We were all expecting for Queen Anne Boleyn to be executed at 9 o’clock this morning by the famous Sword of Calais, the French executioner who has apparently been ordered, but we have now learned that it has been postponed until tomorrow morning. According to our sources, it was first postponed until noon and when that time passed the Queen was finally informed that he death was still a day away.

Anticipating that her execution would take place today, the Queen spent last night in prayer, praying with her almoner, John Skip, from 2am, giving her confession to Archbishop Cranmer at dawn and then celebrating the mass. The Queen asked for Sir William to be present while she took the sacrament and, in front of him, she swore her innocence twice in the sacrament before receiving it1. Obviously, Kingston would report this back to Cromwell and the King.

The Queen made arrangements for £20 to be distributed as alms – this sum had been given to her by the King exactly for this purpose – then she waited for Kingston to come and escort her to the scaffold.

9 o’clock went by and he did not come, it appears that he was busy following orders that he had received from Cromwell making sure that the Tower was clear of foreigners who might cause trouble at the Queen’s execution. According to our sources, the Queen then sent for Kingston to find out what was going on, asking him “Master Kingston, I hear say I shall not die afore noon, and I am very sorry there fore, for I thought to be dead by his time and past my pain.”2 We know now that Kingston knew full well that the execution had been postponed until the next day but he did not tell the Queen, keeping her on tenterhooks, instead he just comforted her, saying that the blow of the sword would be “so subtle”. Our Queen was able to inject some humour into the conversation, replying “I heard say the executioner was very good, and I have a little neck”3 and putting her hands around her throat and laughing. She also joked with her ladies that she would go down in history as “la Royne Anne Sans Tete” or Queen Anne Lackhead4.

When noon had come and gone, Sir William Kingston finally put our beloved Queen out of her misery and informed her that her execution had been postponed until the 19th. The Queen was obviously distressed as she had psyched herself up to face the executioner that day. She begged Kingston to intercede with the King on her behalf so that she could be executed immediately because she was ready to die5, but it was too late and there was nothing Kingston could do. The Queen is due to die tomorrow and we expect that she will spend a further night in prayer.

Notes and Sources

  1. LP x.908
  2. Wolsey, ed. Singer, p460-1, The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn, Eric Ives
  3. LP x.910
  4. Quoted in The Lady in the Tower, Alison Weir, p255
  5. LP x.908

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15 thoughts on “18 May 1536 – Anne Boleyn’s Execution Postponed”
  1. I cant even imagine how it must feel to have prepared yourself to die, only to be told your execution has been postponed, so very cruel.

  2. Postponing the execution-not once but twice- must have been horrible for Anne.. She was prepared to die believing she would soon be in a better place and then they make her live the ordeal and agony of the “last night on earth” again.

    I admire her for having tha courage and strength of heart to even make jokes about her situation.. She was a great lady.

  3. This delay and lack of information seems especially cruel on Kingston’s part. But then, he didn’t give her much comfort. What a cold man! Perfect for his job.

  4. Ah Anne!
    Dark Star, Bright and Shining Lady,
    Brave as a lioness to the last.
    None could defeat you,
    A King could not hold you;
    He put an end to your fire and light.
    Your red-headed Legacy will
    Rule an empire greater than his.

    Ah, Anne!
    Dark Star, Bright and Shining Lady,
    Do you know you are remembered
    All these years later? You have admirers,
    Partisans and foes, to meddle with your cause.
    Your dark eyes gaze out from your portrait
    As if daring us to continue the fight.
    We will, Dark Lady, Enigma to the last.

    May 18 & 19 are not my favorite days on the calendar…

  5. The postponement was appallingly cruel. It also demonstrates the true evil nature of Henry VIII. Anne’s execution was not the only thing delayed; Henry’s decision to execute Anne was also delayed. Henry had an extra day to rethink his decision and consider options for Anne’s fate. If he had any doubts or attacks of conscience concerning Elizabeth’s motherless future, NOW was the time he could correct his mistake.

    Instead, he left his daughter high and dry and let Anne wait.

    1. How was the postponement anything to do with Henry Viii? For one thing it was the fact that the executioner had not yet arrived and it was Cromwell who wanted more security. That’s nothing to do with the King. He wanted Anne to die by the sword, an act of mercy, not cruelty. He had to wait for him to arrive.

  6. She must have been moe than half crazy by the end, and just held together by some sort of unconscious courage. As a test of true character it’s probably as good as it gets.

    I was reading Kingston’s letters in the link you gave. Heartbreaking. Kingston relating his conversation with George about his coming death and then adding as an afterthought that the queen has decided she’ll be sent to Antwerp and ‘has hopes of life’. The little thread of hope in her is both tragic and admirable.

    But I was wondering why she picked Antwerp. Is it anything to do with it being a center for the reformers?

  7. I wonder if Anne was told the reason for the delay. It would be awful if she thought news of her confession had reached the King and he was reconsidering. In reality, I wonder if Cromwell would have allowed news of Anne’s declarations of innocence to reach the King?

  8. This was the very day that Anne’s execution was scheduled to take place, the 18th of may but little did she know that it would no take place and be postponed due to the executioner arriving late into England by barge, by boat as he did not arrive to the afternoon and he should of arrived during the early hours of the morning. Anne must have really wondered what was going on and her jailor did not tell her anything little to her dismay and stressful tention as she thought that she would of been decapitated by that time, long before noon so she must have been really confused that is for sure.

    By then she knew that she did not have long although she must have known that as well as realised that at her trial that her life would end shortly and very soon. I wonder if it was done deliberately to just drive her mad and make it worse…I wonder I never thought this until now, it may have just been where the executioner arrived late but you never know. I also heard rumours that Anne may just have been born in may and it may just been may 19th.

  9. I wonder, what foreigners were they expecting to cause trouble at Anne’s execution? Spanish supporters of Katharine of Aragon and Lady Mary? French friends of Anne’s?

  10. The waiting must have been terrible. I agree with Anne that Kingston certainly did not make matters any better for Anne.

  11. I was just wondering out of all the people that Henry murdered to get to Anne why didn’t he kill Hal Percy? I never understood that. If anyone has the opprotunity of being with Anne in the most biblical since wouldn’t Hal have been the number one suspect? Why was he pardoned and the others sentenced? Or was it just another way to punish Anne in the most terrible way? I couldn’t imagine what they they were thinking as she looked up at him as she was being judged. Poor thing.

    1. Henry Percy wasn’t even arrested and Henry was only too aware that he had been out of the picture long before his marriage to Anne. The men targeted were in and around the King and Queen and more political than ex lovers of Anne. Thomas Wyatt was arrested but thanks to Cromwell, he was not charged and to be honest, Percy wouldn’t have been a viable target for Cromwell. This wasn’t about her ex lovers, it was about setting her up with rivals and with those who were her allies. Percy was also out of reach. He had other uses as well.

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