Posted in Anne Boleyn, Crime and Punishment, Tudor London

19th May 1536: Queen of England executed for treason…

Anne Boleyn by Hans Holbein wearing a linen coif like the one she wore for her execution.

Before her execution Anne Boleyn heard Mass and took Holy Communion for the last time. She declared her innocence before and after taking the Eucharist before witnesses. This is important because She believed, like all Tudors, that if she lied that she would be condemned to hell.

No commoners mocked or goaded the Queen on the way to the scaffold because it was a private execution within the tower walls. Anne kept looking behind her as if waiting for a message from her husband. The message that never came.

Her ermine cloak, a symbol of Royalty, was removed from her shoulders by her ladies. She took off her English Gable hood and tucked her long chestnut brown hair into a coif. She then said goodbye to the ladies who had been with her during her incarceration. After her arrest, Anne said the King knew that none of these women were her friends and that they had been sent to spy on her. Nevertheless every one of those woman wept.  As the horror of her death became a stark reality. She asked her ladies to pray for her. One of them tied a blindfold over her eyes.

Anne did not use an executioner’s block but knelt upright in the French style which was essential with a French style execution which used a beheading sword instead of an axe. All of the spectators, except two men, knelt in respect of the Queen’s passing soul. The two men who remained standing were Charles Brandon the king’s brother in law and the king’s bastard son Henry Fitzroy who died a few weeks later.

Anne repeated a prayer over and over, “Jesu receive my soul; O Lord God have pity on my soul.”

Her head was removed by a single strike. Some said that her lips and eyes kept moving after death which they saw as magic or witchcraft but we know now was simply her reflexes.

Later that day, a friend found Archbishop Cranmer weeping uncontrollably in his garden, saying that he was sure that Anne was now in Heaven.


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Anne was buried in a box used for storing arrows in an unmarked grave in the Tower Chapel of St Peter ad Vincula. Her skeleton was identified during Victorian renovations of the chapel in 1876. Anne’s resting place is now marked in the marble floor at the altar along with her brother George.  and they were joined a few years later by Georges wife Jane Boleyn/Parker. Sadly, Anne’s first cousin Queen Katherine Howard is also buried in the same spot. Some say that this is the saddest place on earth because Lady Jane Grey/Dudley and Queen Jane Seymour’s brothers are also buried on this site.

Henry married his next wife, with indecent haste, 11 days after Anne’s death. Each year on the anniversary of Anne’s death an anonymous person sends fresh roses to Anne’s tomb.



Interesting fiction:




I love Tudor history and my bookshelves seem to groan a bit more every year...

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