Anne Boleyn “Took to her Chamber”

Anne Boleyn Hever reconstruction

On August 26th, 1533, Anne Boleyn took to her chamber. The expression was used when women were prepared to enter confiment. Keeping with medieval traditions, there was a great ceremony for this tradition. A special mass, procession, and meal was prepared to celebrate the Queen’s advanced pregnancy. After the ceremony, prayers were said and she and her ladies retired to her birthing chamber where she would receive no male company until her churching (a period of forty days following the birth of her child). It had been predicted that she would have a boy and Henry had moved heaven and earth to marry her. Everything depended on her success or failure to bring a healthy male heir. The ceremony would have been assisted by members of her family and other courtiers, no males were allowed into her chamber and when Bess was born she was assisted by an army of midwives. In modern shows like “Wolf Hall” she suffers a miscarriage -which we assume is the one around 1534-1535- and she is shown alone with a dramatic music in the background to make the audience more horrified. In reality, it is highly unlike that she would have ever been alone. Queens were not allowed to have their private time, when they did it was for a short time and a pregnant Queen was certainly not alone. She would have been accompanied by her ladies and other female servants who would be tending to her.

Anne’s pregnancy insured her the crown of St Edward, a crown that was used strictly for Kings. Yet, Anne was crowned with it so that the child she carried would not have his legitimacy questioned, and as a greater point that Henry’s marriage was true before the eyes of law and God. As we all know things didn’t turn out as they’d planned. When Elizabeth was born Henry reputedly said that “if we can have a healthy daughter, we can have a healthy son.” Just what Anne must have felt when she heard that? Did she know that those were the same words that had been spoken to Katherine when she gave birth to Mary. Furthermore, what did she feel while she waited for the child to be born? People were highly superstitious in the renaissance, just because Humanism was around the corner did not mean that people did not believe in angels, devils and hot goblins. Some of the rural country side still had customs that were supposedly preventive against such evils, and Anne would have believed the astrologer when he pronounced that the baby was a boy.

We can only speculate, but it is safe to assume that during the months leading to her coronation and September, Anne felt joyful, perhaps even hopeful that things would come out alright.

Sources:

  • Anne Boleyn A Life by Eric Ives
  • Six Wives and the Many Mistresses of Henry VIII by Licence
  • Six Wives of Henry VIII by Alison Weir
  • Wives of Henry VIII by Antonia Fraser
  • Six Wives, the Queens of Henry VIII by David Starkey
  • In Bed with the Tudors by Amy Licence
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