A Waiting Game at Greenwich

The beginning 1533 was a golden time for Anne Boleyn. She was at the zenith of her power. On 25 January in a secret early morning ceremony over the Holbien Gate at Whitehall we have the only recorded marriage service between Henry and Anne.

Holbein Gate, Whitehall Palace

Then over four splendid days at the end of May and the beginning of June she had processed in a magnificent river pageant to the Tower of London, taken the ancient route from the Tower to Westminster where Archbishop Cranmer would perform her coronation the next day. With no expense spared she experienced her finest moment so far on 1st June at Westminster Abbey when she was crowned and anointed Queen of England with all the honours due to a regnant monarch.

Queen Anne Boleyn (BBC’s Wolf Hall)

Later in the year on 26th August, the King’s dearest and most beloved Queen Anne followed in the footsteps of her husband’s mother Elizabeth of York and her predecessor Katherine of Aragon by taking to her specially prepared chambers for the last weeks of her pregnancy. It was the fervent hope of the Henry, Anne and the whole nation that when she emerged England would have a healthy prince and heir.

Before the Queen could retire to her laying in chambers tradition dictated that she attended a service at the Chapel Royal. On emerging from the chapel the company would have taken wine and spices before Anne’s Lord Chamberlain would have led her household in prayer. The prayers offered that day would have beseeched God to send Her Grace the Queen the safe and speedy delivery of a healthy child.

The rooms, which the Queen entered at this time would have been a solely female dominated place with all the offices and tasks previously carried out by men now performed by Anne’s female attendants.

Henry VIII’s bed at Hever Castle

There were very specific guidelines for the environment in which a Queen would give birth. The walls and even the ceilings of Anne’s apartments had been covered with expensive tapestries, which were stitched in gold and silver thread. In a superstitious age the wall hangings were censored and were not allowed to portray scenes, which risked upsetting the mother, or indeed might lead to the baby being born deformed. The hangings that surrounded the Queen’s ceremonial bed matched the walls and ceilings. Further to this the bed in which the actual birth would take place also co-ordinated with all the other hangings. Only one window could be to be opened for air and the fire would have been continually blazing.

Religious items were essential and Anne’s chambers were according to David Starkey stocked with ‘cups and bowls to stand on the cupboard and crucifixes, candlesticks and images for the altar.’

With all the trappings of a Queen and the love of her husband would Anne complete her most successful year with the birth of a healthy prince to secure the Tudor dynasty?

Queen Anne Boleyn (BBC Wolf Hall)

The Birth of Elizabeth I

Six Wives, David Starkey

In Bed With the Tudors, Amy Licence



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