By Hannah Ryan and Katharina Krebs, CNN
When antiquarian Paul Fitzsimmons bought an ornate wooden bird at auction for Â£ 75 ($ 101) in 2019, he knew he had to be associated with a member of the royal family – but he didn’t know everything just not who.
So he put on his detective glasses and finally came to the conclusion that his original owner was Anne Boleyn, Queen Tudor beheaded by Henry VIII of England. Today, the rare artifact is believed to be worth around Â£ 200,000 ($ 269,900).
Fitzsimmons, from Devon, southwest England, is now considering donating the 16th-century falcon to Hampton Court Palace – where the wooden bird would likely have graced Boleyn’s private quarters – on a loan to long term. He said he was delighted to make the discovery after matching the bird to a drawing from Hampton Court Palace that depicted the same room. An analysis of the bird against the drawing confirmed his intuition
âThis is truly an amazing find because Anne Boleyn is possibly the most famous woman of all time,â Fitzsimmons told CNN. âAnd Henry VIII did his best to completely erase all traces of her. All of its emblems have been removed from the palace and nothing has survived, “he said, adding:” It really is quite spectacular as it is in perfect condition and it has all of its original gilding, all of its original paint. “
The famous Henry VIII parted ways with the Catholic Church to divorce his first wife, Catherine, in order to marry Boleyn in 1533. This decision led to the creation of a separate Church of England. But three years later, he accused Boleyn of adultery, incest and conspiracy – and ordered his death.
Fitzsimmons said that while the Boleyn Bird’s astounding worth is notable, the most important thing for him is to make sure he “comes back to the right place where he should be.”
âIt really has to go back to Hampton Court Palace,â Fitzsimmons said of Henry VIII’s favorite residence. âIt has enormous value. But it’s not a question of value, âhe added.
Historian Tracy Borman, chief curator of Historic Royal Palaces, the charity that runs Hampton Court Palace, told CNN she was also excited about the discovery of Boleyn’s Wooden Falcon.
âThis discovery is extremely important. Artifacts relating to Anne Boleyn are incredibly rare, thanks to the fact that Henry VIII wanted all traces of her removed from his palaces after her execution in 1536, âBorman said.
Borman explained that the bird is “very similar to others carved for the Great Hall at Hampton Court for the appointment of Anne to the Queen and was likely part of the decorative scheme.” The sculpture is very fine and the restoration work has brought to light the beautiful gilding which suggests that it was an object of high standing.
She added that the bird was “probably saved by an Anne supporter”, saying it is “wonderful that it has survived for almost 500 years, to the present day”.
Borman also stressed that the discovery should excite Boleyn’s notable fan base.
“Of all of Henry’s wives, Anne Boleyn has by far the highest number of followers, so this discovery is likely to attract enormous interest,” Borman said.
Borman’s next book “Crown & Scepter” will offer a comprehensive history of the British monarchy. She said she was “thrilled” to have discovered this surviving artifact from Boleyn’s life in time to include it in the book.
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