If ever there was a divisive figure, it was Anne Boleyn. Well educated, an excellent conversationalist, flirtatious and beautiful, King Henry the VIII of England was no match for her charms. She fractured a religion, usurped a reigning Queen of England, influenced cultural and religious views, gave birth to one of the greatest monarchs of British history and had her head chopped off. In addition to all of her troublemaking, Anne was also known for being a trend setter. She scandalized the British royal court with her French fashions until all the other court ladies followed suit and adopted lower necklines and smaller hoods. In the early half of the 16th century, monogramed jewelry was popular among women and men. Henry VIII was thought to have a gold pin with his initials on it. Anne had her own piece trend setting monogram jewelry.
In her most well-known portrait, painted by John Hoskins, Anne is shown wearing a distinctive monogram necklace. The famous necklace featured three teardrop pearls that hung from a gold “B” pendant on a strand of round pearls. The “B”, of course, was for her surname, Boleyn. The origins of the necklace are unknown, but it is likely that the necklace was a gift from Anne’s father, Tomas Boleyn. There is no record of what happened to Anne’s necklace after her execution. It is possible that the necklace was given to her daughter, Elizabeth, but there is no proof to substantiate that claim. What is more likely, is that the necklace’s materials were repurposed to make new jewelry for Anne’s successor queen, Jane Seymour.
What is remarkable is that Anne’s famous ‘B’ necklace is still influencing popular culture today! The monogram jewelry trend still comes and goes every few years (I myself have a monogram necklace!). In the many historical television shows and movies that have been made about the Tudors, Anne’s necklace always makes an appearance. In the popular show, Ugly Betty, the title character wore a reproduction of Anne’s necklace. And, you can even buy your own version of Anne’s necklace with your monogram from a variety of websites! Even though she’s been dead for over 450 years, it’s safe to say that Anne Boleyn still has a small measure of influence on the fashion world.