1505: King seeks report on potential wife’s breasts

In 1505, the 46-year-old Henry VII, after spending two years as a widower, began to consider remarriage. One potential wife suggested by Henry’s courtiers was Joanna of Naples, 25, whose own husband had died a few weeks into their marriage.

Curious about the young Italian, Henry sent two envoys to Naples with orders to procure “a portrait of the young queen”. They were also issued with a 24-point list of “instructions for taking a survey of her person”, which required information about Joanna’s face, figure, complexion, personality, eating habits and financial position. Some of Henry’s specifics are quoted below, along with the written comments of his envoys:

[Henry] “…Mark the favour of her visage, whether she be painted or no, whether she be fat or lean, sharp or round…”

[Envoys] “As far as we can perceive or know she is not painted, and the favour of her visage is after her stature – of very good compass and amiable, and somewhat round and fat…”

[Henry] “Mark whether her neck be long or short.”

[Envoys] Her neck is comely, not misshapen, nor very short nor very long, but her neck seemeth to be shorter because her breasts be full and somewhat big…”

[Henry] “Mark her breasts, whether they be big or small.”

[Envoys] “They be somewhat great and full… they were trussed somewhat high, after the manner of the country, it caused them to seem much fuller…”

[Henry] “Mark whether any hair appear upon her lip.”

[Envoys] “She hath none.”

Henry was impressed enough with the report but the union did not proceed, most likely due to political considerations. Henry VII died in 1509 without remarrying.

Source: Document cited in Henry Bacon, The Historie of the Raigne of King Henry The Seventh, 1622. Content on this page is © Alpha History 2019-23. Content may not be republished without our express permission. For more information please refer to our Terms of Use or contact Alpha History.