Anne Boleyn’s Jewellery and the Princess Elizabeth

The lovely Ashlie Jensen from Being Bess recently left a comment on a discussion thread about Anne Boleyn’s jewellery that immediately caught my attention. She mentioned that in ‘Henry VIII King & Court’, Alison Weir asserts that,

Queen Anne Boleyn

‘Personalised jewellery was highly popular. Anne Boleyn owned at least three initial pendants: an AB and a B, which appear in portraits of her, and an A, which is worn by her daughter Elizabeth in the Whitehall family group.’ (Pg. 192)

This portrait, also known as The Family of Henry VIII, c. 1545 by an unknown artist, is now housed at Hampton Court Palace and shows Henry VIII with his third wife, Jane Seymour and his children, Princess Mary, Prince Edward and the Princess Elizabeth. It is set on the ground floor of the King’s Lodgings at Whitehall Palace, where it was probably intended to hang and according to Simon Thurley, apart from the figure of Jane Seymour who died in 1537, ‘the figures appear to have been painted from life.’ (Pg. 214)

The Family of Henry VIII

I have visited Hampton Court Palace a number of times and on each occasion I have stopped to admire this grand painting (measuring approx. 141 x 355 cm) hanging in the second half of the ‘Haunted Gallery’.  Through the archways we catch a glimpse of the privy gardens, with low rails and beasts on poles. The left hand archway reveals part of the Princess Mary’s lodgings painted externally with grotesques and through the right archway we can see a turret of the great close tennis-play (Thurley, Pg. 214).

Princess Elizabeth

But I have never looked closely enough at Elizabeth’s necklace to notice that she was wearing an ‘A’. This of course begs the question, did Henry VIII permit his daughter to wear Anne Boleyn’s necklace after working so hard to erase her memory? Perhaps, as he was approaching the end of his life, he didn’t notice? Or perhaps, Elizabeth wasn’t painted from life and the ‘unknown artist’ added it as a tribute to the fallen queen?

Sadly, it looks as though we will never know for certain but I find it comforting imagining Elizabeth wearing Anne’s jewellery and keeping her mother’s memory alive in her heart and thoughts. It may be that Henry’s wife at the time the painting was commissioned, Katherine Parr, who enjoyed a close relationship with Elizabeth, influenced the king in this matter or had a hand in recovering the jewels for the young princess.

On my next visit to Hampton Court Palace, I will be paying special attention to the necklace! For now, here is a close up of Princess Mary on the left and Princess Elizabeth on the right, certainly looks like an ‘A’ to me.

Read more about Anne Boleyn’s jewellery here.


Anne Boleyn’s Famous Pearl Necklace – On the Tudor Trail
Elizabeth and the Mystery of the A Necklace – The Elizabeth Files
Hampton Court Palace Guidebook
Thurley, S. The Royal Palaces of Tudor England, 1993,
Weir, A. Henry VIII King & Court, 2008.

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  1. Another great post, Natalie! I especially liked the information included from Thurley’s “The Royal Palaces of Tudor England.”

    As promised, I wanted to share with you my new article on BeingBess.

    My answer to the commonly asked question, “How did Elizabeth I feel about her mother, Anne Boleyn?” is in my NEW feature-length article on BeingBess: “Death Could Not Separate Them: How Elizabeth I Connected to Her Deceased Mother.”

    “Using a surprising amount of contemporary evidence and a little bit of conjecture based on fact, I believe I have arrived at a formed opinion on the matter, and I am excited to share it with my readers. Hopefully you will discover things here that you did not know before, and upon finishing the article, share with others how Queen Elizabeth I really felt about her mother, Queen Anne Boleyn.”

    This article not only includes information about Anne Boleyn’s necklace, (I have included a close-up image of the “A” pendant the young Elizabeth is wearing in the the “Family of King Henry VIII” portrait) but many more surprising ties between Elizabeth and Anne.

    The Link:

    Ashlie Jensen of “BeingBess”
    “BeingBess” is dedicated to celebrating the life of Elizabeth Tudor (1533-1603) and the legacy of her reign as Queen of England (1558-1603).

  2. The letter A that Elizabeth wears in this portrait is a personally significant symbol of love:
    Eric Ives has pointed out that Henry and Anne delighted in visual puns and this style of the letter A appears elsewhere; coupled with the letter H in the choir screen at Kings College Chapel, and adorning the French Psalter made for Anne (1529-32).

    The middle stroke of the A dips down in the middle, so that joined with the splayed legs of the A it forms the letter M. At the top of the A is a horizontal flourish, or broad stroke, signifying the letter T. Together this creates an anagram for the Latin word AMAT – ‘he loves’ or ‘she loves’.

    Does this love token refer to that once existed between her father and mother, or the love Anne had for her daughter? It is possible that the pendant originally belonged to Anne , but it is also possible that it was made for Elizabeth, or at her request.

    Being such a good ‘disassembler’ Elizabeth might have chosen to make a potentially risky gesture, by claiming it symbolised her daughterly love for Henry?

  3. It’s quite obvious that Elizabeth had many of her mother’s traits. And, I also feel there was definitely a spiritual connection between the two. Im not sure if she picked up any of her fathers traits as we all know he was bat shit crazy. I simply love the movies about Elizabeth. Thank you for these articles. So very interesting.

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