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The Secrets of Anne Boleyn’s Book of Hours Uncovered by Historian Kate McCaffrey

The Queen of England is killed by her husband! Yes, Anne Boleyn’s death was ordered by her husband, King Henry VIII. Anne, his second wife and Queen of England from 1533 to 1536, is famously named after their daughter. That daughter is actually Queen Elizabeth.

Anne Boleyn, Picture Credit: Wikipedia Commons

Anne Boleyn was executed on May 19, 1536 for crimes including conspiracy against the king and extramarital affairs. Anne walked to the place of her death with a prayer book in her hand. It was a version of the Book of Hours used for private prayer in medieval Europe. Ann threw the book at a nearby woman as the death sword aimed for her head. Later that book was discovered in the 21st century. After passing through many hands, the book finally ended up in the hands of historian Kate McCaffrey. McCaffrey, who studied it in detail, brought out a story of loyalty that lasted for centuries.

Kate McCaffrey, Picture Credit: Hever Castle and Gardens

Historians believe that King Henry VIII’s accusations against Anne were false. They believe the accusations were a ploy by the king to marry Jane Seymour a third time for a male heir. Ann’s lack of control over her fiery personality is also said to be a factor. After the beheading, the king also ordered the destruction of everything that reminded him of Anne. Anyone who tried to keep any of their memorabilia would be branded a traitor and killed.

Anne Boley’s Book of Hours had been missing for centuries. The book was again discussed in the early 20th century when wealthy businessman William Waldorf bought Astor Anne’s childhood home, Hever Castle. Historian Kate McCaffrey studied the Book of Hours for a year and discovered some hidden handwritten notes. Those were the names of the women who kept the book secret even though they could die!

Book of Hours, Picture Credit: Hever Castle and Gardens

It was actually a message. A message that the book will be saved at all costs for Anne’s daughter Elizabeth. ‘The main reason for saving the book was the idea that it would be there when Elizabeth I came to the throne and wanted to remember her mother,’ says Kate.

The last seal of the murdered woman was preserved until it reached her daughter by some of her friends and other women from generations of her family. ‘This book was passed along a network of trusted connections’ – adds Kate. Kate began to examine the prayer book when she noticed some indistinct markings on one of its pages. Using UV light and photo editing software, Kate found four family names on it: Gage, West, Shirley and Guildford.

Book of Hours, Picture Credit: Hever Castle and Gardens

Most of these names were related to one of Anne’s childhood friends, Elizabeth Hill. They must keep the book by handing it frequently so that it does not get caught. When it seemed likely to be suspected, it was passed on to the most trusted friends. From mother to daughter, niece to granddaughter. For ages the women of these four families kept the book. It was a group of Tudor women who sought to preserve the memory of a female friend who had been unjustly killed in a male-dominated society, from the goal of getting to Elizabeth.

Kate McCaffrey, Picture Credit: Hever Castle and Gardens

The Hill family is directly related to Elizabeth, who was only 2 years old when her mother died. Hill’s daughter, Mary, worked in Queen Elizabeth’s household and became close friends with her. Kate says the discovery of the hidden inscriptions provides “new insights into Anne’s afterlife after she tried to erase Henry from history in the 16th century”. The discovery was announced on May 19, 2021, the 485th anniversary of Anne’s beheading.

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2024-03-02 02:43:43

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