Anne Boleyn's historic emblem returns to Hampton Court Palace after almost 500 years

By Ellie Brown - Local Democracy Reporter

9th Nov 2021 | Local News

A unique antique carved wooden falcon, which was the symbol of Anne Boleyn during her ill-fated marriage to King Henry VIII, is to be displayed back at its original home at Hampton Court Palace almost 500 years later.

The white falcon badge, symbolising steadfastness and purity, was Anne's principal emblem when she was Queen and during her brief reign it adorned the walls of the Palace

It depicts a crowned bird holding a sceptre in one claw standing on a stump at spouted red and white roses, with Anne's initial A entwined with the King's H in a true-lover's knot.

The falcon ornament was carved out of oak by Richard Rydge in around 1532, but disappeared four years later after Anne was executed and any traces of her presence or time at the Palace were eradicated almost overnight.

Amazingly it was preserved and passed down through the generations until it reached Devon antiques dealer Paul Fitzsimmons who paid £75 for it at a local auction.

Paul, who later researched the falcon and discovered its historic value, told the remarkable story to Teddington Nub News as plans are made to show the priceless and historic item back at Hampton Court Palace.

He said: "I have been an antique dealer specialising in the 15th 16th 17th century works of art for 30 years and I have been lucky enough over the years to find several important things but this is right there in the top ten.

"It really is one of the rarest artefacts you will ever find.

"To be honest I wasn't quite sure what it was when I bought it as it was one of four lots I bought at the time, from the estate of someone who had died, all of them from Tudor times.

"I thought it was royal but I wasn't aware of it being Anne Boleyn's badge.

"When I got it home it only took me ten minutes of research to confirm it was from Hampton Court Palace.

"When I bought it, the falcon was completely black which turned out to soot so I had it professionally cleaned and the paint and the gilding was totally intact, which is amazing.

"The survival of an item like this is so rare as almost to be untrue.

"It really did belong to Henry VIII, who commissioned it for his wife, had it adorn his Palace and then got rid of it and his wife at the same time."

Paul, who works in Buckfastleigh in Devon says the falcon has been valued at £200,000, but in historic terms it is priceless.

By allowing it to 'go home' to the Palace he hopes other people will be able to share his excitement at such a discovery.

Tracy Borman, a leading Tudor historian and joint chief curator for Historic Royal Palaces, the charity that manages Hampton Court, said: "The irony is that Anne Boleyn is the most popular of the six wives and she's probably the one with the least surviving evidence … because she was obliterated by Henry.

"So that makes this really quite special and obviously I'm very excited about it.

"When I realised how this absolutely would have fitted with the decorative scheme, I had a shivers-down-the-spine moment.

"It is a remarkable survivor. The really interesting thing is that somebody obviously wanted to save it for posterity. So it's likely to have been a supporter of Anne."

A Historic Royal Palaces spokesperson told Nub News: "This is a tantalising discovery, and over the coming months our curatorial team look forward to uncovering more about the history of this piece, which will inform any potential opportunity for display onsite at Hampton Court Palace."

More stories from the Palace

Iconic Henry VIII hat to be displayed for first time ever at Hampton Court Palace

Silhouetted army go on parade at Hampton Court Palace

Cosmic Christmas light trail coming to Hampton Court Palace

     

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