Affair of the necklace

Miniature of Anne Boleyn by John Hoskins

Thanks to my friend, Maria who runs her own blog about Anne Boleyn, she shared with me an article that states that the ‘B’ necklace on Anne’s portraits stands for ‘Brandon’ and not ‘Boleyn’. Quite an interesting theory, isn’t it? I’ve decided to research this theory and I found few informations.

In her book ”The Feminine Dynamic in English Art, 1485-1603”  Susan James states that famous portrait of Anne Boleyn showing her with ‘B’ pendant is Mary Tudor Brandon.  Susan James writes ,;

“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…”

What do we know about Mary Tudor Brandon’s appearance? Is there a chance she could be confused with Anne Boleyn? Well – if we will take only contemporary descriptions of both Anne and Mary, there is no chance that they were similar to each other. Mary Tudor Brandon was :

”Petite, poised and beautiful, with red-gold hair and the pale translucent complexion that usually accompanies it. She was the ideal picture of womanhood, certainly and the quintessence of Tudor beauty”. / Mary Boleyn: The True Story of Henry VIII’s Favourite Mistress /

According to contemporary sources, Anne Boleyn was quite the opposite ;

‘Madame Anne is not the handsomest women in the world , she is of middling statue, swarthy complexion, long neck, wide mouth, bosom not much raised, and (…) her eyes, which are black and beautiful’ /Venetian ambassador, 1532/

Sketch of Mary Tudor when she was Queen of France

She was also reffered by poet Sir Thomas Wyatt as a ‘Brunette’.

Susan James states that well known miniature by John Hoskins depicting Anne Boleyn is in fact, Mary Tudor Brandon and  ”jewelled “B” stood not for Boleyn but for Brandon and tha the portrait was not Henry VIII’s wife but his sister”. Susan James points out that ” It is the only picture in Charles I’s collection with Anne Boleyn’s name attached to it.”

In his book ‘The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn’ Eric Ives writes about Hoskins’ miniature ;

”Fortunately, the sequence also has the effect of corroborating a seventeenth-century miniature in thecollection of the Duke of Buccleuch and Queensberry. Charles I had this copied as ‘Anne Boleyn’ by John Hoskins the elder (c.1590–1664/5), and it is endorsed ‘from an ancient original’ . How ‘ancient’ it is impossible to say. Although the relationship to examples in the NPG pattern is evident, these were only thirty years old or perhaps less. It is more likely that Hoskins had access to an earlier image of the kind from which the NPG image originated. A full-length portrait of Anne was owned by Lord Lumley in 1590 and existed as late as 1773. Could it even be that Hoskins’ source was or was derived from a Holbein paintingnow lost?” /Eric Ives , ‘The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn’ /

Mary Tudor Brandon (left) and Anne Boleyn (right)

Hoskins’ miniature of Anne Boleyn depicts a woman with pointed chin, dark eyes, oval face, reddish hair and typical ‘B’ pendant on double strand of pearls. She may bear a certain resemblance to wedding portrait of Mary Tudor Brandon and Charles Brandon.

I think that there is no chance that ‘B’ on Anne’s portraits stands for ‘Brandon’ and not ‘Boleyn’. Here are the arguments :

-          Hoskins’ miniature was said to be  ‘don by Hoskins after an oweld pictur’ which means that this miniature was labelled as ‘Anne Boleyn’ from the very beggining ;

-          As professor Eric Ives pointed out, the miniature was endorsed ‘from an ancient original’ which means that it was probably copied from exisiting orginal portrait of Anne Boleyn, or copy of such portrait ;

-          There is plenty of portraits of Anne Boleyn, painted during Elizabeth Tudor’s reign, depicting Anne wearing a famous ‘B’ necklace ; and they are all labelled as ‘Anne Boleyn’  and not ‘Mary Tudor Brandon’

-          Mary Tudor Brandon had no reason to wear a ‘B’ pendant because in Tudor period noble men and women were known widely not by their surnames but titles ; so Charles Brandon was famous as Charles Suffolk, Duke of Suffolk, so it makes no sense why Mary Tudor Brandon would want to be portrayed with ‘B’ pendant ;

-          The similarity between portraits of Anne Boleyn and her daughter Elizabeth are astounding so it is hard to believe that the sitters is not Anne Boleyn ;


Sources :

”The Feminine Dynamic in English Art, 1485-1603”, Susan James

“The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn”, Eric Ives

 ”Mary Boleyn: The True Story of Henry VIII’s Favourite Mistress “, Josephine Wilkinson

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