Surprising Intimate Facts About Anne Boleyn, Henry VIII’s Second Queen
Anne Boleyn, the second wife of King Henry VIII , is a historical figure that has captured the imagination of people for centuries. Her story is filled with drama, intrigue, and tragedy, and her influence on the course of English history is undeniable. While many people may be familiar with the basic details of her life, there are numerous surprising facts and lesser-known aspects of her story that provide a fresh perspective on one of history's most fascinating women.
Anne Boleyn, depicting her deer hunting with King Henry VIII by William Powell Frith (1903) ( Public Domain)
Anne – The Actress
Anne did not play the role of ‘Perseverance’ in the Château Vert pageant. In March 1522 Anne, recently returned from France - where she spent seven years in the household of Claude de Valois, French queen consort - the “fresh young demoiselle”, as she was dubbed by one observer, made a debut at the English court during the Chateau Vert pageant.
Anne was among the eight ladies impersonating qualities that a perfect mistress of chivalric tradition should possess. It is usually assumed that Anne played ‘Perseverance’, a role that is undoubtedly historically appropriate for the story of her rise to power. Contemporary chronicler Edward Hall listed the roles noblewomen played in the Chateau Vert pageant but did not specify who played who. Hall lists: Beauty, Honour, Perseverance, Kindness, Constancy, Bounty, Mercy and Pity. A list of ladies who received costumes they wore as mementoes after the pageant appears to be the source of who played whom: “ These things remain with the French queen, the countess of Devonshire, Mistress Anne Boleyn, Mistress Karre, Mistress Parker, Mistress Browne, Mistress Danet and Mistress [blank] .”
The beautiful Mary Tudor, sister to Henry VIII by Jan Gossaert (1516) ( Public Domain )
An unknown author has apparently merged these two accounts together, resulting in the assumption that ‘Beauty’ was played by Mary Tudor (Henry VIII’s sister); ‘Honour’ played by Gertrude Courtenay, Countess of Devonshire; ‘Perseverance’ played by Anne Boleyn; ‘Kindness’ played by Mary Carey (Anne’s sister); ‘Constancy’ played by Jane Parker (soon to become Anne’s sister-in-law); ‘Bounty’ played by Mistress Browne; ‘Mercy’ played by Mistress Danet; and ‘Pity’ played by an unnamed woman. It would not have been impossible for these women to play these exact roles; Mary Tudor, for instance, was praised for her physical attractiveness, so the role of ‘Beauty’ seems apt. She was also the former queen consort of France and highest in rank; the role of ‘Beauty’ would have been assigned to her as she was the other women’s social superior.
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Sylvia Barbara Soberton is an author, researcher and independent historian specializing in the Tudor court. Sylvia writes a best-selling series of books entitled The Forgotten Tudor Women . Her latest book is entitled Ladies-in-Waiting: Women Who Served Anne Boleyn and is a culmination of ten years of archival research into Anne Boleyn's household.
Top Image : The Courtship of Anne Boleyn, by Emanuel Gottlieb Leutze (1846) Smithsonian American Art Museum ( CC0)