Anne Boleyn at the Chateau Vert pageant

The Falcon Chronicles by Lauren Elflein

Today’s post is a guest article by Lauren Elflein author of The Falcon Chronicles, a novel about Anne Boleyn.

Here is a short synopsis:

“About the throne, thunder rolls…

Before her is a sea of faces. These faces of men who are accusing her of crimes that she did not commit: adultery, incest, and compassing the King’s death. These expounded rumors, these wisps of conversation, these fractions of truths have blossomed into a plot so thick with lies and deceit that she knows she shall never escape them. They surround her heavily as the headsman turns his ax towards her, a sign that she is condemned to die. It is her fault she is thus treated; she helped change the nation of England through the rule of her husband, King Henry VIII. She is a wife, mother, and Queen of Christendom, she is Anne Boleyn, and this is her story.”

I am eagerly awaiting the arrival of my copy of this book and cannot wait to read it.

Lauren has written an article exclusively for On the Tudor Trail readers about Anne’s first recorded public appearance at court after her return from the French court – the Chateau Vert pageant in 1522. Enjoy!

Anne Boleyn at the the Chateau Vert pageant

Anne returned from the French court and her service to Queen Claude to England in 1522. As it is understood she was originally recalled to marry James Butler, to unite the Ormonde heirs in an attempt to settle the title between the two families.

Anne had been trained by Margaret of Austria in the ways of court pageantry for years as she served her as a filles d’honneur, and it was finally time for Anne to display this glittering sparkle in England for King Henry VIII.

Thus the first glimpse we catch of Anne’s swirling onyx hair and smoldering eyes is at the Chateau Vert pageant which took place at York Place on Shrovetide March 4th, 1522. The Great Chamber was filled with tapestries and arras; great candles lit all about, giving a very luxurious and rich atmosphere. In the Chamber there was a castle erected with towers coming out of it decorated with banners depicting torn hearts, a woman’s hand gripping a man’s heart, and a woman’s hand turning a man’s heart upside down. On one end, the tower had a cresset burning. And snuggled deep inside these towers were musicians, whose haunting melodies could be heard reverberating throughout the hall. Also nestled inside these towers we find Beauty, Honor, Perseverance, Kindness, Constancy, Bounty, Mercy and Pity. Anne portrayed the virtue Perseverance, while her sister Mary portrayed Kindness, Mary Tudor portrayed Beauty, Jane Parker (later Lady Rochford) portrayed Constancy, and the Countess of Devonshire portrayed Honor. The others are as far as we know, unidentified. What is so revealing is the fact that these ladies did in fact embody these virtues whole-heartedly. We know that Anne persevered for Henry through seven or eight years of waiting for a divorce to be granted him from his wife Catherine of Aragon. Mary Tudor is reputedly quite beautiful, being first the Queen of France, where Anne served her for a short time, and then in her marriage to Charles Brandon, the Duke of Suffolk. Jane Parker, though popular film and media like to portray it otherwise, was in fact a very constant wife to George Boleyn. There is no proof that she ever did anything but love her lord and husband, and that she did everything in her power to have him freed from the Tower. That she did not, in fact, betray him to Cromwell and his associates, or that she was jealous of Anne and her brother. She did not give a scaffold speech admitting she was a liar, and that there was much fabrication of her character. Thus in fact, we see Jane as perfectly fitting the role of Constancy. Mary Boleyn, later Mary Carey, and then Mary Stafford, was in fact seen as a kind, golden hued beauty. She seemed to diligently serve her sister, and treat all with nothing but the most solemn kindness. The Countess of Devonshire was avidly against Anne Boleyn, siding with Mary Tudor’s distaste, and upheld what she believed to be court ‘honor’. Thus we see all these roles as fitting.

These women all wore white satin, their virtues picked out in yellow satin on their dresses, and cauls of Venetian gold with Milan bonnets adorned their heads.

The male courtiers that participated in this pageant also had virtues ascribed to them – these were: Nobleness, Youth, Attendance, Loyalty, Pleasure, Gentleness, Amoressness, and Liberty. The men of course were led by King Henry. They wore cloth of gold and tinsel on their coats and caps. Blue velvet buskins and cloaks of blue satin also had their ‘roles’ picked out in blue letters upon them.

Guarding the tower where the virtuous ladies were secreted were the feminine vices Disdain, Jealousy, Danger, Scorn, Unkindness, Malebouche (Sharp Tongue), and Strangeness. According to Edward Hall’s chronicle, we are led to believe that the evil virtues Danger, Disdain, Jealousy, Unkindness, Scorn, Malebouche, and Strangeness are portrayed by women: “undernethe the basse fortresse of the castle were other eight ladies, whose names were Dangier, Disdain…” and goes on to describe them “being dressed like Indian women.” However, as we know is most often true of contemporary chroniclers, this was not the case. In my example three historians have agreed (a rare thing indeed!) that these bad qualities were not portrayed by women at all but by boys from Wolsey’s chapel!

  • Julia Fox in Jane Boleyn: The Infamous Lady Rochford: “In fact, they were not women at all but children of Henry’s Chapel Royal. Dressed ‘like women of India,’ they guarded the castle from the eight gentlemen who, decked in cloth-of-gold with blue satin cloaks, then appeared.”
  • David Starkey in Six Wives: The Queens of Henry VIII: “Assisting these ladies in the defence of the Castle were the eight female vices: Scorn, Disdain, Malebouche, and the rest. These vices were played with gusto by the boys of Wolsey’s Chapel.”
  • Eric Ives in The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn: “The ladies were protected from assault by eight choristers of the royal chapel manning the lower walls and dressed as Indian women, each depicting one of the contrary feminine vices …”

The male virtues then attacked the castle, seeking to rescue the ladies from these evil vices, and thus Henry led the men into battle. They threw oranges and dates while sweetmeats and rosewater was thrown down on them. After much “battling” and to the delight of the crowd, the men finally rescued the women from the tower and led them down to dance. There was a great feast or as Edward Hall declared ‘a costly banquet’.

Despite what we would like to believe, there is no proof or evidence that King Henry fell in love with Anne at this pageant. There is no proof that he even noticed her on this day. In fact the most telling event appears to be the Chateau Blanc pageant which took place much later, at Greenwich, on December 29th, 1524, when Henry may have truly fallen in love with Anne Boleyn.

Thus though it may not be the most romantic investiture we could have hoped for, it was Anne’s debut into the English court. Her first taste of English pageantry and gallantry – the first of the King’s marked ideas of chivalry. It was the first night all could look upon Anne’s unmasked beauty and watch her dance languidly about as the flames licked the air in appreciation. This pageant was in fact quite rich, the mock towers constructed, the stitched banners, the arras and tapestries, the gold and gilt, the expensive dresses and cauls the women wore and the sumptuous clothing attired the males. These chivalric events could tap the royal coffers. And this was only  Anne’s beginning.

Sources:

Eric Ives The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn

David Starkey Wives: The Queens of Henry VIII

Julia Fox in Jane Boleyn: The Infamous Lady Rochford

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Comments

  1. This sounds like a truly amazing event, what a spectacle it must have been. Anne must have been very pleased indeed to be joining this illustirous court.

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