Right from the start of their relationship, Henry gave Anne many gifts. Many were symbolic pieces of jewellery that formed an important part of the rituals of Courtly Love. Starkey believes that in the late summer of 1526 Henry wrote what is probably his first letter in a sequence written after Anne had left Court and returned to her family home at Hever.
Accompanying this first letter was Henry’s picture set in a bracelet with ‘the device which you already know’ (Starkey, Pg. 280).
In the year proceeding May 1532, Henry VIII lavished much jewellery on Anne Boleyn. Not only was he preparing her for the European stage, he was also preparing her for the position of Queen of England.
‘In the year to May 1532 Cornelius Hayes’ bill included three dozen items of jewellery for ‘Mistress Anne’, costing almost £100. The largest item is a girdle of crown gold billed at £18 10s.4d., but the most intriguing is a Catherine wheel of gold set with thirteen diamonds at just under £4’ (Ives Pg. 251).
In 1532 Henry reset much of the royal jewellery for Anne, setting aside the best stones for her. He also stripped Catherine of Aragon of her jewels, this obviously did not please the former queen and she responded by saying that it would be a sin for her jewels to adorn ‘the scandal of Christendom’ (Ives, pg. 158).
Although there is no surviving portrait of Anne by Holbein we know that he designed for Anne a pendant with ‘a central stone and the initials ‘H’ and ‘A’ intertwined’ (Ives. Pg 251). He also designed a shield with the same cipher.
After Anne’s death in 1536, a wooden desk containing pieces of Anne’s jewellery was inventoried. The items included a diamond ring with the ‘HA’ cipher, another diamond ring with the cipher and the text (in Latin), ‘O Lord make haste to help me,’ and a third ring had a broken part of her motto, ‘Moste…’ (Ives Pg. 251).
Among other items of Anne’s jewellery inventoried was a brooch with ‘RA’- standing for ‘Regina Anna’ – in diamonds and other items with ‘HA’.
One pictorial tradition has Anne wearing three strands of pearls across the bodice, a necklace of rubies and pearls, a choker and matching pendant and a brooch made up of the letters ‘AB’ in gold with a drop pearl.
Another tradition depicts Anne with a pearl choker from which a gold letter ‘B’ hangs with three drop pearls.
Ives believes that the pearls are so similar to those worn in the earliest portraits of Elizabeth ‘as to suggest that the daughter may have been allowed some of her mother’s finery’ (Pg. 252).
I certainly hope that Elizabeth managed to hold onto some memento of Anne.
There are though other theories as to what actually happened to Anne’s famous necklace with the gold B. Some people believe that it went back to the Crown after her downfall and was broken down and reset for Jane Seymour. Others even believe that some of the pearls are in the crown of Elizabeth II!
Unfortunately, of Anne’s personal jewellery, none has survived to be identified.
It was customary to make and remake pieces for the next Tudor sovereign and in Anne’s case; items specific to her would have been almost immediately broken up. Even so, Henry repurchased from Thomas Trappers a gold bowl ‘having Queen Anne’s sapphire upon the top of the cover’ and his post-mortem inventories included a dust bowl of gold (for blotting ink) with a crown on the lid and ‘H’ and ‘A’ in enamel’ (Ives, Pg. 252). Ives goes on to describe how Henry also kept a tablet of gold bearing the monogram ‘HA’ set with small emeralds, pearls and one diamond (Ives, Pg 252).
In the words of Eric Ives, ‘it suggests vividly what has been lost’ and for me raises the question of why did Henry repurchase some of Anne’s items?
Did he want to remember her and the passion and love they once shared? Did he have some fond memories of their time together and want some physical connection to her? Did he feel some guilt over the manner of her death? Did Anne still have a place in his heart after all that had happened? Or was it that he simply liked those pieces?
What are your thoughts?
Ives, E. The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn, 2004.
Starkey, D. Six Wives: The Queens of Henry VIII,