Anne Boleyn was discovered responsible of adultery, incest and conspiracy – all, nearly actually, false fees trumped up by Henry VIII – after which executed. For hundreds of years, her status was that of a scheming seducer.
Now Anne is being recast as a deeply non secular lady who, removed from plotting to develop into Henry’s second spouse, bade her time for six years as a lady-in-waiting to the king’s consort, Catherine of Aragon. She intentionally by no means consummated her relationship with Henry till their “unofficial” marriage in November 1532 – simply two months earlier than their formal wedding ceremony.
An exhibition at Hever Castle in Kent of the prayer books of each Anne and Catherine, introduced collectively for the primary time in practically 500 years, together with analysis by its co-curator, Kate McCaffrey, exhibits the 2 girls had a lot in widespread moderately than being “love rivals”. Each discovered solace in godly devotion, and Anne was extremely revered by Catherine, in response to the findings.
This view is backed by Professor Suzannah Lipscomb, whose guide, Six Queens: The Wives of Henry VIII, might be printed later this 12 months. “For hundreds of years, there was this alleged rivalry,” she writes within the exhibition catalogue. “The truth is, there have been many extra similarities in these clever, educated and decided girls, whose studying favoured expression of their piety.
“Catherine’s faith is usually used as a code for dutiful dullness whereas Anne is seen as a horny siren to whom God meant little. This isn’t correct.”
Throughout three years of analysis on the 2 queens, McCaffrey examined their particular person books of hours, which included prayers, psalms and scriptures that they learn at set hours of the day. Each had been printed in Paris in 1527. Anne’s, misplaced for a few years, was purchased in 1910 by the American-born magnate William Waldorf Astor who had simply develop into Hever’s proprietor. Catherine’s was bought by the financier John Pierpont Morgan, additionally within the early twentieth century. The Morgan library in New York has lent it for the Hever exhibition.
“However there are variations in these books,” says McCaffery. “Anne’s is healthier high quality and extra colourfully embellished, which exhibits her as the approaching lady. It’s fairly attainable that Henry himself gifted it to her.”
Anne even took her guide of hours to her execution, handing it to a lady-in-waiting simply earlier than the sword struck her neck. It comprises a number of inscriptions of her personal within the margins, together with one the place she wrote: “Keep in mind me if you do pray that hope dothe led from daily.”
McCaffrey’s analysis with ultra-violet gentle and photo-editing software program additionally reveals names of a number of native household buddies to whom her guide of hours was handed for safekeeping to protect the reminiscence of Anne.
Catherine had been raised in a fervently Catholic household because the daughter of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain. Anne spent a lot of her youth in France earlier than returning to her household residence of Hever. As youngsters, each realized languages, humanism, literature and theology.
An irony is that Catherine and Anne had their books printed by the identical French writer in the identical 12 months, although Catherine was a religious Catholic and Anne grew to become very a lot concerned in establishing the Church of England. She launched Henry to the works of William Tyndale, the biblical scholar, who argued that kings had been accountable to God, not the pope.
Whereas it’s thought that Anne agreed, in precept, in 1527 to marry Henry, she was in all probability cautious, as her older sister Mary had already had an affair with the king. “Watching her develop into the king’s mistress after which be unceremoniously forged apart influenced Anne’s resolution to carry out,” says McCaffrey.
The long-time misrepresentation of Anne comes from historical past books in addition to portrayals on tv and in movies corresponding to Charlotte Rampling in Henry VIII and his Six Wives from 1972 or Natalie Portman in The Different Boleyn Woman. The newest, and extra nuanced, portrayal was by Claire Foy in Wolf Corridor.
“The scholarly narratives of the Victorian period perpetuated the sinner Anne versus the saint Catherine thought,” says McCaffrey. “Demonising Anne was not laborious due to the scandalous fees towards her, and Anne because the bewitching temptress is extra compelling.”
The Hever exhibition additionally features a beforehand unseen panel portrait of Catherine and replicas of the coronation robes of the queens. Each McCaffrey and Lipscomb hope all of the works and new analysis will present how a lot the 2 girls had in widespread, regardless of being love rivals as Queen and Queen in ready.