The Tudor Society

26 August – Queen Anne Boleyn takes her chamber

On this day in Tudor history, 26th August 1533, Queen Anne Boleyn, second wife of King Henry VIII, prepared for the birth of her first child by "taking her chamber" at Greenwich Palace. This child was of course the future Queen Elizabeth I.

"Taking her chamber" was common practice in Tudor England, and in today's talk, I explain all of the rituals and traditions involved, as well as describing what Anne Boleyn's chamber would have been like.

You can find out more about Lady Margaret Beaufort's ordinances in my Claire Chats talk - click here. You can find out more about pregnancy and childbirth in Tudor times in my Claire Chats talk on the topic - click here.

Also on this day in history:

  • 1539 – Death of Piers Butler, 1st Earl of Ossory and 8th Earl of Ormond, Lord Deputy of Ireland and a man known as “Red Piers”. He died at Kilkenny Castle and was laid to rest in the chancel of St Canice's Cathedral, Kilkenny.
  • 1549 – The Earl of Warwick received 1,000 mercenaries as reinforcements to fight the rebels of Kett's Rebellion.
  • 1552 – Death of Sir Clement Smith, administrator, brother-in-law of Jane Seymour and Lord Treasurer's Remembrancer from 1539 until his death. He died at Little Baddow in Essex.
  • 1555 – Mary I and her husband, Philip of Spain, departed from Whitehall in preparation for Philip's return to the Low Countries.
  • 1570 – Death of Thomas Thirlby, Bishop of Westminster and of Ely, at Lambeth Palace. He was deprived of his sees in 1559 due to his Catholic sympathies, and then imprisoned in the Tower in 1560. He was eventually released into house arrest at Lambeth, where he spent his last years. Thirlby was buried in the parish church at Lambeth.
  • 1613 – Death of George Owen of Henllys, Welsh antiquary, author, naturalist, Deputy Lieutenant of Pembrokeshire and High Sheriff of Pembrokeshire, in Haverfordwest. He was buried at Nevern church. His works include “The Description of Penbrokshire”.

There are 7 comments Go To Comment

  1. M

    I’m curious, did Elizabeth I issue proclamations regarding her mother (or her birth) when she came to the throne, like Mary I did? Mary I legitimized everything having to do with her and her mother, did Elizabeth do the same? Thank you. Michelle t

    1. R

      No, Michelle, Elizabeth didn’t take the same steps as Mary regarding her own legitimacy and her mother. However, we know that Elizabeth showed pride in her mother, Anne Boleyn, for example she had her mother’s arms and her own hung at a dinner in the Guild Hall in London as well as table ware and cloths were also decorated with the same. She had a ring which showed herself in a locket with a portrait, which is tiny, of an other lady, believed to be her mother, Anne Boleyn. It is very tiny and not easy to see but is very beautiful and the features resemble how we expect Anne to be. It was a precious little object and most probably was Anne and Elizabeth. She mentioned her a few times and was written to by friends of Anne about her mother. Elizabeth didn’t make such a proclamation and there may have been sound personal as well as political reasons for her doing so.

      Mary was speaking from a confident position, as one thought by the majority of people here and abroad as the legitimate heir of her royal father, Henry Viii and as the popular and beloved daughter of Queen Katherine of Aragon. She knew without the shadow of a doubt how she felt and that her father had repudiated her mother unlawfully in the eyes of the Catholic Church and national feeling. She sought to make good what she believed to be a legal injustice and she reversed everything through Acts of Parliament and of course, Proclamations.

      Elizabeth had a less certain position, legally and in the eyes of the people as well as her fellow monarchs. Public opinion may accept her but it didn’t mean her legitimacy would be universally accepted. In addition her mother was a convicted traitor, branded as a whore and adutress, a convicted criminal, no matter what we believe about this being a miscarriage of justice and stitch up, which put shame on her name. Elizabeth most certainly believed herself legitimate, although like her sister, Mary, she was still illegitimate in the face of the laws of England. She didn’t approach the matter from a position of strength, however, she wasn’t confident of support. Also, Elizabeth may well have sought to heal wounds opened during the reigns of her father and siblings and making her mother justified by reversing those laws would not have done that. On a personal note, however, Elizabeth may well have felt she didn’t need to do anything. She “knew” she was “legitimate” and didn’t care what anyone else thought . She could keep her mother’s memory alive in other ways.

      1. M

        Michelle t

    2. C - Post Author

      As RTL has said, Elizabeth didn’t do anything regarding her birth, like Mary overturning her parents’ annulment and making herself legitimate. I think Elizabeth just felt it was best to let sleeping dogs lie. There were always going to be people who saw her as illegitimate regardless.

  2. R

    Thank you, Claire for your beautiful description of the taking of a lady to the birthing chambers. It sounds lovely, but it was very hot and Anne would be grateful not to have to wait very long for the birth of Elizabeth.

    It is, however, obvious that Elizabeth was conceived before the wedding on 25th January and therefore Anne waited in order to give the impression of an on time or early child.

    1. C - Post Author

      Yes, and I go with Hall’s dating of an earlier marriage to 14th November as I just don’t think Anne and Henry would have suddenly risked pregnancy without some kind of commitment like that. I think that was then formalised by the 25th January one.
      It’s hard to know whether Anne and Henry purposely left it late to make out that Elizabeth was conceived after 25th January, whether Anne got her dates muddled, or whether there were other factors, like the chamber not being ready.

      1. R

        Yes, the Hall date is interesting and it could be a commitment ceremony followed by consummation, which under canon law made it a marriage.

        I know they meant well, quiet and reduced light is meant to be good for a less stressful birth, but the heat would not suit me. In a cold winter it would be cosy, especially with the fires. It was very comfortable with lots of soft furnishings and tapestries.

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26 August – Queen Anne Boleyn takes her chamber