The Anne Boleyn Book

circa 1530

Royal College of Music

Royal College of Music
London, United Kingdom

The Anne Boleyn Book is one of the oldest manuscripts in the Royal College of Music collections. It is in the form of a choirbook, in which each voice part is written separately, two parts per page (the page opposite shows the treble and tenor). The singers would stand round and sing from the one book. This volume is rather small in comparison to other examples and the care taken over the copying and illuminations suggests that it was intended as a presentation copy for private use. There are a number of features that suggest a link to Anne Boleyn, though this has not been proven: The music it contains is not English but from the Franco-Flemish tradition, including works by Josquin Des Prez. Anne would have known this music from her time at the French court. The first group of works includes those performed at the coronation of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn in 1533. The page illustrated shows one of four images of a white falcon in the manuscript. The white falcon was a symbol adopted by the Boleyn family in 1529. Here it is seen eating a pomegranate, which was an image used by Catherine of Aragon when she became Queen of England in 1509. Two thirds of the way through the volume the handwriting changes, to the second of three hands. At this point there is a note which reads ‘Mistress A Bolleyne - Nowe Thus’, illustrated above. It is tempting to read this as a reference to her beheading but it is in fact her father’s motto.


  • Title: The Anne Boleyn Book
  • Date Created: circa 1530

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