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18 May – Anne Boleyn’s Execution is Postponed

Posted By on May 18, 2013

Anne Boleyn In The TowerMost people know that Anne Boleyn was executed on 19th May 1536, but what not many people realise is that her execution was actually scheduled for 18th May and 9am.

Anne had prepared for her death. She had been praying since 2am with her almoner1 and she celebrated mass with Archbishop Cranmer just after dawn. She asked Sir William Kingston to be present while she took the Sacrament, so that he would hear her swearing on the Blessed Sacrament that she had not been unfaithful to the King and pass the information on to Cromwell and the King. She swore on it twice, once before she took the body of Christ and once after.2

Anne then made arrangements for the customary distribution of alms using the £20 given to her by the King for this purpose, and then prayed as she waited for Kingston to come and escort her to the scaffold that had been built within the grounds of the Tower. 9am came and went, so a worried Anne sent for Kingston wanting to know if her execution would be at noon instead. Kingston knew, by now, that the execution was being postponed until the next day because he had received orders from Cromwell to clear the Tower of foreigners, but he did not tell Anne. He tried to comfort Anne, explaining that her execution would not be painful and that the blow was “so subtle”. To this, Anne replied with characteristic black humour, “I heard say the executioner was very good, and I have a little neck”, after which she put her hands around her throat and laughed heartily.3 Kingston reported Anne’s composure to Cromwell, saying that “thys lady hasse mech joy and plesure in dethe”.4

Anne spent the morning praying with her almoner and when noon passed without anything happening Kingston informed her that her execution had been postponed until the following morning. We can only imagine how Anne had felt each time she had heard footsteps near her apartments that day. Lancelot de Carles, secretary to the French ambassador, wrote of how Anne was sorry that she had not died that die, “not that she desired death, but thought herself prepared to die and feared that delay would weaken her”.5 According to him, she then “consoled her ladies several times, telling them that was not a thing to be regretted by Christians, and she hoped to be quit of all unhappiness, with various other good counsels.”

She was to spend another night praying and preparing for her death.

Notes and Sources

  1. Some sources say that Anne’s almoner, John Skip, was with her and others (Younghusband, The Tower from Within, 131) say that it was her confessor, Father Thirwell.
  2. LP x. 908
  3. LP x. 910
  4. Ibid.
  5. Ibid., 1036

16 thoughts on “18 May – Anne Boleyn’s Execution is Postponed”

  1. Globerose says:

    Postponements of execution usually bring with them hope of reprieve. Not so in Anne’s case (it appears). This is a cruel day, beyond spite. Was it a technical hitch which brought this delay do we know – or, as there was no coffin provided the following day, was there (even at this late stage) ongoing negotiation? This is grief piled on grief.

  2. Mary Heneghan says:

    How brave she was and so well prepared to die. I wonder, though, was there a glimmer of hope in her mind. Her swearing on the Blessed Sacrament should convince everyone of her innocence as she would never have gone to her death with this great sin on her conscience.

  3. susan says:

    My God what a brave lady she must have been terrified !! Bless her i cannot imagine the ordeal she endured ,I dont know what the allure is but i cant help but admire Henry he did what he thought was right for the times we cannot judge him through todays eyes but i cant help but think him a bastard for what he did to Ann and those poor souls who also died horrible deaths !!

  4. Wendy says:

    I believe the Executioner was delayed by bad weather.

  5. Baroness Von Reis says:

    I did read this in the National Arcives,what was said by Anne to Master Kingston,and I think it was Chaupys would said,she had made gest of being put too death! There is nothing funny about death, with that said,it was the most cruel blow too, Queen Anne,that Henry had posponed yet another day,for the doomed Queen to sit in ,The Tower!!Its no wonder God must haved Dammed this King,the more I learn of him the more I dislike this so called King!!I find it hard myself just knowing that our beloved QueenAnne,had too sit in the ,Tower Of Death ,shame on Henry V111 . Baroness x

  6. Mary the Quene says:

    Cruel game of cat and mouse. Nobody in the King’s favor (at the time) wanted to see any kind of public protest or support for Anne on the scaffold, fearing it would upset the King. Even the great unwashed masses knew Anne was being railroaded.

  7. miladyblue says:

    Oh, for a time machine, not only to rescue Anne and the men executed with her, but to give Henry a well deserved punch in the nose!

    1. Baroness Von Reis says:

      miladyblue, Very well said,I’d give Henry more then a punch,and thats for sure!!!! Bx

  8. Tudor rose says:

    I heard word that the “Executioner of Calais” arrived into England late. Sometime in and during the afternoon. Which was too late as executioners were paid to work mornings and not afternoons. So this would have been the reason as for there being no coffin there could not have been either there had been a delay or there had been no preparations made. It is unusual as everything else had been done quite quickly as well as promptly so why not that but then again it may have been all part of the act.

  9. M'lady says:

    The story I had was that she had a special executioner coming from elsewhere and he was delayed. Is this not the real story? Either way, imagine being prepared for death (as best you can be) and having delays. I wonder if she thought negotiations were going on, even at this late time? What a sorry state of affairs this all is.

    1. Tudor rose says:

      Yes. You are right it was the “Swordsman of Calais”

  10. Karen says:

    Am I the only one who thinks that when Anne made that comment about her neck and “laughed heartily”- maybe she was a bit hysterical? It’s hard to imagine coming to the conclusion that she has “much joy and pleasure in death”. I think Kingston may have been a bit of a fool.

    1. Mary Heneghan says:

      It definitely does appear that Anne had quite a few bouts of hysteria during her time in the Tower. This laughter followed by tears is a sure sign. Who would blame her?

      1. Tudor rose says:

        Exactly! I agree!

  11. Maryann Pitman says:

    Kingston did not know Anne well. She made a joke of it to cover her her anxiety. Kingston was in a novel position, as ladies up to this time had not been imprisoned, tried, convicted, and executed for treason. Certainly no queen, however guilty, had ever been tried and executed for treasonous adultery in England, though Edward II certainly had a case…..Isabella and her sisters-in-law certainly raised serious scandal, but she had escaped her fate (unlike her sisters-in-law). Certainly some ladies had met an unpleasant fate (Matilda de Braose), and some had been imprisoned, but Anne was setting a very unhappy precedent. Kingston may have expected a much different response, but Anne was not your typical female by any means. She met her fate as she met life, facing it head on and making the best of what came her way. He probably expected tears and begging for mercy, and relief at the temporary reprieve. Not Anne’s style. She had taken a man’s part, and she faced a man’s fate. Henry’s loss.

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