Sunday, May 16, 2010

Question from Bron - Anne Boleyn as proxy at Frances Brandon's christening, etc.

Anne Boleyn apparently served as Queen Katherine of Aragon and her daughter Mary’s proxy, when they were asked to be godparents @ the christening of Lady Frances Brandon in 1517 and were unable to attend. Lady Frances Brandon, Duchess of Suffolk, was the second child and eldest daughter of Charles Brandon, 1st Duke of Suffolk and Mary Tudor, dowager Queen of France and sister of Henry VIII. Frances went on to become the mother of Lady Jane Grey.

The christening may have been @ Hatfield.

How is it possible that Anne Boleyn could have served as a proxy for the Queen of England and the Princess at the christening of a daughter of the Dowager Queen of France? Surely Anne was no more than a lady in waiting at the time, and a very young lady at that?

This raises some questions.

We are often told that the Boleyn family was mercenary, low-bred and ambitious: Anne has been described as a grocer’s daughter. But there is a most interesting web site, classing people throughout history on a comparative and contemporary scale of monetary worth. I include the following snippet:

Sir Geoffrey Boleyn
Richest of the Rich position (in the whole history of the world): 206
Birth/Death: died 1463
Origin of wealth: Land
Wealth: £10,000
Net National Income: £3.5m
Net National Income Percent: 0.28%
In Today's Money: £3.107 billion

He died 'a great rich man' according to Leland, a contemporary chronicler. The official extent after his death showed that, apart from his London property and Norfolk manor, he had other manors in Kent and Sussex.

See: The Richest of the Rich, by Philip Beresford and William D. Rubinstein, Harriman House, 2007.

So, it may have been that Anne was an extraordinarily wealthy young lady in waiting. But, while she may have been a member of a particularly wealthy family, there is no indication that her family was politically prominent at that time, above and beyond all other young ladies in waiting. Why would Anne have been nominated at a proxy for the Queen and the Princess?

My question is, is this story true? And if it is true, I may have to rethink how I see Anne Boleyn within the context of the Tudor court.

There has been some debate about which sister was the elder. It seems to me Anne may have been the elder sister. Various birthdates have been given for Anne, from 1499, 1500, 1501, 1502, 1503, 1504, to 1507. Much of this debate is based upon speculation regarding at what age a girl might have had the strength of character to withstand the King’s advances. It is unlikely a very young girl would have had these skills. An Italian historian writing in 1600 suggested 1499 as a birth date.

Mary c.1499/1504 -19/30 July, 1543
Anne c.1501-19 May 1536 @ Tower of London: (M. Pembroke/Queen of England)
George, 2° Viscount Rochford c.1504/06-17 May, 1536 @ Tower of London
(Also a Thomas and a Henry who died young)

So, if Anne were the Queen’s representative at this christening in 1517, she must then have travelled abroad, prior to her return in 1522. I add, without confidence, the suggestion that when Mary Tudor married the 52-year-old King Louis XII at Abbeville at the age of 18 on 9 October 1514, that one of her Maids of Honour who attended her in France was Anne Boleyn. Mary was described by the Venetian Ambassador as "a Paradise—tall, slender, grey-eyed, possessing an extreme pallor". Was this prior relationship between Mary and Anne influential?


Elizabeth M. said...

It is doubtful that Anne was the proxy, for at the time, she was in France in the service of Queen Claude.
The proxy could very well have been her mother, Elizabeth Howard Boleyn, who was in service with Queen Catherine of Aragon, and as a daughter of the 2nd Duke of Norfolk and sister to the third, would have had the noble rank required of such a proxy.

Kathy said...

According to Walter Richardson in Mary Tudor: The White Queen, p. 211, the stand-ins for the godmothers, Queen Catherine and Princess Mary, were represented by a "Lady Boleyn" and Elizabeth Grey, the former probably being Lady Anne Boleyn, the aunt of Henry's future queen, who was married to Edward Boleyn and a favorite of Queen Catherine. Mary had two attendants both named Elizabeth Grey. I'm sure one of them was the other stand-in, but I don't think there is any way of determining which one.

This wasn't exactly an emergency christening -- there is no evidence the baby was in danger of dying, but they did try to christen babies within three days after birth if at all possible. As Frances was born unexpectedly while Mary was at Hatfield, they would have simply gotten the highest ranking stand-ins possible for Catherine and Mary.

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much! I am very grateful. Was totally confused.

Katja Stroke-Adolphe said...

I think that Anne was probably younger than Mary.