Henry VIII’s gifts to Anne Boleyn

Henry’s First Gift to Anne Boleyn

One of Henry’s first gifts to Anne, and perhaps one of the more unusual, was a mini gold pistol-shaped pendant, engraved in relief with scrolling foliage. The butt of the pistol is decorated and around it runs a snake with its tongue sticking out.Cosmetic implements are contained within the barrel; an ear wax scoop, which looks like a tiny measurement spoon, a sickle-shaped nail cleaner and a straight toothpick. It’s really quite tiny. When closed the pendant is 3 x 2 x 1cm and 2.7 x 4.7 x 1cm when expanded.

It’s a rare survivor of the gold devices which were sewn into the masque costumes of Henry VIII. It is estimated to have been made in England 1525 – 1530. This beautiful and practical piece is on loan and on display at the Victoria and Albert Museum, in Room 58 of the British Galleries. See image of mini pistol pendant

Tudor Ear Scoops

Many Tudor ear scoops which have been found are made out of silver or a silver alloy. Even though this ear scoop is small, it may have been a status symbol due to silver being an expensive metal.

An example of a silver Tudor nail cleaner and ear scoop:

Silver nail cleaner and ear scoop, Tudor
CC-BY-NC-ND Image Courtesy of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust. SBT 2015-5.

It has a twisted handle with miniature spoon at one end and sickle-shaped blade to the other, suspension loop and ring located near sickle shaped blade.

In the late summer of 1526 Anne Boleyn returned to her childhood home of Hever Castle. Henry VIII wrote love letters to her whilst they were apart. Accompanying what is believed to have been his first of seventeen love letters, was a bracelet. Set into the bracelet was Henry’s portrait. He wrote: ‘seeing I cannot be present in person with you I send you the nearest thing to that possible, that is, my picture set in bracelets, with the whole device, which you know already, wishing myself in their place when it shall please you.’ 

Credit- Henry VIII holding the hand of Ann Boleyn; Cardinal Wolsey sits by the throne on the right, Katherine of Aragon in the background. Engraving by T. Cook after W. Hogarth, 1804. Wellcome Collection. Public Domain Mark.

In preparation for positioning Anne as Queen of England, Henry increased the amount of  jewellery he gave Anne. In 1532 Henry reset much of the royal jewellery for Anne, setting aside the best stones for her. He also stripped Catherine of Aragon of her official jewels. This made everything very real for Katharine, it was all happening and out of her control. The official jewels were for the Queen of England, which in Henry’s eyes, she was not. She responded to the request by saying that it would be a sin for her jewels to adorn ‘the scandal of Christendom’.

‘In the year to May 1532 Cornelius Hayes’ bill included three dozen items of jewellery for ‘Mistress Anne’, costing almost £100. The largest item is a girdle of crown gold billed at £18 10s.4d., but the most intriguing is a Catherine wheel of gold set with thirteen diamonds at just under £4’


Related Posts

Tudor 1485 - 1603
Hazel Baker

Tudor Deptford

Henry VII established a Royal Dockyard at Deptford in 1513, which became the largest dockyard in the country due to its proximity to the Royal

Read More »
Tudor 1485 - 1603
Hazel Baker

Maps of Tudor London

There are two main sources of maps of Tudor London: Agas map and the Civitates Orbis Terrarum map (Civitates map for short). The Agas map

Read More »
Scroll to Top
Open chat
Scan the code
Hello 👋
We provide guided walks and private tours to Londoners and visitors alike.
Can we help you?