John Leland and Anne Boleyn’s coronation

Posted By on September 13, 2016

john-leland-engraving-by-c-grignion Today is the anniversary of the birth of John Leland, poet and antiquary, in London on 13th September c. 1503.

Leland is known for his Latin poems and his antiquarian writings which included Assertio inclytissimi Arturii regis Britanniae (which he presented to Henry VIII), his “New Year’s Gift” to Henry VIII: Antiquitates Britanniae, De uiris illustribus, his travel notes and his defence of the legends of King Arthur. But he also has a link to Queen Anne Boleyn because Leland and fellow poet, Nicholas Udall, were commissioned to write poetry to be recited at Anne Boleyn’s river procession and coronation procession on 29th May and 31st May 1533.

At the time of Anne’s coronation, Leland was a royal chaplain and an “unofficial antiquary to the King”,1 but it is thought that the poetry which made up The Versis and dities made at the coronation of quene Anne, found in BL, Royal MS 18 A. lxiv, were commissioned by Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk, and Thomas Cromwell who were in charge of the organisation of the coronation celebrations.2 Nicholas Udall’s contributions were “a group of English and Latin verses and songs” and John Leland’s were “a variety of Latin descriptive and epideictic poems.”3

You can read an “abstract of Leland’s and Udall’s verses” in Ballads from Manuscripts: Ballads on the condition of England in Henry VIII’s and Edward VI’s reigns from page 373 to 401 – click here.

Leland’s includes verses which were recited at the pageant showing Anne Boleyn’s falcon badge and referring to another tableau showing St Anne:

“Your name, Anne, suggested to the citizens this pageant; the falcon was added as being the token of your family. He, down winging, rests him amongst the red and the snow-white roses. While there he gazes with fond eyes, an angel from heaven decks his head with a gorgeous crown. Be gentle then, Anne, to your citizens, who by any and every way do honour you. So may your progeny flourish even as that of Saint Anne. So may you live as many happy days as your bird has feathers.”

and the oration:

Anna, thy country’s chosen pride, of noble lineage on thy father’s side and on thy mother’s, O fairer than Thames’ swans, than milk, than snow, you who in yourself have the virtues of a thousand others, receive this bright-gemm’d crown! it beseems well your temples. Be more fruitful than fruitful Niobe, that thy husband may see his face in many a child. May your happiness last as long as the life of the Sibyl!4

Click here to read more about Anne Boleyn’s coronation procession and its various pageants.

Notes and Sources

Picture: Line engraving by Charles Grignion, purportedly taken from a bust of 16th-century antiquary John Leland at All Souls College, Oxford. Engraving printed in William Huddesford, ed. (1772). The Lives of those Eminent Antiquaries John Leland, Thomas Hearne, and Anthony à Wood. From Wikipedia.

  1. ed. Goldring, Elizabeth; Eales, Faith; Clarke, Elizabeth; Archer, Jayne Elizabeth (2014) John Nichols’s The Progresses and Public Processions of Queen Elizabeth: A New Edition of the Early Modern Sources: Volume V: Appendices, Bibliographies, and Index, Oxford University Press, p. 23.
  2. Ibid.
  3. Ibid.
  4. Williams, Richard; Furnivall, Frederick James; Morfill, William Richard (1872) Ballads from Manuscripts: Ballads on the condition of England in Henry VIII’s and Edward VI’s reigns, Printed for the Ballad society, by Taylor and co, p. 378.

6 thoughts on “John Leland and Anne Boleyn’s coronation”

  1. Banditqueen says:

    John Leyland is an important source for many old and obscure places to visit around England and Wales and his Iternary is full of wonderful descriptions from the English realms of Henry Viii. His work to collect evidence and information about the libraries of the monasteries that could help Henry find texts that backed his new monarchy preserved many ancient books from destruction by the careless and ignorent men paid to destroy art and statues in their churches. When you engage someone in any act of state sponsored vandalism you hire thugs and people who don’t care about such things. When you know that such thugs will go too far you send commissioners and librarians to list e everything and save that which is real value, books first. Even Rich and Cromwell bawked at reports of people using the paper in books for less scholarly purposes.

    Leyland was distracted by local stories of curiosities and explored them. For example, in 1538 he came to Knaresborough and described the town, market, castle and Dropping Well. The well and cave is associated with a local witch called Mother Shipton. The antiquarian does not mention Agnes Shipton and the first known mention does not appear in print for another 100 years, but the cave is said to have been visited by Cardinal Wolsey in 1530 on his way to York where mother Shipton told him about his own end, the end of Anne Boleyn and the future Dukes of Suffolk and Northumberland, the Duke from the short reign of Queen Jane Grey. The Dropping Well has natural salts and minerals that petrify objects and has healing powers. John Leyland notes that the process was natural and not magic. Mother Shipton lived in the caves, cared for by local people, she was deformed since birth, but she married and had three children. The stories of her prophecies took on a life of their own from the seventeenth to nineteenth centuries, art and folk drama extended her tales, she was even drawn as a pipe smoking Santa Claus and sleigh. The prophecies took on a life as well, as she was attributed to prophecies about the Seige of York during the Civil War, the Fire of London and air flight, as a female version of Nostradarmus. The museum tells you the tale, what is true, why the existence of Agnes is doubtful but why the Dropping Well is a wonderful world famous sensation. Several famous people including two US presidents have sent items or left items to be petrified naturally by the Dropping Well and you can leave your own item for the museum or your pleasure and the custodians will send it to you. You can also purchase an item there. The cave is in a natural deep gorge and walk which makes it a place of outstanding natural beauty.

    Two books tell the full story….Mother Skipton Secrets, Lies and Prophecies…Fabio R de Araujo and Mother Skipton Witch and Prophetess Dr Arnold Kellett. There is also a guide book from the site.

    1. Christine says:

      I have heard of Mother Shipton it seems she was quite a celebrity in her day, I believe she was referred to as a wise woman, some one who cared for the sick and was skilled no doubt in herbs and helped women in childbirth, there seemed to be one in every village who folk both feared and revered for their so called magic powers.

      1. Banditqueen says:

        Yes, Christine, that would be more the sort of thing, more a local community healer than a witch, someone everyone went to for help, advice, lotions and potions, herbal remedies, pain relief and probably for social care. The wise woman would look after everyone, they only drew attention to themselves if something went wrong, like the peddler who had a strke near Pendal in 1612, with the poor girl who cursed him for not buying her pins was so afraid that she had hurt him that she confessed and confessed to a load of other rubbish and condemned her whole family. The local wise woman would train other family members and pass on her skills, which were considered harmless for the most part. Mother Skipton lived in the glen in the caves as she was deformed, but everyone came to her and her three daughters after her. She was famous for miles around. The funny thing is I found her attraction by accident. We were going up to Yorkshire a few years ago and I was looking for places from the eras I am interested in and Knaresborough and Mother Shipton came up, so we went and for me it was the highlight of the holiday. When we explored around the cave and well, which is amazing, the petrified water hangs down in different shapes, almost by magic, we found the plaque dedicated to the visit of John Leyland and his description in 1538, which made the visit even more interesting. Of course one of her prophecies had to be about Anne Boleyn and Wolsey. I wonder how many people were making these gloomy predictions. It’s fascinating that Leyland had a connection to Anne Boleyn through the poetry at her coronation. His Itinerary is a real window into every day life and folk stories about the country in the reign of Henry Viii. I highly recommend it.

        1. Christine says:

          Hi thanks for the info Yorkshire certainly is an interesting county to visit, I never have but my mum and sister and nephew have been there and loved it, the petrified water sounds incredible I think il google that, interesting the prophecies she made as when Henry was trying to rid himself of Catherine a priest also made such a one that if he succeeded and married Anne than a dog would come and lick his blood, and according to legend that’s actually what happened when his coffin burst open as it rested en route to Windsor, a local dog came in the chapel and started sniffing around and then began to lick up the fluid, sounds yuk! Whether that story is true I don’t know but I find Nostradamus absolutely fascinating in the predictions he made, he even predicted the Second World War.

        2. Banditqueen says:

          Hi Christine, sounds plausible, resin would look like blood, but I think if I was the coffin maker I would be on the next ship out. This is one of my favourites, the priest was in an article on here earlier in the Anne Boleyn year. The marriage of Henry Viii and Anne Boleyn certainly had the effects of many people having visions or making predictions. Guesswork? Gifted insight? Divine warnings or just wishful thinking or fervour? The number of studies done over the years by professionals is amazing. The mid Medieval world had no problems with visions, the Celts had stories of people who set out to go somewhere, found themselves in the underworld and then back on the road, there was no difference between the real world and the spiritual world. I enjoyed a fantastic two day seminar in Liverpool on myths and legends and how pagan beliefs mixed with popular orthodoxy for centuries, Processor Hutton was one of the leading historians there, it is an interesting scholarship of more recent years.

          John Leyland may not have given much veracity to some of the legends, but he reported many of these old community practices. I love the idea of mixing ideology and legends to bring together the pageant at Anne’s coronation. Mythical beasts and fantastical ancient gods, the stories of the saints, gallant knights, all combined to make Tudor and Medieval displays wonderful to behold. I love the symbolism in the poetry as well, asking Anne to be gentle and gracious, as a mother, protective of her children, a symbol of grace and mercy to balance the vision of the King as judge and warrior. Saint Anne of course was by tradition the name given to the mother of the Virgin Mary, she was meant to have taught her to love God and bring truth to all; Anne Boleyn was pregnant so the mother image is sacred and special as you could see that she was carrying the new hope for England, that as a lady who loved the gospels she is symbolic of carrying truth to the people, in other words, Anne is a new Saint Anne in the legendary pageant. The Tudors knew how to put on a show and I am certain that the children singing and dancing and these things were a welcome break in what was a hot and very long day.

  2. Christine says:

    Yes they certainly did know how to make a marvellous spectacle, it’s something in fact that us British have been famous for, for centuries, also at Anne’s coronation they said wine was flowing from the fountains, even her detractors and those who whilst loving Henry deplored his marriage and the new religion must have enjoyed themselves that day, it must have been a free holiday and something for the poor to celebrate, after all they couldn’t never have tasted wine before in their lives, just ale and so they must have been quite euphoric and slightly tipsy that day, can’t blame them life was hard for the poor and if they didn’t actually approve of Anne so what did it matter, they had the day of work, dancing and free wine, and yes it’s interesting the way they interwove the old myths and legends of Britain into the pageant, unicorns and dragons and mermaids, I don’t think you can beat the tales of King Arthur for a riveting read, and in fact Henry 11 and His queen Eleanor found the story of the Knights of the round table totally fascinating, I think many kings have held him as an example of a great King, a king who bought peace and prosperity to a united Britain, that he also had an impact on Henry V11 is proof as he named his first born after him, so sure was he of his greatness, however as history knows it was not that son who history remembers but his younger brother.

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