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An update on Anne Boleyn and the Lady of the Garter image

Posted By on May 3, 2017

You may remember that last week I shared an article by art historian and author Roland Hui regarding an image from The Black Book of the Garter attributed to Lucas Horenbout, which Roland Hui believed might well be Anne Boleyn. Roland made the following points:

  • The Black Book was created in 1534, while Henry VIII was married to Anne Boleyn
  • The large circular pendant worn by the queen consort in the image had golden letters A and R – Anna Regina, Anne the Queen.
  • The queen in question is not wearing medieval costume, as she would be if she was Philippa of Hainault, wife of Edward III, but is wearing typical dress of the 1530s and her ladies are wearing French hoods from that period. The dress is also very similar to one worn by Jane Seymour in a portrait.
  • Although the Lady of the Garter title had died out, Horenbout could have been “creating a backdrop where he could pay tribute to the present Queen by having her stand in for Philippa”.

You can read more in Roland’s article at https://tudorfaces.blogspot.com.es/2017/04/anne-boleyn-as-lady-of-garter.html.

An article disputing Roland’s views has just been published on QueenAnneBoleyn.com – see http://queenanneboleyn.com/2017/05/03/really-anne-boleyn-r-e-bruyere/ and the main points made are:

  • Henry VIII would surely have had the image removed from The Black Book if it was of Anne Boleyn
  • That 1534 was not a triumphant year for Anne so there would be no reason to depict her in the book.
  • That the title Lady of the Garter was not used in Henry VIII’s reign.
  • That the woman depicted has blond hair.
  • That the AR could stand for “Anglia Regina”, Queen of England, and could therefore be Jane Seymour or Anne of Cleves.

Some interesting points, but the one about the blond hair is irrelevant as if you zoom in on the image then it can be clearly seen that no hair is showing. The gable hood was not supposed to show any hair – as opposed to the more risque French hood – and what you can see in the image at the forehead is the band of the hood. Here are some images of women wearing gable hoods (or just a coif in one) where you can see the band clearly:

and here is a zoom-in on the head from the Lady of the Garter image:

Regarding the AR standing for “Anglia Regina”, I’ve never come across any of Henry VIII’s queen consorts using “AR” to stand for that. From what I have seen, they used their first initial and then “R” for “Regina” (AR, KR etc.) and the king used “HR” for Henry/Henricus Rex. I’ve seen medieval kings use Rex Anglicus so wouldn’t it be more natural for it to be Regina Anglica/Anglia/Angliae, so RA, like “Katerina Regina Anglia & Francia”? I’ve only ever seen Anglia/Angliae Regina used in a longer title, not as a stand-alone title or intials, e.g. “Dei gratia Angliæ, Franciæ & Hiberniæ Regina, fidei defensor…”. Heraldry and Latin titles are not my forte though!

Lucy Churchill, who researched images of Anne Boleyn when she was recreating the 1534 medal, notes the use of the imperial crown in the image:

“It is interesting to note the Imperial Crown above the gable hood worn by Anne Boleyn in her depiction as Queen Phillipa. This inclusion demonstrates Henry’s increasing bid during the 1530s to claim precedent for the English king’s absolute power within the realm, including total authority over the Church in England, in defiance of the Church of Rome. As his anointed queen Anne shared this God-given right, and so would the child that she was carrying when this illustration was made. You can see Henry and Anne’s prevalent use of the Imperial Crown in the King’s College Chapel choirscreen, also created at this time. The claim to imperial power delivers the potent message of intent that Henry and Anne were formulating towards the Church of Rome, and those still adhering to its authority.”

Interesting! Lucy has also pointed out that the 1534 medal is not the only contemporary image we have as there is also that rather cartoon-like likeness of Anne on the plan for her coronation feast. It depicts her wearing the imperial crown. Thank you, Lucy for your input! See https://lucychurchill.wordpress.com/2012/05/14/the-moost-happi-portrait-of-anne-boleyn-a-rec/ for more on Lucy’s reconstruction of the medal.

What do I think about it all?

Well, I’m not 100% sure, but I find it interesting that the sitter is wearing 1530s costume, and therefore is unlikely to be Philippa of Hainault, and that she is depicted wearing a pendant with “AR”. I think it could well have been produced at the same time as the 1534 medal in celebration of Anne Boleyn’s pregnancy, which the couple hoped would be a prince this time. Although Anne wasn’t officially Lady of the Garter, Horenbout painting her in that position as Henry’s queen consort at that time makes sense to me, it was a tribute to the new and pregnant queen consort, like putting monarchs’ faces into biblical images etc. The Anne Boleyn identification does make sense. And now Lucy’s point about the crown sways me further. It could very well be Anne!

What do you think?

Whatever your thoughts, it’s a beautiful image and an interesting debate.

29 thoughts on “An update on Anne Boleyn and the Lady of the Garter image”

  1. Charlene says:

    I don’t think it’s Angliae Regina, if only because Henry VIII’s coins from 1536-1537 still have his title as “Rex Angliae et Franciae”. (As they should; in Latin adjectives not denotiing size or quantity are supposed to follow the noun.)

    It’s only when he makes himself King of Ireland in 1542 that the “Rex” gets shuffled to the end; after that, one could wonder if “Angliae Regina” was possible, but not before, and not while Henry was calling himself “Rex Angliae”.

    1. Claire says:

      Yes, that’s what I thought. I also haven’t found another instant of AR being used on a pendant like that to refer to Angliae Regina.

  2. Dr. Mark Baker says:

    I do think this is a contemporary depiction of Anne Boleyn as Queen. All of the evidence provides a persuasive argument for her being the sitter. Well done! I hope we can unearth some more images from the period.

  3. Christine says:

    Bruyere is mistaken in his comments about the sitters blonde hair as the gable hood does cover all the hair as mentioned, also her ladies are depicted wearing French hoods, Jane Seymour’s ladies were forbidden to wear these and so it cannot possibly be Jane in the illustration, I doubt if it’s Anne Of Cleves either as Henry abhorred his fourth marriage so much I feel he would not have had her image in the Garter Book, mean though it sounds but from the minute he saw her he was trying to wriggle out of the marriage, also the sitter does look like she has a rounded belly proof of pregnancy therefore as Claire says, it could well be a celebration of the birth of a prince, also AR does stand for Anne Regina, her daughter always signed her correspondence ER, as indeed all the Monarchs do, R meaning Regina for the King or Queen, i think he’s confused about the A, the A is merely the first letter of the Monarchs name or consorts name, I have never heard of Anglia Regina, I think we can safely dismiss Bruyeres claims as not having done enough research, this I believe is another contemporary image of Anne Boleyn and it’s a really exciting find, they say surprises come in threes, maybe another two more images or even a portrait might turn up!

    1. Claire says:

      There more I look into this, the more I’m becoming convinced that Henry VIII chose to depict his pregnant wife as Queen Philippa in the book in celebration of her pregnancy and their hopes for a son and heir.

      1. Christine says:

        Yes Henry would have been over the moon when Anne told she was was expecting, it’s I’m sure the sort of thing he would do as he was at this stage very much in love with her and he would have wanted to accord her another honour as the mother to be of his long awaited prince, it’s great that this was not destroyed, being in the Garter Book it was safe for all posterity.

      2. I don’t think it’s an accident that Anne’s body is shown seated in the wide-legged posture that emphasises the curve of her belly. This pose was commonly used in medieval and renaissance images of the Virgin Mary, a visual allusion which would not have been lost on contemporary audiences. Much is made of how 1534 proved to be a humiliating year for Anne. Surely this image, like the Moost Happi medal, was commissioned during the first half of 1534 when Anne was believed to be pregnant with a healthy male heir, and therefor still greatly championed by Henry as the lawful queen of England.

    2. Kevin says:

      R stands for Rex and not Regina when we have a King! Just thought i would point that out.

      1. Claire says:

        Yes, HR was for Henricus Rex.

    3. Kevin Longman says:

      R stands for Regina when it is a Queen but Rex when it is King.

  4. Suzanne says:

    It looks like a pregnant woman..

  5. I think it very well could be . The comment about blond hair is irreverent as ALL the hair with the English hood is covered up. The R is Regina for Queen. R in male paintings stands
    Rex. – both Latin words. I think to see what Anne looked like we need to look at paintings of her daughter, Elizabeth. Elizabeth does not seem to have the shape of Henry’s face. But she does seem to be very fair like him. Sometimes, when I see women with big expressive brown eyes and long dark hair, I wonder, is that what our Anne looked like ?

    1. Christine says:

      Jean it’s true, Elizabeth had inherited her mothers long oval face, she clearly has the same bone structure and you can see Anne gazing out at us in portaits of Elizabeth, Henry looked like his mother Elizabeth of York, their faces were roundish and in old age they both looked quite jowly as they put on weight and lack of muscle tone was apparent, Henry although a Tudor by name, was more Plantaganet in looks and character, he is said to have resembled his pleasure loving grandfather Edward 1V, yet Elizabeth was slender all her life and I think Anne had she lived her full life span would also have remained very slim, she and Elizabeth were delicate boned with long slender fingers, Elizabeth had inherited Annes frame and facial shape and legendary eyes, she inherited from Henry his red gold hair and very fair skin and his autocratic manner, however her bad temper she had inherited from both her parents, it must have been quite terrifying when you consider both Anne and Henrys temper combined.

  6. Sharon Garnett says:

    Who is the other expert? I googled R E Bruyere and came up with zilch and the biography at the end about being a “rapscallion”, a joker, does not sound like a person of professional standing.

    1. Claire says:

      I think it’s a pseudonym, but I don’t know why.

      1. Sharon Garnett says:

        A pseudonym? Seriously?

        1. Claire says:

          Yes, I believe so. As I said, I don’t know why you wouldn’t use your own name for something like this.

  7. You can read my analysis the sybolism of the King’s College Chapel choirscreen (including Imperial Crowns and a screaming, disembodied image of King David’s rebellious son Absalom) published by Oxford University Press, here:
    http://www.sculptureinstone.co.uk/Notesandqueries2014.pdf

    For real Tudor trekkies, you can see each and every image on the screen recorded and described here (it was a great labour of love!):
    http://www.lucychurchill.com/userfiles/KingsCollegeChapelChoirScreenIndexofImagery.pdf

  8. Conor Byrne says:

    To me, the ‘A’ in ‘AR’ is a bit of a giveaway: Anne. I do not think the sitter can represent Anne of Cleves, because she was essentially in disgrace with her husband from the moment they met in December 1539, even before their wedding, and Henry vocally refused to consummate the union. Why, then, would Anne of Cleves be represented such? As other commentators have noted, the sitter appears pregnant. To me, it is a suggestion of Anne’s pregnancy, a portrayal of hope, a wish for the future, a longing for a male heir with which to secure the disputed succession. The portrait testifies to the closeness and love between Henry and Anne as they looked to the future and hoped for a son to join their daughter in the nursery. The article refuting this identification suggests that 1534 was not a triumphant year for Anne, but until as late as September of that year, I think she would have disagreed. She believed herself to be pregnant with the king’s son and was confident in her ability to give birth to a male heir because, as she informed her contemporaries, God had been inspired to make her queen of England. It was only later that Anne began to have doubts and concerns about her childbearing.

  9. Aynne says:

    GIven the year, the period of attire, and the initials AR, I think major indicators point that this would be Anne Boleyn. We also have reference in 1536 to a gold or yellow maternity gown that Anne wore following Katharine’s death, similar to that depicted here. GIven Anne’s patronage of the arts, it is more than understandable the artist may have chosen to portray her in this way. The crown makes the identification of AB hard to refute and the body stance/positioning is not dissimilar to Holbein’s sketch for Anne’s coronation.

  10. Dawn says:

    Hello,
    Just an observation, and apologies if this has been mentioned before…. But the ladies in the background…are they wearing French hoods? We’re they allowed during Jane Seymore’s reign?

    1. Dawn says:

      Were, not we’re. Posting from my phone.

  11. Banditqueen says:

    Wow!!!!!!!

  12. Roland H. says:

    Hello everyone,

    Thanks for your input!

    I’ve written a rebuttal to the Bruyère article, if anyone is interested:

    https://tudorfaces.blogspot.ca/2017/05/debating-anne-boleyn-as-lady-of-garter.html

    Roland Hui

    1. Clare says:

      Great rebuttal. I wonder why ‘Bruyere’ hasn’t put their real name to their article. Perhaps they lack the strength of their convictions.
      By the way, I bet Weir is spitting feathers that she didn’t discover this!

      1. Claire says:

        I kept typing Gruyere instead!
        I just don’t understand his/her reasoning. It’s not an easy thing disagreeing with someone but if you’re going to do it then I think you should be upfront and stand behind your views properly. I also think that s/he should have cited Roland’s work. S/he doesn’t even mention his name, never mind cite his article, and that’s not very professional. Sometimes I get tired of the online world…

        1. Clare says:

          It’s definitely fishy……..or maybe it’s cheesy!

        2. Claire says:

          I just can’t get my head round why the person has used a pseudonym…

  13. Miss Kitty says:

    I think its amazing if it is Anne and I think we can work out what she look like with this image and the moost hapi medal and what Elizabeth 1 looked like I’ve heard they found another face under the paint of Elizabeth 1s painting maybe that was Anne too

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