Four hundred and eighty five years ago, on May 19, 1536, Anne Boleyn was executed for high crimes and treason, all of which she was innocent. She was the first English queen to be executed. Let’s go through her last hours.
Anne celebrated Mass for the last time as the sun rose over England, receiving her last sacrament from John Skip, her almoner.
After Mass, she ate breakfast around 7 a.m. I can’t imagine she ate very much, especially when she was waiting for Sir William Kingston’s arrival. Within an hour, Constable Kingston appeared to let her know that she should get ready because the time of her execution was drawing close.
Anne was already prepared. She dressed in a dark grey ermine-trimmed robe and an English style hood. Her kirtle was crimson. Her face was serene.
At precisely 9 a.m., Anne left the Queen’s lodging, walking past the great hall, through Cole Harbor gate, and along the side of the white tower to the scaffold. The scaffold was draped in black cloth.
With help from Constable Kingston, Anne climbed the steps. Several of the spectators were responsible for her being in this position, some were there to report back to the king every detail, and others were there to witness the execution of a queen. In attendance was Thomas Cromwell, Henry Fitzroy, and Charles Brandon, as well as the Lord Chancellor, Thomas Audley. The event was documented because this was the first time, in all of history, that an English queen was executed.
Anne, looking more beautiful than she had ever, stepped forward to give her final speech.
“Good Christian people, I have not come here to preach a sermon; I have come here to die. For according to the law and by the law I am judged to die, and therefore I will speak nothing against it. I am come hither to accuse no man, nor to speak of that whereof I am accused and condemned to die, but I pray God save the King and send him long to reign over you, for a gentler nor a more merciful prince was there never, and to me he was ever a good, a gentle, and sovereign lord. And if any person will meddle in my cause, I require them to judge the best. And thus I take my leave of the world and of you all, and I heartily desire you all to pray for me.”
Anne did not protest her innocence, or say disparaging things about the king. First and foremost in her mind was the safety of her daughter, Elizabeth, who would grow up to be one of the greatest queen’s that Europe has ever seen.
Anne’s ladies then removed her mantle, and Anne took off her gable hood, tucking her hair into a cap.
Anne paid the executioner and, after giving the executioner her forgiveness, knelt into the straw and prayed.
“O Lord have mercy on me, to God I commend my soul. To Jesus Christ I commend my soul; Lord Jesu receive my soul.”
As she prayed, the executioner called to his assistant, causing Anne to move her head toward the sound. Standing behind her, the executioner beheaded her with one stroke from his sword.
As the crowd dispersed, Anne’s ladies wrapped her head and body in white cloth and brought her to the Chapel of St. Peter ad Vincula within the tower’s walls. Her body and head were stuffed into an old elm chest that once held weaponry.
The Queen of England, Anne Boleyn, the mother of the future Queen Elizabeth, was then buried in an unmarked grave as a traitor.
If anyone knows or is the person who created the map of the Tower of London above, please let me know because I want to give them credit.
*All facts are taken from one of Claire Ridgeway’s wonderful books.