Friday, March 07, 2008

Question from Alicia - "Other Boleyn Girl" accuracy, etc.

I recently saw the newm movie based on Philipa Gregory's book The Other Boleyn Girl. I was wondering how accurate this film is and what general thoughts were? Also I was curious about the head piece that Catherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn wore. I'm referring to the one that is pointed at the top. Is there any significance of this or is it just a style of the period?


  1. I haven't read the book or seen the movie, but others have commented on it over on the general blog:, and there have been questions about it submitted here, so you might search around (there is a search bar at the top of the page).

    On your other question, I think you're referring to the gable hood, which was a style that was popular in the early Tudor period. I don't think it was too popular after Henry VIII's reign, but others who know more about fashion of the period can comment in more detail.

  2. Do I recall correctly that the boxy headpiece with the pointed top and flat sides (reminiscent of a box worn sideways on the head) is sometime called a "Spanish hood" and became fashionable after Katherine of Aragon arrived in England at the turn of the 16th century?

  3. It's interesting that Katherine of Aragon is traditionally depicted in novels and art as wearing the gable/Spanish hood, while everyone thinks of Anne Boleyn wearing the French hood. There are two images I know of where Anne wears the gable look, one an alleged sketch by Holbein and the other a miniature, published in Eric Ives' Anne Boleyn. The second image, showing an Anne with an uncharacteristically round face and sort of snub nose, I always assumed to have been done after she was married.

    It seems as if the French hood was the hot trendy fashion look for young women in the 1520s. You can't even imagine someone like Katherine wearing the French hood, with its saucy revelation of the lady's actual hair. Yet perhaps she did and we just don't have an image ...?

    Jane Seymour's famous Holbein image shows her wearing the gable hood, so generations of novelists have found it easy to imagine her bringing back traditional values, old-fashioned morality in the style of Katherine of Aragon. But if she was in attendance on Anne Boleyn, she must have worn the French hood too at some point. Could the gable hood have become the respectable matron's look of the 1530s, while young girls wore the French hood?

    By the 1540s the French hood seems to have conquered young and old, respectable and otherwise. The putative portraits of Catherine Howard (by the way, there was an article in the online Times of London a couple of days ago about David Starkey identifying yet another portrait of Catherine Howard, but ph.d. historian has taught me to be wary and suspicious) show French hoods, as do Catherine Parr's. I don't recall any gable-hood portraits of ladies in the 1540s and 1550s.

    Interestingly, by the time Mary Tudor was queen, French hoods seem to have been thoroughly respectable and even dowdy by the end of the reign -- Elizabeth brought in the "new look" of the 1550s, curled hair and tiny little hats, borrowed from France like the French hood.

    ph.d. historian, that's an intriguing idea you raise about the gable look being the Spanish hood. There is a portrait of Elizabeth of York wearing the gable headdress, but with the lappets down; there's no "aetatis suae" so we can't guess her age, but perhaps, if Katherine did indeed import it into England, she is painted that way in compliment to her daughter-in-law's trend-setting fashion?

  4. I have read the book and there were many obvious historical inaccuracies. I thought it was a shame, as I didn't feel that the real story needed to be changed in any way, it's fascinating as it is. However, I thought it really brought the period to life and I did enjoy it.

  5. The article in Wikipedia explains the debate over historical accuracy fairly nicely, although it seems that Philippa Gregory herself has gone edit-happy in defending her novel in the section criticising its historical accuracy!

  6. I have not seen the film or read the book but I am interested in the Tudor period. The headress arched headress worn by catherine of Aragon is called a Gable hood and the one worn by Anne Boleyn was called a french hood.
    on the film I think that some of the scenes have been added to make it more interesting but some of it is true. M.

  7. The movie as the book is completely fictional. Gregory writes excelent historical fiction. But that is all it is, the places and the names and even events are somewhat historical

  8. I think it would be unfair to describe it as 'completely fictional'. It is based on the knowledge that we have of real events. Some of it does not follow most historians' interpretations. It is a great way of bringing these events to life.

    But parts are exaggerated and, as is necessary, a large amount of guesswork over the details is included. Gregory realy brings the period to life, but it is worrying that so many people accept historical fiction at face value. Wikipedia has had many additions on various pages about how Anne Boleyn mistreated her sister; this is not based on any historical sources.

  9. Hmm, here's an intriguing tidbit I just picked up from Maria Hayward's "Dress at the Court of King Henry VIII": "While Jane Seymour forbad her attendants to wear the French hood, no examples of the English hood (gable hood) survived in her wardrobe at her death, even though she had been painted wearing one." So what was Jane wearing on her head most of the time then?

  10. Does anyone know any websites where I could buy gable hoods, as seen in the movie?

  11. I am a BA Hons ostume degree student and all I can tell you is the pointed, box-like hat worn by Catherine of Aragon and Jane Seymour is called a Gable hood (because it looks like the gable on a house... duh.) and was very popular during this period.

    Anne Bolyn is known for wearing the French Hood which is a similar style, only ROUNDED.

    here is a link for where to buy them....




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