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All the Queen's dressmakers!

Contemporary sketch from Anne Boleyn's coronation

I’m busy!! I had an order for Marie Antoinette (porcelain edition) last year but as I was about to photograph her for approval before shipment, I decided that I needed to replace the dress because I just wasn’t happy with the fabric and, like all my dolls, I won’t let anything leave my studio unless the doll and I are both 100% happy with the quality.  So began a frustrating period of searching for the right fabric, repeatedly ordering and discarding samples because they just didn’t work.  Eventually I just had to put her aside to clear my head.  I am about to make a fresh start.


In the interim I began working on an Anne Boleyn fabric doll in her coronation robes and a fascinating medieval doll.  I will also have to start work soon on Queen Elizabeth II in her coronation robes.  Even though I complain, I am making progress, but it has been a struggle.


Anne Boleyn coronation robes

The Anne Boleyn fabric doll is a new project for one of my long-time, valued collectors but – as with all history – you have to be careful with your sources because they can conflict!  For example, go to Wikipedia and it asserts that Anne wore a dress of purple velvet yet the Tudor chronicler, Edward Hall (1496-1547), writes that she was ‘dressed in a kirtle of crimson velvet decorated with ermine and a robe of purple velvet decorated with ermine over that, and a rich coronet with a cap of pearls and stones on her head”.  I think Hall’s account is likely to be the correct one. 

Again, Wikipedia asserts that she was 5 month’s pregnant, another source says 6 months and yet another that she was not pregnant at all.  Chapuys suggests that it may have been a false pregnancy in a letter dated 27th September 1534: “Since the King began to doubt whether his lady was enceinte or not, he has renewed and increased the love he formerly had for a beautiful damsel of the court”.  As there are no records of the actual miscarriage or a stillbirth, I lean towards the third alternative.

Anne Boleyn's crown from painting of Elizabeth I's coronation

The records agree that Anne was crowned Henry VIII’s Queen on 1st June, 1533 and that her hair was worn loose ‘like a bride’s”.  At the coronation she received the crown of St Edward and she also received the Rod in her left hand and the Sceptre with a dove in her right.  This heavy crown was then replaced with a lighter crown made especially for Anne (and there is a clear trail that shows that this crown was subsequently worn by Elizabeth I at her coronation).

So far so good:

·      Loose hair

·      Crimson velvet for the kirtle, decorated with ermine

·      Purple cloak decorated with ermine

·      Lighter crown worn later by Elizabeth I

·      The rod (for which good records exist)

·      The sceptre mounted with a dove (also good records here)


I gathered all the detail I could and started work on the figure, the dress, the cloak and of course the jewels.

My biggest problem was finding fabric to recreate the dress and cloak. I must have bought several yards of different velvet and each time the colour just didn’t work.  But just recently it all came together (although I am still waiting for the faux ermine to arrive from my supplier).  The jewellery was, as always great fun and I am now working on slippers.  So, Anne is moving along but still a lot to do to finish her.


My medieval doll is from 1464 - Elizabeth Woodville, the blonde queen of Edward IV who managed to straddle the two sides in the Wars of the Roses and survive.  Unusually, it was a marriage for love, maybe initially for lust, rather than dynastic convenience and it lasted for 19 years.  Elizabeth was the mother of the mysterious ‘Princes in the Tower’ and, in all, gave birth to 10 children.  She was a very interesting person but I will leave her story for a later date.

Elizabeth Woodville (1437-1492) Queen of Edward IV


The weather here is moderating.  We had a very warm summer but autumn has arrived and with it we have seen more rain than usual and moderating temperatures.  Winter will soon be upon us.  In my opinion, this is the best time of the year on the Gold Coast with blue skies, pleasantly warm temperatures and no humidity.  It will be a pleasure to be able to work with windows open and air conditioning turned off!


To all of you in the northern hemisphere, my wishes for a wonderful summer.

Until the next letter.




Lady Finavon


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