“The twenty-first century draws a clear distinction between normal living and occasions for spectacle. Royal pomp, ceremony at an installation, or even private display at a wedding is one thing, day-to-day ostentation another. Sixteenth-century Europe believed otherwise. Society was hierarchical and lifestyle exemplified rank and value. The exterior revealed the interior – does not Christ say ‘by their fruits you shall know them? Kings and queens had to live the part and hence magnificence was a regal virtue, an external proof of the right to rule.” (Ives, Pg. 231)
This is a lesson that Anne Boleyn learnt at an early age from Margaret of Austria and Queen Claude – a lesson that she never forgot.
In Tudor society a person’s gold and silver plate was a visible demonstration of wealth and status. In 1533, Henry commented on the large amount of plate that Anne owned (Ives, Pg. 231).
According to Eric Ives, in the inventories of Henry VIII’s property there are over 120 items of plate apparently associated with Anne Boleyn. Now, as Ives points out, this is quite remarkable considering that there was a deliberate attempt to ‘obliterate Anne’s memory’ after her downfall and execution.
Some may argue that where the inventories mention ‘Queen Anne’ this could be referring to Anne of Cleves but when we consider that Anne of Cleves’ marriage to Henry VIII only lasted 185 days, it seems unlikely that many pieces of plate would have been produced for her during this time.
So again we are left asking the question, why was so much of Anne’s plate saved from the melting pot?
Perhaps they are pieces that the king himself never saw or they were too valuable to melt down? The latter makes sense when we consider that Chapuys commenting on a cup-board display of gold that Anne owned personally, described it ‘as the best ever seen’ (Ives, Pg. 231).
An example of Anne’s belongings is a silver-gilt chandelier bearing Anne’s arms that was remade years after Anne’s death as it belonged to a set of three with the sockets for the candles made ‘like drones’. (Item 1134)
Three gold spoons can also be linked to Anne. Two were a pair, with one spoon decorated with a Tudor rose and the other with a crowned falcon.
‘Item twoo Spones of gold thone having a roose at thend and thother a Fawcon crowned poiz togethers’ (Item 141).
Ives mentions another large gold item, probably melted down before the king’s death,
‘a bowl with a cover, weighing 40 troy ounces (0.91 kg), with Queen Anne’s cipher on it, supplied to Henry by the Flemish goldsmith, Thomas Trappers, for 90 pounds.’ (Pg. 232)
There was also,
‘one basin and layer [small jug] of mother of pearl garnished with gold, the backside only of the basin silver gilt, enamelled with scriptures and devices of cosmography, the layer having a falcon in the top, being in a case of black velvet, garnished with a parsivent lace [a fret] of Venice silver, with four joints and one handle of white silver, weight, the basin and layer only, one hundred and four score an five ounces scant.’ (Ives, Pg. 232)
Another extraordinary item was,
‘a pair of [silver-] gilt bottles, the feet and body chased in panes, with branches of two sundry works having the king’s arms in a plate on the one side, and on the other the king’s arms and the arms of Queen Anne in a plate together, having on either side an angel with a great chain and a small [one] on either bottle, their necks graven with branches, the knobs or ‘stopples’ having double roses and thereupon crowns imperial. (Ives, Pg. 232) Item number 1046
According to Ives, this magnificent item was made by the king’s jeweller, Morgan Woolf, and was a present to Henry or Anne on New Year’s Day 1536 and weighed together 6.35 kg.
A number of other items listed, in the Renaissance style, carry Henry and Anne’s initials. For example,
‘one standing Cuppe guilt and wrought with Antique worke with a couer hauing H and A in the toppe ’ (Item 674, pg. 29)
‘one litell standing Cuppe guilt chased with a Couer hauing a naked boye in the toppe holding a staffe in thone hande and a playne Shielde in thother hauing also the letters H and A wrought in the places of the Couer’ (Item 700, pg. 29)
‘three gilt Bolles chased with long bullions or doppes hauing Antique heddes in the botome with a cover with H and A therevpon’ (Item 790, pg. 32)
One piece that Anne owned has survived. According to Ives,
‘It is a silver cup and cover (314 millimetres high) made in 1535, now among the treasures of Cirencester parish church. The cover is topped by the falcon on the tree-stump, but its chief interest is the design, which picks up once again the interest in humanist fashion. It attempts to achieve in silver a form characteristic of contemporary Venetian glass.’ (pg. 233)
According to Cirencester Parish Church, the cup was made for Anne in 1535. It later passed to Elizabeth I who gave it to her physician, Richard Master, who then presented it to Cirencester Church.
Unfortunately, this is not the only theory. I have also read that Queen Anne Boleyn gave the cup to Richard Master herself as a gift for caring for her daughter, Princess Elizabeth. Either way, the cup was in the end presented to Cirencester Church where it remains until this day.
The inventories also list at least two items of glass associated with Anne Boleyn. The first is a ‘glass of birrall garnished with gold with the late Queene Annnes armes vppon the cover’ (Item 178, pg. 13).
The second is ‘Cuppe of Glasse with twooe eares the foote garnished with siluer and guilte with a cover likewise <garnished> havinge a knoppe of siluer and guilte with Quene Annes Sipher graven in it’ (Item 10920, pg. 244).
Among the other items listed is silver plate carrying the royal and Rochford arms. Ives states that it is unclear whether this was plate that Anne owned before her marriage to which the king’s arms were later added or vice versa.
The items include:
‘two Chardgers of siluer striken with the kinges armes and Rochefordes armes’ (Item 1887, pg. 60)
‘twelue platters of siluer striken with the kinges and Rochefordes armes’ (Item 1888, pg. 60)
‘twelue siluer disshes striken with the kinges and Rochefordes armes’ (Item 1889, pg. 60)
‘twelue siluer Sawsers striken with the kinges and Rochefordes armes’ (Item 1890, pg. 60)
There is also listed plate marked with only the Rochford arms presumably belonging to George Boleyn and acquired after forfeiture, although, it is possible that some of this plate also belonged to Anne.
‘two siluer chardgers striken with Rochefordes armes onelie and the Brymmes turned downewardes’ (Item 1891, pg. 61)
‘twelue siluer platters striken with Rochefordes armes onelie and the Brymmes turned downewardes’ (Item 1892, pg. 61)
‘twelue siluer Disshes striken with Rochefordes armes onelie and the Brymmes turned downewarde’ (Item 1893, pg. 61)
‘twelue siluer Sausers striken with Rochefordes armes and the Brymmes turned downewardes’ (Item 1894, pg. 61)
‘dishes and foure Sawsers of siluer with Rochefordes armes’ (Item 1895, pg. 61)
Another item worthy of mention is a silver-gilt table-fountain, which Anne gave to Henry as a New Year gift in 1534 and which Ives believes, Holbein ‘was almost certainly responsible for’ (Pg. 237). It was a pumped device that circulated rosewater into a basin to allow diners to wash their hands. The New Year Gift list describes it as
‘A goodly gilt bason, having a rail or board of gold in the midst of the brim, garnished with rubies and pearls, wherein standeth a fountain, also having a rail of gold about it garnished with diamonds, out whereof issueth water at the teats of three naked women standing about the foot of the same fountain.’ (Ives, pg. 238.)
This item should not be confused with the design for a standing cup and cover by Hans Holbein the younger, (see plate 40 in Ives’ The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn) where Anne’s falcon badge is visible between the left and centre satyrs (known as the Basle cup).
Although importantly, two other drawings in the Basle collection point to Holbein having designed the 1534 fountain, one could even be a preliminary sketch of the naked women described above (see plates 39 and 41 in The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn).
Reading about items that Anne once owned and used helps peel away the layers of time and allows Anne Boleyn – the person – to emerge.
Read more about the inventory and Anne’s belongings here.
Find out about Anne Boleyn’s jewellery here:References
Ives, E. The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn, 2004.
Starkey, D. (e.d.) 1998, The Inventory of King Henry VIII: The Transcript, Harvey Miller Publishers, London. http://www.sacred-destinations.com/england/cirencester-church.htm