Sunday, 21 July 2013

Anne Boleyn's Gateway

It was Henry VIII who built what we now know as Anne Boleyn's Gateway. Of course, it was not named so at the time (seems unlikely that Henry would erase all trace of Anne but allow that name) but was given its name later on due to one beautiful, yet tragic detail: the surviving initials of Anne Boleyn and Henry VIII intertwined with a so-called "lover's knots". These emblems were overlooked in 1536 when Henry had ordered all Anne's emblems replaced by Jane Seymour's.
The gateway itself lies between the Base Court and the Clock Court and was restored recently to its former glory. Henry (of course) put his own mark on the gateway in the shape of a large Tudor-rose in the very centre of the ceiling.

The Tudor-rose in the centre
Henry's unique clock hangs over the gateway

Close-up of one of the surviving lover's knots of Henry and Anne

Accurate Anne

Elvi Hale wore this gown as Anne of Cleves in the BBC production of "Six Wives of Henry VIII" from 1970. From the look of it BBC paid a lot of attention to getting the dress as historically correct as possible. And if you are wondering where on earth you have seen this dress before then take a look at the official portrait of the actual Anne of Cleves.
The rich red fabric is quite possibly velvet. It is mainly the amount of gold on the dress that indicates Anne's new status - notice the odd pattern at the edge of the sleeves, hanging from the waist and surrounding the bodice. The high waistline (we would call it an empire cut) was not used in England at this time which just added to the "strange" look that Anne is said to have portrayed. Also, it is very rare to see a noblewoman of this age wear a belt since it was not a part of the common attire. Another thing that sets the dress apart is the lace-work above the neckline that ends around the choker necklace. An Englishwoman would normally just have bare skin.
Besides the large amounts of brocaded golden fabric Anne also wears three necklaces: two heavy gold chains and a choker with a cross pendant. From underneath the heavy sleeves the frizzled chemise appears with its white fabric.
And then there is the hat. Unfortunately, I do not know much of German fashion during this particular time period so I will let it be up to your eyes to describe it.

Saturday, 20 July 2013

Anne Boleyn's Six Fingers

One of the rumours that thrived at the Tudor court after 1536 was that the doomed Queen Anne Boleyn had had six fingers. To us that would be a deformity but nothing serious; however, at the time it was considered a sign of witchcraft. Since Anne had been convicted of witchcraft it was all too easy to make something out of an otherwise innocent physical flaw. Like every other rumour this needs to be checked into.

Nicholas Sander (or Saunders) is one of those names you cannot avoid when investigating this case. He wrote the book Schismatis Anglicani (The Rise and Growth of the Anglican Schism) in which he delivers a description of Anne Boleyn's appearance:
She had a projecting tooth under the upper lip, and on her right hand, six fingers
This well-known portrait of
Anne certainly shows no
extra finger - but then again
it wouldn't
The source has to be considered. Nicholas Sanders is estimated to have been born around 1530 - six years before Anne's execution. Since he was only a child and not even a child of the nobility at that it is extremely unlikely that he ever actually saw the infamous Queen herself. Also, he was a Roman Catholic and as such it was in his interest to discredit one of the so far strongest faces of Protestantism which Anne Boleyn certainly was. Besides, Sander did not write this book until decades after Anne's death - that leaves him a lot of time to be influenced by resentful Catholics.
One other person who would certainly have jumped on the opportunity to trash Anne's name was the Spanish ambassador Eustace Chapuys. But he never mentions anything about either the Queen's fingers or her nails. It is hard to believe that a man who mainly referred to Anne Boleyn as "the concubine" or down-right "the whore" would miss out on the opportunity of using an extra finger to call her a witch.

George Wyatt (grandson of the Thomas Wyatt who adored Anne) wrote in 1605:

"There was found, indeed, upon the side of her nail upon one of her fingers, some little show of a nail, which yet was so small, by the report of those who have seen her, as the work-master seemed to leave it an occasion of greater grace to her hand, which, with the tip of one of her other fingers, might be and was usually by her hidden without any blemish to it"
Now, George Wyatt's book is mainly in defence of Anne and not meant as yet another attack on the long-gone Queen. This leads us to the more likely conclusion that there may have been a hint of another nail of one of her fingers but that is still far from a new finger. And having grown up in the aftermath of Anne's reign George is most likely to have heard the nasty rumours which must have influenced him despite his good-look of Anne.
And let's not forget the wonderful thing that is pure logic. Henry VIII was .. well, a vain man and it seems very strange that he should become so attached to a woman who had a such an obvious deformity. He certainly would not have married her! Actually it is doubtful that Anne would even had been a lady-in-waiting to the Queen with a sixth finger. After all, it was a dangerous time to have such imperfections.

Finally during the excavations within the Tower of London in 1876, Dr. Mouat found the body of a woman "between twenty-five and thirty years of age" who is widely believed to have been Anne Boleyn herself. If this true and that it actually is Anne herself then there is nothing to prove that an extra finger troubled Anne. According to Dr. Mouat's report the body had "well-shaped hands and feet" - no trace of a deformity.

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Wedding of Mary I and Philip of Spain

Mary I had chosen to marry Philip of Spain despite the obvious resentment from both court and people. Their wedding took place on July 25 1554 within the Winchester Cathedral - it happened to be the celebration day for St. James, patron Saint of Spain. Mary was 37 at the time of her wedding while her bridegroom was ten years younger.

Mary had spent enormous amounts of time on her wedding dress which was in royal purple and gold; she had even had her soon-to-be husband's outfit sewn as while but his was in white and gold and embroidered. The cathedral itself was richly hung with cloth-of-gold and a scaffold had been erected in the middle (though for a more joyous occasion this time). Behing this stage two chairs had been produced: one for the bride and one for the bridegroom.
The prince entered first under a canopy with Spain's arms on it and then came the Queen accompanied by a large number of noblemen. Her train was carried by the Marquise of Winchester and the ceremonial sword by the Earl of Derby. The service was performed by the bishop of Winchester who was also Mary's Lord Chancellor. Besides him the bishops of London, Ely, Duresme, Chichester and Lincoln were present. It must have seem necessary to underline that Mary was not marrying a mere prince of Spain but also the King of Naples and Jerusalem because the bishop of Winchester held a short speech on the matter. Strangely enough it was Mary who sat on the right side during the ceremony and not her male counterpart - this was a clear signal that it was she who was the ruling monarch and not her Spanish co-regent.

The ceremony was said in both English and Latin (perhaps a compromise?) and then the Marquise of Winchester and the Earls of Pembroke, Bedford and Derby stepped forth to give away the Queen - after all she had no father to give her away and it was symbolically that the entire realm gave her away. After the ceremony the newly wedded couple attended Mass before the great altar. When the rings were securely placed and the treaty signed the congregation all rose and shouted out in happiness, beseeching God to give them joy through this union.

If you want to read a contemporary account of this mayor event (I used it for this post) then follow this link
This is a replica of Mary's wedding gown
Winchester Cathedral where the event took place

The Execution of Anne Askew

Anne Askew had been arrested for heresy and was tortured in the Tower which in itself was unusual since the law forbade the usage of the rack on women. Little did that help poor Anne. Eventually she was found guilty and sentenced to be burned at the stake - it must have frightened the Protestants at Henry's court since it was a clear sign of yet another turn on the King's religious path.

On 16 July 1546 a crowd was gathering at Smithfield near the church of St. Bartholomew. Anne herself was carried to the place of execution because her legs had been crushed during her interrogations. Here she was offered a pardon from the King but she refused saying: "I would rather die than break my faith". She was then lifted onto a small chair which had been attached to the thick pole in the middle of the stake since she could not even stand. After placing the tortured woman on the chair the executioner hung a small bag of gunpowder around her neck (but from whom?) in the hope that her death would not be drawn out for too long.
Then a torch was brought to the stake and ignited the faggots piled up around her. Accounts from those who witnessed the execution were all stunned by Anne's extreme courage and self-control. It is reported that she did not scream until the flames reached her chest and by then it would only be a matter of seconds before the gunpowder exploded. Some of these accounts were smuggled out of England and soon made their ways through Europe.

The execution of Anne Askew was not just meant as a punishment for refusing to obey the King's order. It was also a warning to the present Queen Catherine Parr. This last Queen of Henry's was known to be an ardent Protestant and Stephen Gardiner had succeeded in making Henry suspicious enough to make a move against his otherwise beloved wife. Even tough the royal palace was no where near Smithfield the flames of Anne Askew's final moments echoed in the royal halls.

Untimely Play, Madam

A romantic depiction of the Scottish
Queen playing golf
Mary, Queen of Scots was definitely a cause for many scandals in her time but there was one incident that not even her own supports could overlook. The thing was that Mary loved to play golf (and is generally believed to be the first woman in Scotland to do so) which seems harmless enough. She was taught the game during her time in France as Dauphine to the French throne and took it with her back to Scotland after her first husband's death - perhaps it had already arrived as a form of entertainment but sources are unclear on this. So where's the scandal?
When Mary's husband Lord Darnley was murdered in 1567 it was expected of the grieving widow that a proper amount of time would be spent in mourning. However, Mary went out and played her beloved golf just days after the murder! Even the Catholic church - which had so far supported Mary in everything - was outraged.
The "foul play" took place at Seton House; it is likely that it was here Mary lost to one of her ladies-in-waiting, Mary Seton. As a reward Mary gave her namesake a necklace which still survives to this day.



Susan Kay's "Legacy" follows Elizabeth I from her very first memory of the last time she saw her doomed mother, Anne Boleyn, to her own deathbed many years later. It is a fictional account but based on the actual events in her life - including the right details such as names and dates. I have read this book and everyone who loves anything Tudor should definitely dig into this one! It has everything you can ask for in a Tudor-book: accuracy, excitement, royal luxury and that ever-present danger.

Monday, 1 July 2013

Holbein Tags

These beautiful tags can be used for gifts and each pack consists of these three ladies (two of each): Lady Jane Rochford, Lady Radcliffe and Lady Suny. They are all based on drawings by Hans Holbein.

Can be found here