The Imperial Ambassador meets Queen Anne for the First Time

Anne Boleyn with gable hood (left) and Eustace Chapuys (right).
Anne Boleyn with gable hood (left) and Eustace Chapuys (right).

On the 18th of April 1536, Eustace Chapuys met with Anne Boleyn. The two had never met in the seven years he had spent in England. His reports speak truth of this, as he had been mostly informed of her comings and goings from her servants, his friends and of course, his spies. This was the first time the two saw each other face to face. To most historians the meaning behind this is clear: Henry was making a statement that regardless of the rumors Eustace and other ambassadors had heard; his relationship with Anne was as strong as ever and therefore he had to acknowledge her as his lawful Queen and Consort. Eustace reaffirms this in his dispatches.

“I was conducted to the Chapel by Lord Rochfort, the Concubine’s brother, and when the offering came a great many people flocked round the King, out of curiosity, and wishing no doubt to know what sort of a mien the Concubine and I should put on.”

On their way to the altar, the King and Queen passed the Ambassador and he had no “choice but to bow in return.” This has been the school of thought for many years, but some believe that he had not been tricked at all, and that he was already expecting it since the King began to insist, months prior, that he showed respect to Anne. Historian Lauren Mackay is one of the few who believes the latter. In her book “Inside the Tudor Court”, she writes that the Savoyard behaved with complete decorum, adding that he “did not dwell on the incident” and that it is “entirely possible that Chapuys was deliberately downplaying the situation.”

Anne Boleyn Hever Classic

There is another reason for this event which argues that it was Anne who desperately wanted to meet the Ambassador, regardless of his negative opinion of her. She knew she was in deep trouble. The end was coming, she could feel it. She had been lady-in-waiting to Katherine of Aragon and Henry had left her for Anne with the primary intention to beget a male heir. Now his eyes had once again began to wander. And this other lady also refused his gifts, which made Henry’s interest in her stronger and as with Anne, he believed that she could succeed where Anne couldn’t. I am talking of course of Jane Seymour. If Henry had gotten rid of his first wife because her only crime had been was *“failing to give Henry a son”; what was to stop him from divorcing Anne?
It was clear that Anne needed validation from the other courts if she wanted to survive, and keep her position and her daughter’s inheritance intact. Later that month, Chapuys had been told that Anne had been upset because he had rejected her invitation to dine with her and Henry. She had even gone as far as to “abuse the French Ambassador” writes Mackay, so she could win the Emperor’s favor.

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When Eustace Chapuys saw Anne, he bowed to her. In turn, she acknowledged his presence and gave him a nod.

This did little for Anne in the long run.  As Eustace and the others realized that her days were numbered, they began to refuse her invitations and grew bolder in their verbal attacks.

Sources:

  • Inside the Tudor Court: Henry VIII and his Six Wives through the writings of the Spanish Ambassador, Eustace Chapuys by Lauren Mackay
  • 1536 by Suzannah Lipscomb *
  • On this day in Tudor History by Claire Ridgway
  • Anne Boleyn Collection by Claire Ridgway
  • Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn: The Lovers who changed History (BBC Documentary) presented by Suzannah Lipscomb
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