Treasures of the Royal College of Music - The Anne Boleyn Book

Royal College of Music

The Anne Boleyn Book is one of the oldest manuscripts in the Royal College of Music Collections, dating from the early 16th century.

It is in the form of a choirbook, in which each voice part is written separately, two parts per page.

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. 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 white falcon was a symbol adopted by the Boleyn family in 1529. 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. At this point there is a note which reads 'Mistress A Bolleyne - Nowe Thus'. It is tempting to read this as a reference to her beheading but it is in fact her father's motto.

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