We present a high-resolution surface X-ray diffraction study of hexagonal boron nitride (h-BN) on the surface of Rh(1 1 1). The previously observed commensurate 13-on-12 superstructure for this system is stable in the temperature range between room temperature and 830 °C. Surface X-ray diffraction measurements up to 830 °C on the superstructure show no sign of a shift towards a different superstructure, demonstrating the high thermal stability and strong bonding between film and substrate. At lower temperatures, an anomalous thermal expansion behaviour of the topmost surface region of rhodium is observed, where the rhodium in-plane lattice constant remains invariant. This can be explained by the (h-BN) single-layer being compressively strained, whereby the strong bonding to the substrate causes the latter to be tensile strained.