So now we know what Anne Boleyn looked like

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Only one of Henry VIII’s wives had no life portrait taken, and she is the most famous of them all, Anne Boleyn...

Now, 30 years after a [c. 1530] Holbein portrait in the Royal Collection was demoted to the status of an unknown lady from the court of Henry VIII, new research has reinstated it as a contemporary depiction of the king’s second wife... [Image online here.]

Academics have now traced the inscription to Boleyn’s contemporary, Sir John Cheke, who began his career at the court under her patronage, before becoming secretary to Edward VI. A document of about 1590 notes that Sir John inscribed numerous Holbeins for the King, helping to identify faces of royals and courtiers.

Bendor Grosvenor of Philip Mould Historical Portraits, London], who carried out the research with David Starkey, the Tudor historian, said: “Cheke was one of the bright brains of the Tudor court. He would have known most of Holbein’s sitters, if not on personal terms, then at least visually...It seems inconceivable that he would get Anne’s identification wrong.”...

The drawing appears to be a most unqueenly portrait, as the sitter is wearing a nightgown. Mr Grosvenor said: “Only a woman of the highest rank would have taken such a liberty in court circles.” The chin also seems swollen, which fits descriptions of her face.

The drawing forms part of an exhibition of Tudor portraits at Philip Mould Historical Portraits. Lost Faces runs until Sunday, with the research published in the catalogue. The Royal Collection accepted that the portrait was of Boleyn.

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