Hans Holbein the Younger: Portrait of Anne Boleyn (1533-1536)

(Royal Collection, Windsor, England)

Today a request which i got. Yesterday a painting from Jane Seymour, the third wife of Henry VIII - today a picture from Anne Boleyn, the famous second wife of King Henry VIII of England. Anne Boleyn was a daughter of Thomas Boleyn, 1st Earl of Wiltshire, and his wife, Lady Elizabeth Howard. Eventually she became maid of honour of Catherine of Aragon, the first wife of Henry VIII. She quickly gained the attention from Henry and the couple eventually married on 25 January 1533. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Cranmer, declared the marriage between Henry and his first wife Catherine of Aragon void on 23 May 1533 and the marriage between Henry and Anne good. Unfortunatly, pope Clement VII forbade the divorce between Henry and Catherine and excommunicated Henry VIII and Thomas Cranmer, declared the marriage to Catherine still legal and ordered Henry to return to Catherine. in a reaction Henry VII rejected papal authority in legal matters and parliament declared Henry "the only supreme head on earth of the Church of England". Catholics have blamed Anne for the breach between rome and the church of England almost entirely by calling her an evil witch. Her exact role is at least that she provided the occasion. Soon after the marriage a daughter was born - the future Queen Elizabeth I (1533-1603). Henry was dissappointed that the child was a girl as he wanted a son. The failure of getting a son (after Elizabeth, Anne had 3 miscarriages) caused Henry to start courting Jane Seymour. The enemies of Anne Boleyn, including Thomas Cromwell, 1st Earl of Essex and chief minister to Henry VIII, eventually caused her downfall and Anne was arrested on 2 May 1536 and was accused of adultery, incest, high treason and witchcraft. After a show-trial she was declared guilty. The official punishment of her crimes was being burned alive but Henry changed it to beheading. An expert swordsman was brought from France to perform the execution (a beheading was usually done with an axe but Henry changed it to sword, which was regarded a more noble). After her execution she was burried in an unmarked grave but  in 1876 her remains were rediscovered and she recieved a real gravemarking in the St Peter ad Vincula church in London. After her execution, Henry ordered all her images to be removed and destroyed which is the reason why we don't know the real face of Anne Boleyn. No contemporary of Anne have survived and all the images that we have today were made after her death. Historians today disagree on the surviving images which is 'the real Anne Boleyn'. This magnificent drawing was identified in 2011 with Anne but some historians (and Anne Boleyn fans) disagree. The text 'Anna Bollein Queen'(upper right corner) was added later by Secretary of State John Cheke. John Cheke became tutor to Edward VI and he added the names to the drawings of Hans Holbein for the benefit of the young prince (the drawing is part of 'the great booke’ which contains about 64 drawings of Holbein of members of the Tudor Court). Most Anne Boleyn fans regard this drawing as 'unflattering and therefore must be incorrect' - the woman has a double chin, is wearing an informal nightgown lined with fur and has a linen undercap shaped with wire over the ears and is held in place by a band of linen tied at the back. Futhermore, John Cheke made several mistakes in identifing the drawings and Anne had black or dark brown hair - the woman on the drawing has blonde hair. On the other side John Cheke must have known Anne as she was his patron. Futhermore Anne was a patron of Hans Holbein and he designed jewellery, montages and furniture for Anne. Also regarding the hair, on several other paintings, Anne also has more blonde hair - perhaps the light conditions in Tudor palaces back then caused people to mistake her hair as being darker than that is really was. On a personal note, i really like the drawings of Holbein. They show a more real face instead of the more ideal faces on later paintings. I will leave it up to you to decide if this is a real face of Anne Boleyn. This drawing is from 1533-1536.

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