Elizabeth and the Mystery of the A Necklace

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:-

  1. 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.
  2. The artist added the pendant to the portrait as a tribute to Anne Boleyn.
  3. Elizabeth wore it in defiance to show she was proud of who she was.
  4. 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!

Anne Boleyn wearing an "A" and "H" pendant

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.


23 Responses to “Elizabeth and the Mystery of the A Necklace”

  1. Robin Ulrich says:

    Wow.. This is moving.. I got chills.. So many things are uncertain, but I do feel that she loved her mother, no matter what. Elizabeth was smart.. She knew how to survive!!

  2. Anne Barnhill says:

    I like to believe she wore her mother’s jewelry, what few pieces she might have gotten, maybe from Sir Thomas before he died. The necklace could have been one she had before she even met Henry, something given to her in France or who knows? And I believe she would have worn it both to keep her mother’s place close to her heart and perhaps to remind Henry of the woman he both loved and murdered. I know that the loss of a mother to a daughter is an enormous wound that never really heals. There is a revealing book about this subject which I can’t remember the title of, but I read it and could see how such an event shapes a daughter’s entire life. I see this in my grandaughter, who lost her own mother at age 5.

  3. Sheena says:

    I would like to think that Elizabeth did get some of her mother’s jewelry from her Boleyn relations. I am sure that anything that Henry had given Anne was confiscated, so anything that Anne had left had to be from prior to her marriage. Elizabeth was close to Mary Boleyn’s children- perhap’s Mary had some tokens from her sister from before she fell out of favor.

    I think that despite Elizabeth’s outspokeness about being Henry’s daughter, the ring she wore with her image and Anne’s would show that her mother was very close to her heart as well.

  4. lisaannejane says:

    I’m so glad you got to see the portrait in person, Claire. Photos are great but nothing can compare to seeing something in person. I think a Boleyn relative saved this necklace for her. And I agree with Sheena that the ring she wore with Anne’s picture showed how important Anne was to her. I love wearing my “E” necklace and have shown the pictures to many curious people who wonder why I am not wearing an “L” for Lisa. It’s fun to share Tudor history with my own piece of history LOL!

  5. Courtney says:

    Oh awesome Claire, thanks for posting this. I also have tried so many times to zoom in on pics to try and catch a glimpse of he necklace with no luck. I wish we all could have a chance to see it but your own feelings of the experience are definitely shared by me and most others on how Elizabeth felt about her mother 🙂

  6. miladyblue says:

    A theory I have is that after Henry’s death, someone could have painted that A pendant on Elizabeth, perhaps a Boleyn sympathizer.

    Henry does not seem to have been terribly observant at that point in his life, and maybe he didn’t notice that Elizabeth was wearing Anne’s necklace at the time.

    It is interesting, the contrast between Mary I and Elizabeth – when Mary came to the throne, she invalidated Henry’s divorce from her mother, and thus, changed her own status back from bastard to legitimate claimant to the throne.

    Elizabeth never bothered to correct any of Henry’s “mistakes” with regards to the status of his marriage to her mother, nor her own “bastardy.”

    I have never read any reference, anywhere, of Elizabeth speaking of or referring to her mother. Why would this be? Did she truly believe in the monstrous charges against her mother, and was ashamed of Anne? Or was Elizabeth wise enough to hold her tongue, knowing that her mother’s enemies would be more than happy to find some way to invalidate her claim to the throne?

    One of the main reasons I have always loved Elizabeth I is because she was a very complex and interesting woman. Considering some of the stuff she heard about Anne while she was growing up, no doubt much of it slander from her mother’s enemies, Elizabeth probably held her tongue, lifelong, to keep from getting into trouble.

    I would say that she wore Anne’s necklace in that portrait, perhaps as a tiny gesture of defiance. Her mother may have been slandered, disgraced and murdered, but Elizabeth knew the truth, despite all the crap she heard about Anne, and was proud of her. Could she have talked to Boleyn family members, or friends of the Boleyns and heard the truth, hence her tiny act of defiance?

    After her death, that locket ring was opened, and the depiction of Anne and Elizabeth was found. Elizabeth may never have referred to her mother publicly, but she was certainly thinking of her. She had the gift of discretion that alas, Anne did not, but Anne would have been immensely proud of her girl.

  7. Tudorrose says:

    I love this dynastic familly portrait of King Henry VIII, His wife Jane Seymour, His two daughters Mary and Elizabeth plus his son Edward all together in the throne room, also known as Chamber of prescence. I too noticed the necklace that Elizabeth is wearing but failed to noticed the ‘A’ as it just looked like a jewel, With some of these portraits I think a magnifying glass is needed deffinately just to estabilish the exactness of the jewel itself. I on many of occaisions have stopped and stared at lots of tudor portraits wear the sitter is bejewelled and as a result have made my eyes go blury as a result of looking and studying the picture so closely. I am suspecting like Alison Weir said that Anne did own an ‘A’ ‘AB’ and ‘B’ plus last but not least an ‘AH’ I am also suspecting that these items did get passed down to her daughter Elizabeth, In particular the ‘A’ ‘B’ and possibly the ‘AB’ I doubt that she had the ‘AH’ as this jewel would have only been made and apparent at the time of Anne Boleyns marriage to the king in 1533 and I am suspecting that this piece was probably most unfortunately melted down and remade into something else but as for the other items which I am thinking belonged to her before her marriage and queenship would have ultimately been given and passed down to the next of kin or the next near immeadiate relative, her daughter and her sister who seems to go off of the radar during Anne’s and her co-accuseds time of arrest and imprisionment.
    Just to clarify on one thing the ‘AB’ initials were worn as a brooch and not a pendent but it may be possible that Anne did wear it as a pendent too just like the famous ‘B’ pendent and ‘A’.
    I think that Elizabeth kept these items to have something to remember her mother by as she could not have hardly ever got to have known her or seen her during the three years she knew her and it just goes to show by the locket ring that was found upon Elizabeths death that contained a picture of herself and her mother inside, This goes to show that she thought deeply about her mother but kept all of her thoughts and feelings about the situation quiet and to herself. I am also suspecting that the picture of Anne that sits beside that of an elder Elizabeth is the most oldest picture of her and probably the most to her likeness that there is, which if you look it bares resemblance to the other portraits of her apart from one thing and that is Anne seems to have fair hair in the portrait opposed to her normal natural dark or auburn hair which is normally and usually common to see in all of the portraiture that exists of her.

  8. Claire says:

    Hi Tudorrose,
    If you look at the portrait at Hampton Court Palace you can see that it is definitely an A on Elizabeth’s necklace. It is a huge portrait in real life and the A is very obvious and although it looks like a jewelled pendant when you look at the portrait online when you stand in front of it it is a definite “A”.
    I do hope that Elizabeth did get some of her mother’s jewellery to remember her by and you’re right about the locket ring, it speaks volumes about Elizabeth’s true feelings about Anne.

  9. Jane Austen says:

    Henry would never allowed Elizabeth to wear that necklace. And Elizabeth would never have deared to use it in front of him. It can be no doubt whatsoever that this was added later, after Henry’s death.

  10. KATE says:

    Hi Claire,

    Is this portrait a copy of the original ? I did read somewhere the original was lost due to fire at Whitehall ?


  11. Julia says:

    I really wonder if Henry would have been that observant to notice or care what jewelery his daughters were wearing.

  12. Elizabeth says:

    Esto podria demostrar que Isabel nunca olvido a su madre, aunque es probable que estuviera algo confundida pues ella no conocio a su madre y quizas algunos le decian que su madre habia sido una “infame ramera” y otros que fue solo una victima de enrique

  13. birdman says:

    could elizabeth have received jewlery from her mother? its a strong possibilty. but if so she wouldnt have gotten them from her father. she most likely got them from relatives from the boleyn side of her family(say an aunt or uncle, cousin, maybe even her grandmother she was alive at the time of the execution). as for the family portait i cant find a good close up of the necklace to make heads or tails of it i even looked on youtube to see if there was a video on it(nothing)so i can’t say yes or no(and unless you have a timemachine in your backyard you can’t ask them yourself lol). it’s a nice story though if it is true.

  14. sandra says:

    Kate : It was the other Tudor dynastic portrait, actually a wall painting, showing Henry VIII with his parents and Jane Seymour, that was destroyed in a fire. It only survives in a 17th Century copy.

  15. Tabitha says:

    In “The Lady Elizabeth” by Alison Weir it says that just before Elizabeth did her sitting the queen at the time- the last Katherine- presented it to her. The jewelery of the previous queens was passed on to the next one and she found it in her jewelery box so thought it right to give it to Elizabeth so she could have something of her mothers to remember her by. Elizabeth decided to wear it to show that she was proud of who she was because she knew Anne Boleyn was innocent but afterwards she regretted it in case Henry saw it and got angry with her, but despite him peering at the painting he did not appear to of seen it. Elizabeth’s governess Kat also found her an old painting of her mother in a forgotton room and Elizabeth took it and hid it behind her behind her bed.

  16. alinna says:

    A very good photo resolution allowing to clearly see the A necklace can be found at: http://www.thetudorswiki.com/page/Paintings+at+Hampton+Court

  17. liana says:

    Let’s not forget that Elizabeth was only 3 years old when Anne died..so..if the jewels were not destroyed or reused then once of Annes servants from the tower who was present during execution could have been kind enough to hold on to the necklace till Elizabeth grows older….If Elizabeth did in fact receive the B necklace at some point…how could she wear it in public without humiliating Henry and reminding him of Anne Boleyn- he would have been curious..so she must have just taken the letter out and worn the pearls in secret knowing its her mothers but without antagonizing Henry..just a thought..

  18. liana says:

    he would have been furious* i meant knowing Henry’s temper and how much he hated Anne when she died…..i suppose he would not want to see any reminders that she was ever his wife..hence everything was remade to Jane’s honor…

  19. Dyan says:

    I think Elizabeth had to keep her thoughts to herself about her mother and did not reverse any of her father’s “mistakes” because of the belief in those days in the inerrancy of kings, and that the king’s right to rule came directly from God (divine right), subject only to God’s judgement. Therefore, for her to do so would be to admit that the monarch was fallible. It would have not only played into her enemies’ hands but also perhaps weakened her in the eyes of her people.

  20. evelyn says:

    elizabeth kept her mouth shut because she didn’t want to upset her father plus she thought it better for her not speek of anne.plus elizabeth was a goddess in the eyes of her pears.

  21. mark says:

    I believed she loved her mother dearly but kept those feelings close to her private self. She is known to have only mentioned her mother’s name twice but he was likely molested by a man when a child, feared what men could do if they had what back then was control over women essentially through marriage so she had said when only age 8 she would never marry. The Queen was a different persona than the woman for sure & she knew that & used that to her political advantage. She was far too wise to have worse the pendant & any painting of her as a child with it would have been destroyed by her for her own safety thus; it was painted in by someone later who was trying to give respect to her mother too.

    She got her revenge on what was done to her mother by how she treated men. She would play with them & bring them often close to her yet never fully give in and never marry so she used men as political toys to strengthen her thrown.

    Elizabeth really considered her Queen persona as both King & Queen. She even made comments to that at time even in how she gave her speech with the troops before destroying Spain. No A-Pendant was going to be publicly worn by her yet I suspect she kept it in private & when her ladies were on opposite side of bedchambers & she going through her jewels, she would look at it from time to time to remember that will not be me! I will show them! What they did to my mother I too will do to them instead is likely what her mindset was.

  22. Mary the Quene says:

    I’m going to be the voice of dissent and say that H8 wanted the necklace, as well as Elizabeth’s position at the edge of the painting, to show how tenuous her hold was on membership in the royal family.

    I don’t believe in coincidences, there’s nothing to support that Elizabeth, very well aware of the consequences of defiance, would openly defy her father. If this discussion were about Mary I, I’d say that was possible, but Elizabeth seemed much to calculating and rational to take such a dangerous step.

  23. Regine says:

    I think it’s possible the artist added the necklace just to show who’s who so she wouldn’t be confused with Mary or just a way to brand her Elizabeth

Leave a Reply

Please note: Comment moderation is currently enabled so there will be a delay between when you post your comment and when it shows up. Patience is a virtue; there is no need to re-submit your comment.