Did Anne Boleyn read Tarot cards as portrayed in “The Other Boleyn Girl” film?

There is no evidence that Anne Boleyn read tarot cards. However, in The Other Boleyn Girl and The Tudors, if my memory serves me correctly, Anne finds a tarot card of the Queen which has been cut so the queen is missing her head. This refers to a drawing in a book of prophecy which Anne saw which depicted Henry, Catherine of Aragon and Anne but the figure of Anne was missing its head. Anne did not take this seriously and when Anne Gainsford worried about the picture, Anne called the book a "bauble" and commented that she would marry the king "whatsoever might become of me". Anne also spoke to Henry of an ancient prophecy that a queen of England would be burnt at the stake but assured Henry "but even if I were to suffer a thousand deaths, my love for you will not abate for you one jot."

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2 thoughts on “Did Anne Boleyn read Tarot cards as portrayed in “The Other Boleyn Girl” film?”

  1. Su Barkla says:

    There is no possibility of Anne Boleyn using Tarot cards. The core pack we call the Tarot hadn’t been printed as yet – there were one or two very valuable hand-painted packs made for Italian royal families, but they are very specific and localised and their imagery was not comparable.
    Normal playing cards were very popular in the UK. Probably the earliest use of cards for divination anywhere was by using normal playing cards, and gypsy ‘fortune tellers’ generally used normal cards rather than tarot cards.
    What were known as ‘tarocchi’ packs of cards were being printed in Germany and Italy during Anne Boleyn’s lifetime. These had some similarities to tarot cards, but were not identical. The game of tarocchi (complex card game of tricks and trumps) was popular in Italy and northern European countries (and is still played there) but has no history in England.
    The Tarot pack was developed and popularised for divination in 18th century France, not before, and its divinatory ideas were more or less faked up at the time. Again, it wasn’t much like the modern tarot pack. Its real occult birth was in the 19th century.
    One could make all sorts of arguments about Anne using cards for divining purposes, but they wouldn’t have been the tarot which has no references in English writings then or since. It would have been a fabulously hot topic in Shakespeare’s plays or the Jacobean drama, and would certainly have been mentioned in works on witchcraft, if it had been known.
    The topic of divination seems like a party game to us, and there’s always been that sort of aspect to games of chance, relating to our ‘luck’. But real divination was a very serious issue in Tudor times and Anne was too intelligent, and probably too religious, to mess around doing such a thing. Anyway, who would have taught her? There weren’t New Age Read Your Tarot instructions on every bookstall.

  2. Interesting research. Yes, indeed, tarot cards at that time could not have such a sacred meaning.

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