Queen Anne Boleyn takes to her chamber
Posted By Claire on August 26, 2015
On 26th August 1533, Queen Anne Boleyn took to her chamber to prepare for the birth of her first child, the future Elizabeth I.
Anne’s “taking her chamber” ceremony took place at Greenwich Palace. A heavily pregnant Queen Anne Boleyn attended a special mass at the palace’s Chapel Royal and then processed with her ladies to the Queen’s great chamber. There, the group enjoyed wine and spices before Anne’s lord chamberlain prayed that God would give the Queen a safe delivery. After the prayer, Anne and her ladies retired to her chamber, which, from that moment on, would be a male-free zone.
A woman usually took to her chamber four to six weeks before her due date and for royal women it was preceded by a special church service, as was the case with Anne Boleyn. In the Ordinances by Margaret, Countess of Richmond and Derby, as to what Preparation is to be made against the Deliverance of a Queen, as also for the Christening of the Child which she shall be delivered, a manual written by Margaret Beaufort, Henry VII’s mother, in 1486 when Elizabeth of York, her daughter-in-law, was expecting her first child, Margaret set out in detail the preparations to be made for the Queen’s confinement, down to minuscule details. She also went on to give instructions as to how the church should be “arrayed” for the Christening service and what the child would need in his/her nursery.
In her ordinances, Margaret gave detailed instructions on how the Queen’s chamber was to be prepared and furnished for her lying-in. Preparations included:
- The hanging of rich cloth of arras (tapestries) on the walls, ceiling, windows and all.
- One window being hanged loosely so that light could be let in when it pleased the Queen.
- A royal bed set up along with a pallet or day-bed, with these beds also being hanged to match the rest of the room.
- The floor to be covered with carpets.
- A cupboard to be covered with arras.
The church where the Queen was to receive mass was also to be “well and wonderfully arrayed” and the Great Chamber outside the Queen’s chamber was to be hanged with rich arras, fully carpeted, and set out with a cloth and chair of Estate, along with cushions. The Great Chamber was where the Queen would receive spices and wine on her return from the chapel and before going into her chamber. The chamber between the Great Chamber and the Queen’s chamber was also to be “well and worshipfully hanged”.
After enjoying the refreshments, the Queen was to be led to her chamber by two of the greatest estates, that is to say the highest peers of the realm, who would leave her at the door. The Queen’s chamber was to be a women-only environment with women acting as butlers, sewers etc. Any male officers who needed to bring things to the Queen would be received by the Queen’s women in the Great Chamber.
The Ordinances even go into detail on how much fabric, and what type of fabric, was to be used to furnish the Queen’s bed, for example two pairs of sheets of “reines” were to be “4 yardes broade, and 5 yardes longe”. The bedding included fustian pillow stuffed with fine down, a pane of scarlet furred with ermine and embroidered with crimson velvet on velvet or cloth of Gold. There was to be a mattress fluffed with wool, a feather bed and bolster of down, a “sparner” embroidered with crowns of gold, the king’s and queen’s arms and device, lined with double tarterton, garnished with fringes of silk, blue russet and gold. There was also to be a bowl of gold or silver and gilt, 4 cushions of crimson damask cloth of gold, a round mantel of crimson velvet furred throughout with ermine.
The pallet was to be arrayed in a similar way to the bed.
Margaret also instructed that those of high estate who had been chosen by the King to go to the christening should “be placed near to the place where the Queen is delivered” so that they would be ready for the christening.
Notes and Sources
This text is based on a video talk I did for the Tudor Society in March 2015 on Margaret Beaufort’s Ordinances – https://www.tudorsociety.com/margaret-beauforts-ordinances-video/.
- Ordinances by Margaret, Countess of Richmond and Derby, as to what Preparation is to be made against the Deliverance of a Queen, as also for the Christening of the Child which she shall be delivered in Antiquarii De rebus Britannicis collectanea, Joannis Lelandi, p179-184, available to read at https://archive.org/stream/joannislelandia01heargoog#page/n238/mode/2up
5 thoughts on “Queen Anne Boleyn takes to her chamber”
She was so sure she was having a boy, it breaks my heart. I wish she had known then what amazing ruler Elizabeth would become.
I love Queen Ann, i suffered for her, when i thought how desperate was, after every baby she lost, how sad could be when she descovered that henry 8” was in love of jane seymour, and others lady…2 weeks ago i was in front of her tomb, and i pray for her.
she will be my favourite queen forever.
And many of these went to the wayside with Mary I, since she could not conduct the business of the realm while traditionally confined (women only).
But what are reines and sparners?
Had I been Anne I would have attempted to change the confinement time, spending four to six weeks till the baby came in just women only company in a dark stuffy room would have driven me mad, I’d have found a week hell so god knows how Henrys first three wives coped, Anne was lucky with Elizabeth as due to the fact she was premature being conceived before her parents were married, Anne only had two weeks in her chamber before her baby arrived, Margaret Beaufort who was responsible for the Lying in of the Queens had herself suffered greatly with her pregnancy, being only thirteen when her selfish husband decided to sleep with her in the hope of begatting an heir, (little caring of his wife’s tender age), she was way too young and her life was put at risk, not being able to have anymore children after Henrys difficult birth, and maybe that was the reason she decided to write a manual about the childbirth of Queens, wanting to make sure they were treated accordingly to their status and great care was given with resting, food etc, most of the ideas were superstition anyway, not allowing any fresh air in and so on, and tapestries hung with pleasant scenes so as not to frighten the mother, I suppose it was during these confinement times that Henry chose to sleep with his mistresses and the Kings that followed after.
Given that Anne had Elizabeth 12 days after her confinement ceremony, rather than four to six weeks later, how did she disguise the fact that the baby was not premature? Either Anne was clear that she was not going to go into confinement until the last possible moment; being a person who did things her own way, despite what was laid down; or she hoped no-one would notice that she was a little off on her calculations. This shows that Elizabeth was conceived out of wedlock, before January 1533 and that Anne and Henry were hiding this fact by going into confinement at what should have been the correct time, even though there was no way Anne would be pregnant for another four to six weeks. Even though gestation was somewhat hit and miss as to the timing of it and knowledge about it; anyone who had been a parent several times over would from experience have observed that the timing of Anne’s confinement and the birth was a little off. I guess that they just would not have commented, given that such an observation would be treasonous no doubt and just got on with it. Of course Anne could always pretend that the baby was early or make an excuse not to go into confinement at the right time that it was too hot. This room may have been comfortable and made to calm the mother and all sorts of other symbols in the typastries and the decorations and the closing of the windows with draps, but it would be stiffling in August and September. A heavily pregnant woman, with all of the clothing they wore then, in a room heavily covered in hangings; must have been a complete hell. I have every sympathy if any woman wanted to cut her confinement short and not enter until they absolutely had to. Personally I would have escaped or pulled them down and let all beware if they stopped me: I am the Queen.