Medieval Radio Blog

Anne Boleyn, we long for to see you!

A possible portrait of Anne Boleyn was identified using facial recognition software of all things.  Up until now there is no portrait of her except that on a battered bronze disk.  After her execution, Big Brother Henry made her an unperson so her portraits disappeared pretty quickly.  The medal survived by chance, perhaps because it was so inconspicuous.

If this painted portrait is a true likeness, it certainly reveals a great deal about her:  For one, we can see from it that she was a hominid.  Her clothing is very much that of someone from the early modern period, and we might date it more precisely to the 16th century (the Tudor period).  The portrait reveals that she wore decorative headgear, perhaps to hide some sort of gang tattoo written across her forehead, which in all likelihood she undertook in a spirit of rash, youthful impetus.  From the portrait we can also tell that she resembles many people you might come across today, which makes the claims that she didn’t produce numerous heirs rather hard to swallow.  I see people like her all the time!

So much for the putative portrait of Anne Boleyn.  The medal on the other hand, which we know depicts Anne, shows a more slapdash character, viz. what we might broadly characterize as a ragamuffin.  Her expression seems to say, “devil may care” and she wears her sauna towel on her head, rakishly off kilter.  A real provocateur she appears to be from the medal portrait and a little rough around the edges.  It reminds me a bit of our human tendency to idealize and soften historical personages over time, and make them into a softer, more approachable form.  Which is not to say the real Anne Boleyn was a bad person.  I’m just saying, if someone wears their sauna towel rakishly at an angle, look out.  That person is probably a little bit rowdy.


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