The Early Life of Anne Boleyn Part One – Beginnings

Posted By on October 1, 2010

Side view of Hever Castle - The Boleyn Family Home

Over the next couple of weeks I intend to write about Anne Boleyn’s early life, her life leading up to her arrival at the English Court in 1521/1522, and today I want to start with her birth and family background.

Family

There are many myths surrounding Anne, and things we don’t know, but at least we know who her parents were, unless you believe the myth that Elizabeth Boleyn had an affair with Henry VIII! Anne Boleyn was the daughter (I believe second daughter) of Thomas Boleyn, a rising star at the Tudor court, and his wife Elizabeth Boleyn (Lady Elizabeth Howard), daughter of Thomas Howard, 2nd Duke of Norfolk. Anne had royal blood, being descended from Edward I through both of her parents, so she was no commoner. Hugh Paget comments that her royal descent combined with “the exceptional gifts with which she was endowed… developed to the full in two of the most highly cultivated courts in Europe” made her “a not unworthy consort” for Henry VIII.

Her father, Thomas Boleyn, was born in 1477, the son of Sir William Boleyn, High Sheriff of Kent, and Lady Margaret Butler. His paternal grandfather, Geoffrey Boleyn, was Lord Mayor of London and a successful mercer. In around 1498/1499, Thomas Boleyn married Lady Elizabeth Howard, daughter of Thomas Howard, 2nd Duke of Norfolk, and Elizabeth Tilney, a woman who had served as lady-in-waiting to Elizabeth Woodville and as Lady of the Bedchamber to Elizabeth of York. Although it is often said that Elizabeth was marrying beneath her by marrying Thomas, we have to remember that Elizabeth’s father was not restored to his father’s title of Duke of Norfolk until 1514. He had fought on Richard III’s side at the Battle of Bosworth and so was stripped of his lands and titles, and imprisoned, after Henry VII’s victory, he was punished for being a traitor.

Anne Boleyn had four siblings: Mary, George and two brothers who died in childhood, Thomas and Henry. I believe, like many historians, that Mary was the eldest daughter, being born around 1499/1500. This theory is based on a letter from George Carey, 2nd Baron Hunsdon and Mary Boleyn’s grandson, to Lord Burghley in 1597, in which he asks for advice regarding petitioning Elizabeth I about claiming the earldom of Ormonde. The earldom had once been held by Thomas Boleyn, his great-grandfather, and Hunsdon’s claim to it rested on the belief that the title “should have passed to his father and then on to himself by virtue of their descent from Sir Thomas Boleyn’s eldest daughter, Mary.” Baron Hunsdon, therefore, believed that Mary was the eldest of the Boleyn girls. Anne’s only surviving brother, George Boleyn, was most likely born around 1504 and this is backed up by the fact that he did not receive his first royal grant until 1524 and comments made by Jean du Bellay, a French cardinal and diplomat, who considered George to be too young to act as the ambassador to France in 1529.

But when was Anne Boleyn born?

I wish I knew! It would be so wonderful to start this article with “Anne Boleyn was born in 15– at … “, obviously with the blanks filled in, but I can’t because we just don’t know for sure and all we can do is hypothesise based on primary sources and secondary sources from 17th century historians.

The Birth of Anne Boleyn

As I have mentioned before, there are two main dates given for Anne Boleyn’s birth – 1501 and 1507 – and there are valid arguments for each year, which I’ll discuss in a minute. Not only is her place of birth is dependent on the year of her birth – if you take 1501 as her birth date then it is likely that Anne was born at Blicking Hall in Norfolk, if you take 1507 as her birth date then it is likely that she was born at Hever Castle in the Kent countryside – but so is the way we view her life and her fall. As Gareth Russell points out in his article, “The Age of Anne Boleyn”:-

“If she was 28, as one of her stepdaughter’s ladies-in-waiting claimed, then the reasons behind her execution become infinitely more sinister – at 28, Anne Boleyn was still undeniably in her childbearing years. Yes, she would have been at the tail-end of them by Tudor standards, but she would have had at least four or five more years before she was considered infertile, and so the idea that it was just her “failure” to produce a son which led to her death in 1536 suddenly becomes a good deal less convincing and the idea that it was her husband who orchestrated her monstrously unfair death becomes infinitely more likely. However, if she was 35, then she was already practically middle-aged by Tudor standards and it becomes far more likely that the entire reason for her destruction was politics pure and simple, with Anne – and to some extent, perhaps, maybe even her husband – being victims of a savagely brilliant process of character assassination, lies, manufactured hysteria and a ruthless palace coup organised by the King’s chief adviser, Thomas Cromwell.”

I apologise for revisiting this subject, when I have written before on Anne’s date of birth, but I thought it was appropriate to start my series with a look at the arguments for 1501 and 1507 as potential dates of birth for Anne Boleyn.

1501

  • Thomas Boleyn’s letter to Cromwell, dated July 1536 – In it, Thomas Boleyn refers to the financial hardship of the early years of his marriage, writing that his wife “brought me every year a child” LP xi.17 If we consider that the Boleyns married c1498/1499 then surely all five Boleyn children (Mary, Anne, George, Thomas and Henry) were born before 1505. Also, Thomas Boleyn became a wealthy man on the death of his father in 1505, so he must have been referring to Elizabeth’s pregnancies pre-1505.
  • Anne Boleyn’s letter – Art historian Hugh Paget examined an early letter from Anne Boleyn to her father, Thomas, and concluded that it was written from La Vure, the royal park in Brussels which was the location of Margaret of Austria’s summer palace and hunting lodge, in 1513. Paget also writes of how we know from correspondence between the Emperor and Margaret that the appropriate age for a “demoiselle d’honneur” at Margaret’s court was around 13 or 14. A 1507 birth date would make Anne 6 in 1513 so Paget concludes that Anne was born in 1501, making her a year younger than the usual age. Historians such as Eric Ives note that the “formed hand” of the letter belongs to a 12 year old, rather than a 6 year old.
  • Anne Boleyn’s fall – A birth date of 1501 would make Anne around 35 years of age at her execution and it may explain why Henry VIII was worried that Anne could not give him a male heir and why he was so ready to replace her with the younger Jane Seymour. At 35, Anne was past her prime. Jane Seymour is thought to have been born around 1508, so if Anne was born in 1507, why would Henry replace her with someone just a year or so younger?
  • Lord Herbert of Cherbury – In “The Life and Raigne of King Henry the Eighth”, published in 1649, Lord Herbert wrote of how Anne returned to England in when she was about twenty, and Anne returned in 1521/22.
  • Nicholas Sander – In 1585, Sander recorded that Anne Boleyn was in her 15th year when she travelled to France in 1514.
  • Anne’s appointment as a lady-in-waiting to Mary Tudor, Queen of France – We know that in 1514 Thomas Boleyn asked Margaret of Austria to release Anne from her care so that Anne could return to England to accompany Henry VIII’s sister on her journey to France to marry Louis XII. We don’t know whether Anne did travel to England or whether she ended up going directly to France, but we do know that she was one of the ladies that Louis allowed Mary to keep with her in France and not one of the ones sent back to England. Surely, a 7 year old would not be chosen to serve a Queen of France!

1507

  • W.Camden’s marginal note in his Annales Rerum Anglicarum et Hibernicarum, regnante Elizabetha ad annum salutis M.D. LXXXIX(1615) – This says “Anne Bolena nata M.D. VII.”, i.e. 1507. Gareth Russell, in his article “The Age of Anne Boleyn”, states that Camden started writing his account of Anne Boleyn’s life in the late 16th century “with the backing of the English government” and that he had access to William Cecil’s personal papers and state archives.
  • Thomas Boleyn referring to Anne as “la petite Boulaine” in a letter to Margaret of Austria in 1514 – Retha Warnicke, in her article “Anne Boleyn’s Childhood and Adolescence”, argues that Thomas would not refer to a 13 year old girl in this way.
  • Margaret of Austria’s comment in a letter to Thomas Boleyn – Margaret writes that Anne is “so pleasant for her young age that I am more beholden to you for sending her, than you are to me.”
  • John Weever’s “Ancient funerall monuments”, published in 1631 – Warnicke writes of how Weever recorded that Anne Boleyn and Henry VIII had fallen in  love when she was 22 and he was 38. Henry VIII was 38 in 1529 so if Anne was 22 in 1529 then she must have been born in 1507.
  • The birth of Elizabeth I in 1533 – Retha Warnicke comments that if we take 1501 as Anne’s date of birth then it would make her a rather old, by Tudor standards, 32 at Elizabeth’s birth and believes that this would have been commented on by 17th century historians.
  • The evidence of Jane Dormer, the Duchess of Feria – In his biography of Jane Dormer, her chaplain Henry Clifford wrote of how Anne Boleyn had not turned 29 when she was executed in May 1536. Jane Dormer was one of Mary I’s ladies so some historians argue that although Jane was not born until 1538 she would have known from Mary how old Anne was.
  • Anne being a resident at Margaret of Austria’s palace, not a maid-of-honour – Retha Warnicke argues that Anne was sent to Margaret of Austria, not to serve her but to be educated with Margaret’s nephews and nieces. Warnicke backs this up with Anne’s words in the letter to her father when she refers to the teaching techniques of of her tutor: “Semmonet dictates the letter to me and leaves me to write it myself”.
  • Anne’s chaperone – Gareth Russell points out that Anne was escorted from Hever to Brussels by a man, Claude Bouton, and not a female chaperone which would surely have been more appropriate if Anne was 12.
  • The fact that Anne was still unmarried in 1526 – Gareth Russell points out that a birth date of 1501 would have made Anne 25 in 1526, close to an “unmarriageable age” by Tudor standards.
  • Anne’s suitability as queen – Gareth Russell comments that in all of the objections cited during Henry’s struggle for divorce and his quest to marry Anne, nobody mentioned that Anne might possibly be too old to give Henry a son and heir and surely they would have if she was in her late 20s or early 30s.

Although the arguments of Retha Warnicke and Gareth Russell did sway me for a while towards 1507, I still believe in the 1501 birth date. The main reason for me believing in 1501 is that I cannot believe that a 7 year old would have been chosen to accompany Mary Tudor to France, it just does not make sense, never mind a 6 year old being sent to Margaret of Austria’s court. I realise that one of the main arguments for 1507 is the evidence of Jane Dormer, who may have heard of Anne’s age from Mary I, but then Mary I also stated on a few occasions that Mark Smeaton fathered Elizabeth! As far as Thomas Boleyn’s “la petite Boulain” comment, that could just be his pet name for his youngest daughter, I know my father’s pet name for me has no bearing on who I am! Gut feeling tells me 1501 and I’m sticking to that for now.

Sources

  • The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn, Eric Ives
  • The Age of Anne Boleyn, article by Gareth Russell
  • The Youth of Anne Boleyn, article by Hugh Paget, Bulletin of the Institute of Historical Research , LIV (1981)
  • Anne Boleyn’s Childhood and Adolescence, article by Retha Warnicke, The Historical Journal, Vol.28, No. 4, Dec. 1985

51 thoughts on “The Early Life of Anne Boleyn Part One – Beginnings”

  1. Sarah says:

    1501 – I totally agree! Brilliant article as always!

  2. Hilary says:

    Great article! I can’t wait to read the other parts.

    Also, I believe the 1501 birth date. I mean both dates have valid points, but I feel that the points are even stronger on the side of 1501. Henry and Anne waited had to wait so long to get married by the time she was married she already wasted her youth.

  3. Rob says:

    Just wondering – I hope this doesn’t sound too silly. Could it be possible to mistake a ‘1’ for a ‘7’ in a handwritten document? Things get copied and then passed down, and an error could become compounded over time.
    It is a fascinating question, what age? I don’t think Anne’s age of 32 at the time of her marriage would be considered too old for child bearing, especially if she was well and hearty at the time.

    1. Carly says:

      She was born in 1507. The date of her birth was written in roman numerals and therfore cannot be misread. see this article:

      http://garethrussellcidevant.blogspot.ca/2010/04/age-of-anne-boleyn.html

  4. Claire says:

    Thanks, Hilary and Sarah!

    Robert, yes, I’m sure 1501 and 1507 could easily be mixed up because of handwriting but not in the case of Camden who wrote them in Roman numerals. However, Camden could well have misread the date in the papers he used.

  5. Eliza says:

    Very interesting article!! Thank you, Claire!

    I agree with Rob, that “1” and “7” can easily get mixed. I also believe that Anne was born in 1501, because of her age when she joined Margaret’s court (12 or 13 was a perfectly good age for a maid of honor back then) and because of the letter. This cannot be the handwriting of a 7-year-old. I learned to write when I was just 5 and my handwriting was neat and beautiful when I was 7. But it still was a child’s handwriting. Anne’s letter has mistakes but it is caligraphically written.

    I also don’t think that 25 or 27 was a late age for marriage, Jane Seymour got married to Henry when she was 27, right?

    I am looking forward to the next article of the series!

    1. Carly says:

      She was born in 1507. The date of her birth was written in roman numerals and therfore cannot be misread. see this article:

      http://garethrussellcidevant.blogspot.ca/2010/04/age-of-anne-boleyn.html

  6. TeamAnne says:

    I always go back and forth on the dates but my gut also tells me 1501 and the main reason is Thomas’s statement of having a child every year … Mary 1500, Anne 1501, son 1502, son 1503, George 1504. I am sure tomorrow I will think 1507 though, lol, happens all the time to me.

    Rob, in Tudor times 32 was old for childbearing even if she was considered healthy. That isn’t saying she couldn’t bear a child but that was just their take. Remember, in those times, girls were deemed women at age 12, able to wed and have children (Yikes)! One of the reasons is because of how little time women had of childearing years (in their opinon, not mine). 🙂

  7. mickey mayhew says:

    I go with the excellent Eric Ives, and a 1501 Blickling birth; biased ‘coz I’ve been there, and seen the statue of her!

    1. Melissa Crisp says:

      Wow u have seen a statue of her? tell me more!……..

  8. Jillian says:

    I agree with the 1501 birthdate..Anne does become angry with Henry when his guarantees that his annulment will be granted..when it is realized that most likely won’t happen she threw tantrums. Some, like the show the Tudors, believe that she even voiced regrets for having to wait so long because she had “wasted her youth” for nothing..based on this the 1501 birthdate would seem correct. Although, this is not the main reason I believe she was born in 1501, just an interesting little tid-bit. 🙂 I love all these articles!!!

  9. Belle says:

    Do we know 100% that George was the youngest? what if the dates for George and Anne were switched? I’m leaning towards 1507 only because I can’t imagine her father not trying to marry her off, if her date was 1501 she would be considered “old” when returning to England and would need to be married off right away.

  10. Claire says:

    We don’t know for definite that George was the youngest, if Anne was born in 1507 that would make her the youngest. Anne was summoned back to England from France in 1521 because Thomas Boleyn had arranged a marriage for her with James Butler so she would only have been 20 at that time and then of course she tried to marry Henry Percy. George Boleyn married his wife, Jane, in 1524/1525 so he was about 20 when he married and Mary Boleyn married William Carey in 1520 when she would have been around 20/21, if we take a 1499 birthdate for her, so it appears that Thomas Boleyn married his children off at around the age of 20, which Anne would have been in 1521 when she was meant to marry James Butler.

  11. Annamaria says:

    Hi Claire,
    I agree with you. For some reason I believe that Henry and Anne were closer in age than a birth date of 1507 would mean. Re the subject of childbearing age when they married – they waited a long time before they could be married didn’t they? I believe that they really were kindred spirits and very much in love to wait all that time but that certain events and people brewed the demise.

  12. Cindy says:

    Hi Claire
    Well written article. It is always a pleasure to read articles that flow.

    I too have gone back and forth between 1501 and 1507. In the Hugh Paget paper “The Youth of Anne Boleyn, 1980” he also states that Anne was the eldest daughter and we know that to be wrong. He never fully came out and said that Anne had to be 12 when that letter was written. In fact he comments that it was poorly written. Margret of Austria also mentions that Anne was very advanced for “her young age”. If the normal age was 12-14 to be fostered to Margret of Austria then why would she mention Anne’s “young age”? With Eric Ives and others misquoting Paget it does make me wonder as to how much we can trust our modern scholars.
    In the middle ages boys were fostered as early as 6 if not earlier. Many children today are sent away to school at the age of 5 and we are suppose to be the generation of lateness for education.
    We need to look at the exceptions to the rule.
    Girls were married at the young age of 10 in the middle ages which would not happen today. I believe too many of us apply our modern learning and culture to the middle ages and so do not fully comprehend the age differences of the two time periods.
    Also Young ladies of marriageable age would never have traveled without a lady chaperone, with Anne having been chaperoned by a male ambassador to Austria without another lady makes Anne’s age of 12 highly questionable and leans more to a younger age for Anne.
    In Camden’s writings Queen Elizabeth would have had to approve the date and writings there of and as mentioned the roman numerals could not be mixed up. 1=I, 7=VII. It would be a hard stretch to mix those two up.

    Could it also be that the two boys who did not live were born first or after Mary or George and before Anne? I had also read that there was another daughter who did not live but I have never been able to find proof of this.

  13. Rian says:

    I have to say that I’m swaying right now to a birthdate of 1507, however a 1501 birthdate makes more sense when we consider her letter to her father, with good penmanship, and that she was at court at the time.

    If i was writing a history book I’d go with the 1501 birthdate, but if i was writing a historical fiction i’d choose the 1507 birthdate (It would make things more interesting). However, I’m wondering about the whole possibility that other than Mary and George the other children’s birthdates are wrong. What if the deceased brothers were born right after Mary, and than it went on to Anne and George?

    Does anyone know definitely if this could in fact have happened and that history and documents misconstrued the dates? Of course we don’t know for sure, but is there any definitive documents that point only to the dates of 1501 and 1507? Could it be a whole other date?

    I’m sorry if that didn’t make sense. I’m tired and distracted, so i apologize. 🙂

  14. Claire says:

    Hi Cindy,
    Yes, Paget does believe that Anne was the eldest daughter but he does suggest that she was 12 in a rather round-about way:-
    “The emperor wrote to his daughter on 13 January 1513, to say that he had previously promised Don Diego de Guevarre, maitre d’hbtel to his grandson Charles, that Don Diego’s niece should join the household at Malines and be brought up with the princesses and that Don Diego had asked him to fulfil his promise now that his niece had reached the appropriate age, being between thirteen and fourteen years old. This would completely rule out 1507 as a birth date for Anne. J. H. Round’s date of 1501 becomes the more probable, for Anne would then have been twelve years old on entering Margaret’s household in 1513-apparently slightly less than the customary age.”
    As far as the letter is concerned, he comments that some parts of it are incomprehensible but then comments that this was because it was a dictation exercise so Anne was writing it in her own spelling, phonetically, in what was a foreign language. He says: “It is clear that Anne is not very far advanced in her course but
    it is also apparent that she is not at the beginning of it and this is borne out by the fact that she refers to earlier letters which she had written to her father in
    French. Altogether, all the evidence would seem to be consistent with Anne having arrived at Malines in the spring of 1513 and written the letter to her father
    that summer during the sojourn of Margaret’s court (or the younger members of it) at la Vure.”
    It is true what you say about people being married much earlier in Tudor times but Mary and George Boleyn were not married off until they were around 20, so it does not strike me as unusual that Anne was 20 when her father tried to organise a match between her and James Butler.
    As far as Camden is concerned, he did not actually publish his work until after Elizabeth I’s death so she would not have been able to give final approval
    Unless further evidence is found, I guess we’ll never know and all we can do is hypothesise. What a puzzle!

  15. Anne Barnhill says:

    Wonderful article! As always! I agree that Anne was born in 1501. It makes much more sense that she was 10 years younger than Henry, rather than 15 or so. And also makes sense about her serving at the French Court. For me, the letter is proof enough. I cannot believe a 5 year old could have written with such a flowing hand in a script that I would have trouble emulating as an adult. Plus, Anne herself tells Henry she has wasted her youth waiting for him to marry her. Yes, she was an older mother at 32 but she was fertile still, obviously. Women did not live as long and perhaps older mothers faced more dangers but I’ll bet lots of women in their late 30’s still got pregnant and had babies. My own grandmother had my dad when she was 42 back in 1925. Pregnancy was no picnic even back then.
    I agree that Mary was the older daughter and George the youngest of the three who lived to adulthood. By the way, my ancestore, Lady Anne Shelton, was Thomas Boleyn’s sister. She married down, I think, while Thomas married up a little.

  16. Anne Barnhill says:

    Claire,
    I’m very excited about this next series of articles about Anne’s youth. Can’t wait!!

  17. Tudorrose says:

    I think that Anne was born in and around 1501 and my reason being for this is it would seem more befitting to her and what I have read plus seen in the portraiture. As for the letter that was written to her father in her own hand I gather was written at the age of twelve and not seven as the writing looks more befitting to that of an older child and not a younger one plus I highly doubt that Anne would have been sent away to Austria and France at such a young age either. Anne had lost out on her youth and as a result had lost out on certain marriage proposals because of certain issues at the time, not just once but twice and maybe more if you include Thomas Wyatt not forgetting aswell. Well the reason behind her courtship and marriage to James Butler not going ahead is not known but the reason her courtship and marriage to Henry Percy did not go ahead is because the King had shown an interest in Anne and as a result sent Wolsey his cheif-minister at the time to seperate them, little did Anne realise the motive behind this situation as she blamed him for the seperation as she thought it was his doing solely and as a result hated him but little did she know that Wolsey was just acting on the King of England’s instructions. All seemed to have gone oh so well for her other siblings even if George had been in an unhappy marriage at the time but still they married young at a right age wearas everything happened all too late for Anne unfortunately and to make matters worse her marriage to the King of England was doomed to failure so she could not win either way it seemed. The only one who seemed to have had any good outcome out of the Boleyn family apart from her parents was her sister Mary apart from that Anne and George had been doomed from start to finish. As we all know Georges wife Jane Parker, nee Boleyn did not love him that is why she testified at his trial and turned against him the way she did and that marriage as far as I know produced no children now I see why Annes daughter never did either. Apart from the Tudor family itself some of the famillies at that time period seemed to suffer badly with bad luck, I do not know if anyone else has noticed this at all.

  18. Charlotte says:

    I am currently in the process of writing a novel about Anne Boleyn. My all time favorite historical figure. Your website and information is proving invaluable to me! Thank you!
    I wish we had an accurate concept of Anne’s birth day too though.

  19. lisaannejane says:

    While looking at the evidence for both sides, I personally think the 1501 birthdate makes more sense, For me, I find it hard to believe that a 6 or 7 year old would be sent to another country. And it does seem that her father attempted to arrange a marriage for her when she was around 20. I always hope some document will turn up to settle the matter.

  20. Anne says:

    Another great article as usuall!!!I’m looking forward for the next!!!Up until now I was convinced that Anne’s birthdate was 1501 because I didn’t know that one of Mary’s ladies stated her birth date in 1507.Now both dates seem equally strong…I have always preffered the earlier date due to Anne’s letter and the fact that Chapuys has stated that Anne after her last miscarriage looked like an old woman(well,everyone knows the love he had for Anne|;)).If Anne was 35 at 1536,it is understandable why she might looked so worn out.Add the loss of blood,the harm her body has suffered,the stress,the emotional pain,the luck of propper medication,a few signs of age(for almost a decade she llived in stress and agony for her future) and the fact that Anne was pushing.for their standars,middle age.And if she was 35,well Henry must have been panicked because now,neither of them was still young enough to produce healthy boys to succed him…But your article gave me reasons to rethink of it and see that 1507 is also a strong case.The fact that one of Mary’s ladies claimed that Anne was barely 29 seems suspicious…Mary hated Anne and the more paranoid she became near the end,the more she recalled her hatred for Anne.So,why would she actually insist(and pass that knowledge)that she was younger.And Camden’s marginal note,how her enemies would have used her age as a disadvantage….Wow,I’m really confused and I can’t organise my thoughts…I think I am in the middle…
    (forgive me if it doesn’t make much sense,I really can’t express how divided this left me and my native language is not english)

  21. Anne says:

    ps:Something I forgot…..I’ve seen earlier the discussion if there was a mistake while reading the script and 1 was mistaken for 7(and vice versa) and whether it was written in Latin?Is there really a chance that it was a mistake like that(well,seven years are quite an age gab)or would it mean that Anne was born anytime between 1501-1507?Or,maybe there are those two dates and Anne’s birth date is still confussed with the birthdate of one of her siblings(Mary,George or one of the children that didn’t reach adulthood)so,in both 1501 and 1507 a Boleyn was born,one of them being Anne(I hope this makes sense)

  22. Savarnah says:

    It seems to be very acurate compared to what i have read. Very well written.

  23. Eliza says:

    I am going to ask a stupid question… Didn’t the Tudors celebrate their birthdays and made presents to each other? Maybe while Anne was Queen, there would be some kind of mention in the papers of Henry’s reign for gifts, just like we know the gifts they gave each other at Christmas etc.

    We know Jane Seymour was 29, because of the 29 ladies at her funeral. I wish there would be such a sign for Anne’s age! Although I still believe that she was born in 1501.

  24. David says:

    Yes I agree with many who responded that the writing especially with quills which caused the ink to blotch here and there, could make a 1 look like it may be a 7 or visa versa. I used the date of 1507 in my book only because bouncing between the two dates throughout my extensive research I finally flipped the quarter, heads it is 1501, tails it is 1507….!! There is just so much debate. But since I have come on board with Claire and her wonderful “Anne Boleyn Files” and reading her side of the story, I am beginning to think that maybe I chose the wrong side of the coin. To all that read my book, I am sorry for that, but that it was an honest error if, if, if, it was an error…..!!

  25. Claire, thank you so much for citing my article. Alas, we shall have to agree to disagree on Anne’s date of brith! I loved this article and some of your arguments for 1501 have certainly given food for thought!

    On the subject of Camden’s writing of 1507, you are absolutely right in saying that he couldn’t have meant 1501. Because he didn’t write the date as “1507,” meaning that a curved “1” could later be confused for a “7;” he wrote it in Roman numerals – MDVII. As I said in the article you very kindly quoted from: –

    “Modern-day proponents of the earlier birth-date have hypothesised that the number “7” has been misread in Camden’s manuscript and that it was in fact simply a curved “1.” Such an explanation would only work, and even then tentatively, if Camden had written the date in Arabic, which he did not. He wrote it in Roman numerals: MDVII. There is no room for an alternative explanation – writing just over a century after her birth and with unparalleled access to state papers about her, as granted by her daughter’s friend and adviser, William Camden explicitly stated that Anne Boleyn had been born in 1507.”

    Very much looking forward to the rest of the series which will, as ever, be excellent!

  26. Wendy says:

    For some reason I grew up thinking that Anne was 33 when she died which would have placed her birth date in 1503. I have no idea where I got this from but it works for me. 🙂

    If Anne were 33, then although she could still become pregnant time was definitely running out. I could just imagine Henry thinking that if he didn’t take this opportunity to rid himself of Anne he would be back in the same position he was with Catherine. Maybe he persuaded himself that sacrificing Anne, guilty or not, was for the greater good of England.

  27. Marylène says:

    1501 ou 1507, et pourquoi pas 1503 ?

  28. Marylène says:

    Bonjour,

    My english is very bad.So to be expressed in french.
    I think qu Anne est née en 1503. En 1523, H Percy annonce leurs fiançailles. Ils sont très loin d être idiots tous les deux. Ils savent qu un contrat avec M Talbot existe, et qu il faut demander la permission des parents et du roi, pour pouvoir se fiancer. En France, un contrat de mariage pouvait se casser devant un tribunal, au XVème siècle. Une femme pouvait le rompre, mais il fallait qu elle ait 20 ans. Donc elle pouvait aussi se marier à 20 ans, sans la permission des parents.
    Je ne pense pas qu ils se sont mariés en cachette, car le mariage pouvait être annulé à cause du contrat avec M Talbot.
    En 1523 Anne n était rien d autre que la fille d un diplomate apprécié du roi, et la soeur d une catin du roi. Rien d autre. Alors devenir comtesse était inespéré, peut être avec l aide de son père Thomas, pour l y aider…. Il ne restait plus qu une solution pour forcer la main : être enceinte.
    Nous connaissons la suite. Je précise que le refus n est venu que des parents Percy, uniquement. Anne fut éloignée quelque temps … Pourquoi ? Henry fut marié en automme 1523.
    Je pense de toute façon, que la lettre ecrite depuis la cour d Autriche, n est pas de la main d Anne, mais dictée par elle. L écriture est bien trop mature pour une enfant de 12 à 15 ans. Avez vous déjà essayé d écrire à la plume ? Comparez également avec la signature d Anne, sur un autre document, et vous verrez.
    Je pense que les 2 garçons morts en bas âge s intercalent entre Mary et Anne. Mary née en 1499 et Anne 1503. Georges était très proche d Anne, il ne devait pas y avoir beaucoup d écart d âge entre eux.

    En conclusion pour avoir autant d aplomb tous deux pour annoncer leurs fiançailles, c est qu ils devaient avoir au moins 20 ans.. Hors de question, le mariage, donc il fallait qu Anne soit enceinte, pour faire céder, en mettant tout ce beau monde au pied du mur.
    Et ce n est qu à partir de l hiver 1523 qu Anne s est jurée de ne plus mettre sa réputation en jeu, et son honneur. Seulement qu en Hiver 1523, pas avant.

    1. Claire says:

      Here is a translation of Marylène’s comment:-

      I think that Anne was born in 1503. In 1523, H Percy announces their engagement. They are very far from being idiots. They know that a contract with M Talbot exists, and that he must ask permission from parents and the king, in order to get engaged. In France, a contract of marriage could be broken in front of a court in the fifteenth century. A woman could break it, but she had to be 20 years of age. So she could also marry at age 20 without parental permission.
      I do not think that they wetre secretly married, because the marriage could be annulled because of the contract with Mr. Talbot.
      In 1523 Anne was nothing other than the daughter of a diplomat favoured by the king, and the sister of a king’s whore. Nothing else. To become Countess was so unexpected, perhaps with the help of his father Thomas. The only solution to force the hand was to become pregnant.
      We know what happened. I think that the refusal did not come from Percy’s parents only. Anne was away some time … Why? Henry was married in Autumn 1523.
      I think anyway, that the letter written for the Court of Austria, is not in the hand of Anne, but dictated by her. The writing is far too mature for a 12 to 15 year old. Have you ever tried to write in pen? Compare also with the signing of Anne, on another document, and you’ll see.
      I think the two boys who died in infancy were between Mary and Anne. Mary was born in 1499 and Anne in 1503. George was very close to Anne, there was not much age difference between them.

      In conclusion, for Anne and Percy to have announced their engagement, they must have been at least 20 years old .. Out of the question, marriage, therefore it was necessary that Anne is pregnant, to give, with all these people’s bluff. [Not sure what this bit means, sorry!]
      And it is only from that winder in 1523 that Anne swore not to put her reputation at stake, and her honor. Only that in Winter 1523, not before.

      [Sorry for the mistakes and there are bits I’m not sure about!]

  29. Marylène says:

    Thank you, Claire,for this translation. It is very nice.
    Mettre quelqu un au pied du mur veut dire que, devant un fait, ce quelqu un ne peut pas, ou ne peut plus refuser une demande. Obliger quelqu un(s) à accepter le fait accompli, réel. La grossesse aurait dû faire accepter les fiançailles de Percy avec Anne par les parents de ceux ci, et obliger ainsi à rompre le contrat avec M Talbot. Mais ce ne fut pas le cas.
    “with all these people’sbluff”, je le traduis : pour leurrer(to delude) les gens. Ce n était donc pas pour les leurrer, puisqu elle était réellement enceinte.

    Je ne savais pas que vous auriez traduit. Si je l avais su, j aurai fait attention… Lol.
    A translation it’not evident, I understand.
    Still thank you. Marylène.

    1. Claire says:

      Hi Marylène,
      My French is rather rusty so I used Google Translate to help.

      I think Marylène is saying that “Mettre quelqu un au pied du mur” means that someone can no longer refuse a request, they are being forced to accept it and being forced to accept a “fait accompli”

      La grossesse aurait dû faire accepter les fiançailles de Percy avec Anne par les parents de ceux ci, et obliger ainsi à rompre le contrat avec M Talbot. Mais ce ne fut pas le cas – I take this to mean that pregnancy should have made the parents of Anne and Percy accept their betrothal and Marylène seems to be saying that Anne was really pregnant.

      I don’t understand the whole pregnancy issue, Marylène. There is no evidence of Anne sleeping with Henry Percy or being pregnant.

      1. BanditQueen says:

        Had Anne become pregnant with a child by Henry Percy then it would have been accepted that a marriage had taken place. In Tudor England you did not have to go to a priest and ask to be married, you could contract a marriage by sleeping together or by making vows together. It helped if a priest was present to record or to witness the vows and for evidence later on if the marriage was denied or challenged. It also helped if you got two people to witness, but that was all that was needed to make a marriage legal. A betrothal was also more than an engagement it was a serious holy contract between both parties and their families. It was often in writing and gifts were exchanged. If two people did it they made vows and may have exchanged gifts. A pregnancy would have been ample proof of a contract and sexual contract between Anne and Percy. That would also have put Henry off taking her as his mistress.

        I do not know if Anne and Percy slept together as the evidence about their relationship is very scant and speculative. They may have done but there is no evidence and it was a contract and relationship easily broken by Wolsey on the part of the two families and the King. Henry wanted Anne as his mistress and any said relationship with someone else had to be set aside. This could not have happened had she been pregnant, but she could have been told to keep quiet about any sexual relations for her own good. I believe that Anne Boleyn was sexually experienced from both France and before she married Henry. There is no evidence that she slept around but she may have had one or two more serious sexual encounters. She was a young woman and young women were not always maids, just as they are not now. Young people in love slept together and then had to have their relationship untangled when it came to marrying someone more suitable for their parents. The Church court archives are full of such cases.

        Anne was not pregnant by Henry Percy, but why would they not have slept together? Anne seems to have believed that she was promised to him even though he denied it later on and his wife seems to have had reason to believe this relationship with Anne was more serious as their own marriage was not good sexually. Again all speculation, but well, as the proverb goes May You Live in Interesting Times. We seem to always have done.

  30. Marylène says:

    Hi Claire,

    Je sais, je suis la seule à penser qu Anne était enceinte. Celà semble fou.
    Mais Anne n était pas une beauté pour l époque. Elle n était rien socialement, et ne possédait que son intelligence et un charme naturel. Son père ne lui avait pas encore trouver de mari. Elle désirait un beau mariage, comme toute femme. Elle pouvait être comtesse. Je ne vois que cette solution pour s unir avec Henry Percy avec l accord de ce dernier naturellement : être enceinte.
    Anne fut tout de même éloignée quelque temps, et Percy très vite marié. Mariage malheureux. Il est mort un an après Anne. Il l aimait sincèrement.
    C est ce que je pense et qui me parait évident.
    N y a t il personne pour se mettre à sa place, penser comme elle ? Elle avait tout de même entre 20 et 24 ans, et pas encore d union en vue.

    Bonne semaine.

  31. CONOR BYRNE says:

    I totally agree with your article, Claire, and I think Anne Boleyn was realistically born in 1501, or perhaps in 1502, probably in the summer in May or June. I also think it’s highly unlikely that she would have travelled to a foreign court aged just six, when she was fairly unimportant- not that lowborn though – and it makes more sense for her to have been around 12. I think the fact that several sources from the time point out that she was 20 in 1521-22 also gives a strong indication that she was born in 1501.

    Like many people, I too believe Mary was the oldest daughter, and was born in 1499 or 1500. For some reason, however, and this may just be instinct, 1500 seems to me to be the more likely date of the two for her birth, as her parents may not even have married in 1499. I also believe George was born in 1503-4, and that his wife, Jane Parker, was born in 1505-6.

  32. Marylène says:

    Hi Claire,

    W.Camden’s note : M.D. VII.
    Is’t possible that M.D. VII. want to say 1500 seventh month ?
    Maybe Anne was born in July 1500 …
    When somebody make some search, a precise date is an important object !

  33. Marylène says:

    Hi Claire,

    Je vous conseille de ne point utiliser Google pour la traduction.

    In English the date is : nata M.D. VII , but translated in Frenchy the date is : M.D. nata VII, d après votre outil de traduction : Google.
    Un anglais traduit le latin : nata MD VII, un Français : MD nata VII. Et un Allemand le traduit comment ? Donc la compréhension et la traduction du latin sont très différents selon les pays.
    Donc pour moi, et d après le dictionnaire, date veut dire : année, mois, jour. Je le traduis donc par : 1500 month 7. Anne was born 1500 July….. Et le but d un historien est de donner le plus de précisions possibles.
    Dans toutes les traductions : Françaises, Anglaises, Latines, Norvégiennes etc… le placement des mots est très important. Donc la traduction est altérée d une langue à une autre.
    C est tout de même incroyable que l on n autorise pas l accès à un historien aux archives royales !

    Henri VIII était très superticieux. Il est né alors que sa mère avait 25 ans.
    C d Aragon : mariée à 24 ans. Marie Tudor est née alors que sa mère avait 31 ans. Catherine a eu d autres enfants après.
    J Seymour : mariée à 28 ans. Edward est né alors que sa mère avait 29 ans.
    A de Clèves : mariée à 25 ans.
    C Parr : mariée à 31 ans. Désirait il concevoir un enfant avec elle ?
    Exception pour C Homward : mariée à 17 ans. Mais Elisabeth Blunt eu le fils légitimé par le roi à 17 ans. Il avait changé d avis en vieillissant.

    Il avait demandé le divorce en 1527, dans le but d épouser Anne en 1528, donc Anne reste dans les normes d Henri à cette date, étant née en 1500. Mais le divorce traine. Heureusement de nouvelles idées religieuses naissent, permettant ainsi de donner naissance à la religion anglicane, et surtout d épouser Anne.

    Pour terminer : les historiens modernes ne copient que les historiens anciens. Ceux du 17, 18 et 19 ième siècle copiaient et se copiaient entre eux. Une chaine sans fin en quelque sorte !. Et s ils s étaient trompés ? …. A l époque, à part Camden qui a eu le bonheur d accéder aux archives, les historiens ne recueillaient que des dires, témoignages de gens qui disaient bien trop souvent ce que l historien voulait entendre. Ces gens voulaient se sentir importants. Beaucoup confondait Anne et Mary, et certain croyait qu il n y avait qu une seule fille Boleyn.

    Good week end.

  34. April says:

    I have to read a book on this and i dont get this crap at alll!

  35. Anne says:

    I fully believe she was born in 1507, towards the end of May. She was sent to Austria to receive a good education from a young age as was not uncommon in that day and age. It actually used to be quite common at the age of 6 to send both sons AND daughters away to be educated in another’s household. I think she was sent to be a Lady in Waiting to the Queen of France at such a young age only because of her sister also going, and her sister was well old enough to watch over little Anne. Also, I fully believe Anne waited a few years to go to France after the time of her father’s letter requesting her home. Thus putting her at a slightly more appropriate age. It would also explain why she chose to stay and wait on Queen Claude. She was young and wanted to have a bit of fun now that her sister wasn’t there breathing down her neck! If she went home she’d have her entire family watching her every move. Also, I think Cromwell had a great deal more influence over her execution than her miscarriage. Yeah, Henry was upset, but he wasn’t dumb. Whereas after all of the rumours and accusations about Anne (adultery, incest, witchcraft) Henry was shamed and felt he had little choice but to allow the law to take over. Just me two cents there.

  36. juliane says:

    Anne was born in 1502.
    We’ll know the truth of this when everyone has died and the records are opened in another world than this. Cheers.

  37. Kylie says:

    I know this is pretty late, but as for Thomas and Elizabeth Boleyn having a child for each year the first five years of their children, there’s the possibility that they married in not 1498/9 but 1502, because as I read on Gareth Russel’s blog, Elizabeth Howard’s dowry was only touched in 1502. Then Mary might have been born 1503, George 1504, Thomas or Henry in 1505, Thomas or Henry in 1506, then Anne in 1507.

    One part of the 1501 argument I agree with is the fact that at 28 Anne would be able still to bear sons, and so why would Henry rush to have her execution? There is also the fact that he may have married her NOT for a thousand sons, but because he believed that she was pregnant with his son and did not want the child out of wedlock. But as for her speedy trial, I think it could be that 1) Jane believed she was pregnant[?], 2) she’d already had several miscarriages perhaps leading him to believe that this marriage was ‘cursed’ too, and the cycle of his marriage to Catherine of Aragon was happening again, 3) maybe he began to believe his potency was ‘dying’ and he had to have the son Anne kept failing to give him soon? As for why she had to be beheaded when their marriage had already been annulled (she was not sent to a nunnery or exile, etc.) was that this was the one way for Jane’s children to be the unchallenged heirs — with Catherine dead now, Catholics would accept Jane, but with Anne alive, Protestants/reformists might not accept Jane.

    Just some thoughts:D I love TABF:))

  38. BanditQueen says:

    Read my first book on Anne Boleyn when I was twelve as the film Anne of a 1000 days was out at the time and showed great interest. I read a book ignored by many modern writers and I still consider it to be the best biography on Anne although I have read many since, some of them modern, some very old: Anne Boleyn by Marie Louise Bruce. In it is the letter written from Brussels to her father in French and it is too advanced for a seven year old. I never accepted that Anne was seven when she went to France but there is no proof that she remained there with her sister as part of the retinue of Queen Claude. Even in the list of maidens who go with Mary Tudor to marry King Louis XIII there is a Mistress M Boleyn mentioned (different spelling) and not an Anne. What is the evidence for her being at the court of Marguerite of Austria and how do you know which girl is the oldest? I believe Mary is the oldest as she was married off first and this was normal and she also made her debuts at court before Anne and caught Henry’s eye before Anne. She was also prettier than Anne but it is clear she is older if only from circumstantial evidence.

    I also wish to ask have you read The Early Life of Anne Boleyn by Round and would you recommend it?

    I believe also that Anne and Mary were older than George as they seem to have had more maturity than him, but may-be that is because women do have more maturity a lot earlier, especially in a day when they married young and were seen as women the moment they entered their cycle. Just a hunch, no evidence for believing this. I think that Mary was born 1501, Anne 1502 and George 1503. The other pregnancies were either before or later on and the two boys that came later were not to survive very long as evidence from their tombs suggest they died in childhood or infancy.

  39. Michelle_B. says:

    Hi everyone, can someone please tell me why the consensus is that Anne’s birthday was at the end of May? What are the sources/indications? Thanks!!

  40. Dawn says:

    “la petite Boulain” could refer to her being the younger daughter. I seem to recall hearing once that in certain types of British boarding schools, the younger sibling is called “minor,” as in Smith minor, and the elder is Smith major. Don’t know how accurate that info is, but that could play into it.

  41. Queen says:

    just going to say that young kids were brought up to be little adults to give the parents a good name for being well taught and proper, also being brought up in a court at a young age and Archduchess Margaret of Austria’s where she got sent was a finishing school for young girls and boys being 13 or 14 would have made her a suitable age to marry off so why keep her at school when she could go to the english court and learn the Court ways? so being that it was a young girls and boys finishing school for only the elite families then they would have to start young learn and grow up fast, then that would mean being ‘fille d’honneur’ at the age of 6 or 7 would have been appropriate given that Anne was smart and charming beyond her years.
    Also look at her daughter Elizabeth 1 was said to be smart in her younger years and accomplished many things at a early age. I personally think Anne Boleyn was born 1507 cause the Archduchess praises Anne to her father in a letter saying “I find her so bright and pleasant for her young age that I am more beholden to you for sending her to me than you are to me.”

  42. Kathy P says:

    Not related to Anne’s year of birth. I wonder if her blood type was O Negative and she lost every baby after the first because of antibodies. Now they give O-Negative mothers Rhogam to solve this problem.

  43. Sapphire says:

    The birth date of Anne Boleyn is as follows….
    May 28th, 1507. Don’t worry about how I know this. But the questions are now answered.
    Much love and light to you all
    Sapphire

    1. Elizabeth says:

      Have you invented or travelled in a time machine? Because that would be cool 🙂

  44. Christine says:

    The portrait of her in Nidd Hall is that of a woman in her late thirties. She has the lines running from nose to mouth and looks a bit jowly so I believe she was born around 1500, of course she was under stress which of course makes you look a lot older.

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