On this day in Tudor history, Sunday 27th October 1532, a banquet was held in Calais by King Henry VIII in honour of his fellow king, Francis I of France.

After the banquet, Anne Boleyn, Marquess of Pembroke, accompanied by ladies including her sister, Mary Boleyn, made a dramatic entrance “gorgeously apparalled with visers on their faces”, and danced with the French visitors.

Let me share details from contemporary sources regarding the banquet and the masque that followed…


On this day in Tudor history, Sunday 27th October 1532, Anne Boleyn, Marquess of Pembroke, made a dramatic entrance to the great banquet held by King Henry VIII in Calais in honour of King Francis I of France.

Henry VIII and his sweetheart, Anne, had travelled to the English territory of Calais to gain Francis’s public recognition and approval of their relationship, and his support for the annulment of Henry’s marriage to his first wife, Catherine of Aragon. Henry had already spent a few days at the French court in Boulogne, and now it was his turn to play host to the king he referred to as his beloved brother. The two kings had travelled back to Calais on 25th October, but there’d been no sign of Anne Boleyn. Francis I sent her a diamond, but she waited until 27th to show her face.

The chronicler Edward Hall Chronicler describes how the room was lavishly decorated with cloth of tissue, cloth of silver, gold wreaths decorated with stones and pearls, and candelabra. It also had a cupboard stacked high with gold plate. He notes “To tell the riches of the clothes of estates, the basins & other vessels which was there occupied, I assure you my wit is in sufficient.”

He then writes of how “The French king was served 3 courses, & his meat dressed after the French fashion, & the king of England had like courses after the english fashion. The first course of every king was 40 dishes, the second 60, the third 70, which were costly & pleasant.” Wow! That’s a lot of food!

The feast was followed by a masque and this was the time for Anne Boleyn to make her entrance.

In “The Manner of the triumphe of Calais and Boulogne”, a contemporary source printed in 1532/3 by Wynkyn de Worde, is the following account:
“And after supper there came in a maske my lady marques of Pembroke [Anne Boleyn} my lady Mary [Carey], my lady Darby, my lady Fitzwater, my lady Rocheford, my lady Lisle, and my lady Wallop, gorgeously apparalled with visers on their faces. And so came and tooke the frensshe kinge by the hand and other lords of France, and danced a dance or two. And after that the kinge tooke off their visers and then they danced with gentlemen of France an hour after.”

Edward Hall describes what the ladies were wearing:
“After supper came in the Marchioness of Penbroke, with 7 ladies in Masking apparel, of strange fashion, made of cloth of gold, compassed with Crimson Tinsel Satin, owned with Cloth of Silver, lying loose and knit with laces of Gold. These ladies were brought into the chamber, with four damoselles apparelled in Crimson satin, with Tabards of fine cypress.”

Hall goes on to say that Anne Boleyn danced with Francis I, the Countess of Derby danced with the King of Navarre, and the other ladies each took a lord. Then Henry VIII removed the ladies’ visors to show off their beauty. The French king then conversed with Anne Boleyn before retiring to his lodgings, escorted by Henry VIII. Hall notes that the Duke of Norfolk entertained the nobles of France “with many goodly sports and pastimes.”

You may have noticed in the list of names given by Wynkyn de Worde the mention of Lady Mary Carey, i.e. Mary Boleyn, sister of Anne Boleyn, and also Lady Rochford, i.e., Jane Boleyn, wife of Anne’s brother, George. And, of course, Anne’s uncle, the Duke of Norfolk, was entertaining the French nobles. George Boleyn had also accompanied the King and Anne on this trip, and he’d been at the French court in Boulogne with the king. Quite a family affair!

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