Anne’s Most Telling Piece of Jewelry – Guest Post by Brittany Frazza

The ship jewel as depicted in The Tudors series
The ship jewel as depicted in The Tudors series
Today we have a guest article from student Brittany Frazza who is just about to embark on a PhD course – thank you Brittany!

A strand of understated pearls with a gold ‘B’ pendant, adorned with three teardrop shaped pearls suspended from under the letter… It’s safe to say that Anne Boleyn is synonymous with what many fashionistas today would consider the original statement necklace; however I think this necklace has made so much of a statement that it has actually overshadowed one of the more interesting, telling pieces of jewelry associated with the 16th century fashion-setting queen.

After enduring the stormy tumultuous unsure courtship, a simple ‘yes’ would hardly have been a fitting way to let Henry know that she accepted his marriage proposal in late 1527, Anne was far to creative for that. Nothing between Anne and Henry was simple or short winded; this complex dynamic is beyond clear in the seventeen love letters, now housed in the Vatican and published.

After some hesitation, Anne accepted Henry’s official proposal in June/July 1527. Her acceptance was sent in the form of a jeweled trinket, and a somewhat cryptic one at that!

The jewel depicted a “solitary damsel” onboard a ship with a diamond on its bow. Henry thanked Anne, not so much for the trinket but for the “interpretation and the too humble submission which your goodness hath used toward me in this case.”

Although it may seem somewhat cryptic when taken out of context, everything about the piece was carefully chosen and the message behind it was made just as clear as words to Henry… Anne as the maiden on board the ship, which was a symbolic representation of their courtship, was willing to brave the tempest with Henry, who was the diamond guiding the ship and protecting its ultimate destination – marriage.

This ship trinket is not only one of the most clever acceptances to a proposal in history, but it serves as a valuable tool that gives us a little insight into who exactly the most infamous queen was. It shows that Anne was a woman that never waivered; isn’t it every young girl’s dream to receive a marriage proposal from a king? I think it’s safe to say that most girls couldn’t answer “yes” fast enough if faced with this proposition. Even when faced with a dream come true and a feasible end to what seemed like the never-ending courtship, Anne refused to easily acquiesce and abandon her unique creativity that set her apart from all other women at that time. After all, I think it’s safe to say that some out-of-the-box creative thinking and steadfast resolve is needed to withstand an almost decade long courtship!

Notes and Sources

  • The Love Letters of Henry VIII to Anne Boleyn, Fifth Letter
  • The Creation of Anne Boleyn: A New Look at England’s Most Notorious Queen by Susan Bordo

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27 thoughts on “Anne’s Most Telling Piece of Jewelry – Guest Post by Brittany Frazza”
    1. No one knows. It is said to be lost. Trust me, I’ve tried looking for images and more information on it. The only pictures I’ve found are from the show.

    2. Carly – I don’t have an answer to your question, but it was common for jewellery to be ‘repurposed,’ into a new form of adornment for another person entirely.

    1. No, nobody knows what happened to it. However, Elizabeth I is depicted wearing an A pendant in “The Family of Henry VIII” painting at Hampton Court Palace so she may have inherited some of her mother’s possessions.

  1. I recently came down sick with this stupid sinus cold going around, and have done nothing but study Anne for weeks. I am just absolutely infatuated with her story. It just PAINS ME to no end, to know she was wrongfully executed. Do you ever wonder how Henry’s life would have changed, and the history of all it for that matter, would have changed? We may be living in a completely different world as we know it. I think as a female, we all feel some sense of “closeness” with Anne. That perhaps we possess at least ONE quality that she did. I hope I get the chance to visit the tower and the castles where all the history took place. I lived in Germany and went several places that simply JUST CHANGED ME. To SEE the history as you READ it in your HANDS…it was breath taking. We visited “camps” where I SWEAR we took “things back with us.” Pictures that never developed. Lost articles of clothing that showed up in the car days later. I know I sound as MAD as Anne did before she was executed, but I do most certainly believe, you took things with you, when you visit places of history like that.

    1. hi amber, I truly believe this as well ,emotions and a sort of essence left behind by the footsteps of someone who had been there long before,i have felt this many times sometimes very strongly as well.

  2. The most clever acceptance to a marriage proposal in history?

    Lots of items passed through hands that had more meaning than met the eye. Those people loved codes and secret messages, especially courtly aristocrats with too much time on their hands. It doesn’t seem like a particularly clever or unusual act for someone of her station.

    1. Quite correct. It is a cleaver token, but very much of it’s time. Medieval and Tudor people had a whole symbolic language of hidden meanings which we have largely lost. I also wish the original article had made it clearer that the illustration shown is a reconstruction, not the original piece.

  3. I have to agree — the ship is certainly clever, but I think this piece is reading a little too much into it. We don’t even know if the original idea was Anne’s, or even whether the idea was itself original — like you say, symbolic toys and jewelry weren’t exactly unusual. Anne was certainly a remarkable and intelligent woman, but I don’t see any evidence here that she possessed “unique creativity”. Creative she may have been (and it’s no defect in her if she wasn’t — contrary to what we’re taught now, creativity is not some sort of inherently virtuous quality which every person is obliged to cultivate) but even if she was, she would hardly have been the only person at court who enjoyed creative pursuits.

  4. Anne was most definitely creative.You would have to be.To keep a king interested for so long would take nothing less than a very creative mind.

  5. You wrote that Anne accepted after seven years’ courtship but is it so that the courtship had lasted maybe 1 1/2 years (at least according to Ives) and the whole relationship before they could finally marry lasted seven years?

    BTV, do you know how long making of the trinket took time?

  6. What a lovely piece of jewellery, fine craftsmanship. A great shame that Henry may have melted the original down or it being lost, it is lovely. The interpretation of Anne accepting a proposal for marriage is reasonable given that the man as husband was the protector of the woman and here the maiden is traveling in a ship for protection. The gift can be seen as Anne transferring that protection to Henry both as ardent suitor and her King. Henry as King would also be responsible for the protection of the realm, so you can read many levels into the jewel. Anne and Henry now seem to have made a commitment. But to what was Anne saying yes to? Many historians believe that Henry was asking her to be his formal mistress, she was saying yes. It may have been with a view to a more permanent relationship but for now it was a first promise. However looking at the acceptance of the offer with this gift in the light of marriage can also be a realistic interpretation of the jewel.

  7. To Banditqueen:

    Henry’s letter thanking of the gift makes clear that (unlike his former offer) it was question of marriage for otherwise he would have not needed God to make the situation happen where also his body could be dedicated to Anne.

    However, as we have not Anne’s letter nor know what happened when they met, it is unclear who was the first to speak of marriage between the. Did Henry offer from his free will or only after Anne demanded it? Also historians seem to have different opinions when Anne sent her gift and made her “submission”.

    Both matter are essential to conclusions we make from their characters.

    1. Hello Hannele. I am not sure Henry was asking Anne to marry him, but most certainly it can be interpreted in that light. What he clearly is promising is love and service, a long committed relationship between them. Anne was not accessible to anything less than marriage and is moved by Henry’s deep expressions of love, his wounded heart and persistence. Henry has melted her heart and she has submitted herself body and soul to him. While not explicitly saying yes to marriage, if that is the question, the language of letters four and five, here Henry’s response are very suggestive that marriage is the end game here. The symbols of the maiden and diamond suggest the desired protection of marriage. Could the gift even be Anne saying she will only accept marriage? The diamond could represent a strong foundation for a lasting relationship, it could also be a proposal from Anne. Anne is saying yes, but she is qualifying that if her submission and commitment is total, his has to be that of a crown and not just his service or his heart. By the time of the letters that followed and maybe this one, Anne and Henry were well into each other, so talk of marriage seems to have been going on by 1527. I think this letter certainly marks a milestone in their relationship and the indicators for an engagement and more formal plans to marry quickly followed. As to whether Henry entered into an agreement to marry of his own free will, well he was in love, wanted an heir and at some point Anne is believed to have promised Henry sons….he could only get a legitimate son through marriage…so maybe he calculated the end game as Anne was doing? Was this also the point that both Anne and Henry decided on none consummation in order to ensure that a child was not conceived before the divorce and their wedding?

  8. Does anyone know if there was a treasury where precious valuables were kept at that time? Is it possible that Cromwell disposed of it?
    I read where Clement Kynnersley purchased the anointing spoon that was with the Ampula for sixteen shillings. I also read where some jewels were placed on loan. I’m betting that records were kept and it is just a matter of discovery.

  9. I am curious as to how the makers of the “show boat” pin came up with the design? From a written description or were drawings of the piece found? I remember seeing some drawing Holbein did of a cup for Jane Seymour, I believe? Didn’t Holbein draw some jewelry and other items that were made by the goldsmiths? I would think if there were drawings made of the pin, Holbein would have been a first choice considering some of his drawings made prior to doing the actual portraits look very much like modern photographs! If he made a drawing you can be sure it was precise to the nth degree! If there was only a written description, where was it found? In just one of the letters or elsewhere?

    After all these years, Claire, still love this site as much as the day I discovered it!

  10. Dear Claire, Hope you & all the family are well. I wondered what you named the kittens?I did not hear anything, I love your updates, but since being Widowed I cannot afford to join Tudor Chronicles,much to my disappointment!I just wondered if my son Stephen & I will receive updates of the files still? I love that boat Trinket, Anne was a very clever woman!Thank you for working so hard to give us further glimpses into the ever fascinatingTudor history,we cannot get enough details!Hope to hear from you soon.Kindest regards to you all. From Pam Sweeney.

    1. Hi Pam,
      We’re all really well, thank you. The kittens are called Majesty and Portia, and are doing really well. I send updates out once or twice a week and you should have received one this week, I hope it got through to you ok.
      Best Wishes to you and Stephen,


  11. Why did she wear a B necklace though? Was it fashionable at the time, or did she invent it herself? It’s odd how such an iconic piece of jewelry went missing.
    Also what did the A that Elizabeth wore in Henry VIII’s family portrait stand for? Anne? If it was her mother’s necklace why did they paint it in? After all Anne wasn’t exactly a popular person a the time.

    1. Initialled jewellery was very popular at the time, Anne had several pieces (B pendant, AB, A) and Henry owned pieces with his intials too. I expect that Elizabeth chose to wear her mother’s necklace for that painting.

  12. Hey Claire,
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