On this day in 1533 – Anne Boleyn took to her chamber to prepare for the birth of Princess Elizabeth

On 26th August 1533 Anne Boleyn took leave of the court and entered confinement where she would stay until she gave birth. Normally a lady would go to confinement four to six weeks before the anticipated birth of their child.

Anne took to her chamber at Greenwich Palace after attending a special mass at the Chapel Royal within the Palace grounds. Anne would then proceed with her ladies to the great chamber were they would enjoy wine and spices before the Lord Chamberlain prayed to God that Anne would give a safe delivery, hopefully to a son. Anne would then enter her chamber where she would be waited on by her ladies; no men were permitted into the room.

The chamber was decorated in accordance with the ‘Royalle Book’ that had additions by Margaret Beaufort and had been followed by King Henry VIII’s mother, Elizabeth of York during her confinements in the same Palace. The book stated that the room should;

  • Be carpeted
  • Have an altar
  • Have soft furnishings of crimson satin that were embroidered with Gold crowns and the Queen’s arms
  • Have its windows, ceilings and walls covered with blue arras and tapestries
  • Have a tapestry covered cupboard to store the birthing equipment
  • Have a font in the room in case the baby needed baptising instantly due to sickness
  • Have a display of Gold and Silver plate items from the Jewel House, it was thought that the Queen and her baby to be surrounded by symbols of wealth
  • Be furnished with a luxurious bed for the Queen and a pallet at the end of it for the Queen to give birth on. The pallet would be built up to a height similar to the midwife, it was close to the fire and away from any cold draughts
  • One window would be slightly uncovered to let in light and air when deemed neccersary

In the ‘Ordinances and regulations for the royal household society of antiquaries’ it is written what is expected of the Queen’s chamber;

As to the deliverance of a Queene, it must bee knowne what chamber shee will bee delivered in, by the Grace of God; and that chamber must bee hanged with rich arras, the roofe, side and windowes, all except one windowe, and that must bee habged that shee may have light when it pleaseth her; with a royall bedd therein, the flore laid with carpeth over and over with a faire pallet bedd, with all the stuffe belonging thereto, with a riche sperner hanging over; and there must be a cupboard set faire, covered with the fame suite that the chamber is hanged withal. And if it please the Queene to take her chamber, shee shall bee brought thither with Lordes and Ladies of estate, and brought into the chappell or church there to bee houseled; then to come into the great chamber and take spice and wine under the cloth of estate; then twoe of the greatest estates to lead her into her chamber where shee shall be delivered; and they then to take their leave of the Queene. Then all the ladies and gentlemento goe in with her; and after that noe man to come into the chamber where shee shall bee delievered, fae woemen; and they to bee made all manner of officers, as buttlers, panters, fewers, kervers, cupbearers; and all manner of officers for to receave it in the chamber: a traverse of damaske, the bedd arrayed with sheetes of fine lawne or fine raynes, great pillows with a head sheete according to the sheetes; a pane of ermines embrothered with riche cloh of gould, the ells breadth of the cloth, and head-sheete of ermins and cloth of gould of the same suite; a pallet by the bedd arrayed according to the bedd, with sheets and paine; except the cloth of gould on the paine to bee of another colour than that of the great bedd; and over the pallet a large sperner of crimson satin, with a bowle of gould or silver and guilt; and above the opening of the same sperner to bee embrothered the King’s and Queen’s armes, and the residue with crownes of gould: and that such estates both spirituall and temporall as it shall like the Kinge to assigne to bee gossippes, to bee neere the place where the Queene shall bee delivered, to the intent anon after they bee ready that the child may soone bee christened.”

A typical room that was used for a ladies confinement was closed up to light and fresh air, it was believed that clean air was harmful to the new child. Candles were used day and night to provide light in the dark room and objects like herbs, relics and amulets were brought in to speed and aide delivery. Superstition was high regarding childbirth and a dark and clean room was believed to protect the baby from evil spirits as it would remind the child of the womb. Women were also required to move anything that could restrict the birth, this included knots, buckles and rings.

The women that accompanied the Queen into confinement would keep her company and were there to assist during the labour by bringing spiced wine or ale and making the caudle.

Anne Boleyn would give birth just two weeks after entering her confinement to the Princess Elizabeth. However, she would remain in confinement for a further 30 days when she would be churched and re-enter the court.

170px-Anne_boleynAnne Boleyn

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