What did Anne Boleyn look like?


I have just published the latest instalment of my “Questions about Anne Boleyn” series on the Anne Boleyn Files and Tudor Society YouTube channel. This one answers the question “What did Anne Boleyn look like?”.

In my video talk, I look at Nicholas Sander’s description of her from 1585 and then look at how Anne Boleyn’s contemporaries described her. Was she beautiful? What do they tell us about her colouring?

I also consider what contemporary images we have of her.

I do hope you enjoy it.

Remember that I’m on YouTube live tomorrow, Saturday 23rd February 2019, for a Q&A session on Anne Boleyn. You can find the details here. I hope to ‘see’ you there!

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31 thoughts on “What did Anne Boleyn look like?”
  1. This just dawned on me: in regards to Anne’s appearance we’ve all talked about that if she had all these terrible deformities that Nicholas Sander mention King Henry would not have been attracted to her. She was also a lady-in-waiting to Catherine of Aragon. If she looked like what that description was there is no way she would be allowed to be in that position as she represented the queen.

  2. Thank you, Claire! I enjoyed that. As to Anne’s looks: I favour the miniature and the Checkers ring. Especially the miniature, which seems fresh and not as stereotyped as the paintings. And the ring portrait looks quite like it. A comment about the mouth: you mentioned that in one of the descriptions of her she was said to have had a wide mouth. So did Henry, if the sculpture of him as a boy is indeed of him. So it looks like it was a preferred way of painting mouths in the Tudor era (it can be seen in other portraits of other people as well). So it can be said to be a standard stereotype. Do you agree?

    1. Oops – I meant that the pursed lips we see in the portraits are a stereotype, not reflecting the actual size of the mouth. I forgot to mention that.

  3. The first portrait I ever saw of Anne was the NPG one, whilst we know it is not contemporary it does depict those legendary eyes that Henry V111 turned England upside down for, again and again we hear them being mentioned and so they must have been quite distinctive, her other portraits are all similar they are of a woman with dark brown eyes the hair mid brown to black, she has a long narrow face with high cheekbones and a retrousse nose, all the portraits show the sitter at an angle as was fashionable so we can only deduct how she looked full faced, the engraving on her father’s Tomb was of a man with the same shaped face long and narrow and a small mouth, here we can see his likeness to his daughter and it is quite easy to imagine both of them in the flesh, we can dismiss the absurd meandering’s of the anonymous observer at Annes coronation and Nicholas Sander who made her out to be most unattractive with warts and swellings and yellow skin, he was biased and we who are familiar with Anne and her story have no time for him! It was said at Elizabeths birth as Claire said that the contrast between Anne and her daughter was great as the latter was so fair, and yes Elizabeth was a true red head with the freckle translucent skin that accompanies that colouring, but as brown is the pigment which is dominant she inherited her mother’s eyes, I learnt that in biology years ago and her mother’s famous eyes stare down at us in every portrait of the virgin queen, blondes as we know were fashionable in Tudor times but I think they always were, blondes throughout history have represented goodness and kindness whearas brunettes the darker side of the human personality, witches are always depicted as dark haired and the fairy princesses in the story books shown with golden tresses, but Anne was described as very beautiful although she was dark so it just goes to show colouring does not have much of an effect, it is really regularity of features which makes for beauty, Anne with her dazzling eyes and knee length hair which was probably dark brown added to her charms, she could have had red tints in her hair as I have seen myself several women with dark brown hair which looked reddish in the sun, her warm complexion which Sander spoke of as jaundice was olive, which in itself is lovely as olive skin has a glow about it, unlike the white slightly dry complexions of the typical British person, people are also attracted to a dazzling personality and Anne was no shrinking violet, she had a zest for life a vivacity and a quick fertile brain, she was elegant and had style one can understand why she had three admirers in Wyatt Percy and the King, she probably had others too of their names we have no record of, she could dance and was musical she was a product of two fashionable and cultured courts – the court of France and the court of Savoy, she had it was said a beautiful melodious singing voice which like Orpheus could make grown men weep, from the descriptions of her we can see she must have been a very striking exotic looking woman, accomplished and well aware of her own talents confident and self assured, no wonder Henry V111 decided he wanted her for his queen, I cannot think of any actress or person from history that makes me think of Anne Boleyn, I think she was unique and I picture her in my own mind as to what she actually looked like, and sounded like too, great video Claire I enjoyed it very much and it’s always a pleasure to see your cat wandering around.

    1. I’ve written elsewhere on this page but the comment is so relevant to the Holbein sketch you mention. I found on a Wikipedia list of Holbein sketches one that used to be thought to be the sister of Anne of Cleves but is now just considered to be an unidentified woman. The person in the sketch is wearing an identical gown to the woman noted as Anne Boleyn Queen. The artist even seems to be trying to copy the pattern of the fabric – there is a little scribble in dark ink or paint on the right hand collar. The woman in this sketch has dark hair though but the brown eyes and oval face and the rather distinctive mouth are convincing for Anne Boleyn . Sir John Cheke who verified that Anne Boleyn queen sketch did make mistakes in other cases, as explained by Eric Ives.

      The hat she is wearing looks like a man’s to me but I’m no expert on Tudor fashion.


  4. A good place to get an idea of Anne’s eyes is the portrait of Elizabeth at age 13 that she gave her father as a gift. She very much resembles her father in it but appears to have her mother’s dark eyed

  5. In the description of Victoria’s physician in regard to the remains, he discusses her spine and her head. Wouldn’t there have been an indication of being beheaded?

  6. Thanks Claire, very excellent review of the evidence as usual. Anne’s hair colour is a mystery because she is described as having dark hair which could be anything, such as brunette as in the alleged writing of Thomas Wyatt the Elder, admirer of Anne Boleyn and the rest of the ladies of the Court, but there are other portraits and descriptions who give her brown, black and even dark red hair. She had beautiful eyes, was middle to fair in stature and had a lovely elegant neck. Anne wasn’t a great beauty but was attractive but there was more to her than meets the eye anyway. She had dark skin which can also mean anything, she could have been olive skinned, had a tanned complexion or a lighter brown complexion. She had her whit, was an elegant and graceful dancer, an intelligent and sexy person and she was cheerful, snazzy, sassy, a goodly person of conversation and letters, she shared many of the interests of the King, appeared to have high cheek bones, to have much knowledge of theology so was useful during the years of the annulment and she made a big hit. She obviously spoke French well, as she was said to be as “a French woman born” and Henry was attracted to her for more than her looks. He found her fascinating.

    Yes she had a small mole, not a wen, which is a wart or a sebaceous cyst or a goiter which is a swelling of the thyroid gland in the neck and which can become large and cancerous, which can be hid as they are usually small or a tiny birth mark. You would certainly see the wen or goiter or anything swollen and as we know moles can change and grow and have to be removed. A bit of an extra nail is possible but nothing more and six fingers and protruding teeth, well no. Maybe a tooth came loose one day and someone remarked about it sticking out. Well yes, but that would not be remembered years later. So Anne’s detractors give us a mix of fact and fiction and most contemporary descriptions seem to say she looked alright.

    Anne wasn’t an English rose with light complexion, blue eyes and fair hair. Henry wasn’t looking for that. He was looking for fire. He was looking for passion. He was looking for strong thighs and strong blood, he was looking for health, he was looking for sons and plenty of them. Anne stood out and Henry was hooked. He was surrounded by calm lovely English roses, but roses have thorns so maybe he wanted something else. Or perhaps he wanted a damask rose. This deep purple or almost black rose comes from the Middle East originally or India and we know today is a hybrid of Rose of Castile and Rosa Moschanta and possibly a third rose. It represents passion and mystery, although some think it also represents the dark arts and betrayal. The Crusaders in the 12th Century believed it brought fortunate life and again passionate desire. Perhaps Anne reminded him of such a rose. He had lost the fire he once had for the beautiful Katherine of Aragon with her lovely long fire red hair and wonderful looks and now he needed to feel that again. I have never believed he wanted Anne Boleyn to be just another short term mistress. I don’t think he was seeing her as a wife at first but there was something about her which made him want a long-term relationship. Then she said no and drove him wild. Henry was determined to have Anne and wooed her. Letters, jewellery, gifts, charm, visiting her at home and his company and Anne recognised she could get him long term. At some point in 1526 the couple were just that a proper couple and Henry was looking at how to end his marriage, not merely because he wanted to marry Anne, as he didn’t at this point, but by the middle of 1527, they had fallen in love and marriage was on the cards. Henry recognised Anne’s potential as an independent and intelligent woman, something he liked, evidenced by the fact he married three of them and two others whose intelligence has been underestimated and only one wife who was immature, although not uneducated. In 1526 Henry had been married to one of the most educated women in Europe, and Anne had been in the company of two others for much of her life. He was one of the most imaginative and original King’s we have had and it seems to me his attraction to Anne was a natural one. They were like two highly charged magnets and BOOM!!! These two passionate people took the European world by storm. I doubt that would have happened though if she had wens, extra fingers and Dracula teeth, no matter how intelligent she was. Her eyes were clearly her best feature and I bet Anne knew well how to use them. I can imagine her looking a bit like Betty Davis.

    What do I think of in terms of portraits? I have to go with the one which is based on the Holbein sketch, which I think is authentic and the actress has to be Genevieve Bujold, who was so alive in the role, for me nobody else has ever been Anne Boleyn.

  7. Oona Chaplin is how I imagine Anne Boleyn to have looked like
    She was Robb Starks wife Talisa in Game if Thrones. I can’t seem to be able to copy and paste the pics that I want

  8. Most excellent. I am familiar with many of things you have said but you put it together well. I to believe Ann probably did look like Genevieve Bujold.. possibly not quite as attractive as we didn’t have cosmetic enhancements then but a good fit for how I see her.. Anne seemed to have been quite the attraction to men.. Strong, enticing,, yes the eyes. To put it more simply she have some sort of “Charm” that perhaps was not the “belle” of the day but sexually alluring to men and “Henry” of course fell to the charms, intellect and grace..

  9. I imagine the historical Anne to have looked like Vanessa Redgrave in ‘All Man For All Seasons’ (1966), or actress Barbara Kellerman (who played Anne Bullen in the 1979 BBC television version of Shakespeare’s ‘Henry VIII’),

  10. Claire I must send you a screen capture of my latest video game character, whom I have made as Anne. Game is the Elder Scrolls – Skyrim which has a great character customisation system. I have given her very dark red hair rather like my own, large dark eyes, a warm complexion, full lips and strong but feminine features, with a slender figure. Video game Anne has only just emerged from the starter section but when she has had the opportunity to shop for some elegant gowns and jewellery, I will take the picture. It will I think be an interesting modern take on interpreting Anne’s appearance.

  11. The problem with Anne’s portraits is none will ever be verified because everyone is under the mistaken impression that none of her portraits exist. Henry is reputed to have ordered them all destroyed in an effort to banish Anne from history. However, as far as I am aware no contemporary documents report such an order. He got rid of many other things, her signs and her heraldic beasts and her decorations and probably her personal items and dresses. However, I don’t know were is the reference to his order to get rid of her paintings. I accept a number of paintings are genuinely dated later but may be copied from earlier contemporary ones, but which is a true likeness is widely debated. One of the portraits often mentioned is the National Portrait Gallery and there is also one in Hever but these are challenged. We have the potential Hans Holbein portrait which claims to be from 1534 but which is also like a sketch by the same artist of Anne Boleyn. There is also the other side by which this has been dismissed and the others have as well. Yet, isn’t this dismissal on an assumption of the destruction, which may be a false assumption?

    We have recently potentially identified the Lady in the Garter Book from 1534 as a heavily pregnant Queen Anne Boleyn and the medal which is reconstructed in the video from the same year may well be the only authentic image of Anne that we know of. The Nidd Hall Portrait has caused quite a stir by those who propose it as a likeness of Anne Boleyn but in reality it seems to date from the 1570s and is off a much older woman. A portrait of Lady Abergavenny was also put forward in recent years but it looks more like a portrait of Lady Elizabeth Boleyn, her mother. Recently hope of an authentic image came in a beautiful miniature by the renowned artist, Lucus Horenbout, but is the miniature of Mary or Anne Boleyn? To me Mary is the more conventional candidate but if the sisters were born close together, they could be very alike in looks, if different in personality.

    What about the Garter Portrait? The Lady of the Garter is Queen Philippa, Queen of King Edward iii, who founded the order of Knights of the Garter, but who modelled for this renowned Queen in 1534? Henry obviously modelled for the warrior King, because he was the Garter King in his own mind and this was central to his whole ideals. Henry relived the ways of the Knights and it is here that we see him in prayer in the Black Book of the Garter. We also see a beautiful Queen enthroned and with a sceptre and golden coronation robe, visibly with child, surrounded by her ladies and knights. She wears a French hood and her hair is reddish brown. At this time Anne Boleyn was triumphant, the mother of a healthy daughter, but pregnant with her second child, possibly a son. She was high in favour and Henry was keen to show her as a virtuous and holy Queen, the mother of his future heir, a Queen who is fertile and the Queen of justice and mercy, his true and only wife. I believe this is a true and authentic portrait of Anne, maybe one of two we can identify for certain. Yes, it is very idealistic but the portrait of Henry is a fair likeness, so why not do a fair likeness of Anne as the ideal Queen, Philippa?

    Different historians, of course, argue for and against each associated portrait of Anne Boleyn very strongly, which makes things very difficult. Henry Viii has created a myth by attempting to banish his wife from history. He didn’t even manage his set achievement to do away with her arms in his palaces. His workmen missed a bit as they say, for under the archway of the grand Anne Boleyn gate at Hampton Court are her carved arms and badges. In fact, when Henry executed Anne he made her immortal. Anne Boleyn is his most famous Queen, one of the most famous women in history, in fact. She is the subject of hundreds of books, plays, poems, social media accounts, blogs and websites, and is the subject of an opera and endless fascination. Hopefully, her true portrait will also show us what she really looked like one day.

  12. The contemporary sketch reputed to be of Anne by that great master Hans Holbein as it has ‘Anne Bouillan Queen’ at the top I think is the most accurate picture we have of her, he knew the queen as he was at Henrys court and painted many of the grand lords and ladies of the day, he sketched the seating plans for her coronation and so I think this piece of work he drafted was probably a sketch for a later portrait of her, after his death from the plague dozens of sketches were found in his studio which were original drafts for his later portraits, the sitter has a long oval face and a strong nose, Annes nose did have a slight bump in it and her mouth is full and her eyes are heavy lidded, she had a bit of a double chin and some have suggested she was pregnant at the time, which would atone for the extra stone or so she would put on, her eyes are downcast and to me she looks rather pensive, we all know how accurate was Holbeins work, and he would have captured as only the true artist would the mixed feelings that show in the eyes, I pray that there is a painting somewhere maybe left in one of the attics in some of the great stately homes/ castles of Britain that will re surface as a lost portrait of Anne Boleyn, I would love a full length painting to be found and would it not be great if one or two of her favourite dogs were in the painting with her, she owned a greyhound called Urian and of course her little terrier Porkoy, I doubt iv spelt it right, but we do not know what he looked like and it would be lovely to see him captured in oils, like his famous mistress, Katherine of Aragon was painted with her pet monkey but I think that was a different artist, anyway as for finding an original oil painting of Anne Boleyn, – hope springs eternal!

  13. Yes, I would go with this because she looks like a Queen, a pregnant and over fed Queen, both of which account for her extra weight. She was probably eating more simply because she was now Queen, but even with male doctors who knew next to nothing about pregnancy a woman had to eat and you can bet your bottom dollar, Anne was eating. The Garter Book which shows a pregnant Philippa, Queen of Edward iii, but which is from 1534 and believed to be modelled by Anne Boleyn is from the same time as the Holbein sketch. Here she is drawn with a modest headdress, a collar of fur for warmth and what may have been an adaptation of the black nightgown Henry gave her. Holbein has labelled it as Queen Anne and 1534. Women often had a portrait done before going into confinement as childbirth killed over one third of them. Henry was hoping and probably getting more impatient for a son. He was forty three, had been married for a collective total of 25 years and had two living children, both girls, born to two different women, seventeen years apart. Elizabeth for now was his designated heir but only until a boy came along. In the sketch you can see the pressure that Anne was most probably feeling and we can well imagine that as her pregnancy progressed that stress as well as triumph building. Anne has another portrait which is very like this sketch, attributed to Holbein and from the same date which would normally be the finished item, changed to reflect the living Queen and after her child was born. Of course, if Anne was pregnant, then clearly her pregnancy didn’t go to term and she sadly lost her second child. Henry may have cancelled the full portrait but the sketch was the artists property, so in his collection, someone may have commissioned the later portrait based on the sketch in Anne’s memory or maybe she paid for it and it was finished afterwards, but hidden away. A family friend could have had the portrait finished and chosen the sketch as it shows her round features. In the finished Holbein portrait her eyes are very happy and expressive and if it was a memorial then it is very fitting. Of course this is speculation, but for me the sketch and portrait belonged together and show us the real Queen Anne Boleyn.

    I actually like the portrait in the article above. I think it’s the Lucus Horenbolte which is similar to the NPG portrait, but also note her red hair. The Garter Book also has red hair. Red can be very bright or dark and a 1000 shades in between. Anne’s hair outside of her headdress was open to the sun and could well have changed with the seasons. She is described as having many different shades of dark hair, brunette, dark brown, so on, so I am guessing people are describing her in different seasons. Of course, if you want to be cynical you could also point out that all of the descriptions come from men, and at the risk of sounding prejudice, what do men who are not hairdressers or artists know about what colour a woman’s hair is or was. Very few of them knew her well and the only detailed description of her hair comes from Thomas Wyatt, her friend, neighbour, possible lover and an observant person as a poet and ambassador. Susan Borbo wrote about Anne’s hair and looks in her book “The Creation of Anne Boleyn” . Women are normally more observant when it comes to hair and looks, but we don’t have a description from a woman, so unfortunately we have an incomplete knowledge of what Anne really looked like.

    I just want to add as I had never seen Nanny Mcphee but heard her mentioned in a few articles on this, I had a peek when it was on over the weekend and yes, her protruding lower gum tooth really is prominent, her nose huge and bloated, she has several large moles and warts and mind reads with her black eyes. She was no beauty but the kids are brought under control, until they plot her downfall. No I definitely don’t think Anne looked anything like her.

  14. I read once that her hair could have been painted actually lighter than it was for fashion, there is one portrait of her where her hair is very dark almost black, but there are more done of her where her hair does look like a light to mid chestnut in colour, it is very confusing and I know it should not matter to us but everything about Anne is so damned elusive, we no not her actual date of birth nor her actual resting place, we know she lies in St Peter Ad Vincula somewhere, but does she lie under her correct name ? How tall was she and some observers called her beautiful and some not much to look at, like the Venetian ambassador in France who saw her when she visited with Henry to seek Francis approval for their coming marriage, as Eric Ives wrote in his biography, somewhere in the Chequers ring, the NPG gallery and the Hoskins and Horenbolt paintings, the sketch by Holbein, we have the real face of Anne Boleyn, we know she had a long narrow face with a high forehead, a thin long nose that accompanies such a face shape, it had a slight Roman bump in it and she had wide almond shaped dark heavy lidded eyes which she passed onto her daughter, a small yet full rosebud mouth and her colouring was olive all in all, she appears an attractive striking looking woman, the face comes across as not gentle but has the power to entice a second glance, it is not hard to envisage what she actually looked like, added to her facial appearance she was very slender and graceful she had a long swan like neck and she possessed style, she must have appeared like an exotic bird of prey amongst all the English men and women at court, there is a myth that she designed the hanging sleeves to cover her extra nail, but they were already in fashion when she made her debut, apparently she loved the colour green and the song ‘Greensleeves’ attributed to Henry V111 was a reference to her, the first line, ‘Alas my love you do me wrong to cast me off discourteously’, does sound like Henrys ardent pleading to her to become his mistress, I have watched Nanny McPhee but wasn’t really keen on it, yes she was awful looking, a right old crone! Anne was toward the end of her life fast losing her looks, no doubt due to the stress and worry of her failure to give Henry a son, gone was the lighthearted laughing girl who had graced the courts of France and Savoy years before, and who had first arrived in England, her demeanour was said to be sweet and cheerful, which is part of a persons charm, we can see how her character had hardened over the years due to the disappointments thrown her way over the failure of the divorce, Katherines stance and the Pope etc, it had not been plain sailing, Chapyus referred to her a a thin old woman, her portrait at Nidd Hall resembles the chequers ring, she wears the same head dress but we can see where she has definatley aged, she is quite jowly and has lines running from nose to mouth, any beauty and charm she possessed has vanished, but at her execution one observer noted she had never looked more beautiful, so Anne could still when the occasion arose pull out all the stops and bewitch those who beheld her.

  15. Really liked the video description. When I think of Queen Anne I see the version portrayal played by Natalie Dormer from the series The Tudors. Whilst the fashion was pale, meek and modest, Anne could demonstrate a humble and elegant manor with a clever twist of sex appeal. She possibly understood her looks very well and, because her features were not on trend, learned to use the best of them to her advantage. Mainly her eyes, body language and social skills. She’s one of my favourite queen’s because she could make such a difference, despite looking different, at such a time when being a woman meant no power over one’s destiny. I wonder if, given the choices women have today, whether she would have chosen to marry the king or did his constant harassment and pressure from her family just wear her down?

  16. I remember in 2016 there was a portrait being sold on ebay as Anne Boleyn. Claire wrote an article debunking it as an Anne portrait (it’s most likely Lady Bergavenny), but Tracy Borman and Allison Weir were calling it Anne Boleyn. (Full disclosure: I think Claire makes the stronger case). But does anyone know if Borman and Weir are still defending it as an Anne portrait?

  17. Yes, there are a number of fascinating descriptions of Anne, who remains just out of reach. Henry was obviously in love with a woman he found worthy to be the future Queen of England and the mother of his lawful heirs. That he waited seven long years for Anne says a lot. He had been devoted to Katherine of Aragon, his life long soulmate and love from his youth, but he was obsessed with the desire for a male heir, something, tragically Katherine could not give him. There were no genetic tests or experts on alternatives to natural child birth or solving such matters so he had few alternatives. Henry could accept Mary as his sole heiress and there is evidence to suggest he did for a number of years, training her to rule in Wales, he could find Mary a husband and hope they had sons and name his grandchildren as his heirs or he could name a nephew or his illegitimate son (with some legal manoeuvres and the support of the Pope) as his successor, the latter may well lead to civil war. Barring the first two being successful or a great risk, Henry could remarry and hopefully get a son by his second wife. That wife certainly didn’t need to be Anne Boleyn. Henry in 1526/7 when he started his annulment procedure was 35/36 years old, handsome, athletic, even handed, popular, had an even manner, was regarded as still in his prime, was cultured, friendly, good company and had all the virtues of a humanist and Renaissance King. There was nothing unattractive about him. Forget about the monster of myth and his last few years, no such person existed at this time and the evidence shows there was no sign of the Henry of legendary proportions. Henry could have married any Royal Princess or noble Princess available, should Katherine agree to an annulment. Instead he wanted to marry Anne Boleyn and fell in love with her. In fact he went further than any other King to get her. As interesting and intelligent as Anne was I don’t believe she could have held the King’s love and passionate desire for so long unless she was attractive. Katherine stood against Henry and at first she thought Anne was just another mistress who would fade with time. However, it is clear that as Henry’s determination to free himself from a marriage he saw as null and void grew stronger that Katherine realised how strong the hold Anne had over her husband. I believe Katherine knew there was something alluring about Anne, recognised her as a true rival, saw Anne was sexy, young and attractive, saw how Anne could captivate with those beautiful eyes, just as she once had and knew in her heart Anne was in love with her husband in a very real way. Anyone with the flaws in their looks described by Nicholas Sander would have been no threat to Katherine of Aragon. I too love the description in the video, the combination of so many complementary ones and it really is sad that we don’t have a portrait we can identify with positive accuracy. After all as one of the most important women in history, a woman of so much mystery and wonder, who shaped our country in such a dramatic way, Anne Boleyn has become essential and famous. It is really essential that we know what she looked like.

  18. Geneviève Bujold who starred with Richard Burton in Anne of a Thousand Days displayed the qualities that I imagine Anne to have had, captivating eyes, seductive mouth, intelligence and a sex appeal that Henry found irresistible. Her fine acting and genuine French accent added to her captivation on the screen.

  19. Yes she’s a French Canadian actress, though I loved her performance as Anne Boleyn I think she was far too pretty with her small elfin features to be a believable Anne, one of Annes attractions I believe was her lilting French accent, and English always sounds so pretty when spoken with a French accent, she has been rightly described as the most enigmatic of Henrys wives, also i think she was the most alluring as none other caused quite such a ripple at the English court, she was very accomplished and she must have had many envious female contemporaries, she was the sort of woman who walked into a room and drew all eyes towards her, with her stylish manner of dress, including her French hood which was so much more becoming than the Gable hood, her natural grace which must have been akin to a gazelle in the forest, her vivacity and sweet cheerful manner as one contemporary said, all these attributes made her a very seductive woman indeed, when older she became hardened and her sweet manner evaporated into that of a bad tempered shrew, she argued with many but the seductive quality, the charisma must always have been there, it was part of her persona and added to her mystery.

  20. Hi Christine, there is something wrong with my reply buttons, so I have jumped but I am sure you will see it.

    I know it’s fiction and probably meant to be a dream but when Anne is running round the Court in Henry’s imagination in the Tudors, saying “Seduce Me” I can visualise her doing that, teasing him and being playful and mysterious. Why should she be just pure and religious or just sexual? She was a human being, which means she was complex and full of contradictions that don’t always register as possible. She defended her virtue while being a minx. She played the game of love without jumping into the beds of her courtier friends. She was interested in reforms but appreciated the need for liturgical beauty and imagination. She was not a Protestant, Presbyterian or Puritan. She enjoyed herself too much and was famous for the entertainment that she devised, some of which for traditional courtiers and supporters of Katherine, was in poor taste. She was intelligent but didn’t always think before she spoke, much like many people I should think. She didn’t control Henry, few people did, save when he first ruled under the thumb of a Regency Council (David Starkey) but she did influence a lot of his choices. Anne behaved with sex appeal. Henry was attracted to her and she drove him wild with No. I can see her running around the gardens or playing hard to get in the woods and Henry playfully chasing her. They probably parried esvh other in mock mirror moves and when out of breath fell into passionate embracing on the grass. That doesn’t mean they went further, but I can well imagine much laughter ensued as they chased each other around the grounds at Hever or after the hunt. Why wouldn’t they play love games? They were a couple in love, both relatively young and healthy. It seems like a natural thing to do. I bet they even went skinny dipping! They had fun. As time went on they must have felt the strain and become more serious but they still balanced that with fun. For two years of their marriage this passion continued and then everything became too much. A lot of factors got in the way, including the inevitable role of a Queen, to produce living male children and over the months that followed, Anne’s own jealousy led to open rows and left Anne open to her enemies. Henry began to show signs of changing behaviour, a hunger for supreme power and paranoia and with that growing frustration and impatience and love turned to hate. We all know what happened next, a conspiracy was formed to attack the Queen, but which party was to blame as its driver is open for much debate.

    Thomas Cromwell is of course number one suspect, although Cromwell was not King Thomas Cromwell, but Henry Viii was and therefore ultimately responsible. Henry is second favourite because he appeared to suddenly look for a reason to want Anne gone and no matter how much rubbish he dug up or made up or not, Cromwell could not initiate a full investigation without the King’s approval or command. He could call a jury, he could ask questions, a tacit nod was all he needed but he couldn’t follow the legal steps he took without consent. The Council and the official posts he held gave him certain powers but he still needed the King’s command and Henry ordered the Oyer and Terminer Commissions. Whether Henry said find me a way out and Cromwell provided everything or Henry gave the initial order, Cromwell played a significant part in Anne’s fall, the trial for adultery, incest and treason and the executions which followed. There are various options on this and some historians just see what happened as an unfortunate set of events. Pro Cromwell scholars argue that the architect of Anne’s rise and ally in matters of religion would never have turned against her because they both had another interest in common, social assistance. Anne may have wanted the money from the dissolution of the smaller religious houses to be used for that assistance of the poor, especially in education, but Cromwell was of the same mind as the King and the money was meant for the Royal treasury and his supporters. Cromwell scholars like John Schofield explain that Cromwell had a radical programme put before Parliament to put the unemployed into work projects and to help those left in limbo by the recent changes, but it failed as Henry wanted a more low key social assistance act. He doesn’t see why Anne and Cromwell would clash, therefore and be enemies. I would agree on this but Anne was never really his ally or his patron. She also, in his mind, at least, became an obstacle because of his own scheme to persuade Henry to move from an alliance with France to making up with the Emperor. Henry approved of this, but there was a huge catch, Lady Mary.

    Mary, Henry’s eldest and in the eyes of Spain and all of Catholic Europe, his only legitimate daughter, despite an English law which said otherwise, was supported by the rising Seymour faction, other disconnected Catholics, the old York families, and, in 1536 by Cromwell himself. He was open to moving Henry to restore Mary to the throne and he was working with Eustace Chapuys to put such a proposal to Henry. In return, now that Katherine was dead, in March 1536, it looked as if Charles V might give the nod to Henry’s marriage to Anne. This looked agreeable, but one question remained: would Anne oppose Mary being restored to the succession? Even though we don’t actually know what Anne felt, it was obvious that Cromwell had reservations about her reaction. What the faction didn’t factor in was the unpredictable King Henry. Somebody, Thomas and George Boleyn fell behind this audacious proposal. Anne had been out of favour but now appeared reconciled to Henry who in public at least was treating her well, asking others to support her and promoting her as his legitimate wife. The couple planned a state visit to France in May. Everything was going well until 18th April 1536 when it all fell apart. The Ambassador was treated with honour, the famous incident at Mass happened, he dined with the Seymour faction and the Boleyn men, he saw the King, then he was taken to have an audience. The audience was awful. Henry had a temper tantrum. Anne must be recognised as his lawful Queen, how dare they tell him how to treat Mary, Charles must apologise for everything, Cromwell was shouted at and Chapuys probably hoped the floor would swallow him. Things apparently were fixed somewhat the next day and the reproachment with the Emperor was back on track. Cromwell was feeling threatened and ran off home ill and Anne was left out in the cold. Those who argue that Cromwell brought Anne down with an audacious plot now argue he masterminded it while away ill from Court. Cromwell admitted this but also says Henry gave him orders. Those who argue for Henry being the mastermind point to the obvious, he was King and had a lot of power, which is true, but did Cromwell think up how and bring the rumours about Anne to the King and advise him a certain way? We don’t know. Surprisingly, Diarmaid McCullough in his recent biography, makes the bold statement that Cromwell was out to get the Queen. The rest of the narrative of events is cool and academic but that stood out. Personally, I feel the truth is in the middle, yes, Cromwell now saw Anne as potentially someone who would oppose his foreign policy and turn Henry against him, was alarmed that she was in favour and being prominent, but it was Henry who, seeing there were rumours about her and having dismissed a second annulment who ordered Cromwell to free him from Anne permanently. Cromwell provided the means, he and others put the appropriate legal apparatus into place, he then selected a prime target, was ordered to investigate and the chief victims fell into the trap. A series of unfortunate and game playing conversations took place and then Mark Smeaton was arrested. The conversation with Henry Norris and the Queen sent Henry into an angry spin and provided the Court with a public Royal argument and when Smeaton confessed it confirmed what Cromwell had put together nicely. The two Grand Juries were before all of this happened and it’s almost as if he was just waiting for some opportunities to fill in the blanks and invent the actual charges. We don’t know if Henry was genuinely shocked or if he was part of what was going on. We don’t know very much more actually but Susanna Libscomb believes Henry was really upset to hear his beloved Anne was a cheat and a traitor. She thinks he believed the charges and that Anne had challenged his honour and masculinity and sexual dominance. The charges were terrible and Anne and the men accused for her and innocent men with her were made to look as bad as possible. The incest charge with her brother George was made because this would show she was capable of everything else. Henry might well have believed all of this, but he was also paranoid and suspicious and he wanted out of his turbulent marriage with Anne, whom he no longer loved. It was convenient for him to believe his wife had betrayed him and wished him harm. The woman he had loved wasn’t capable of such crimes, nor was she able to commit them with help, but that didn’t matter. Henry’s behaviour while Anne was in prison was bizarre and he cut himself off from reality, taking himself off to be with Jane Seymour at the home of Sir Nicholas Carew, another supporter of Princess Mary and Jane was told to prepare for her marriage. I don’t believe she had anything to do with Anne’s fall, but Jane waited and saw herself as having a mission, to be Queen and rescue England from the new ways and, if she could to restore Mary. Ironically, it was more through Thomas Cromwell that Mary was reconciling to her father, only after he had helped her submit to Henry and accept his views on the state of her parents marriage.

    Anne had dramatically affected Henry all the way from their passionate days of love and their love letters but Henry was a willing participant and he wanted Anne first. Both of them had found what they needed and they were well matched. However, Anne had stepped into the middle of a love triangle and one which was tearing England apart. Katherine, Anne, Mary and Henry were all stubbornly determined people, intelligent, well educated, feisty, fierce, strong willed and knew in their minds and souls that each of them was right. Henry had been devoted to Katherine and Mary and remained so when Anne came to Court. Mary was his whole world and he loved her. She was back and forth to Ludlow where she was training to rule in a Court which mirrored his own. She had her own Regency Council and a full household and the local Lords had officials at her Court in the Marchers. There was no reason to think in 1526/7 that she wouldn’t one day rule England. However, to Henry she wasn’t the long-term solution he really needed and recently his doubts about his marriage being valid had formed a new opinion. He was now looking for a new wife and that illusive male heir and Anne was the woman he wanted to marry. Their attraction was mutual and there was nothing about him which was not attractive. Forget the legend in the famous large-scale larger than life portraits based on the one by Hans Holbein, this Henry was handsome, generous, cordial, friendly, charismatic, good looking, athletic, popular, when he spoke to you he was very charming and a good companion and he wasn’t anything like the tyrant he evolved into during the latter years of his life. But for his real concern he had about the security of his realm if he didn’t have a son to inherit him, he would never have left Katherine for Anne. When he was first attracted to Anne Boleyn, Henry wanted a fling. Anne didn’t. She wanted a husband and nothing less but Henry was married. He courted her and eventually fell in love with her. Anne had much more going for her than her gentle and quiet sister and she was like a sophisticated French lady. She lit up a room, much as the King did. He found her conversation attractive and intellectual. Anne was interested in his favourite subject, theology. When Henry raised his search for an annulment, Anne had ideas to contribute and Henry listened. Both had a keen and well informed mind. However, Henry was married to a woman whose intelligence and education excelled even his own. Katherine of Aragon, daughter of the power couple, Isabella and Ferdinand of Spain, was beautiful, smart, well read, proud, a warrior and she was the equal of both Anne and Henry put together when it came to fighting her corner. Katherine was going nowhere fast. Anne and Henry faced a struggle for the next six years and it was testimony to the depth of their love and relationship that they didn’t shatter and give in. In the end it was Henry who found a new way to express and use his power, through the Supremacy, which gave him the means to remove the faithful Katherine from his life and place her more or less in house arrest, in luxurious but sometimes damp palaces, one of which was grander than Hampton Court, until Henry got hold of the latter. Mary was as stubborn as both of her parents and for four years refused to accept that they had not been lawfully married or his laws which declared herself illegitimate. She showed tremendous courage and would not accept Anne as Queen. It was only after both her mother and step mother were dead that she finally asked for acceptance by her father again. His third wife, Jane Seymour had reached out to Mary and the young woman hoped things would improve, but Henry wanted full obedience and she had no choice but to agree. Anne wasn’t the perfect Tudor wife and Queen, although as a Queen she was charitable, accommodating, did her public duties well and made every effort to be as a Queen should be. Anne wanted more. She wanted to be very active as a Queen. She had her own agenda and she clashed with Henry over public policy, the marriage of his daughter, her own daughter and his love affairs. Anne had the same misfortunes during pregnancy as Katherine had after losing her son in January 1536, Henry despaired of future sons. It was probably the public arguments as well as this which made up Henry’s mind to be rid of the woman he had fought for so long and so hard to get. The method he chose, however, was brutal and extreme and a sign that the man she had married was slowly, over time ceasing to exist.

  21. After that beautiful description of Henry and Anne teasing each other when they were so much in love it just makes her death at the order of her husband so much sadder

  22. Very good post Bq, Henry was known to be more merry with Anne than any of his other wives, this is hardly surprising since he was violently in love with her, it is fun to imagine them riding through the fields and embracing in the forests, Anne playfully making a daisy chain and placing it on Henrys head, after he had pledged to marry her she no doubt allowed plenty of kissing and embracing to take place but, being Anne she would have carefully guarded her maiden hood till King Edwards crown was on her head, I recall that dream like scene from the Tudors and I thought it was rather soppy, but Henry could well have had dreams like that, a nude Anne flitting between the columns of his great palaces fluttering her eyelashes at him, we know how he felt about her but we know nothing of Annes feelings towards him, did she really love him or was it just all pretend? Alas we cannot ask her but I think she felt for him a genuine affection after all, how can one dislike such an ardent suitor who tells you how much he adores you and pens you the most passionate letters, accompanied by jewels and once even a buck? He wrote he hoped that when she ate it she was thinking of him, he offered her a crown and she promised to marry him, but was she acting out of cold ambition or was she genuinely attracted towards him, maybe later on her feelings turned towards love, as you say Henry was handsome and accomplished, cheerful and charismatic, I should imagine it was very easy to fall in love with him, Annes behaviour was flirtatious in the beginning towards the king and the other men at court, it was something she loved, she delighted in flowery compliments and praise and she passed this trait onto her daughter, who loved flattery and was inordinately vain, Elizabeth loved being surrounded by handsome young men and she was known to favour Raleigh and Hatton as well as Dudley and the Earl of Essex, like her mother who also liked her household to be full of handsome young men she would flirt outrageously with them, she later developed very strong feelings for the Duke of Anjou, but like her mother she went no further, Anne held Henry of for years till it was certain they would marry and Elizabeth prided herself on being the virgin queen, were mother and daughter both undersexed? That Anne satisfied Henry by other means than the actual act of intimacy is apparent as he would have looked elsewhere for gratification, or maybe they slept together a lot sooner then we assume as there were methods of birth control crude though they were, it was something Catherine Howard admitted to years later, but it is fascinating to contemplate these two lovers never sleeping together for seven long years, as it is unnatural and finally Henry became so fed up with the Popes prevaricating that he wed his mistress and then Anne became pregnant right away, however she was past her fertile best and I think she made a mistake there, I think she could have gambled on Henrys commitment to her much earlier and allowed herself to get pregnant, that would have pushed Henry into marriage much sooner, as Henry would have been determined for his child to be born legitimate, or maybe I am wrong but the long years of waiting did neither of them any good, however they did have two years of married bliss before it all turned sour, as the immortal line reads : ‘heaven hath no hell like love turned to hatred’.

  23. Thank you, Christine and Michael, the relationship of Anne and Henry was indeed violently passionate, that is a very apt term, considering the violent end of this vibrant woman. Anne left her mark on Henry and he on England, in ways which were both good and bad, their legacy is subject to much debate, but it was most certainly a love affair, one which yes, turned bitter and to hatred, but for many years it was the match of two warm, loving, passionate hearts and we are fortunate that we have at least one set of love letters which reflect that. To keep their children legitimate and themselves committed, Anne and Henry made vows of faithfulness to each other and as far as we know, refrained from full sexual intercourse until after their marriage. We know they slept together before marriage, but by then the annulment was round the corner and their marriage a matter of months away. During the six long years of their courtship, the denial of their marriage, it was important indeed to Anne to guard her maidenhead, which must have been frustrating, but Henry also appears to have thought it was a good idea, to respect her, to promote the relationship as a just and respectful one of a future husband and wife, as a chaste betrothed couple and both committed themselves to the other exclusively. I love the ways in which we can imagine them as a loving and romantic couple, because we know little about many of their private moments. I am not sure about naked dreams, but Henry must have imagined Anne in many ways and saw himself with her as his Queen, probably imagined how it would be with sons and heirs and many years of happy fatherhood and Anne as a loving wife. Unfortunately, that wasn’t how it all turned out. Anne of course had another daughter, but they stuck at it and Anne was quickly pregnant once more. Anne was not a typical Tudor wife, that wasn’t for her, which led to rows and she couldn’t stand his occasional affairs as she felt his total exclusivity to her and no other, which again led to public rows. Had Anne and Henry been blessed with even one living, healthy son, none of that would have mattered as Anne would have been secure and wonderfully triumphant. Henry would have the fulfilment of his dreams and Anne probably allowed a greater role, a more active Queenship, just as she wanted. Her main role was to provide Henry and the realm with a male heir and it was tragic for Anne and Henry that she didn’t because I believe they were still in love for most of their marriage but things got in their way. They were still very merry together and had parties, entertainment, hinted, went on progress and Anne put on masquerade and it was clear that they were happy during the Summer of 1535. Anne became pregnant during it and it was a triumphant time, a partnership to show off their new ideas of the reforms they wanted and everything seemed to be going well at last. The new year 1536 began with great and hopeful expectation because Katherine, his once dear wife, but the lady who now stood between them, died on 7th January but later that month it was the start of Anne’s fall from grace. Henry fell heavily from his horse during a joust and Anne was informed that his accident was more dangerous to his life than it was, it was reported by one account that he was unconscious for two hours, but in others as being little hurt, although his leg was injured again. Anne also may have found Henry with a lady, possibly Jane Seymour, on his knee and the two acts of stress caused a natural miscarriage. Anne miscarried of her saviour, wrote Chapuys. It was a terrible and sad loss of their son and heir and both Henry and Anne were devastated. Henry made accusations against Anne and she blamed him, they fell out big time. Anne and Henry did appear to make up and things got better for a few months, but the fatal rows, rumours and conspiracy of April 1536 led to her demise, love turned to hate and finally Henry turned on his once passionate and all consuming love, executing her on false charges. It was a change in Henry which had consequences for many years.

  24. Anne dreamt of bring queen and having untold power and riches but really she had no idea of what actual queenship meant, she thought she could boss everyone around and she was so used to Henry being her lap dog she thought she could carry on doing so, but there was her fatal error, for Henry once Anne was his wife expected her to behave as his wife as you say, a typical Tudor queen consort, retiring gracious and – fertile, it was the one thing where Katherine had the upper hand on her, for she had been born a princess and had the upbringing, she knew what was expected of a queen consort, she had dignity which for all her charms, Anne lacked, Anne reminds me of another doomed queen – Matilda who turned her barons and loyal supporters against her because of her very arrogance and she lost her crown, never to retain it, once Henry and Anne were wed yes they had several happy years together but the rot set in when she failed to give Henry a son, she was young when Henry proposed to her and with all the confidence she possessed she had promised him a healthy prince, but one has no power over the sex of ones child, today we know it is the father who determines the sex of their child, in those long ago days it was assumed as the woman carried it, she was the one who was responsible but she was not, but as Anne appeared to be fortunes favoured darling she assumed she would be able to have a son, she miscalculated dreadfully, it was to be her quiet unobtrusive little lady in waiting who was to have that honour, though it cost her her life.

  25. I find this topic very interesting. Though we don’t know what Anne looked like for sure, we certainly know what both her parents looked like. I don’t know why she was described as swarthy, olive skinned, as both her parents were very fair. Anne was a first cousin to Katherine Howard–5th wife, and Katherine was fair with light brown hair. I wonder if she was described this way, as to insult her in some way. (fairest of them all is an expression that came from the desire for fair skin). I believe she was brunette, with dark eyes and fair skin. The miniature painting in the locket ring worn by Elizabeth I depicts a woman with fair skin and brown hair. Is this Anne?

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