No, Anne Boleyn Was Not Black.

If whitewashing is okay, so is black Anne Boleyn, but I wish they’d ordered her necklace off Amazon

Linda Caroll
Apr 8 · 7 min read
Left: Jodie Turner Smith as Anne Boleyn, photo from The Mirror // Right: Anne Boleyn Official Portrait from Wikipedia

hitewashing has always been a thing in Hollywood. If you didn’t know, it means “to alter in a way that favors, features, or caters to white people: such as … casting a white performer in a role based on a nonwhite person or fictional character

Like when Mickey Rooney played Mr. Yunioshi in Breakfast At Tiffany’s.

Photo from Wikipedia

Or when Angelina Jolie played Marianne Pearl in the biopic A Mighty Heart.

Photo from AtlantaBlackStar

Pearl was the wife of slain Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl. One look tells you she’s not white. But they whitewashed her. For the movie.

There’s tons of more examples.

Julia Robertson as Harriet Tubman?
Emma Stone as Allison Ng?
Anthony Hopkins playing a black man?
Ben Affleck playing a Hispanic man?

Google “whitewashing.” You can read all day.

Hollywood has been doing it forever. Apparently, white people like seeing white faces in movies. Hollywood likes when the heroes are white and the women are lovely and in a “supporting” role to a white, male lead.

So they cast a black woman to play Anne Boleyn.

Anne Boleyn was beheaded so King Henry VIII could marry Jane Seymour in his obsessed quest for a male heir.

Jodie Turner-Smith is beautiful. Being a black woman in a white world, I’m sure she can relate to being cast aside, diminished and discriminated against for no reason of her own doing. Pretty much like Anne Boleyn was.

So Turner-Smith was cast as Boleyn in a 3–part drama called Anne Boleyn

Now people are losing their minds, with about as much reason as Anne lost her head. Which is to say no reason. There was no reason for heads to roll then, and there’s no reason for anyone to lose their head (or their mind) now.

Some people are really angry that a black woman was cast as Anne Boleyn. I wonder if they were as angry about whitewashing, but probably not. They never really are, are they?

But then there’s the other people. The ones who think Anne Boleyn was black now. Because, you know. If you see it on tv or in the movies, it must be true.

“Why does Meghan think she was discriminated against for being black when Anne Boleyn was black?”

That’s a real question people are asking.

Sigh. You can’t make this stuff up. Sometimes I hate humans. One Google search. That’s all it would take. Wikipedia pops right up, I promise.

Anne Boleyn was not black. It was a casting choice.

Here. Look at her parents. And grandparents.

Anne Boleyn’s Parents…

See that man? That’s Thomas Boleyn, 1st Earl of Wiltshire and Knight of the Garter, the most senior order of the Knighthood. He was a diplomat, a politician — and Anne Boleyn’s father. Note the red beard, okay?

Elizabeth Boleyn, (nee Howard) the Countess of Wiltshire was a noble woman born into the wealthy and influential Howard family. She was Anne’s mother and lived at the castle while her daughter was Queen.

Anne’s mother died of a broken heart

When Henry VIII beheaded both her son and daughter, she retreated to the countryside and was never seen in public again. She died a year later. She was only 57. The cause of death was listed as “died of a broken heart.”

You’ll notice how white they both are?

Anne Boleyn’s Paternal Grandparents…

Sir William Boleyn photo from Find A Grave // Lady Margaret Boleyn portrait also from Find A Grave

Sir William Boleyn was a wealthy and powerful landowner and High Sheriff of Kent. He was Thomas Boleyn’s father, and Anne’s paternal grandfather. Notice the red hair? Yup. That’s where Anne Boleyn’s dad got his red hair. From his Dad.

The Boleyn men were gingers. Just like Harry.

Lady Margaret Boleyn (nee Butler) was a noblewoman, born at Kilkenny Castle in County Kilkenny, Ireland. Daughter and co-heiress of Thomas Butler, 7th Earl of Ormond, she was Anne Boleyn’s paternal grandmother.

That childhood photo of Lady Margaret was probably painted to arrange her marriage. See the subtle indications of wealth?

Notice the light hair and skin tone they both have?

Anne Boleyn’s Maternal Grandparents

Thomas Howard official portrait from Wikipedia // Elizabeth Howard (Tilney) stained glass portrait from Wikipedia

Thomas Howard, 2nd duke of Norfolk was the man behind the Tudors. He singlehandedly moved the Howard family from poverty to nobility. He was Anne Boleyn’s maternal grandfather.

Elizabeth Howard (nee Tilney) Countess of Surrey was an English heiress and first wife of Thomas Howard, Earl of Surrey. She’s Anne’s maternal grandmother.

Incidentally, that’s not a portrait of her, it’s a stained glass window at Holy Trinity Church, Long Melford, Suffolk — made in her likeness.

You’ll notice how startlingly white they are?

Biggest clue — Anne’s daughter was a redhead!

Childhood photo of Elizabeth 1 from Tudor Dynasty // Adult photo of Elizabeth I from Wikipedia

Anne Boleyn’s only living child was Elizabeth I. She was 3 when her mother was beheaded. Then her Daddy, Henry VIII, came and told her she’s not a princess anymore.

Elizabeth had vivid red hair. Genetically speaking, the only way for a child to have red hair is for both parents to carry the gene for red hair. Which means it’s very unlikely that she could have been born to a black mother.

Yes, black women can have white babies, and white women can have black babies. Skin color isn’t as big a deal as racists like to think. It’s a genetic marker, like eye color and height.

All skin color tells us is how close our ancestors lived the the equator. Isn’t that a stupid thing to get all worked up about?

I wish they’d bought her necklace at Amazon.

The necklace is what makes me sad. Because they didn’t get it right. I mean, it’s a serif letter B with 3 pearl teardrops. How hard is that?

You know she didn’t want to marry him, right?

She was in love with someone else, but they weren’t allowed to marry. Because she wasn’t of high enough station for the man who loved her back.

She was proud to be a Boleyn. She loved that necklace. B for Boleyn. Anne wore it so proudly. It’s the one she chose to wear for her official portrait.

Here’s why that necklace matters.

When Henry lopped her head off for the audacity of not bearing him sons, he destroyed everything that was hers. Clothing, jewelry, even all her portraits. Destroyed. Gone. Only a small handful of portraits remain, only because they weren’t in Henry’s castle when she was beheaded.

And I wish they’d got her necklace right. It wouldn’t have been so hard.

After all, Amazon sells a replica for 10 bucks…

Anne Boleyn replica necklace photo from Amazon

Anne Boleyn has been portrayed wrongly for 500 years. Most of what people think about her comes from documents written by a man that hated her. If you’re interested enough and dig deep enough, it’s easy to find the truth.

But that “B for Boleyn” necklace? No digging required. It’s right there in her official portrait. And I kind of wish they’d got it right. Because it meant something to her. I wish that had mattered to them, too.

Left: Jodie Turner Smith necklace photo from The Mirror // Center and Right: Anne Boleyn official portrait from Wikipedia

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