19 May 1536 – The end of Queen Anne Boleyn

On this day in history, Friday 19th May 1536, Queen Anne Boleyn, second wife of King Henry VIII and mother of Queen Elizabeth I, was beheaded by a swordsman within the confines of the Tower of London.

Anne had been queen for just over three years when she was arrested on 2nd May 1536 at Greenwich Palace and escorted to the Tower of London. On 15th May 1536, she was found guilty of high treason for having sexual relations with four men, committing incest with her brother, and plotting with her brother and the other men to kill the king. Her execution had been scheduled for the 18th May but was postponed.

In the following video, which I made for MadeGlobal Publishing’s special Anne Boleyn Day in 2016, I share the 19th May 1536 entry from my book The Fall of Anne Boleyn: A Countdown.

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16 thoughts on “19 May 1536 – The end of Queen Anne Boleyn”
  1. I always wake up early on this day, and try to imagine what must have been Anne’s thoughts and feelings knowing her life would end in this brutal way. She went to her death displaying great courage we are told but she must have been scared. She KNEW she was innocent, (we know this from her confession) but the thought of dying in this way must have been horrendous. I know in Tudor times, it seems most “noble” families had someone who perished by execution but nevertheless it doesn’t seem easy for us to comprehend.
    How did she feel after her execution was delayed from the day before? How did she spend those last hours trickling away? What did she think about?how on earth did she eat breakfast? The questions are many and we will never know.
    What were the thoughts of the people who sent her to her death? How did the spectators spend the rest of their day? How did Henry feel? Was Jane Seymour nervous as her wedding day approached?
    Rest in peace Queen Anne Boleyn you are not forgotten.

  2. Oh here comes the stupid rumour of extra fingers… which I don’t believe at all.

    Plus Nicholas Saunders wasn’t even a contemporary, hhow could he give a gruthful account of this? Not sure whether he was still a baby at the time or even born yet, but his account can only derive from hersay aswell. And then given the fact that he wasn’t quite an Anne supporter, I don’t think any of his words in the matter being very credible.

    But still today that is the thing today, there’s supporters of something, thowing them full-heartedly into the cause, then the anti-fraction trying to weaken the supporter’s position – even if that involves creating lies and liable, but only few true neutral and factual accounts. I prefer the latter and to let people make their own decision unbiased from any side.

    I always think of poor Anne on this day, she was so young still and poor Elizabeth suddenly reduced to a mere bastard, growing up without a mum on top of that, living with the rumours and accusations said about her own mother. But it showed they came out of a strong stock, Anne was probably very headstrong and so was Elizabeth. Given the fact of all the things they both had been through in their lives and how well they managed despite, I think this is a quality that speaks for them.

  3. On this day 482 years ago an annointed Queen was murdered. Not even Henry II whose wife Eleanor of Aquataine raised an army against him faced this horrific fate. Anne was completely innocent of all charges. Henry murdered her simply because he was bored with her and she was no longer of any use to him. Yes, he did some good things. More ships were built for the Navy Royal and the south east coast of Enlanf was fortified with new forts but remember those forts were needed because HE broke from Rome to marry Anne. The events of May 17 & 19 seal at least in my opinion that Henry VIII was one of the if not the most tyrannical monarchs in England’s history. Test in Peace Anne Boleyn’s. We’re a few centuries late but we’ve got your back.

  4. England in May is a beautiful time of the year, the last of the blossom has fallen from the apple and cherry trees, some petals still lie on the ground frothy white and rose pink, the sweeping countryside now budding under the warmth of the sunshine is awaiting the coming summer, buttercups and bluebells grow in the green Spring grass and new born lambs play happily under the protective gaze of their mother, it is a time of hope of the beginning of new life as the country has finally shaken of the chill of winter, in this balmy ambience there was no hope of life for one woman who died hundreds of years ago, a woman who had worn the crown of England and who was the mother of her greatest monarch – Elizabeth 1st, as she arose that morning on what was to be her last she knew this was the final act she would play on the world stage, and how she presented herself would be spoken of for years to come, what was the weather like that long ago ago, May can be alternately cheerful and gloomy, it was possibly a balmy sunny day like it is today, she ate some breakfast then Kingston arrived to escort her to her death, as she stepped out into the warm may sunshine the dew must have still been on the grass, as she made that final walk she stepped into history as the first queen to be executed in world history, she could not have slept the night before, she possibly could not eat much and spent most of the time in prayer as it was noted she had on the previous night, the lack of sleep and fear must have made her look frail to the onlookers and maybe that frailty gave her unusual beauty an added brilliance, one observer said she had never looked more beautiful, she was dressed in grey damask and wore the English gable hood which she had passed of in favour of the more elegant French one during her life at court, it was as if she wished to proclaim to the world her English blood, she was accompanied by her women and it is said she may have been allowed her much loved maids who had served her when she was queen, and not the spiteful band of harpys whose company she had had to endure in the past few weeks, one of them is said to have been Mary Wyatt a dear friend of hers and sister of the poet, Anne is said to have given her her own prayer book, Eric Ives wrote it was a short walk from her apartments to the scaffold but that last walk must have been terrible, and it was noted she would glance behind her frequently perhaps with the last hope of the condemned that there would be a reprieve, Tower green was awash with faces, all come to see this most enigmatic of queens die, did she ascend the steps with shaking legs, she did not faint nor need anyone to support her as she stood unaided and spoke calmly to the watching crowds, she must have seen her arch enemy and the man who was responsible for her tragic position standing amongst them, did their eyes meet I can see Cromwells steely gaze and he was no doubt congratulating himself that now they were well rid of this troublesome woman, Anne possibly looked at him with indifference and there was also Brandon they had always disliked one another, and with him was the reluctant young Henry Fitzroy, husband of her cousin and who was also fated to meet his maker very shortly, no doubt he had not wanted to attend, it must have been harrowing for him as he had been pampered all his life and this must have been the first time he had witnessed actual death, death by decapitation is very very bloody, when the head is seperated from the body the torrent of blood that expels from the neck is excessive and continues to pump out for several seconds, also the eyes and mouth can twitch due to reflex conditions and this is what happened to Anne Boleyn, the superstitious onlookers must have crossed themselves in horror, I hope if those eyes were looking at Cromwell at the time they filled him with fear, for now Anne made the customary speech, no recriminations no resentful remarks but merely praised the King for he was a most gentle sovereign Lord, and she begged the crowd to pray for her, now she was minutes from death and her ladies helped her with preparing herself, she took of her hood and her lustrous legendary hair was pinned high on her head, the headsman was waiting nearby and it was said when she fixed her gaze on him he found it uneeving, he had never executed a woman before and though being an expert swordsman, he must have been loathe to carry out this dreadful duty, to spill the blood of a queen was unprecedented it just did not happen, Anne was still looking round in the vain hope that some one would come to halt the execution but she must have realised by now that they would not, she knelt and was blindfolded or did she refuse I am not sure as accounts differ, in respectful homage the crowd also knelt except Brandon and Fitzroy, no doubt under the influence of the Duke, her women no doubt overcome with the enormity of what was to happen left their mistress and moved over to one corner of the scaffold, Anne was praying to herself over and over again when the headsman called out to his assistant, some say in a bid to distract her and swiftly on padded feet he crept up behind her and raised his great sword and struck, Annes soul was now free and her torment was over, the horror of Annes death made Fitzroy faint and the crowds after gazing in horror then left, little realising they had just witnessed one of the most eventful events in English history, Annes broken body lay on the scaffold and her grief stricken women somehow forced themselves to carry the torso and head, now covered in a cloth to the little ancient church of St. Peter Ad. Vincula, it was said they were so weak and yet they forced themselves to do this last act for their once beloved mistress, no coffin had been prepared quite possibly an oversight and her women had to search for something to bury her in, an old box was found that housed arrow staves and reverently they placed her in that and covered her with the cloth, there it was left to them to make sure she had a Christian burial and they found a priest and as the sunlight poured in through the dark corners of the little church this one time Queen of England, possibly the most famous queen England has ever had, was laid to rest in a quiet and dignified and mournful little ceremony, there she would lie for centuries her name was never to be spoken of again, her paintings were taken down and destroyed and Henrys stonemasons were busily erasing her initials from the courtyards and palaces around the country, Henry had succeeded in erasing himself of his second wife but he could not erase her from history, and little did he know it but after Jane Seymour his new bride to be he was to make another four marriages, the Merry Widow married his new love in just two weeks after whilst his ex wife’s body was still decomposing, according to popular legend as it is depicted in some movies, he was out hunting when he heard the booming of the gun from the Tower that told the world the queen was dead, and he rode to Janes house where they promptly wed, but that is a myth and it was Cromwell who reported back to his master the details of the queens death, although having masterminded the whole revolting affair of which he was to shamefully admit to later, he himself could not fail to be impressed by his enemies brave death, intelligence spirit and courage was how he described her, at least he was decent enough to admit to that.

  5. THE MOST HAPPY:in heaven and peace now. Queen Anne Boleyn-the most celebrated and influental queen consort of England that there ever was. And endless sorce of facsination. Loved by many. And today those Anne Boleyn fans,such as my self, try their best to imagine what she went through on May 19 1536,and with much sympathy.

    1. I did. The sermon about love was very powerful. The fact that Henry married Anne for love with evidence of those love letters. I wonder what Anne’s thoughts were during her time in the tower. Being kept in the same apartments that she was in before the coronation showed Henry really was playing with her mind. I think the confession must have been a spiritual moment for Anne as well as making sure that she was prepared for what would happen. The delay of the swordsman must have dragged it out further and the death of her brother and the other men first. That must have been to torture and Henry really knew how to drag it out. Jane Seymour must have been thinking that Anne was being made an example off. I think in some way Henry was trying to do that. I like to think that Anne was thinking of her family and especially her daughter. I think that was Anne’s main achievement and to get up on the scaffold and not bad mouth the king but to pray for him. Rest in Peace Anne. Loved by so many and her legend lives on.

      1. I don’t think Henry was playing with Annes mind by having her housed in her Royal apartments, because as Queen they were the only suitable dwellings for her and she still had to be treated with due reverence, but still iv often thought that, to enter the Tower in triumph one day then to come as a prisoner and to stay in ones old apartments must have made her weep with the sheer irony of it all, yes I believe regarding the wedding you mean the American preacher, he’s inspired a lot of conflicting views over the Internet, but the ceremony was lovely and the weather was great and the bride looked exquisite, it all went well and I’m glad her ghastly family wasn’t around to ruin it for her and Harry.

        1. I meant it was ironic. I was all tired out. I think Henry wanted control over Anne at the end. I visited an abbey and one of the reasons they stated was that abbeys were destroyed for money and control by Henry not because of wanting a son. I thought the American Preacher was inspirational though he did go on for much longer than planned and maybe that is why he was controversial, and along with the choir made me want to blub. Meghan and Harry really looked in love. That is the best thing. To be happy and support them. Which is what the public did as well as their guests.

  6. Rest in peace Anne Boleyn. Anne faced her end with grace and dignity and she was bold in her dress and her speech. She addressed the people and accepted she died under the law but didn’t ask forgiveness and didn’t confess anything. She committed herself to Jesus and knelt down and prayed. Anne had done the normal things, forgiven the executioner, given alms, removed her hood and given her ladies her last few things. Now she prayed and with one swing of the sword it was over.

    Anne Boleyn was gone to her rest. She was placed in an arrow box as no coffin was provided, which considering how much trouble Henry had morbidly put into this execution, is quite amazing. He paid for an expensive swordsman from France and for every other detail but overlooked a burial shroud or coffin. He was of course too busy off wining and dining with the Seymour family. Henry really did behave very oddly during these 19 days, being informed of everything but absent and acting aloof of the entire process. He acted as if Anne was already dead.

    Now when Anne gave her speech she was watched by leading members of the Privy Council, including the Duke of Suffolk and Henry’s son, the Duke of Richmond. When Anne prayed everyone else knelt down but these two. Suffolk refused to pray for the woman he believed had changed the King and insulted his late wife. He was her enemy to the last. It is said that Anne had asked pardon even of the Princess Mary. She had made her peace and now she was at peace.

    Anne’s own distressed ladies were left to carry her body into the Chapel of Saint Peter ad Vincula in the Tower and here she was buried. In the nineteenth century her remains were placed in a casket inside a lead box, with her name on it and she was reburied. Over the place today is a memorial flag with her arms and name and it is very beautiful. A poissy of flowers are placed there every year since her death and nobody knows who sends it. This is because she is remembered. Anne Boleyn was innocent and is at peace.

      1. Why would I hate Anne Boleyn? Just because I support Katherine of Aragon? How can I hate a woman from 500 years ago, whom I have never met? I can’t judge Anne Boleyn or Henry Viii, nobody can. She wasn’t a perfect human being, she had faults, she had character flaws but she was innocent of the terrible things she was accused off.

        I don’t understand where you got the impression I hated Anne Boleyn, but I certainly attempt to be as balanced as possible. Yes, I may not like some of the things she thought or said but that doesn’t mean I hate her. She had two sides to her and her reputation has suffered terribly over the years. I am sorry if you have that impression, but it is not true and really probably isn’t logical either. I hope she found peace and she probably did. Again RIP Anne and George Boleyn.

  7. Rest in peace Anne Boleyn, Queen of England and Queen in Heaven.

    I hope she and the others rest peacefully now knowing that so many of us honor their lives and memories and that they mean the absolute world to us.

  8. Anne was one of my favorite wives of henry… R.I.P. Anne Boleyn <3 henry is rotting in hell where he should belong and i hope anne is resting peacefully in a better place…

  9. I am sad on this day every year but who ever gives a thought for Henry or Cromwell on the anniversary of their deaths. I wonder if Cromwell thought of Anne on his way to the scaffold?

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