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Beaulieu Palace

New Hall School, near Chelmsford, Essex

Image of the old Palace of Beaulieu circa 1580. Picture of the modern day school; the main entrance is now in what was once the range facing the Main Gatehouse (now no longer exists).

About the location:

In 1516, New Hall was sold by Thomas Boleyn, (later 1st Earl of Wiltshire and 1st Earl of Ormond) to Henry VIII of England for £1,000. The King rebuilt the house in brick at a cost of £17,000. He gave his new palace the name ‘Beaulieu’, meaning ‘beautiful place’. The name did not outlast the century though and eventually became ‘New Hall’.

After a colourful history during which the property fell into disrepair, it was purchased by English nuns of the Order of the Holy Sepulchre in 1798. The following year, the nuns opened a Catholic school there and New Hall School remains a school to this day. The Royal Arms of Henry VIII can still be seen in the school chapel.

Which key events feature Beaulieu Palace in the book?

Summer 1527:

  • Anne meets Henry at Beaulieu during his summer progress of 1527. Her father informs her that she is still to attend upon the Queen, resulting in a row between Anne and Sir Thomas.

The only known likeness of Sir Thomas Boleyn
  • It is at Beaulieu that Anne first meets Anne Gainsford, Mary Norris and Joan Champernowe, who are all to become some of Anne’s closest friends at court. They are featured heavily through the novel.

  • Anne first meets a frosty Queen Katherine in the Queen’s Presence Chamber, where she is presented to the Queen upon her return to court.

Catherine of Aragon by Lucas Horenbout
  • She also has her first encounter with Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk; Anne Boleyn’s Uncle and at the time, undisputed head of the Boleyn/ Howard family. As Thomas Howard recognises the opportunity of Anne’s rising star and plots for the future over dinner, we see Anne’s independent and intemperate spirit coming to the fore in Anne’s first, fiery clash with her uncle.

Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk.
  • We sit in on a rather tense meeting in which Anne begins to flex her political muscle. The Dukes of Norfolk and Suffolk, along with Anne’s father, approach Anne to seek her willingness to bring down the King’s first minister, Cardinal Wolsey. Whilst she tentatively agrees, we see Anne being nobody’s puppet and making it clear that she would support them only when the time was right. Anne is beginning to understand her power and influence.

Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk; never a friend of Anne’s although a temporary political ally in the plot to bring down Wolsey.

The real events in history:

Summer, 1527:

  • On July 23, 1527, Henry's court arrived at Beaulieu on his summer progress. Katherine of Aragon accompanied the King. However, this did not stop Anne joining him at Beaulieu in July of that year. In what Eric Ives has called ‘a huge house party’, the King stayed at the palace for over a month in the company of the a large number of nobles and their wives, including; Anne Boleyn's father, who was also enobled as Viscount Rochford by that time, the Dukes of Norfolk and Suffolk, the Marquess of Exeter, the Earls of Oxford, Essex and Rutland and Viscount Fitzwalter.

At this time, Anne was still officially part of the Queen’s household, acting as one of Katherine’s ‘Maids of Honour’.

Where to go / what to see / where to stand:

  • Today, Beaulieu Palace as Anne would have known it, is no more. It is currently an independent catholic school. However, the range of lodgings opposite the original Main Gatehouse survives and now forms the main front entrance to the school.
  • As a school, it is not open to the public.

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