she's known as henry the VIII's mistress, second wife, and second queen. but more so than her historical titles, anne boleyn was known for her ability to influence others. while her persuasive abilities are usually discussed in regards to her relationship with henry the VIII, she was just as influential to the public, not with her words, but with how she looked. i know this is a little different to my usual posts, but i've always been interested in history (i did it at uni before i dropped out...) so it's nice to combine it with my blog.
in modern culture, anne boleyn is frequently portrayed as a woman of great beauty. she's been played by gorgeous women including hollywood a-lister natalie portman, famed opera Singer anna netrebko, and the go-to actress for period projects, natalie dormer. even in picturebox films' brief description of the film, the other boleyn girl, (a film depicting the life of anne and and her sister mary, as they fight for the love of king henry VIII) they make sure to note that anne and her sister are, "two beautiful sisters." however, further historical research on written documents of the time have helped shed light on the matter, and surprisingly enough, many described the queen's features as being downright dull. a huffington post article from earlier this year explained the following about boleyn: her "dark auburn hair and olive skin did not match the medieval and renaissance ideal of the fair-skinned, blue-eyed blonde, an idea that managed to combine equal parts virgin mary and botticelli's (1486) powerfully sexual venus." the article also reported that even her admirers had nothing particularly complimentary to say about her looks. diplomat francesco sanuto noted that her body didn't make up for her plain facial features either, claiming that her "bosom not much raised." boleyn's physique was considered slender, while the ideal of the time was more curvaceous.
so how did this woman considered to be a "plain jane" earn a reputation centuries later as being physically exquisite? she simply used the other attribute she was well-known for, her intelligence. to make up for the characteristics that were considered undesirable at the time, boleyn learned how to "dress for her body type" so-to-speak. the majority of her fashion inspiration arrived while she was living in france. as history of european fashion reports, boleyn was credited for bringing the french trends of square necklines and crescent caps/french hoods to england. she was also responsible for the trends of higher collars, tying ribbons around the neck, squared necklines, and long, flowing sleeves. during the elizabethan era, royalty was the equivalent of the modern-day celebrity. citizens looked to them as the standard for excellence in their behaviors and appearance. boleyn was nothing short of the style icon that kate middleton is today. when she wore something, it quickly caught on as what was "in" for the time. but what many of her fashion followers didn't know was that boleyn's fashion choices weren't made for the style alone, they were also chosen for function. boleyn used many of her cutting-edge fashion choices to hide her less desirable traits. the french hood was effectively used as an ornament to brighten and beautify her darker hair, and the squared neckline allowed for the embellishment of her cleavage. she was able to conceal the large, unsightly mole on her neck with a high collar, tying dark ribbons around her neck, or wearing bulky necklaces. her signature long, draping sleeves weren't just for the sake of fashion, they worked to hide the sixth finger on her right hand.
while she may have proven that anyone can be fabulous with the right look, her mind is what really makes her a fascinating historical figure. regardless of whether or not she was guilty of crimes against the king, or anything else she was accused of, what remains to be the most disappointing thing about boleyn is that we are left to wonder what such a smart, and strong woman could have accomplished had she not met her demise so young. instead we will have to settle for what she was able to accomplish during her life: giving women a voice, and one hell of a wardrobe.
*this is a guest editorial post*