Henry VIII’s gifts for Anne Boleyn

Henry VIII’s gifts for Anne Boleyn


Anne and Henry

Although after Anne Boleyn’s execution Henry VIII did everything to get rid of memories about her, one thing is certain – they were a loving couple for almost 10 years, and Henry was very much in love with Anne. In order to show his feelings towards her, he showered her with magnificent gifts, and some of them are described with details. In this article I will take a closer look on Henry’s gifts for Anne Boleyn.

For many years Anne Boleyn was Henry’s ‘wife-to-be’. Many called her king’s mistress, although she had never accepted such a title, and even refused to sleep with Henry until they were married. It seems that Anne had wrapped Henry around her finger, and he seemed to be madly in love with her. But officially Henry was still married with Catherine of Aragon, and Anne was merely the king’s fancy, or so many people who knew the king believed. So it is natural that Henry wanted to win Anne’s affections by fancy gifts. When the divorce was not going as planned, Henry used to buy Anne magnificent things only to prove to her, that he is going to marry her.

Professor Eric Ives wrote that ‘the couple were always together and Henry’s privy purse expenses show how intertwined their lives were’.[1] Henry’s privy purse accounts have survived for the years 1529-32 and they gives us an insight of the happy time they have spent together as a fiancées.

In her book ‘The Rise and Fall of Anne Boleyn’ , Retha M. Warnicke wrote ;

‘During the Christmas festivities in 1529, Henry and Catherine were once more together , presiding over a full court at Greenwich and so observers noted Anne did not make an appearance. As soon as the holidays were over, the queen departed for Richmond while the king remained at Greenwich with Anne, but by March he was once more with Catherine at Windsor in time to celebrate Easter and Whitsuntide. Perhaps in part to make up for the public attention to his consort, Henry had been presenting Anne with many gifts. His privy purse accounts, which have survived for the years 1529-32, indicate that he was spending large sums of money on her clothing and other ‘stuff’. She received material worth 200 pounds on 23 November 1529, and the sum of 100 pounds on 31 December 1529.’[2]

Anne Boleyn and Henry VIII hunting

Professor Eric Ives described how Henry’s and Anne’s relationship became more serious, and that this was reflected in amount of money that Henry spent on Anne :

‘There was also a distinct jump in the amount of money Henry spent on Anne. In both 1530 and 1531 he had paid out from his privy purse about £220 on or for Anne. In 1532 the figure jumped to £330, although that did include nearly £50 lost to her in ten days playing ‘Pope Julius’, an early version of the card game ‘Commerce’. Much of the expenditure went on clothes, and while it is anachronistic to talk of a ‘trousseau’, Anne was certainly being fitted out for the role of queen.’[4]

Innn 1531, Anne’s servant was paid  £66 13s 4d for purchasing a farm at Greenwich to ‘the use of my Lady Anne Rochford’[5]

‘The privy purse expences of King Henry the Eighth’ by Sir Nicolas Harris reveals to us what exactly Henry purchased[6] for Anne and how much did it cost him. Anne was famous for her sense of style and elegance, and Henry VIII was spending huge amounts of money for Anne’s dresses.

Very interesting notes are about Anne’s clothes, for example:

December 1530 : ‘Itm the same day paid to Adington the skynner for furres & furrying of my Lady Anne’s gownes’[7]

May 1531 : ‘Crymsin clothe of golde for my Lady Anne Rocheford’  /p.133/

June 1532 : ‘twelve yards of black satin for a night gowne for my Lady Anne’

‘Two garments are described in particular detail. One was an opensleeved cloak of black satin, lined throughout in the same material and with three and three-quarter yards of matching velvet at the collar and hem. The other was a black satin nightgown (dressing-gown), lined with black taffeta and edged with velvet. And lest we forget how striking this must have been with Anne’s dark hair, there was an equally calculated gown in green damask.’[8]

Anne Boleyn, Hever Castle

During Christmas festivities in 1531 Henry VIII paid Anne for his own Christmas present[9] but in 1532 it seems that Anne paid for present with her own money – she was now a Marquess of Pembroke, and she received 1,000 pounds a year. That Christmas Henry gave Anne ‘a matching set of hangings for her room and bed, in cloth of gold, cloth of silver and richly embroidered crimson satin’. [10] Anne gave Henry ‘exotic set of richly decorated Pyrenean boar spears’.[11]

We can easily conclude that Henry was spoiling Anne with costly gifts before she became his wife and queen. It was his way to show his affection towards Anne, but also he wanted to pacify her by wonderful gifts during the divorce case with Catherine of Aragon. Prof. Eriv Ives states that ;

‘In the two years from November 1529, the earliest for which we have his privy purse accounts, the king met individual bills on Anne’s behalf totalling nearly £750.’[12]

When Anne became Queen of England in 1533, she had her own money. What was Anne Boleyn buying when she became Queen?  I will answer in the next article.


[1] Eric Ives, The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn

[2] Retha M. Warnicke, The Rise and Fall of Anne Boleyn

[3] IBID, p. 96

[4] Eric Ives, The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn, p. 156

[5] N.Harris, E.Ives

[6] Not only for Anne Boleyn ; the book covers all the expenses from November 1529 to December 1532

[7] Sir Nicolas Harris, ‘The privy purse expences of King Henry the Eighth’, p. 101

[8] Eric Ives, The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn, p. 157

[9] N.Harris p. 101, E.Ives p. 148

[10] Eric Ives, The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn, p. 148

[11] IBID

[12] IBID, p. 217

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