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19 May 1536 – A terrifying vision

Posted By on May 19, 2015

Lambeth Palace

Lambeth Palace

Something strange happened in the early hours of the day Queen Anne Boleyn was executed. While Anne prepared herself for death by praying and celebrating the Mass with her almoner, Scottish theologian Alexander Alesius (Ales) had a terrible vision or nightmare.

Alesius was in London at the time and although he was aware of the Queen’s imprisonment he did not know that she was due to be executed on the 19th, having “remained a sorrowful man at home” worrying about what would happen to England’s religion if the Queen was put to death. He gives an account of his vision in a letter he wrote to Anne Boleyn’s daughter, Queen Elizabeth I, in 1559 to congratulate her on her accession:

“I take to witness Christ, Who shall judge the quick and the dead, that I am about to speak the truth. On the day upon which the Queen was beheaded, at sunrise, between two and three o’clock, there was revealed to me (whether I was asleep or awake I know not) the Queen’s neck, after her head had been cut off, and this so plainly that I could count the nerves, the veins, and the arteries.

“Terrified by this dream, or vision, I immediately arose, and crossing the river Thames I came to Lambeth, (this is the name of the Archbishop of Canterbury’s palace,) and I entered the garden in which he was walking. When the Archbishop saw me he inquired why I had come so early, for the clock had not yet struck four. I answered that I had been horrified in my sleep, and I told him the whole occurrence. He continued in silent wonder for awhile, and at length broke out into these words, ‘Do not you know what is to happen to-day?’ and when I answered that I had remained at home since the date of the Queen’s imprisonment and knew nothing of what was going on, the Archbishop then raised his eyes to heaven and said, ‘She who has been the Queen of England upon earth will to-day become a Queen in heaven.’ So great was his grief that he could say nothing more, and then he burst into tears.”

I am always moved by this account. Archbishop Cranmer obviously couldn’t sleep either and I’m just glad that he had a friend with him to share his grief that day.

Notes and Sources

  • Calendar of State Papers Foreign, Elizabeth, Volume 1 – 1558-1559, 1303.

23 thoughts on “19 May 1536 – A terrifying vision”

  1. May 19, 2015

    To Whom It May Concern,

    I have read & been told on many occasions, that if one feels drawn to a particular story

    in history, such as that of the “Tudors” and of “Anne Boleyn’s execution” that it is quite

    probable that the person feeling drawn to such said time, was most certainly there, and

    lived in that time, as well as took part as one of the characters then.

    The problem I am able to see with this ability is simple. One can & must live in the

    present moment, in order to be happy, sane and to achieve anything worthwhile!!!

    While it is important to know, or at least try to understand what our ancestors went

    through, it is I believe equally important to always stay in the present moment; for to

    try to go back, even in ones mind, can and will prove to be quite painful at best.

    So, Thank you for caring about us , all those many years ago, but please, let it be, so

    that we might remain free from that time now. God Bless you one and all, and Long Live

    The Queen!!! She also wishes you well, & this blessing to Please, please, ” Live in the

    Present Moment Always, & All will be well..

    1. Claire says:

      Hi Jean,
      Thank you for taking the time to comment. I’m Claire and I’m a history researcher, writer and teacher. Although I spend my working days, plus rather too many evenings and weekends, deep in history I do live in the present too. I have a wonderful family, a husband and three children, and working from home does allow me to balance things and to spend time with my loved ones. Thank you for your wise words though, the present is definitely a gift.

      1. Laurie Morris says:

        Our ancestors and history are gifts. Who hasn’t shed a tear while reading an old letter as imagination brings the past to life. Equally we laugh and applaud, depending on the tale. Then, sad or happy the letter is returned to an envelope or a book slowly shut, we go about our present lives. Thank goodness for the preservation of the past and the bravery to live in the present.

  2. Benjamin Gibbs says:

    Hello Claire,

    I just wanted to say thank you for posting this touching story! I have honestly never heard this account before. It is always wonderful to learn something new about an era of English history that I am fortunate enough to already know a fair bit about. I am especially happy to see that Archbishop Cranmer, in this account, is depicted as being very real. Just a mortal man, obviously wrestling with deep feelings for the terrible ordeal that a close acquaintance and presumably also his friend, Queen Anne, was suffering at the time. I really enjoy these stories that show us small glimpses of the human side of the great figures of the Tudor court. Lovely account!

    1. Claire says:

      Hi Benjamin,
      Thank you! You can read the whole of Alexander Alesius’s letter to Elizabeth I at http://www.british-history.ac.uk/cal-state-papers/foreign/vol1/pp524-542, it also includes his account of an argument between Anne and Henry a few days before Anne’s arrest. Anne had Elizabeth in her arms.
      Yes, I love reading letters like this, they are very moving and very human.

      1. Lisa H says:

        Thanks for posting that link, Claire. I love reading these from the original sources. 🙂

  3. Elizabeth Brown says:

    Good day Claire! As usual I thank you so much for posting this! I learn so many different things from you
    I am wearing my Anne Boleyn necklaces today.
    Happy Anne Boleyn Day to you and all!

    Kindest regards,
    Elizabeth

  4. Leslie says:

    Thank you, Claire, for providing the BHO link to this letter. I read the entire letter, and I must say, I have never read such a concise, honest, personal interpretation of Anne’s downfall. It must have been painful, yet somewhat of a relief, for Elizabeth to read these words. A few quotes that I found very interesting:

    1. It sounds as though the initial reports of Anne’s alleged adultery came from Stephen Gardener? “….it happened that Dr. Stephen Gardener…wrote to those friends whom he had in the Court of the King of England, conspirators like himself, to the effect that certain reports were being circulated in the Court of the King of France, and certain letters had been discovered, according to which the Queen was accused of adultery.”

    2. I love this account of Anne rebuking her enemies: “As Crumwell attended at the Court daily, along with Wrotisley, the affair thus became known to the King himself. He was furious, but, dissembling his wrath, he summoned Crumwell, Wrotisley, and certain others, who, as report says, hated the Queen, because she had sharply rebuked them and threatened to inform the King that under the guise of the Gospel and religion they were advancing their own interests, that they had put everything up for sale and had received bribes to confer ecclesiastical benefices upon unworthy persons, the enemies of the true doctrine, permitting the godly to be oppressed and deprived of their just rewards. To them he intrusted the investigation of the whole business.”

    3. It is evident by this letter how much Anne influenced the new religion “… I remained a sorrowful man at home, waiting for the result; for it was easy to perceive that in the event of the Queen’s death, a change of religion was inevitable.” ” True religion in England had its commencement and its end with your mother. And as soon as the King began to hate her, laws hostile to the purer doctrine of the Gospel appeared.”

    4. I love this description of Henry’s obsession once he began to form an attachment to a lady: “For so ardent was he when he had begun to form an attachment, that he could give himself no rest; so much so that when he was raving about Queen Anne and some of his friends were dissuading him from the divorce, he said that he preferred the love of the Queen to half his realm.”

    I could go on and on, because this letter offers so much insight, but thanks again for the link!

    1. Leslie says:

      Oh and one more 🙂 It’s interesting that Alexander considered one of the primary reasons for Anne’s fall was that she persuaded Henry to send an embassy into Germany – “On account of this embassy all the Bishops who were opposed to the purer doctrine of the Gospel and adhered to the Roman Pontiff, entered into a conspiracy against your mother.”
      He mentioned that before the embassy had returned to England, she had been executed.

  5. Globerose says:

    Sweet post Elizabeth! Lovely words, Claire! Moving. I’m thinking that “Anne of a Thousand Days” for this generation gives way to “Anne of a Thousand Faces”. She is becoming the sort of icon who each of us feels we know intimately and that ‘our Anne’ is the one who is most real, most truly Anne, and we argue passionately, and often (who knows) almost rudely, for her – yet the more we say individually about Anne, the more we actually reveal about ourselves! How does it feel, today of all days, to be Anne’s 2015 Champion? I’m thinking, despite the many, many times you almost wish you weren’t, that you feel pretty proud. And rightly so. Thanks Claire!

  6. HollyDolly says:

    I’ve never heard this story before. It’s just so sad, and i can see why he was upset.
    Poor Anne never really had a chance with so many factions with their own axe to grind working against here. My late father was at the Tower of London back in 1958 or 59 .He was doing a Tour of Duty,or TDY for Security Service ,US Airforce.,(military intelligence.)
    When there one of the beef eater guides spoke of Anne Boleyn and how they say she walks there, “With her ead tucked underneath her arm.”There actually have been reports of the centuries of her ghost there as well as others.

  7. Yvonne Parmenter says:

    Thank you Claire for posting this. love reading these links.

  8. Miladyblue says:

    This is a very interesting account, which I, like some of the other posters here, have never read.

    What I am wondering is – did Elizabeth ever reply?

  9. Mary says:

    I firmly believe that if you’re ancestors lived in history so did you, through at least the DNA passed to you. Maybe there is memory on it.

    When I saw my first movies of Aunt Anne and Mary Queen of Scott’s executions I sobbed uncontrollably. Now knowing my connections to them I may have known my relations blood was being spilled.

    May eternal rest be granted to their souls.

  10. BanditQueen says:

    Anxiety can cause all sorts of things to happen in the mind, but this seems something more profound; a real glimpse of what was to come; or perhaps he was afraid that Anne would be executed. He must have been greatly moved when he came to share with Cranmer and he assured him that Anne would become a Queen in Heaven. The shocking reality of this terrible vision must have terrified him; haunted him; but the assurance that Anne had found salvation in the next life must have given this theologian something to hold onto and share with Anne’s daughter.

    1. Banditqueen says:

      By the way Helen Miram is playing Elizabeth I on Drama Sky Channel 158, in a two part mini series called Elizabeth I on this Saturday and Sunday at nine p.m. Seen a preview and it looks good.

      Cheers.

      1. Claire says:

        I have that series on DVD and it’s excellent. I love the chemistry between Mirren and Jeremy Irons. Also on Sunday at 9pm, on BBC 2, is the Dan Snow documentary on the Armada with Anita Dobson playing Elizabeth I.

        1. Christine says:

          Claire just seen your post, did you watch Armada I saw it on my I pad, it was brilliant how they showed the battle, I didn’t realise it went on for a week I always thought it was over in a matter of days, I think we were so lucky we had Drake on our side, and in the end I almost felt sorry for poor old King Philip, and Queen Elizabeth was terrified of being made prisoner and being killed by the Spanish, she had her old nurse sleep in her bed with her for comfort, it must have been a very traumatic time for her, but what I found disappointing was that they never mentioned the Tilbury Speech because that stands out in the annals of English history along with Nelson’s speech before the Battle of Trafalgar and Churchills on the Battle of Britain so I was surprised they never showed it, but I found it highly enjoyable.

  11. Geraldine Barton says:

    Thank you Claire for all your hard work and helping us to understand and get close to all the Tudors. Your page is something I look for every day and would very much miss it if it was discontinued. I enjoy the wonderful art work too which also helps to bring the Tudors back to life.

  12. Ceri Creffield says:

    That’s a very touching story and I hadn’t heard it before. Thanks for posting that, Claire.

  13. The 19th of May was the fateful date of execution for Queen Anne Boleyn in 1536, falsely accused by Henry VIIIth of being an adulteress, of having committed high treason, and having committed incest with her brother, George… in fact, many innocent people lost their lives thanks to Henry’s temper tantrums, and his demand for a male heir to Britain’s throne… to mark the anniversary of her death, I am putting together a special video in Anne Boleyn’s honor. I hope you will tune in to Elaine’s Xtreme Paranormal Channel on Thursday, May 19th, and enjoy the show! Updates will be posted, and the video is in the works right now! I also have some EVP’s from Queen Anne Boleyn that I recorded during communication sessions with her.
    Address to go to is:
    http://www.free-lanceparanormalinvestigations.com
    Go to the channel from there. Questions may be posted directly from the channel, or to the Facebook page, Elaine’s Xtreme Paranormal Channel

  14. Anne says:

    WHY does England pave roads and lay sidewalks right next to such historic places as Lambeth ? Nearly 100% kills the atmosphere and beauty of the place to do that. Look at the photo. It should have been allowed some land around it ! And whatever happened to the garden mentioned here, where Alesius told his dream to Cranmer ? I hope that didn’t get paved over as well.

    1. Claire says:

      It’s in central London so a pavement is very much needed. It does have land around it though and is in a beautiful spot right on the south bank of the Thames. It actually couldn’t really have extra land around it because of the river and I think its 13 acres of land is a lot. The palace overlooks the Thames and has the Garden Museum next to it (former St Mary’s Church, where many of the Howards are buried). That’s just the entrance (Morton’s Tower, the gatehouse) that you see in the photo, it is a large complex of buildings (covering 13 acres of land) and the garden still exists and covers 10 acres of the 13 acre plot – see http://www.archbishopofcanterbury.org/pages/the-garden.html. We had a lovely walk over to it from Westminster Abbey, which is on the other side of the river.

      If you look at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lambeth_Palace#/media/File:Lambeth_Palace_London_240404.jpg and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Lambeth_Palace_-_geograph.org.uk_-_343862.jpg, you can see just how beautiful a spot it’s in. It’s incredible how they’ve managed to retain that peace and quiet and that beautiful spot when it is slap bang in the middle of London, like being right in central New York.

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