Posted By claire on May 27, 2010
My trip to Hampton Court Palace last week enabled me to check on something that I had read in Alison Weir’s “Henry VIII: The King and His Court”. In that book, Weir writes of how Anne Boleyn had three initial pendants: her famous B necklace, an AB necklace and an A necklace, and points out that her A necklace can be seen around the neck of her daughter, Elizabeth, in “The Family of Henry VIII” painting at Hampton Court Palace.
Now, in the past I have tried to zoom in on photos of the portrait, but was unable to make out the “A”, it just looked like a jewelled pendant similar to the one that Elizabeth wears in the portrait of her as a teenager. So, you can imagine my delight when I spotted the original Whitehall Family Portrait at Hampton Court Palace! It’s a huge painting and standing in front of it you can easily identify Elizabeth’s pendant as a definite”A”, there’s no mistaking it for a jewelled pendant when it’s there in all its glory right in front of you.
Why the “A” Pendant?
But why the “A” pendant? Why is Elizabeth wearing her disgraced mother’s necklace in this portrait which Henry VIII commissioned to show his happy and perfect family? Well, I came up with four possible reasons:-
- Elizabeth inherited the necklace from her mother Anne Boleyn and wore it to feel close to her. She may have worn the necklace on a regular basis and so had it on at the time that she posed for the painting.
- The artist added the pendant to the portrait as a tribute to Anne Boleyn.
- Elizabeth wore it in defiance to show she was proud of who she was.
- Henry VIII ordered the pendant to be worn or painted on to show that Elizabeth was the daughter of the fallen Anne Boleyn – This, combined with her position on the very edge of the painting, could symbolise her distance from the succession.
You may come up with another possible reason so please do share in the comments below. It’s hard for us to know why Elizabeth is depicted in Anne’s necklace when we just don’t know what happened to Anne Boleyn’s jewellery. It may well have been passed on to her daughter, but it could also have been melted down or recycled and re-cut for Jane Seymour and Henry’s subsequent wives. Just as we see costumes and jewellery being re-used in “The Tudors”, Henry VIII may have seized Anne’s jewellery when she fell and put it to good use – waste not want not!
I hope that Elizabeth did inherit her mother’s jewels. I would like to think of the teenage Elizabeth going to a secret place with her special jewellery box and thinking of her mother. Her mother was so cruelly torn from her and it would be good to think that she had something, however small, to remind her of Anne.
As I stood there in Hampton Court Palace, just a day after touching Anne Boleyn’s memorial tile on the anniversary of her execution, I was deeply moved by Elizabeth standing there in front of me with Anne’s necklace on. I felt immensely proud of Elizabeth and the woman she grew up to be. She may have portrayed herself as her father’s daughter, “the lion’s cub”, in her propaganda, but I have no doubt that she was proud to be the daughter of Anne Boleyn.