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The Tudor Society

Hever Castle by Sarah Bryson

Hever Castle, c. Tim Ridgway

Hever Castle, c. Tim Ridgway

Hever Castle, the childhood home of Anne Boleyn, "has one of the best collections of Tudor portraits after The National Portrait Gallery" (David Starkey).

Situated in the beautiful countryside of Kent, UK, Hever Castle was the childhood home of Anne Boleyn, one of the most famous women in English history. Anne Boleyn would eventually become the second wife and queen of Henry VIII. Her only living child was Elizabeth who would become Queen Elizabeth I and would rule England for forty four years. In order to marry Anne Boleyn first Henry VIII had to have his marriage to Queen Catherine of Aragon annulled. To do this, the King took a course that changed the face of religion within England and set about a reformation which had a lasting impact upon the country and its people. After securing the annulment of his first marriage, Henry VIII was able to marry Anne Boleyn but unfortunately it was not to be a lasting union. After failing to give Henry VIII a son, and for many other reasons including her outspokenness and strong will and lack of supporters at court, Anne Boleyn fell. She was arrested on the 2nd May 1536 and taken to the Tower of London. Charged with treason, adultery and incest she was found guilty and executed on 19th May 1536.

Hever Castle has a rich and long history which spans over 700 years. Anne’s ancestor Sir Geoffrey Boleyn was Mayor of London. He wed a lady named Anne Hoo, who was the daughter and heiress of Thomas Hoo, Lord Hastings. It was through this marriage that Geoffrey acquired Blickling Hall and Hever Castle. Anne and Geoffrey’s son William ended up being knighted and made a baron by Richard III. He married Lady Margaret, daughter of Thomas Butler, 7th Earl of Ormond. Thomas Boleyn, father of Queen Anne Boleyn, was the eldest son of Sir William Boleyn and Margaret. Thomas Boleyn went on to create quite a good marriage for himself by marrying Elizabeth Howard, daughter of Thomas Howard, 2nd Duke of Norfolk. When Thomas Boleyn’s father died, Thomas acquired Hever Castle and in 1505 he moved his young family to the beautiful castle in Kent. In 1506 Thomas Boleyn added a 100 foot Long Gallery to the castle in which the family could participate in sports or light forms of recreation during the winter months.

The castle has changed greatly over the years. After Anne Boleyn’s execution and her parents' deaths the castle was given to Anne of Cleves, Henry VIII’s fourth wife. After her death, the castle went to various families including the Waldegraves, the Humphreys and the Meade Waldos. Unfortunately, over the centuries, the castle fell into ruin. Luckily, in 1903, William Waldorf Astor acquired the castle and it underwent major renovations. The inside of the castle was changed dramatically and the oak wall panelling that can be seen today was added during this renovation period. Along with the castle, the gardens and surrounding area also underwent major work. Previously, the castle had been surrounded by fields and forest. William Waldorf Astor's castle is the one we know as Hever Castle today.

Gardens at Hever, c. Tim Ridgway

Gardens at Hever, c. Tim Ridgway

The Astor family owned and lived in Hever Castle until about 1983 when it was sold to Broadland Properties Limited of Yorkshire who still currently look after the Castle and gardens. Nowadays, Hever Castle is home to a stunning collection of Tudor portraits, including portraits of Henry VIII, Anne Boleyn and her older sister Mary, and Henry VIII's wives. Philip Mould said that it is the "greatest privately owned public collection that tells the story of the Tudors." The Castle also contains two of Anne Boleyn’s famous books of hours which have been beautifully illustrated and decorated and have inscriptions in Anne’s own handwriting, one of those being the famous line “Remember me when you do pray that hope doth lead from day to day. Anne Boleyn”. Hever Castle also contains ‘King Henry VIII’s Bedchamber’ which is believed to be the bedchamber that the King slept in while he was courting Anne Boleyn. There are many other magnificent and intriguing Tudor related sights to see at Hever Castle including one of Henry VIII’s personal locks and many stunning tapestries. Visitors can also enjoy "The Life and Times of Anne Boleyn Exhibition - A new permanent exhibition looking at the life of Anne Boleyn and the connection to her childhood home", and from now until 22nd November 2015 a bed thought to have been the marriage bed of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York is on display.

Henry VIII's bedchamber, c. Tim Ridgway

Henry VIII's bedchamber, c. Tim Ridgway


To experience a little of Tudor life, to learn more about Anne Boleyn, to simply be part of the beauty and majesty of the Castle, is awe inspiring and breath taking. If you're ever in the south of England then please do stop at Hever Castle, you won’t regret it!

Go to www.hevercastle.co.uk/ to find out more about the castle and visiting it.

Tudor Society members can find out more about the Boleyns and Hever Castle in a talk by Anne Spender, the Hever Castle historian - click here.

Sarah Bryson is the author of Mary Boleyn: In a Nutshell. She is a researcher, writer and educator who has a Bachelor of Early Childhood Education with Honours and currently works with children with disabilities. Sarah is passionate about Tudor history and has a deep interest in Mary Boleyn, Anne Boleyn, the reign of Henry VIII and the people of his court. Visiting England in 2009 furthered her passion and when she returned home she started a website, queentohistory.com, and Facebook page about Tudor history. Sarah lives in Australia, enjoys reading, writing, Tudor costume enactment and wishes to return to England one day.

Notes and Sources

  • Hever Castle 2001, ‘Hever Castle & Gardens’, viewed 11th April 2015, .
  • Hever Castle and Jarrold Publishing 2008, ‘Hever Castle & Gardens’, Jarrold Publishing, Norwich.
  • Ives, E 2009, The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn, Blackwell Publishing, Oxford.

There are 4 comments Go To Comment

  1. D /

    So regret I was not able to see Hever Castle on last two visits. I plan to visit on my next trip! I love England and the History. Please send me upcoming events at Hever Castle.
    Diane

    1. < / Post Author

      Hi Diane,
      Hever Castle’s website has an “Events” page at https://www.hevercastle.co.uk/whats-on/ so you could check that before you visit.

  2. J /

    Is there any documentation, such as photos or drawings, of Hever Castle when the Astors purchased it? It would be interesting to see just what was left standing. I visited in 2013 and just kept feeling that maybe it was just the soul of what Hever had been, but not really Anne Boleyn’s in structure. What remains that was original?

  3. Pingback: Hever Castle | Queen to History /

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Hever Castle by Sarah Bryson