Hever Castle

Hever Castle

On November 9th 2009 I had the opportunity to visit Hever Castle. For me this was a once in a life time experience. I live in Australia and the journey alone to England took me almost 23 hours and all of my savings! I honestly do not know if I will ever be able to get back to England (I hope I can one day), so for me this experience was quite possibly a once in a life time opportunity.

A distance view of Hever Castle. (Photo by me).

Hever Castle was the childhood home of Anne Boleyn, one of the most famous women in English history. Anne Boleyn would eventually become the second wife and Queen to Henry VIII. Her only living child was Elizabeth who would become Queen Elizabeth I and would rule England for forty four years. To marry Anne Boleyn and annual the marriage to his first wife Queen Catherine of Aragon, Henry VIII would change the face of religion within England and set about the reformation which had huge lasting impacts upon the country and people of England. After securing the annulment of his first marriage, Henry VIII was able to marry Anne Boleyn but unfortunately it was not to be a lasting union. After failing to give Henry VIII a son, and for many other reasons including her outspokenness and strong will and lack of supporters at court, Anne Boleyn would fall. She was arrested on the 2nd of Mary 1536 and taken to the Tower of London. Charged with treason, adultery and incest she was found guilty and execution on May 19th 1536.

On a personal note Anne Boleyn is my greatest inspiration. She is an idol to me and I adore and resect her for a multitude of reasons. I love that she had a fiery temper and spoke out in a time when women were not thought to be as intelligent as men nor should step outside the bounds of motherhood. She was strong willed, determined and Anne took the chances given to her and ran with them as hard and as fast as she could. I respect all of that, as well as her courage and her strength in her final days. I also admire the fact that she was flawed and was not a perfect woman. She had her faults and flaws just like the rest of us. She is a huge source of inspiration for me and I greatly admire Anne. 

It is because of this passion and admiration that I hold for Anne that it was one of the most incredible things for me to ever do to visit her childhood home at Hever Castle. But first here is a very brief background on how Hever Castle became the childhood home of Anne Boleyn. 

Hever Castle itself is over 700 hundred years old. Anne’s ancestor Sir Geoffrey Boleyn was a Mayor in London; he wed a lady named Anne who was the daughter and heiress of Lord Hastings. It was though this marriage that Geoffrey acquired Blickling Hall and Hever Castle. Anne and Geoffrey’s son William ended up being knighted and made a baron by Richard III. He married Lady Margaret, daughter of Thomas Butler, the Earl of Ormond. Mary’s father Thomas was the oldest son born to Sir William Boleyn and his wife Margaret. Thomas Boleyn went on to create quite a good marriage for himself by marrying Elizabeth Howard, daughter of Thomas Howard, Duke of Norfolk. When Thomas Boleyn’s father died, Thomas acquired Hever Castle and in 1505 he moved his young family to the beautiful castle in Kent. In 1506 Thomas Boleyn added a 100 foot Long Gallery to the castle in which the family could participate in sports or light forms of recreation during the winter months.
The castle has changed greatly over the years and little is the same as it would have been in Anne Boleyn’s day. After Anne Boleyn’s execution and her parent’s deaths the castle was given to Anne of Cleves, Henry VIII’s fourth wife. After her death the castle went to various families including the Waldegraves, the Humphreys and the Meade Waldos. Unfortunately over the centuries the castle went into ruin, luckily in 1903 William Waldorf Astor acquired the castle and it underwent major renovations. The inside of the castle was changed dramatically and the oak wall panelling that can be seen today was erected during this renovation period. Along with the castle the gardens and surrounding area also had major work done as in Anne Boleyn’s day there were no gardens, only vast forest surrounding the castle. It is from these vast and expensive renovations that we have the Hever Castle we see and know today.

The Astor family owned and lived in Hever Castle until about 1983 when it was sold to Broadland Properties Limited of Yorkshire who still currently look after the Castle and gardens.

 Hever Castle. (Photo by me).

Despite the renovations and changes undertaken at Hever Castle, changing it from how Anne Boleyn would have known her home, it is still a spellbinding and magnificent place. Unfortunately you were not allowed to take pictures inside the castle, which is a shame. Although I did buy the guidebook and it does have a lot of beautiful pictures in there from inside the castle.

The inside of the castle is absolutely magnificent and as I moved from room to room I was struck by the sheer beauty of the place. Even though not every aspect of the rooms are the same as they would have been in Anne day it is still a breathtaking place. I was captivated by the beautiful portraits which adorned the walls and especially taken by the portraits of Anne Boleyn, Henry VIII and Mary Tudor. Nowadays ‘Hever Castle, once the home of that great figure in Tudor history, Anne Boleyn, now has one of the best collections of Tudor portraits after The National Portrait Gallery’ (Starkey 2011). I found myself staring at these portraits for long periods of time and literally had to tear myself away to explore other areas of the castle. 

The room that touched me the most was the one in which is believed to have been Anne Boleyn’s bedroom. It was so small, quiet and beautiful. It was a simple, tiny little room but it may have been Anne’s room and it was that knowledge that made it even more magical. It was an incredible, life changing experience to be able to stand in the same area as Anne Boleyn would have done; only separated by time. To touch the fireplace that she probably touched, looking out the same window that she must have looked out of a hundred times. There was such awe about the room; I can still feel the shivers that ran down my spine from while I was there. I stayed in that room for quite a long period of time, not noticing the people that came and went. I stood for quite some time looking out of the little window, not seeing the buildings or gardens, but imagining the forest that Anne would have seen. The experience is quite difficult to put into words and try and describe but it is one that changed my life.

The other room that sent shivers down my spine was the room that held Anne’s two Books of Hours. These are two prayer books that belonged to Anne Boleyn. They were behind glass (of course) but to be mere inches away from books that Anne Boleyn held was amazing. Once again I had the opportunity to be close to something that was part of Anne Boleyn, and once again it was only time that separated me.  In one of the books of prayer she had written “Les temps viendra, Je Anne Boleyn” which means: “The time will come, I Anne Boleyn”. It is a quote that has stayed with me ever since.

In the other Book of Hours, the one that is believed to have been taken with Anne when she went to the tower, she wrote the phrase “Remember me when you do pray that hope doeth lead from day to day,. Anne Boleyn.” I could not help but well up when I read this. Anne Boleyn is my idol, my inspiration and I do remember her daily and I do draw upon her life as a source of inspiration for my own. 

After seeing Anne’s bedroom, then her two Books of Hours I went into Anne of Cleve’s bed chambers. It was a simple room with a beautiful view overlooking the moat and entrance to the castle. After her marriage to Henry VIII was annulled, Henry gave Anna Hever Castle to live in. I have heard that Anne loved Hever Castle and spent quite some time there. I can see why she liked the place – it is exquisite. 

I also saw Henry VIII’s locks. It is interesting to learn that wherever Henry went he brought his personal locksmith with him. He had all his own locks added to each door of every room so that he could not be attacked or assassinated in his sleep. They were very impressive locks and quite beautiful. 

The castle itself is beautiful and after inspecting every tiny detail I went for a walk in the gardens. The gardens and surrounding grounds weren’t established until 1904 - 1908, so obviously they would have looked very different in Anne’s day. Still, the gardens were just majestic and so peaceful and quite. On the day that I visited it was cold and foggy but there was also an amazing sense of peace and calm about the place. There was also almost no one around and I had the opportunity to walk through the gardens alone and spend a wonderful period of time thinking and reflecting. 

A map of Hever Castle and surrounding area. (Photo by me).

For me Hever Castle is one of the most magnificent places on earth. To stand in the places Anne Boleyn would have stood, only separated by time, is such an incredible feeling. To experience a little of Tudor life, to learn more about Anne Boleyn, to simply be part of the beauty and majesty of the Castle, it is all awe inspiring and breath taking. I adore Hever Castle and feel so fortunate that I had the opportunity to visit.

I took many pictures while I was at Hever Castle but below are just a few of my most favourite…

A closer view of the gatehouse. (Photo by me).

Gardens. (Photo by me).

Gardens. (Photo by me).

Gardens. (Photo by me).

Gardens. (Photo by me).

A view of the lake. (Photo by me).

My favourite picture that I took of Hever Castle. (Photo by me).

If you are interested in learning more about what Hever Castle would have looked like during Anne Boleyn’s lifetime, Dr Sarah Morris has written a brilliant article detailing the layout and descriptions of Hever Castle. You can find her article here:

Tudor Hever: A Journey Back in Time to the Real Childhood Home of Anne Boleyn

You can also view the official website for Hever Castle here:

Hever Castle & Gardens

All photos are taken by me please do not copy or redistribute without permission.


Hever Castle 2001, ‘Hever Castle & Gardens’, viewed 8th October 2011, <http://www.hevercastle.co.uk/>.

Hever Castle and Jarrold Publishing 2008, ‘Hever Castle & Gardens’, Jarrold Publishing, Norwich. 

Hu asdf Ives, E 2009, The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn, Blackwell Publishing, Oxford.

Weir, A 1991, The Six Wives of Henry VIII, Grove Press, New York. 

Weir, A 2009, The Lady in The Tower The Fall of Anne Boleyn, Jonathan Cape, London.
Wilkinson, J 2009, The Early Loves of Anne Boleyn, Amberly Publishing, Gloucestershire.


Anonymous said...

hey u should tell what impact Hever castle had on the society in england

Mattura said...

It's lovely to read about your fascination with Hever, I went there yesterday for the first time, and I'll be going back soon to stay in their luxury b&b - can't wait! It is a lovely castle with beautiful gardens, and it's incredible to think that the lake was dug out by hand!

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