Said it, Believed it, Lived it

Said it, Believed it, Lived it:  Mottoes of Elizabeth Regina

A motto is a short sentence or phrase used to formally summarize or encapsulate the beliefs, motivations, intentions or ideals of an individual, group or institution. Often the motto can become a rule by which someone lives her or his life.  Although a motto can be in any language, Latin is the one mostly used in the Western world.

William Camden, an Officer of Arms under Queen Elizabeth who wrote a history of her reign at the suggestion of Lord Burghley, William Cecil, has become an excellent source for emblems and heraldic arms of the Tudor era although he does not always quote the motto nor offer explanations (Daly 5).  Camden has given his ideal of a motto accompanying heraldry.  He assures us that the picture is the body “and the Motto, which as the soul giveth it life.  That is, the body must be of fair representation, and the word in some different language, witty, short, and answerable thereunto; neither too obscure, nor too plain, and most commended when it is an Hemistich, or parcel of a verse” (Camden Remaines 366-367).

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Coat of Arms of Henry VIII

An official definition of motto is as follows: “A sentence added to a device (Ital. –L) L. muttium, mutter, a grunt, a muttered sound; cf. mutire, muttire, to mutter, mumble” (Skeat 387).  Therefore, in heraldry, a motto is shown on a shield as part of a coat of arms.  In English heraldry in particular, the motto is not granted with the armorial bearings and can be changed. 

Members of Tudor upper society certainly embraced the custom of using mottoes and “subjects adopted them as expressions of loyalty” (Cannon 253).  Below are briefly the mottoes of Henry VIII, his wives and his children with expanded explanations on the mottoes of Elizabeth and her mother, Anne Boleyn to follow.

Tudor Mottoes                      

Henry VIII     Dieu et mon droit  —God and my right

Katherine of Aragon     Humble and loyal

Anne Boleyn     The Most Happy                                                                                                 
Jane Seymour     Bound to Obey and Serve

Anne of Cleves     God send me well to keep

Catherine Howard     Non aultrevolontè que le sinne  —No other will than his

Katherine Parr     To be useful in all I do

Edward VI     Dieu et mon droit  —God and my right
                      Modus et Ordo   —Method and Order

Mary I    Veritas filia temporis   —Truth, daughter of time

Elizabeth Regina     Semper Eadem  — Always the Same
                                   Video et taceo   —I see and say nothing

Royal British mottoes can be a bit confusing.  All Knights of the Garter may use the motto, Honi soit qui mal y pense, [Shamed be he who thinks evil of it] added to their heraldry.  Also, the sovereign will use, Dieu et mon droit, [God and my right] on a scroll beneath the shield of the royal coat of arms.  This motto has been attributed to Richard I Lionheart as a battle cry and has been used officially since the time of Henry V.  Obviously, this refers to the monarchs’ divine right to rule.

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Clock given to Anne Boleyn by Henry VIII at the time of their marriage.  The weights are engraved with the initials ‘H’ and ‘A’ and also the mottoes “Dieu et Mon Droit” and “The Most Happy”.

Alternatively, the Royal Arms may depict a monarch’s or consort’s personal motto and may appear on many buildings, possessions, documents, and in more modern times on products—those purveyors who have earned the Royal Warrant.  More on that topic in another blog entry.  Often its use is done for dynastic glorification as illustrated in the cup Henry VIII commissioned by Hans Holbein as a wedding gift to Jane Seymour.  Jane’s motto “Bound to obey and serve” is repeated on the lid and on the base.  The bridal pair’s initials adorned the cup. “Its submissive tone was fairly typical for queen consorts, but it also reflects Jane’s personality and helps explain why she was so attractive to Henry” (Doran Man & Monarch 189).

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Cup designed by Hans Holbein for Jane Seymour with her motto on the lid and base

Reigning between queens with mottoes conveying humility and obedience-Katherine of Aragon’s “Humble and loyal” and Jane’s “Bound to obey and serve”-comes Anne Boleyn whose motto was the bold “The most happy”.  Anne adopted this motto as her coronation approached.  She had reason to be “the moost happi”: she had married a supportive and affectionate Henry, she was expecting his child (convinced it was the longed-for male heir), and she had managed to institute several religious changes in the country.

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Anne Boleyn’s medal inscribed around with THE MOOST HAPPI ANNO 1534 and A.R. for Anne Regina next to her portrait

Although some sources attribute the motto “Me and mine” to Anne, this blogger never found true evidence of it.  One motto she adopted in 1530 before she was queen, Aisi sera groigne qui groigne meaning “Let them grumble; that is how it is going to be!” (Ives 141).  This motto had quite a story attached to it.

Paul Friedman was quoting Pascual de Gayangos’ Calendar of State Papers, Spain Vol. 4, Part 2, page 41, which stated that Anne, to show her “contempt for those who opposed her, chose a device which she had heard in France, but which she only partially remembered, Ainsi sera, groigne qui groign! was embroidered on the liveries of her servants” (Friedman 128).  Her arrogance and defiance did not last long.
To her mortification, and to Eustace Chapuys’ glee, she learned that she had “adopted the motto of her bitter enemies, the princes of the house of Burgundy.  ‘Groigne qui groigne’, she heard it repeated, “et vive Bourgoigne!’ The liveries had to be laid aside, and Anne’s servants on Christmas Day appeared in their old doublets” (Friedman 128).

Such a blatant alteration of an Imperialist motto was hardly the way to win supporters at Court and gain Anne acceptance as the replacement of a highly-respected Habsburg queen (Ives 142-143).

The Anne Boleyn Cup. This 16th century gilded silver goblet was given to Dr Richard  Masters by Anne Boleyn, and Dr Masters presented it to the church.
The Boleyn cup 1535-36 in St. John the Baptist Church in Cirencester with motto “The Most Happy.”  Elizabeth inherited this beautiful from her mother and in turn gave it to her physician Richard Master who presented it to the church.

Another motto, Semper eadem, [Always the same], was said to be used by Anne (Weir 324). This blogger could not find primary source evidence to support Anne’s use of this maxim. It was a well-known motto adopted by Anne’s daughter, Elizabeth, when she became queen.  This particular motto appears to be associated with the quality of constancy.  Elizabeth’s constancy can be shown in her willingness to maintain a steadfast government during the transition between her reign and her sister’s.  See the blog entry  https://elizregina.com/2013/04/09/reigned-with-your-loves/ for a list of Marian councilors retained by Elizabeth. Perhaps Elizabeth adopted it for simply sentimental reasons to form a link to her mother.  Another view of this motto reveals it to be a pledge that Elizabeth would not change her religious faith (Collinson 1549).

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Coat of Arms of Elizabeth Regina with motto, Semper eadem.

With the childhood fraught with uncertainty and constant change perhaps this motto was a rule in which Elizabeth preferred to live.  It does imply an avoidance of any surprise, uncertainty or disruption.  Could a sovereign associated with such changes that supported exploration, encouraged the Arts and introduced religious reform prefer the status quo?

William Camden deemed Elizabeth’s main care upholding the Protestant faith and her “second care was, to hold an even course in her whole life, and all her actions: whereupon she tooke for her Motto, Semper eadem, that is, Alwayes the same.  The rest of her counsels consisted in these points” (Camden Annales 20). There is some disconnect between this motto and her well-known impulsiveness, indecision and secrecy.

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 Shield and motto of Queen Elizabeth I by Simon de Passe in the NPG Collection

NPG D42191; Queen Elizabeth I by Simon de Passe, after  Isaac Oliver
 Elizabeth I–obverse of shield and motto line engraving in the NPG collection

Elizabeth’s habit of covering her actions and motives was admired by Camden. When explaining her second motto, Camden discussed her methods “Which notwithstanding Queene Elizabeth dissembled and concealed with silence, according to that motto which she used, video et taceo, that is, I see and say nothing” (Camden Annales 307).

“I see and say nothing” has been termed a political motto used by Elizabeth.  With her impressive humanist education, this motto could be of ancient historical significance or it could be a practical methodology employed by Elizabeth.  No sources that this blogger has discovered definitively explain Elizabeth’s selection of this motto.  An examination of them suggests a link to the equation of Elizabeth’s style with Cicero’s, an acquired maxim from Lady Tyrwhitt, a reflection of her moderate religious policy or a connection to Francis Walsingham’s spy network. More recent authors have interpreted that the use of Elizabeth’s mottoes, Video et taceo, and Semper eadem “alludes to an important feature of prudence, which is that it encompasses the knowledge of when to speak and when to keep quiet” (Broad 34).

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The Plimpton “Sieve” Portrait of Elizabeth  I, by George Gower, 1579.  The sieve alludes to the myth of Tuccia, a roman Vestal Virgin who proved her virginity and prudence by carrying water with a sieve.  The coat of arms and the motto in the top right Honi soit qui mal y pense / Semper eadem [Shamed be he who thinks evil of it / Always the same] are the motto of the Order of the Garter and the personal motto of Elizabeth Regina.

What does come to mind to this blogger is the ‘Rainbow’ portrait of Elizabeth with the eyes and ears embroidered on her gown.  The poet John Davies refers to the ears and eyes as how the Queen uses her servants for a sketch he wrote during the Queen’s visit to William Cecil’s house, Theobalds, in 1591.  When asked what use Elizabeth makes of her servants the reply was “She makes the same use of them as the mynde makes of the sences.  Many things she sees and heares through them; but the judgment and election is her owne” (Nichols 77).  Elizabeth clarified her right to rule and have good counsel early in her reign, “I shall desire you all, my lords, (chiefly you the nobility, everyone in his degree and power) to be assistant to me that I, with my ruling, and you with your service, may make a good account to Almighty God and leave some comfort to our posterity on earth.  I mean to direct all my actions by good advice and councel” (Marcus 52).  Through further research I discovered this idea of Elizabeth’s relationship with her advisors and her motto was further explored by Mary Thomas Crane.

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The “Rainbow” portrait attributed to Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger, 1600-1603.

Professor Crane begins her article “Although one of her mottoes, ‘semper eadem,’ seems to claim a fundamental unity of character, Queen Elizabeth I nevertheless presents us with an array of poses and personae” (Crane 1).  How true.  Students of Elizabeth Regina are familiar with her paradoxically presenting an image of absolute patriarchal power and one of a ‘weak and feeble woman’. How did Elizabeth maneuver within the Privy Council composed of men whose views were the by-products of a time period when authority and advice-giving were the realm of males?  This was an era that considered “Kings were creatures defined by ancient custom; but queens, however loved and admired, were unpredictable” (Loades 318).

The use of the term ‘video’ assures that Elizabeth will listen and evaluate the advice to make up her own mind, as opposed to ‘audio’ that implies she will “accept blindly her advisors’ spoken counsel” (Crane 2).  In an era when women were to remain silent and obedient, ‘taceo’ insinuates that “as queen, she will maintain the silence thought suitable for a woman …” (Crane 2).  The motto encapsulates the fine line Elizabeth struck between asserting her authority and accepting advice from her Council.

She could be silent and allow her statesmen such as Burghley the role of respected advisor and she could be vocal and affirm her authority.  Crane sees Elizabeth’s motto, Video et taceo, as more of the way she uses the political system and her “use of the paradigm of advice-giving reveals a woman who was less completely bound by male structures than some critics have argued” (Crane 2).  Elizabeth “despite her motto, did not always remain silent….  Her skillful use of the humanist rhetoric of authoritative counsel allowed her to break silence and speak the language of authority as a uniquely powerful woman in a man’s world” (Crane 12).

One can suppose she did not believe her own contradiction to her motto when she  teasingly responded to the French Ambassador after he had praised her linguistic skills,  “There is no marvel in a woman learning to speak, but there would be in teaching her to hold her tongue.”

References

Allison, Ronald and Sarah Riddell, editors. The Royal Encyclopedia. London: Macmillian Press, 1991. Print.

“Arms of Tudors; Arms of Henry VIII; Arms of Edward VI.” Victoria and Albert Museum Collections. Victoria and Albert Museum, n.d. Web. 17 June 2013.

Broad, Jacqueline and Karen Green. Virtue, Liberty, and Toleration: Political Ideas of European Women, 1400-1800.  Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Springer, 2007. Google Books. Web 21 Jun 2013.

Camden, William, Robert Norton, Nicholas Hillard, and Francis Delaram. Annales or the History of the Most Renowned and Victorious Princesse Elizabeth Late Queen of England, Containing All the Important and Remarkable Passages of State, Both at Home and Abroad, during Her Long Ans Prosperous Reigne. Trans. R. N. Gent. 3rd ed. London: Harper, 1635. Google Books. Web. 21 June 2013.

Camden, William. Remaines concerning Brittaine: But Especially England, and the Inhabitants Thereof: Their Languages, Names, Syrnames, Allusions, Anagrammes, Armories, Moneys, Empresses, Apparell, Artillerie, Wise Speeches, Prouerbes, Poesies, Epitaphs. London,: Simon Waterson, 1605. Google Books. Web. 21 June 2013.

Cannon, John and Ralph Griffiths. The Oxford Illustrated History of the British Monarchy.  Oxford:  Oxford University Press, 1988. Print.

Collinson, Patrick. Elizabeth I. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007. Google Books. Web. 16 June 2013.

Crane, Mary Thomas. “Video Et Taceo”: Elizabeth I and the Rhetoric of Counsel.” Studies in English Literature 1500-1900 28.1 (1988): 1-15. GeoCities, 2001. Web. 20 June 2013.

Daly, Peter, Leslie Duer, Anthony Raspa. The English emblem tradition. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1998. Google Books. Web. 21 June 2013.

“Death Could Not Separate Them: How Elizabeth I Connected to Her Deceased Mother.” Web log comment. Being Bess. Ed. Ashlie Jensen. N.p., 5 Aug. 2012. Web. 20 June 2013.

Doran, Susan.  Henry VIII:  Man & Monarch. London:  British Library, 2009. Print.

Doran, Susan.  The Tudor Chronicles 1485-1603.  New York:  Metro Books, 2008. Print.

Eakins, Laura. “Elizabeth I’s other motto.” TudorHistory. Google+Page, 20 Feb. 2012. Web. 17 June 2013.

Eakins, Laura. “Meaning of Anne Boleyn’s motto.” TudorHistory. Google+Page, 31 Dec. 2009. Web. 19 June 2013.

Friedmann, Paul.  Anne Boleyn: A Chapter of English History 1527-1536. London: Macmillian and Co., 1884. Internet Archive. Web. 21 Jun 2013.

de Gayangos, Pascual (editor). “Spain: January 1531, 21-31.” Calendar of State Papers, Spain, Volume 4 Part 2: 1531-1533 (1882): 31-47. British History Online. Web. 22 June 2013. 

Isaacs, Alan and Jennifer Monk, editors.  The Illustrated Dictionary of British Heritage.  London:  Promotional reprint Company, 1993. Print.

Skeat, Walter W. An etymological dictionary of the English language. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1993. Print.

Ives, Eric.  The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn: The Most Happy. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 2004. Print.

Loades, D. M. Elizabeth I. London: Palgrave Macmillilan, 2003. Google Books. Web. 16 June 2013.

Lloyd, Christopher and Simon Thurley. Henry VIII:  Images of a Tudor King.  London: Phaidon Press Limited, 1990.  Print.

“Medallion:  Arms of Henry VIII and Jane Seymour” Victoria and Albert Museum Collections. Victoria and Albert Museum, n.d. Web. 17 June 2013. 

Nichols, John. The Progresses and Public Processions of Queen Elizabeth. Among Which Are Interspersed Other Solemnities, Public Expenditures, and Remarkable Events during the Reign of That Illustrious Princess. Collected from Original MSS., Scarce Pamphlets, Corporation Records, Parochial Registers, &c., &c.: Illustrated with Historical Notes. New York: B. Franklin, Vol 3, 1823. Google Books. Web. 19 Jan. 2013.

Ross, Josephine.  The Tudors, England’s Golden Age.  London: Artus, 1994.  Print. 

Starkey, David.  Henry VIII:  A European Court in England. New York:  Cross River Press, 1991. Print.

Strong, Roy C. Gloriana: The Portraits of Queen Elizabeth I. London: Pimlico, 2003. Print.

Wagner, John. Historical Dictionary of the Elizabethan World: Britain, Ireland, Europe, and America.  New York:  Checkmark Books, 2002. Print.

Warnicke, Retha.  The Rise and Fall of Anne Boleyn: Family Politics at the Court of Henry VIII. Cambridge:  Cambridge University Press, 1989.  Print.

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Announcing Elizabeth’s Birth

Elizabeth’s Birth Announcement:

In the summer of 1533, as the birth of the child of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn drew nearer, a courtier, John Russell, wrote in a letter to Lord Lisle, Captain of Calais, that he “never saw the King merrier” (Nichols 443). The royal couple were at Windsor until 21 August when they traveled to Whitehall.  From there on 26 August, they moved to Greenwich where Anne was to take to her chamber. This required a formal ceremony to be performed.  Anne went in procession to the Chapel Royal to hear mass, then to her Great Chamber.  She and her guests dined and then ate ceremoniously from a “goodly spice plate…of spice and comfettes.” The Lord Mayor of London provided “a cuppe of assaie of gold, and after that she had dronke, she gave the Maior the cuppe.” Once the refreshments were partaken of, Anne “under her Canapie, departed to her Chamber” and at the entry of her chamber, she gave her Canopy of State to the barons “accordyng to their clayme” (Hall 805). Anne’s Lord Chamberlain called for all to pray for the safe delivery of her child and then Anne and her women entered her chamber” (Hall 805).    Henry 8      anneboleyn
            King Henry VIII                           Queen Anne Boleyn

Anne’s chambers would have been altered tremendously to create the lying-in chamber to provide enough storage for multiple weeks of supplies and baby items.  Included would have been furniture: beds for the birth, recovery and ceremonies, and the baby cot; plus blankets, pillows and bedding.  An altar for religious services would have been included along with candlesticks, crucifixes and religious images.  Tapestries would have covered the walls, ceiling and all windows except for one.  Alison Weir stated that the tapestries showed St. Ursula and her 11,000 virgins (Weir Six Wives 257).  David Starkey, on the other hand, informed that the tapestries would not have depicted animals or humans as that could trigger fantasies in the mother-to-be and lead to a deformed child (Starkey Elizabeth 2). Regardless of the decoration themes, one can envision the chamber as being a “cross between a chapel and a luxuriously padded cell” (Starkey Elizabeth 2).

greenwich 1533
 Greenwich 1533

William Blount, 4th Baron Mountjoy, Chamberlain to Catherine of Aragon sent to his counterpart in Anne’s household, George Brooke, 9th Baron Cobham, advice on the correct method for the confinement and ensuing ceremonies.  A general procedure had been followed for generations, and it was unlikely that Henry VIII would jeopardize the successful birth of his male heir by altering the steps in any way.  That is why the speculation that Henry kept Anne from her confinement in order to dupe the general population about the date of conception does not make sense.
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George Brooke, 9th Baron of Cobham and Queen Anne’s Lord Chamberlain

Once a woman entered her lying-in chamber, it was a signal that she did not expect to have her child for about a month. Anne gave birth within two weeks. How and why could there be such a miscalculation? Retha Warnicke speculates that Henry took advantage of Anne’s good health in the summer of 1533 and delayed her entry to her chamber.  He wanted to confuse people over the delivery date to convince them that the child had been conceived during the time of their marriage (Warnicke 164).  Would Henry do that?  Would he risk the health of his male child in such a way?  I do not think so.  Would he encourage people to assume the date of their wedding was earlier than it was?  Probably.

Chronicler Edward Hall insisted that Henry and Anne married on 14 November 1532 on “sainct Erkenwalds daie” and managed it to be “kept so secrete, that very fewe knewe it, til Builyne she was greate with child, at Easter after” (Hall 794).  Other sources state the wedding was on 25 January 1533.  Eric Ives speculates that the earlier date was used much afterwards to protect Elizabeth’s reputation against being born out of wedlock.  If a compromise theory is believed, a commitment ceremony could have been held in November that would “stand up in canon law– espousals de praesenti before witnesses which, if sealed by intercourse, would have been canonically valid …” (Ives 170).  Henry would have then held another ceremony, before a priest, in January once it was obvious Anne was pregnant: or could the mid-wives and physicians have underestimated the delivery date?  We will never know.  What we do know is that on “vii day of September being Sondaie, between thre and foure of the Clocke after noone, the Quene was delivred of a faire lady” (Hall 805).

The fact that the child was a girl was a shock to her parents so sure they were that they would have a son.  Tradition tells us that Henry responded appropriately to Anne by saying that all was well since they were both young “by God’s grace, boys will follow” (Weir, pg. 258).  Immediately following the birth, a Te Deum was sung and “great preparacion was made for the christening” with the Mayor of London, Stephen Peacock, and chief citizens “commaunded to bee at the Christenyng, the Wednesdaie folowyng” in all of their finery went by barge to Greenwich.  “All the walles betwene the Kynges place and the Friers, were hanged with Arras, and all the waie strawcd with grene” the Observant Friars Church was also hung in tapestries.  The font was “of siluer, and stoode in the midles of the Churche, three steppes high, whiche was couered with a line clothe … oner it hong a square Canape of crimosin Satten, fringed with golde” and in an area close by was a brazier with a fire in it to keep the child warm.  When “al these thynges wer ordered, the child was brought to the hall,” followed by members of Court with “the Erie of Essex, bearyng the couered Basins gilte, after hym the Marques of Excester with taper of virgin waxe, next hym the Marques Dorset, bearyng the salt, behynd-hym the lady Mary of Norffolk, bearyng the cesom whiche was very riche of perle & stone, the old Duches of Norffolk bare the childe” (Hall 805).   The child wore, in addition to a christening robe heavy and stiff with gold embroidery…a royal mantle of purple velvet and miniver, with a train so long that it was borne up by a lady and two gentlemen (Tytler 2).

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Portrait identified as Frances Brandon Grey, Marchioness of Dorset, Duchess of Suffolk

An enthusiastic Hall continues to describe the scene as the Duke of Norfolk walked to the right of the baby, the Duke of Suffolk to the left and the Countess of Kent bore the train along with other noble ladies.  The baby’s uncle, Lord Rochford and three others carried a canopy over her.  When “the child was come to the churche dore, the bishop of London met it with diverse bishoppes and Abbottes mitred, and began the observances of the Sacrament” (Hall 806).

One godmother was the baby’s cousin, Frances Brandon, Marchioness of Dorset; the other, who carried the child, was her great-grandmother, Agnes, Dowager Duchess of Norfolk, the godfather was Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Cranmer.  The Bishop of London John Stokesley, assisted by other clergy performed the ceremony (Tytler 2). The “childe was named Elizabeth: and after that al thyng was done, at the churche dore the child was brought to the Fount, and christened” (Hall 806).

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Agnes, Dowager Duchess of Norfolk

We are told that the Garter Chief King of Arms then proclaimed “God of His infinite goodness, send a prosperous life and long, to the high and mighty princess of England Elizabeth” (Strickland 4). Next Elizabeth was confirmed as part of the extended ceremony. Afterwards servants brought in “wafers, comfits and hypocras in such plenty that every man had as much as he would desire” (Somerset 4). “Then they set forwardes, the trumpettes goyng before in thesame ordre, towarde the kynges place, as they did when they came thether warde, … and in this ordre thei brought the princes, to the Quenes chamber (Hall 806).  With Henry VIII in attendance, Queen Anne received her child back while Londoners rejoiced with Court supplied wine and bonfires in the streets but no jousts or fireworks—this was a princess not a prince.  Publically Henry continued to reassure that the princess was not a disappointment.  Privately, as reported by a gleeful Eustace Chapuys, Spanish Ambassador, the birth was a “great regret both of him and the lady, and to the great reproach of the physicians, astrologers, sorcerers, and sorceresses, who affirmed that it would be a male child. But the people are doubly glad that it is a daughter rather than a son, and delight to mock those who put faith in such divinations, and to see them so full of shame” (Gairdner VI 1112).

How could the predictions go so wrong? 

Besides soliciting physicians’ opinions on the sex of the child, astrologers and soothsayers were also consulted.  Only one did not predict a son.  William Glover wrote to Queen Anne of a vision he had in which she gave birth to a “woman child” and he instructed she “should be delivered of your burden at Greenwich” (Gardiner VI 1599).

Physicians “studied astronomy, astrology, geometry, mathematics, music and philosophy” in the 16th century.  “The Tudors believed strongly in the divine plan ….  Fate, fortune and goodwill might cure” (Hurren). Included in the studies of sciences, astrology was certainly compatible with religion at this time.  Astrology was considered a way to understand God’s plan.  Henry VIII received predictions that the child Anne was carrying was a boy—there was no reason to doubt that.  God had punished Henry for co-habitating with his brother’s wife, Catherine of Aragon, against the teachings of Leviticus, by not granting living male children to that union.  Surely, he could not have misinterpreted the signs of the divine will to divorce Catherine.  Sons would come from his union with Anne.

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Henry VIII’s astrolabe made for him by Bastien le Seney, royal clockmaker

References to prophecies and predictions were accepted at the time as were the “astrological superstitions of the generation” (Tytler 2). In one of his love letters to Anne, Henry showed a “personal interest in astrology: in attempting to dispel her fears about their forced separation” (Warnicke 165).

“I and my heart put ourselves in your hands. Let not absence lessen your affection; for it causes us more pain than I should ever have thought, reminding us of a point of astronomy that the longer the days are, the further off is the sun, and yet the heat is all the greater. So it is with our love, which keeps its fervour in absence, at least on our side. Prolonged absence would be intolerable, but for my firm hope in your indissoluble affection. As I cannot be with you in person, I send you my picture set in bracelets” (Brewer).

As Lutheran theologian Philipp Melancthon later said in his dedication to the text, Theological Commonplaces, “Henry is ‘the most learned of kings not only in theology, but also in other philosophy, and especially in the study of the movement of the heavens’. Since the king and his contemporaries held ‘a complex view of conception in which both the physical and spiritual’ were intertwined, he may have been persuaded of the validity of the prophecies about the child’s sex because he had personally done all that was necessary for him to earn and to merit a divine blessing in the form of a son” (Warnicke 165).

PhilippMelanchthon
Theologian, Philipp Melancthon
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Theological Commonplace, 1535 which had the dedication to Henry VIII.

“Anne’s skeptical attitude toward the most superstitious of them must have been well-known” as John Foxe later discussed it (Warnicke 165).  Foxe recounted a story that implied Anne’s “true faith …for when king Henry was with her at Woodstock, and there, being afraid of an old blind prophecy, for which neither he nor other kings before him durst hunt in the said park of Woodstock, nor enter into the town of Oxford, at last, through the Christian and faithful counsel of that queen, he was so armed against all infidelity, that both he hunted in the aforesaid park, and also entered into the town of Oxford, and had no harm”  (Foxe 136). Popular belief maintained that Henry did abide by the use of prophecies.
John_Foxe
John Foxe

Certain the child would be a boy, Henry and Anne had selected the names of Edward and Henry and had asked Francis I, King of France to be godfather.  In a dispatch to Francis, his Ambassador, Jean de Dinteville, The Bailly of Troyes*, explains how he had been asked to “hold at the font the child of which the Queen is pregnant, if it is a boy” (Gairdner VI 1070).

As an aside, de Dinteville (also as known as d’Intevile Polizy) “chevalier Sieur de Polizy, near Bar-sur-Seyne, Bailly of Troyes who was Ambassador in England for King Francis I in the years 1532-1533” was identified in the late 19th century as one of the sitters in the Ambassadors painting by Hans Holbein (Hervey 12).  Without going into extreme detail, the clues in the painting confirmed what Hervey discovered on a fragment of manuscript.  An example would be the seigneurie, an area of manorial influence that de Dinteville held, was Polizy in Burgundy shown on the globe in the painting  (Hervey 8).
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Jean de Dinteville, French Ambassador 
ambassadors
The Ambassadors by Hans Holbein, 1533
Jean de Dinteiville and Georges de Selve

There is no record of whether or not Francis I felt any sympathy for Henry’s disappointment but it was clear he would not be asked as godfather for a princess’s baptism. While de Dinteville showed his “complete allegiance to the Crown of France” (Hervey 41), being ready to fill whatever office would be required even for a princess, his Spanish counterpart, Eustace Chapuys, was interpreting the birth of a daughter to Henry as the divine will that “Misfortune manages well; and God has forgotten him entirely, hardening him in his obstinacy to punish and ruin him” (Gairdner VI 1112).

francisi
King Francis I of France   

After the ceremony de Dinteville exclaimed “the whole occasion was so perfect that nothing was lacking” (Hibbert 14).  Chapuys concluded “the christening has been like her mother’s coronation, very cold and disagreeable both to the Court and to the city, and there has been no thought of having the bonfires and rejoicings usual in such cases. After the child was baptised, a herald in front of the church-door proclaimed her princess of England (Gairdner VI 1125).
chapuys
Eustace Chapuys, Spanish Ambassador

Prior to the christening, Chapuys claimed that the child would “be called Mary, like the Princess; which title, I hear in many quarters, will be taken from the true princess and given to her” (Gairdner 1112).  He had to retract saying “the daughter of the lady has been named Elizabeth, and not Mary” (Gairdner 1125).  Obviously, the child was named for her two grandmothers, Elizabeth of York and Elizabeth Howard.

So sure were the parents that the child would be a boy, official announcements, which were to be sent throughout the realm and to the Courts of Europe from the Queen listed the child as a prince.  One such letter is preserved written to Lord Cobham, Anne’s Chancellor informing him of the birth at Greenwich on 7 September during the 25th year of the reign of Henry (Gairdner VI 1089).   An ‘s’ was added to the word prince (see the facsimile below—the first is in the third line, center also shown in an enlargement—and secondly in the final sentence) which would have altered it enough in the 16th century to signify the word princess.
elizabethbirthannouncement
Letter of Lord Cobham– the area with the ‘s’ insertion is enlarged below.  A transcription is also included.
elizabethbirthannouncement

By the Quene
Right trustie and welbiloved, we grete you well. And where as it hath pleased the goodnes of Almightie God, of his infynite marcie and grace, to sende unto us, at this tyme, good spede, in the delyveraunce and bringing furthe of a Princes, to the great joye, rejoyce, and inward comforte of my Lorde, us, and all his good and loving subjectes of this his realme; for the whiche his inestymable benevolence, soo shewed unto us, we have noo litle cause to give high thankes, laude, and praising unto oure said Maker, like as we doo mooste lowly, humbly, and with all the inwarde desire of our harte. And inasmuche as we undoubtidly truste, that this oure good spede is to your great pleasure, comforte, and consolation, We, therefore, by thies our letters, advertise you thereof, desiring and hartely praying you to give, with us, unto Almightie God, high thankes, glorie, laude, and praising; and to praye for the good helth, prosperitie, and contynuall preservation of the said Princes accordingly. Yeven under our Signet, at my Lordis Manour of Grenewiche, the 7 day of September, in the 25th yere of my said Lordis reigne.
To oure right trustie and welbiloved, the Lorde Cobham.

During a lecture at the Newberry Library in Chicago on November 22, 2003, David Starkey stated that the most important document in Elizabeth’s life was the letter announcing her birth.  The Tudor Court needed a male heir.  Society held the  attitude that a woman would not be able to hold public office and have influence.

Anne Boleyn had disappointed Henry and the kingdom.  Everyone was yet to see the significance of the life of this child that began with such an unpleasant shock yet would produce a ruler with “the body of a weak and feeble woman …but the heart and stomach of a king, and a king of England too” (Marcus 326).

*The bailly was a French “Crown officer in whose name justice was administered throughout a certain district” (Hervey 38),

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