Thank you to Laurie for asking this Anne Boleyn question. Laurie's full question was: "Regarding the birthdate of Anne, if it is 1507, as opposed to 1501, as many historians actually believe, this would make her only 6 years old when she is sent to the court of Margaret of Austria in 1513! As this is quite a bit younger than the average age when girls were sent to foreign courts, how is this explained?"
As I (Claire Ridgway) have been researching Anne's life now for eight years, I figured that I could answer this one. However, I go with a 1501 birthdate for Anne Boleyn so, in the interests of being fair, I am also providing a link to an article written by Gareth Russell, who believes that Anne was born in 1507. Gareth and I agree on most things but we agree to disagree on that!
As Laurie states, Anne Boleyn was sent to the court of Margaret of Austria in the summer of 1513 when she was either 12 or six, depending on whether she was born in 1501 or 1507, the two main birthdates put forward by historians. Her father, Thomas Boleyn, had got to know Margaret well after being sent to her court as an ambassador in 1512, and so was able to secure a place for Anne as one of 18 filles d'honneur appointed at this time. Now, the usual age for a fille d'honneur was 12, so that would obviously fit a 1501 birthdate, but historians who argue for 1507 point out that Anne Boleyn was not the only girl of that age sent to Margaret of Austria's court around that time. The other girl in question is Anne Brandon, daughter of Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk, and Anne Browne, who they say was born in 1507 and who joined Margaret's household in 1514. However, there is also controversy regarding Anne Brandon's birthdate. When I researched Anne Brandon, I found that her mother, Anne Browne, was pregnant in 1503, when Charles Brandon abandoned her to marry her aunt, Dame Margaret Mortimer, and that although some sources state that this pregnancy resulted in a miscarriage, others state that it resulted in the birth of Anne Brandon. Anne Brandon could, therefore have been 10/11 when she travelled to Mechelen. It seems that both Annes have a question mark over their date of birth.
You can read the arguments for and against 1501 and 1507 in the following articles:
- The Age of Anne Boleyn by Gareth Russell
- The Early Life of Anne Boleyn Part One - Beginnings by Claire Ridgway
The reason I'm in the 1501 camp is actually because of Anne Boleyn being chosen to serve Mary Tudor, Queen of France, and Queen Claude. Even if Anne had joined Margaret of Austria's court at the age of six, I just cannot see any good reason for her being chosen, at the age of seven, to serve Mary Tudor during her marriage to Louis XII of France and then being retained by the new Queen of France, Queen Claude, following Louis' death and Francis I's accession.
Further reading on the subject:
- The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn by Eric Ives
- The Anne Boleyn Collection II by Claire Ridgway
- "The Youth of Anne Boleyn" by Hugh Paget, Bulletin of the Institute of Historical Research, LIV (1981).
- "Anne Boleyn’s Childhood and Adolescence" by Retha Warnicke, The Historical Journal, Vol.28, No. 4, Dec. 1985.
Claire Ridgway is the creator of The Anne Boleyn Files and Tudor Society, and the author of seven history books including The Fall of Anne Boleyn: A Countdown, The Anne Boleyn Collection and The Anne Boleyn Collection II. Claire is the co-author of George Boleyn: Tudor Poet, Courtier and Diplomat and she has written a course, "The Life of Anne Boleyn", for MedievalCourses.com.