Queen Anne Boleyn’s execution was scheduled to take place on this day in Tudor history, 18th May 1536, so the imprisoned queen prepared herself for her execution.
However, later that day, Anne received news that her execution had been postponed.
Why was her execution postponed?
How did Anne prepare herself?
What exactly happened on this day in 1536?
Find out in this video:
Here’s the transcript:
Thursday 18th May 1536 had been the day chosen for Queen Anne Boleyn to die, “to be burned or beheaded as shall please the King”, so Anne had spent the night of 17th/18th praying with her almoner and preparing for her death, while carpenters worked on a brand new scaffold. The king, in his mercy, had decided that she should be beheaded and he had ordered the famous executioner of Calais to behead her by sword.
At dawn, her friend Archbishop Cranmer arrived to hear her final confession and to celebrate the mass with her. Anne took this opportunity to swear her innocence in front of witnesses. She asked for her gaoler, and a man who was writing daily reports to Thomas Cromwell, Sir William Kingston, to be present while she took the sacrament. She then swore her innocence twice on the sacrament, before and after receiving the body of Christ. Kingston passed this information on to Cromwell.
Anne then made arrangements for alms to be distributed, and then went back to her prayers and preparation.
But Kingston didn’t come to collect her. He’d been ordered by Cromwell to postpone Anne’s execution and to clear the Tower of all foreigners. Anne sent for him, telling him that she “thought to be dead by this time, and past my pain”, but Kingston didn’t inform her of the postponement, although he did try to comfort her by telling her that the blow from the sword would be “so subtle”. Anne replied “I heard say the executioner was very good, and I have a little neck” and laughed as she put her hands around her throat. Kingston was rather shocked by her reaction and reported back to Cromwell that “this lady has much joy and pleasure in death”.
Anne also joked with the ladies attending her, saying that she’d become known as “la Royne Anne Sans Tete” or ‘Queen Anne Lackhead’.
When her execution still hadn’t happened by noon, Kingston informed Anne that her execution had been postponed until the following day. I can’t imagine how Anne must have felt preparing for her death and then being told that it wasn’t going to happen until the next day. It’s bad enough when I have a dental procedure or something like that postponed! Eustace Chapuys, the imperial ambassador, recorded what he’d heard of Anne’s reaction “Anne appeared very sorry, praying the Captain of the Tower that for the honor of God he would beg the King that, since she was in good state and disposed for death, she might be dispatched immediately”. Poor Anne!
Also on this day in 1536, according to a Frenchman writing to Thomas Cromwell, “the wax tapers about Queen Catherine’s tomb had been lighted of their own accord”. Hmmmm….