The Other Boleyn Girl Symbols, Allegory and Motifs
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Written by Yang (Jenny) Bai
Symbol- Anne Boleyn’s French hood
Anne Boleyn is known for introducing the French headdress into the English court. Having been raised in the French court, she is extremely fond of French fashion. The French hood is a defining feature of Anne and acts as part of her unique identity. The French hold is shaped like a crescent moon and is often adorned with jewels. The French hood artfully frames the wearer’s face without concealing it; it is an accessory which is both demure and flattering, combing the elements of prudery and attractiveness. The French hood is originated from the French court, the most fashionable royal court in Europe. Therefore, the French hood is associated with the glamour and the sophistication of the French court. By wearing the French hood, Anne Boleyn is eager to set herself apart from the ladies in the English court, who were wearing English headdresses at the time. Anne is very different from the other ladies at court and she is eager to broadcast her unique personality to the world. While many ladies at court could not even write, Anne was already a highly intelligent scholar and was well versed in many languages. Her French headdress is not simply a stylish piece of accessory; it is in fact an instrument which expresses her unique character. Her flattering French hood is associated with the ideas of sophistication, style and refinement. By wearing it, it sets Anne apart from the other ladies, and proclaims her as a rare species and an exotic treasure.
Symbol- Jane Seymour’s gable hood
Just as Anne is cultivating a unique individual image through her French headdress, Jane Seymour also seeks to cultivate a special image through her choice of headdress. After Anne popularizes the French hood at court, Jane initially jumped onto the French hood bandwagon by wearing the French headdress. But after she catches the eyes of the king, she is determined to emphasize her difference from the queen. Therefore, Jane set aside her French hood, and starts to wear the traditional form of English headdress, the gable hood. The gable hood stands for tradition. Both the king’s mother and his first wife Katherine have worn it. The gable hood also stands for English identity. By wearing the gable hood, Jane portrays herself as a patriotic English woman who takes pride in English identity and traditional values. By rejecting the French headdress, Jane is also rejecting the morally questionable influence of a foreign court. The gable hood is extremely unflattering and marks the wearer as someone impossibly unfashionable and dowdy. By wearing this unflattering headdress, Jane announces to the world that she is a woman who is not interested in fashion and style. She advertises herself as a virtuous woman who is completely indifferent to worldly wealth and ostentatious display. Since the sophisticated image of Queen Anne is rapidly falling out of favour with the king, Jane knows that she is able to win the king’s affection by cultivating an image that is entirely different from Anne's. By wearing the gable hood, Jane proclaims herself as a demure and pious woman devoted to English tradition and conservative values.
Motif- Anne Boleyn’s B-letter choker
Anne likes to wear her B-letter pearl choker. This necklace is repeatedly mentioned in the story. The letter B stands for the Boleyn family. This choker is a symbolic representation of Anne’s pride in her Boleyn identity. By wearing this necklace, Anne is literally wearing her family’s badge on herself. Even after she becomes queen, she continues to wear this B-letter choker. Even after her marriage to the king, Anne still clings tight to her Boleyn identity and regards herself as a Boleyn girl. By wearing this Boleyn necklace, Anne shows the world that she is a Boleyn girl who achieves the status of a queen through the merit of her beauty and intelligence. As a low-ranking aristocrat who succeeds in marrying a reigning monarch, Anne overturns the royal traditions and the rigidly defined social hierarchy. The Boleyn family is not an illustrious aristocratic family and is often looked down by the blue-blooded nobles at court. Rather than feeling ashamed by her low origins, Anne takes pride in the fact that she is able to elevate her status through the workings of meritocracy. By constantly wearing her Boleyn choker, Anne takes pride in the fact that a low-ranking Boleyn girl is able to overturn the social hierarchy by contracting a supremely advantageous marriage with the king.
Symbol- Jane Seymour’s Prie-dieu
Jane is closely associated with her prie-dieu. She likes to say her prayers in front of her prie-dieu in the manner of Queen Katherine. Queen Anne made herself wildly unpopular with her religious reformation, which has given rise to accusations that she lacks Christian faith. In order to win popularity with the pious English people, Jane wants to pose herself as an unimpeachable and god-fearing Christian. Therefore, she likes to kneel in front of her prie-dieu, with her hands clasping on her rosary. Jane succeeds in persuading the court that she is different from the scandalous Queen Anne who has antagonized the church with her controversial religious reforms. Jane poses herself as a virtuous woman with a profound Christian faith. By praying in front of her prie-dieu, Jane also seeks to emulate the beloved Queen Katherine, who also spends long hours saying prayers. Therefore, the prie-dieu is associated with moral virtue and religious faith. Since the damage to the Church has caused great uproar and resentment in England, Jane knows that she will win hearts by posing herself as a faithful Christian woman.
Anne Boleyn as an allegory of greed
Anne Boleyn is very interested in the outward trappings of monarchy. Unlike the frugal Queen Katherine, Anne believes that a queen must always dress like a queen and look the part. Anne is fond of ostentation and display. She always wears the most expensive dresses and covers herself in splendid jewels. She uses the most costly fabric to make her dresses. She surrounds herself with servants in fine livery. Wherever she goes, she is followed by an impressive entourage of knights and retainers. When it comes to outward display, Anne does not believe in half-measures. She displays an insatiable appetite and seeks to appropriate everything that had once belonged to Queen Katherine. She has a striking and penetrable gaze which sparks of ambition. Anne’s material greed is literally written on cloth of her gowns and in the expression in her eyes. She is an allegory of greed and acquisitiveness. Anne knows that she lacks royal blood; therefore she uses the most magnificent royal trappings to compensate her low-birth.
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