Friday, 29 December 2017

'The Tudor Society' - check it out!

A sample of its January 2018 Tudor Life magazine can be read at:

Anne de Boleyn?

Called 'Anne Boleyn', by an Unknown Artist, Bibliothèque nationale de France

Unfortunately, the portrait is not comparable to known likenesses of Anne Boleyn, and the coat-of-arms is not hers. The inscription appears to be a later addition as well.

The search continues...

Monday, 25 December 2017

Happy Holidays!

'The Lion in Winter' (1968)

Saturday, 16 December 2017

Margot Robbie as Elizabeth I

From the upcoming film 'Mary Queen of Scots'

Tuesday, 7 November 2017

‘The Turbulent Crown’ - an online review (October 2017)

Thank you to Lil’s Vintage World for the kind review of my book!

Friday, 1 September 2017

The 2017 Tudor Summit this Sunday and Monday

The Tudor Summit is a two day online event bringing together Tudor history enthusiasts from all over the world to connect with each other, and listen to interviews and lectures from some of the leading Tudor History historians, bloggers, and podcasters. With lecture topics ranging from Tudor portraiture, fashion, and music; to Henry's wives, and Mary's relationships with them, we have a jam packed, and engaging agenda!

The event will be broadcast live on September 3 and 4, starting at 4pm UK time, and registration is free to attend live!

Here's a list of the speakers as of July 17, with more to follow as they are finalized.

  •     Rebecca Larson - Tudors Dynasty
  •     Natalie Grueninger - Author and founder of On the Tudor Trail
  •     Melita Thomas - Tudor Times
  •     Heather Teysko - Renaissance English History Podcast
  •     James Boulton - Queens of England Podcast
  •     Gina Clark - Tudor Dreams Historical Costumier
  •     Roland Hui - Tudor Faces
  •     Tony Riches, author of The Tudor Trilogy
  •     Nathen Amin - Author and founder of The Henry Tudor Society
    ... with a keynote by historian Sarah Gristwood, author of Game of Queens

For more information, click here.

Tuesday, 22 August 2017

A new biopic of Mary Queen of Scots in the works

With Saoirse Ronan as Mary Stuart and Margot Robbie as Elizabeth I. The film will be released sometime in 2018.

Thursday, 13 July 2017

A chat this Saturday (July 15, 2017)

If you're a member of the Tudor Society, do join me for an informal online chat this Saturday! We'll be discussing Tudor art and portraiture.

If you're not a member you can learn more at

Thursday, 6 July 2017

A 'new' portrait of Katherine of Aragon

This portrait, related to another re-identified as Katherine not too long ago, was recently sold at Christie's.

Katherine of Aragon (by an Unknown Artist)

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

A chat with 'The Renaissance English History Podcast'

Recently, I had the pleasure of speaking with Heather Teysko at about 16th century English art.

Do drop by for a listen by clicking here.

Thursday, 18 May 2017

Anne Boleyn Day 2017

For a schedule of events which include special videos, live talks, articles, quizzes, book extracts, and Anne Boleyn themed giveaways, visit The Anne Boleyn Files this May 19.

Wednesday, 3 May 2017

Debating Anne Boleyn as 'The Lady of the Garter'

An article about Anne Boleyn, written by Hilary Mantel, author of the popular 'Wolf Hall' and 'Bring Up the Bodies', was appropriately entitled 'Anne Boleyn: witch, bitch, temptress, feminist'.[i] Four hundred and eighty one years after her death, Anne remains divisive. What year was she born? Was she ambitious for a crown? What precisely were her religious beliefs? Was she indeed a 'public strumpet' who got her comeuppance on a scaffold in the Tower of London? 

During an ongoing debate about Anne's fall with an academic colleague, the late Eric Ives (author of the acclaimed 'The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn') wrote that while he disagreed with the findings of Dr. G.W. Bernard who was convinced of Anne being guilty of adultery, he nonetheless welcomed a differing opinion from his own.[ii] In addressing the controversy over visual representations of Anne Boleyn, I share Ives' view. Recently, I wrote a posting claiming that a representation of Queen Philippa of Hainault as the 'Lady of the Garter' in the Black Book of the Garter (Fig. 1) had ties to Henry VIII's second wife. However, R. E. Bruyère in a response entitled 'Is it Really Anne Boleyn?' disagreed. 'It simply cannot', the author opined. In reading over Bruyère's points, I still maintain that the artist Lucas Horenbout used Anne Boleyn to represent the Lady of the Garter. 

Fig. 1  The Lady of the Garter, The Black Book of the Garter (detail)

Despite the date of 1534 appearing twice in the Black Book,[iii] Bruyère says that Horenbout may have worked on the illuminations well into 1544, the year of his death. Thus the A and R on the Lady's pendant did not stand for 'Anna Regina', but rather 'Anglia Regina', a non specific queen.  However, as the Lady of the Garter was clearly crowned and sceptred, there was no reason for Horenbout to state the obvious by having her wear a jewel saying she is 'Queen of England'. Bruyère mentions that the designation of the sitter as a queen was so that she would not be confused with 'Fortune, the Virgin Mary, or any other number of allegorical or religious women seen during the Tudor period as having dominion over men’s lives'. But seeing how Horenbout imagined the Lady, there would have been no question that she was a queen. Fortune or 'Dame Fortune' would have appeared with appropriate iconography (such as a revolving wheel of fortune with figures rising and falling according to their destinies) implying who she was (Fig. 2). As for the Virgin, she would have been attended by a celestial company of saints and angels, or by earthly donors invoking her intercession, not by Tudor courtiers.

 Fig. 2  Fortune (detail) from Le Roman de la Rose
Bibliothèque nationale de France, Département des manuscrits, 
Français 380, fol. 36v.

Because Horenbout's work in the Black Book might have extended into the 1540's as Bruyère believes, the 'Anglia Regina' was more likely to be one of Anne Boleyn's successors, Jane Seymour or Anne of Cleves. Both women were blondes as Bruyère thinks the Lady of the Garter is. But this is a misunderstanding of the drawing. That is not blond hair beneath the sitter's gabled hood, but bands of yellow fabric; probably rich cloth of gold matching the Lady's dress. Such bands can be seen in numerous portraits of women of Henry VIII's court, such as that of Jane Seymour (Fig. 3). That the sitter might be Anne of Cleves (another 'Anglia Regina', or even a different 'Anna Regina') is highly improbable. By the time Anne came to England to be the King's fourth wife in January 1540, gabled hoods were considered passé in style; rounded French hoods were all the rage.[iv] As well, Anne of Cleves was a most unlikely candidate for inclusion in the Black Book. Henry VIII loathed her at first sight, and the marriage was annulled that July.

Fig. 3  Jane Seymour (by an Unknown Artist), Chapter of Ripon Cathedral

While none of Henry VIII's six wives were known to have been elected as a Lady of the Garter, this does not exclude his second from being added into the Black Book. While the illustration was meant to represent Queen Philippa, Anne was included to represent her; the same way Henry VIII stood in for Henry V in Horenbout's rendition of 'Henricus Quintus' (Fig. 4).

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

Another one of Bruyère's arguments for the Lady not being Anne Boleyn is that after her fall in May 1536, images of her were destroyed. While efforts were certainly made to erase her memory, they were not fully implemented. At Henry VIII's death, some a hundred and twenty items of plate associated with his second wife were found in the royal inventory.[v] The so-called 'Anne Boleyn's Gateway' (Fig. 5) at Hampton Court and the choir screen at King's College Chapel, Cambridge (Fig. 6) both retain her emblems and ciphers. Such references to Anne can also be found in the stonework at St. Jame's Palace.

Fig. 5.  'Anne Boleyn's Gateway', Hampton Court

Fig. 6.  Choir Screen at King's College Chapel

It should be mentioned that pains to eradicate a displaced or disgraced Queen of England were never virulent as supposed. Take for example, Henry VIII's first consort Katherine of Aragon. One would think that public images of her still as Queen would be suppressed. But at The Vyne, a 16th century country house in Hampshire, a stained glass depiction of Katherine, paired with Henry VIII no less, still exists (Fig. 7).[vi] It was originally made for the nearby Holy Ghost Chapel, a place of worship for the Sandys family.[vii] One of them, Sir William Sandys, was Henry VIII's Lord Chamberlain. As the windows survived in situ until the Civil War, Sandys obviously did not feel that an image of the former Queen, still shown as Henry VIII's lawful wife, gave offence.[viii] Katherine as Queen can also be seen in the glasswork at St. Margaret's Church, Westminster (Fig. 8).

 Fig. 7.  Henry VIII, Katherine of Aragon (detail), The Vyne, Hampshire

 Fig. 8.  Katherine of Aragon (detail), St. Margaret's Church, Westminster

Bruyère's assertion that 'it is simply unknown to the modern world what the woman looked like' is an overstatement concerning Anne Boleyn's likeness. While the 1534 medal and the Chequers locket ring only offer vague impressions, the painted likenesses cannot be discounted. While the famous 'B' pendant portraits (Fig. 9) are posthumous - Elizabethan or early Stuart,[ix] they were highly popular and made in great numbers. That this particular image of Anne was used, showed that it was based on an established likeness, one that was accepted by members of Elizabeth I's court who still remembered her.[x]

 Fig. 9.  Anne Boleyn (by an Unknown Artist), The National Gallery of Ireland

That Anne Boleyn was included in the Black Book of the Garter indicated the favour she was in. Her inclusion may or may not have been on account of her short lived pregnancy in 1534[xi]. Put simply, Anne was depicted as Philippa because she was the present Queen of England. Her relationship with Henry VIII did have its highs and lows, but we need not be so pessimistic as to assume that the birth of the Princess Elizabeth - a girl - in 1533 led to an irreversible breakdown of their marriage. In 1535, there were reports that the couple were 'merry', and it was not until the following year did Anne's world crumble, culminating with her arrest and execution in May 1536. But until that fateful spring, Anne Boleyn, the King's 'dear and entirely beloved wife' sat enthroned presiding over her court, just as she did in the Black Book of the Garter.

[i] Hilary Mantel, 'Anne Boleyn: witch, bitch, temptress, feminist', The Guardian, May 11, 2012: (web site accessed May 3, 2017).

[ii] E.W. Ives, 'The Fall of Anne Boleyn Reconsidered', EHR, July 1992. 'It is good to have Dr George Bernard's lecture... in print', Ives wrote.

[iii] Erna Auerbach, 'The Black Book of the Garter', Report of the Society of the Friends of St. George’s, 5, 1972–1973, p. 149.

[iv] 'Then began all the gentlewomen of England to wear French hoods with billiments of gold': Chronicle of the Grey Friars of London, (edited by John Gough Nichols), London: printed for The Camden Society, 1852, p. 43.

[v] E.W. Ives, The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn, Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 2004, p. 231.

[viii] Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn visited The Vyne in 1531 and 1535: (web site accessed May 3, 2017). It is not impossible that they stopped by The Holy Ghost Chapel which William Sandys had greatly extended years earlier.

[ix] Most such portraits date to the reign of Elizabeth I when images of the reigning Queen's mother were in demand. However pictures of Anne Boleyn were still made in the early 17th century as part of  'the Kings and Queens of England' sets, like the example at The Dulwich Picture Gallery, London: (web site accessed May 3, 2017).

[x] That the 'B' pendant portrait type was based on a lost original, and perhaps by Horenbout, see: R. Hui, 'A Reassessment of Queen Anne Boleyn’s Portraiture', Tudor Faces blog (Jan., 2015; originally posted in Jan. 2000): (web site accessed May 3, 2017)

[xi] That the Lady of the Garter is supposedly pregnant was not an observation I myself made. Nevertheless it is worth considering.

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 of St. George's Chapel, 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),
St George’s Chapel, 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, he was naturally featured in it. While his royal predecessors, from Edward III to Henry VII, had their likenesses included as well, Henry VIII was accorded pre-eminence. He is shown twice with the Knights of the Garter (Fig. 2), and then again alone at prayer (Fig. 3). Not only was Henry, as the Sovereign and as the 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 presides over the tournaments the Garter Knights take part in.

'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 close 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 costume of King Edward's reign, the 'Lady of the Garter' and her attendants are in fashions of the Tudor court. The old knight is in a doublet and gown of the time of Henry VIII, while the waiting women wear dresses typical 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 robed 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 celebrated 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. Most importantly, as Philippa was the mother of numerous children, including five sons who lived into adulthood, Anne was expected to be just as fertile to safeguard the Tudor dynasty.

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 Henry VIII. 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. Besides Henry VIII's identification with Henry V, it should be noted that his likeness also appears in that of his grandfather Edward IV in the Black Book.

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

Anne Boleyn's inclusion in the Black Book, and the making of her portrait medal, was probably in the earlier part of 1534. She appeared to be pregnant, and the royal couple were looking forward to a boy this time. But by summer, Anne had either suffered a miscarriage or it was a phantom pregnancy.
Despite being Henry VIII's most famous wife, Anne Boleyn's portraiture remains lacking. The two Hans Holbein drawings said to be of her are suspect,[viii] 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. Regarding the A. R pendant, a variant of it, a 'broach having the letters R. A. in diamonds' was recorded among Anne's possessions': Letters and Papers, Henry VIII, XII (ii), no. 1315.
[iii]   'Ladies of the Garter: Image of the month', website of The College of St. George, Windsor Castle: (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): (accessed April, 2017).

[viii] 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): (accessed April, 2017).