Princess Elizabeth’s Christening

Today in 1533 Princess Elizabeth, daughter of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, was christened at the Church of Observant Friars in Greenwich. There is a wonderful description of the christening celebrations in “Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, Volume 6: 1533” that I want to share with you.

The account describes how, after Elizabeth’s birth 3 days earlier,

“The mayor, Sir Stephen Pecock, with his brethren and 40 of the chief citizens, were ordered to be at the christening on the Wednesday following ; on which day the mayor and council, in scarlet, with their collars, rowed to Greenwich, and the citizens went in another barge.”

Greenwich Palace

Greenwich Palace

It goes on to say

“All the walls between the King’s place and the Friars were hanged with arras, and the way strewed with rushes. The Friars’ church was also hanged with arras. The font, of silver, stood in the midst of the church three steps high, covered with a fine cloth, and surrounded by gentlewomen with aprons and towels about their necks, that no filth should come into it. Over it hung a crimson satin canopy fringed with gold, and round it was a rail covered with red say.
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The Birth of Elizabeth I

Elizabeth I aged around 13 by William Scrots

Elizabeth I aged around 13 by William Scrots

Today in 1533 the future Queen Elizabeth I was born at Greenwich Palace, she was the daughter of Henry VIII and his second wife, Anne Boleyn. The birth was quick and the baby was healthy, it was said she had her father’s complexion and her mother’s dark black eyes.

Preparations for Elizabeth’s arrival had begun in early August. Greenwich was the palace of choice for the birth, it had been a favourite of Henry’s mother, Elizabeth of York, and was the place of his own birth 42 years earlier. As was customary for the time a chamber was prepared at Greenwich for Anne’s confinement. Historian David Starkey describes how the walls and ceilings of the chamber were hung and tented with precious tapestries called arras which were woven with gold or silver thread and there were rich carpets laid on the floor. Anne’s bed was also richly hung with tapestries that matched the rest of the room. At the last minute gold and silver plate was brought into the chamber, there were cups and bowls to stand on the cupboard and crucifixes, candlesticks and images for the alter. Starkey describes the chamber as being like a “cross between a chapel and a luxuriously padded cell”

Greenwich Palace

Greenwich Palace

Anne entered her confinement on the 26th August. There had been a lot of anxiety leading up to this date as it appears Anne had some difficulties in the later stages of her pregnancy. Eric Ives explains how Henry was said to have “been at his wits end, even hoping for a miscarriage if it would save Anne’s life”. Anne eventually gave birth to Elizabeth less than 2 weeks into her confinement. The birth was straightforward and Henry was hugely relieved that his wife and child were safe. Henry and Anne named their baby Elizabeth, after both their mothers.
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The Marquess of Pembroke

Anne Boleyn - portrait on display at Hever Castle

Anne Boleyn – portrait on display at Hever Castle

Today in 1532 Anne Boleyn was granted her own title by Henry VIII and created the Marquess of Pembroke, the first time a female had been made a peer in her own right. Henry did this to give Anne some status on the European stage prior to a planned meeting with Francis I of France. Henry’s “Great Matter” was still dragging on so he’d been unable to make Anne his wife. The last time Anne had met Francis she was Katherine of Aragon’s maid of honour but she now needed a status of her own which reflected the fact she was England’s intended Queen.

The ceremony was held at Windsor castle. Anne was taken into Henry’s presence by the Garter King-at-Arms and was accompanied by the Countesses of Rutland and Derby and her cousin, Mary Howard, who carried the crimson velvet mantle and gold coronet of a Marquess. Anne, dressed in ermine-trimmed crimson velvet, wore her hair loosely around her shoulders and was adjourned with jewels. She must have looked every inch the Queen, just as Henry would have intended.

Anne Boleyn's Badge

Anne Boleyn’s Badge

Anne knelt in front of Henry, who had the Dukes of Norfolk and Suffolk at his side, while Stephen Gardiner read out the patent which bestowed the title of Marquess of Pembroke to her. Henry then crowned her with the gold coronet, laid the velvet mantle on her and handed her the patent of nobility. She was also given a patent granting her lands worth £1000 a year.

After the ceremony Henry went to St George’s Chapel for a high mass conducted by Gardiner. Henry and a representative for Francis I swore to the terms of an Anglo-French treaty, then Edward Fox preached a sermon and announced that the two would meet in Calais. The service ended with a hymn of praise before everyone returned to Windsor Castle for a huge banquet in Anne’s honour.

Finding out more about Anne Boleyn

Following on from my post on ‘The Last Days of Anne Boleyn’ I thought it would be useful to suggest some further reading for anyone interested in finding out more about Anne.

The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn: The Most Happy – Eric Ives

Eric Ives brilliant book is seen by many as the definitive biography on Anne Boleyn. Expertly researched as you would expect from the leading expert on Anne it is a fascinating read and definitely one for the collection. Eric was a real Anne supporter and was very much of the view that Cromwell was responsible for her downfall. In the book he explores all the evidence in detail and makes a compelling argument in favour of this theory. Ives book is so much more than just an account of Anne’s downfall, it also provides detail on her early life, courtship with Henry and involvement in religion and politics. We don’t have much evidence on Anne ‘the person’ or her early years but Ives painstakingly put’s together everything we do have to paint a full and detailed account of her life.

Anne Boleyn: Fatal Attractions – G W Bernard

G W Bernard’s biography of Anne couldn’t be more different to Eric’s as he is of the opinion that Anne was guilty of adultery, which he also argued the case for in ‘The Last Days of Anne Boleyn’. Such is the difference of opinion between Bernard and Ives that they spent much of the 1990’s debating the subject in historical journals and when this book was published in 2011 it was seen by many as an attempt by Bernard to reignite the argument. As a huge fan of Anne Boleyn I totally disagree with what I’ve heard from Bernard but I am yet to read his book. Whilst I don’t believe it will sway my own opinions I definitely intend to read and review the book in the future as I think it’s important to hear all sides of an historical debate, however flimsy or sensational you believe the arguments to be! Continue reading

The Last Days of Anne Boleyn

Was Thomas Cromwell responsible for Anne's death?.......

Was Thomas Cromwell responsible for Anne’s death?…….

I thought I would give a review of the BBC2 documentary ‘The Last Days of Anne Boleyn’ which was shown last night. The programme was part narrative, with actors re-enacting scenes leading up to Anne’s death, and part debate giving historians and writers the opportunity to air their opinions and give their interpretation on the evidence of what caused Anne’s downfall. The circumstances surrounding Anne’s death have been the subject of historical debate for years caused, in part, by the lack of any real evidence to support any one theory conclusively. It was summed up perfectly on the programme by Suzannah Lipscomb who said “there’s just enough evidence to keep historians guessing but just enough gaps to make sure they can never finally get to the solution”. Other historians who featured on the show were David Starkey, G W Bernard and Greg Walker, they were also joined by writers Alison Weir, Philippa Gregory and Hilary Mantel.

I summarise the four main theories below:

1. that Anne was guilty of adultery
2. that Thomas Cromwell plotted her downfall
3. that Henry VIII wanted her out of the way
4. that her words, rather than her actions, made her appear guilty to Henry

I’m going to give a run down of the opinions of the historians as best I can and will add my personal views at the end too. Continue reading