May 19, 1536
I push past the crowd of people surrounding the scaffold. It stands about 4 feet high and is draped in black. Today I will watch my first execution. And, this is no ordinary execution! The Queen of England, Anne Boleyn, will die this day.
Everyone waits for Anne to emerge from the tower. I am not fond of our Queen. She scandalized our country, championed the reformation, replaced our good Queen Catherine and failed to produce a male heir. And yet….I am unsettled by the Kings command to put to death the woman he loved so much. Even as I hear the crowd recalling Anne’s sins, witchcraft, adultery, incest, plotting the King’s death, I have my doubts. Is Anne innocent?
Anne appears, escorted by Sir William Kingston. She climbs the steps and faces us, beautiful and brave. I marvel at her choice of attire. She wears a gray damask gown, over a crimson damask skirt, and a white ermine mantle. Ermine emphasizes her status as Queen and red is the color of catholic martyrdom. Anne is calm and dignified as she speaks
“Good Christian people, I am come hither to die…..”
She accuses no one. She praises and speaks kindly of the King, her husband, who sends her to die at his pleasure. Anne continues her speech as I stare at her intently. For a brief moment, our eyes lock.
“And if any person will meddle with my cause, I require them to judge the best”
I tremble. In those words, Anne subtly, yet effectively, proclaims her innocence! Did anyone else in the crowd understand?
“I believe you Anne”, I say to myself, hoping she can somehow hear me.
“And thus I take my leave of this world and of you all and I heartily desire you all to pray for me. Oh Lord have mercy on me, to God I commend my soul”.
“God Bless you Anne” I say.
Anne’s ladies weep as they remove her ermine mantle. Anne removes her head dress, and tucks her long black hair into a cap. Nervously, she glances behind her, searching for the executioner. Even he is taken by Anne, as he calls for his sword. Kneeling and blindfolded, Anne continues to pray
“To Christ I commend my soul…..”
In an instant, Anne’s head is swiftly struck from her body. The Queen is dead.
A single tear runs down my cheek. Anne’s ladies in waiting cover her head and body in a cloth, and carry her towards the chapel at St. Peter. The crowd disperses, and the cannons fire along the tower wharf, signaling Anne’s death.
I linger for a moment, and then turn away, haunted by Anne’s voice and the plainitive plea for justice.
“And if any person will meddle with my cause, I require them to judge the best.”
By Michelle Eakins
- The Life and death of Anne Boleyn, Eric Ives
- The Lady in the Tower, Alison Weir