Monday, June 01, 2009

Question from Katie - More on pearls from Anne's "B" necklace

I've got a real interest in Anne Boleyn and have been really fascinated by some of the things some light research has shown up. One thing I'm really curious about is that as I understand it the 3 pearls from Anne Boleyn's famous "B" necklace today reside in the Queen Elizbeth crown. Does anyone know how they came to be there, i.e. who chose that they should be included? or if they were previously anywhere else? Many Thanks.

[Note - related previous threads below]


PhD Historian said...

May I ask for clarification? There is a crown among the Crown Jewels known as "The Crown of Queen Elizabeth." It was made for the coronation of George V and his wife Queen Elizabeth (later the Queen Mother). It is no longer worn.

Then there are the several crowns worn by Queen Elizabeth II, including St Edward's Crown and the Imperial State Crown.

I assume you mean the Imperial State Crown, worn by the Queen when she presides at the opening of Parliament. It has four pendant pearls suspended beneath the junction of the arches. Two or more (depending on who is telling the story) of those pearls are rumored to have been worn by Queen Elizabeth I. However, the crown was made in 1838 for Queen Victoria, and it was a time in British history when many of the enduring myths and legends were originally invented. Since there is no documentation to link any of the pearls to Elizabeth Tudor, it is very likely that the story is just another colorful Victorian myth.

In fact, when the Imperial State Crown was described by Professor Tennant of King's College in his presentation to the London and Middlesex Archaeological Society on 7 July 1858, the professor described the four pearls in great detail ("four large pendant pear-shaped pearls, with rose diamond caps, containing twelve rose diamonds, and stems containing twenty-four very small rose diamonds"), yet he made no mention of any connection to either Elizabeth Tudor or Anne Boleyn.* Given the near-obsession held by the early Victorians for Tudor history, one would assume that any known connection between the pearls and Elizabeth Tudor or Anne Boleyn would have been noted by Professor Tennant. In all likelihood, the story was invented later in the 19th century.

And since the disposition of Anne Boleyn's B necklace has never been definitively documented, I do not see how it is possible to connect its pendant pearls to the pearls in the Imperial State Crown. The solid evidence simply is not there.

*Transactions of the London and Middlesex Archaeological Society,Vol. I (1860), 243-244.

PhD Historian said...

Oops ... that should have said "George VI and his wife."

Foose said...

In her new book, The Feminine Dynamic in English Art, 1485-1603, Susan James (best known as the premier biographer of Katherine Parr) comes up with an astonishing argument that the "B" necklace in Anne's portraits may actually be a necklace worn by Mary "Rose" Tudor (Brandon -- hence, B for Brandon) -- and that the portraits actually show Mary, either as the original subject or a slightly altered "pattern" renamed "Anne Boleyn." (This may relate to Nassim's inquiry about a month or so ago.)

Speaking of the later 16th century, James says "Although there were no firmly authenticated portraits of Jane Grey or Anne Boleyn known to copyists, a pool of portraits of unidentified women dating from the reign of Henry VIII still existed. As was common, these original paintings were not labelled and ... the identities of the sitters were generally problematic. Yet for copyists in need of an image, clues within and without seem to have encouraged them to arrive at speculative identifications. The face pattern generally chosen for Jane Grey was Kateryn Parr and the face pattern chosen for Anne Boleyn was Mary Rose Tudor..."

Specifically citing the Hoskins miniature (featuring the B necklace with 3 pearls, the fourth image listed of Anne Boleyn on Lara's site), James explains "It is the only picture in Charles I's collection with Anne Boleyn's name attached to it." Apparently Lady Bedford identified it on giving it to the king, based "in all likelihood on the early date of the painting and on the initial 'B' around the sitter's neck. Yet it is far more probable given the painting's original provenance [Lady Bedford's husband was the executor of the will of the granddaughter-in-law of Mary "Rose" Tudor] that the jewelled "B" stood not for Boleyn but for Brandon and tha the portrait was not Henry VIII's wife but his sister ..."

The woman in Hoskins' portrait, with her noticeably red hair and receding chin, does closely resemble the woman in the "double portrait" of Mary Tudor and Charles Brandon. If you look at other portraits of Anne wearing the B necklace, it seems credible that they are in fact doctored versions of a Mary "Rose" Tudor portrait pattern.

So this is a bit off the track, but possibly the "B" necklace with the three pearls is not a Boleyn necklace but a Brandon one. In which case -- perhaps a search should be undertaken among Brandon descendants? Or perhaps Brandon's fourth wife, Katherine Willoughby, received the necklace -- she was a "B" too, by her marriage, and possibly passed it on to her Bertie descendants? Alternatively, Brandon was still massively in debt to Henry when Mary "Rose" died -- perhaps he transferred the necklace or the pendant pearls back to the crown?

Colleen said...

Off the track or not, Foose, that's absolutely fascinating! I might have to find that book soon.

Roland H. said...

I think James' theory is far fetched to say the least. The wedding picture of Mary Tudor was hardly of an 'unknown woman' to be labelled as Anne Boleyn.

Also, based on the many B necklace type portraits of Anne done in the Elizabethan era, Lady Bedford would probably have known of them, and so she rightly called the Hoskins miniature 'Anne Boleyn.

Elizabeth M. said...

Could it also be possible that both women wore initial pendants? Whether or not Anne started the fashion, they seemed to be popular. perhaps both wore them.
Also there is a miniature of Anne Boleyn, at Loseley Hall--here is a link to it--

This miniature shows her with a Hand A pendant intertwined. Her dress is also slightly different, without the pearls on the neckline. This may not be a contemporary portrait, but the pendant is distinctive. Was this in her archive of jewelry for a later artist to make an image of for this picture, or is this based on an original? We will probably never know. Personally, I love this miniature--she is not beautiful in this picture, but it has an attitude and aura about it.

KatieB said...

Many Thanks for your comments. I think PhD Historian is right in that the crown I had read could be associated with the pearls was the imperial state crown. The story sounded unlikely but intriguing to me - hence why I posted the question, however it seems that there isn't any evidence to support this story afterall. Would it be a fair comment to say that this necklace is something people commonly recognise as being associated with Anne Boleyn? I've also got the feeling from reading other comments that Anne may have had some influence in customising it - fascinating that it is still being talked about today!

PhD Historian said...

I wrote a long response to Foose's and Roland's posts, but it seems not to have made it through the Internet ether, so I will try again. I have to disagree with Dr James's conclusion regarding the "B" necklace, as presented by Foose, and agree with Roland's assessment.

During the Tudor period, the overwhelming majority of those holding titles of nobility presented themselves publicly by their title, not by their familial surname. Charles Brandon was known to his contemporaries as Charles Suffolk, Henry Grey as Henry Dorset (later Suffolk), William Parr as William Northampton, John Dudley as John Warwick (later Northumberland). And each of these men, as well as their noble peers, signed their names using their title, not their surname. And for the most part, their wives did the same. Frances Brandon consistently signed her name Frances Dorset (or Suffolk); Katherine Willoughby Brandon signed her name Katherine Suffolk, etc. (The single exception of which I am aware is Katherine Parr, who often signed using her maiden surname, even after becoming queen.)

That we refer to them today by their familial surnames is entirely anachronistic and a concession of convenience to modern nomenclature. It is inaccurate for the Tudor-era context.

Further, these individuals were known to the larger public, beyond the court, by their titles rather than by their surnames. The title became their surname, in effect.

In the case of Anne Bolyen, her family had no title until just a few short months before she became queen. She herself became Marchioness of Pembroke barely six months before her marriage. She would therefore have been known throughout her life prior to her marriage as simply and only "Anne Boleyn." The "B" initial necklace is therefore entirely appropriate for her.

In terms of portraiture, the visual clues provided to the viewer had to be easily understood, otherwise the entire purpose of creating the portrait was lost. It would therefore have been completely inconsistent with Tudor convention for a sitter in a portrait to use an initial necklace that represented their familial surname rather than their titular name. I cannot myself imagine Mary Tudor Brandon using a "B" initial necklace as a clue to her identity in a portrait. It makes no logical sense to me. If anything, she would have used an "S" initial necklace.

James is simply wrong in stating that "no firmly authenticated portrait of Jane Grey ... [was] known to copyists." An authentic life portrait of Jane Grey was known, and I have been able to track it from the 1550s down to the end of the 18th century. And while it is true that a pre-set facial pattern was used in the later portraiture of Elizabeth Tudor, I must disagree with Dr James when she generalizes this particular practice to say that posthumous portraits of Jane Grey were "patterned" on extant portraits of Katherine Parr and those of Anne Boleyn on Mary Tudor's portraits. I believe her argument is a circular one that serves largely to reinforce her own earlier conclusions. If any one conclusion in her circle proves false, her entire bubble bursts.

As regards the Boleyn/Brandon portrait and the Bedford connection, I fail to see how Lord Bedford's standing as executor to the will of Mary Tudor Brandon's granddaughter-in-law serves as evidence that the sitter is Mary rather than Anne. When coupled with my argument regarding the use of initials (above), it seems to me that we must trust that Lady Bedford was correct in identifying the sitter as Anne Boleyn. The evidence drawn from the executor connection is just too flimsy, in my opinion, to override Lady Bedford's identification. I agree completely with Roland in this regard.

Denise said...

The "B" has always struck me as very modern. Most portraits have more subtle imagery like animals from their crests, and the letter seems so bold. Also, I never understood why she would pick B rather than A because I wouldn't have thought Boleyn would have been worth emphasizing. The H and A in the miniature is more in line with what I would expect.

Foose said...

I have a question actually about Anne's surname. Some sources indicate that Anne was referred to as "the lady Anne Rochford" after her father was promoted to Viscount Rochford/Earl of Wiltshire, through her promotion to Marchioness of Pembroke and subsequent marriage to the king. The usual interpretation is that she did this to add a certain toney Norman baronial flavor to her background, perhaps to go with her newly enhanced pedigree, as the name Boleyn/Bullen smacked of the vulgar middle class.

My first question -- could you do this back then? I've never read of another case in Tudor times where someone was promoted to the nobility and changed their surname. People did change their names, to secure an inheritance, but I think it was necessary to go through legal channels, and I don't recall any mention of a formal change of name by the Boleyns/Rochfords. However, Tudor usage was somewhat loose -- Stephen Gardiner seems to have been addressed in his earlier career as "Master Stephens." I assume that the Boleyns hoped to make the Rochford usage permanent by simply dinning it into people's heads by repeated usage.

The second question -- if Anne was set on being known as the "Lady Anne Rochford," would it be reasonable that she might have commissioned initial jewelry involving the letter R? I've never read of any in the standard sources, however.

Per Mary "Rose" Tudor using the B for Brandon -- there might have been a strategy there. She was the mother of a family of Brandons -- not a noble name before her marriage to Charles Brandon -- who would represent a collateral royal line (at that point her son seemed likely to survive). Perhaps she may have adopted the B necklace as part of a campaign to display an inverse pride in spousal choice and to lay the groundwork for a future dynasty -- possibly utilizing the example of her grandmother Margaret Beaufort, a royal lady also married to a man whose surname and antecedents were less than aristocratic, but who was able through her own background and influence to promote the succession of her son. She may have signed herself Margaret R, but her son before Bosworth was "Harry Tydder of base descent."

Roland H. said...

Contrary to what Susan James assumes, it was not Lady Bedford who identified the John Hoskins miniature as 'Anne Boleyn' to Charles I. Lady Bedford didn't need to as the miniature was meant to be of Anne when Hoskins painted it.

Charles I's art surveyor, Abraham van der Doort, who recorded the King's art collection sometime after 1625 said that the miniature was 'don by Hoskins after an oweld pictur' - that is 'an old picture'. See: 'Portrait Miniatures From the Collection of the Duke of Buccleuch' by S. Lloyd, 1996.

Thus, the miniature was based on a painting, one of the Elizabethan types (many which still survive) of Anne Boleyn wearing the B-necklace. All these were known as her, NOT anyone else; for example, Mary Tudor, the French Queen).

Therefore, Susan James' statement that Lady Bedford supposedly and wrongly identified it on her own is incorrect. From the very beginning, the miniature was conceived of as Anne Boleyn as it was copied from a known painting of her.

Yes, the version of Anne at Loseley Hall does show a unique ‘HA’ pendant instead of a ‘B’, but I think that was just artist being ‘creative.’ Stylistically, it’s not Elizabethan, but a later work.

Phd Historian also made a good point before about so called 'likenesses' between different sitters. This is a tricky area as these are based on personal opinions, which differ from person to person.

A few years ago, Susan James did an article stating that Holbein's so-called miniature of Queen Katheryn Howard was actually Margaret Douglas (Mary Queen of Scots' mother-in-law) based on some perceived likeness. Frankly, it was hard to see. The portrait is still more or less referred to as 'Katheryn Howard'.

If Susan James can dig up a jewel inventory stating that Mary Tudor owned a golden B initial pendant with 3 drop pearls, (or a lost painting of Mary wearing one) - then she has a case. But for now, it’s just a theory that's hard to take seriously.

Just because Anne’s portraits are posthumous, I don’t see a reason to reject them as false if nothing obvious indicates that they are. The original picture is simply lost - it happens.

Foose said...

James does say that on one copy of van der Doort's list regarding the minature, it's referred to one side as "Anne Boleyn" and the other side as "Jane Seymour." (B for Seymour is very puzzling.)

Regarding the initial necklace, which apparently should be referred to as a "cipher pendant," James goes on to say that "Anne Boleyn owned a jewelled 'A', an 'HA,' and an RA'" [Regina Anna?]", while Jane Seymour owned an IH." [Iana Henry?] "... Were Anne Boleyn to have worn an initial jewel in a portrait, it is far more likely that, like her three successors as Henry's consort" [she means Jane, Kathryn Howard and Katherine Parr], she would have chosen to be painted wearing an 'H' for Henry, emphasizing her royal status, or an 'A' for Anne rather than 'B' for Boleyn. This was the period fashion ... Even if Anne's portrait had been painted before she was queen, fashion dictated ... a jeweled 'A' for Anne rather than a surname cypher."

Roland H, thanks for the tip about Margaret Douglas. James very briefly addresses the issue and refers readers to her article in Apollo magazine, which I shall track down.

Thank you and Phd Historian for your perspectives. I brought up the arguments in this book not to annoy people but because I thought James' analysis interesting and something I haven't come across before. I have to say it's a fascinating book, well worth reading, and I think she may have a real point about the particular Hoskins miniature being Mary Rose Tudor, although it's based purely on what I think is the clear resemblance between it and the Brandon marriage portrait. I am uneasy about her suggestion that all extant Anne Boleyn-attributed portraits are copies of an original Mary Rose Tudor "pattern." James makes some other claims which I have issues with -- most inflammatory for readers of this blog may be her assertion that the woman in Elizabeth I's "double portrait ring," usually thought to be Anne Boleyn, may in fact be Katherine Parr.

Lara said...

Foose - I have a copy of the Apollo article. It's a PDF I made from a photo copy, so it's not of spectacular quality, but it is readable. Drop me a line if you want me to send it to you.

Foose said...

Thanks for sending me the link to the article! The discussion of the portrait of Kathryn Howard actually being Margaret Douglas is very interesting -- although I don't think the case is conclusive -- and the identification of the Sir Thomas Seymour miniature is also fascinating.

Janine said...

I think Ms. James being an expert on Catherine Parr is geting to her head.

Since she thinks that the portrait of Anne Boleyn in the locket ring is Catherine, the next thing you know, she'll be saying that the pictures of Anne wearing the B pendant are Catherine Parr too - 'B' standing for 'Borough'. Catherine Parr was Lady Borough at her 1st marriage.

Sorry if I have to roll my eyes.

Lara said...

You're welcome Foose!

Anonymous said...

Besides the standard 'B' pendant, and the Losely Hall HA one, there is another supposed portrait of Anne Boleyn, called the Nidd Hall portrait, in which the pendant is an 'AB'. In the group portrait known as The Family of Henry VIII, painted when the future Queen Elizabeth was about ten, I have read that she is wearing an 'A' pendant, although the only images I can find on the internet are too fuzzy to make it out. If she is wearing one, it seems likely that she inherited it from her mother. There's no reason Anne Boleyn couldn't have had several of them, as they were apparently fashionable during her lifetime.

GoldenAged said...

James got her identification of the portrait previously known as "Lady Jane Grey" from a list of inventory of the Queens jewels, that of Katherine Parr. Her argument for it being Parr has to do with the cornet shaped brooch on the front of her bodice. The necklaces she wears also resemble that of Katherine Howard and Jane Seymour's portraits. The fact that the portrait was known as "Lady Jane Grey" for such a long time has been what she is thought to have looked like and engravings and post-humus portraits have been done that resemble that very portrait over and over again. There is a site that examines these matters; it's called "Some Grey Matter." It is worth checking out. -- As for pearls of Queen Elizabeth being part of the Imperial Crown, on the official site for the monarchy you can find this statement, "This crown incorporates many famous gemstones, including the diamond known as the Second Star of Africa (the second largest stone cut from the celebrated Cullinan Diamond), the Black Prince’s Ruby, the Stuart Sapphire, St Edward’s Sapphire and Queen Elizabeth’s Pearls." Is that Queen Elizabeth I?