Sunday, April 18, 2010

28 or 35? Does it matter how old Anne Boleyn was?

Blogger Gareth Russell posts an excellent discussion on Anne Boleyn's birth date: was she born in 1501 or 1507? In my book I don't chase down details like that, but Anne's age does make a difference in our view of her execution and her influence on the King in religious matters, etc. I agree with Gareth Russell that it makes sense that she was younger, particularly since Henry was marrying her hoping she would bear at least one son, and since two sources with contemporary connections state she was born in 1507 and was less than 29 years old when she died!

I just finished reading Alison Weir's study of Anne's fall (The Lady in the Tower) and Weir remarks on Anne being just ten years younger than Henry. She includes a portrait of Anne as she probably looked at the time of her fall, as Weir subscribes to the earlier birthdate of 1501, so that Anne was around 35 years old when she was executed. Of course, that portrait is not from life since portraits of Anne were destroyed after her fall and execution.


  1. Stephanie, thank you so much for the link! I remember reading an art history paper some time ago by Roland Hui, who suggested the portrait Aison Weir uses in "The Lady in the Tower" was probably installed in Nidd Hall (its location) in a gallery of royal figures by Tudor loyalists in the 1550s and that it may have originally been meant to represent Jane Seymour during the reign of Edward VI (the mouth looks quite similar to the Holbein portrait of Jane), Katherine of Aragon during Mary's reign and that the broach bearing the "AB" initials were stuck on when Elizabeth came to the throne in 1558. As you say though, whoever it's meant to represent, it isn't a true likeness of Anne Boleyn, because it can't be. The only portrait which comes close, I think, is the one with Anne holding the rose and with the famous "B" pendant around her neck, because the proliferation of similar portraits indicates that they are copies of a lost original (we know one survived in the collection of Lord Lumley until at least 1745.) That portrait tallies with contemporary descriptions of Anne being thin and brunette - so maybe it's the closest we've got to what she really looked like.

    Thank you again for the link - I've just discovered your blog and like it very much! Many congratulations.

  2. Thanks, Gareth, for the information about the portrait, and for your kind comments.