Throwback Thursday: Anne Boleyn & Henry VIII

In this post,  I will examine the gift-giving of Henry VIII. 

Anne Boleyn

Anne Boleyn

Henry VIII was gouty, tyrannical and, I know this doesn't redeem him, but pretty generous while in the love-throes. 

I read through his Privy Purse Expenses between the years 1529-1532 and Anne Boleyn, the second of his six wives, received lots of interesting gifts from Henry.

The first gifts to catch my eye were: ‘bows, arrows and other articles for shooting’, a gift from Henry to Anne. There are several recorded instances in which Anne received bows and arrows from Henry. Perhaps I am trying to force symbolism, but one could interpret this gift as pretty romantic; a bow and arrow being the equipment of Cupid and all.


The gift of a bow and arrow also reminded me of my American friend Lanie. Her boyfriend gave her a gun on their anniversary. 

Anne later gave Henry darts of 'Biscayan fashion'. If you buy my earlier argument that weapons as gifts are symbols of love, this is quite a romantic gift. 

There's a lovely extract from a letter written by Henry to Anne in 1527. It includes a metaphorical dart. The letter reads:

It is absolutely necessary for me to obtain this answer, having been for above a whole year stricken with the dart of love, and not yet sure whether I shall fail of finding a place in your heart and affection

In June 1530, the Mayor of London gave Anne some cherries and Henry reimbursed him. 

In September 1529, when Anne's greyhound killed a cow, (who knew that was possible?) she was given ten shillings by the King. At this point it seems like he'd give the woman anything for doing anything. 

In November she was given twenty yards of crimson satin. Interesting symmetry - the cradle of her daughter, Elizabeth I, was lined with crimson satin.

In December she was given furs and £40 to ‘play’. Any ambiguity as to what 'playing' means to a modern mind is cleared up when we discover that Henry also paid off her gambling debts. 

In 1532, Henry bought Anne a farm in Greenwich. She also received a desk ‘garnished with laten and gold’.

After giving Anne eight yards of gold cloth, Henry gave her money for a black gown and nightgown. Both were made of black satin, the lining of the gown was taffeta, the lining of the nightgown was velvet.

Henry was captivated by Anne and the scale of Henry's generosity to Anne is matched by the height from which Anne later fell from grace. He changed the religion of the country to marry her and then had her put to death.