Dealer Paul Fitzsimmons of Marhamchurch Antiques in Buckfastleigh, Devon, had spotted the blackened wooden bird at an auction, also in Devon, in late 2018.
After purchase and further investigation, he believed the mount must be linked to Boleyn. He then offered it at Bonhams in September 2019 but after it failed to sell he had the item professionally cleaned and restored at a cost of £15,000 and chose to offer it on long-term loan to the palace (as reported in ATG No 2519).
Following research by curators at Historic Royal Palaces (HRP), the falcon is now believed to have come from the Great Hall. HRP compared the falcon with the 43 surviving falcon badges decorating the ‘frieze’ above the windows and hammer beams in the hall and found it to have an “incredible likeness in both size and design”.
Sebastian Edwards, deputy chief curator at HRP, said: “While we won’t be able to say for certain whether the falcon was originally created for the Great Hall until the next time we erect a roof-height scaffold and compare it with those still in situ – which might not be for some years – our research lends great weight to the theory, particularly with there being one falcon less than we’d expect in the surviving decorative scheme! Either way, this is an incredibly rare example of Tudor royal ornamentation, imbued with the legend of Henry’s most famous queen, which I hope will provide visitors with a taste of the magnificence of the palace during the Tudor period.”
Fitzsimmons said: “We are ecstatic that the falcon has returned to its rightful place, for everyone to enjoy its beauty while celebrating Anne Boleyn’s historical importance.”
The carved falcon badge is now on show at the palace, marking the 500th anniversary of Boleyn’s first encounter with Henry VIII.