Anne Boleyn

Anne Boleyn (flickr, picture by Lisby)
Anne Boleyn (flickr, picture by Lisby)

The fashion for padded headbands - worn by everybody from the Duchess of Cambridge to Charlize Theron and found amass in our local fashion chain stores - is like a return of the French Hood. The halo-like encircling of the head is the same effect and some headbands even come richly bejewelled or studded with pearls for maximum glamour. Magazines have already written about the headband's connection to 16th century and the revival of particularly Anne Boleyn's fashion influence. I love headbands because if there is a modern day #historybounding French Hood to be worn everywhere count me in.


The lore that Anne Boleyn was the sole reason for the triumph of the French Hood over the old-fashioned Gable Hood in her time is, however, doubtful.


On 1 June 1533 Anne Boleyn was crowned Queen of England. She had already been the wife of King Henry VIII since January and the object of his admiration for more than seven years. Anne Boleyn was born between 1501 and 1507. Yet 1499 and 1512 have also been mentioned as possible years of birth. Anne's father was a diplomat at Henry's court. She was sent abroad for her education: first to the Burgundian Netherlands (now Belgium) and later to France. In Belgium she served the Archduchess Margaret who was very much impressed with the girl's cleverness and good manners.

After about a year Anne was sent to France to be a maid of honour to Queen Mary and later to her stepdaughter Queen Claude. With Claude she stayed nearly seven years. There, she had the opportunity to learn French perfectly, to acquire knowledge on etiquette, to study music, art, fashion and religious literature and poetry. As a Courtier, she naturally learned about French culture, courtly love, dancing and games of cards and dice.


Anne Boleyn made her first appearance at the English court at the Chateau Vert (French: "Green Castle"), a pageant on 4 March 1522. She played the part of "Perseverance". Her looks were quite different to the Tudor beauty ideals 'pale and fair haired': she is said to have had thick dark hair (reddish or dark brown), dark eyes and not very pale skin. The habits and distinctly French style Anne brought with her were exotic at the English court and helped to make her a centre of attention. In a time when people didn't travel as much, this foreign stay must have given her a strong authority to speak about French customs. Even in Jane Austen's time, almost 300 years later, returning from spending the day in a different town made you the centre of attention. And nowadays we still entertain our friends with stories from our latest holidays. Consider how special living abroad must have been back in the Tudor days. And as soon as she had the admiration of Henry VIII, she must have become even more an unquestionable style icon to her contemporaries and courtiers.

Despite all her fashionable upbringing Anne probably did not, however, introduce the French Hood. It is a more light and coquettish headdress (showing a good part of the hair) and the stereotype is that the French are/were more flirty. Thus, it is easy to connect the French Hood to Anne's stay in that country. However, the only likeness produced during her lifetime that survived is a medal of Anne with her "moost happi" device in which she wears the traditional gable hood. She probably wore the French Hood a lot but the state of research indicates her importance in bringing it into fashion was not as big as previously considered. More likely the French Hood was starting to become fashionable and popular culture has since strongly linked her to the French Hood as, to our modern tastes, the more chic, youthful and flattering style than the Gable Hood.



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