Hever Castle has impressive royal connections. It was home to not one, but two former Queens of England and was also visited by Queen Victoria and our current Queen.
Anne Boleyn, the daughter of Thomas Boleyn, 1st Earl of Wiltshire, and his wife, Lady Elizabeth Howard, was educated in the Netherlands and France before securing a job at court as a maid of honour to Catherine of Aragon.
Upon Anne’s return from France in 1522 she continued to visit Hever Castle regularly. In fact, seven of Henry VIII’s love letters were sent to Anne while she was residing at Hever in 1528.
Henry met Anne when he was still married to Catherine of Aragon and it was Henry’s love for Anne and her insistence that she not be his mistress that led to Henry breaking away from Rome and the subsequent Reformation.
One of the prayer books on display at Hever Castle is thought to have been taken to the scaffold with her.
As well as Anne Boleyn, Hever Castle was also owned by another former Queen and wife of Henry VIII.
In 1540 Henry VIII married his fourth wife, Anne of Cleves. Henry’s decision to marry Anne was based on a portrait miniature painted by Hans Holbein. The marriage was made for political reasons but ended in divorce six months later. Henry VIII awarded her the honorary title of ‘The King’s Sister’, £500 a year, a sufficient household and two houses.
In addition, he allowed her to lease a number of manors to enhance her status and income, including Hever, at an annual rent of £9-13s-3½d. Anne settled happily in England and became good friends of the King and Anne Boleyn’s daughter, the future Queen Elizabeth I.
Anne owned Hever Castle until her death in 1557 but it is not known how much time she spent at the Castle. However, there is a surviving letter written by Anne to Mary Tudor in 1554 signed ‘from my poore house of Hever’.
In more recent times the royal connections continue, Princess Alexandria Victoria, who went on to become Queen Victoria visited Hever on Saturday 13th September 1834. She detailed her visit in her diary: “At a quarter past 1 we drove with Lady Flora and dear Lehzen to Hever Castle. We arrived there at 3. This curious old place was the residence of Sir Thomas Boleyn, father of poor Queen Anne Boleyn. We saw the room where she used to live and sat on a seat on which Henry VIII used to sit. We then mounted our horses. Mr Conroy met us there. I rode Rosa.”
Queen Mary also visited in 1922, May 1924 and May 1927 and George V visited in May 1927.
October 1970 and December 1972 saw visits from Princess Margaret and she also visited with Lord Snowdon on another occasion.
Visitors to Hever Castle can see some of the famous faces who stayed on the guest list in the Astor Suite on the top floor of the Castle.