Mystery of what happened to Anne Boleyn's prayer book after her execution revealed
Watch: ITV News Meridian's Fred Dinenage talks to Kate McCaffrey about the study
The mystery of what happened to the prayer book of Anne Boleyn, one of Henry VIII's wives, after her death has been revealed in a new study.
The book, on display at her childhood home of Hever Castle in Kent, is believed to have survived after being passed down through a network of family and friends.
Using ultraviolet light and photo editing software, a study of two prayerbooks had discovered wording in the printed Book of Hours which had been undiscovered for hundreds of years.
Following the death of Anne Boleyn, despite pressure to remove all items belonging to the former Queen, the Book of Hours prayerbook is thought to be the one she took to her execution.
Former Hever Castle steward Kate McCaffrey was given special permission to look into the prayerbooks which previously was thought to contain only one inscription.
However Kate discovered three family names written in one book; Gage, West, and Shirley (from Sundridge, near Sevenoaks).
These three names centre around a fourth, the Guildford family of Cranbrook in Kent.
Kate’s research uncovered that the book was passed from female to female, of families not only local to the Boleyn family at Hever but also connected by kin.
She said: “It is clear that this book was passed between a network of trusted connections, from daughter to mother, from sister to niece.
"If the book had fallen into other hands, questions almost certainly would have been raised over the remaining presence of Anne’s signature."
"Instead, the book was passed carefully between a group of primarily women who were both entrusted to guard Anne’s note and encouraged to add their own.
“In a world with very limited opportunities for women to engage with religion and literature, the simple act of marking this Hours and keeping the secret of its most famous user, was one small way to generate a sense of community and expression.”
The book bears the inscription, ‘remember me when you do pray, that hope dothe led from day to day’.
Only a handful of Anne’s books survive today and only three contain her signed inscriptions. One is held at the British Library, the other two at Hever.