Anne Boleyn is possibly the most famous of Henry VIII’s, and she is very recognisable in her many portraits, particularly the iconic National Portrait Gallery painting.
Known as ‘The Moost Happi medal’ due to its inscription, this likeness is unique. It was made as a prototype in 1534, likely to commemorate the son Anne was supposed to be pregnant with. Tragically, she suffered a stillbirth at around 7 months, and the medal was never produced.
Housed in the British Museum, the lead medal shows a woman wearing a gable hood with sumptuous jewellery – perhaps part of the royal jewels Katherine of Aragon was forced to give to the woman who replaced her. The edge of the medal is inscribed ‘The Moost Happi. Anno 1534’ and ‘A.R’. ‘The Moost Happi’ was Anne’s personal motto, and ‘A.R’ would stand for Anna Regina, or Queen Anne.
The medal is in poor condition after 500 years; however talented sculptor Lucy Churchill Stonecarver has made a beautiful and accurate reconstruction of the medal so we can see how it, and Anne, would have looked when it was first made. You can read more about the process she went through, and even buy your own copy of the reproduction medal through her website, https://www.lucychurchill.com/anne-boleyn-moost-happi…/
All other images of Anne were produced after her death, mostly during the reign of her daughter Queen Elizabeth. There are two contemporary sketches that have been identified as Anne, however there is much debate surrounding them due to an unreliable identifier and features inconsistent with what is known of Anne.
It isn’t entirely clear why there is only one confirmed contemporary portrait of Anne, with two possible sketches. We know that Henry VIII destroyed as much evidence of her as possible. However many of the surviving later portraits are clearly copies from originals, so clearly some portraits survived until the mid to late 16th century, but for whatever reason are now lost.
Whilst we can only hope more contemporary portraits of Anne emerge, for now this beautiful medal is a delightful piece of the mystery surrounding Anne Boleyn’s appearance.