, I just think that, with these royal figures, there is usually some political side to their actions. But Anne was clearly a very passionate, emotionally demonstrative woman, so it’s not surprising that these qualities would appear in her maternal role, too. Furthermore, with her crumbling marriage and impending doom (which she must have sensed to some degree), she took special comfort and consolation in her child. By the way, what about Anne’s relationship with her own mother? Do we know if they were close or if Anne was raised in a similar “hands-on” way?

  7. Matterhorn says:

    Sorry- I meant she *probably* (in my opinion) took special comfort and consolation in her maternal role- I was just speculating!

  8. Claire says:

    Hi Matterhorn,
    I didn’t think that you were implying that she wasn’t sincere so don’t worry. I don’t know much about Anne’s relationship with her mother – I’ll have to do some digging!

  9. Jennifer Enamorado says:

    This book Elizabeth’s Women: The Hidden Story of the Virgin Queen by Tracy Borman. How can i find it? I live in the US. HELP

  10. Claire says:

    Hi Jennifer,
    There doesn’t seem to be a US release date for it yet and it has only just been released in the UK, but Amazon UK do ship worldwide and so will ship to the US (I often do it the other way round and order stuff from Amazon US!). Click here to go directly to the book on Amazon UK.

  11. Barbara says:

    I am now 72 years of age and most of my life I have been fascinated by the story of Anne Boleyn–when I was very, very young I used to have a recurring dream that I was a prisoner, locked up in a stone room–this was long before I even saw movies, etc. When I was older I dreamed that I was riding horseback, astride, much to the shame of other “ladies” and in one dream I went across a small moat and into a courtyard of a very small castle. Some years later I saw “Anne of the Thousand Days” and Hever Castle was the same as the one in my dream. Eventally I actually got to England and went there and it was incredibly familiar to me. Also went to Hatfield House to the Elizabethan banquet and absolutely lost myself in the past. I have made 7 trips to England and I went back to Hever each time. Yes, I do believe in reincarnation–not saying I was Anne Boleyn but the only phobia I have in this lifetime is a fear of sharp blades!!! And I had a near panic attack on my first visit to The Tower, although on subsequent visits I was fine.

  12. Lexy says:

    I was just thinking, and maybe it’s stupid, but could have been Henry jealous of Anne ‘s love for Elizabeth? If you look at his personnality, Old Harry was exactly like a child, crying to have what he couldn’t have, like his brother’s beautiful wife or Anne who refused to be his, and losing interest in it once he had it. The way he treated Anne of Cleves reminds of a boy writing to Santa Claus to have a toy, and, discovering it’s not what he wanted, destroys it without pity. All historians insist on his dream of finding a wife like his mother. And often child men are jealous of children, even theirs, because they steal their mother-wife love and attention. So, maybe in his inconscient only, he felt betrayed by the fact that his beloved loved someone more than him and he resented that. But maybe it’s only a stupid idea!

  13. Barbara says:

    Lexy–I think your idea is anything but stupid! Henry was the golden child and probably never had anyone say “no” to him about anything. Anne witheld her “ultimate” gift of sexual love for years and yet, when Elizabeth was born, the baby immediately had her total , unconditional love. Had she given birth to a son, Henry might have kept her around to produce a “spare” but he would have continued having sex with other women and then moving on when he got bored.

  14. Claire says:

    Hi Lexy and Barbara,
    I agree with Barbara, I don’t think your idea is stupid, Lexy, Henry was used to being the centre of attention afterall. A very interesting theory!

  15. Lexy says:

    Thank you for reassuring me, Barbara and Claire! I truly think that Henry was really immature in his relation with other, like – sorry for the comparaison- a little girl with dolls. The worst thing is that he played the same game with his daughters, loving them, putting them apart shortly after… Just consider the incident when little Elizabeth wrote to Anne of Cleves, when he refused them to meet saying that Elizabeth’s mother was much unlike poo German queen. His daughter needed a mother, and he denied a mother to her only because he didn’t like his new wife. Elizabeth must have been more than disappointed, read Alison Weir’s The Lady Elizabeth if you doubt of it.

  16. Claire says:

    I find Anne of Cleves a really interesting character, she became such good friends with Elizabeth and Mary and then later Henry. It’s a shame that Henry didn’t give her a chance. I haven’t read The Lady Elizabeth – is it good?

  17. Lexy says:

    Yeah, it’s a good book even if I’m not sure you can call it a novel. Indeed Weir is and stay an historian and she doesn’t dare taking liberties or interpretations, she explains it in the postface. But it stays good, you won’t be disappointed if you read it. But there’s a thing said in that book that I’m not sure of: in the Tudor family portrait where
    Jane Seymour sits beside Henry insteears ad of Katherine Parr, does Elizabeth really wears her mother ‘s “A” necklace?

    1. sandra says:

      Yes she does. There is finally a closeup of Elizabeth’s face and neck in the Tudor Dynastic portrait on the web in which you can see it clearly. I can’t tell you how many years I’ve been wishing to see it. Just google Tudor Dynastic Portrait Hampton Court and you should be able to locate it.

  18. lisaannejane says:

    Just a comment to Lexy. I’ve read articles in magazines about how men can feel abandoned and jealous of their own newborn children because the mother focuses more on the baby than on him. So your idea of Henry being jealous is a very valid one. I am glad you shared your idea. One of the reasons I love this site is because of the many insightful comments that readers like you post.

  19. Lexy says:

    Thank you Lisaanne. Since I’ve already witnessed that attitude, I came to the conclusion that Henry acted his whole life like a spoiled child, always criying for new toys ( a new mistress, a new castle, a new wife…), breaking them when tired of them and dismissing those who couldn’t give him what he wanted, like Wolsey or the Catholic Church. Katherine of Aragon was maternal too, but she accepted the queenly pagkage of wet nurses, governesses and separate castles, so there was no problem. But in Henr’s eyes, Anne betrayed him, and I’m convinced that it helped their wedding to crumble. Poor Anne, and poor baby

  20. Amy B. says:

    I MUST thank and congratulate you, Miss Claire for composing a well-written informative and entertaining 2 part post on Annes influence on her Elizabeth. I concur that too often the mother-child bond and its lasting effects is sadly overlooked. The Borman article made me stand up and cheer literally. I am salivating at the thought of reading the book. I am always pleased to see a movie/show present that touching relationship. Natalie Dormiers potrayal of Anne the mother are exquisite. Any time I see Anne with babe in arms beseech Henry to save their marriage I am moved almost to tears. Watching it brings Anne to life for me in a very vivid way. After countless hours and papers devoted to 1st Elizabeth then Anne it is my learned opinion that Anne was a wonderful mother devoted to her child and determined to raise that child as she wanted to…anyone see Princess Diana employing Annes emphatic devotion with her own boys? Lexy Barb and Claire I completely agree with the idea that the spoiled Henry couldn’t stand the thought of his wifes attention being diverted by a baby most especially a baby girl. I also think his overindulged life prompted him to be jealous of Anne having a closer relationship than he with Elizabeth. In Henrys mind he is the center of the universe deserving of everyones complete love devotion and obedience.

  21. Claire says:

    Thank you, Amy! I think too often Anne Boleyn is written off as the tragic queen who got executed and some people do not take into account the legacy she left behind. Some ask “How could Anne have an influence on Elizabeth when Elizabeth was so young when she died?” but she had a huge influence. I’m sure that Elizabeth’s Boleyn relatives and people like Blanche Parry would have answered Elizabeth’s questions about her mother and shared memories of her and Elizabeth would have heard Anne’s story. Anne’s story affected Elizabeth’s ideas on men and marriage, and Elizabeth wasn’t just like her father she had much of her mother in her and it was many of her mother’s characteristics that made her the Queen she was. Let’s give Anne the credit she is due!
    Thanks, Amy, for your support and encouragement!

  22. Gina says:

    I just watched the documentary the Virgin Queen as you recommended.
    It was FAB-U-LOUS!! I Adored it from beginning to end!

    Though they never really mentioned Anne’s influence, I feel it was insinuated. Her constant nightmares of Henry’s court shouting at her and especially the last scene with the ring that she had specially made! I felt that alone spoke volumes.

    This is a MUST SEE!! Thanks again for the recommendation….have any more?

  23. Claire says:

    Hi Gina,

    I’m so glad you liked it, that and the Helen Mirren one are definitely my favourite Elizabeth depictions. Have you seen the Glenda Jackson one? I must get round to watching Anne of the Thousand Days but my life is pretty packed at the mo!
    Have a great weekend!

  24. Gina says:

    I liked the helen Mirren one as well. I liked that they actually showed a woman of age playin Elizabeth instead of an overly made up or special effected one. I think she really showed her vulnerable side too and a hint of brattiness too! 🙂

    I have been so focused on Anne Boleyn that Elizabeth was always just a epilogue to me prior to watching these two mini-series. Now I am in love with her as well. My heart actually broke for her during the whole Earl of Essex ordeal…..

    I was a little shocked at how close they were in facts to each other and yet how diffrent they were from the Cate Blanchett films.

    As always, I appreciate your recommendations and can’t tell you how much I enjoy this site!

  25. Claire says:

    I love Helen Mirren anyway, a really brilliant actress. Did you ever see her in the original “Prime Suspect” as a police inspector? I also loved the chemistry between her and Jeremy Irons, really helped me understand what Elizabeth and Dudley’s relationship may have been like.

    I too have got interested in Elizabeth through Anne, rather than the other way round. I really wanted to know whether Elizabeth was like her mother. Everyone talks about Elizabeth having Henry’s red hair and the way she idolised him but there was so much of Anne in her too and the fact that she wore Anne’s picture in her locket room just shows how she felt about her mother. Wonderful!

    Yes, the Cate Blanchett movies do take some liberties compared to the other two which are much more accurate. I thought Cate made a good Elizabeth but I think she was rather let down by the writing. Still good movies though, although I thought the first one was better than “The Golden Age”, what did you think?

    I’m so glad that you like the site, Gina. Thanks!

  26. Amy B. says:

    I had to laugh b/c I am the exact opposite of Miss Claire and Miss Gina in that I focused on Elizabeth then Anne. To be honest it was not until I started college that I began my fascination with British History. We Yanks dont receive more than a general overview of other nations histories. I must agree that Helen Mirren played Elizabeth to perfection. Her performance inspired me to go back to school for my Masters Degree. I am working on my Doctorate now in British History obviously focussing on the Tudors. I found this site while researching Anne Boleyn. Iam finding that I am as fascinated and inspired by her as I am Elizabeth. I have learned so much information wise and resource as well. Finding this site and ur sister site is a God send. Its a combination of quick reference commradary and inspiration. The ultimate goal is to become a professor so I may share the lives of these two amazing women in a way that inspires others to find the joy of knowing them. K back on point…I agree Cate B was a good Bess but w/o an accurate storyline and a lack of dialogue. Elizabeth was the ultimate actress. To not to give a script her voice is ludicrous. The 1st film was the better of the two. I wanted to expand on Annes influence on Bess and ultimately the world. The thought struck me that had Anne given Henry a son would history look upon him in the light Elizabeths reign is? A son would have been cloistured from everyone save Henry. Look at Prince Edwards life. I wonder if Anne would have been able to influence her son. Just a theory thats still bouncing around in my head. Love to hear any thoughts and Im sure I will add to this idea once Ive sorted it out myself.

  27. Jill says:

    To Lexy I have to agree with you. Even now there are many men who do become threatened by the love a mother has for her child. Henry was a man who was used to having all attention place towards on him. I’m surprised that more of the people at court didn’t have some form of PTSD being hypervigilant of the way they behaved because it wouldn’t cross some of the higherups vying for attention of the king and his moodswings that would cause whiplash in any normal person. Mary Boleyn was the smartest of all of them, she went along with them, kept her head, got out of court and lived to see her children grown.

  28. Sam-I-am says:

    I think there is obvious evidence of the influence of Ann over her daughter Elisabeth that is not picked up on: The mere fact that Elisabeth chose to be referred to as the Virgin Queen has something to do with the fact that her mother was beheaded for being a “harlot”. All the accusations were made up, I do not doubt it, but for the masses Ann was the witch who made Henry stray, so to emphasize her legitimacy as Queen, Elisabeth would insist that she was her father’s daughter (legitimate) and distance herself from her mother and what brought on her demise (hence becoming a Virgin queen, a far cry from the adulteress). One should never forget that Elisabeth’s legitimacy as sovereign was constantly under attack all through her reign.

  29. Sandra says:

    My Daughter was a ‘Daddy’s girl’ who much loved and was loved by her father. He died in an accident when she was almost 4yrs old. She is my only child, and now at nearly 14 years old she’s almost more like him than me, things you cannot teach a child, her humor, musical talents, intelligence in certain areas, to the way she talks in her sleep.
    There is SO much a child gets from their parents, and just imagine a daughter from her mother!
    There is infinite curiosity about him in her, ahe always asks questions, wants stories, etc., she takes her lessons from these.

    A child whose parent is deceased can idealise the parent too, it’s hard to feel hatred toward a deceased parent who you loved and loved you deeply in return, much easier to see flaws in those still alive.

    Anyone who could say Elizabeth isn’t much influenced by Anne Boleyn must not have knowledge of how children react when they lose a beloved parent, traitor or not, Elizabeth also was surrounded by people who saw the best in and loved her mother, and those are who she’d get her answers from.

    I’m sure she was influenced by Anne in ways deeper and beyond anything we could ever know, and thank God for it!


  30. Gary says:

    As the only guy to post a comment so far, I think, whilst I agree that Elizabeth must have inherited some of Anne’s better traits (she has fascinated me from a young age too) she was much better at playing the long game. I doubt very much the ogre Henry was jealous of Elizabeth: indifferent, disappointed, bored even but not jealous. Why? He has another heir (albeit not his desired boy) and had no experience of raising children so why care if Anne gives her more attention? I think he fell out of love and wanted rid of her and was able to achieve his want by virtue of his position. No more emotional than that: totally pragmatic and ruthless.

  31. Tidus says:

    Why does Borman attribute Elizabeth’s character
    traits of cruelty & vindictiveness to Anne ? Those
    traits obviously come from Henry.

Please note: Comment moderation is currently enabled so there will be a delay between when you post your comment and when it shows up.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.