Monday, May 04, 2009

Question from Katlyn R. - Contemporary description of George Boleyn

I know that there are no portraits definitively identified as being of George Boleyn - but are there any that are thought to be "maybe" of him? Likewise, are there any contemporary descriptions of his looks?


  1. There are no known portraits of George Boleyn. He was said to be a ladies' man, so we can at least assume he was good looking.

  2. I find it rather odd that there are no portraits , or description of George Boleyn, considering that he was a noble man who held a high office. I often wonder how George looked, and how Elizabeth Boleyn looked. We know that Mary had light brown to blond hair, and Anne had dark brown hair like her father. But there is no accounts of how Anne's mother, or brother looked. HMM?

  3. Though there are no contemporary descriptions of Elizabeth Boleyn as to the color of her hair and eyes, she was nevertheless supposed to be one of the great beauties of the court in her youth. So much so that there were stories that Henry VIII bedded her in addition to her daughters, an accusation he sheepishly denied in his middle age--"Never the mother."

  4. Are there any descriptions of her looks? I know that the well-known portrait is of her. Even in Starkey's 'Elizabeth', he describes Anne Boleyn as having auburn hair (as in her portrait) when the only contemporary description that comes to mind described her hair as dark.

    Are there any contemporary descriptions of Elizabeth Boleyn, even saying that she was 'a great beauty?' I know there were, probably unfounded, rumours of Henry's affair with Elizabeth, but he didn't always go for attractive women! Are there any descriptions of Thomas Boleyn? Although we have a portrait of him, as hair, eye and skin colour were often changed to meet the time's physical ideal, it is hard to know if it was a good likeness.

    On the speculative front, I always imagine George as looking like a male version of Anne, probably because they seem to have had similar personalities and not based on any evidence.

  5. The only description I ever found of Elizabeth Boleyn was from April 14, 1536 (about 15 days before her daughter's fall), when she was reported "sore diseased with the cough, which grieves her sore." It's in one of the Lisle letters.

    It's tempting to assume the cough was a symptom of a disease which killed her a couple of years later (tuberculosis?), and it may have lent point to Anne's reported remark in the Tower, "O, my mother, thou wilt die of sorrow."

    On the other hand, Lady Wiltshire might have just had the flu.

  6. Since Henry VIII had portraits of Kathryn Howard destroyed after her execution, I wonder if the same might have been done with portraits of the Boleyns.

    Not only are there no known portraits of George, his wife Lady Rochford, or Elizabeth, but the Holbein painting long thought to be Thomas is now identified by some art historians as one of his relatives.

    The Holbein drawings identified as Anne may be of Thomas Wyatt's sister and possibly another woman. The lovely painting of Anne thought to have been done from life may have been in the possession of Thomas and Elizabeth (my speculation) where Henry might not have had access to it.

  7. Which painting is that, Lucretia?

  8. It's the painting at Hever Castle shown on the Anne Boleyn page on this site. I remember that it used to be considered a posthumous portrait, but scientific analysis showed that it was painted during her lifetime, and that the NPG painting above it and a similar one were later copies. Sorry, I can't remember the source for that information at the moment.

  9. In regard to my earlier comment about the possible destruction of portraits of the Boleyns, I should have said that any destruction of paintings of Jane, Lady Rochford, would have occurred after the fall of Kathryn Howard, rather than the Boleyns.


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