The Early Life of Anne Boleyn Part Six – The Château Vert Pageant

Posted By on November 5, 2010

We don’t know exactly what date Anne Boleyn arrived in England after being recalled from France to marry James Butler and we also don’t know when she made her debut at the English court. What we do now, however, is that she was a court on the evening of Shrove Tuesday on the 4th March 1522* playing the part of Perseverance at the pageant of “The Château Vert”.

Edward Hall, in his Chronicle, describe how on the evening of Shrove Tuesday at York Place, Cardinal Wolsey, the King and ambassadors enjoyed a supper followed by a pageant in the great chamber which was richly decorated with arras and torches. At the end of the chamber was a castle with towers decorated with banners, one showing three “rent hartes” (torn hearts), another showing “a ladies hand gripyng a mans harte” and the third showing “a ladies hand turn-yng a mannes hart” upside down. One of the towers had a cresset burning and in the castle were musicians, hidden from sight, and eight ladies visible in the towers. These ladies, dressed in white satin, were Beauty, Honour, Perseverance, Kindness, Constance, Bounty, Mercy and Pity, the virtues held high in chivalric tradition. The King’s sister, Mary Tudor Queen of France, played Beauty, the Countess of Devonshire played Honour, Jane Parker (later Boleyn) played Constancy, Mary Boleyn played Kindness and Anne Boleyn played Perseverance. Hall describes how each lady had her name (or virtue) embroidered on her dress in gold and how they wore cauls and gold Milan bonnets decorated with jewels.

Hall goes on to describe how these women, or virtues or graces, were guarded by eight women dressed as Indian woman who were named “Dangler, Disdain, Gelousie, Vnkyndenes, Scorne, Malebouche, Straitngenes” or Danger, Disdain, Jealousy Unkindness, Scorn, Malebouche (evil tongue/mouth or Sharp Tongue) and Strangeness, which Eric Ives takes to mean “Off-handedness”. Suddenly eight lords dressed in cloth of gold caps and blue satin cloaks entered the chamber “led by one all in crimosin sattin with burnyng flames of gold, called Ardent Desire”. These men were named “Amorus, Noblenes, Youth, Attendance, Loyaltie, Pleasure, Gentlenes, and Libertie” and ” the kyng was chief of this compaignie”. Ardent Desire then asked the ladies, the virtues, to come down from their towers but Scorn and Disdain told him that “they would holde the place”, so the men attacked the castle throwing dates, oranges “and other fruites made for pleasure” at it. The ladies defended the castle with rose water and “comfittes” or sweetmeats and although Lady Scorn and her company tried to defend themselves with “boows and balles”, they were forced to flee and the lords took the “ladies of honor as prisoners by the handes” and led them out of the castle to dance.

Eric Ives writes:-

“Female coldness having fled before masculine ardour, the warm and soft qualities were taken prisoner.”

Hall then describes how the lords and ladies unmasked themselves and went on to enjoy a “costly banket”, a rich banquet, with those who had watched the Château Vert pageant.

In “The Tudors” series, the Château Vert pageant is where Henry VIII falls in love with Anne Boleyn. He head straights for her tower, their eyes meet and he announces “Perseverance, you are my prisoner now”. He goes on to rescue his sister, but at the dance he can’t seem to keep his eyes off Anne and when they become partners he takes the opportunity to ask her who she is, “I’m Anne Boleyn”, she replies seductively. It is clear that Henry wants her. At the end of the scene, we see Thomas Boleyn handing money to Master Cornish, William Cornish who was the master of the chorister in the Chapel Royal at the time and who, Eric Ives believes, was “the author, designer and producer of the whole affair”. Evidently, we are to assume that Thomas Boleyn asked Cornish to make sure that the King was sent to rescue Anne so that he noticed her. The whole affair seems to have been carefully choreographed by Thomas Boleyn.

Whilst, it is a wonderful scene which really brings the whole Château Vert pageant to life, it is unlikely that Henry noticed Anne at this pageant. Mary Boleyn seems to be missing from this scene in “The Tudors”, but it is thought to be Mary who Henry was besotted with at this time. On the 2nd March 1522, the day after the pageant, Henry VIII rode out at the Shrovetide joust, with its theme of unrequited love, on a horse decorated with a wounded heart and wearing the motto “elle mon coeur a navera”, “she has wounded my heart”. He was not referring to Anne Boleyn but most likely to her sister, Mary Boleyn. Historians believe that he had just fallen in love with Mary and taken her as his mistress.

Notes and Sources

*Eric Ives has the Shrovetide pageant as 1st March and he cites L&P, Calendar of State Papers (Spain) and Hall, but I’ve come to the conclusion that it was on 4th March as Edward Hall’s account of the Shrovetide pageant follows his account for the third day of March and another source has Ash Wednesday as being 5th March.

28 thoughts on “The Early Life of Anne Boleyn Part Six – The Château Vert Pageant”

  1. Fiz says:

    Was Anne ever at Fontainebleau, Claire? Francis’ long gallery there has an incredible atmosphere of calm and I felt that I was at home (Have reasons to believe my lives have crossed between France and England for most of them – I do reluctantly, believe in reincarnation, for reasons I won’t go into here). I’m not claiming to be her, though!

    1. Claire says:

      I’m sure she must have visited Fontainebleau when she was one of Claude’s ladies, Fiz, although it seems that Claude preferred Blois.

      1. Fiz says:

        I’ve only seen the Bourbon restorations to Blois, under Louis XIII and Gaston d’Orleans. Bits of French chateaux and museums are always subject to sudden changes in closing times whenever we get there! Thank you, Claire. It’s interesting, because the French court travelled from palace to palace, as did the English court at the time, Francois was known not to be faithful to poor Claude and it’s a miracle they managed to have the children they did if he was at Fontainebleau and she at Blois!

    2. Fiz, I have the same feeling. I am actually from Moldova but moved to France 3 months ago to be able to visit all the places I feel attracted to, without any explanation. England is my next destination, since there are characters and places in England that I feel somehow related to as well. I strongly believe in reincarnation but I still can’t figure out who I was. Maybe we can talk about this more.

  2. Fiz says:

    Interesting dance – so different from Elizabeth’s court, and so similar to Regency polite dancing!

  3. Lauren says:

    I have a question, in Eric Ive’s ‘The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn’, David Starkey’s ‘Six Wives’ and Julia Fox’s ‘Jane Boleyn’ the bad qualities – Scorn, Disdain, etc., were actually men. But of course in The Tudors they were women – though it is fiction and we’ve never known The Tudors to be exactly accurate..haha. Do we know rather or not they were men or women?
    Julia Fox: “In fact, they were not women at all but children of Henry’s Chapel Royal. Dressed ‘like women of India,’ they guarded the castle from the eight gentlemen who, decked in cloth-of-gold with blue satin cloaks, then appeared.”
    David Starkey: “Assisting these ladies in the defence of the Castle were the eight female vices: Scorn, Disdain, Malebouche, and the rest. These vices were played with gusto by the boys of Wolsey’s Chapel.”
    Eric Ives: “The ladies were protected from assault by eight choristers of the royal chape manning the lower walls and dressed as Indian women, each depiction one of the contrary feminine vices …”

    1. Claire says:

      Hi Lauren,
      In Edward Hall’s Chronicle, he says “undernethe the basse fortresse of the castle were other eight ladies, whose names were Dangier, Disdain…” and he describes them as being dressed like Indian women” and he doesn’t say men dressed as ladies.

  4. Sophie says:

    Wonderful article ,as always, Claire! I love the dancing scene,you refer to in your article,but I did not expect ,that it was that similar to reality! Sources like Hall always give a good impression of the lifetime of Anne,that’s great! I want more 😀

    @Fiz: oh yes,that’s true 🙂 Love both Renaissance and Regency 🙂

    greetings from Germany 🙂

  5. Laura Andrews says:

    Isn’t it ironic that Anne played “Perseverance” ? She would certainly learn the meaning of the word while waiting for Henry to marry her.

  6. Anne Barnhill says:

    Thanks, Claire. I didn’t know that Jane Parker was in this pageant–she is such a fascinating character–and funny she should be Constancy sinch she wasn’t! All the names turn out to be apt with Mary Tudor as Beauty, etc. Particularly Anne as Perserverance!
    Loved watching the clip, too:)

    1. Claire says:

      Very apt names! You know, I think Jane Parker/Boleyn gets a rough deal from history, I think she has been used as a scapegoat.

  7. David says:

    After seeing the entire series, it was like seeing king Henry VIIII young again….! It was a delightful scene and in Eric Ives book this very scene was described with great detail. It always amazed me how much time the Tudor Court spent in pleasure, especially when compared to, President Obama’s friends in Washington D.C, they are forever at work. Life was grand in Tudor times if you had MONEY. If not, well we will not even go there.

    1. Claire says:

      I loved going back in time and watching this clip too, David. However, I also got really annoyed because you’ve got Margaret/Mary Tudor arguing with Henry about not wanting to marry an old man, yet in reality in 1522 Mary had already married the old man (King of France not Portugal), been widowed and married to Charles Brandon so it’s all a bit out of synch with the real events.
      I love reading about Tudor pageants, they had so much fun. I love the food fight which ended the pageant!

  8. Eliza says:

    I always thought it was quite prophetic the casting of Anne as “Perseverance”. She really had this virtue in the highest degree. Thank you for reminding us this dance. The Tudors did know how to have fun, right? As Henry VIII wrote in a poem “Youth must have some dalliance, of good or ill some pastance”.

    Henry was really enchanted with Mary around that time, huh? I love his motto “she has wounded my heart”. Could anyone remind me what motto she used for Anne in a similar jousting competition some years later? I think he did that for Anne, too.

    1. Claire says:

      The motto he used at the tournament when he was in love with Anne was “Declare I dare not”.

      1. Eliza says:

        Thank you for your answer, Claire! 🙂
        If I understand it well (I am not a native English speaker) it means that he dares to pursue her and conquer her.. Or am I wrong?

        1. Claire says:

          Here is a bit from Alison Weir’s “Henry VIII: King and Court”:-
          “On Shrove Tuesday, 1526, Henry VIII appeared with the intriguing motto “Declare, je nos” (Declare, I Dare Not) embroidered on his magnificent jousting costume of cloth of gold and silver; above the words was emblazoned a man’s heart engulfed in flames. Such courtly devices were not uncommon, but in this case it seems that the King really had fallen passionately in love- probably for the first time in his life. The object of the royal affections was Anne Boleyn. ”
          So, 4 years after this Shrovetide pageant, he was declaring a new love.
          I think he is saying that he is passionately in love but that he cannot declare his love, he cannot say who he is in love with. That’s how I read it anyway.

  9. Eliza M. L. says:

    “Desire conquers all.” This saying from the clip sums up both Anne’s rise and fall pretty well…bonus points for Henry looking at her when it’s being said.

  10. Eliza says:

    Now I get it, Claire!! In Greek we would say “I dare not to declare”. Thank you for explaining it! 🙂

  11. Noelle7 says:

    Another great article, Claire! It would have been so fun to be in one of Henry VIII’s pageants.

  12. Lucy says:

    Yes, another great article. I hadn’t come across Henry’s jousting motto re Mary. Where did you come across that?
    Knowing that helps to pace the chronology of their relationship much better. I’m so glad that you are on the case, correcting the sloppy but tempting fantasy of The Tudors. History, the real hard facts, is always so much more interesting in the long run…Cheers!

  13. Courtnie says:

    I feel bad for Mary a lot. She married and before she could even have a real marriage she went to court to work for Queen Katherine. When HER story is a very brave one. She risked a second marriage to someone who wasn’t all that important. But Mary is kind of forgotten in History. If it weren’t for the ‘The Other Boleyn Girl,” I bet no one other than Tudor lovers; would even know she existed. Though I believe the Tudors did A LOT better job in filming their show to the movie of the book. Yet Mary is still at least put in there. I wish there had been more. <3

  14. sassuhfrass93 says:

    What did a Milan Bonnet look like?

    1. Claire says:

      According to http://www.oldandsold.com/articles09/clothes-25.shtml:-
      “The Milan Bonnet — This style, despite the name, is said to have originated in Germany, and quickly spread to Italy and other countries. A cap of cloth or velvet was worn cocked on one side of the head over a caul of cloth of gold; the edges of its brim were often slashed into square flaps which could be bent back and forth at will. The trimming consisted of a bunch of feathers ornamented with gold spangles and jewels, or a cluster of points or tags placed on one side.” In England, in Henry VIII’s reign, “The Milan bonnet, trimmed with a profusion of feathers, was worn over a skull cap” and “The Order of the Garter – A surcoat of crimson velvet was worn with a black Milan bonnet of the same material ; the crimson velvet hood was thrown over the left shoulder.” Men and women wore the style.

  15. Jane says:

    Funny to get this fascinating post through on my email today. We will be playing ‘the Masque of the Green Chateau’ tonight as part of our production of Howard Brenton’s Anne Boleyn. It’s a wonderful play and i’m so honoured to be playing Anne. The more I play her, the more I like her. xx

    1. Claire says:

      I hope it goes well, Jane, and I’d love to see photos if you have any.

  16. BanditQueen says:

    Henry is hardly likely to have fallen in love with Anne at this pageant but he may have noticed her for the first time and been fascinated by her. She was new and fresh and I think that Henry liked that in her. Anne was a very present person if you now what I mean: she made an impression, and if she came into contact with Henry then it is possible that she impressed him with her grace and her dancing and her beautiful eyes. But would he have been more than curious about a woman he met for a few seconds during a pageant or did he arrange more time with her? If he did then it is not surprising that he may have now wanted her for his mistress. I doubt that at this point he would have wanted anything else and his love for Anne grew out of an initial passion that he could not control as he could not have her sexually. Henry then realised Anne had more to her and as he spent more and more time with her he fell in love and saw her as an alternative to Catherine. Anne offered herself as a candidate for marriage and it went from there. There is no evidence of a relationship prior to 1526.

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