Did Anne Boleyn have much to do with Elizabeth?

In this instalment of my series “Questions about Anne Boleyn”, I answer the question “Did Anne Boleyn have much of a relationship with Elizabeth?”

I consider whether Anne Boleyn was disappointed with her daughter’s birth, whether there is evidence that she didn’t bond with Elizabeth, and how she was involved with the princess’s early life and upbringing. I also look at the prevailing myth that Elizabeth I distanced herself from her mother’s memory – just how true is that?

I realise that not everyone enjoys video talks, so as this video is based on an article I wrote a few years ago, you can read that article if you prefer – Anne Boleyn, mother of Elizabeth I.

Do remember to watch the other videos in the “Questions about Anne Boleyn” series. You can find the playlist here.

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10 thoughts on “Did Anne Boleyn have much to do with Elizabeth?”
  1. Wonderful presentation. As to that locket ring I’ve seen very good close up photos of it. I had no idea it was as tiny as you describe. The likenesses inside are extraordinary. I completely agree with you. It makes no sense that anyone other than Elizabeth’s mother Anne would be in that ring.

    The line from ‘Anne of the Thousand Days’ you mentioned, though I know this never happened, I love Genevieve Bujold’s delivery of it. With the hindsight of 400+ years it’s a great line. Plus I love that scene in general. Genevieve and Richard Burton play so well off of each other.

  2. I never realised that the Chequers ring was so tiny, was it worn on Elizabeths little finger quite possibly, and it also gives us an impression of how slender her fingers actually were, like Michael I have seen a close up of it and it is very dainty, I too believe that the other sitter is Anne Boleyn, the woman who gave birth to her and who died before she was three years old, I have read in Ives book the amount of materials and items Anne purchased for her daughter, like any new mother she delighted in spoiling her child with lovely tasteful clothes, and she had a queens budget to indulge her new hobby to, Anne was of course disappointed with Elizabeths sex but after going through the arduous ordeal of childbirth, she must also have been grateful she had come through it well and her new baby too, there were no complications but we have to remember infection can set in later as with the unfortunate Jane Seymour Elizabeth of York and Catherine Parr, for now Anne must rest and Henry V111 too commented on the fact that Anne had given him a healthy child and sons would soon follow, Elizabeth was also shown naked to an ambassador so he could report back of how perfect a baby she was, I find the idea of the mother not being allowed to breastfeed her child because of the fear of inheriting the mothers personality odd, when that mother has carried her baby for nine months and is part of her, the very blood and bone and tissue and personality too, our traits are developed in the womb and every child has part of its mother’s personality and characteristics and some of the fathers too, also the mothers body produces the milk for the child so every new Royal mother must have had to suffer leaking breasts for so,e time after their baby was born, I always thought they never breastfed was because it was not considered seemly for a queen, you learn something new every day, there are other ways we can tell how Anne was very fond of Elizabeth as she was known to have her placed next to her on a cushion, and was known to look at her every now and then, I think she had a strong maternal bond with Elizabeth and I believe she was carrying her in her arms when she and Henry had that well known altercation, of which Alexander spoke of to Elizabeth years later, of course Starkey refutes this but I believe Ales was correct when he said it was not long before Annes execution, as it fits in perfectly with their strained relationship in the days before Annes fall, she was trying to get to him through Elizabeth, I thought the Tudors carried it very well, there was Anne played by Natalie Dormer following Hemry through the gardens talking to him in anguished tones and there was Henry cold and indifferent to her pleading, we know in reality Henry was upstairs looking down at her through the window, and she was saying something to him in the gardens outside holding Elizabeth, they were too far away for Ales to hear but we can imagine it was not a happy conversation, iv always thought it was about Annes remark to Norris about dead mans shoes and Henry had got to hear of it, and she was trying to explain herself, she knew her days as queen were numbered but she could never have known her life was in danger only her position, years after in the reign of Elizabeth we have evidence that she did revere her mother’s memory, as the video explains and in Weirs book too, The Lady In The Tower, the queen adopted Annes falcon badge and there were books published in her memory referring to her as this saintly queen the mother of the good Queen Elizabeth, she became a hero to the reformists and as one contemporary said to her as much, that Protestantism began its her mother, we must also remember that although Henry V111 painted his second queen as a vile unnatural monster during her trial and hasty execution, there were many who believed she was done to death innocently so he could marry Jane Seymour, even some of her enemies those who disliked her believed she was merely the victim of a miscarriage of justice, and he would not admit to it, but it was not Annes reputation who suffered rather Henry V111 instead, Elizabeth also adored her mother’s relations and I like the bit where Claire says she was a lions cub but also a falcon, she must have heard about her grandfathers reputation as being a skilled diplomat, a very intelligent man who could speak several languages and she also would have heard from her mother’s friends and kin how graceful and stylish Anne was, how she could dance so elegantly and how beautiful was her singing voice, how virtuous and pious she was and how well her household was run, how brilliant her mind was and how she could discuss many topics with the most learned men in the kingdom, including theology her favourite subject, in fact I like to think that had that great universal genius Leonardo De Vinci ever visited England, he would have found it a pleasure to talk with Anne, there were also the many paintings done of the queen in her daughters reign, and the most famous of all hangs in the NPG gallery, but it is not my favourite one of her, the Hever one is my favourite that depicts her holding a rose, the ring that Elizabeth wore that we feel contains the image of her mother was one she never took of, and she also it is assumed owned her famous pearl necklace with the B initial, I think this is the one she wears in Holbeins painting of Henry V111 with his family that he commissioned when Edward was a young boy, Jane Seymour is also in the painting as the woman who is the mother of the heir to the throne, Elizabeth had a love of pearls and this could be also as a sign of reverence to her mother who also wore pearls a lot, there is a myth that Elizabeth was embarrassed of her mother’s disgrace but so many lost their heads in Henrys V111 reign that I feel we make too much of it, death by decapitatiom was a sign of noble and royal blood, and one of Elizabeths early biographers J E Neale, makes an interesting note when he says that it was a sign of being a gentleman, the scaffold he says, did not matter much, Elizabeth as she grew up and was surrounded by those who had loved her mother must have concluded in her mind that she had been a deeply wronged woman, and as we have seen she did much to revere her memory, the tragedy was both mother and daughter never knew one other to enjoy that special bond that most daughters have with their mothers, I feel they would have been especially close as Anne was to hers, Elizabeth was very much her mother’s daughter she had her flirtatious nature and was very vain and witty, she also was very intelligent and Anne would have been deeply proud of her, I can see them choosing gowns and jewellery to wear for an upcoming pageant, I can see them sparring together as both being very fiery women, they would have been bound to clash quite often, I have often wondered how long Anne would have lived had she been allowed to live her natural life span, she had survived the sweat and had no complications after the birth of her daughter, it was a very real tragedy that her life was cut short both for her and her daughter, she had turned England upside down and yet she has given us our most greatest monarch.

    1. Christine, I believe that when she said it was believed that a child would inherit the qualities of the woman who breastfed it, they were talking about the wet nurse. High ranking women did not breastfeed their own children. Thay would closely get wet nurses and hire one with good qualities, which they believed would be passed on to the child.

    2. There may have been a bit of a disappointment when Elizabeth was not the Prince of promise and Henry and Anne needed a son still as soon as possible but they were grateful that the baby all this fuss was over was healthy, even if she was a girl. Henry soon played the doting father and Anne was hooked on her little daughter. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if there wasn’t just a tad bit of a competition between mum and dad as to who was the proudest parent. Henry had Elizabeth paraded at Mass and spent time with her on progress, as did her mother. The list of very rich and lovely clothes shows a child who was loved and over whom the greatest care was taken, who was adored and of the utmost importance and as a royal baby should be dressed and treated, coddled and spoilt. Elizabeth was shown of to ambassadors to show how perfectly formed she was and she was put on the international marriage markets almost at once. I know that sounds a bit course, but it was important to use your female high born children to form an alliance just as much as your male heirs, more so as they were the key to even more heirs for the future of both countries or estates. Anne made suggestions to Henry regarding a match for Elizabeth, he listened and arranged for an envoy from France as it was with one of the sons of the French King. Both she and the King entertained him although the negotiations went South, Anne didn’t give up. Elizabeth was at Court for important events and pastimes, had her own separate household to keep her safe, just as any son or daughter of a King would be, she had her own servants, rockers, nurse maids, a governess, the usual royal officers and ladies to wait on her and her status was highlighted because one of those attending was Henry’s first daughter, Lady Mary. Henry and Anne paid a fortune on her Baptism, her cradle, her Christmas gifts so she was certainly treated as a royal Princess and was given the status of heir until a son appeared.

      The change in the status of Elizabeth, who also dined under a banner of state, didn’t change for several months after Anne’s execution because royal protocol and the way things were done didn’t change over night. However, a few months after Anne’s execution, we see Lady Bryan asking for money for clothes and nobody was really taking care to ensure Elizabeth was provided for as she was growing. This didn’t mean she didn’t have clothes but had grown and as an illegitimate child, her status took a dramatic change. This doesn’t mean that she was neglected or completely forgotten though and money was found and at Christmas 1536, the little Elizabeth was part of the family around the new Queen. Jane didn’t reach out to Elizabeth as she did Mary, but she did give some jewellery for her upkeep and she was at Court. Elizabeth would be at Court sporadically over the next few years but we really don’t see much of her until after 1540. She would of course become more of a feature at Court and part of the family when he married Katherine Parr. However, she took part in the Baptism of Edward in October 1536 being carried by the Duke of Norfolk and she met both Anne of Cleves and Kathryn Howard. She was visited by Anne of Cleves a number of times and Henry saw her as a clever child and certainly didn’t neglect her education or her needs as his child. He may not have been a permanent feature, but she wasn’t exactly neglected either.

      As we see in the video, Elizabeth remembered her mother on a number of occasions, displaying her falcon badge on coats of arms and table cloths for example. The Chequers ring is so small that it is difficult to really say for certain if the lady is Anne, but really who else would it be? The features, when enhanced do look certainly as we would expect Anne to look and I don’t think Elizabeth would have a portrait of anyone else other than her mother in a ring she wore all of the time. In lockets one normally has one’s lover, mother or grandmother or father. Unless you knew no other parents than step parents or hated your own, it is very rare to find photographs of them in lockets. Jane Seymour had a locket with Henry’s portrait in, but he was her suitor. The portrait is meant to be contemporary with Anne Boleyn and Katherine Parr was her stepmother only from 1543 so she wasn’t really a candidate and it makes no sense, unless it was dated to 1544,_for example. I believe it has Elizabeth on one side and Anne on the other. It is such a delicate and beautiful thing, so precious, yes, I believe it was a personal and special reminder of the mother who had loved her but was taken so cruelly from her at such a tender age.

  3. Than you for this especially interesting comment. I find it very interesting to learn how Anne enlisted various people to support Elizabeth as she grew, and to think of how Important they would be to her success as queen, even though Anne
    had no way of knowing that.

    1. Yes she entrusted her daughters spiritual care to her chaplain Mathew Parker, also Elizabeth had in her household Katherine ( Kat Ashley ) who was married to a relation of hers, and they were both very fond of each other, Kat accompanied her to Catherine Parrs house after the death of Henry V111, and Blanche Parry her childhood nurse stayed with her all her life, they all had a positive influence on Elizabeth when she was growing up.

  4. Christine, I believe that when she said it was believed that a child would inherit the qualities of the woman who breastfed it, they were talking about the wet nurse. High ranking women did not breastfeed their own children. Thay would closely get wet nurses and hire one with good qualities, which they believed would be passed on to the child.

  5. Anne had baby Elizabeth on a cushion at the side of her when she met visitors and even foreign visitors commented on this. Anne was a regular visitor to her daughter, as was Henry, she showed pleasure and delight in her little daughter and spoilt her as became of Royal Princess. Anne seems to have been involved in the choosing of Elizabeth’s clothes and fabrics and cared about every detail. Elizabeth was at Court regularly and she would have bonded with her mother there. The attendants of the little Princess were her mother’s relatives and Anne was very concerned for her wellbeing but was unable to influence her later years as sadly Anne wasn’t there. For this reason she commended Elizabeth to Matthew Parker and others to keep an eye on her in the future.

    Yes, I think Elizabeth thought of her mother, she made reference to her mother at her coronation, she wore a locked which may have been her mother on a tiny ring and she kept her memory alive during her life. I love that the falcon badge was used and arms of Anne and Elizabeth and the portraits being commissioned show Elizabeth was at least comfortable with the memory and image and heritage of her mother alongside her own. I love that people wrote about her and I love your Anne Boleyn cushion on your bookcase. I agree that Elizabeth was Anne’s greatest legacy and she deserved to see her grow up.

  6. As a 2 year old, Elizabeth would be aware of her gorgeous clothes and caps. and at the time of Anne’s death, and after, she would notice that she is not wearing such beautiful clothes and probably asked why. So when did Henry allow her to regain her status and wear clothes appropriate for a princess? or a royal?

  7. why couldn’t baby Elizabeth’s housekeeping money keep her in proper clothing after Anne’s death? her governess said she had nothing to wear

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