19th May 1536 – I Have a Little Neck: The Execution of Anne Boleyn
Posted By Claire on May 19, 2010
At dawn on the 19th May 1536, Anne celebrated the Mass for the last time, receiving the Sacrament from her almoner, John Skip. She then ate breakfast at 7am and waited to hear Sir William Kingston’s footsteps outside her door. At 8am, the Constable appeared, informing Anne that the hour of her death was near and that she should get herself ready, but Anne was already prepared.
Dressed in a robe of grey or black damask trimmed with ermine, with a crimson kirtle underneath and an English style gable hood, Anne took her final walk out of the Queen’s Lodgings, past the Great Hall, through Cole Harbour Gate, along the western side of the White Tower to the black draped scaffold. Kingston helped her up the scaffold steps and Anne stepped forward to address the crowd which included many people she knew – Thomas Cromwell, Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk, Henry Fitzroy, Duke of Richmond (Henry VIII’s son), and Thomas Audley, the Lord Chancellor. The crowd fell silent as they gazed at their queen, who one witness described as being “never so beautiful”. Anne then gave her final speech:-
“Good Christian people, I have not come here to preach a sermon; I have come here to die. For according to the law and by the law I am judged to die, and therefore I will speak nothing against it. I am come hither to accuse no man, nor to speak of that whereof I am accused and condemned to die, but I pray God save the King and send him long to reign over you, for a gentler nor a more merciful prince was there never, and to me he was ever a good, a gentle, and sovereign lord. And if any person will meddle of my cause, I require them to judge the best. And thus I take my leave of the world and of you all, and I heartily desire you all to pray for me.”
She did not protest her innocence and preach to the crowd as her brother had, she simply did what was expected of her. Executions were carefully choreographed and there was a set format for execution speeches and Anne followed it to the letter. There was no way that she would risk her daughter’s safety by defying the King and proclaiming her innocence, Elizabeth’s safety and her future relationship with her father, the King, were paramount in Anne’s mind as she prepared to meet her Maker.
Her ladies then removed Anne’s mantle and Anne lifted off her gable hood and tucked her famous dark locks into a cap to keep it out of the way of the sword. Eric Ives writes of how her only show of fear was the way that she kept looking behind her to check that the executioner was not going to strike the fatal blow too soon. Anne paid the executioner, he asked Anne’s forgiveness and then Anne knelt upright in the straw, praying all the while “O Lord have mercy on me, to God I commend my soul. To Jesus Christ I commend my soul; Lord Jesu receive my soul.” As Anne prayed, the executioner called out to his assistant to pass him his sword and, as Anne moved her head to follow what the assistant was doing, the executioner came up unnoticed behind her and beheaded her with one stroke of his sword. Her ordeal was over – her head may have been in the straw but Anne’s soul was with her Father in Heaven.
As the shocked crowd dispersed, Anne’s ladies wrapped her head and body in white cloth and took them to the Chapel of St Peter ad Vincula, where she was placed inside a old elm chest which had once contained bow staves. Anne Boleyn, Queen of England and mother of Elizabeth I, was then buried as a traitor in an unmarked grave.
Today, I will be pausing a moment on the parade ground in front of the Waterloo Barracks, the place of Anne’s execution, and I will be paying my respects at Anne’s resting place in the Chapel. Many who visit the Tower this day will be unaware of Anne Boleyn’s story and the fact that today marks the anniversary of her death, but I hope our presence there will speak of the fact that she is not forgotten and that she is the Queen of so many hearts still today.
48 thoughts on “19th May 1536 – I Have a Little Neck: The Execution of Anne Boleyn”
I always remember Anne’s execution date, and say a little prayer for her. Definately, a woman before her time, and has to be thanked for giving us Elizabeth I!
I am thinking of Anne on this sad anniversary, She died with such dignity and bravery. God Bless you Anne and may you rest in peace…
Remembering Anne Bolelyn today. R.I.P.
Lovely and moving article.. RIP Anne.. Your soul must have found the peace and the salvation..
I thought of Anne when I woke up this morning… if I could, I would gladly be in London to pay my proper respects to a woman who did not deserve what life so cruelly dealt her. Instead, I am wearing my favorite pair of earrings with a miniature portrait of Anne. They show Anne at her most beautiful, and that’s how I like to think of her: young, graceful, and looking every bit the Queen. That’s how she deserves to be remembered. God continue to rest her soul.
Thanks for the wonderful post. I am sure that your visit to the Tower was very moving. Were there flowers on Anne’s grave marker? Apparently they are delivered anonymously every year on the 19th..
rest in peace,queen Anne. you’ll never be forgotten,i keep you in my heart everyday of my life. i pay my respects for you,even if i’m not there,as i wanted to.
you’ve been the best,the most gorgeous one.
May Anne’s soul rest in peace. She had so little peace in life. I was dreading today .I write this with tears in my eyes.
Claire, please tell Anne that I am thinking of her today and that I hope to go to England some day to do what you are doing today. May she rest in peace knowing that she is still remembered today.
I guess everyone has her inm ind every now and then today! RIP Queen AB!
She showed true poise and grace- the marks of a Queen. May Anne rest in peace.
I think of Anne every time this day comes around. Thank you for writing such a fitting tribute to her!
God bless you. I wish I could be there to pay respects to the most graceful Queen the world has ever known. She was the victim of one man’s unquenchable greed, and I pray her soul is at rest with the Lord. She won, in the end, as the mother of the greatest queen England has ever known. She has always had a special place in my heart, and I am glad you will get to honour her spirit today. You’re so lucky!
R.I.P. Anne Boleyn, Queen of England and Marquess of Pembroke
RIP Queen Anne. Thank you fo being an inspiraton to women hundreds of years removed from your own time.
I visited the chapel of St Peter ad Vincula this morning and left flowers (mine were the pink/white/purple bunch). The chaplain was lovely and allowed me to go without having to wait to join a tour. Severally other tributes were left before mine; nice to see she is remembered by many.
RIP Anne Boleyn
She has been in my thoughts all day today but I was a bit surprised when I reached the execution site and burst into tears. I think the other visitors thought I was some madwoman! It was lovely to see that a few people had put flowers on the memorial sculpture. And I’m glad that the mystery roses are still being sent to the chapel every year. She was a truly remarkable woman and I’m glad that people still ackowledge that.
Wow. What a terrible ending for such a great lady!
She is my favorite queen of his wives , I know it was a conspiracy againtist her .
Great article, Claire! I am thinking of Anne today on the anniversary of her death. And the bravery in which she died. To me, she got her redemption when her daughter became one of the greatest monarchs in English history! She did not die in vain. I am a true believer that everything happens for a reason, even if we don’t understand that reason right away. Elizabeth I was her reason!
Wish I could be with you as you pay your respects today at the Chapel. Anne is in my thoughts for sure today. Keep up the good work! I love your site!
Thank you, Claire, for this moving article.
When I woke up this morning my first thought was about Anne Boleyn.
I had a very stressful day today but the thought of what happened today 474 years ago wouldn’t leave my mind.
I wished I could have been at the tower to pay her respect. But my thoughts were with her. I really hope that she found peace in death.
As my thoughts were with her the last couple of days and weeks too I decided to make a video to show my tribut: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EjORHZCdYuQ
Lovely video. I love the music and the scenes are choosesn very well!
I made one too the other day, but it is rarther a bit on the long side witgh 11 minutes:
anne rest in peace every year i think about this day like on this day last year i had my 5th grade celebration and i still thought of u and today i think of u!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I think anyone who come’s on this site, feels the same way.
I have been sad about it for a week…
I can’t believe that so many people still remember Anne. I do fell sad for Anne & think of her today, and I’m sure I’ll visit Water Loo Barrack some day to pay a respect to Anne .
Natalie is amazing…
R.I.P. Anne Boleyn.
The Tower of London was the featured photograph on Bing.com today…and it was to honor the anniversary of Anne’s execution. I then spent the next half-hour reading about her life and of course her death at http://tinyurl.com/29peptw and had a chance to wonder again at this incredible woman who lived a very amazing life. My introduction to Anne was thanks to Dorothy Tutin’s portrayal in ‘The Six Wives of Henry VIII’ when that series hit America under the Masterpiece Theater title. (Funny how I had known of Elizabeth but not her famous/infamous mother), and I don’t think I was but 9 or 10, but I remember how I cried when she told her judges of her innocence. (Until Natalie Dormer, Ms. Tutin and Genevieve Bujold had been my favorite Anne’s). I had a chance to stand on Tower Green in 2000 during my first visit to London; I got to enter St. Peter ad Vincula, but our group had so little access, I couldn’t even get close to where the Three Queen are buried, but over a Saturday and Sunday, I was able to visit Hever Castle on one day (and see where Anne had scribbled in her Book of Hours) and Hatfield House the next, giving me a chance to pay my respects to both mother and daughter.
Anne Boleyn remains one of my top 3 of Henry’s wives. She may also be one of my favorite English queens, along with her daughter and Queen Victoria. And it’s very true that she may have been the most influential of English Queen Consorts. When you think that a man literally moved Heaven and Earth to have her, all you can add is WOW!
RIP Anne and thank you.
Do you have any opinions towards the book The Other Boleyn Girl written by philippa gregory ? I need your comments on this book because I’m writting a dissertation about this book now. Thank you very much!
You could have a look at my article on the book and movie – https://www.theanneboleynfiles.com/anne-boleyn-and-the-other-boleyn-girl/ – and also the comments on that article.
Beth, I am not surprised that you were so moved. Being at a place with such a sad history is a far more moving experience than looking at pictures of it. Somehow I think Anne knows how important she has become and that her soul in heaven was touched by your grief.
Today I got to pay my respects to Queen Anne, I didn’t get to stand on Tower Green or lay flowers in St. Peter ad Vincula, but, I wore my “B” necklace to work , my little tribute to this day. May not seem like much but it turned out to be pretty special ,at least to me. My initals are TC so I got alot of questions about the necklace, some recognized it right away, others were clueless (education opportunity!) but while we were at lunch one of my co-workers asked me about the necklace and before I knew it I was telling Anne’s story to about 13 of my co-workers. After lunch as we were walking back to the nursing units one of the Sisters asked me if I wanted to light a candle for Anne in the Chapel? ( I work in a Catholic Hospital). I asked the Sister if I could do that since I wasn’t a Catholic and she joking replied that “God doesn’t mind, it’s the prayer and remembrance that counts”. She walked me though the process and I have to say between the post Claire wrote, the beautiful video Lea made, and finally me lighting the candle in Chapel, I started crying. Then it dawned on me how powerful Anne Boleyn’s memory is even today, 474 years after her execution.
A perfect stranger, an American, could cry over the death of an English Queen some 470 yrs ago. That’s a legacy, and that is the Power of Anne Boleyn.
Tracy C: You are absolutely right. I re-watched ‘The Other Boleyn Girl’ last night, and although I am aware that it isn’t the most historically accurate piece done on the subject, I was so drawn into the story. I am now trying to get every book available, as I want to know everything I can about the story. Anne Boleyn was a heroine who was wronged by a cowardly man. The fact that her daughter was so strong and brave is a testament to her amazing legacy. She lives on in many hearts.
R.I.P Anne Boleyn.
Anne has always been my favourite of King Henry VIII’s wives from a very young age, From the age of eleven to be prescise along with Catherine Howard coming jointly in second place, I had been thinking about this day for a week until now but found myself thinking of her and her tradgedy more so on the eve of the anniversary and on the actual anniversary of Queen Anne Boleyns death than the days prior to it, I was constantly accessing this website, Well as I do normally but even more so as a result to try and keep up with the latest information reagarding my favourite subject and my favourite Tudor, Well one of them, I listened to some Tudor church music today plus took the sacrament and said a prayer for Annes soul pre to the music as I was thinking of her and this wondeful website and its webhost away with numerous other people from here most probably paying their respects at Hever and at the Tower just wishing I could have been there. I really found it hard to smile today unlike most days where I am quite a smiley happy person, Something just felt and seemed different in my mind.
P.S I hope you are all having a nice time at Hever as I hope to join you some time soon, Hopefully next year, I hope. The weather is starting to brighten up aswell as warm up here in London as I suspect it is the same at Kent just more breezy where the air is more fresh, Which is not what I could say for where I currently reside unfortunately.
Hi to Tracy C. I believe anyone can light a candle in a catholic church, irrespective of faith. I did for my godmother; and found it very comforting – because she was so far away from me. Thank you for sharing your experience.
I cannot imagine standing where she was executed on the anniversary of that event. It makes me tremble to consider it, even here, an ocean away. How amazing. Thank you so much for sharing.
Hi Tracey C.
I also wore my Anne Boleyn tee shirt to work on May 19th (underneath my scrub top). People probably think I am strange.
I also have Anne’s B necklace tattooed on my left ankle. I got it about a month ago. It is nice, it is a B of course with the 3 pearls hanging down and I had a couple cherry blossom flowers incorporated in it. It turned out beautiful.
I just found this website and I can just say I love it! I am so glad there are others out there who see Anne Bolyen the way I do!
I too always pause on May 19th in remembrance of Anne. I tend to put Thomas Wyatt’s poem on my facebook page.
I was there this year on her anniversary. I took pictures of the memorial. I can’t believe that the tour guides still say that Anne was executed on Tower Green. Perhaps they have been saying it for so long that they don’t even notice? Also when asked who delivers roses to her grave and the memorial I heard that one yeoman said ‘some crazy person.’ I have been to the Tower twice now. Each time I have had an experience that I will never forget within the jewel house. The barracks were where the jewel house is now, correct? There is a room in that building that has a very eerie, heavy feeling. This time around I went with someone, she two felt the feeling I have expressed. Perhaps Anne’s presence?
This is so sad. She went with dignity and honour 🙂
I’ve read several accounts of Anne’s execution and some say she wore a gable hood and some say she wore a French hood. I’m a seamstress and I’m going to make a replica ensemble, so is there a primary source that says definitively which she wore?
Eric Ives cites Imperial sources as saying that Anne wore a grey damask gown lined with fur, an ermine mantle and a gable hood. The Spanish Chronicle describes her as wearing a netted coif. In Letters and Papers (LP x.911), from the Vienna archives, it says “She was then stripped of her short mantle furred with ermines, and afterwards took off her hood, which was of English make, herself. A young lady presented her with a linen cap, with which she covered her hair, and she knelt down, fastening her clothes about her feet, and one of the said ladies bandaged her eyes.” So I would say that Anne wore the English style gable hood to her execution.
Great! Thank you!
She will never be forgotten. Ever. On every calendar that I have (and have ever had), there is a red Sharpee mark on the 19th.
I always remember the date.
Long live Queen Anne in our hearts and our memories!
A very good article, by the way.
This is a woman who threatened and probably planned to poison Catherine of Aragon and her daughter – the Princess Mary!!!!!!!!
True which is why i dont feel bad she got executed. I do pity the 5 men who died with her though
I shall admit my crossing relation with lady Anne.
I can relate to her more troublesome sides, and I can also relate to the pitiful things. I am always being hurt and blammed for things I have not done. I am thought of as a witch.
But I can relate much more to the
Princess Mary, which Anne wronged!!
Thanks a lot this helped me with my history homework
Rest in peace Anne Boleyn. Anne has been on my mind all day. I will never forget this date and the history of Queen Anne Boleyn.