Which colours did Anne Boleyn like?
Posted By Claire on February 5, 2021
In this edition of my series on “Questions about Anne Boleyn”, I consider which colours Anne Boleyn liked.
It’s impossible to say what Anne Boleyn’s favourite colour was, but we do know the colours Anne chose to wear and the colours she chose for fabrics for Elizabeth’s nursery and clothes.
Find out which colour fabrics were ordered for and by Anne Boleyn in this talk.
Glossary of terms:
Sarsenet: a fine, soft silk fabric.
Buckram: a coarse linen or other cloth stiffened with gum or paste.
Damask: a rich, heavy silk or linen fabric with a pattern woven into it.
Cloth of gold: a fabric made of silk or wool interwoven with gold threads.
Miniver – Used as a trim, usually from the red squirrel, but its white part/winter coat.
Ermine – Fur from the stoat.
You can see cloth of gold at https://www.pinterest.es/pin/115615915407211242/, that’s my friend Bess Chilver who is a re-enactor and costume expert.
15 thoughts on “Which colours did Anne Boleyn like?”
It’s interesting that she didn’t favor blue. All the colors mentioned are either neutral, or colors that would undoubtedly complement her coloring. With dark eyes and hair, I imagine she would look beautiful in the greens, crimson, and russet colors
Thank you for another great video on Anne Claire, it really is fascinating to hear the clothes and items that Anne ordered for herself and for Elizabeth and what Henry bought for her, it is true we do not know what colour she preferred but I think it is highly likely that she had not one favourite colour, but like me several, I read once that she loved green and the myth that Greensleeves was said to be written for her by a lovelorn Henry V111, I too love bright colours I have never been a wallflower melt in the corner kind of girl, I love dark blue reds, especially burgundy and emerald green, violets and fuchsia pinks, I think Anne must have looked stunning in her gowns with her dark colouring, she was known for her continental sense of style and although she wore black sometimes as it was a symbol of royalty, her colouring would not have been suited to its sombre shade, however the gold thread woven in some of her gowns would have given it added brilliance, and glittered with the many jewels she wore, and like all mothers she also loved ordering many clothes for her baby daughter, and we have records of the accounts that were kept, Elizabeth was at Hatfield when she was being measured for a cap and it was said the measurements had to be taken several times before the fit was correct, she too was dressed in rich jewel colours and fabrics, and these records offer a tantalising glimpse into a long lost age of the flamboyant decadence of old royalty, the fortune spent on these lavish outfits must have cost a fortune but royalty like now, had to dress the part.
Claire–I am writing to let you know how much I enjoy and appreciate all the work you do Thank you so much.
Thank you so much!
Thanks Claire for that very informative video and the research which obviously went into it from the Royal accounts to see what clothes Anne and Elizabeth wore. Anne also wore a dress of bright scarlet in 1531 before she was Queen which upset everyone because it was reserved for Royalty and Anne clearly thought of herself as Royal. When challenged she said that she didn’t care anything for Katherine and would rather see her mistress hung than acknowledge her as Queen. I would say that she definitely liked purple and scarlet as she appears in your video to have had a lot of it.
I have one question because it wasn’t in the list of definitions. What was cloth of tissue? Today we would think of tissue as in tissue paper or handkerchiefs, very light material which is strong but tears. In the case of tissue paper we use it to protect our clothing while travelling or to wrap items up in, again for protection. I was just wondering if Tudor tissue cloth was light but strong.
Rosalie Gilbert has a great glossary in her website and gives this information for “tissue” – “A fabric of twisted metal threads. Also applied to any woven stuff especially cloth of gold, or silver, or of coloured silk” (A Dictionary of English Costume, by Cunnington, Cunnington & Beard). https://rosaliegilbert.com/fabricnames.html
Such sumptuous fabrics!
Thanks Claire, wow, that is very different to how I imagined it. It sounds very expensive. These fabrics really were luxurious. No wonder they had laws saying who could wear them. You really were worlds apart as a member of the royal family or aristocratic class. Cheers for your reply and link.
Hi LynMarie ( Bq) what an enchanting name you have, Herbert Norris published a book on Tudor costume, and apparently cloth of tissue was a material woven from the finest gold and silver thread, very costly and so only the elite eg, royalty would have worn it, I have often pondered this myself, I assumed it could have been muslin dyed gold or silver or silk but silk is mentioned in the clothing of the period, so yes we know now it was exquisite fine gold and silver thread, it must have been an expert needlewoman who wove such delicate work, there is a document available from the reign of Elizabeth 1st where she passed laws decreeing what materials people were allowed to wear, owing to their social status, we know of course purple was the colour reserved for royalty and only ermine was reserved for that most highest of social status, but the lesser ranks of nobility that came after could wear a fake type of ermine, in her Hever portrait Mary Boleyn is wearing ermine which being the sister of the queen she was allowed to wear, there was a saying in Tudor England that all came into the world wearing linen and left it in linen, that was because people wore linen smocks and shifts next to the skin, it was their underwear, so to speak, of course after that came if you were rich, the many other layers that fashion decreed, I think I may buy the book by Norris as it certainly sounds very interesting, have a great weekend by the way, have you and your husband had your covid jab yet? I posted on another topic that I’d had mine on Tuesday, been feeling pretty rough but was told to expect that.
Hi, yes the Sumptuous Laws are well known and often associated with Elizabeth I or Henry Viii who probably made them stricter, but they date well back into Medieval times and were common across Europe and most places with a class system of any kind. It wasn’t just status, but income which determined what one could wear and the materials, colours and what they wore.
Anyone could wear wool, that was if they could afford it, the warmer home spun materials and basic colours but black was a symbol of high office or status. You wore it if you were in mourning but also if you were a court officer or a rich person. Margaret Douglas is dipicted in black as a member of the royal family. Cromwell and others would wear black as royal officers and members of the Council. Purple and scarlet were normally for the King or Queen, although a Duke could have it on his formal geer. Velvet was perfectly known before the fifteenth century despite Alison Weir claiming to the contrary and it was worn by most in the highest class and some with sufficient income below. Cloth of gold was reserved to the King and immediate family with the Queen normally wearing cloth of silver. However, the Queen and Princes and Princess could wear either. The Dukes could wear it as part of ceremonial get up as well because the title was first used by royalty. It denotes the brothers or sons of Kings but under Henry Viii commoners like Charles Brandon obtained the honor. In their formal garments they wore just about everything but not completely. They also wore the best furs and ermine. They were also expected to maintain a certain standard and to hold up a certain income for the privilege of wearing fine quality clothing.
The next class down could also dress well and the merchant and business class boasted fine life styles and even grander ones for Court. Elizabeth I was very grand in her dressing and took hours to dress. She loved pearls, the symbol of purity and just about everything living might end up being fashionable as trimming, just as it made it onto the dinner menu. The gemtry had the added expense of entertaining the finest people and the King and Queen might drop in for a few nights or more with the entire Court. Keeping up appearances was important and you could be fined for appearing too poor as well as wearing clothing you were not entitled to. Laws kept one in ones place during a time when people were starting to be socially mobile. It was a contradiction in terms.
Thanks for the links and book recommendations Claire and Christine, I will be checking them out later.
Your welcome Bq, it certainly is fascinating reading about the clothes fabrics and jewellery royalty and nobility wore at court, Henry V111 was the most flamboyant monarch out of all European royalty, his daughter Elizabeth 1st also was resplendent in her outfits, it was a social status, a symbol the monarch had to be more richly dressed than his/her contemporaries, not only were the fabrics sumptuous but the little jewels that were sewn into their outfits were costly to, emeralds and rubies even the swords had jewelled hilts, Elizabeth did favour pearls it is true, and I wonder if it was because they held a connection to her mother, the famous portrait of Anne Boleyn in the NPG shows her wearing pearls with her famous B initial, Elizabeth it is believed were given these pearls which were probably made into other items of jewellery, she also had pearls sewn into her many dresses and wore them in her hair, must have taken hours to dress , but kings and queens had to dress the part, Mary 1st also dressed sumptuously but not with the same flamboyance as her father and sister, in Elizabeth’s reign the farthingale that was fitted onto the waist ensured the skirt would retain its wide shape, really I think the gowns in her fathers day were more attractive and stylish, the long hanging sleeves were a throwback to the medieval era, there is a myth that Anne Boleyn introduced them at court, because she wished to conceal her sixth nail, but they were already in vogue, and the same myth applies to the French hood she favoured, but Princess Mary Tudor was already wearing them, as shown in her joint portrait with her second husband, the Duke of Suffolk, not only were the outfits of royalty and nobility exquisite, their regalia also extended to their horses who wore their masters and mistresses trappings, in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, many fine masterpieces were painted showing royalty and the nobility with their horses some riding them, others standing nearby holding their bridles, set amidst the beautiful backgrounds of their country estates, Charles 1st was painted riding his stallion, and these pictures were fashionable during their reigns, alas we have no such paintings of the Tudors in their riding outfits with their horses, or on their many summer picnics, with the rural backgrounds of Hatfield House Sheen Palace, Hampton Court or Whitehall, we have no such paintings of the river boat processions that was given to Anne Boleyn or Jane Seymour, they must have been a lavish and colourful affair, neither have we any paintings of Henry V111 and his queens at the hunt, so we can only imagine them, aristocratic Tudor ladies wore little hats with curled feathers in, there is a romantic picture of Henry V111 and Anne Boleyn out hunting which was painted at a much later date, in this she wears a little hat with a feather, she is also reported as wearing one at her trial, the famous cap which Henry V111 is depicted in, in his many portraits has curling plumes and this hat is so part of him that I cannot envisage him in any other headpiece or without it.
Here’s a tit bit about Charles Brandon from his biography by Gunn, saying that when he was elevated to the Duchy of Norfolk at the same time Thomas Howard, Earl of Surrey, the Flodden Earl, was given back the Dukedom of Norfolk in 1514, Brandon made certain that he had a more elaborate gown with more ermine around it than the 2nd Duke. Of course Brandon was a commoner, a gentleman and Knight, being elevated because of service in France, rather than a member of the aristocratic class. Surrey of course was a member of that class as his father was the cousin of Richard iii and Edward iv. John Howard had been given the title as it was vacant and had reverted to royal hands. The Mowbray inheritance had died out in the male line and the last person to inherit the lands and wealth was little Anne Mowbray who was married aged four or five to Richard of Shrewsbury, Duke of York, youngest son of Edward iv. Anne died aged eight and the title and inheritance came to her young husband. Now the heirs to this inheritance had died, leaving John Howard the next heir. When Anne Mowbray died by legal manoeuvres Edward iv enabled his son to hold onto the title and his illegitimacy took his right to the inheritance away. However, what Edward iv did wasn’t entirely in the true spirit of the laws of inheritance and Richard iii in 1484 gave the title and inheritance of Duke of Norfolk to John Howard, whose mother was a Mowbray. This does not as some have claimed mean that Richard of Shrewsbury was dead or that the new Duke had killed him for the inheritance but stands as testament to the justice of Richard iii in restoring what John should have held since Anne’s tragic death.
John Howard died at Bosworth fighting for Richard iii and his son Thomas the second Duke was badly injured. He refused to surrender but was captured by the forces of Henry Vii and he was placed in the Tower of London. His capture was not harsh and he had a chance to escape but he didn’t and was released to prove his loyalty by putting down a rebellion. Henry rewarded him with the title Earl of Norfolk rather than Duke and his elevation under Henry Viii was for his victory at Flodden in 1513. Henry thus created the 2nd Duke whose own son, another Thomas Howard, Earl of Surrey would be our own Third Duke in 1524.
Suffolk apparently made certain he wore plenty of not only his Ducal stuff but cloth of gold and silver in his outfit. However, his devise on his wedding portrait to Mary Tudor, Q of France shows him acknowledging his elevation as being under the grace and in the gift of the crown by saying that cloth of frieze mixed with cloth of gold is an honour and a blessing. It didn’t stop him from being bold occasionally in dress.
On the occasion of the Baptism of her brother, the new heir, Edward, on 15th October 1537 at the beautiful new Royal Chapel at Hampton Court, Princess Mary, one of the Godparents, in a place of honour during the procession, wore Cloth of Silver, rather than the traditional Cloth of Gold. Now why would she do this? Well, here Edward was the centre of attention as the star of the show, under a canopy, wearing a sixteen foot gown and carried by several people and Mary was far behind as a matter of protocol. Mary wasn’t going to blend in. Cloth of silver is more difficult to obtain, it might not be as expensive, but it is rarer. Mary would also have stood out more and according to Dr David Starkey in the documentary reconstruction of this wonderful occasion, that was her intention, to show herself as being just as important and not yielding her place. Mary was playing real politics here and was saying I am the first heir and O. K there is a brother now, but well, let’s wait and see, in the meantime, look at me. The Cloth of Silver was unique and everyone noticed. Henry and Jane were not present, Jane because she wasn’t Churched and Henry because that again was protocol. However, they both watched upstairs via a window.
Clothing was really useful and played a big part in politics and power and as propaganda and both Elizabeth and Mary did this very well. We tend to pay more attention to Elizabeth because she had a much longer reign with some rather fabulous highlights when she could really dress the part, but yes, Mary does use dress very well and her colours are much bolder than those Elizabeth used during the 1550s. Bold colours gave a big and powerful image and Elizabeth is trying to show herself as sombre and pious but that actually backfired. Later we have the eyes and ears and those huge ridiculous ruffled collars. There is a lot of white in Elizabeth’s portraits, especially her early decades and the colours are confined to fruit and symbols. Mary immediately is shown in purple, a lot of purple or red. She favoured the Autumn colours. Her hair colour is enhanced by this. Mary is aflame and golden and is seriously showing the power of the crown. Now there is a reason for this. Mary is the first proper Queen Regnant and she is also married to a man who will soon be King of Spain. Mary is conveying images and dress that show her as King in her own right and fully capable of running the show, without a man. Yes, she has chosen to marry, to have children, to do her duty as wife and mother, but Philip will have limited power. They will be joint rulers in many ways, but Mary is the Sovereign and people had better get used to it. Mary made the gender free authority of the crown a strong institution and it was only because of that, that Elizabeth succeeded without any problems. She restored the honor of the crown imperial and enhanced its authority. Her dress as propaganda is well worth studying as it set in motion some of the norms actually used by Elizabeth. We tend to think of Elizabeth and Mary being polar opposites but in reality they had more in common than anyone gives them credit for.
Thanks for the info about little Anne Mowbray, yes she was a extremely rich heiress and died very young, I have seen a reconstruction of her face and she looked like she was a lovely little girl with large dark eyes and red hair, of course all children look lovely to me, naturally pretty it is only as we age some of us lose much of that charm, I was not aware she died before her husband Richard of York, I have often pondered on that and I can see that was a most fair decision of Richard 111 to bestow her title onto her nearest blood relation, by right it should have gone to the duke but Edward obviously wanted the Mowbray inheritance for his son, the title Earls of Mowbray is very ancient and I believe it derives from William de Albini who came over with the Conqueror, most of the old nobility were of Norman descent having pushed aside the old Saxon families at court but some married them as well, yes Mary’s reign is often overlooked by Elizabeth’s because she only reigned for five years, but she was fond of beautiful colours rich fabrics and jewels like her mother was, I can feel for Mary being present at her brothers christening, once she had been sole heir then she had been set aside and saw all the honours which should have been hers and were rightly so, go to her baby sister, she had lost her inheritance and with it, her world, now her sister was in the same position as Mary yet Mary really, was in the stronger position, being considered legitimate by many churchmen and catholic’s as well as abroad, she probably was making a statement by wearing silver she was saying, do not forget that I am this little princes’s elder sister, and may well be queen one day, now wether she seriously thought that we do not know, but she had for years been Henry V111’s legitimate heir and Edward could well die young like his many brothers and sisters had, however we know Edward did die young, and by then Henry V111 had reinstated both daughters back in the line of succession, there is a full length portrait of Mary wearing which looks like a brocade dress in pale blue and other portraits show her in russet/ red and tawny like gowns, in one portrait she wears no headdress, there is the full length one of her with her husband Philip of Spain, as a young girl she was said to have had an exquisite complexion, but worry and ill health had robbed her of her natural beauty, by the time she came to the throne she looked older than her years, and was in stark contrast to the vibrant looks and personality of Elizabeth, as a young woman Elizabeth did after the Seymour scandal dress very modestly it is true, she was wearing a black velvet gown when she was frolicking in the gardens at Sudeley with her stepmother and husband, Thomas Seymour, Seymour took his sword and ripped her gown to shreds whilst Catherine Parr held Elizabeth firm, it was only horseplay but it was damaging to Elizabeth’s reputation, her governess Kat Ashley was concerned but not only that, imagine a beautiful black velvet dress ruined how many hands and hours had it taken to sew together, and black was the symbol of royalty, Seymour was disrespecting Elizabeth as Henry V111’s daughter and she probably was wearing black in mourning for him, after that incident when Catherine found them together in an embrace,which led to her banishment, Elizabeth chose to live quietly in Hatfield and her other residences, she gave her life up to study and prayer, she dressed simply and it was said of her by one observer at court, that lack of adornment and sombre gowns made her look more attractive, it is true dress can reflect an image, and she was trying to put across the message that here was a sensible moral virtuous young lady, not a thoughtless hoyden who was not worthy to be in line to the throne, the Seymour episode had been shameful to her and she had grown up, was thoughtful and more wiser, when she ascended the throne she really went to town with her outfits though as like her father, it was a symbol of power of divine royalty, she did wear a lot of white possibly because white is the colour of purity and virginity, and she did like to call herself the virgin queen, her court became as splendid as her fathers, I do not believe any other monarch dressed as flamboyantly as Elizabeth 1st, the outfits she wore were so ornate, she would have out dazzled even the glorious peacock, it must have taken her a full hour in the morning when she arose to get dressed by her ladies, she also spent time at her toilette applying her powder and rouge, and it was said she used a type of red paste on her mouth, when young her hair was long and looked golden red, today we would call it a strawberry blonde, at her coronation like all queens she wore it loose and it tumbled over her shoulders and down her back, afterwards it was pinned up and styled and studded with precious gems and pearls, she loved wigs and wore them often, more as she grew older and instead of the soft light tresses of her youth, she favoured dark red wigs which I feel made her look harsh, like her elder sister Mary she to as a girl was complimented on for her complexion, she does not appear to have had the freckles which usually accompany such colouring, in her coronation portrait her skin is so white it resembles marble, yet it was marked quite badly when she suffered from the smallpox, it was said the white lead she used on her face was to hide the disfiguring scars, always very vain she must have been horrified when her maid bought her the mirror when she recovered, yet she was extremely lucky to have survived, another sign that Elizabeth was gods anointed monarch, we have that other monarch Henry V11 who looked less like a monarch I have ever seen, though described as handsome and his death mask bears this out, he scorned the trappings of royalty unlike his son Henry V111 and grandchildren, and dressed austerely in drab colours, his garb being more like that of a churchman than a king, it rather reflected his court to, who really only enjoyed its title the best renaissance court in the world when his youngest son came to the throne.
Antonius Mor did a beautiful portrait of Mary early in her reign which is mostly scarlet and red and silver and she has huge brown fur sleeves which are practically down to her feet. They didn’t dress for anything but show, did they. The sleeves usually came off so she probably took them off afterwards. Her ordinary sleeves are elaborate enough.
Elizabeth had huge ruffled features with huge feathers around her neck and coming from her shoulders all the way above her head. The whole thing was very flighty and yet very delicate and beautiful. Those huge feathered circles they wore allowed some movement but not very much. Elizabeth had some wonderful dresses and she must have had small feet as the shoes that were made to match them are tiny. It wasn’t just dresses, they had jewelry on the dresses as well. They wore symbolic and personalised jewellery but they also had jewellery on the gowns themselves, all over them. You didn’t walk in them, you floated.
The Georgian dresses worn at Court were the best, the Mantua, were exceptional in their extravagance and width. They were extremely wide and uncomfortable. While every day fashion was light and flowing and varied widely, the dress code at Court was rigid and impressive but ridiculous. The wider and more ridiculous the better. Add the high and decorative head dresses and high heels and you had the least practical costumes in history. The waist was pulled in as well and this made them even more ungainly. Mind you the idea was just to stand around looking elegant and Queen Caroline kept everyone standing for hours. A groom would come in discreetly if you needed to wee with a small bottle to be placed under the dress and then you stepped forward while it was removed. Its a good job nobody wore underwear.
Yes the early Georgian attire was ridiculous really, for the higher classes the women’s dresses spread out across a very wide boned farthingale, so resembling a box shape, they would have had to walk sideways through a doorway, the poorer were more fortunate as their garb was much more simple, I bet the women were relieved when fashion became more practical, then there were the lovely modest shift like dresses of the Regency era as worn by the heroines in Jane Austen’s novels, fashion has changed a lot over the centuries, much more practical today and yet a lot of it’s charm and elegance has gone, today people only dress up for weddings funerals and occasions like ascot.
Does anyone know if Tudor green was invented or did they really associate the colour green with their Dynasty? Its amazing how much green you see in Tudor dramas and Anne is described as wearing a favourite green dress quite often. She wears one for example in the Other Boleyn Girl and in the new drama series. Of course green represented life and birth and they hung green on their homes at Christmas. Women even wore it in their hair for decoration. O was just wondering the origins of green being associated with the Tudors.