Portraits of a Queen: Anne Boleyn



Anne Boleyn: Henry VIII’s Second Wife

anne-boleyn-medalAnne Boleyn was the famous, or infamous, second wife of Henry VIII (depending on how you look at it).  They wed in 1533, after many years of awaiting a divorce from Rome. After years of waiting, Henry became the Head of the Church of England and was able to end his marriage from Katherine of Aragon in order to wed his new love, Anne Boleyn. Anne was pregnant with Elizabeth when they were married.

Following the official meeting with the French king in autumn of 1532, Henry and Anne went through a secret marriage, it is thought, on 25 January 1533. She was pregnant at the time as Elizabeth was born in September.  The marriage may sound bigamous in that as far as everyone else in England and Europe were aware, Henry was still married to Katherine. No formal statements had been made to change that. But from Henry’s point of view, that marriage was about to be annulled and that wouldn’t mean that his first marriage was then terminated but that the marriage had never been real in the first place – so he was therefore really a bachelor and thus free to marry for the first time. – Anne Boleyn: Triumph to Failure

Three short years later Anne was dead and their daughter, the Princess Elizabeth, now a bastard.

After the execution of Anne Boleyn, Henry had all traces of her image wiped from history. The only image that remains is the damaged coin shown above. Even the coin was not safe. However, the coin was struck during her lifetime and can be used to compare to all the portraits below.

My gut tells me that the Nidd Hall portrait (#14), which has been compared to her image on a damaged coin, is the real Anne. The final image posted here (#20) which is a sketch by Holbein the Yonger, I believe, could also be a close resemblance.

Just for fun I’ve numbered the images – tell me which one(s) you think may be the real Anne.

#1 – Artist: Unknown @ Blickling Hall
#2 – Courtesy Hever Castle
Anne Boleyn
#3 – Artist: Uknown
Anne Boleyn
#4 – The Hever Portrait
#5 – NPG 668; © National Portrait Gallery, London
Anne Boleyn
#6 – Hans Holbein the Younger; Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2014
 Anne Boleyn
#7 – Artist: Unknown; NPG 4980(15); © National Portrait Gallery, London
English School Anne Boleyn main
#8 – English School; Copyright Philip Mould Ltd.
historical portraits image library anne boleyn
#9 – Anglo-Flemish School; Copyright Philip Mould Ltd.
#10 – Henry Pierce Bone (1779-1855); Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2015
anne boleyn 10
#11 – Artist/maker: Holbein, Hans (II) Copyright: © V&A Images.
anne boleyn 11
#12 – Artist/maker: G. Smeeton; Copyright: © V&A Images
anne boleyn 12
#13 – Artist/maker: Holbein, Hans (II); Copyright: © V&A Images
#14 – The Nidd Hall Portrait; Artist: Unknown
#15 – RCIN 600883; Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2014
#16 – Bocquet, E.; Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2014
#17 – Henry Thomas Ryall; RCIN 600874; Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2014
#18 – Unknown artist, inscribed Lucas Cornelli
#19 – Attributed to John Hoskins
By Hans Holbein the Younger
#20 – Hans Holbein the Younger

Anne Boleyn History Queens

17 Comments Leave a comment

  1. I believe #20, the Holbein portrait is most likely a true likeness. His beautiful,delicate line drawings show his observational skills. He obviously studied the proportions of her features and is one of histories greatest artists. His style, alone, demands precision and since he was doing a rendering of the queen, he is sure to have been careful to create a portrait true to her face.

  2. The interesting thing to me is that they all look extremely similar. I like to think that they all have aspects of Anne in them. My personal favourite is #3, not because it might be the most a curate but because she looks like the intelligent, not-quite-beautiful woman she was reported to be.

  3. Holbein was known for creating portraits that idealised the sitter – look at the Anne of Cleeves debacle (when she was found not to match the beauty of her portrait and Henry VIII repudiated her). #20 could therefore very well be Anne.

  4. Number 20 is not Anne Boleyn. It’s easy to date this image from 1535 at the earliest due to the length of the hood lappets which are almost at mouth level. In 1535, Anne Boleyn was 34 years old and the woman in this sketch is much younger…plus the neck is too short and too thick…

  5. I think 20, for some reason I always think of her like that image , but who knows maybe they will find a original someday somewhere hidden …..

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