On Easter Eve, on the 12th of April 1533, Anne Boleyn made her first public appearance as Queen of England. She attended Mass in the Queen’s Closet at Greenwich Palace. On the 11th of April 1533, King Henry VIII informed the Royal Council that Anne must be recognized as queen and his wife. Before this event, there were persistent rumors about Henry and Anne’s marriage, but nothing was confirmed officially. Gossip circulated around the court that the marriage would take place after Easter, although the nobles suspected the truth.
The Imperial Ambassador Eustace Chapuys was kept in the dark at least until the end of March 1533. On the Wednesday of Holy Week, Catherine of Aragon was informed that she no longer had the right to call herself Queen of England. Catherine’s title was to be reduced to that of Dowager Princess of Wales, so she was downgraded to Prince Arthur Tudor’s widow according to the laws of England. Yet, the expelled and neglected woman categorically refused to obey the monarch’s orders and considered herself queen until her dying day.
On the day of her first public appearance, Queen Anne was dressed in a luxurious pleated gown of cloth of gold, which was lavishly adorned with sumptuous jewels. She was accompanied by sixty ladies-in-waiting. One of them was Anne’s maternal cousin, Lady Mary Howard, soon to become Duchess of Richmond and Somerset. Carlo Capello, the Venetian ambassador in England, reported on the 12th of April that Henry had already been married for several months.
Eustace Chapuys wrote about Anne’s first public appearance as queen:
“On Saturday, Easter Eve, Dame Anne went to Mass in Royal state, loaded with jewels, clothed in a robe of cloth of gold friese. The daughter of the Duke of Norfolk, who is affianced to the Duke of Richmond, carried her train; and she had in her suite 60 young ladies, and was brought to church, and brought back with the solemnities, or even more, which were used to the queen. She has changed her name from marchioness to queen, and the preachers offered prayers for her by name. All the world is astonished at it for it looks like a dream, and even those who take her part know not whether to laugh or to cry.
The king is very watchful of the countenance of the people, and begs the lords to go and visit and make their court to the new queen, whom he intends to have solemnly crowned after Easter, when he will have feastings and tournaments; and some think that Clarencieux went four days ago to France to invite gentlemen at arms to the tourney, after the example of Francois, who did so at his nuptials. I know not whether this will be before or after, but the king has secretly appointed with the Archbishop of Canterbury for his office. Without any other pressure, he shall cite the king as having two wives; and upon this, without summoning the queen, he will declare that he was at liberty to marry as he has done without waiting for a dispensation or sentence of any kind.”
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Text © 2021 Olivia Longueville