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 amongst 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 to 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 first marriage to Queen Catherine of Aragon annulled. To do this the King would take a course that would change the face of religion within England and set about a reformation which had lasting impacts 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 would fall. She was arrested on the 2nd of Mary 1536 and taken to the Tower of London. Charged with treason, adultery and incest she was found guilty and execution on May 19th 1536.
Hever Castle has a rich and long history which spans over 700 hundred years old. Anne’s ancestor Sir Geoffrey Boleyn was a Mayor in London; he wed a lady named Anne who was the daughter and heiress of Lord Hastings. It was though 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, the Earl of Ormond. Mary’s father Thomas was the oldest son born to Sir William Boleyn and his wife Margaret. Thomas Boleyn went on to create quite a good marriage for himself by marrying Elizabeth Howard, daughter of Thomas Howard, 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 and little is the same as it would have been in Anne Boleyn’s day. After Anne Boleyn’s execution and her parent’s 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 went 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 erected during this renovation period. Along with the castle the gardens and surrounding area also had major work done as in Anne Boleyn’s day there were no gardens, only vast forest surrounding the castle. It is from these vast and expensive renovations that we have the Hever Castle we see and know today.
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. 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. 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 ever if England please do stop at Hever Castle you won’t regret it!
Hever Castle 2001, ‘Hever Castle & Gardens’, viewed 11th April 2015, <http://www.hevercastle.co.uk/>.
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.
(First posted on the Tudor Society)