Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Anne Boleyn as 'The Lady of the Garter': A Rediscovered Image of Henry VIII's Second Queen

One of the great treasures at Windsor Castle is the Black Book of the Garter (Fig. 1). Bound in black leather - hence its name, it contains the history, regulations, and ceremonies of the illustrious Knights of the Order of the Garter, founded by King Edward III in 1348. 

Fig. 1  The Black Book of the Garter (attributed to Lucas Horenbout),Windsor Castle

Created in 1534, the Black Book is attributed to the Flemish artist Lucas Horenbout (or Hornebolte) who was active as an illuminator of manuscripts and as painter of miniature portraits at the English court from the 1520's to the 1540's.

As the Black Book was conceived in the reign of Henry VIII, the King was prominently featured in it. While his royal predecessors, from Edward III to Henry VII, had their likenesses included as well, Henry VIII was given pre-eminence. He is shown twice with his Knights of the Garter (Fig. 2), and then again alone at prayer (Fig. 3). Not only was Henry, as the Sovereign and as highest ranking Knight, given due honour, but so was his current wife Anne Boleyn.

Fig. 2  Henry VIII and the Order of the Knights of the Garter, The Black Book of the Garter (detail)

 Fig. 3  Henry VIII, The Black Book of the Garter (detail)

On the 20th page of the Black Book, a lady, crowned and sceptred, sits enthroned surrounded by courtiers (Fig. 4). Behind her are six waiting women, and before her on the left, stands an armoured herald bearing the arms of England on his tabard. On the right is an 'ancient knight' wearing a rich chain of office. The accompanying text, written in Latin, identifies her as the Queen Consort who helps preside over the meeting of the Order:

'At this appearance, was his excellent Queen, splendidly arrayed with three hundred beautiful ladies, eminent for the honour of their birth, and the gracefulness and beauty of their clothing and dress. For heretofore when jousts, tournaments, entertainments and public shows were made, in which men of nobility and valour showed their strength and prowess, the Queen, ladies, and other women of illustrious birth with ancient knights, and some chosen heralds were wont to be, and it was supposed that they ought to be present as proper judges, to see, discern, approve or disapprove what might be done, to challenge, allot, by speech, nod, discourse, or otherwise to promote the matter in hand, to encourage and stir up bravery by their words and looks'.[i]

 Fig. 4  The Lady of the Garter, The Black Book of the Garter (detail)

The 'excellent Queen' referred to is Philippa of Hainault, the wife of Edward III. However, a closer inspection of the illumination shows that the sitter wears a large circular pendant at her bosom. On it are combined letters in gold: A and R - that is Anna Regina. It is Anne Boleyn as Queen Philippa.[ii]

Rather than the medieval clothing of centuries past, the 'Lady of the Garter' and her attendants are in contemporary fashions of the Tudor court. The old knight is costumed as in the time of Henry VIII, as are the waiting women. They wear gowns of the 1530's with low squared necklines. Five of them sport rounded French hoods, while a lady on the left has a gabled English one. Anne Boleyn too wears as an English style headdress, and is attired in cloth of gold; a dress very similar to that seen on Henry VIII's subsequent wife Jane Seymour (Fig. 5).

Fig. 5  Jane Seymour (by an Unknown Artist), Society of Antiquaries

By updating Philippa of Hainault and her court to the 16th century, Horenbout was following an artistic convention of contemporizing the past (as in seen in numerous works of art of the Middle Ages and of the Renaissance where historical and Biblical figures are shown in modernized clothes and settings). As well, he was also creating a backdrop where he could pay tribute to the present Queen by having her stand in for Philippa. Even though Anne Boleyn was not known to have been fêted as a Lady of the Garter as Philippa and successive English queens were - the practice of including ladies in Garter rituals seemed to have fallen by the wayside by the reign of Henry VIII[iii] - she was still deemed worthy as Queen of England for inclusion in the Black Book.

By assuming the part of Philippa of Hainault, Anne Boleyn could also emulate her qualities. Philippa was described by the chronicler Jean Froissart  as 'the most gentle Queen, most liberal, and most courteous that ever was Queen in her days'. She was especially remembered as the lady merciful, who had begged her husband the King to spare the lives of the burghers of Calais. Philippa was also recognized as a patroness of learning. The Queen's College, Oxford, was founded in her honour. 

As Anne Boleyn was Philippa in the Black Book, did Henry VIII see himself as Edward III? No, rather he saw himself as another great king. The book contains a standardized image of Edward III, but that of Henry V is clearly Henry VIII himself (Fig. 6). But why Henry V and not Edward III? Though the Black Book lauds the latter as the founder of the Order and as 'one of the most invincible Princes that ever sat upon the English Throne',[iv] Henry VIII might have taken a more sober assessment of Edward's triumphs. The King who had won renown at Crécy and Poitiers, was also the same who later lost his territories in France, mourned his son and heir Edward the Black Prince who tragically predeceased him, and found himself dominated by his grasping mistress Alice Perrers and her unpopular faction. That said, Henry V, as the great hero of Agincourt, and whom the Black Book extols as 'the most invincible prince' and 'most excellent in all kinds of virtue',[v] probably had more appeal to his Tudor descendent. Unlike Edward III who slipped into decline in his later years, Henry V died relatively young at the age of 36, leaving a successful legacy behind of martial achievements which Henry VIII was most eager to follow.

 Fig. 6  Henry V, The Black Book of the Garter (detail)

With the likeness of Henry VIII used for that of Henry V, how good is that of Anne Boleyn? While the faces of her attendants and those of many others in the Black Book are clearly individualized and meant to depict actual persons, Anne's is admittedly disappointing in its blandness.[vi] Evidently, Horenbout was more interested in presenting her as an idealized icon of majesty (for instance, notice how the figure is considerably taller in comparison to her courtiers), anticipating the stylized portraits of her daughter Elizabeth I. Still, what can be seen is that the artist depicted Anne with a long oval face and a pointed chin; features comparable to the well known 'B' pendant type portrait of Anne (Fig. 7) which was most probably originated by Horenbout as well[vii], to a medal of her cast in 1534 (Fig. 8), and to an Elizabethan enamel-on-gold locket ring portrait (Fig. 9).

 Fig. 7  Anne Boleyn (by an Unknown Artist), Hever Castle

  Fig. 8  Anne Boleyn (by an Unknown Artist), The British Museum

  Fig. 7  Locket ring (by an Unknown Artist), The Chequers Trust

That Anne Boleyn was included in the Black Book shows that she was still in good favour with the capricious Henry VIII. Although Anne had endured setbacks in 1534 - a failed pregnancy that summer, and a straying of the King's affectation shortly afterwards[viii] - she was still secure as Queen. So much that she was celebrated with the creation of the afore mentioned medal that year. Anne was still 'The Most Happy' as it was inscribed.

Despite being Henry VII's most famous wife, Anne Boleyn's portraiture remains lacking. The two Hans Holbein drawings said to be of her are suspect,[ix] and the famous 'B' pendant portraits are probably all Elizabethan or later. However, with the recognition of the Black Book's Lady of the Garter as Anne Boleyn, it is hopeful that more images of Anne made in her own lifetime, besides just the 1534 medal, are still yet to be discovered. 

[i] J. Anstis et al, The Register of the Most Noble Order of the Garter, 2 vols. (London, 1724), Vol. 1, p. 32.

[ii] That the sitter was Anne Boleyn was first noticed by Sir George Scharf, the Director of the National Portrait Gallery, in a commentary about the portraiture of Henry VIII's six wives by John Gough Nichols. See: G. Scharf,
'Notes on several of the Portraits described in the preceding Memoir, and on some others of the like character', Archaeologia, Vol. 40, Issue 01, January 1866, p. 88.

[iii]   'Ladies of the Garter: Image of the month', website of The College of St. George, Windsor Castle: https://www.stgeorges-windsor.org/archives/archive-features/image-of-the-month/title1/Ladies-of-the-Garter-Image-of-the-month.html (accessed April, 2017).

[iv] J. Anstis et al, Register, p. 1.

[v] J. Anstis et al, Register, p. 64 and p. 65.

[vi] 'For example, Horenbout's well observed likeness of Henry Percy, Earl of Northumberland, in his illustration of the Garter procession. It was later served as a basis for an enlarged portrait (Collection of the Duke of Northumberland). As for the Lady of the Garter, 'not much character in her countenance', Scharf opined: Archaeologia, p. 88.

[vii] R. Hui, 'A Reassessment of Queen Anne Boleyn’s Portraiture', Tudor Faces blog (Jan., 2015; originally posted in Jan. 2000): http://tudorfaces.blogspot.ca/2015/01/a-reassessment-of-queen-anne-boleyns.html (accessed April, 2017).

[viii]  For Anne's miscarriage of 1534 and the King's dalliance with another woman, see E. Ives, The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn, (Oxford, 2004), pp. 191-192.

[ix] R. Hui, 'A Reassessment of Queen Anne Boleyn’s Portraiture'.  Also E. Ives, The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn, pp. 41-44. As well, miniatures said to be of Anne (in the Royal Ontario Museum and in the collection of the Duke of Buccleuch) may be that of her sister Mary Boleyn. See: R. Hui, 'Two New Faces: the Hornebolte Portraits of Mary and Thomas Boleyn'?, Tudor Faces blog (Oct., 2011): http://tudorfaces.blogspot.ca/2011/10/two-new-faces-hornebolte-portraits-of.html (accessed April, 2017).

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

A Lost Portrait of Anne Boleyn?

A book I purchased recently, 'The Faith - A History of Christianity' by Brian Moynahan (2002) had reproduced a portrait of a lady supposed to be Anne Boleyn.

from 'Faith: A History of Christianity' (page 402)

 The picture is inscribed 'Anna de Boulen' in the left corner, and shows a young woman in profile from the 16th century. Is this the elusive lost life-portrait of Anne we have long been searching for? Unfortunately, no source was given by the author as to where this portrait was reproduced from.

 As hopeful as we are for an authentic portrait of Anne Boleyn, there are indications to the contrary upon first glance. While the young woman's appearance - her long face and her brown hair - appear to match what we know of Anne, her costume is problematic. The sitter wears a hood of a style belonging to the early 1500's. It is comparable to one worn by Anne of Brittany, Queen of France (1477-1514).

Anne of Brittany, by Jan Mostaert

 Anne Boleyn would have unlikely to have been painted from circa 1515 to the early 1520's as she was in still in her mid to late teens (assuming her birth date was around 1501) and a person of no distinction.

 Of course Anne could have been painted at a young age nonetheless, however a thorough search for this portrait indicated otherwise. The sitter is in fact Isabella of Austria (1501-1526), a sister of the Emperor Charles V. The portrait hangs in the Czartoryskich Museum in Krakow, Poland, and was painted in about 1514/1515.

Isabella of Austria by an Unknown Artist

 The painting in its current state, as shown on the Czartoryskich Museum's web site, does not include the inscription 'Anna de Boulen'. The picture appears to be the same as the one reproduced in the Moynahan book, and it can only be supposed that the inscription, deemed a later addition and an inaccurate one at that, was subsequently removed by the Czartoryskich Museum.

 And thus our search for Anne Boleyn continues...

Thursday, 9 March 2017

An article in 'The Medieval Magazine'

My thanks to the folks at 'The Medieval Magazine' for including an article of mine in the March issue of their publication!

You can read it by clicking here.

 You can also preview a chapter of my book 'The Turbulent Crown' at MadeGlobal Publishing by clicking here. Enjoy!


Sunday, 5 March 2017

Anne of Cleves - Henry VIII's Luckiest Wife? (Virtual Book Tour - Stop 7)

On my final stop of this virtuial book tour, we go back to the 16th century for a look at Anne of Cleves. Was she indeed the luckiest of six wives? Find out at QueenAnneBoleyn.com

Again, you will have a chane to win a copy of 'The Turbulent Crown'. Good luck!

And a big-thank you to my hosts these past few days!

Saturday, 4 March 2017

Princess Marie Louise and the Creation of Queen Mary’s Dolls’ House (Virtual Book Tour - Stop 6)

On my sixth stop at History of Royal Women, something a little different. We travel to the early 20th century and take a look at the creation Queen Mary's Dolls' House.

See you there!