She who has been the Queen of England on Earth……

….will today become a Queen in heaven

It is said that Anne Boleyn to the very last hour expected her husband, Henry VIII to pardon her for the crimes she anne-boleynmost likely never committed, and to which she most certainly never pleaded guilty. But that pardon never came, and today she was beheaded by a French executioner, brought to England as a concession from Henry to his wife, to let her be beheaded by means of a sword rather than an axe.

She had been tried and found guilty of adultery, incest and high treason on the 15th, crimes that merited a punishment by being hanged, drawn and quartered for men and burning alive for women. None of the condemned had to face these gruesome endings, and on this day Anne found herself on her knees in front of a French swordsman.
On the very last day of her life, Anne is reported to have been of good spirit, maybe because that was the only alternative that seemed acceptable to her. As a parent, one can´t help but think that her thoughts must have gone to her small girl Elizabeth, wondering what would become of her.

Shortly before dawn she had sent for the constable of the Tower, William Kingston, so he would her mass with her, and while he was with her, she twice swore on her eternal soul that she had never been unfaithful to her husband the King. Kinston would later write;
“This morning she sent for me, that I might be with her at such time as she received the good Lord, to the intent I should hear her speak as touching her innocency alway to be clear. And in the writing of this she sent for me, and at my coming she said, ‘Mr. Kingston, I hear I shall not die afore noon, and I am very sorry therefore, for I thought to be dead by this time and past my pain.’ I told her it should be no pain, it was so little. And then she said, ‘I heard say the executioner was very good, and I have a little neck,’ and then put her hands about it, laughing heartily. I have seen many men and also women executed, and that they have been in great sorrow, and to my knowledge this lady has much joy in death. Sir, her almoner is continually with her, and had been since two o’clock after midnight”

anne-boleyn-in-the-tower-edouard-cibotIn spite of the “good countenance” that was reported, of the “devilish spirit” the author of the Spanish Chronicle claimed she had demonstrated, I can´t rid myself of the impression that she was afraid. After all, in spite of the fact that the evidence against her was most likely concocted, it had come to this, and she wanted it to be over with. She wished that her life had been ended at the beginning of the day, not wait, not until noon.

There is a poem that has been attributed to Anne Boleyn, and is said to have been written by her during her last days in the Tower. There are no conclusive evidence that this is the case, and some also claim it to have been written by her brother George, Lord Rocheford with whom she shared her faith;

O DEATH, rock me asleep,
Bring me to quiet rest,
Let pass my weary guiltless ghost
Out of my careful breast.
Toll on, thou passing bell;
Ring out my doleful knell;
Let thy sound my death tell.
Death doth draw nigh;
There is no remedy.

My pains who can express?
Alas, they are so strong;
My dolour will not suffer strength
My life for to prolong.
Toll on, thou passing bell;
Ring out my doleful knell;
Let thy sound my death tell.
Death doth draw nigh;
There is no remedy.

Alone in prison strong
I wait my destiny.
Woe worth this cruel hap that I
Should taste this misery!
Toll on, thou passing bell;
Ring out my doleful knell;
Let thy sound my death tell.
Death doth draw nigh;
There is no remedy.

Farewell, my pleasures past,
Welcome, my present pain!
I feel my torments so increase
That life cannot remain.
Cease now, thou passing bell;
Rung is my doleful knell;
For the sound my death doth tell.
Death doth draw nigh;
There is no remedy.

Anne Boleyn was brought out from her quarters in the Queen´s House by two gentlewomen as well as the constableTower_of_London_scaffold Kingston. She was dressed in a red petticoat and a loose, dark grey gown of damask trimmed in fur and a mantle of ermine. According to the historian Eric Ives she was not executed on the site where the memorial is now located, but on a scaffold erected on the north side of the White Tower. She climbed the scaffold from which she held a short speech;

“Good Christian people, I am come hither 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 anything 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 of 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. O Lord have mercy on me, to God I commend my soul”.

Anne´s ermine mantle was removed and she was blindfolded. In the audience in front of her, one would have been able to find Thomas Cromwell, in some theories the man guilty of having orchestrated her dramatic downfall, Henry VIII:s illegitimate son Henry Fitzroy and Charles Brandon.

Anne Boleyn died by a single stroke by the swordsman and was buried in an unmarked grave in the chapel St. Peter ad Vincula. Her remains is said to have been identified during renovations of the chapel in 1876 and a resting place is now marked. Some believe how ever that the remains under the plaque is those of her sister-in-law Jane Rocheford and that St Peter ad VinculaAnne in her turn rests under the plaque bearing Jane´s name.
The title for this post is taken from a statement attributed to Bishop Cranmer on the day of Anne´s execution, when he is said to have been found crying.

Sources:
Thomas Cranmer – Diarmaid MacCulloch
The Lady in the Tower – the fall of Anne Boleyn – Alison Weir
The life and death of Anne Boleyn – Eric Ives
Henry VIII and his court – Neville Williams

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