When Anne Boleyn joined Henry VIII’s court in the early 1520s she wowed the English with her style, dress and mannerisms. The contemporary observer Lancelot de Carles was quoted as saying ‘no one would ever have taken her to be English by her manner, but a native-born Frenchwoman’. Another unnamed source said “…and everyday made some change in the fashion of her garments…’
In last week’s blog we discovered how the clothes people wore in the 16th century bore a direct link to their status at court and Anne Boleyn used this to her advantage. We saw how wealth did not necessarily entitle you to dress in the most sumptuous of materials; what mattered was the superiority of your rank or the familial ties you had to the King. So when the Henry VIII began to fund an increasingly royal wardrobe and standard of lodgings for Anne, his court would have been left in no doubt what this meant. Anne was being dressed to be Queen!
It wasn’t just her clothes and her manners that allowed Anne to stand apart from other court ladies. Light skinned, blond haired and blue-eyed women were at the time considered the most beautiful and desirable ladies at court and as Anne was the antithesis of this with her dark skin, long black hair and mesmerising eyes her appeal was compelling.
There is no doubt that Anne Boleyn was an immaculately attired and accomplished courtier, but by 1529 we start to see entries in Henry’s privy purse specifically related to Anne Rocheford (so called because her father was Lord Rochford at this point). For example according to Ives’ study of Henry’s Privy Purse accounts, in 1529 the King paid Anne’s personal bills to the tune of £750.
By 1530 Henry and Anne were travelling together with the King paying for horses, saddles and other equine equipment, which were richly decorated in black and gold. Plus in order for Anne to join Henry in the sport of archery he bought her all the necessary apparatus including a shooting glove and bows.
With the King’s great matter inching closer to a positive conclusion and Katherine of Aragon still stubbornly clinging to her position as Queen, the King sent a sum of over £66 to Anne’s servant to pay for ‘the farm at Greenwich to the use of my Lady Anne Rochford’. Was this a property set aside for Henry and Anne to use away from prying eyes?
Perhaps the biggest and most obvious display of Anne’s near royal status came when in September 1532 she was elevated to the peerage as Marquis of Pembroke. Anne attended her ceremony so bedecked in jewels that her dress of exquisite ermine trimmed crimson was hardly visible.
Included in the ladies of rank who followed her were her young cousin Mary Howard. She was given the duty of carrying Anne’s crimson ermine trimmed mantel and her gold coronet.
The above are just some examples of the many ways in which Henry was paving the way for everyone to see Anne would become his wife and the rightful Queen of England.
Would you have been convinced?
The Life & Death of Anne Boleyn – Eric Ives