Sunday, June 7, 2009

Leave it to Hever

The day had finally arrived. Tuesday, May 26th was not only my 41st birthday but it was also the day I planned to visit Anne Boleyn's family home at Hever Castle. Truthfully, it was my desire to see Hever that inspired this whole trip. I had originally only planned to stay in Kent but then figured if I could afford the stay in London, I should do that as well.
This was my birthday gift to myself. Well, the whole trip is... but specifically, going to spend the day at Hever. When I came down for breakfast, Lynn and the other B&B guest, Jacquelyn had placed cards and small gifts by my place setting.
Despite the sweet start to the day, the weather wasn't looking very encouraging. Tuesday started out as a dark, damp, cloudy, rainy day in Kent. I was so incredibly relaxed by this time, I wasn't even upset about it. I would simply go to Hever Wednesday. I couldn't be bothered with being bothered. After a late morning nap, I soaked in a lovely bubble bath using one of my birthday gifts. By the time I was dressed and made-up, the sun had broken through the clouds and it had turned into a beautiful day.

A quick taxi ride to the hamlet of Hever and I was ready to come face-to-face with Anne Boleyn and her family home. I walked through the gatehouse and purchased my tickets, then made my way down the hill toward the castle. At first glance, I could only think that it was a very small castle. There are also extensive grounds which include a Yew Maze and Italian Garden. But I couldn't wait, I had to see the actual home where Anne Boleyn grew-up first.
The castle is double moated, the second you cross by wooden drawbridge which replaced the original stone. This leads to a portcullis - so popular in the 13th century, when Hever was built.

This leads into a small, open-air courtyard and new entrance added to the castle by Thomas Boleyn (Anne's father) and built completely in the Tudor style in 1509.

So this was not the original entrance. Thomas Boleyn added this attachment as a type of hallway or foyer on the ground floor and a long gallery upstairs which now displays portraits of Anne's daughter Queen Elizabeth I and other cool relics.
I saw the most famous and recognizable portrait of Anne Boleyn in the National Portrait Gallery, but my favorite portraits of Anne are housed at Hever. One is very similar to that famed sitting with the French Hood and black gown but Anne looks younger and prettier.

I've never been one of those people who thought Anne was ugly but in this portrait, I find her truly beautiful.
Then there were the portraits of both "Bullen" sisters representing both were very young and both wearing the "old fashioned" Gable Hoods.

These portraits of Anne (left) and Mary (below) were clearly meant to represent their youth although no portraits painted during Anne's lifetime survive. I believe (with no evidence) that they were probably meant to portray the girls at 12 or 13 years old, perhaps just before Anne was sent to be a fille d'honneur in the court of Archduchess Margaret and then went with Mary to serve the French Court?

A teeny, tiny staircase carved into the stone of a wall led to a small room with one window which served as both Anne and Mary's bedroom. (Told ya this was a tiny castle! Sisters in a noble family had to share a room.) In the room is a carved wooden bedstead that I was very anxious to finally see in person. To my disappointment, it was pretty obvious that this was never at the head of the bed in which Anne Boleyn slept. (Despite the words actually carved into the wood proclaiming it was!) Even the guide book for the castle says the wood has been dated to Victorian times - not Tudor.
After Henry executed Anne Bolyen and her father died 2 years later, Hever reverted to the crown. Henry then gave the castle to Anne of Cleves in her divorce settlement and her initials and profile remain in some rooms.
After the house tour, I took a stroll in the gardens. I tried to imagine Anne taking the fresh air but I knew that what I was seeing was planted centuries after Anne's life. Except when I looked back upon the castle from the gardens. I stuck mainly to the gardens close to the castle first before venturing out into the Italian garden and sculpture garden and to the lake.

One of my favorite things about the garden was that it wasn't nearly as crowded as the tiny castle. We were a little too cramped in some of the rooms and there were a few too many children touching things and running around. But the gardens were open and clear. Hidden among the bushes and secret paths were an unusual set of chess pieces carved out of bushes surrounding a brass astrolab.
Anne used an astrolab in her signature when she was being courted by Henry VIII. Could it be?
The gardens were a great place to play amateur photographer...

And then more to see and photograph at the lake...

I fell in love... with a little family of swans. Once again, memories of Henry and Anne...

Although these two had far better luck with childbearing...

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