Last week, I talked about the lies surrounding Anne Boleyn and her appearance and how historical evidence was now questioning the picture of Anne as a woman with six fingers on one hand, goitre and a wart.
So, what was Anne really like?
Anne Boleyn – A Beauty?
As I said last week, Anne’s enemies destroyed likenesses and portraits of Anne, so it is hard for us to know conclusively what she looked like. However, this famous portrait of her, that we all know and love, is said to be a copy of an original.
There are various quotes which talk of Anne’s looks:-
“beautiful and with an elegant figure” – Lancelot de Carles, quoted in “The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn”, Eric Ives
Anne “was very eloquent and gracious, and reasonably good looking” – John Barlow, a cleric of Anne, also quoted in Eric Ives’ biography.
“Young and good-looking” – Simon Grynee, “Original Letters”
“Very beautiful” – Francesco Sanuto, Venetian Diplomat, who also described her as “swarthy” or dark-skinned.
“…eyes always most attractive which she knew well how to use with effect. Sometimes leaving them at rest and at others, sending a message to carry the secret witness of the heart. And, truth to tell, such was their power that many surrendered to their obedience” – Lancelot de Carles.
“She was handsome to look at, with a pretty mouth”, Nicholas Sander in “The Rise and Growth of the English Schism” after also describing her ugliness!
Eric Ives in his biography says that history points to Anne having “tolerable” looks, not beautiful but certainly not plain or ugly, and having a “splendid head of dark hair and fine eyes”. Some historians talk of her having rich auburn hair, which she inherited from her father.
A surviving 1534 portrait medal which carries the initials A.B. and Anne’s motto “The Moost Happi” shows a woman with a long oval face and high cheekbones.
An enamel portrait from a ring thought to have belonged to Elizabeth I, Anne’s daughter, also shows a woman with a long oval face, high cheekbones and other features like a “decided” chin and strong nose. These striking looks would have been inherited from her beautiful mother, Elizabeth Howard, and would have been a contrast to the usual blonde, blue-eyed stereotype of beauty.
From these two surviving pictures, it is clear that Anne was not an obvious beauty, but her striking facial features combined with her evident charm, wit and intelligence would have made her stand out from the crowd – she certainly caught Henry’s eye!