curator alison palmer in the best bedchamber

The childhood home of Anne Boleyn will unveil the Boleyn Apartment on the first floor of Hever Castle on Monday 25th March 2024 to give visitors a unique and immersive experience of Tudor history. The apartment, which will be the only surviving suite of rooms in the world that the Boleyn family definitely occupied, is being re-interpreted with Tudor artefacts, and furnishings to create a truly authentic atmosphere.

Rooms in other houses lived in by the Boleyn family, in the UK and Europe, have either been destroyed or modified beyond their recognition. At Hever Castle visitors have a unique chance to walk in the footsteps of Anne Boleyn and her family.

Visitors entering the Castle will continue to learn about former owner William Waldorf Astor’s vision on the ground floor. Once the richest man in America, he bought the Castle in 1903 with a view to making it a showpiece house, in which to entertain and show off his art collection. Astor was fascinated by the Tudors and drew inspiration from other houses of the era, such as Hampton Court Palace. So much so, that he insisted that all the finishes be done using 16th Century style tools such as adzes (a flat faced axe) rather than modern (Edwardian) planes and saws.

The influence of Anne, her siblings Mary and George, and parents Thomas and Elizabeth will soon become apparent as you enter the Parlour (previously the Morning Room), before climbing the spiral staircase to the Children’s Bedchamber (formerly Anne Boleyn’s Bedroom), passing through to the Great Chamber (formerly the Book of Hours Room) and into the Best Bedchamber (formerly the Queens’ Chamber).

The use of tapestries, friezes, furniture, coats of arms and traditional smells will help visitors feel like they are walking in the shoes of the family who lived there.

The team at Hever Castle have purchased 16th century furniture to give the Boleyn Apartment a truly authentic atmosphere.

The Children’s Bedchamber will show what life was like for Anne Boleyn as a child at Hever Castle and letters and a writing desk will be in the Best Bedchamber, the location where Anne is thought to have written to Henry VIII during their courtship.

The Great Chamber will demonstrate the multi-functional purpose of the room and artefacts such as lutes, poetry, replica books and French influences will be included as the Boleyns were a family at the forefront of the cultural Renaissance in Europe.

The re-interpretation of these rooms is a major undertaking and has been planned and researched for over a year by Hever Castle’s Curatorial team, with advice from historian Dr David Starkey. The installation process will take place from January to March 2024 with visitors being taken on a different route through the castle with some room closures during February and March 2024 but also the rare opportunity to join behind the scenes tours of the work in progress.

The re-interpretation will also see items from Hever Castle’s permanent collection relocated, such as the Book of Hours prayer books signed by Anne Boleyn which will be displayed to visitors in another room.

Castle Historian Kate McCaffrey said: “We are thrilled to announce our plans for the Boleyn Apartment. We wanted to create an immersive series of rooms that lets the visitor step back in time to the world of Anne Boleyn and her family – Hever’s most famous inhabitants. We have an incredibly rare, unique opportunity to use these rooms as they would have been used and sell them as the only place in the world that you can go to enjoy a real, authentic Boleyn experience.”

One of the family members who owns Hever Castle, Richard Guthrie said: “It’s a tremendously exciting project. Following the commission of a detailed study of the historical physical characteristics of the Castle, and in consultation with arguably one of the most eminent Tudor experts of our age, our in house team of historians have designed a new exhibition, which we are confident will parallel very closely the way particular rooms would have both looked and been lived in during the occupation of Anne Boleyn and her family. It will provide a quite unique new experience for all visitors to the castle.”

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