Sunday 30 August 2020

Those Bette Davis eyes!


Bette as Queen Elizabeth in 'The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex' (1939), and in 'The Virgin Queen' (1955).

Tuesday 25 August 2020

A Hilliard Miniature

A miniature of an Unknown Lady (formerly called 'Queen Elizabeth') by Nicholas Hilliard, in the New Orleans Museum of Art.




Friday 21 August 2020

The Tudor and Stuart Dynasties




An unusual 17th century painting from Leeds Castle showing the Tudor and Stuart royal families: Henry VII, Henry VIII, Edward VI, Mary I, Elizabeth I, James I with his wife Anne of Denmark, Prince Henry Frederick of Wales, Charles I, and Elizabeth of Bohemia with her husband Frederick V of the Palatinate. 

Sunday 16 August 2020

The Belmont Portrait of Anne Boleyn



Lee at 'Lady Jane Grey Revisited' has uncovered a long forgotten portrait of Anne Boleyn. 

Click here to read about it, and click here for his upcoming research on the 'B Pattern' portraits of Anne. 

Highly recommended!


Saturday 15 August 2020

The Regal Roles of Helena Bonham Carter

As Queen Jane in 'Lady Jane' (1986), as Queen Anne Boleyn in 'Henry VIII' (2003), as Queen Elizabeth in 'The King's Speech (2010), as the Red Queen in 'Alice in Wonderland' (2010), and as Princess Margaret in 'The Crown' (2019).

Wednesday 12 August 2020

Samantha Morton as Mary Queen of Scots


Although she only appeared in a few scenes in 'Elizabeth - The Golden Age' (2007), Samantha Morton was nonetheless, an impressive Mary Stuart.
It should be mentioned that the Scottish accent, as opposed to a French one, that Morton (and Saoirse Ronan in the 2018 movie 'Mary Queen of Scots') used is historically accurate. 
While Mary's formative years were spent in France, an English envoy who met her in 1569, described Mary as having a 'pretty Scotch accent'.

Friday 7 August 2020

Anne Boleyn and the Devil's Pawmark


Writer Norah Lofts, author of a biography on Anne (Anne Boleyn, New York: Coward, McCann & Geoghegan, 1979) entertained the notion that she might actually have been a witch.

Lofts, who had also penned fictional works dealing with the occult it should be mentioned, wondered how Anne achieved the power she had? Did she make a pact with the Devil, she asked?

According to the credulous Loft, how did a mere girl bring down the powerful Cardinal Wolsey for instance? As well, she had apparently made witch-like references while in the Tower of London. Also, she supposedly bore physical signs of being a sorceress (yes, the alleged infamous sixth finger on one hand). To further her case, Lofts referred to a painting of Anne at Hatfield House (based on a sketch by Hans Holbein of a lady whom are not 100% sure was actually her). 'The 'Devil's Pawmark' can be seen below her right ear', Lofts claimed!  


Anne Boleyn(?) (after Hans Holbein, Hatfield House)


Personally, I don't see it. Do you?

Still, Anne as a witch persists in popular culture. You can lean more by reading my article Anne of the Wicked Ways by clicking here.


Wednesday 5 August 2020

To Be Burnt or Beheaded at the King's Pleasure

Anne Boleyn and her execution (from a 19th century engraving)

At the trial of Queen Anne Boleyn in the Tower of London on May 15, 1536, the outcome was inevitable. Three days earlier, four of the men accused of adultery with her - Henry Norris, Francis Weston, William Brereton, and Mark Smeaton - had already been found guilty. If they were culpable, so was the Queen.

After Anne's verdict was given, the sentence was pronounced by the presiding Duke of Norfolk:

"Because thou hast offended our Sovereign the King's Grace in committing treason against his person, and here attainted of the same, the law of the realm is this, that thou hast deserved death, and thy judgment is this - that thou shall be burnt here within the Tower of London on the Green, else to have thy head smitten off as the King's pleasure shall be further known of the same". (1)

At the sentencing, it was noticed that the judges present were uneasy, they 'murmured' at the verdict. As historian Eric Ives explained, they were put off by the 'either / or judgment'. It should simply have been one mode of death or the other. (2)

But perhaps there was more than that. It appeared that the judges were taken aback by the alternative of decapitation, which the King had already settled upon as one of the choices for his wife's death. Typically, female offenders were burned at the stake in cases of high treason. As the penalty for males convicted of great crimes in the 16th century was usually to be drawn to the gallows on a hurdle, hanged and quickly cut down while still alive, and then finally butchered, this was considered indecent in the handling of women. When one Margaret Cheney - described as 'a very fair creature and beautiful' - was indicted for aiding the rebels of the Pilgrimage of Grace in 1536, she was drawn from the Tower to Smithfield, 'and there burnt according to her judgement'. (3)

The fate of beheading for Anne Boleyn was unprecedented. No woman in England, much less a queen, had ever been put to death that way. Henry VIII, as it later became known, would even have the deed done Continental-style by means of a sword (a skilled executioner had to be sent for from Calais) instead of by the axe and block as practiced in England.

The writ (RO C193/3 f. 80, bottom section dated May 18) which established the precedence of convicting Anne Boleyn as a treasonous Queen, and set out her manner of death by beheading. Further up, are previous instructions on how the men accused with Anne were to die.

Because Anne's death as a treasonous Queen was without precedent, it had to be legally set out in writing. In a chancery precedent book, the law clerks had to record the fact, and also the manner in which she was to die. Anne, it said, was not to be burnt alive as a woman, as set out in the 1351 Treason Act of King Edward III. Instead, the writ states that Henry VIII, out of pity was to allow her to be beheaded on Tower Green. These instructions were then given to Sir William Kingston, the Queen's jailer, to carry out. (4)

The writ, set out at Westminster, was dated May 18. According to Kingston's letter to Thomas Cromwell written in the wee hours of May 19, Anne had expected to die on the 18th sometime after noon. The delay has often been attributed to lateness on the executioner's part in crossing the Channel and reaching London, but as the writ was not completed until the 18th, Anne's death had to be put off for a day due to legalities.

The postponement was actually a disappointment for the Queen. She had prepared herself to die, and the added wait was unnerving. "I am very sorry therefore", she sighed, "for I thought to be dead by this time, and past my pain". The only reassurance Kingston could offer was that when the hour did come, 'it should be no pain'. Death by the sword 'was so subtle'. "I heard say the executor was very good", Anne responded, "and I have a little neck". To Kingston's amazement, she then 'put her hand about it, laughing heartedly'. (5)

Assured of a quick death, Anne Boleyn mounted the scaffold on the morning of May 19, and there 'died boldly'. (6)




(1) Charles Wriothesley, A Chronicle of England During the Reigns of the Tudors, From A.D. 1485 to 1559, London: The Camden Society, 1875-77, vol. 1, p. 38.

(2) J.H. Baker (editor), The Reports of Sir John Spelman, London: The Selden Society, 1977-78, vol. 1, p. 71. Eric Ives, The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn, Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 2004, p. 341.

(3) Charles Wriothesley, A Chronicle of England During the Reigns of the Tudors, From A.D. 1485 to 1559, vol. 1, p. 64. Interestingly, the execution of Elizabeth Barton (the so-called 'Holy Maid of Kent') in 1534 was exceptional. For making treasonous predictions about the King's demise, she was hanged, not burned.

(4) RO C193/3 f. 80. I am grateful to Dr. Sean Cunningham at The National Archives for his information to me about the writ. The writ is also mentioned in Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, X, no. 902 (wrongly dated as May 18; it should be May 16). It was referred to by William Kingston to Thomas Cromwell in regards to the men accused with the Queen. Kingston complained that he had still not received proper written instructions on how to proceed with  their executions to be held on the 17th. They were to be more mercifully decapitated instead of being hung, drawn, and quartered as sentenced, but Kingston still needed official authorization to do this as 'the sheriffs of London must make provision'. Still, as he told Cromwell, the prisoners 'are all ready', and he will immediately have 'carpenters make a scaffold of such height that all present may see it'.

(5) Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, X, no. 910.

(6) Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, X, no. 919 and no. 920.

A Visit from Liz Taylor

Geneveive Bujold with Elizabeth Taylor

Genevieve Bujold with Elizabeth Taylor

During the filming of Anne of the Thousand Days, an unexpected guest was movie star Elizabeth Taylor. No, she did not play Anne Boleyn, though she certainly wanted to. She had to be told by her husband Richard Burton that frankly at age 35, she was 'too long in the tooth'.

Still, Elizabeth Taylor did make her presence known. Besides getting herself a cameo in the picture (as a masked courtier), she kept a watchful eye over Burton. Apparently, Taylor had been upset by rumours of an affair between him and his attractive young co-star Genevieve Bujold. To make sure he behaved himself (Burton was a notorious flirt when it came to the ladies), Taylor invited herself on set.

Richard Burton and Genevieve Bujold relaxing during rehearsals.

Elizabeth Taylor making an appearance in the the film. She is wearing the famous 'La Peregrina Pearl' once owned by Queen Mary I (Anne Boleyn's stepdaughter).

Bujold was so irritated by Taylor that, as the story goes, she vowed to 'give that bitch an acting lesson she'll never forget'! In the memorable scene where Anne Boleyn confronts Henry VIII in the Tower of London on the night before her execution, Bujold gave a blistering performance - 'a display of acting skill I have seldom seen equaled in my career', according to the film's producer Hal Wallis -  and then triumphantly stormed off the set.

A half century after the film's release, Bujold was more complimentary towards Taylor. As she said in a recent interview, “She (Elizabeth) was playful... I didn’t know her very much, but she was always supremely pleasant with me.”