The earliest recorded mention of the stocks being used as a form of punishment was 4700 years ago. ‘He puts my feet in the stocks.’ Job 33:11
The book of Acts is almost two thousand years old. It describes how the disciples of Jesus, were arrested and their jailer, put them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks. Acts: 16:24
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.
This was a very cruel way to die and it was used to convince a prisoner who refused to give a plea of innocent or guilty to change their mind. If no plea was given then a trial could not take place. Pressing took place inside prisons like Newgate or the fleet. The accused was laid on a table and had another table put on top of them. Then lead, rocks and weights were put on until they either decided to plea or were crushed to death.
The prison guards or ‘Keepers’ fed the victim with ‘Three morsels of barley bread without drink for the first day and as much filthy water as they like if they survived to the next day.’
The execution of Anne Boleyn has been portrayed in so many books and films that it is easy to forget that she was once a real breathing human being and not just a character in a play. Unlike us, Anne did not know the end of her script until the cold morning of 19th May 1536 and for her it must have been a terrifying and shocking end.
For centuries Speakers corner in Hyde park has been the place where Londoners have stood on boxes and practised their right of free speech. Today some speakers talk complete nonsense to make the crowd laugh, others tell smutty jokes and some shout their political or religious views to the London crowd who boo or applaud.
I remember walking through this area as a child and being fascinated by its strange atmosphere and the strong feelings of the speakers and listeners.
It was on this site close to Marble Arch where the infamous Tyburn hanging tree once stood and it was at the foot of these gallows that the tradition of free speech began.
It was at Tyburn that condemned prisoners gave their last speech on the gallows before their death making the area an ideal place for public debate and discussion. From this hanging tree culture speakers corner evolved into what it is today and the right of free speech was born.