Yesterday, I wrote about how Anne Boleyn chose the English gable hood for some of the most significant moments of her queenship. Here is the link to PART ONE if you missed it.

Whilst that post examined the physical evidence of portraits and written accounts, today, I’m going to try to delve into a more speculative assessment of the whys and wherefores.

Even more so than today, the fashion of Tudor women was used to make a statement. What was Anne trying to say by her use of the gable hood as queen, despite her earlier preference for the French hood?

The Moost Happi medal – the only contemporary depiction of Anne, dating from 1534, which shows her in an English gable hood
A contemporary representation of Anne as Philippa of Hainault, from the Black Book of the Garter c.1534, wearing contemporary Tudor dress, including the gable hood

It is hard to assess how frequently Anne wore gable hoods versus French hoods; her wardrobe accounts mention her ‘upper habiliments,’ but do not specify their style or type. For all we know, once she became queen, she set aside her French hood and exclusively used the gable hood. The French hood was seen as stylish, daring, and flirtatious, as opposed to the more modest and formal gable hood; the first was appropriate for a young, unmarried lady-in-waiting, whilst the other was far more suitable for a mature, regal queen, wife of a great king, and mother of the heir.

Portrait of Jane Seymour by Hans Holbein the Younger, c.1536-37

On the other hand, there are suggestions that Anne did continue to be associated with the French hood as queen. The fact that the commentator recording the account of Anne’s execution found her use of the ‘hood, which was of English make’ to be noteworthy is significant. I believe it is also the implication behind Jane Seymour’s rule against her ladies-in-waiting wearing the French hood during her queenship.

Anne may have only used the gable hood sparingly to add symbolic significance to specific occasions. Elizabeth of York and Katherine of Aragon had both favoured the English gable hood. Whilst we do have records of Katherine wearing French hoods on occasion, throughout her long queenship she was just as strongly associated with the gable hood as Anne has become associated with the French hood. This suggests one possible explanation for Anne’s use of the gable hood, that it had become so strongly associated with English queenship, and particularly Tudor queenship, that Anne used it as a symbol to emphasise her role and status as queen. This would explain why, for the significant moments portrayed in the Moost Happi medal, Black Book of the Garter, and her execution, as discussed in PART ONE, she chose the gable hood.

The Hever Rose portrait of Anne wearing her famous French hood. Late 16th century, most likely copied from the same lost original as the National Portrait Gallery portrait.

This would have been particularly important considering Anne’s strong associations with France. From her earliest appearances at court, she was noted for her French style, and it is believed she may have spoken English with a slight French accent, due to her youthful years at the French and Burgundian courts. At her coronation she had members of the French ambassador’s household in her entourage, and as queen she certainly favoured a French alliance. As Queen of England, however, it would have been critical to establish and position herself as English. Thus, the adoption of the English gable hood.

Of course, it may have just been a matter of evolving personal tastes; as historians, the temptation is always there to over-analyse the sources we do have to try and understand the psychology of our subjects. Perhaps as she moved into her late 20s-mid 30s (depending on which birth date you ascribe to her) Anne felt the gable hood suited her better. We cannot know for certain. Nevertheless, whilst bearing this in mind, it is still interesting to speculate on the possible reasons why Anne may have chosen to use the gable hood, despite her earlier preference for the French hood.

Regardless of the reason, the fact remains that Anne did choose to be represented with the gable hood during her reign as queen. So how come we so strongly associate her with the French hood? I will discuss this in PART THREE.






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