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